True story: Since my college days, I've been DVR'ing "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and inhaling it every morning like clockwork between my shower and cup of coffee. Somewhere along the way, it became a prerequisite for my daily sanity.
Let's be thankful, then, that after a three-month summer hiatus, the show is back for its 10th season on NBC today. The premiere week is reportedly a snack, crackle, pop affair, featuring special segments taped at the VMAs and appearances by celebrities such as Simon Cowell, Britney Spears, the Fierce Five Olympians, Justin Bieber's mom (what?) and Pink.
But star power alone does not an entertaining talk show make. The success of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" stems from a coupling of her hosting skills with tangible authenticity, a rare quality in the entertainment industry. For ten years, she's strung the elements of her show together with a deeply personal philosophy of kindness and equality, one that would make most hosts look like dew-eyed pansies. Ellen? She's more of a badass every year.
Here are five reasons to watch her fab talk show this season:
5. Multi-dimensional humor:
Ellen's hilarious - but "The Ellen DeGeneres Show's" humor is a brand of its own, beyond her quips and monologues. It's creative and pervasive, from her ridiculous, season-long goals (Using Brad Pitt-recommended Chippendales to entice George Clooney? Classic.) ... to crazy Japanese-inspired games ... to scaring the crap out of her guests ... to her discovery of the wonkiest, most irresistible characters.
Speaking of, she even found a superstar comedienne here in Texas. Have you met Gladys?
4. Clear eye on pop culture:
For those of you above pop culture, I can't think of a better ambassador than Ellen to knock you off your high horse. Her show threads pop culture in a way I covet - highlighting the gems, slyly denouncing the trash and laughing with the absurd. Ellen's interviews are some of the best on television, not because they shed light on supposedly notable people, but because on a base level, they're humanizing and damn funny. Unlike much of Hollywood, Ellen doesn't take herself -- or anything -- too seriously.
Of course, her taste is sometimes questionable, especially in the sphere of music. She's praised Taylor Swift's vocal skills on more than one occasion. Her protégé Greyson Chance -- the 16-year-old singer she discovered and signed to her new record label -- is average at best. She even had the poor sense to join "American Idol" as an ill-equipped judge. But hey, I'd rather be fed subpar new music by a genuine fan than a disingenuous label.
3. Pure philanthropy:
It's one thing to give back; it's another to reward others who are giving back, even in the smallest ways. Ellen does both on her show, and I'm continuously inspired. This clip of a selfless family, which aired nearly a year ago, still gets to me.
2. No place for politics:
Ellen's interviewed a handful of political folks over the years from both the right and the left. But, refreshingly, the moments that stand out are those of embarrassment and unintentional humor. And after reading 50 snarky Facebook posts a day about the national conventions, I'll gladly take a palette cleanser of Michelle and Barack Obama squaring off in a dance competition (my vote goes to Barack for sheer awkwardness) or of Chris Matthews groping Ellen. Seriously, check it.
It's a testament to Ellen's character that she's able to stay out of the snake pit and yet gracefully tackle the issues that matter most to her. That's why when the mess does reach her -- like this infuriating incident from earlier this year -- it cuts deep. I'm loving me some J.C. Penney these days.
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1. Relentless dancing:
So say my Chicks, some days you gotta dance - or in Ellen's case, every day. And if this isn't the greatest season premiere stunt (from back in 2009), I don't know what is:
Tune in on September 10, at 2 p.m. for the 10th season premiere of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." Justin says so.