You've got to give her credit. Ellen DeGeneres just refuses to give up. Misfortune be damned, she's going to have a career in television. And it appears, at last, she's found the perfect match: her very own talk show.
The successful September launch of her daytime gabfest comes on the heels of two celebrated disasters for Ellen: a failed sitcom and a spectacularly mismanaged relationship with Anne Heche. For a while, it seemed her star had faded, that Ellen would be relegated to the ash heap of trivia and VH1 specials.
But it's difficult to repress talent -- even in Hollywood, where the most depressing repressing occurs.
Ellen's show is a lively, upbeat offering, mercifully short on the Jerry Springer-like antics that serve as the bread and butter for so many talk shows. The program combines a routine mix of celebrity interviews, musical performances and stand-up monologues.
But in a departure from the canned and stylized talk format, Ellen spends a lot of time goofing off in Dave Letterman fashion. Whether she's chatting up a production assistant or yakking on the phone with bookstore patrons in Philly, there's a distinctly Ellen feel to it. Good-natured and fun, clean and simple.
In a recent episode, for example, Ellen makes a plea for support for the embattled firefighters who gave so much of themselves to help engulfed southern Californians. Touching and heartfelt, it was a modest request for financial aid and canned food. This from the woman who Dan Quayle, that pandering idiot, called a degenerate.
Far from alienating folks, Ellen's the ideal talk show host, a favorite gal pal you'd invite over for a cup of coffee before the kids get home from school. She's a friendly neighbor and a good citizen -- and the kind who makes us laugh. In a send-up of ABC's The Bachelor, Ellen stands in a line of twinkling beauties waiting to receive her rose from a tuxedoed suitor. Looking decidedly bored, Ellen checks her watch and winks at the audience, which howls in delight at the sly reference to her sexual orientation.
Not that Ellen is all lesbiana, all the time. Hardly so. This is mainstream daytime talk -- puffy interviews, Halloween haunted houses and updates on reality shows. Gay audiences in search of red meat better look elsewhere; Ellen's not talking to a voter bloc here. She's been down that road before.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show is a back-to-basics exercise stuffed with Bill Cosby-styled humor designed to amuse, not provoke. Witness the diatribe about flossing (yes, flossing) or even the creamy pastels of the show's website. Take note, advertisers, this is the home for Downy and Oreo commercials.
That's not to say Ellen disappoints. In fact, she's quite soothing. Kind of like when you were a kid, and being sick meant staying home from school, The Price is Right, the smell of lemon Pledge and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Haven't we always loved Ellen? Ever since that hallmark moment when, chasing after Laura Dern, she announced into the airport PA system, "I'm gay!"
Her talk show, in one sense, is a rehabilitation of that Ellen. Not the visible, outspoken, the personal-is-political Ellen. Not the girlfriend of the ecstasy-poppin' weirdo, who's waiting for Martians to beam her into Outer Space. No, this the real Ellen, the corduroy-clad woman in the sensible sweater, who seems to have finally found her home.