The Ellen Show is no Ellen. Ellen DeGeneres'' new sitcom on CBS is not completely terrible, but it''s far from good. The Ellen Show is a run-of-the-mill sitcom that, even with a potentially great cast, lacks the chemistry and humor of the glory days of her first show. The Ellen Show is yet another casualty of the Name-in-the-Title Syndrome, an affliction that affects about 90 per cent of shows trying to cash in on post-Seinfeld success by naming the show after its star.
In The Ellen Show, the main character Ellen (how clever is that?) is a rich and famous Internet executive who wants to drop her stressed and fast-paced life in the Internet world to go to her hometown, where she is known and loved, and where life is a bit slower, physically and mentally. Ellen goes back to live with her aging mother (Cloris Leachman) and her dimwitted sister Catherine (Emily Rutherfurd). Life in her hometown is filled with naïve people like her high school prom date Rusty (Jim Gaffigan) and her old high school teacher, Mr. Munn (Martin Mull).
The characters are nothing special. There''s her mother, who still sees her two grown daughters as little girls and wants to control their lives. Her sister Catherine is the token idiot who has a hard time saying "no" to her mother and learns valuable life lessons from the wisdom of her older sister. The other characters are all silly people who make lame jokes that put the laugh-track machine into overdrive because real people wouldn''t waste their breath on them.
The concept, like the characters, is nothing new or exciting. Watching a superior-feeling Ellen make crinkly faces at her friends and family every time they say something stupid, which is quite often, gets old quickly. Plots involving the younger sister breaking away from her mother''s reign or having a secret boyfriend have been done before, and weren''t all that funny in the first place. One episode had Ellen''s sister making delicious taffy that Ellen wanted to sell. As with the 20 Perfect Strangers episodes where Balki makes some Meposian dish that could make them millions of dollars, the plans to sell the products failed. It''s sad when a show rips off plots from a cheesy ''80s sitcom that wasn''t even that good.
Occasionally, the show produces real laughs, but most of them are canned, which may please the person pushing the laugh button, but audiences and TV executives aren''t going to tolerate it for very long unless the show pulls itself together and produces some original, sharp, laughter-inducing comedy.
It''s hard to understand how a sitcom like this can flop with such talented comedians, but it seems to be happening more and more on TV. Ellen had a hit show on ABC for years. With the exception of her run on a dying The Facts of Life, Cloris Leachman has been a respected comedienne for decades. Martin Mull, although a participant in quite a few flops, is a talented comedian and songwriter. It might be the stale and trite writing, forgettable characters, or just that the cast has no sparks as an ensemble, but the show doesn''t work well, and won''t be around long without a shot in the arm or a miracle.
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