American graffiti

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Indy Lifestyle Online
As wearying as it was, Ellen DeGeneres's six-month tease paid off. Wednesday's closet-evacuating episode of Ellen (mysteriously titled "The Puppy Episode") attracted 42 million viewers - twice as many as usual. But a sense of anti-climax now hangs over the show, and it's doubtful that the new viewers will stick around. The truth is, Ellen remains the second-rate sitcom it always was - DeGeneres may be amiable enough, but she's surrounded by one of the most unappealing and unfunny casts on US television. The writers have been depending on double-entendres for the big laughs, and, all season, Ellen has seemed like little more than a one-joke sitcom - and what happens now that the joke's been used up?

Among the new pack of underwhelming Broadway spring musicals is a tasteful little number with a higher death toll than your average Schwarzenegger shoot 'em-up. The all-singing, all-dancing, all-at-sea Titanic opened last week after months of inordinate media scrutiny. Journalists have been staking out the $10m production for signs of trouble. Armed with worn-out puns and adjectives like "turbulent", "foundering", and the inevitable "sinking", they've reported on every snag with palpable glee. Not that they had to look very hard; on the first night of previews, the ship refused to sink. Running over three hours and featuring mostly forgettable tunes (one of which is, incidentally, called "Wake Up! Wake Up!"), it quickly prompted snide observations that the actual ship took an hour less to sink. The musical has since been trimmed, but its prospects remain uncertain in a sluggish Broadway season. In fact, there's only one definite new hit in town - Anthony Page's A Doll's House, imported from the West End.

The vultures will soon be turning their attention to James Cameron's Titanic, which promises disaster on a larger scale. With a budget of nearly $200m, it's the most expensive film in history, topping notorious death- by-drowning victim Waterworld. Cameron, known to be a slave-driving perfectionist, is now over budget and behind time, and the film may have to relinquish its coveted 2 July opening. If this happens, expect a frantic reshuffling of the congested summer schedule - cut-throat strategy is especially vital this year, with an unprecedented number of summer movies (around 15) costing more than $100m. For those averse to big-budget spectacles, there are more low-key ways of marking the 85th anniversary of the maritime disaster. To name just two: the recently published cookbook Last Dinner on the Titanic, with "recipes from the great liner", and a compilation album entitled Titanic: Music as Heard on the Fateful Voyage.

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