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A KISS, NOT THE KISS, ON `ELLEN'.

Byline: Keith Marder Daily News Television Writer

Ellen DeGeneres, who made history in April by becoming the first openly gay lead character on a sitcom, has said that she does not want to kiss a woman on her television series ``Ellen.''

In tonight's (9:30 p.m., KABC Channel 7) season premiere, her character, Ellen Morgan, not only abstains from woman-woman contact, she soul-kisses a man.

This prompts her cousin/roomate Spence (Jeremy Piven), who catches her in the act, to ask, ``What kind of lesbian are you?''

The episode, in which Ellen doubts her new-found sexuality, finds the first openly gay lead character in a sitcom falling for an old boyfriend before realizing it was just a 22-minute phase.

There is no doubt that Ellen is more comfortable and her show is funnier since her epiphany.

But, the problem now is the show is far less accessible. There are too many lesbian in-jokes and references to the character's sexuality. It's far more a show about a gay woman than one about a woman who happens to be gay.

Some of the jokes, though, admittedly are funny.

For instance, her friend Paige (Joely Fisher) sets up Ellen on a blind date with a beautiful but self-absorbed air-headed actress. The disaster leads to the following exchange:

Paige: ``Just give this one a shot, I'm running out of lesbians.''

Ellen: ``Well, you know, we're not reproducing like we used to.''

Ellen boasts to her former boyfriend, who owns the restaurant where the date takes place, that ``the best thing about (being gay), it's taken five strokes off my golf game.''

Then, further describing her new lot in life, Ellen delivers perhaps the show's best line: ``Women - you can't live with 'em, you can't explain to the desk clerk why you only need one bed.''

Sure there are some laughs, but ``Ellen'' runs the risk of becoming a one-joke show.

Viewers would be much better served if the show evolves past the point that her entire universe revolves around her sexuality. She will have a same-sex love interest later this season.

Perhaps when that happens, and once Ellen Morgan gets through her initial awkward stage, which is realistic, she will settle into her normal life, and being a gay woman living in America will be only part of her personality.

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Photo: On tonight's ``Ellen'' season premiere, Ellen Morgan (Ellen DeGeneres) meets an old flame (male) and gets set up on a blind date (female).
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Television Program Review
Date:Sep 24, 1997
Words:414
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