With Ellen DeGeneres preparing to leave her talkshow to focus on something more “challenging” – which, if reports are true, will hopefully include creating a work environment where everybody on the payroll isn’t permanently cowed and miserable – a void will soon appear right at the heart of daytime. The question is: what will fill it?
And the sensible answer, in all honesty, is “I don’t know, a gameshow?” or “maybe some old Murder She Wrote repeats?” or “Couldn’t we just rerun old Ellen episodes, because it’s not like the people who deliberately choose to watch cloyingly vapid celebrity talkshows during the day are going to actually notice”.
However, that is unlikely to happen. With Ellen on the way out, the race is on to find The Next Ellen. And that’s much trickier than it sounds, because the ideal candidate will have to be someone famous and charming and charismatic, but not so famous and charming and charismatic that they won’t instantly reject the idea of softball interviewing an anonymous procession of mid-grade celebrities for a simpering studio audience every day again and again for upwards of a decade. And that’s a hell of a tightrope to walk. Let’s run through some of the current favourite candidates.
A perfect case in point. On paper, there is no celebrity in the world more suited to taking over from Ellen. Reese Witherspoon is not only smart, beautiful, energetic and curious, but she also has a pre-baked brand to work with. Oprah-style book club? Check. Downhome yet tasteful home decor range inspired by the American south? Check. Female-forward podcast brand? Check. You could stick Reese Witherspoon in front of a live studio audience today, without a scrap of rehearsal, and she would absolutely charm the pants off everyone. However, is there enough money in the world to convince Reese Witherspoon to essentially cauterise her career by limiting herself to a tinpot daytime talkshow? Absolutely not.
Now, there probably is enough money in the world to convince Tiffany Haddish to limit herself to a daytime talkshow, which is why she is reportedly the favourite to succeed Ellen DeGeneres. And it’s a signing that would make perfect sense. Haddish is energetic and sparky and permanently switched on, and she has a tendency to fall back on meaningless inspirational platitudes whenever she runs out of things to say, which daytime viewers love. And she isn’t so ingrained in the Hollywood A-list that this would seem like a demotion. What’s more, after her barnstorming breakout in Girls Trip, Haddish has struggled to find material that suits her, so a sideways step to presenting would make perfect sense.
Kelly Clarkson already has a daytime talkshow, and one that beat Ellen’s show at the daytime Emmys last year. One school of thought is apparently just transplanting Clarkson’s show and plonking it in Ellen’s spot, which is a good idea. Except then there’ll be a void where Clarkson’s show is, so they’ll fill it with Drew Barrymore’s show, but then there’ll be a void where Barrymore’s show is, so they’ll fill it with Wendy Williams’s show, but then there’ll be a void where Williams’s show is, and long story short this will create a chain of events that will culminate in one of the Kardashians being given a show, and nobody wants that, do they?
Apparently another contender, presumably because he fits the Kelly Clarkson mould of being distantly recognisable for making music two decades ago. Could Bass be a good fit for the Ellen position? It’s hard to say. On one hand, his hosting experience is essentially limited to a single season of a dating show that aired on something called Logo. On the other hand, he has a popular radio show. That’s something, right? I mean, we’re talking about a daytime talkshow. You are never ever going to watch it. You wouldn’t watch it if the first guest was literally the reincarnated spirit of Jesus Christ. They should just give the job to anyone. Your mother. A dentist. A seal in a little gold top hat. Lance Bass. It doesn’t matter.
James Corden has also been linked with the Ellen job. However, that is probably only because Ellen is a thing that takes place in front of a camera and God knows James Corden has trouble turning that sort of thing down. He won’t stop. He won’t ever stop until he is the only thing that all human beings are able to look at. Let’s just roll over and give him Ellen.
• This article was amended on 21 May 2021 to remove a reference to housewives in line with Guardian style guidance.