Is this really what you wanted to be when you grew up, Ellen DeGeneres? | Street Jazz

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Is this really what you wanted to be when you grew up, Ellen DeGeneres?

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 3:51 PM

Okay, you’re rich. I’m not gonna knock that. But aside from that, you pretty much epitomize the very worst that daytime talk shows have to offer.

While the above may bring some cheer to anyone munching on a chicken salad sandwich from Chick Fil-a, it may not mean what they might prefer it to mean.

No, I meant what I wrote, though. On the odd occasion when the Ellen DeGeneres show wafts through the airwaves and finds itself on our TV, I find myself transfixed in horror.

From the opening minutes where she takes all the “love” she has gotten from the audience (no, really, it’s just applause) and gives it all back to them (and they react as if she has just left a car under their chairs) to her “dancing” to the tightly timed segments, each one accompanied by a wildly cheering (those applause signs must be huge) and “interviews” with celebrities pushing whatever project they are hawking at on the moment.

I suppose this is where I say that things were better in the Olden Days, but in this particular instance, I think maybe they were.

I have always loved talk shows, something that goes back to my early years. I had a fascination with hosts like Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett (who proved you could be both intellectual and funny at the same time).

When my father was stationed at Zweibrücken Air Force base in Germany in the early 1970s, from Monday through Thursday we would have Carson on Monday, Cavett on Tuesday, followed by Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin on Thursdays.

I’ve always sort of wondered who picked out which show of that week to send overseas so we could watch.

Today, we can see Carson and Cavett on DVD; I’m not sure about Griffin or Douglas. I imagine that there are pockets of Douglasites out there who regularly scout the DVD stores in vain hopes of a miracle.

Tom Snyder was another late-night host I enjoyed.

So why pick on DeGeneres? I mean, really, when the field is so full of bad hosts?

Well, it isn’t just the Ellen cliches, the dancing that has long worn-out its kitsch value, the comic segments that could be done on any of a hundred other shows.

No, it is three things in particular.

The first, I suppose, is that I remember Ellen DeGeneres the comedian. No, not the star of the ABC comedy series (which I have to admit I saw only a handful of times) but the actual comedian I liked so much when I would see clips of her in performance.

The second is the “social commentary,” that she attempts, enabled by a cheering audience - prompted by applause signs? Some of the best social commentary in the world has been provided by comedians (see Lenny Bruce) but when Ellen drops the jokes and turns somber, it is like your English teacher suddenly giving you a lecture about sexual hygiene.

It’s clunky. Gone is the humor that made us think about a subject, and here is the schoolmarm, imparting a lesson.

And the last is Bobby Brown.

The Old-Timer in me will tell you know that in the Olden days, when we watched TV on the flickering screens in our caves, as soon as one guest was finished, they moved over, and the next came on - but they didn’t leave. They took part in the conversation.

Now, of course, you talk about your latest vampire love story - cue the wild applause - and leave the show. After a comic segment involving members of the audience, we’ll have another guest who will talk about their exciting new album.

That’s pretty much it for most talk shows.

But then we have Bobby Brown.

Bobby Brown, who has successfully rewritten his life story, so that he and Whitney Houston shared a modern American romance. A story in which Whitney introduced Bobby Brown to hard drugs, and not the other way around.

In fact, he appeared on Ellen for a fawning (and repulsive) interview that many have described as “touching.”

Well, you can watch it online, but I won’t give you the link.

When I watch the Ellen DeGeneres Show, I keep getting the feeling that there is a real talk show there, waiting to get out. A real host, who won’t be tied down by the cliched segments forced on her by television producers who have such a low opinion of the American people that they don’t believe they can handle a show which doesn’t follow the same tired format every day.

I like Ellen DeGeneres. A lot.

I just despise her show. Then again, she’s probably the best of a bad lot. Those watching daytime television who long for more are sort of like Nadine, in Stephen King’s The Stand, who announced so eloquently in the TV miniseries:

“We . . . are . . . dead . . .and . . .this . . . is . . . Hell!”

******

Prayers and talk shows: Dream really do come true!

When I was just a young sprig of a lad, I prayed one night that God might one day in the far future let me have my own TV show. If I been just a little older and smarter, I might have added” . . . and one that pays a lot of money.”

Ah well, I am living proof that you can have a long-running talk show without the money.

Living the dream, baby, living the dream . . .

*****

Return to the Dark Heart of America

Tracy and I will be returning to the Forbidden Zone this week for a few weeks. It’s election season, so the pulse of the area should be beating strongly enough so that even an Outlander like myself will be able to pick it up and report on it.

****

Quote of the Day

Most of the trouble with most people in America who become successful is that they can really and truly get by on bullshit. They can survive on it. - Sammy Davis, Jr.

sdrake@cox.net

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