Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ellen DeGeneres is overrated, there I said it

Watched every minute of the Oscars on Sunday and read a lot of the ensuing discourse on the telecast -- the coverage of the coverage, if you will. Everyone seemed to agree that the show was too long, the fashion was pretty good overall, and Scorcese's big moment buoyed the ratings.

Basically, everything's been said. Except one thing. Amid all the nattering, I saw no mention of my top complaint -- that Ellen DeGeneres was a crappy host. Tom Shales called her "crisp and unpretentious." Well, so is a carrot. The L.A. Times called her "low-key." Apparently, they meant it as a compliment. What? Is being "low-key" good when you're trying to bring humor and, you know, excitement to a broadcast? Who remembers the truly great low-key performances of all time? Eddie Murphy in his prime? That was one low-key dude. He would get so low-key, I would snort milk out of my nose!

Hi! I have a joke. Okay, here goes. Ready?
Okay. Don't you, you know, hate it when,
you know, your refrigerator stops running?
Oh. Wait. Sorry. I screwed that up.

Ellen's low-keyness is abetted by two classic Ellen traits: her halting way of rambling speaking, and her complete, abject fear of offending someone.

Now, you don't have to be Sacha Baron Cohen to be funny, but sometimes you have to move beyond that happy-happy, we-are-all-so-great pablum that seeps into every Oscar ceremony like nitrous oxide. We can all be likeable if we repeat that everything is great over and over again. But it's not really a virtue. It's just avoidance.

And then there's her style of speech. It's so unsure and meandering. Couple that with her paralyzing dread of saying the wrong thing, and I can barely stand it. And you know what? It doesn't take a lot of talent. To wit:

"Hi, I'm Ellen, and I host a talk show. Well, I don't host it. I guess. I'm the hostess. I hostess it. Know what I mean? Are you with me? Yes. So. Yes. So, hosting -- or hostessing, I guess I should say now -- is like an art form. Well, not really. It's not like writing a novel or anything. Although I'd like to see William Faulkner host a talk show. But he's such a great author, he'd make a better guest than a host. Or hostess. Like hostess cup cakes? Who doesn't like those. Imagine William Faulkner eating hostess cupcakes. On the talk show that I hostessed. How great would that be? Seriously. How great?"

What if a person came up to you at a party and started talking to you like this? You'd be excusing yourself and escaping out the window within seconds. I grant you that Ellen is sometimes funny. But she has to be. If she's one degree less funny, she's a social outcast.

Finally, I think a lot of her fans only like her because "she's so nice," or because they live in Kansas City and want to feel progressive about themselves. The next time someone accuses them of being closed-minded or whatever, they can say they have many gay friends. Or at least they watch Ellen on the TV. Being nice and being gay are great, but do they necessarily make you a successful television personality? They sure don't. So the emperor wears no clothes, I say. Ellen gets the gong.

Now. Here's hoping for Jerry Seinfeld as next year's host. What is with this movie food? What are...these food items?

The Broadcast: Long and Longer [Tom Shales, The Washington Post]
4-hr. Oscarcast reels in almost 40M viewers [N.Y. Daily News]
Elizabeth Snead's Red Carpet Rewind [Los Angeles Times]
Oscar Ratings Report Card [L.A. Times]

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TheDymond said...

Good. I thought I was the only one who found her unfunny. Did you see the Will Ferrell/Jack Black musical number? Usually when I see Jack Black, I head for the hills, but it was really funny.

Anonymous said...

I so totally disagree with you. She was a really relaxed host. The Oscars are usually such a tense affair and she definitely made it more casual and easygoing.

Jen said...

She was ok, kinda bland. in general I find her pretty annoying, although I like HER and really want to like her comedy sthick.

Anonymous said...

A relaxed host? So is the undertaker at the funeral home. Oprah Winfrey was relaxed, but she generated energy and interest in every show she hosted. She became a billionaire as a result of her talent. Now there's a word DeGeneres resume is without. Cheers/JAS