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The SmarK DVD Rant for The Drew Carey Show – The Complete First Season
During an era of TV where networks were tripping over themselves to create the next Friends, Drew Carey created the anti-Friends. Whereas Friends was about six beautiful people living a lifestyle that would impossible to maintain in real life, Drew Carey was about an average guy doing a job with no educational requirements and feeling stuck in middle management, in a position of “indirect respect with oblique power” and facing no chance for advancement. This was actually quite an interesting take on the corporate world, in the days before Dilbert and Office Space really mined the same territory for all it was worth, and it featured the same sort of “real people” humor that Roseanne pulled off so well in the early years of the show.
The series follows the non-career of Drew Carey, who is an overweight geek with thick glasses and a dorky buzzcut, but at the same time is a very likable and funny guy. Employed as “Assistant Director of Personnel” at fake department store Winfred-Louder in Cleveland, Drew retains his sanity via the cast of characters who act as his friends and support group: Space case Lewis (played by the brilliant Ryan Stiles), slightly dopey delivery guy Oswald, tomboy Kate, and Drew’s nemesis Mimi Bobeck.
Now, given that this is the first season, longtime fans of the show will notice some differences that are apparent in the early days. Craig Ferguson doesn’t make his debut as show-stealing boss Mr. Wick until the second season. For the first season, the boss is never seen and is only voiced by Kevin Pollack until he’s revealed in the finale on his way out of the company. Oswald goes through a slow progression of development as they go along, starting out as a DJ in the early episodes and turning into a delivery man, but getting dumber along the way. Not as stupid as he’d become in later seasons, but the seeds were planted. As well, extra characters were added early on while they were finding their footing, like Drew’s secret work girlfriend Lisa (who disappears early in the second season) and group member Jay (ditto), who ends up as another in the endless line of jettisoned boyfriends for Kate. Drew also had wacky redneck neighbors, but only for the first season. Buzz Beer isn’t introduced until the season finale, but becomes a vital part of the show later on.
The thing that was most amazing for me, however, is how easily the humor flows from day one, and how the quality of these shows matches up quite easily to later episodes without an obvious break. Aside from the supporting characters, you can pretty much slot any of the ones into a later season and still have a strong episode, which speaks volumes about the quality of writing they were getting from the start. Drew v. Mimi in a war of pranks is just as funny early on as it is in later shows; and once Kathy Kinney got her hooks into the character she becomes the breakout star of the show.
Although later seasons of the show would become famous (and sometimes notorious) for pushing the envelope of what a standard sitcom should be (“Find the mistakes” and improv shows spring to mind immediately), the first season was pretty straight-forward with its storytelling, which is nice in some ways. Oddly enough, however, all the episode titles are chemistry-related, a trend that would come and go through the first season and then abruptly disappear in the second season. No one has ever explained where the running joke came from or why.
The first season of The Drew Carey Show is presented on four discs, with the following episodes:
The Joining of Two Unlike Elements Is A Mixture
Nature Abhors a Vacuum
No Two Things In Nature Are Exactly Alike
Drew Meets Lawyers
Drew In Court
Drew And Mrs. Louder
Science Names Suck
The Electron Doesn’t Fall Far From The Nucleus
Isomers Have Distinct Characteristics
Drew And The Unstable Element
Drew And Mr. Bell’s Nephew
There Is No Scientific Name For A Show About God
Drew’s New Assistant
Playing A Unified Field
An Atomic Cat Fight
Drew And Kate And Kate’s Mom
Drew Gets Motivated
After watching tons of depressingly bland transfers, this is a breath of fresh air. Warner has seemingly always done more with their TV releases than other companies, and this one is no exception, as the show has been restored to better-than-broadcast quality, with bright colors and sharp details. Very much on par with the high quality Friends releases. The show is of course presented in its original full screen format.
Dolby Digital 2.0, as usual for a TV show, but it’s a very nice sounding mix. The opening theme is clear as a bell and dialogue is easily understood. Having the audience mixed into the surround channels would have been nice, but for what it is, it’s very impressive.
More than I was expecting, frankly.
First up is a commercial parody for “1-900-MIMI,” which is pretty funny. Next, a 20-minute feature called “Life Inside The Cubicle,” featuring interviews with producer Bruce Helford and cast and crew about getting the show off the ground, and developing the characters, and all sorts of stuff. No commentaries, which would have been GOLD with Ryan Stiles having 25 minutes to goof around, but maybe on future releases.
The Show: ****1/2
The Video: ****
The Audio: ***
The Extras: **
Definitely one of the funniest and smartest-written sitcoms of the 90s, The Drew Carey Show has aged very well and hasn’t lost any of the “every man” charm that made it such a hit in the first place. Later seasons would only improve on the pedigree of this early run, but if you’ve never seen the “Moon Over Parma” era of the show, do yourself a favor and check it out before the REALLY funny stuff starts coming with the second season. Highly recommended.
Tags: SmarK Rants