Actor Drew Carey plays upon our affection for life’s loveable losers with The Drew Carey Show. In it, the comedian plays a low level manager at a department store where the only way he can survive the every day drama of retail life is to have a sense of humor. There’s a ‘we’re in the same boat’ mentality that permeates this employment atmosphere; everyone’s going nowhere (career-wise, at least) fast.
But Carey’s work life is but a microcosm of his overall world. This rotund one is equally unsuccessful in his dating life. What he lacks in friendship in the romantic realm is made up for by his best friends, the wonderfully named Oswald Lee Harvey and Lewis Kiniski, two equally non-mobile, dead-end-jobbers.
At the job, Carey has one lone arch rival. Kathy Kinney plays the makeup and clothes-taste-challenged Mimi. These two are at each other’s throats every hour of every day of the week. Mimi is a wonderfully bizarre character; complicated, and not the kind normally found in standard sitcoms. You feel sorry for her, and wish she would take a hint and tone down the loud colors. At the same time, it’s difficult to forgive her mean-spirited-ness toward Carey.
The Drew Carey Show takes place in Cleveland, Ohio, another factor that makes this program special. Not since The Mary Tyler More Show, which was set in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has a show so nicely displayed life outside the usual major metropolises. Carey and friends have simple tastes, and most of the scenes at Drew’s house find his gang drinking beer and playing pool on an outdoor pool table. They could just as easily be Any-Old-Joes, in Anytown, USA.
The biggest problem with The Drew Carey Show is that it’s an awful lot like that Seinfeld joke, without the Seinfeld ability to carry it off so well – namely, it’s a show about nothing. Life in Carey’s middle class world is relatively inconsequential, which is why “The Electron Doesn’t Fall Far From The Nucleus” is an episode that stands out from the others.
Here, Carey chooses to join the Wildebeasts, his father’s old lodge. He does this because he believes the club’s senior members can help him move up the company ladder and into a better paying job. During this initiation process, however, Carey discovers the Wildebeasts is nothing more than a racist organization where minorities are not respected or accepted. It’s a startling revelation and one of the few times where a serious issue is successfully explored on the program.
More often, however, this situational comedy focuses on relatively minor office politics issues. During “No Two Things In Nature Are Exactly Alike”, for instance, Carey gets into trouble on the job after he attaches a racy cartoon to a company memo. And whenever Carey gets into hot water at work, it’s usually with Mr. Bell, his boss. Voiced by Kevin Pollack, Mr. Bell is an always-heard, never-seen character. You can infer that Carey has learned well from the comedic master, Bob Newhart, because his interactions with Mr. Bell are almost exclusively via phone conversations – a comedy bit Newhart pioneered. Bell’s menacing verbal confrontations alone provide all the evidence you need to comprehend this man’s overloading bossy nature.
One can draw parallels between this program and Roseanne, in that it focuses primarily upon working class characters. This means you will not see a whole lot of Hollywood-like glamour, or beauty. Carey’s character is a kind of Everyman and no doubt, viewers immediately relate to his problems. He’s not like Jerry Seinfeld, who plays himself, a successful comedian, or the characters on Friends, who have far too much free time on their hands to live such successful lives. Nope, he’s a guy that goes to work from nine to five, and then comes home to (hopefully) unwind.
There’s very little in the way of bonus material included in this package. There is “Life Inside A Cubicle”, however, which finds Carey and his co-stars reflecting back on the show, as well as something called “1-900-Mimi [spoof]”, which has lighthearted fun with the outlandish Mimi character.
Granted, The Drew Carey Show was never a pioneering, boundary-blurring sitcom. If you’re tired of the often mean-spirited put down fests which pass themselves off as comedy programs these days, pop this kinder, gentler, and altogether sweeter TV show on a DVD into your player for a while.