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Culture

Hellenic Mystery: How Ellen DeGeneres Wound up on a Greek Soap Opera

Serendipity. If there is one word to describe how Brousko – a soap opera hardly known outside of Greece and Cyprus – made an improbable guest appearance to television audiences throughout the world, that word is serendipity.

Indeed, a short clip of Brousko was featured on the May 20 airing of the internationally-famous, Emmy Award-winning Ellen DeGeneres show, when the hostess/comedienne/actress revealed to her audience that she – inadvertently, had made a cameo appearance.

Diamantis Nikolaou, a patriarchal vineyard owner on Brousko, played by George Xenios, sits on a couch and gazes at a photo of his long lost love. Then, the camera pans in, and the object of his affection is none other than DeGeneres. It is DeGeneres’ high school graduation picture, so how in the world did Brousko get hold of that?

Thanks to comments by Xenios and Director Andreas Georgiou, who also stars in the show, we now know the explanation to this whole sordid but lighthearted situation – which we describe herein.  But first, back to the Ellen show, and her funny reaction:

“What, what!?” DeGeneres exclaimed, as her live audience howled with laughter. “That is totally real, it’s not edited…that’s my senior high school photo,” she said. “I don’t understand it, I don’t know Greek, I know my haircut is a Greek tragedy right there,” she joked, wondering aloud why of all the photos of her to choose from, they decided to use that unflattering one. “So why does that old man have my picture,” she asked rhetorically, “is it supposed to be serious, or funny, is it because I’m his long-lost lover?”

DeGeneres explained the irony of that photo. “I moved from New Orleans to Atlanta, TX for two years,” and woke up that morning, couldn’t fix her hair the way she wanted to, and figured she’d be moving out of that town and no one would ever see that photo again.

“If there’s anyone out there who watches [Brousko], people from Greece, John Stamos, whoever,” DeGeneres said, “if you could explain what I’m doing with that old man, I don’t want to spoil the ending for you but we are never ever ever getting back together.” She concluded by thanking “Maria from Florida,” the viewer who alerted DeGeneres to the clip, and showed an autographed version of that graduation photo, which she planned on sending her.

BEHIND THE SCENES

On a morning talk show shortly thereafter, on Ant 1, the channel that airs Brousko, Georgiou said he “still cannot believe” this happened. “It was completely unintentional,” he said. They searched for a photo to depict Diamantis Nikolaou’s long-lost love, Helga, and Georgiou was handed a few photos from which to choose. “I liked her eyes, it was a very expressive picture,” Georgiou said of DeGeneres’ photo. The show’s hosts congratulated Georgiou on this amazing stroke of luck. He said “when they told me Ellen DeGeneres had a segment on her show about Brousko, I couldn’t believe it.”

“You should ask her to appear on Brousko,” the hosts joked with Georgiou, “but I don’t think she’d ask you for money, because she makes a whole lot.” DeGeneres’ annual salary is $65 million, in fact, and she is worth approximately $250 million.

“I’m happy about how they do things in America,” Georgiou said, about DeGeneres’ good-natured reaction. “How they address such matters with humor.”

On Greece’s Capital News, George Xenios said that about 27.5 million people saw the Brousko episode of DeGeneres’ show. To put it in perspective, that is more than double the entire population of Greece and Cyprus combined.

“Georgiou was shown a photo” to be used as Helga, and he didn’t like it, Xenios said. He requested they download other samples “from the Internet. And all of a sudden, I’m seeing myself on this TV show in America, of this ‘Helen’ – whatever you call her – and I was stunned. This is tremendous publicity for Brousko.”

Xenios then watched the segment again. “I realize her show is based on humor, so when she said ‘what am I doing with this old man?’ it didn’t bother me.” He added, “I was shocked because I didn’t realize that our show made it all the way to the United States,” where DeGeneres’ viewer, “Maria from Florida” saw it.

Melissa Little Padgitt, publicist for the Ellen DeGeneres Show, provided TNH with a copy of the clip, but had no additional comments.

The highly-rated morning show, which has won dozens of Emmy Awards, recently extended its broadcast commitment through 2017.

And if anyone’s wondering: “Ellen (Eleni?) DeGeneres – she could be Greek, right?” Nope. She is of English, French, German, and Irish descent.

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