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Ellen on DVD: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 Coming November 28: Season 5

"Ellen" The Complete Season Three DVD Review

Buy Ellen: The Complete Season Three from Amazon.com Ellen: Season Three (1995-96)
Show & DVD Details

Regular Director: Robby Benson

Regular Cast: Ellen DeGeneres (Ellen Morgan), Arye Gross (Adam Green), Joely Fisher (Paige Clark), David Anthony Higgins (Joe Farrell), Clea Lewis (Audrey Penney), Jeremy Piven (Spence Kovak)

Recurring Characters: Alice Hirson (Lois), Steven Gilborn (Harold), Jamie Kennedy (Tad), Patrick Bristo (Peter), Christine Taylor (Karen), Kate Williamson (Mrs. Rodgers), Brian George (Ranjit), Anthony Clark (Will), Paul Bates (Kenny), Jake Plotnick (Barrett), Ron Palillo (Himself/Horshack), Dan Gauthier (Matt Liston), Connie Britton (Heather), Mary Tyler Moore (Herself)

Notable Guest Stars: Jim Haynie (Jake Hilfiger), Martha Stewart (Herself), Carrie Fisher (Herself), Brian Doyle-Murray (Burt Kovak), Kathy Griffin (Peggy), Barry Corbin (Jack Penney), Carol Kane (Lily Penney), Charlie Brill (Del Shapiro), Mitzi McCall (Rochelle Shapiro), Janeane Garofalo (Chloe), Kathy Najimy (Lorna Irons), RuPaul (Himself), Jay Leno (Himself)

Running Time: 575 Minutes (25 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None
DVD Release Date: February 28, 2006
Season 3 Airdates: September 13, 1995 - May 15, 1996
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs; Suggested Retail Price: $49.95
Three individual slim-line DVD cases with cardboard slipcover

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Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

By Aaron Wallace

Sitcoms are often easily distinguishable by season, but "Ellen" is more so than most. While the tone remained consistent, each of the first three seasons underwent substantial revisions to the cast. Aside from Ellen herself, the only original cast member still around for the second season premiere was Arye Gross, who played Ellen's roommate, Adam.
Minor recurring characters (David Anthony Higgins as coffee guy Joe and Clea Lewis as the annoying Audrey) were bumped up to starring roles and Joely Fisher climbed onboard as Paige Clark, Ellen's best friend. A few episodes into the third season, Arye Gross was cast off and Jeremy Piven took his place as Ellen's sarcastic cousin and new roommate, Spence, completing the final and most notable cast ensemble.

The third season is the funniest and most adventuresome of them all. A destructive earthquake and shocking confession of love from Adam just before he leaves for a new job rock Ellen's world and send her on a short-lived quest to find her purpose in life by roaming the country until she finds it. After realizing that Buy the Book, the bookstore and coffee house that she manages and owns, is her dream after all, she returns to Los Angeles to rebuild.

Once she's recovered, things begin to heat up at home. Paige finds what she believes to be true love while sexual tension between she and Spence proves to be a distraction. In the bookstore, the atmosphere grows unfriendly as Joe butts heads with Audrey, who invites herself into a position of employment. Having been thrown out of the medical profession for his temper, Spence tries his hand at law school. A cavalcade of celebrity guest-stars drop by, including Mary Tyler Moore, Martha Stewart, Kathy Najimy (again), Janeane Garofalo, and one of Joely Fisher's many famous siblings and extended family members, Princess Leia herself: Carrie Fisher.

Ellen assures us that an opening credits sequence is on the way. Ellen tries to make the best of her crumbled bookstore.

Two season staples are introduced early on, both making for some of the brightest moments of the entire series. The first is the season-long search for an opening title sequence, which Ellen continually insists is close at hand while she improvises to fill the time at the start of each new episode. The other is the introduction of Ellen's book club, a group of barely-literate gossipers who find their assigned reading to be a more formidable challenge than it should be. After her part on "Hey, Dude" in the early part of the decade, Christine Taylor's career began to take off just as she joined "Ellen" as a member of the club and temporary love interest for Spence.

The fourth season of "Ellen" would retain some vitality at its beginning, but would later seal its fate by a risky change in direction from situational comedy to political commentary. The third season, however, delivers a strong collection of one hilarious situation after another. Ellen is strong in the lead as an awkward and neurotic independent woman. The supporting cast brings a lot to the table, as they compliment the show and its star well. Two things separate "Ellen" from some of the all-time greatest shows: inconsistency in quality and the absence of a certain warmth that makes the greatest shows so endearing. The first flaw isn't an issue in the third season, and the second was least problematic during this year too. Each episode is thoroughly enjoyable and memorable enough to have stuck with me in vivid detail after only one viewing a decade ago.

The Complete Season Three of this Touchstone Television-produced comedy is, like its two predecessors, brought to DVD by A&E Home Video in its entirety. The first two releases appropriately presented the episodes in the order of their production, which sometimes differed greatly from the original broadcast sequence. That changes this time, as A&E switches to broadcast order. That move makes sense, as the storyline becomes increasingly serialized at this time and even though it differs only a little from the production order, the broadcast sequence flows well. It should also be noted that two episodes produced during the first season never made their television debut until the end of this season, despite a different cast and lack of continuity. Taking the most logical course of action, A&E included those episodes in the release of the first season and left them off of this set.

