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1997: ABC's 'Ellen' Presents the Groundbreaking "The Puppy Episode"
April 30, 2020  | By TV WW
 
On this day in 1997, ABC's Ellen presented the first part of the groundbreaking two-parter, "The Puppy Episode," better known as the episode in which star Ellen DeGeneres' character, Ellen Morgan, comes out as a lesbian.

In the months before the fourth-season episode aired, speculation as to whether the character, and the show's star, would address her sexuality caused a firestorm of national debate regarding the portrayal of homosexuality on television.

"The Puppy Episode" featured several high-profile guest stars, including Laura Dern as Ellen's potential love interest, Oprah Winfrey as Ellen's therapist, and Billy Bob Thornton, Demi Moore, k.d. lang, Gina Gershon, Jorja Fox, Dwight Yoakam, Melissa Etheridge and DeGeneres' mother, Betty DeGeneres, in cameo roles.

On April 14, two weeks before the show aired, DeGeneres responded to questions about her own sexuality by appearing on the cover of Time magazine with the banner headline, 'Yep, I'm Gay." On the day "The Puppy Episode" aired, DeGeneres and then-girlfriend Anne Heche appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

The award-winning "Puppy Episode" was the show's highest-rated episode, with some 42 million viewers tuning in. The following season, however, the show and its star faced reprocussions. Conservative groups continued to protest the show, and at the start of Ellen's fifth season, ABC chose to place a parental advisory warning on the show's opening. Within a year, Entertainment Weekly had its own DeGeneres cover: "Yep, She's Too Gay," which featured a lengthy interview with DeGeneres talking about the network's treatment of the show and the fall-out from Ellen's coming out.

Ellen's fifth season was the show's last.

 
 
 
 
 
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