"Moon over Parma, bring my love to me tonight..."
Drew Carey was a virtual nobody when The Drew Carey Show launched in 1995. Since then there really hasn't been a week where you can't find his Buddy Holly glasses and roly-poly figure somewhere on TV. Whether it was the Americanized Whose Line is it Anyway?, Drew Carey's Green Screen Show, or Drew Carey's Sporting Adventures chances are good that you'll see him somewhere at some point in time while flipping through the channels. Sadly, The Drew Carey Show isn't as easy to find now-a-days.
Before it went off the air in 2004, The Drew Carey Show netted an impressive nine seasons and 233 episodes. For fans looking for a DVD collection though the only option available until now was a compilation release with a handful of episodes. Granted it was only $10 so if you want some light exposure to the show I guess it wasn't a "bad" option. Those of us who wanted something a little more definitely need to check out the complete first season that has finally been released.
If you have never seen The Drew Carey Show before then you're in for a real treat. Sure it was just your average sitcom but Carey's wit accompanied by a fine supporting cast helped to make each episode something special. The humor was relatively low-brow at times and it truly appealed to the common man but it had enough charm to make it accessible to so many more.
Carey played the lead role and the everyman character that he has become synonymous with (let's just forget Geppetto). He spends the show working in the human resources department of Winfred-Louder which is a huge department store chain based out of Cleveland. Carey is a nice guy with a twisted sense of humor and mild-mannered exterior who always gets stepped on. He spends most of his spare time drinking beer with his buddies Kate (Christa Miller), Oswald (Diedrich Bader), and Lewis (Ryan Stiles) and insulting co-worker Mimi Bobeck (Kathy Kinney) while on the clock.
The formula for each episode was set in stone early and though each plot differed from the last the show never really deviated from its structure. We see Carey at work, at the bar, at home with his redneck neighbors, and throughout it all his friends and co-workers show up wherever he goes. It's nothing that hasn't been done before but the fact that Carey is the star in just about every scene makes it seem like the world revolves around him. Sitcoms like Seinfeld and Everybody Loves Raymond at least deviated from the main character at times. In this first season, it's all Drew all the time.
Like most series The Drew Carey Show has a few soft spots within its first year. These are usually bits where the cast tries to find their way or the writers experiment with something. For the most part these weaker moments are few and far between and the first season turns out to be very strong. Out of the 22 episodes here I'd say there was only a handful that just didn't generate the same amount of laughs as others. It's not that they were necessarily bad; it's just that the jokes weren't as well delivered.
In my opinion the weakest episode here was the "Pilot". In the pilot episode the chemistry just wasn't there and the jokes felt forced from each of the cast members. This changed once the show actually picked up but it's hard denying that the premier episode just didn't click like the others did. A couple other weak spots this season were "Lewis' Sister" and "Science Names Suck". Both episodes had a few laughs scattered throughout but for the most part they just weren't that funny when compared to the rest found on this set.
Standing out in this boxed set are the better episodes such as "The Joining of Two Unlike Elements is a Mixture", "Drew and Mrs. Louder", "The Electron Doesn't Fall Far from the Nucleus", and "Drew's New Assistant". These were, in my opinion, the cream of the crop and I have to give a nod to "Drew's New Assistant" because of the Drew/Mimi interactions. They were absolutely priceless!
Another positive nod for the first season was a plotline that spanned a few episodes and involved Drew being sued for creating a hostile work environment. Carey's boss, Mr. Bell, asks him to issue a memo and he takes it upon himself to post a cartoon about a caterpillar and a french fry to get a chuckle out of his employees. Unfortunately one of them is offended and gets all huffy about the silly cartoon.
As good as this season was, the best really is yet to come for The Drew Carey Show on DVD. If you are a fan of the show then you know the first year was pre-Mr. Wick who became Carey's boss when Mr. Bell gets canned. With Mr. Wick in the lineup the show felt complete and the writers really ran with a fantastic cast. In the meantime the first season offers 22 episodes that are mostly good though it's evident that the series was still finding its way at this point.
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 Tree
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 the Unified Field
Atomic Cat Fight
Drew and Kate and Kate's Mom
Drew Gets Motivated
Originally airing between 1995 and 1996 The Drew Carey Show is presented on DVD like you'd expect it to be. The 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio is on par with the broadcasting of the show and the picture quality is definitely a step up from those beat up VHS tapes. The image includes a fair amount of film grain and an overall soft appearance that does not detract from the show. Overall these episodes look like they did back when they aired and that suited the DVDs just fine.
The audio quality for The Drew Carey Show is also presented like you'd expect it to be. That means English 2.0 stereo is about as good as it gets for presence on the soundstage. The quality of the audio is just fine with clean dialogue, no distortion, and good volume control. No subtitles are included.
There are two features found in the first season of The Drew Carey Show. The first is a spoof commercial for 1-900-MIMI which is just kind of a silly inclusion for the heck of it. On the fourth disc there is a nineteen minute documentary of sorts called "Life Inside a Cubicle". In the feature Drew and co-creator Bruce Helford discuss some of the things that went into the creation of the show. Some of the cast chimes in as well which adds a nice amount of commentary to some of the happenings behind the scene. The information isn't the most involved but fans will certainly appreciate seeing the feature.
When you talk about sitcoms from the 90's, The Drew Carey Show stands out as one of my favorites. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to revisit the show and quite honestly I feel that it has gotten better with age. This first season is definitely a success but it's the coming seasons that made this show as charming as it was. If you have never seen the series then you're missing out on a good time and if you're a fan then picking this release up is a no-brainer. Highly Recommended
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