The 20th anniversary of Ellen DeGeneres’ “Puppy Episode” in which she came out, is this Sunday. To celebrate, ABC is streaming all five seasons of Ellen for free with no login required.
Viewers can find the whole show in the “Throwbacks” section of the ABC app for desktop, mobile and connected devices.
The episode from 1997 was so named to prevent spoilers from leaking, and 40 million viewers tuned in to see the historic moment. It was the first time a character on prime-time television came out, and it launched the beginning of DeGeneres’ career as an activist.
It represented a brave choice, as Oprah Winfrey noted on the latest episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, DeGeneres’ current talk show. Friday’s entire episode was a reminiscence on the sitcom and featured former cast members, surprise guests and tributes to DeGeneres. Winfrey also appeared on the original sitcom episode, and she and DeGeneres recalled the death threats and slurs they received because of it.
“I was never so surprised by the hatred and how loud it was,” Winfrey said, “because up until that time, I’d never had that kind of thing slamming me in the face.”
Friday’s Ellen DeGeneres Show also featured clips of superfans who were incredibly touched by what that moment on the sitcom 20 years ago meant for the LGBTQ community. In the years since DeGeneres’ announcement, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed, and in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the legality of same-sex marriage.
Laura Dern, one of the guest stars in the original episode with Winfrey, Demi Moore, Melissa Etheridge, Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam and k.d. lang., also visited DeGeneres’ talk show to discuss how it affected her career.
Michelle Obama sent a congratulatory message instead of appearing on the show because “Barack keeps booking us all these vacations.”
Visitors and guests reminded DeGeneres of the bravery and inspiration she helped bring to TV screens and made note of how different things are today. Back then, Winfrey mentioned, people didn’t discuss sexuality at all. DeGeneres’ decision paved the way for current ABC sitcoms like Modern Family to create new traditions for the family-focused network.