'Ellen': Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish
by L. Brent Bozell III
It's a rite of spring in Hollywood when the television
networks unveil their schedules for the next season. ABC won't announce its
fall lineup until May 19, but this much we do know: "Ellen" will not
be part of it. Hallelujah. Cancellation of the lesbianfest had been foreseen
long ago, but ever mindless about public opinion, the Disney-owned network
refused, until now, to admit what a disaster this show had become.
What a difference a year makes. In April and May of '97,
"Ellen," and Ellen DeGeneres, were on a roll.
After months of hokey will-she-or-won't-she promotion,
DeGeneres and her character, Ellen Morgan, triumphantly stepped out of the
closet, to the wild applause of the militant homosexual community. The
coming-out episode drew strong ratings, primarily from a voyeuristic, mildly
amused public - but now what? Having made the plunge, "Ellen" stayed
on message with increasingly gay-oriented storylines, and the audience, which
was never loyal to the show - evaporated. In other words, "Ellen" in
the closet proved to be more popular than "Ellen" out. Imagine that.
After the series was officially axed, DeGeneres was fairly
restrained in her comments, but executive producer Tim Doyle wasn't. After
conceding the obvious-that "there was a segment of the audience that
definitely ran away from the show because of the gay material" - Doyle
ripped into his show's benefactor. ABC, he asserted, "could have... made
'Ellen' into a cultural phenomenon, but instead, they justified people's
bigotry." Lost on Mr. Doyle is that making "Ellen" into a
"cultural phenomenon" is <ital> precisely <ital> what
ABC tried to do. The problem was that the public, by the millions, responded
by hitting the channel changer on the remote. Those blasted heterosexuals:
There they go again.
Then there was Doyle's declaration that "there's a
group of older people that will never accept [homosexuality], but there are a
lot of empty cemeteries, and when they're filled, the world will be more
tolerant." Now, there's a new marketing strategy.
Apparently those of us currently living are expected not
only to tolerate but also to simply accept flippant treatment of immoral
behavior. An "Ellen" promo last fall, broadcast during "Monday
Night Football," featured DeGeneres quipping, "If you enjoy watching
people of the same sex pat each other on the bottom, you might want to check
out my show." ABC was flooded with angry phone calls from parents upset
by seeing homosexual content within a program watched by many youngsters. I'm
not sure which is more amazing: that network executives could be so hopelessly
naive as to not realize the damage they would cause themselves, or so arrogant
as not to care.
Far worse than the promo, of course, was the strident
propaganda of the series itself. The February 25 installment, for example,
centered on a character's dream of a society in which homosexuals were the
majority. As Ellen and a straight male friend, Spence, watch television, they
hear, "Tonight on 'Nightline': Heterosexuals in the military, yea or nay?
Ted Koppel interviews Speaker of the House Candace Gingrich. Also, we'll meet
Herb and Jim Stump, two of the many World War II veterans that found love on
the beaches of Normandy." Later, Ellen, Spence, and their gay friend
Peter are in front of an art gallery. Peter, looking in the window, remarks,
"Is this their idea of art? A painting of a little boy kissing a little
girl?" Spence interjects, "That's not art, that's pornography,"
and Ellen adds, "Who is this Norman Rockwell anyway?"
C'mon, people, laugh. That was funny. (Now do you understand
why this moronic series was canceled?)
In a November episode, guest star Emma Thompson said,
"Let's go out and terrify some Baptists," alluding to the Southern
Baptist Convention's boycott of Disney/ABC. That line touches on the cause of
the downfall of "Ellen." The show's purpose this season was not to
entertain, but rather to "educate" (or, failing that, insult) the
family audience - just like another now-defunct ABC series, "Nothing
Sacred." With both of these obnoxious efforts off the air, there may yet
be hope for this web.
On May 13, "Ellen" will say goodbye with a
one-hour episode featuring such guest stars as Jennifer Aniston, Ted Danson,
Phil Donahue, Linda Ellerbee, Woody Harrelson, and Helen Hunt. In other words,
we must ride out one more wave of hype before the series is gone forever. It
won't be fun, but remember: no pain, no gain.
Voice Your Opinion!
Write to Brent Bozell
Home | News Division
| Bozell Columns | CyberAlerts
Media Reality Check | Notable Quotables | Contact
the MRC | Subscribe