A star () denotes my ten favorite episodes from the season.

Ellen takes a very odd mini-museum tour. Karen pronounces her name "Car-en." Martha Stewart stops by Ellen's place for a formal dinner party.

Disc 1 (Volume 1)

1. Shake, Rattle, and Rumble (22:41) (Originally aired September 13, 1995)
An earthquake strikes LA and leaves Buy the Book in shambles. Spence arrives, moves in, and
stirs up tension among Ellen's group of friends as he teaches her a lesson in self-respect.

2. These Successful Friends of Mine (22:15) (Originally aired September 20, 1995)
In an episode titled after the show's original name, Ellen takes to the road in search of her unknown life dream. She winds up in a little place called Barstow, where a museum of oddities puts things in perspective for her.

3. The Shower Scene (22:05) (Originally aired September 27, 1995)
Paige's sister wants to hold her baby shower in Buy the Book, but the responsibility proves to be more than Ellen can handle.

4.The Bridges of L.A. Country (21:27) (Originally aired October 4, 1995)
Spence offends Ellen when he has a one-night stand with one of the members of his book club, Karen (Christine Taylor). Speaking of the book club, they're driving Ellen crazy too, as they can't get a grasp on The Bridges of Madison County.

5. Hello, I Must Be Going (22:02) (Originally aired October 18, 1995)
Adam is set to leave for good, but his plane keeps getting delayed. When he thinks he's finally leaving, he reveals to Ellen that he loves her, only to find that things become awkward when he faces yet another flight delay. Finally, he does depart, and this marks Arye Gross' final appearance as part of the regular cast.

6. Trick or Treat-Who Cares? (22:10) (Originally aired November 1, 1995)
Each of the gang copes with various anxieties as Halloween approaches. Audrey seems to think she's been hired at Buy the Book, much to the dismay of Joe.

7. She Ain't Friendly, She's My Mother (22:08) (Originally aired November 8, 1995)
A therapy session leaves Ellen's mom (Alice Hirson) wanting to be friends with her daughter, which ultimately puts a very nervous Ellen in the middle of a very awkward evening.

8. Salad Days (21:51) (Originally aired November 15, 1995)
Martha Stewart stops by for a book signing event and inspires Ellen to host a formal dinner part of her own. When Martha unexpectedly drops by, the pressure for perfection puts Ellen on edge.

Newcomer Spence has a short fuse. Ellen's book club goes on TV. If you got the most recent Golden Girls set, you'll remember these  singing triplets.

Disc 2 (Volume 2)

9. The Movie Show (22:20) (Originally aired November 22, 1995)
As a favor to Ellen, big-shot movie exec Paige arranges to have a new Meg Ryan/Carrie Fisher picture shot inside Buy the Book. Ellen's recruited as an extra, but causes a headache for the director and star. Carrie Fisher, who is Joely Fisher's real-life half-sister, makes an appearance as herself.

10. What's Up, Ex-Doc (22:05) (Originally aired November 29, 1995)
When Spence's father arrives and is livid with his son's decision to abandon the medical field,
Ellen tries to play the part of mediator but causes even more problems when an incident of miscommunication arises.

11. Ellen's Choice (22:10) (Originally aired December 6, 1995)
Ellen's book club is invited to appear on a televised book discussion series, but she's worried not only by the ineptitude of her group, but even more by the fact that she has to pick only a few to appear with her on TV.

12. Do You Fear What I Fear? (22:16) (Originally aired December 20, 1995)
The season's twelfth episode is again a Christmas one, though it looks a little more like Halloween. Ellen's parents announce that they won't be home for the holidays and the creepy gift they leave behind freaks her out.

13. Horshack's Law (22:20) (Originally aired January 3, 1996)
Paige gets invited to John Travolta's exclusive party and asks Ellen to tag along. Never one to keep her mouth shut, Ellen accidentally asks the whole gang to tag along but some limousine woes make getting there an enormous challenge. Ron Palillo, who appeared as Arnold Horshack alongside Travolta in "Welcome Back, Kotter" makes his first of several appearances as himself.

14. Morgan, P.I. (22:02) (Originally aired January 10, 1996)
Buy the Book falls victim to robbery and upon hearing Spence's theory, Ellen enlists the help of police detective Matt Liston (Dan Gauthier) to solve the crime. Paige falls for Matt, and their relationship continues for the rest of the season.

15. Oh, Sweet Rapture (21:52) (Originally aired January 24, 1996)
Ellen can't take her carpooling with Audrey anymore and so urges her to buy herself a new car. When she decides on a Saturn-like brand called Rapture, though, she gets sucked into their cult-like fan base and Ellen feels responsible.

16. Witness (22:01) (Originally aired February 7, 1996)
Spence has a date in court... mock court, that is. He's being graded on his performance as an attorney for law school and needs Ellen to be a mock witness. Of course, Ellen has trouble sticking to her script -- which has her playing the part of a stripper -- and her imagination and clumsiness get the best of her.

Joe is horrified by the thought of Audrey joining the Buy the Book staff. Ellen pretends to be a stripper in "Witness."

Continue to Page 2 >>

Order Ellen: Season Three from Amazon.com

Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

UltimateDisney.com | DVD Review Index | Disney / Buena Vista TV Shows Page | Search UltimateDisney.com

Ellen on DVD: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 Coming November 28: Season 5

Reviewed February 27, 2006.