The Complete First Season
Review by Michael Jacobson
Ellen DeGeneres, Holly Fulger, Maggie Wheeler, Arye Gross
Audio: Dolby Stereo
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Features: Pilot Commentary, Bios
Length: 300 Minutes
Release Date: September 28, 2004
kind of best friend am I if I don't stick my nose in her personal life?”
said that the holy grail for any stand-up comic is to land their own network
sitcom. In 1993, the sunny and
funny Ellen DeGeneres reached out and grasped that cup herself, joining the
likes of Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Tim Allen, Jerry Seinfeld and many others.
fact, Ellen started suspiciously like a gender-reversed take on Seinfeld…four
central characters with three gals and a guy, taking on bits of everyday life in
the form of everything from misadventures at the DMV to class reunions, from
sexy home videos to personal ads. But
the show will probably always be remembered for the time when Ellen's sitcom
character and Ellen herself came out of the closet nationally.
hour long episode came much later, of course, but it was a true climax for the
program. Millions tuned in to watch
the special show, but it seemed like once the show turned that controversial
corner, audience interest began to dwindle.
In retrospect, it was both a bold move and possibly a miscalculation, in
that there was really no way for the show to replicate such a big moment
afterwards. Each episode that
subsequently aired seemed…well, somewhat less impressive.
career hit a bit of a lull when her show stalled as well…I can remember things
got a little ugly when she bitterly accused her network of withdrawing support
for the program too soon after overly-hyping the gay revelation episode.
Thankfully, she's enjoying a bit of resurgence with her new show.
always liked Ellen DeGeneres as a comedian.
As an actress, she left a little something to be desired (though you
could argue she found a niche doing voices for animated features with her
wonderful turn in Finding Nemo). Placed
against her co-stars Holly Fulger, Maggie Wheeler and Arye Gross, her lack of
experience is a little obvious in this first season two disc set from A&E.
She has charm, warmth and humor, but comes across as a little lost
between being herself and being a character.
Much of the comedy came time and time again from her nervous rambling on
and on in uncomfortable situations…it was a bit of awkward shtick that started
wearing out its welcome fairly rapidly.
there are many comic highlights amongst the first 13 episodes.
My favorite was “The Anchor”, which humorously chronicles Ellen's
misadventures with call waiting. “The
Refrigerator” was also a high point, as Ellen and her roommate Adam (Gross)
try to buy a new appliance, only to end up having to move it back and forth
across town because of…well, you'll see.
cast of supporting players is solid (though Maggie Wheeler was noticeably absent
after the 7th episode). The
episodes are a little hit and miss, but most are worth a chuckle or two.
The better ones deliver some real belly laughs.
The packaging touts the show as “ground-breaking”, and it's kind of
interesting to go back to that first year BEFORE the show actually broke the
ground that made it forever memorable.
the show never been more than what's seen here, it might have been delegated
to the giant scrap heap of forgotten prime time fodder, but it rolled the dice,
took a chance, and earned a place in history because of it, even if it marked a
new height that it would never again attain.
This DVD is a reminder of that show in a younger, more eager-to-please
form…not always sure of itself, but working its way toward the television
event that would come to define it.
TRIVIA: Look for Giovanni Ribisi in
a small role in the pilot!
shows look pretty good on DVD…the episodes were shot on film instead of video,
so the clarity and quality comes through a little stronger.
Coloring is good and natural throughout, and detail level is quite
sitcom won't demand much of an audio track, and here, you get clean clear
dialogue, minimal dynamic range, and not much more.
Perfectly suitable, nothing else.
extras include a likable commentary track for the pilot episode by co-stars
Holly Fulger and Arye Gross and bios for the four principals.