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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
Sorry, let me rephrase that: it was the best of shows, THEN it was the
of shows. After its brilliant initial run proved it too sophisticated
mass network audience, the lovely and genuinely charming Watching Ellie
disappeared. Now it's back, in a grotesque, dumbed-down version with the
same actors playing characters who have the same names and I guess are
supposed to be the same characters. The only problem with this is that
there is no character consistency; and indeed in the new version there
no characters at all, only are sit-com stereotypes. The 'humor', now
it can't be rooted in the characters (as, again, there are none) is
to the utterly predictable and insultingly stupid. (The man Ellie gave
finger to could have been her big break - what a shock! Her boyfriend
cheating on her, he's trying to further her career - who could have
guessed?!) In lieu of the laughter that will no longer be forthcoming
the audience, the producers have kindly supplied the canned
The original Ellie, as fans will fondly recall, allowed amusing events to happen naturally, preferring a handful of genuinely funny moments in a half-hour to five lousy punch-lines per minute. They didn't even require that each episode end with a joke. Audiences, confused and perplexed by the lack of formula (duh, what am I supposed to laugh at? duh, this sure isn't Will and Grace!) stayed away in droves.
Rather than making 'Ellie for Dummies,' why couldn't the show have been transferred to, say, HBO, where intelligent, laugh-track-free comedies seem to flourish? (Dare I point out that even Fox network, which airs Bernie Mac and Malcolm in the Middle, has recognized the value of the laugh-track-free, single camera, half-hour comedy?) Watching the 2003 version of Ellie is like having dinner with a former best friend who has since been lobotomized. And the food and the service are lousy too.
I recorded the premiere of "Watching Ellie" last night to view after
watching my other standard Tuesday night shows. I'm so glad I did,
this show is totally worth watching.
The show's use of real time action is not a not a new concept to television (as seen on HBO and Showtime), but it is rather new to advertiser supported networks like NBC. The concept of using real time action is a breath of fresh air in the land of the half hour sitcom, with their story lines frequently interupted by commercials. The actual length of a 'half-hour' sitcom is twenty-two minutes. "Watching Ellie" broke this into two halves, with only on stop for commercials in the middle. I noticed, thankfully, that there was no laugh track used (an overused concept).
The ability of the actors to accurately portray what is really going on in a twenty-two minute span obviously gives it a sense of real time passing, rather than a beginning-middle-end storyline where everything falls into place perfectly. Now, don't get me wrong, I love my sitcoms. I am frequently glued to my TV in the evenings. But it is nice to see something new every once in a while.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Ellie, a single lounge singer who happens to be sleeping with the married guitarist of her backup band. So far, the show seem to be about watching her everyday life as a lounge singer.
Watching this show reminded me of an episode of "Mad About You" that broached this same concept. The story was about Jamie and Paul as they were trying to put their little Mabel to sleep with out hovering over her. The whole episode was shot in one take, with no commercial interuptions.
I really hope this show makes it. I am looking forward to future episodes.
Most of these comments show exactly why interesting and innovative shows, or indeed any show that's not in the same mold as every other show, don't get made. Or if they get made, they don't attract viewers quickly enough for the networks and they get dumped, whereas junk like "Veronica's Closet" just keeps getting renewed. "Action" was brilliant, and i'm glad it had its short perfect run. "Freaks and Geeks" was great. "Undeclared" is great. "Once and Again" had the best-written teens on televison, maybe ever. "The Tick" took a brilliant cartoon and somehow made it even better in live-action. And they all failed, because the American people want jokes in their comedy, jokes that come at regular intervals. They don't want comedy that's closer to drama, or to "real life", or to tragedy. They want a laugh track to tell them when something's funny. "Watching Ellie" is really funny, mostly because Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a brilliant physical comedienne. You watch her expressions, what she does with her eyes and mouth and hands, reacting to the frustrations of life, and she is just brilliant. The 22-minute limit is a gimmick, but it's actually fun to see what new situation the writers come up with to attach the ticking clock to. This show is going to die a quick death, and in five years it's going to come out on DVD and everyone will declaim its brilliance. Too bad it's a network show. Cheers to Julia Louis-Dreyfus (and even to Brad Hall).
