The Drew Carey Show ran from 1995-2004, and although its brilliance started to fall off after the series was bounced around time slots in its later seasons, the 3/4ths of the show's run stands out as one of the most underrated sitcoms in the last 15 years. For those unfamiliar, the series starred comedian Drew Carey as...Drew Carey, the assistant director of personnel at a Cleveland department store, where he spends most of his days fighting with overly made-up co-worker Mimi (Kathy Kinney) and his nights drinking with buddies Kate (Christa Miller, now on "Scrubs"), Lewis (Ryan Stiles) and Oswald (Diedrich Bader).
The appeal of the series was its ability to present an "everyguy" comedy that could be both hilariously low-brow and incredibly clever, often going between the two within the span of a few minutes. The show's other best features were its bizarre streak that occasionally showed through (see "Drugco" on this compilation, or the Daffy Duck opening on "My Best Friend's Wedding") and its ability to think outside the box (or, in this case, tube) with shows (not included here) that challenged viewers to find errors in the show that, in some cases, were pretty subtle.
Unfortunately, the series has not been released in full season sets. Instead of starting with the first season, Warner Brothers has chosen to release a brief compilation of five "best of" ("Pilot", "Playing the Unified Field", "We'll Remember Always, Evaluation Day", "Drew Blows His Promotion", "My Best Friend's Wedding" and "Drugco") episodes and the pilot.
These episodes are certainly amusing, but I question whether they're a good example of the show's best moments or its variety. Where are some of the "special" shows like the one mentioned previously, where audiences are supposed to find the errors? As for sheer hilarity, I can't believe that "High Road to China" isn't included: in the episode, Drew challenged Mimi to top his latest prank on her. Shortly after, he wakes up on the Great Wall of China, with no way home.
As for the highlights here, "Drugco" would certainly be a standout, as it has Drew venturing into Drugco with Lewis, Kate and Oswald to get back his dog, Speedy, who Lewis brought in to be a test subject for a drug dealing with doggie vision problems and hasn't come back. The gang run into a series of experimental creatures (including a Monkapotimus) before learning that the plant's owner has taken a liking to the dog and isn't willing to give him up. The other best episode here would be one of the show's most delightfully low-brow, "Drew Blows his Promotion". In the episode, Drew gets the task of making his job's new training video. Kate adds in fart noises as a joke to another copy, but Drew accidentally takes the altered copy to a store meeting. The one-joke episode could have been too low-brow, but it stands out as one of the most well-timed fart jokes ever.
Although the final few seasons started to fall off a bit, the show's cast still stood out as uniformly superb. Carey did a fantastic job playing a relatable, good-natured everyguy who was stuck in a job next to his arch nemesis. Stiles and Bader stand out as possibly the best pair of dimwits ever, and are a fine example of the show's best dumb, yet clever humor - some of their best lines are incredibly stupid, yet still smart and usually completely unexpected. Krista Miller has found her true glory on "Scrubs", but she was terrific here, as well, and the show suffered when she left in 2002. Finally, Kathy Kinney plays Carey's arch rival quite well, and the underrated Craig Ferguson is perfect as Drew's boss.
Again, it's unfortunate that the DVD sets didn't start with full seasons. The series certainly does have a following, and I'm sure they would have turned out for a set of the first season.
VIDEO: These episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio by Warner Brothers, and look about broadcast quality. Sharpness and detail are consistently fine throughout, with no inconsistency. The presentation does show a few minor instances of shimmering, but otherwise, looked crisp and clean. Colors remained bright and vivid, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The stereo soundtrack was perfectly fine, with crisp dialogue, music and sound effects.
Final Thoughts: These are amusing episodes, although some of them are not - in my humble opinion - among the best the series had to offer. Fans who can't wait may want to check out this $9.99 compilation, but others certainly may want to hold off until full season sets are announced.