The comedian also takes a moment to thank Ellen for paving the way for LGBTQ shows like "Will & Grace" by coming out on her own sitcom.
It was the airport loudspeaker announcement that rocked the nation 22 years ago when Ellen DeGeneres' sitcom character came out publicy as gay on national television (even as the comedian did the same). And now that moment will rise again on "Will & Grace."
Megan Mullally dropped by Ellen's talk show on Thursday to hype the venerable sitcom's season finale with a promise that there will be a tribute to the iconic "Puppy Episode," as Ellen intentionally and misleadingly labeled her coming out episode.
They flashed an image on the screen of Mullally's Karen Walker standing at a similar podium to the one Ellen accidentally blurted her sexuality into back in 1997. According to Mullally, her character has been questioning her own sexuality of late, and this finale will further explore that.
The actress also took a moment to, as she put it to Ellen, "Thank you for my career."
"I've said this in a lot of other interviews but I don't think I've ever actually said it to you, the person who matters the most, which is that your show really laid the groundwork for "Will Grace,'" Mullally said. "I don't know if there would have been a 'Will & Grace' had you not done that show and come out. So thank you for that."
At the time of Ellen's sitcom persona coming out, "The Puppy Episode" was met with tremendous backlash from religious groups and even some advertisers balking at supporting the episode. One affiliate in Alabama simply didn't air the episode at all citing "family values."
Nevertheless it was a huge ratings and critical success for ABC drawing in 44 million viewers, garnering two Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award. By the next season, though, the shine had worn off. The show was criticized for now being "too gay," and was cancelled, with DeGeneres and her on-screen girlfriend Laura Dern both suffering temporary career setbacks.
But no progress is without hiccups and bumps along the road. And because DeGeneres endured those bumps, television is more diverse as a result. And nothing exemplified the greater openness of television executives to LGBTQ content than "Will & Grace," which premiered the season after "Ellen" was cancelled and played its own huge role in continuing to normalize and expand representation on the airwaves.
"Will & Grace" pays tribute to Ellen's coming out episode Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.