Wednesday, Oct. 11 marks National Coming Out Day, but this past April is when comedy doyenne Ellen DeGeneres celebrated the momentous 20th anniversary of coming out on her primetime ABC sitcom, “Ellen.” To properly commemorate the historic event, Hulu is streaming all five seasons of the series, including the revolutionary two-parter, “The Puppy Episode.”
“The Puppy Episode,” which aired April 30, 1997, features Ellen Morgan (played by DeGeneres) coming out as gay to potential love interest Susan, played by Laura Dern. This marked the first time a lead character had ever come out on TV, which has ultimately led to a more inclusive era of television. DeGeneres herself had followed suit in real life afterwards, creating her famous yet politely nonchalant Time magazine cover which read, “Yep, I’m gay.”
Also appearing in the episode as Ellen’s therapist is Oprah Winfrey, who had already been doing a “Coming Out Day” on her legendary talk show. When explaining why she had asked Winfrey to play this role, DeGeneres said, “I thought you would legitimize all of it and people would go, ‘Oh, they’re not trying to make a joke of this. This is actually serious.’” How better to celebrate the holiday by watching two powerful women of Hollywood completely change the game?
For those taking advantage of Hulu’s generosity, “Ellen” follows Ellen Morgan, a neurotic bookstore owner who handles life’s complexities through comedy and banter. The series also costarred Jeremy Piven, Joely Fisher, Clea Lewis, and David Anthony Higgins.