“The Ellen Show”

By Jae-Ha Kim
June 17, 2006

Three years after the series finale of Ellen aired, Ellen DeGeneres gave sitcoms another shot with the genial The Ellen Show, which made its debut in 2001 on CBS. This time around, DeGeneres plays Ellen Richmond, a Los Angeles career woman who moves back to her hometown after her dot-com business goes under. She moves back home to live with her appropriately named mother, Dot (Cloris Leachman), and insecure younger sister Catherine (Emily Rutherfurd), who both idolizes and resents her.

Clark is a small town where no one ever moves away. So when Ellen returns to her high school, eventually landing a job as its guidance counselor (she had conveniently earned a teaching degree prior to her L.A. move), she finds it to be pretty much the same place she left. Mr. Munn (a wry Martin Mull) is still the sarcastic principal.

Her lunk of a high school boyfriend, Rusty (Jim Gaffigan), is now a teacher there and he doesn’t see why her being a lesbian has to get in the way of a relationship. He simply stares blankly when Munn says, “Newsflash, Rusty. She’s hopped the net and is swinging a new racquet.”

Unlike Ellen, which moved at a faster pace, The Ellen Show takes its sweet time setting up each gag and waiting for the laughs, which are sometimes undeserved. With her chatty, friendly way, DeGeneres is a likeable focal point but the storylines are often unfocused. The series ultimately didn’t pack enough oomph to last a full season. Its last episode aired 3-1/2 months after it premiered. This two-disc, 18-episode set includes the handful of shows that never made it on television.

Guest stars include Betty White and Mary Tyler Moore, who do a nice job chewing up the scenery. But it’s a tiny Dakota Fanning (War of the Worlds) who steals the show, playing a chatty school-age version of Ellen.


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