In 1997, Ellen’s popular TV show aired “The Puppy Episode,” which would end up making TV history. Ellen’s character came out as a lesbian. The same month, DeGeneres personally made her sexual orientation public with a cover and feature in “Time” magazine.
She also discussed being a lesbian on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Ellen’s character was the first openly gay lead character in a TV sitcom, and Ellen herself would be the first openly gay leading actress in a sitcom.
An enormous amount of controversy and support surrounded the episode. An estimated 46 million people viewed it, making it the most viewed episode of the show. She also won an Emmy award for the writing of the episode.
After the show, however, the show’s guest star Laura Dern admitted she had a hard time finding work for over a year after playing Ellen’s love interest. And Ellen herself faced an immense amount of backlash from religious groups, corporate sponsors and the network itself. The following year, the sitcom was cancelled.
Ellen entered a career slump.