Biggest sign Ellen can’t cope with criticism
Whether you're a fan of her work or not, to anyone watching The Ellen Show in isolation, the usually bubbly and sparkly-eyed comic seems a shadow of her former self.
The dancing host with a goofy sense of humour and infectious energy has been replaced by a version that seems "drained", "stressed" and, well, bored.
Call it isolation fatigue, or perhaps the 62-year-old really is just fed up with the suffocating confines of what she recently described as her "prison" - the luxe LA mansion in which she resides with wife Portia de Rossi and now records her talk show.
But - the latter considered - it's hard not to assume the recent (and growing) list of damning claims against the TV star have taken their toll, dulling the comedian's shine some.
While Ellen is yet to publicly address the mounting backlash, her recent television appearances speak volumes of how she's coping.
Ellen, who became 2020's biggest villain faster than toilet paper flew from Australian supermarket shelves amid the pandemic, is reportedly "at the end of her rope", and it shows.
Just over five months ago, Ellen delivered one of the most captivating and hilarious speeches of the Golden Globes when she won the well-earned Carol Burnett Award for excellence in television. Now, she's become the subject of a vicious internet take-down, with former employees, guests, and fans coming out of the woodwork to share their "mean Ellen" tales.
With bad press berating her weekly - Ellen "be kind to one another" DeGeneres has toppled from dizzying heights, and fast.
And her show, judging by its recent reception, could well be on the way to toppling too.
There's no doubt COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on the entertainment industry, with many programs halting production, making staff cuts and marked format changes.
Ellen is certainly not the only talk show host working from home - and not the only one who has floundered, either.
While Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver and Jimmy Fallon have tackled the challenge with aplomb, across the pond in the UK, where Graham Norton is giving the WFH format a crack, his efforts have been labelled "jittery" by The Irish Times.
And NPR recently critiqued Stephen Colbert as "(struggling) to be funny without the energy of an audience's reaction".
It's a credit to Ellen to - that despite the swirl of controversy surrounding her - she continues to do her best to produce a show that has made her loyal fans smile for so many years, as coronavirus' grip remains tightly held on many parts of the world, including the US.
But, the fact that she has failed to issue an apology for the "tone deaf" prison joke that acted as the nail in the coffin for many Ellen fence-sitters, address the claims against her outlined in March's viral Twitter thread, apologise to former staffers, or clear up misunderstandings involving guests, is puzzling.
Instead, she's continued to pump out a lacklustre version of The Ellen Show from her mansion to an increasingly waning audience.
Set with the Indonesian-inspired, leafy outlook of a sprawling backyard behind her, her producer Andy lurking outside the window, COVID-safe in his position behind a wall of glass, what Ellen has pieced together is an attempt at the same laid-back, four-day-a-week talk show you could flick on any afternoon and lazily sink into.
But without the schmick LA studio, bright props and sets, and not to mention random masked crew members making glamorous A-listers squeal by startling them - it falls noticeably flat.
While the heartwarming fan interactions are still there from time-to-time, and famous faces (notably regular guests of the show, presumably close friends of the star) have popped up in Zoom calls here and there, including Kristen Bell, Ken Jeong and Allison Janney, the rest of the content feels oddly stilted, ill-thought-out and a little half-hearted.
At times, it's clumsily cut together and glitchy, and when there's nowhere else to go, the episodes feature flashback clips from segment's past, or glaringly obvious time-fillers.
In an episode last month, Ellen even challenged her show's DJ, Stephen "tWitch" Boss, and producer "Average" Andy Lassner to hold a plank while singing a song.
This went on for five and a half minutes.
Responding to clips posted on her Twitter page, fans have commented that Ellen looks "drained".
"Why does Ellen look so stressed??" one asked earlier this month.
Another commented on the quality of her recording.
"There is something wrong here. Why is Ellen so so blurry? Can't she afford a decent camera? Or is that just a cut and paste job?," they said.
And when it comes to the content, they've been equally as damning.
One labelled a segment "painful", and another put plainly: "I got real life issues and in a crisis RN and I'm not interested in this."
Sorry Ellen but that segment was PAINFUL to watch. Horribly painful. Cute kid, yes. Smart as a whip, yes. But geez...... pic.twitter.com/TYeW3sSe9u— Gayle (@BTBTB_Gayle) May 19, 2020
Then there was the (satirical) petition for Ellen DeGeneres to be replaced by Ellen Page that gained traction last month, and the constant taunts of "show us your ankle bracelet" in reference to her infamous jail gag.
But before the pandemic hit, even with all the bells and whistles, the show had its fair share of headline-grabbing wobbles.
When American actress Dakota Johnson, of Fifty Shades Of Grey fame, sat down with Ellen for a chat in December last year, things were frosty to say the least.
"Happy belated birthday," DeGeneres said. "How was the party? I wasn't invited."
As the audience laughed, Johnson replied sternly, "Actually, no, that's not the truth, Ellen. You were invited," awkwardness ensued, as did an internet field day, and it quickly emerged as to why DeGeneres missed the party.
The 62-year-old was actually in Texas where she controversially sat next to former US president George W. Bush at an NFL game.
The NFL game was a PR nightmare for DeGeneres, who was slammed for sitting next to Mr Bush, with many attacking the talk show host - a prominent gay, liberal and outspoken LGBT activist - for cosying up with the former Republican president who once endorsed a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.
DeGeneres later addressed the pair's unlikely friendship and the criticism surrounding it on her talk show. And the "apology" perhaps explains why she hasn't yet issued another amid recent controversies.
"People were upset. They thought, 'Why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?'" she said.
"I'm friends with George Bush. In fact, I'm friends with a lot of people who don't share the same beliefs that I have. We're all different, and I think that we've forgotten that that's OK that we're all different.
"Just because I don't agree with someone on everything doesn't mean that I'm not going to be friends with them. When I say be kind to one another, I don't only mean the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone."
Many weren't buying it, including Avengers star Mark Ruffalo.
"Until George W. Bush is brought to justice for the crimes of the Iraq War, (including American-lead (sic) torture, Iraqi deaths & displacement, and the deep scars - emotional & otherwise - inflicted on our military that served his folly), we can't even begin to talk about kindness," he tweeted after the furore.
Ellen's George Bush hitch and the sour taste it left evidently washed over into 2020, with the coronavirus isolation giving Ellen naysayers more time to air their piece.
In April, transgender beauty blogger NikkieTutorials, real name Nikkie De Jager, slammed the media personality, describing her as "distant and cold" while detailing her disappointing experience as a guest on The Ellen Show.
Then, a former bodyguard who was assigned to protect DeGeneres during her hosting gig at the 2014 Oscars said he could attest to the recent allegations made by others about her unfriendly and selfish demeanour.
And of course there was the viral March Twitter thread of nasty Ellen run-ins.
None of this was helped by whispers of crew members from Ellen's show being left with few answers about their pay and employment amid the coronavirus shutdown, as the host began doing shows from her home without them.
With no PR-vetted apology in sight, Ellen's current, insipid TV offering feels less like her weathering the storm, and more like her giving up without a fight.
Perhaps it would have been beneficial for every member of the Ellen Show team - including its host - to take a break from production.
Originally published as Biggest sign Ellen can't cope with criticism