Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Modern Classic: The Drew Carey Show (1996)

The mid-90's began a new era in Cleveland. The Indians were undergoing a resurgence, but it would take time before the city's other sports teams would catch up. In fact, in 1996, there were no Cleveland Browns. The original Browns had moved away, and a new version would come along soon after.

Cleveland native Drew Carey had tried one sitcom, and didn't get too far past the starting gate. However, he hit the jackpot by creating a fictionalized version of himself, developing the kind of life he thought he'd be leading if he hadn't taken up show business.

In all, The Drew Carey Show ran for 8 seasons on ABC (1996-2004), though the final season was as a summer replacement series. In the show, Carey was employed at first by the fictional Winfred-Louder department store, often crossing swords with acid-tongued Mimi (Kathy Kinney), who'd later become Drew's sister-in-law by marriage to Drew's storyline brother, Steve (John Carroll Lynch). The ensemble cast led to the development of a new comedy team in Drew's BFF's, Lewis (Ryan Stiles) and Oswald (Diedrich Bader). Craig Ferguson joined the show in the 2nd season as Nigel Wick, the gang's new boss and another foil for Drew---and vice versa.

One of the hooks was the music. At first, there would be a soft jazz number, "Moon Over Parma", sung by Carey himself over the title credits. In season 2, the Vogues' "Five O'Clock World" was added, creating a swank video that takes Drew from home to work. However, Carey and co-executive producer Bruce Helford must've figured they needed a contemporary sound, one that would also represent the city of Cleveland. Hence, the rock group Presidents of the United States of America recorded a cover of Ian Hunter's "Cleveland Rocks".

During the show's run, Carey added a 2nd series on ABC when he was asked to MC the American version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, with Stiles along for the ride as a regular panelist. In return, Whose Line regulars Brad Sherwood, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops, and Wayne Brady made guest appearances on The Drew Carey Show. Episodes were made that challenged viewers to find intentional bloopers, a tactic Carey would later reprise on The Price is Right after succeeding Bob Barker as host. Some episodes were actually shown live, recalling the early days of television.

At the end of the 3rd season, someone at ABC recognized the need for a crossover with a cartoon legend who was appearing on Saturday mornings. This next clip has previously been used over at Saturday Morning Archives:

Now, this is the way Daffy should be portrayed today, but, like some other beloved characters, he's been dumbed down by the nimrods at Cartoon Network. That, though, is for another time.

The concurrent success of Whose Line has led Carey into a regular gig as a game show host. In addition to Price, he also hosted a short-lived CBS game, Power of 10, and tried to recapture the magic of Whose Line with a pair of improv-driven shows, one each on CW and GSN. Neither lasted more than a season. Craig Ferguson just finished his 3rd season of Celebrity Name Game after a lengthy run with The Late, Late Show, and had also hosted a game show on History Channel, of all places. Kathy Kinney reprised as Mimi Bobeck in a guest shot on Price. Naturally, it fell on April Fool's Day. Christa Miller (Kate) left the show and married producer Bill Lawrence, this after Kate had come close to getting married twice, once each to Oswald and Drew, then was wed off-screen for her write-off. Personally, I was hoping she'd have been the one for Drew, but, meh.

Currently, reruns are airing on Laff TV (check listings).

Rating: A-.

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