Some viewers understand that this aspect of DeGeneres is an obvious part of the package, that the Queen of Nice is probably an Ice Queen at times.
Because, as DeGeneres darkly noted when “Ellen” returned this week for its 18th season on a deliberate and heavily guarded reward note, no one can be but one thing.
Suffering in a way only someone of his status and notoriety can do, DeGeneres and his masters have spent the summer in a suspended state of damage control. Long-standing rumors of her behavior behind the scenes (don’t speak to her directly, don’t look her in the eye, don’t let her smell you – sounds like the kind of advice the Jeep driver gives before the safari starts ) merged into workplace grievances, first revealed in two BuzzFeed News articles. Former employees and colleagues in the industry have started to share stories about the dark side of DeGeneres. WarnerMedia has launched an internal investigation; three major “Ellen” producers were fired.
Judging by the first three episodes that aired this week, DeGeneres looked deep in and out. . . let go, most of the time. His spectacle remains an unstable kingdom of forced joy. In no time at all, she had started rolling her eyes again, accepting praise from her guests, and sprinkling pink and purple slime on volunteer attendees.
“I’ve learned that things have happened here that should never have happened. I take this very seriously and want to say that I am very sorry for those affected, ”she said during her closely watched opening monologue on Monday’s show.
By way of apology, it was a mixture of contrition and apology, with just a puff of legal caution: Thinking about it, DeGeneres doubts the wisdom of portraying herself as “the Lady Be Kind” (whose genesis, she noted, date back to her grief over a young homosexual who committed suicide in 2010).
Watch where the paragon of cuteness takes you, she seemed to be saying. Her apologies shifted from self-reflection to self-pity, posing as “the patroness of 270 people” (earning between $ 85 million and $ 100 million a year) who: “If I ever let someone down ‘a, if I ever hurt feelings, I’m so sorry for that. If it ever does, I let myself down and hurt myself. We can’t help but notice the operative “if” in all of this: If ever I. If ever this is the case.
Like his talk show peers, DeGeneres doesn’t have a live audience at the moment – die-hard fans lining up for hours to sneak in his presence. She finds herself in a relationship with a theater filled with vertical flat screens, each containing an internet stream of her loyal viewers at home, all of whom appear to be in a forgiving mood.
To DeGeneres’ right is Stephen “tWitch” Boss, his longtime DJ and staunch sidekick, who, DeGeneres has said several times this week, has been promoted to “co-executive producer” – a direct result of the upheaval. behind the scenes. Although Boss remains in his usual spot, on an elevated side stage behind a large table, DeGeneres joked this week that his “fake DJ” gear was gone, grateful he never really played the tracks. optimistic about the show.
DeGeneres slipped beyond this illusion and Boss played along, both as a professed close friend and now a more powerful colleague; in a segment on Tuesday, DeGeneres asked Boss to call his mom so they could all bask together in his act of promoting him. Something in their exchange seemed to unintentionally invoke a lingering awkwardness, a dynamic of superiority.
Is it a happy place? Or is the empty experience of watching the “Ellen” show so much more glaring now?
DeGeneres stressed during her apology that she sees her show as a haven from the troubles and troubles of the world, which it really is not. “Ellen” thrives on being a kinder, gentler wash of the world around us – filled with friends who are former Republican Presidents who campaigned against the same-sex marriage DeGeneres now enjoys, or expressions of symbolic solidarity with police victim Breonna Taylor. “Ellen” is filled with emphatic expressions of “hope” instead of outrage; his will to be happy leaves him in a permanent state of reaction instead of action. Whether a subject is cute or funny or sad or maddening, anything can be danced.
When complaints about the show’s workplace first surfaced, I was struck by an anonymous employee’s observation of how staff seemed to sort themselves, according to BuzzFeed, between ” people who ‘drink Kool-Aid’ and are generally highly regarded by [“Ellen’s”] producers and people who recognize that the work environment is toxic.
Staying with “Ellen” now, as a viewer, is still savoring the flavor of her Kool-Aid. She really wants to put the inconvenience behind her, as do her celebrity guests, including Tiffany Haddish, who appeared on Monday and told DeGeneres “I support you 110%”, and Alec Baldwin (himself a frequent traveler between the red and green zones of public contempt), who told DeGeneres on Wednesday: “Don’t stop what you’re doing – we need you, we need you, we need you.”
Message apparently received. On Tuesday, DeGeneres was talking about his dog’s broken leg. By Wednesday, she had completely overcome her woes.
“Ellen” is both an expression of DeGeneres’ identity and her burden to bear. Like Oprah Winfrey before her, DeGeneres spends a portion of her shows handing out cash to ordinary people who she says touched her heart. On Monday, it was a check for $ 75,000 (paid by Shutterfly, the online photo developer) to a New Orleans man raising his younger siblings after their mother died four years ago. years. On Tuesday, DeGeneres presented a check for $ 25,000 to the WAFFLE Crew, a troupe of seven dancers who perform in New York subway stations.
If you are already enjoying DeGeneres Kool-Aid, then all is forgiven, and such acts will help you feel better in the world, little by little.
If, on the other hand, something about the DeGeneres show and this remarkable charity gives you a moment’s pause (if you divide $ 25,000 by seven dancers and withdraw taxes; if you want DeGeneres to be interested enough in the New Orleans family to ask how their mother died, and you want to remind them of their new tax liability) then “Ellen” is not for you, and probably never was. “Ellen” may not even be the Ellen show itself. Sorry not sorry.
Ellen(one hour) airs weekdays at 3 p.m. on WRC in the Washington area market. (Check local listings)