Ellen DeGeneres runs her media empire from within a comfortable cocoon of industrial-grade “Nice,” an appearance of genial, dancing cheerfulness that has only ever been mildly marred by stuff like, say, her friendly association with the public architect of the Iraq War, or the numerous results you’ll get from Googling terms like “Ellen DeGeneres mean to people who work for her.” Almost all of which is hearsay—except the “Good buddies with George W. Bush” thing, of course—which is why its interesting to see the crew of her long-running daytime talk show go public this week with their discontent over how the series is handling the shift into the COVID-19 era.
This is per Variety, which reports that a number of staffers on the show—mostly on the nuts and bolts side of things, rather than the writers and producers—are upset with what they’re seeing as a lack of transparency from higher-ups about the show’s current operation, which, like so many talk shows, has transitioned to a remote-only, film-from-mansion set up of late. Although no one’s been let go or furloughed from the series, below-the-line workers have seen their paid hours get cut down to about 60 percent of usual in recent weeks, despite the fact that the series is still rolling out its regular pace of TV content. Besides the financial hit, employees (almost all of whom spoke on conditions of anonymity) are also reportedly irritated that the show’s production has hired a non-union company to do some of its third-party production work on the new version of the series, as well as what they’re deeming a lack of communication from “leadership” about what the hell is actually going on. (Several reported hearing that the series would be going back on the air via social media, rather from the show’s producers, and were unclear up to the day-of about whether or not they were still getting paid.)
The response from Warner Bros. Television, which produces the series, was, essentially, a repeated assertion of “Hey, we’re doing our best.” A spokesperson for the company cited the current chaos for the difficulties in communication, and stated that the economics of daytime TV make it too hard to follow in the footsteps of any number of late night hosts by paying employees their regular paychecks. DeGeneres herself, meanwhile, kicked off her return shows by stating that she was coming back primarily because she wanted to continue providing for her employees—although she also said that pretty wack thing about how being stuck in her massive mansion was “like being in jail,” so hey, who knows what to think about the stuff Ellen says on camera, right?