Those inseparable gal-pals Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche are planning to spend even more time together.

ABC confirmed Tuesday that Hollywood's favorite lesbian couple will be sharing the tube on an upcoming episode of Ellen--the first time the off-screen team will log serious on-air time together. (Heche did appear earlier in a nonspeaking cameo role on the sitcom.)

The episode, scheduled to run March 4, will introduce Heche as a friend (just a friend) of Ellen's TV partner, Laurie (Lisa Darr). When Laurie totals her car and is taken to the hospital, DeGeneres meets Heche's character in the waiting room. The two cry on each other's shoulders.

ABC is mum on whether the fictional versions of Ellen and Anne will imitate the live ones and strike up a romance. (Of course, the last time DeGeneres tapped her personal life for a storyline was when both she and her TV counterpart came out last spring. The result: endless publicity and boffo ratings.)

ABC is also mum on whether it'll renew the controversial sitcom. The Ellen-Anne episode, to be shot February 13, will be the last scheduled Ellen before the show takes a six-week vacation. Although Ellen will return April 22 to play out the season, ABC has refused to commit to a sixth year--especially since ratings have flatlined now that the coming-out hype has waned.

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