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Lady Chatterly

Ellen DeGeneres' witty new talk show makes daytime TV fun again.

Ellen DeGeneres radiates such genuine openheartedness -- an eagerness to please that never becomes cloying or manipulative -- that the idea of her hosting a daily talk show makes a certain amount of sense. DeGeneres has the sort of easygoing personality that wears well over the long haul, a necessity for anyone entering this area, so if I say that The Ellen DeGeneres Show (syndicated; check local listings) may remind older viewers of The Mike Douglas Show or The Merv Griffin Show, I don't intend the comparison as ridicule -- just the opposite, in fact.

She may have characterized her enthusiasm for her second day's guest, Justin Timberlake, as ''gushing,'' but it was good, honest gushing; the admiration of a fan who knows all the words to Justified.

For a performer whose best trait is her witty warmth, it's a little surprising that the stage set of Ellen is so pastel-chilly, and the quicker she gets away from prewritten ''bits'' like fake greeting cards (''Glad to Hear Your Sloth Is Feeling Better''), the faster she'll relax into her instinctive rapport with a studio audience as a deft ad-libber. After introducing opening-day guest Jennifer Aniston as Forbes magazine's most powerful celebrity, I liked that DeGeneres asked her, ''Do you use your power for good or evil?'' The startled Aniston didn't have much of a comeback, but who cares? Silly-smart questions like that are what make daytime TV fun, and this particular genre could use more Ellen humor and less Dr. Phil-osophizing.

Originally posted Sep 19, 2003 Published in issue #729 Sep 19, 2003 Order article reprints
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