The Ellen Show reached a major milestone airing its 2000th live episode Thursday. Show producers surprised the long-time comedian turned actor, host and producer Ellen DeGeneres with surprise guests, actor Jennifer Aniston and singer Justin Timberlake.
Towards the end of the program, DeGeneres sat in reflective, teary-eyed silence as the guest pairing and Warner Bros. Television Group executive Peter Roth acknowledged the accomplishment. The Ellen Show is one of only four programs in Warner Bros. 90-year history to have reached 2000 episodes. Roth presented her with a plaque officially renaming a studio stage as “The Ellen Stage”.
Reaching the 2000th episode of a daytime television talk show on a national television network is a true accomplishment on par with joining the ranks of those who are recognizable by a single name; Bono, Oprah, Prince.
The show ran a video package highlighting moments from the show’s 13-year run, including DeGeneres’ visiting Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, presenting checks to directors of schools and student enrichment programs, giving away cars and offering checks to families who’ve fallen on hard times.
There is a long history of talk show giving and giveaways. Oprah is known for developing what would eventually become a cultural meme wherein she informs practically every member of her studio audience they’d be going home with a gift or product provided by a sponsor. “You get a car, you get a car, you get a car… Everyone gets a car!”
The National Philanthropic Trust and Giving USA notes corporate giving levels reached $17.77 billion in 2014, a relatively small number when compared to American’s giving over $358 billion in charitable donations in the same year. Just how much charitable giving has been done over the years through television would be an exercise in exploring sponsors’ tax write-offs and contributions. You’d need to know which company backed each giveaway or wrote the check and whether it truly counted as a charitable gift to the group receiving it or would qualify more as an advertisement with the program.
Television show philanthropy certainly has an impact on recipients, but it’s also had a clear impact on the host of the show. “One of the best parts about my job has been meeting some of the world’s most inspiring people,” said DeGeneres reflecting on the show’s run.
The Ellen Show has had plenty of “you get a car” moments. Such reminders shed light on entertainment-based philanthropy that can support positive work in places impacted by natural disasters, working toward a greater social good or those facing economic struggles.
Ben Carter is the Host of Manage Your Damn Money and author of Fictitious Financial Fairytale: A Completely Untrue Story About Money, Friends and Moscow Mules.