Ellen and These Friends Of Mine


Ellen (1994-1998)
These Friends Of Mine (1994)
Type: Series Revamp
Group: 2

   Folks, the saying is that the exception proves the rule. I actually don't understand what that means. Actually sounds like an excuse to account for why the rule ain't working. Anyway, that is the case here. The rule is when a show gets overhauled and given a new name it usually doesn't help and the series still goes bad. The exception is the show These Friends Of Mine being tinkered with and renamed Ellen and it actually getting more popular.

   Why was this case different? Well normally when shows get overhauled it's because something has gone very wrong and the only hope of possibly saving the show is to make fixes, rename it and hope the audience doesn't remember it as the same show they shunned the first time around. That was actually not the case this time. These Friends Of Mine was doing well. The tinkering was done because the folks behind the show actually thought they could make it even better and they did. And the name change wasn't to disguise the old show as a new one. Heck the show was popular and ABC had to go out of its way to alert people it was the same show. The name change was because star Ellen DeGeneres proved popular enough to merit having her show named after her. Naming it Ellen might actually help draw viewers.

   Initially naming the series These Friends Of Mine also had helped to take the main focus off the Ellen DeGeneres, to make it more of a ensemble show just in case the untested DeGeneres might prove unable to firmly anchor the show. Like I said though, people dug the show and Ellen was more than capable of being the center of the show. So after These Friends Of Mine's initial run in the second half of the 1993-1994 season, it was renamed and revamped for the next season. Some of Ellen's friends were were written off the show and new ones were brought in. Ellen went from working at a bookstore to owning the place and the show stayed popular.

   Of course if I'm writing about Ellen I have to mention "The Puppy" episode. For those of you scratching your heads, let me explain. As the show went on, there were rumors in the press that Ellen Degeneres might be gay and that they might be making her character on the show gay as well. It was this huge story before Ellen and company ever even did anything officially. On the show they started playing with the publicity, making jokes with Ellen literally being in a closet and coming out and the like... just walking that fine line without actually saying it. The episode in which she came out as being gay was code named The Puppy episode. I'm guessing it was named that so it could be discussed out loud and in memos while hopefully any spies would be thrown off the the scent. Yeah, that worked well.

   By the time the big episode actually rolled around and Ellen came out in real life as well, the hype was actually getting a little old. It was still a big deal for sure but the double outing was just so long in coming that people were getting a little tired of hearing about it. Part of the reason it did take so long was that ABC and Disney were supposedly a little leery of the whole "coming out" thing. They knew they'd get crap from a lot of Americans over it. In the end though it had to happen and it did toward the end of the 1996-1997 season. There was some question though as to whether ABC would pickup the show for the next season. Again, it had to happen. You've got a show with all sorts of media attention directed at it (i.e. free publicity)... you don't cancel it for crying out loud. The next season though would prove to be the last.

   Despite all the media attention, in Ellen's last season it wasn't a huge ratings success. Ellen DeGeneres blamed the show's decline and cancellation on the network and its lack of support for the show, that they wanted to kill it and get rid of all the controversy. I have to disagree. It's my web site so I get my say. While it is possible that the network did not support the show I don't think that was the problem. I'm a mindless viewer. I was drawn to the show by the controversy. And I'll tell ya, I stopped watching because of the writing.

   First of all, the whole lesbian thing was laid on a little heavy. Don't get me wrong. If she's gay she's gay. Fine. And I fully expect that to be explored and used as a new element on the show. The thing is they seemed to use that as a plot element to excess. The character is gay and that's an important part of her life but it shouldn't be the entirety of her life. I'm straight and Catholic. If I did a show about myself where every week the plot always centered on me trying to reconcile my faith with pursuing women and trying to bed them it would get old. There would comes a point where the audience would go "Doesn't he have anything else in his life? Doesn't he ever do things with his friends where his issues with his sexuality don't come into play?" That's how I started to feel. I just wanted some episodes that were focused on something else because the gay issue seemed to become all the show was about. I did like many of the gay themed episodes actually. Ellen loosing a friend over her sexuality, her having to tell her folks, her trying to get into the dating scene... all good. It's just, like I said, the lack of any other issues or elements in her life that lost me.

   Second, the bottom line is I didn't find the episodes of the last season all that funny. The Puppy episode was unbelievably funny and well written. I laughed my ass off. I didn't laugh much at most of the final season. If I'm not laughing, I'm not tuning in for long. That's it. So if by some fluke Ellen DeGeneres actually reads this, I think you are very funny but you didn't lose this viewer due to bigotry or a conspiracy. You lost me because I wasn't enjoying the last season of the show as entertainment.

Other Ellen Crossover Links
Ellen and Coach
Ellen and The Drew Carey Show
Ellen and Grace Under Fire


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