Ellen is an American television sitcom that aired on the ABC network from March 29, 1994, to July 22, 1998, consisting of 109 episodes. The title role is Ellen Morgan, played by stand-up comedian Ellen DeGeneres, a neurotic bookstore owner in her thirties. The title of the series was These Friends of Mine for the first season, but it was subsequently changed to avoid confusion with the NBC series Friends, which premiered in September 1994.
The series centered on Ellen’s dealing with her quirky friends, her family and the problems of daily life. The series is notable for being one of the first with a main character to come out as gay, which DeGeneres’ character did in the 1997 episode “The Puppy Episode”. This event received a great deal of media exposure, ignited controversy, and prompted ABC to place a parental advisory at the beginning of each episode.
The series’ theme song (used in Season 3 onwards), “So Called Friend”, is by Scottish band Texas. A running gag during the third and fourth seasons was that each episode had a distinct/different opening credits sequence (often with singing and dancing), resulting from Ellen’s ongoing search for the perfect opening credits.
Note – Between seasons one and two, there was not only a title change from These Friends of Mine to Ellen, but several characters disappeared without explanation.
- Ellen DeGeneres (Open House, Laurie Hill) as Ellen Morgan: Ellen Inez Morgan is the main character of the sitcom.
- Joely Fisher (Last Man Standing, Desperate Housewives) as Paige Clarke: Appearing in seasons two through five, Paige is Ellen’s somewhat vain and promiscuous best friend who works for a movie studio.
- Holly Fulger (Anything But Love) as Holly: Appearing only in the first season, Holly is Ellen’s friend.
- Arye Gross (Castle, Six Feet Under) as Adam Green: Appearing in seasons one through three, Adam is Ellen’s roommate and they have been friends since college.
- David Anthony Higgins (Mike & Molly) as Joe Farrell: Appearing in all five seasons, Joe is a dour, sarcastic Canadian who works as the barista at the coffee shop inside Ellen’s bookstore.
- Clea Lewis (Royal Pains) as Audrey Penney: Audrey is Ellen’s squeaky-voiced and exceedingly perky neighbor and later co-worker, seen usually in the color pink and whose catchphrase was the enthusiastic greeting “Hi, Ellen!”.
- Jeremy Piven (Entourage, Mr Selfridge, Seinfeld) as Spence Kovak: Ellen’s volatile but well-intentioned cousin from New York, who joined the cast in the third season.
- Maggie Wheeler (Friends) as Anita Warrell: Ellen’s friend and a main character in the show’s first season.
- Steven Gilborn (Dream On) as Harold Morgan: Ellen’s father. He is often somewhat clueless about what is going on around him.
- Alice Hirson (Full House, Dallas) as Lois Ellington Morgan: Ellen’s mother, Lois spends much of her time nosing and interfering in Ellen’s life.
- Lisa Darr (Weeds, Popular) as Laurie Manning: Ellen’s girlfriend. Laurie appears in eight episodes in the fifth and final season of Ellen. She and her daughter Holly (Kayla Murphy) become an increasingly important part of Ellen’s life.
- Bruce Campbell (Burn Notice) as Ed Billik: Ed appeared in season four only as the new manager of Ellen’s bookstore. He was a strict business type who frequently butted heads with Ellen over their management styles.
- Patrick Bristow (The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman) as Peter Barnes: Ellen’s friend. He was a charity worker in the second season and a recurring role until the end of the series.
- Jack Plotnick (The Mentalist, Reno 911!, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as Barrett: Paige’s assistant in season three. It is implied that he also goes on to marry Peter Barnes.