by pat howard

DVD Wish List | “Ed”

In DVD Wish List on March 25, 2009 at 2:38 pm

The same fall that Stars Hollow crept into the television consciousness, the midwestern hamlet of Stuckeyville, Ohio, came into my life. Ed was the story of a big-city lawyer who was fired from his job and arrived home early to find his wife in bed with the mailman. His solution to these problems was to return to his hometown, buy the bowling alley, and pursue his high school crush.

Tom Cavanaugh (Trust Me) was Ed. Julie Bowen, who’s been in everything lately, was his long-suffering love interest, Carol Vessey. Others among the rich supporting cast who have gone on to greater prominence include John Slattery as a principal, Justin Long as awkward student Warren Cheswick, and Michael Ian Black as comic foil Phil Stubbs.

The bowling-alley lawyer premise on which the show was built, coupled with its heavy reliance on the grand romantic gesture, gave the show a whimsical tone and an often hopeful message. A supporting cast of quirky small-town folk included Ed’s best friend, now married with a child, and two bowling alley employees that stole nearly every scene they were in (Rachel Cronin’s non-sequitur-y goodness was criminally underrated).

The critical romantic premise was a tortured one, and of course a parade of boyfriends and girlfriends of the month paraded through Ed and Carol’s lives. And the show kind of wandered off somewhere during its middle seasons before ultimately putting Ed and Carol together at last in a circus-themed wedding that would only not seem ridiculous on Ed.

But Ed was less afraid than Gilmore Girls to let its plots stray away from the leads and take advantage of a phenomenal supporting cast. Best friend Mike (Josh Randall) was a doctor about to inherit a practice from a near-senile retiring colleague (Martin Chatinover) who was always undermining his successor. Warren (Long) and his schoolmates were often confronting one existential crisis or another. And there was an implausibly endless stream of clients showing up each week with no qualms about trusting their legal fates to a man whose practice was also a bowling alley. In the hands of a team from David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants production company, the humor and pathos were gentle and good-natured, resulting in some feel-good TV.

This one falls into the pack of shows that paradoxically straddle two seemingly mutually exclusive cliches: “it was ahead of its time” and “they don’t make shows like that anymore.” Ed enjoyed a brief syndicated run on TBS a few years back, and hasn’t been seen in the U.S. since.

DVD status: Debatable

Prognosis: Fair. Cavanaugh claims DVDs are coming eventually, though not before his terrible 2006 outing Love Monkey.

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