Case Number 10398


Sony // 2001 // 399 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // November 29th, 2006

The Charge

"If if's and but's were candy and nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas."
-- Ellen's mom, making no sense as usual.

Opening Statement

Three years after Ellen DeGeneres came out of the closet on her sitcom Ellen, the comedian returned to television in a new sitcom also named after her. Apparently network executives thought it wouldn't be at all confusing to have Ellen, The Ellen Show and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. At least there's no question about who stars in all three.

Facts of the Case

Ellen Richmond (Ellen DeGeneres) is a success story who, on the eve of receiving the "Spread Your Wings Award" from her small home town, finds out she's now a bomb. Instead of rushing back to the stressful rat race that is Los Angeles, she decides to stay home and "find herself." Cloris Leachman (Phyllis) plays her mother Dot (I kept waiting for the joke but it never came) while Emily Rutherfurd (The New Adventures of Old Christine) is her socially challenged sister Catherine. While she's looking for herself, Ellen takes a job as the school guidance counselor, which puts her in daily contact with her old school principal Mr. Munn (Martin Mull, Roseanne) and her high school sweetheart, Rusty (Jim Gaffigan).

Though Ellen's character is a lesbian, that story line is mainly used to foil the relationship between herself and Rusty, who's still carrying a torch. It also makes funny fodder, as she's expected to pair up with the school's equally gay (but extremely butch) gym teacher (Diane Delano, Joan of Arcadia). The humor in the show comes mostly from the age-old City Mouse in the Country story. Ellen has trouble dealing with the ins and outs of a small town and her friends remain perplexed by things such TIVO and her Aeron chair rescued from her collapsed (Your business collapsed? Well, at least you weren't in the building when it happened.)

This set is the entire series run including three unaired episodes but no special features.

The Evidence

The Ellen Show is funny. The trouble is, it should be funnier -- and I don't know why it isn't. Let's start at the top with its amazing cast. You have sitcom staples Cloris Leachman, Martin Mull, and Emily Rutherfurd. Then you have stand-up comics DeGeneres and Gaffigan ("Hot Pockets"). It's directed and produced by Andy Ackerman (Becker, Two and a Half Men) and the writing staff includes Mitchell Hurwitz (Arrested Development) and Harold Kimmel (Night Court). There's a heck of a comedy pedigree here, and yet...

Don't get me wrong. I laughed out loud in a dozen spots. Ellen's brand of flat line delivery works exceptionally well. They make great use of her ability to speak a sentence that means one thing when she actually means something else. For example, Ellen's sister is helping her unpack boxes while they discuss how Catherine is trapped at home. Ellen's reply: "Don't do that, you'll box yourself into a corner." Which appears to be a thought about Catherine's inability to stand up to her mother. The truth is, Catherine has actually boxed herself into a corner with Ellen's stuff and can't get out.

Actually, everything between Ellen, her mom, and her sister comes out funny. It's the school stuff that doesn't work. First off, the entire plot revolves around the fact that this is a small, conservative town that hasn't moved into the new millennium. Yet they have two gay staff members and it's a non-issue. Does that make sense? I feel like the show is purposely avoiding the gay material just as they purposely pushed it in Ellen's earlier show. Fine, but then they should have placed the series in Hollywood or New York, not Mayberry (aka Clark).

Second of all, I don't buy Ellen as a guidance counselor in any universe. Talk show host, barely; counselor, never.

On the upside, you will find some great guest stars such as Marissa Jaret Winokur as a young student trying to find herself and John Francis Daley (Freaks and Geeks) as a student with a quick crush on Ellen. "Ellen's First Christmas" is a reunion show with both Ed Asner and Mary Tyler Moore guest starring. Again -- how did this show go wrong?

Closing Statement

The Ellen Show is a mildly funny sitcom full of major sitcom talent. Forget the thin plots and the not quite wacky enough characters and watch it for the history within. Come on...any show that has Mary Tyler Moore, Ed Asner and Cloris Leachman all in the same half hour can't be all bad.

The Verdict

I hereby find The Ellen Show guilty of embezzlement. How else could they have done so little with so much?

Review content copyright © 2006 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 0
Acting: 89
Story: 87
Judgment: 72

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 399 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb