25 March 2004 | liquidcelluloid-1
A once classic sitcom that became it's own worst enemy
Network: ABC; Genre: Sitcom; Average Content Rating: TV-14 (language and strong scatological humor); Classification: Contemporary (Star Range: 1 - 4);
Season Reviewed: Seasons 6 - 9
To keep myself from stretching back into the halls of TV history I've roped off the turn of the century/millennium as a benchmark forward to look at a particular show's season. In the 9 years that 'The Drew Carey Show' was on the air it went through 3 big phases. The first was of a standard comedian-vehicle sitcom originating back in the days when every 2-bit comedian was getting their own self titled sitcom (signified by the 'Moon over Parma' intro). However, Drew Carey was better than the rest. The 2nd phase was the show hitting its prime- in that, its longest phase, it was a free-for-all comedy barn-burner. Like a little weekly Farrelly brother movie, 'Drew Carey' was crude, bawdy humor at its finest.
The show had the guts to center around a group of characters that where, without question, losers and made no attempt to glamorize them in the usual sitcom way. Drew was the ultimate, put-upon everyman and this show epitomized the workaday world of office life better than any other on TV. The cast was exceptional - with breakout performances from Ryan Styles and Diedrich Bader, who make their Louis and Oswald the classic drunken, aimless stooges. The writing was sharp, bawdy, crude and was often bust-a-gut hysterically so. Stick with the '5 o'clock World' or original 'Cleveland Rocks' intro that accompanies these seasons and you'll see a show that was heading for 'classic' status.
However, as we pick up with season 6 and forward the show is in its 3rd phase - a flaming, chaotic tailspin that strips away everything that made it great and innovative in the first place and ultimately sending it sinking into the abyss with barely a whisper. How did this happen? I can say the turning point where I lost interest came when Drew's transvestite brother Steve married and brought into the family Drew's long-time rival Mimi. But that was nothing compared to all the insane turns the show would take for the next 3 years. Drew nearly dies and sits in a coma for several episodes? Drew accidentally gets married to two women? To his long time loves and his boss Mr. Wick (a terrific Craig Ferguson by the way) no less? Drew looses his job at Winford Lauder and gets one at an internet company. The show was always absurd, but it used to have a solid foundation that it honored.
Worst of all Drew ditches his old persona - growing his hair out, losing weight and tossing his trademark glasses. In it's final years the show doesn't seem tired as much as it does a complete about-face, doubling-back to undo everything that it has set up and spitting in the face of the fans. It's unclear if Carey is mellowing with age, trying to conform more with the acceptance of the Hollywood establishment or has simply become arrogant. Arrogant in dragging this show out past it's prime and into territory it should know would disenfranchise it's audience. And arrogant into thinking that he can sing and is a great comic improve and so revamping special shows of nothing but musical numbers and live improve. What was once the voice of the working stiffs is now just a mouthpiece to nourish Drew's ego with a talented cast going to waste in the process. What was once the anti-sitcom has now taken turns fitting of an NBC tent-post series.
It's a sad state of affairs. The only one quick enough to jump from this sinking ship was Christa Miller. Caught in the thankless role of the straight-women in the locker room atmosphere of the show, she left for NBCs 'Scrubs' leaving 'Titus' alumni Cynthia Watros to fill the void. Anybody that thought the richly developed and sophisticated 'Titus' was just a standard dumb sitcom should have a look at the talented Watros now going to waste in this plane crash.
Jerry Seinfeld taught us all that the sign of a great comedian was one who knows when it is time to pull out and leave the audience wanting more. Drew should have been taking notes.
Series: * * ½ / 4