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Ellen: The Complete Season One (review)

Quick: How long did Ellen DeGeneres’ sitcom last? Four episodes? Ten? Maybe it eeked out a full season? Get this: Ellen, one of the blandest, most generic sitcoms in recent memory, endured for five years and one hundred episodes — there’s a hole in your pop-culture memory only because the series, or at least the 1994 debut season, is virtually indistinguishable from Wonder Bread. Yes, DeGeneres herself is sweet and genial and impossible not to like, but these 11 episodes — dating from when the show was called These Friends of Mine… — are like Seinfeld lite… very, very lite. With plots that are the stuff of the most banal standup comedy — bad driver’s license photos, faking your way through a high-school reunion, dissecting personal ads — this is so mild as to be instantly forgettable. The only marginally interesting thing about it, in fact, is the irony of so many episodes focusing on bookstore manager Ellen Morgan’s unsuccessful attempts at finding a boyfriend, when today we know that her only problem in the romance department was that she was focusing on the wrong gender. The series won all sorts of awards, including the prestigious Peabody, which makes one wonder how the award givers could have possibly gone through life without having heard the one, milked in an episode here like it was a discovery of great comic import, about how white guys can’t dance.

MPAA: not rated

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