The Ellen Show
Ellen DeGeneres, Cloris Leachman, Martin Mull, Jim Gaffigan
CBS Television 2001
18 Episodes on 2 DVDs
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 2006

It’s not that The Ellen Show was bad (of the 18 episodes here, only 13 aired), it’s that Ellen DeGeneres was bad on The Ellen Show. You would figure that with a supporting cast like Cloris Leachman, Martin Mull and Jim Gaffigan (who has been in about as many cancelled sitcoms as Jeffrey Tambor) and an executive producer like Carol Leifer (whose name is misspelled on the DVD box) this show would have been funny but it was not funny enough to survive more than 13 airings.

At the time, much was made about The Ellen Show being cancelled because DeGeneres was gay and her Ellen Richmond character on this sitcom was gay. This was probably not the real reason for this show’s demise. Yes, there are a few clear gay references here and there in the first couple of episodes and some are simply in the viewer’s minds, such as when Ellen goes to a Hooters clone in one episode, but the blame squarely lands on DeGeneres’ shoulders. Her funny awkwardness in her stand-up comedy does not translate well as a TV character. After a while, this awkwardness becomes a tic that just makes the viewer uncomfortable and makes it hard for her costars to act with her.

The premise for this sitcom was not bad: Successful internet businesswoman from the big city moves back home to her small town after her company collapses. The problem with The Ellen Show version of this story is it rarely rose above the usual clichés about small-town life television has flogged to death (such as The Lunch Club restaurant having a sign on the door saying “Be back after lunch” or everybody knowing everything that is going on the second after it happened). In addition, though the many comments character Ellen Richmond makes about her ex-girlfriend and so on or on the media’s treatment of celebrities sexcapades, they are really comments made by Ellen DeGeneres on her own life and this totally destroys any willing suspension of disbelief on the viewer’s part.

The writing on The Ellen Show varied from very good, such as when Ellen and the home economics teacher battle or the running gag of the cat no one can see, to simply atrocious: “We’re going to have a sit-in. Can you take a stand while you’re sitting? Well, they can sit as long as they don’t take it lying down.”

If The Ellen Show had been allowed a regular time slot the show would have found more viewers and writers and things would have improved on the show. This has often been the case for classic situation comedies, especially in the seventies. This, however, did not happen.

Still, as a situation comedy DVD package, The Ellen Show is watchable. Ellen DeGeneres fans will enjoy it much more than non fans.

The Ellen Show, Episode List:  Pilot, Walden Pond, Chain Reaction, Vanity Hair, The Move, Muskrat Love, Joe, Cathy’s Taffy, Missing The Bus, Alive and Kicking, Ellen’s First Christmas, A Bird in the Hand, Just the Duck, Shallow Gal, Gathering Moss, A Matter of Principal, Where the Sun Doesn’t Shine, One for the Roadshow.


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