While Portia de Rossi Degeneres was a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986) in 2010, Oprah told Portia that when Oprah played the therapist on the "coming out" episode of Ellen (1994), Oprah got more hate mail about that minor appearance than she had ever gotten during her entire previous career as a talk-show host and actress.
The character of Audrey was dramatically re-written when she became a major cast member. In the first season she was in only one episode, as a character Ellen was long-time friends with but didn't like because she was always pessimistic and complaining. But by the end of the second season she was portrayed as increasingly chipper, upbeat and constantly optimistic
The show underwent major changes between the first and third seasons. Though it was always fairly highly rated, test audiences responded more strongly to supporting characters than they did to the main cast. Most of the main cast was dropped in the second season (except Arye Gross) and the character of Audrey, who had previously only been in one episode, became a regular, as did Joe.
After the 2000 Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997) episode "New Moon Rising," in which regular character Willow comes out as a lesbian and chooses to stay with her girlfriend Tara, aired, a group of internet board posters sent "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon an engraved toaster to thank him for the storyline. This was a reference to the "coming-out" episode of "Ellen" (1994), (a show on which longtime Buffy writer Jane Espenson had also worked) in which there had been a running joke about the GLBT movement awarding every newly out person a toaster for "joining."
Many episodes opened with Ellen DeGeneres introducing a performer who was playing the theme song that week while she held up a sign with the name of the show. Acts such as Sharleen Spiteri from the band Texas and ZZ Top played the theme song.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The Puppy Episode - Part 1 (#4.22) made television history and became one of the most controversial TV episodes ever. Ellen DeGeneres's character came out of the closet, which resulted in a loss of a ton of its sponsors and ABC even received a bomb threat and a year later, "Ellen" was canceled.