JL-D is the sexiest comedienne to come along in a blue moon, and her timing is extraordinary. Her new sitcom does some amazing things with real-time narrative, and features an affable bunch of oddball neighbors and cohorts. I really think this show has the potential to become the righteous heir to SEINFELD which, as we all know, is a hell of an act to follow. Very urbane and witty, with astute character comedy juggling well with absurd physical schtick. And I LOVE those freeze frames which showcase Julia's gorgeous mouth! Ouch! More please!
It's too bad this show got cancelled so quickly, because personnally, I liked it a lot. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a remarkable actress and the supporting cast is just as awesome, especially Steve Carell who played Ellie's arrogant, annoying but hilarious ex-boyfriend Edgar (lucky for us, we got to see him play an equally arrogant guy in Bruce Almighty) . I'm afraid the pilot, which was just OK, dissuaded many from keeping watching "Ellie": during the first episodes, the show was trying to find itself, trying to be original but it still had that Seinfeld feel at the same time (the fact that Ellie would sing at the end of the first few episodes was quite reminiscent of Jerry's opening and closing monologues), and I have to admit that at first, it was hard to tell Ellie and Elaine apart. But eventually, the show slightly changed its concept and got better and funnier, and I'm told it was a whole lot more watchable than the Micheal Richards show and Bob Peterson, Jason Alexander's sitcom. Seinfeld Curse? Not in Julia's case, who has the talent to be an even better headliner than Jerry ever was. Too bad, just too bad...
First off, don't believe everything you read. For example, I've been
cruising around the net trying to figure out when I can expect to see more
of Watching Ellie, and I come across a review that is way off.
My wife and I loved the first season and are patiently waiting with crossed fingers to see Julia again. The cast of characters blended well together, the storyline was intriguing, witty, and made us laugh out loud. For thirty minutes a week, this cast provided us with the type of entertainment that is becoming harder and harder to find.
Bring back "Watching Ellie".
I was not expecting too much with this show - seeing the success of most spin-offs from Seinfeld failed, I was hoping Watching Ellie wouldn't suffer the same fate...but the show was just plain terrible. While the real-time format was somewhat original (sorry, "24" made it first), there was absolutely no structure whatsoever to the show. There were random events after random events, and the show literally became...well, a show about nothing - and not in the good way. The jokes failed regularly; while I applaud their decision to avoid a laugh track, there's something else they should have done away with: sitcom jokes. While the show is not all sitcom jokes, there were enough in there to realize just how bad such styled jokes are without a laugh track to encourage your humor. There was no Sex and the City humor in here, or even Malcolm in the Middle humor. Frankly, there was no humor. The little clock was no longer a means to orient yourself in Ellie's world - instead, it became more of a dragging clock. It is kind of like being in school, watching the clock and waiting for the 12:00 lunch bell...and the clock just drags sooooo slowly. Watching Ellie crashed and burned pretty damn badly.
"WATCHING ELLIE," in my opinion, is a pure definition of must-see TV! I haven't seen every episode, but I still enjoyed it. Despite the fact that it was short-lived, I still believe that this show was a pure definition of must-see TV! The one thing I remember very well is the timer that ran in the corner of the screen. In addition, I just wish this show could have done better. Before I wrap this up, I'd like to say that everyone always gave a good performance, the production design was spectacular, the costumes were well-designed, and the writing was always very strong. In conclusion, I hope they bring it back on the air for fans of the show to see.
No word could describe this show better than "trite".
It's little more than oversimplified stereotypes, sophomoric clichés and predictable, stupid situations that EVERYONE has seen in dozens of shows before.
This show exudes stupidity but not in a clever or parodied way. The characters are 2-D, plastic, petty and predictable.
Sometimes I can recommend a show to SOMEONE or SOME demographic. However I can recommend this show to NO ONE. There's nothing new here.
What you can get in this show you can get, and better, nearly everywhere else.
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