DONNA J. PLESH
TIME TO DEPART!
Has ABC's 'Drew Carey Show' hung around too long?
Some TV shows linger on
like moldy food in a fridge
By DONNA J. PLESH
Do you remember when you had a favorite TV show and couldn¹t wait for the next weekly episode. You made sure you were going to be home that night, or, if not, you set the VCR. But then, for some reason or another, you started missing episodes or forgetting to tape them...and then you just stopped watching the show.
Why did this happen? It could have been you didn¹t care about the characters anymore, the plot lines seemed dumb, or there were cast changes that you just didn¹t like.
But still the show remained on the air, so you knew somebody was watching. Check the weekly Nielsen ratings in your newspaper--even the bottom feeding shows like "Abby," "One on One" and "What I Like About You" attract several million viewers. But most of the shows at the bottom of the ratings are on the less-watched networks, UPN and The WB.
What¹s sad when you scan the ratings from bottom to top are the numbers for some one-time Top 10 'must see' shows gone south: "The Practice," "The Drew Carey Show," "Frasier." These were all personal favorites of mine, but no more.
"The Drew Carey Show" premiered in the fall of 1995. An ensemble comedy, it starred Carey, Ryan Stiles, Diedrich Bader and Christa Miller (since departed). Set in Cleveland, Carey¹s hometown, it followed the ups and downs of four working-class friends trying to make their way in the world. Drew worked in the personnel department of a downtown Cleveland department store where his daily work life was made a misery by Mimi, a department secretary from Hell. With good writing, likeable, if odd, characters and a star who sported a crewcut and more than a few extra pounds, the show slowly built an audience. I was a faithful viewer. How could I not watch a show set in my own hometown?!
For me, the show crossed into the twilight zone a couple seasons back. Mimi, now married to Drew¹s brother, was about to give birth to their first child. In a very strange plot, Drew died and came back as Mimi¹s baby. Yep, died and came back as a baby... as best as I can figure.
Staged, contrived or maybe Carey just became too full of himself and figured he could get away with putting anything on the air and people would watch. News flash: He did and they didn't.
Time to Depart: "The Drew Carey Show."
Surely, ABC has another reality show in the wings to fill the timeslot.
Every spring, usually starting in March, the networks trot out some limited-run series hoping one of them will catch on with viewers and become The Next Best Thing. In the spring of 1997 ABC premiered "The Practice," a show about Boston lawyers created by David E. Kelley.
These are hungry legal eagles, taking cases that could bring money into the firm. Dylan McDermott, Camryn Manheim, Steve Harris, Kelli Williams, Lara Flynn Boyle, Michael Badalucci and Lisa Gay Hamilton take any case that comes their way--even if they knew (or suspected) the client(s) were guilty. They danced a fine line when it came to ethics...sometimes crossing over the line...making me wonder if this happens so often in real life.
The lawyers¹ often messy personal lives are interwoven into the plot. Affairs, marriages, divorces, the birth of children.This is fine because it does happen in real life.
HOWEVER, and you knew that word was coming, how often, in real life, do so many lawyers in one practice get shot, stabbed, kidnapped or stalked? Happens a lot on "The Practice." Too much. When plots seem to be going nowhere, well, throw in a shooting or a stalking.
The final straw for me came at the end of the 2000-2001 season when the lawyers were defending a drug dealer charged with murder. One of the prosecutors, the tenacious recurring character of Richard Bay, was threatened with death by the defendant if the jury found him guilty. He was found guilty and Bay was killed. Why? Granted the lawyers didn¹t like him much, but he stuck to his guns and his ethics. Then these lawyers, who would barely give him the time of day in life, changed their tune. McDermott¹s lawyer characer Bobby Doyle wondered if he should be held responsible, in part, for the shooting. Boyle¹s character--who routinely blew colleague Bay off--became an avenging angel, hunting his killer.
Okay, so I didn¹t like that plotline. I figured I¹d give the show another chance and see what Kelley and the writers came up with in the next season. That fall I was 10 minutes into the third episode of the show¹s sixth season, focusing on Jimmy's gambling problem, when I decided I had had enough. I came to the realization that I just did not care about the characters anymore. I haven¹t watched an episode since...and the show, which ABC recently moved to Monday nights (much to the chagrin of Kelley) is slipping in the ratings. Viewers eventually catch on when you keep rehashing old plotlines.
Time to Depart: "The Practice."
Kelsey Grammer joined the cast of NBC's "Cheers" in 1984, playing the slightly neurotic know-it-all psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane. He played the character until "Cheers" ended its long run in 1993.
In the fall of 1994, the good doctor left Boston and moved back to his hometown of Seattle to take a job as a psychiatrist on a local talk radio station. He bought a swanky apartment in a Seattle high-rise and took in his father, Martin (John Mahoney), a Seattle cop retired after being shot in the line of duty. With the father came his physical therapist--Daphne (Jane Leeves)--who doubled as the Cranes' housekeeper.
At his new radio job, Dr. Crane was paired with producer Roz (Peri Gilpin). Frasier also renewed ties with his younger brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce), also a psychiatist. And every bit as much of a know-it-all as Frasier, but a tad more prissy. This ensemble formed the basis for some classic comedy over the show's run. Frasier, unable to form a lasting romantic relationship, while his father has a series of girlfriends; Roz on the hunt for Mr. Right; Daphne dating a series of men, finally agreeing to marry one...until she realized he wasn¹t the right one; and Niles, married to the rich, insufferable (and never seen on screen) Maris, while pining for years for the girl of his dreams...the seemingly unattainable Daphne.
The Daphne and Niles "will-they-or-won't-they" running plot ended when the pair finally married during the 2001 fall season. After that, I pretty much lost interest in the show. No more 'must see' in my house.
Why? The writing isn¹t as sharp, and now only the occasional line elicits a laugh. The current sweeps-month return of Bebe Neuwirth as Frasier¹s ex-wife, and the recent guest appearances by Felicity Huffman as a new personality at the radio station, have livened up the show. It certainly is not at the bottom of the Nielsen ratings, but it is on its way down. What better way to go than to end now, before it becomes an embarrassment.
Time to Depart: "Frasier."
DO YOU HAVE SOME TV SHOWS YOU THINK HAVE REACHED THE "TIME TO DEPART"? LET DONNA KNOW WITH AN EMAIL TO "TALKBACK"
©2003 by Donna J. Plesh. The "Drew Carey Show" illustration is courtesy of ABC.
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