Comedy Meets Drama in ED

Recently in my TV show nostalgia blog post, I mentioned watching the TV show ED. This is a series starring Tom Cavanagh, who I happen to be a fan of, and was recommended to me by my partner, Jason. He had watched the show during it’s time as the show that was on before The West Wing.

Unfortunately, this is not a show that can be easily found streaming anywhere, Jason just happened to have it, acquiring it many years ago.

The show aired on NBC from 2000 to 2004, for four seasons, and starred the aforementioned Tom Cavanagh as Ed, Julie Bowen, Jana Marie Hupp, Josh Randall, Lesley Boone, Michael Ian Black, Rachel Cronin, and Justin Long. The main premise for the series was that Ed returns to his small hometown in Ohio after being fired as a NYC lawyer and finding his wife cheating on him with a mailman, while back home he decides to try and win the love of his old High School crush Carol Vessey (Bowen) by buying the local bowling alley. When at first he doesn’t succeed, he decides to stick around and keep trying, opening his own law office inside the bowling alley.

The show is both a comedy and a drama. The funny parts are playful and fun, centering around the outlandish things Ed does to try and win over Carol or his ongoing $10 bets with best friend Mike Burton (Randall). The bets are similar to dares, where each will dare the other to do something for $10 and nothing is too embarrassing or silly enough to keep them from doing it. This is a tradition carried over from their High School days.

Then you throw in the eccentric bowling alley employees Phil Stubbs (Black) and Shirley Pifko (Cronin), as well as High Schooler Warren Cheswick (Long) who has a teenage crush on Carol, and the hilarity continues. We start the series with Phil living at the bowling alley, having been evicted from his apartment. He’s a dreamer and a schemer, and no angle is too much regardless of whether it’s been done before, whether it’s entirely legal, or just down right hairbrained. Shirley is mild mannered and shy and you’re really not quite sure what her role is at the bowling

Photo by Persnickety Prints on Unsplash

alley, but she quickly grows on you, the viewer, as much as she does with the rest of the cast. She is certainly one of the more quirky characters, utilizing blank stares with comedic effect. Warren is your typical teenage boy. He starts off having a crush on Carol Vessey, the High School English teacher, but quickly moves on to swooning over the most popular girl in school, similar to Ed when he was a kid swooning over Carol the popular cheerleader. Warren is very much a modern mirror for Ed and is in general a very relatable character for anyone who wasn’t one of the popular kids in High School.

And while those aspects reflect the comedy of the series, mirroring it rather well are the dramatic parts of the show, where the show takes itself more seriously through some of the cases Ed works on or the situations some of the characters have to face. Carol’s best friend Molly Hudson (Boone) has to relive a High School bullying incident, Mike’s wife Nancy (Hupp) has to deal with juggling being a new mom and having a career. Warren’s over-weight best friend makes the risky decision to undergo gastric bypass surgery, it was still a fairly new surgery in the early 2000s with the chance of severe complications, in order to improve his health after his obese father has a heart attack.

One of Carol’s relationships in the show is with Dennis Martino, one of the new principals. The show tackles the issue of substance abuse, and more specifically alcoholism, through his character and how it affects not only his life but Carol’s and that of her friends. Molly has her own romance troubles, in a mini story arc with a traveling bowling alley salesman/repairman. She falls madly in love with him only to find out that he’s married/separated. And those are just some of the examples, we’re just scratching the surface of the deeper emotions this show can conjure.

It’s really an entertaining show with heart, humor, and a great soundtrack. The soundtrack is probably the reason the show has not found its way to streaming platforms or DVD in the nearly 20 years since leaving TV screens. You have two theme songs, one from the Foo Fighters, “Next Year”, and “Moment In The Sun” by Clem Snide. Not to mention many episodes featuring music by other prominent bands, that would require some serious copyright negotiations.

Now it’s probably a bit of a copout to say that Ed is my favorite character, since I am such a fan of Cavanagh, so I will go with someone else as my favorite character aside from Ed. In which case, I would have to go with Molly Hudson. I can certainly relate to Molly much more than with Carol. Molly wasn’t popular in school, she’s not conventionally beautiful, but she has brains, sarcasm and humor galore. And while Molly may be my favorite after Ed, that’s not to say that I don’t love the rest of the characters, because I do, they’re all great in their own ways.

It’s one of the reasons I loved the show so much. The great characters and also the great writing. It’s such a great blend of humor and seriousness, it’s hard not to appreciate it. Then you throw in the legal aspect of Ed as a practicing lawyer. Even if he may work out of a bowling alley that he also owns, he’s a really good lawyer. The courtroom scenes were some of my favorite scenes in the entire show. I loved seeing Ed in action, doing his best to convince the jury of his client’s innocence and doing so in clever and charming ways. It’s what made the first two seasons my favorite, as Ed did spend less and less time in the courthouse in the last two seasons, at least on screen. But that still didn’t deter from the show as a whole, the lack of courtroom drama was evened out with more scenes set in the bowling alley and the High School. It’s no wonder the show got four great seasons full of “will they won’t they” suspense, small town meets big city comparisons, and an excellent blend of comedy and drama.

I’m going to leave things there, since unlike some of the other shows I’ve written about, you can’t really go out and watch this one. But one can cross their fingers and hope. Who knows, with all the shows that are being picked up by various streaming services, all striving to outdo one another, maybe we might get lucky and see ED on our TV screens once again. I wouldn’t pass up a petition, if one came my way.