In the days leading up to the finale, the ovations grew longer and louder. Fans blew kisses, made heart shapes with their hands and screamed the host’s name.
The outpouring signaled the end of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” a daily hour of daytime escapism that had reached its peak in less contentious times, when Beyoncé, Madonna, and Barack and Michelle Obama were happy to show off their goofiest dance moves side by side with the show’s star before an audience of millions.
When the program made its debut in 2003, it seemed unlikely to be a hit. Ellen DeGeneres had been in limbo five years at that point, ever since ABC had canceled her sitcom a year after her groundbreaking announcement that she was gay.
On Thursday, at the start of the 3,339th and final episode of her talk show, she recalled what she had been through and how much times had changed. “When we started this show, I couldn’t say ‘gay,’” Ms.