'Ellen DeGeneres Show': Most memorable moments as the daytime talk show says goodbye

·5 min read

Ever since its 2003 premiere, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" – once among daytime's biggest hits – has welcomed guests ranging from Hollywood's biggest stars to politicians to young kids who went viral online.

As the once-groundbreaking (and more recently, controversial) daytime talk-show host prepares to take her final bow on air this week (the final episode airs Thursday, though the show finished taping nearly a month ago), we look back on some of the most talked-about interviews, segments and monologues from DeGeneres' 19-year run as host.

Even to the casual "Ellen" viewer, these moments in the show's history were ones to remember.

More: Watch Ellen DeGeneres explain why she is ending her show in 2022 in four-minute monologue

Ellen DeGeneres delivers her first monologue: 'It's like a family here'

"Ellen" premiered on Sept. 8, 2003, and DeGeneres' debut monologue celebrated every "first" she could, from her "first applause break" to the audience's "first laugh," and detailed her plans for the daily syndicated talk show from the very specific ("I'll walk out and I'll land here – this is where I stop. This is my floor and I'm supposed to land on this mark") to the big picture.

"It's like a family here," she said. "We're starting a relationship. And I've committed myself to this relationship. I'll be here every single day, and I'm hoping you also will commit yourself to being here every day. And if you're not or if you're going to be late, please call me."

Jennifer Aniston serves as first 'Ellen' guest

Just months away from the finale of "Friends," Jennifer Aniston served as the first guest on "Ellen."

The new host was still working out her interview persona, but retained her signature humor and penchant for silly games (see: the women battling it out in a thumb war, mini boxing ring and all).

"I was so nervous we would wear the same thing," DeGeneres joked to Aniston.

Come Thursday, Aniston will also be the show's final guest.

Sophia Grace and Rosie perform 'Super Bass'

Plenty of already-big stars went on "Ellen," but two British cousins proved an appearance on the show could launch a career in entertainment, too.

Sophia Grace Brownlee, then 8, and Rosie McClelland, then 5, went viral on YouTube in 2011 performing Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass." They first appeared on "Ellen" soon after, as Brownlee rapped along to the song without missing a word while McClelland enthusiastically hyped up her cousin.

"We like dancing together, and Rosie makes me feel more confident 'cause I've got somebody with me," Brownlee explained to DeGeneres.

The two would go on to appear on the show more than 10 times, and met Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and, yes, Minaj on the show. Brownlee landed a record deal, and the pair scored red-carpet correspondent roles, several Nickelodeon cameos, and their own straight-to-DVD movie, "Sophia Grace & Rosie's Royal Adventure."

The cousins, now 19 and 15, returned to "Ellen" earlier this month for an encore performance. (McClelland even sang along this time.)

Dakota Johnson calls Ellen's bluff

With seven words, Dakota Johnson sent social media reeling.

"Actually no, that's not the truth, Ellen," the "Fifty Shades of Gray" actress said, attempting to set the record straight in a 2019 appearance after DeGeneres accused Johnson of not inviting her to the actress' recent birthday party.

In a cringeworthy exchange, Johnson maintained she had invited the TV host – DeGeneres just didn't come.

"Are you sure? I don't think so," DeGeneres replied, until a producer suggested off camera she was out of town.

"I think I do remember I was invited. Thank you," she continued sheepishly. "I really didn't remember that until just now."

Adele's smoothie order adventure

There were lighter moments to be enjoyed, too.

British singer Adele showed off her comedic chops in 2019, when she delivered absurd lines – fed by DeGeneres through an earpiece – with a straight face to a group of unassuming Jamba Juice employees.

"I'll take a large but in a small cup," the music icon declared. It only became more chaotic from there.

Michelle Obama shops at CVS

Stars: They're just like us! They … take the first lady to shop at a convenience store?

Months before President Barack Obama left office, DeGeneres invited Michelle Obama to go shopping, lest she forget how to live a regular life. But it quickly became apparent that one of the women needed more guidance on how to act inside a store, and it wasn't the first lady: DeGeneres wreaked havoc, pouring shoppers red solo cups of Franzia, using a backscratcher on a store employee and making Obama push her in a shopping cart.

"This is not how you behave in a CVS," Obama laughed at the talk-show host.

DeGeneres apologizes on air after toxic workplace claims

In the summer of 2020, allegations exploded of a toxic environment behind the scenes at the show.

After sending an apologetic letter to staffers following an internal review of worker complaints about staff facing racism, fear and intimidation – which led to the ouster of three executive producers – Degeneres returned to her show that fall, addressing the allegations publicly for the first time.

"How was everybody's summer? Good? Mine was great. Super terrific," she joked. "I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously, and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected. I know that I'm in a position of privilege and power, and I realize that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show."

More: Ellen DeGeneres: Have toxic workplace claims and quarantine struggles caused fans to flee?

"Today, we are starting a new chapter," DeGeneres said, vowing to make sure that all 270 people who work for the show know she is "so grateful" for them. But the damage was done: Ratings dropped sharply, and soon after DeGeneres announced that 2022 would mark the end of the show's run.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Ellen DeGeneres' finale: Dakota Johnson, most memorable guests

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