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

"Ellen" The Complete Season Four DVD Review

Buy Ellen: The Complete Season Four from Amazon.com Ellen: Season Four (1996-97)
Show & DVD Details

Regular Director: Gil Junger

Cast: Ellen DeGeneres (Ellen Morgan), 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), Patrick Bristo (Peter), Jake Plotnick (Barrett), Bruce Campbell (Ed Billik), Aaron Neville (Himself), Oprah Winfrey (Therapist), Laura Dern (Susan), The Captain & Tennille (Themselves), Patrick Harrigan (Waiter), Nancy Lenehan (Margaret)

Notable Guest Stars: John Tesh (Himself), Eddie Fisher (Himself), Harriet Sansom Harris (Claire), Wolfgang Puck (Himself), Anne Rice (Herself), DEVO (Themselves), Harvey Korman (The Therapist), Trisha Yearwood (Herself), Debra Mooney (Barbara), ZZ Top (Themselves), Joe Flaherty (Perry), Jennifer Holiday (Herself), Jann Arden (Herself), Bob Saget (Himself), Florence Henderson (Madeline), Sheryl Crow (Herself), Bonnie Raitt (Herself), David Crosby (Himself), Queen Latifah (Herself), Brian Setzer (Himself), Wayne Newton (Doctor), Drew Carey (Himself), Eileen Heckart (Grammy), Brett Butler (Grace Kelly), Melissa Etheridge (Herself), Billy Bob Thornton (Grocer), Jenny Shimizu (Woman in Aisle), Dwight Yoakam (Bag Boy), Demi Moore (Sample Lady), k.d. lang (Janine), Gina Gershon (The Cashier), Leisha Hailey (Coffee House Woman), Joan Jett (Herself), Dayton Callie (Father of the Gay Son), Laraine Newman (Over-Supportive Parent), Chastity Bono (The Moderator), The Bee Gees (Themselves)

Running Time: 575 Minutes (25 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 (English)
DVD Release Date: September 26, 2006 / Subtitles: None
Season 4 Airdates: September 18, 1996 - May 14, 1997
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

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

Drew Carey appears with Spence in an ABC crossover event. "Seinfeld" wasn't the only sitcom referencing "The English Patient" in 1996-97! Paige no longer feels comfortable changing clothes in front of Ellen.

Disc 3 (Volume 3)

18. Hello, Dalai (22:22) (Originally aired February 19, 1997)
Peter takes Ellen on a spiritual retreat, where she is confronted with doubts about her own happiness.

19. Secrets & Ellen (21:32) (Originally aired February 26, 1997)
To impress her visiting grandmother, Ellen pretends to be dating Joe. Meanwhile, Paige and Spence's romantic Vegas getaway is disrupted when Spence develops amnesia and believes himself to be a Roman guard. This episode aired as part of ABC's "Viva Las Vegas" night, in which the shows in its Wednesday night line-up crossed over one another. Characters from "Grace Under Fire" and "The Drew Carey Show" appear; Paige and Spence also appeared on both of those shows as well as "Coach" that night.

20. Reversal of Misfortune (21:52) (Originally aired March 4, 1997)
Finally on board with her parents' divorce, Ellen pushes for them to sign the papers so that everyone can move on, which turns out to be the very last thing that Harold and Lois want to do.

21. The Clip Show Patient (21:52) (Originally aired April 8, 1997)
Volunteering at a hospital, Ellen meets an English patient who begins to recount his life story. Of course, Ellen is more interested in recounting her own history, which opens the door for this clip show.

22. The Puppy Episode (Part I) (23:32) (Originally aired April 30, 1997)
In one of TV history's most famous episodes, Ellen finds herself uncomfortable on a date with an old friend and more interested in his assistant, Susan. When her sexuality is questioned, she tries to convince herself that she is attracted to men but ultimately concludes that she is gay, announcing it to Susan and everyone around her.

23. The Puppy Episode (Part II) (23:22) (Originally aired April 30, 1997)
Ellen gathers all her friends together so that she can tell them of her decision but finds that it's more difficult than she had anticipated. Afterwards, she seeks out a relationship with Susan.

24. Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (22:22) (Originally aired May 7, 1997)
Ellen comes out to her parents, who are disappointed and heartbroken, finding themselves incapable of handling the news.

