The original concept of the series was that each episode took place in real time. A timer on the corner of the screen counted down from 22 minutes, pausing in the middle for one commercial break. The timer was discontinued after a few episodes. For the second season, the conceit was abandoned altogether in favor of a more conventional time structure, perhaps due to a combination of network pressure and the difficulties in planning and filming the action so that it appears to unfold in real time. See more »
Julia Louis-Dreyfuss pulls off the impossible. She stars in a sitcom where the character she portrays is about as far away as possible as she can get from the one she portrayed in "SEINFELD". The only similarities here is that surprisingly, she chose to name herself 'Ellie' in this sitcom where her name in Seinfeld was 'Elaine'. A coincidence perhaps?
Nonetheless, this sitcom had me thinking prior that I was only going to witness another poor offering starring a Seinfeld allum portraying the same character as before (ie. Kramer - "THE MICHAEL RICHARDS SHOW", George - "THE BOB PATTERSON SHOW"). I decided to give "WATCHING ELLIE" a shot and I was pleasantly surprised!
Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is Ellie. From what the pilot offered, Ellie is a jazz singer at a local club. Her life is full of comical mishaps and characters that she must interact with on a daily basis and she appears to have a sister of a somewhat flighty-nature. Ellie's lifestyle is amusing. She is sort of like 'Ally McBeal' without the dancing babies and dramatization of events that play out to the sound-track of Barry White.
"WATCHING ELLIE" supposedly plays out in real-time. There is a time counter in the corner of the television screen that counts down from '22:00' minutes. In the pilot, Ellie scrambles to ready herself for her jazz gig while the toilet in her bathroom is over-flowing, unbeknownst to her. Her sister has stolen her favorite dress that she wants to wear and now her apartment is becoming flooded with water! Enter surprise number two, Peter Stormare (ie. "FARGO", "O' BROTHER WHERE ART THOU", "DANCER IN THE DARK")!! An actor who I never thought I'd see starring in a generic sitcom, he portrays a pathetic handy-man with an un-placeable accent (Swedish perhaps?) who can't help but ogle over Ellie as she calls on him to try and fix her broken toilet. When he slips and knocks himself out, Ellie dashes a few floors down to seek advice from a Doctor who assists in the situation while completely nude.
Ellie herself has several character flaws. While not completely naive to the current events that shape her lifestyle, she has a male neighbor who has an issue with her by advising her constantly that the elevator is 'out of order' when it is in fact working (therefore forcing her to take the stairs every time) and she is also having an affair with a member of her jazz outfit who is (surprise, surprise) married!
Unlike the character of 'Elaine' that she portrayed on "SEINFELD", Ellie is a character that you can sympathize with. She does come off as a loser of sorts, but there is also a lot of 'human' in her character that some people will be able to identify with.
I really enjoyed the pilot, but will "WATCHING ELLIE" be able to keep its head above water with smart writing and not curse itself with repetitive jokes and turn into puerile trash (ie. "JUST SHOOT ME", "ALLY MCBEAL")? Only time will tell.
In the meantime - well done Julia Louis-Dreyfuss!
My Rating - 8 out of 10
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