The First Season
In 1994 the television sitcom These Friends of Mine aired for its first season. After the second season, the show's title was changed to Ellen, because the show revolves around Ellen DeGeneres as Ellen Morgan. It's your average sitcom, most comparable to other popular sitcoms like Friends and Seinfeld for its setup. Ellen is basically a sitcom that focuses on a group of friends and their comical daily interactions. Unlike Friends or Seinfeld, Ellen isn't entirely comical. The show's biggest problem is that it isn't always funny. Now don't get me wrong, I think that Ellen DeGeneres is one of the funniest people in the world, but this show just isn't. However, there are a few good episodes in this first season DVD release, but overall, the show isn't that appealing.
In all of the episodes, DeGeneres steals the spotlight. It's her neurotic behavior that gets the laughs, but it's also a problem with the series. Basically, it feels like every episode has DeGeneres speaking with her foot in her mouth. She's always stumbling over some kind of embarrassing or nerve-racking situation, which can be both funny and not-so-funny. For instance in episodes like "The Mugging" and "The Anchor", I found it hilarious to hear DeGeneres trip over her own words when trying to work her way through a lie. However in episodes like "The Promotion" and "A Kiss Is Still A Kiss", I found that it was slightly annoying to hear DeGeneres just say the wrong thing repeatedly. In these kinds of episodes, DeGeneres was placed in sticky situations and she just kept saying the wrong thing over and over. It was funny at first, but it quickly became frustrating.
This also leads into another problem with the series. Because DeGeneres repeatedly steals the spotlight, her fellow cast members do not seem to add a lot to the show. We have Arye Gross as Adam, who is Ellen's roommate. Adam is a guy who doesn't seem to do very much with his life. Then there's Maggie Wheeler as Anita, the most outgoing girl of the bunch. She's most popular from her guest starring role in Friends as Janice. The last of the bunch is Holly Fulger, who plays Holly. She's the kind of person who has no backbone, a bit too timid, and has the worst luck dating. On their own accord, they're, at best, mildly entertaining. On the other hand, the interaction between DeGeneres and her fellow cast members can be entertaining. In episodes like "The Tape", there's a few embarrassing moments for everyone, when one of them decides to videotape themselves in action. What makes this a funny episode is how they all act (and react) to the embarrassing situation. Another episode, "The Class Reunion" shows some great chemistry between DeGeneres and Gross. It's really comical, because we get to see them build a house of lies. Of course, it gets even better when the house falls apart.
Overall, this first season release has both its positive and negative aspects. In general, the episodes are mildly entertaining. Additionally, they sometimes feel a little too much like the last one, as there are quite a number of episodes that focus upon lying and dating in the first season. Sure each episode is a little different, but it's mainly DeGeneres and her fellow co-stars getting into different variations of the same sticky situations. Fans of the series will be extremely happy to see the comic work of Ellen, but everyone else shouldn't get too excited. There's enough entertaining content in this release to warrant a rental, but that's as far as it goes.
2. The Promotion
3. The Refrigerator
4. The Mugging
5. The Anchor
6. The Class Reunion
7. The Tape
8. The Boyfriend Stealer
9. The Soft Touch
10. A Kiss Is Still A Kiss
11. The Go-Between
12. The Hand That Robs The Cradle
13. The Houseguest
The complete first season of Ellen is given in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame color. The picture quality is fairly decent, with only a slight grain in the picture. However, there are noticeable compression artifacts in each episode, which cause slight color distortion. The quality isn't very impressive, not really much better than what you would expect from broadcast or cable television.
The audio track in this DVD release is an English 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound track. The sound quality is fairly good, with only a barely audible distortion. Like most other television series releases on DVD, the audio is relatively flat, as it consists of spoken dialogue. Also, there is very little distinction in separation between audio channels.
There aren't a lot of special features included with this release. There are cast biographies for the four main cast members: Ellen DeGeneres, Arye Gross, Maggie Wheeler, and Holly Fulger. The last extra is an audio commentary for the "Pilot" episode with Holly Fulger and Arye Gross. It's mildly entertaining, best suited for the fans only.
I remember Ellen being a really funny television show, but after sitting through the thirteen episodes that make up the complete first season, I have a different opinion. The show just isn't that funny. There are a few episodes that are great to sit through, but as an entire season, it's lacking. The show has a very limited focus and really fails to produce an abundance of entertainment. The bottom line, fans of the series should be quite pleased to see the first season on DVD and others who are looking for a good comedy probably won't be as interested. However, since there is some entertainment value in this release, it warrants a rental.