25. Moving On (22:22) (Originally aired May 14, 1997)
Ellen is shocked that her friends, most notably Paige and Ed, are unable to cope with her newfound lesbianism. As she moves into her new home, she tries to reconcile her relationships.

Melissa Etheridge appears on Part II of "The Puppy Episode" to congratulate Ellen. Things only heat up for Spence and Paige in Season Four.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Video quality is fairly standard for a sitcom of this age. As with past releases, the transfer is acceptable without being perfect. There are the typical problems of softness, darkness, and a little edge enhancement, but nothing that stands out as overly egregious for a '90s TV show. In accordance with its original TV broadcast, the show is presented in fullframe 1.33:1.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and sounds just fine. Levels are appropriate and clarity is never an issue. It's an average audio track but certainly gets the job done, enabling viewers to forget all about their set-up and simply enjoy the show.

The main menu keeps the same design from the last releases. An animated intro leads to a static, silent screen. Along with the rest of the main cast, David Anthony Higgins' career is summarized in the third disc's cast biographies feature. Each disc features three screens of episode selection.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, and PACKAGING

There are two audio commentary tracks offered this time, one for each half of "The Puppy Episode." Writers Tracy Newman, Dava Savell, and Jonathan Stark reflect on this historic two-parter, which they're viewing for the first time in nearly a decade.
Unfortunately, DeGeneres herself still isn't featured in this or any other bonus feature for the series, which is disappointing given its prominence in her career but also understandable given her current tendency to distance herself from it. The commentary is largely praising and defensive of the show's changes but it also reveals interesting insight on the behind-the-scenes tensions amongst cast, crew, and network/studio officials.

The only other bonus is a set of on-screen biographies and abbreviated filmographies for each of the main stars, Ellen DeGeneres, Joely Fisher, David Anthony Higgins, Clea Lewis, and Jeremy Piven. They are the same bios that have appeared previously and are up-to-date enough to include DeGeneres' hit talk show, Fisher's recurring role on the second season of "Desperate Housewives", and Pivens' "Entourage", but not quite current enough to observe that "Malcolm in the Middle," which featured Higgins in a supporting role, has ended its run.

The menus are designed exactly like those for the previous releases, only with new pictures and a green color scheme. The episodes are each divided into a number of chapters (by scene) and are selectable from the main menu as individual programs or as one "Play All". The discs themselves are housed in three individual slim-line DVD cases which fit together into one cardboard slipcover and are labeled with blue-tinted collages from the show.

"I'm Gay." Bonnie Raitt, Aaron Neville, and Ellen DeGeneres... could there be an odder group performance?

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Even in its fourth season, "Ellen" is a very funny show. If you can overlook its unfortunate political fumbles, which isn't so difficult to do for the willing, there's still a lot to appreciate in all but the last few episodes. A&E's treatment of The Complete Season Four is at least adequate, granting it a satisfactory audio/video presentation and two audio commentaries. The third season still triumphs as the series' best by far, but those who have already visited earlier years and enjoyed them may well find themselves overall satisfied with this release as well.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Ellen: The Complete Season Three Ellen: The Complete Season Two Ellen: The Complete Season One
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Commander in Chief: Part 1 Commander in Chief: Part 2
Grey's Anatomy: The Complete Second Season The Golden Girls: The Complete Fifth Season
Home Improvement: The Complete Fourth Season Dinosaurs: The Complete First and Second Seasons
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition - Season 1 Boy Meets World: The Complete Third Season
Sweet Valley High: The Complete First Season Popular: The Complete Second Season Lost: The Complete First Season

See/Hear the Season 4 Cast of "Ellen" in...
Finding Nemo (Dory is voiced by Ellen DeGeneres)
Inspector Gadget (Brenda is played by Joely Fisher)
Sky High (Coach Boomer is played by Bruce Campbell)

Other Works featuring "Ellen" Season Four Guest Stars
Billy Bob Thornton & Dwight Yoakam: Sling Blade Harvey Korman: The Muppet Show: Season 1 Joe Flaherty: Home on the Range
Melissa Etheridge: Brother Bear 2 Demi Moore: The Hunchback of Notre Dame Queen Latifah: Chicago

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

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

Reviewed October 27, 2006.