||THE DREW CAREY SHOW
The highs and lows of an office worker.
233 episodes of 22 minutes duration. ABC (USA) 1995 - 2004
One of a number of 1990's sitcoms starring American stand-up comics, 'The Drew Carey Show' was built around the talents of its “everyman” star and his lower-middle-class friends in the Midwestern city of Cleveland, Ohio. Sometimes the show became surrealistic; occasionally it was dialogue surrounded by music. And there were some gimmicks built in (with mixed results). But at its best, “Drew Carey” was fun to watch, and this blue collar series became one of ABC’s most popular comedies at a time when NBC was dominating with its upscale urban sitcoms 'Friends,' 'Seinfeld' and 'Frasier.'
Drew Carey was born in Cleveland on May 23rd, 1958. In his autobiography, Carey wrote that he had six toes on his right foot, played cornet and trumpet in his high school marching band, and was later kicked out (twice) from Kent State College. He later joined the Marine Corps Reserve and served for six years. Carey later lived in Las Vegas for a few months before returning to Cleveland and launched his career as a stand-up comic, performing in clubs. His first big break came as a contestant on the syndicated talent show 'Star Search' in 1988. Three years later, he made his first appearance on 'The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson'; Carey’s monologue impressed the talk show host, who invited him to sit on the couch next to his desk–an honour few comics received while appearing with Carson. The “Tonight Show” appearance led to other gigs on talk shows and on cable television. In 1994, Carey co-starred on a short-lived NBC comedy called 'The Good Life.' The sitcom’s head writer, Bruce Helford (a former scribe on 'Roseanne') liked Carey and the pair teamed up to develop a new sitcom based on Carey’s “everyman” persona.
'The Drew Carey Show' made its debut September 13th, 1995 on ABC. Carey played–who else?–Drew Carey, a human resources worker at the Cleveland department store Winfred-Lowder. His boss was the often-heard but never seen Mr. Bell (Kevin Pollak) and his nemesis on the job was the overweight, loudly-dressed assistant to Mr. Bell, Mimi Bobeck (Kathy Kinney). Mimi and Drew would engage in pranks against each other and call each other names (“Pig” was Mimi’s favorite word to describe Drew). At home, Drew hung out with his buddies, Lewis Kinski (Ryan Stiles), a janitor for the pharmaceutical firm Drugco, and the adolescent Oswald Lee Harvey (Diedrich Bader), a radio DJ who later becomes a runner for a delivery service. Also part of the group was Kate O’Brien (Christa Miller, niece of television actress Susan St. James), a grown-up tomboy whom Drew had a longstanding crush on.
Most of the episodes centred around Drew’s job and his home life with frequent visitors Lewis, Oswald and Kate. 'The Drew Carey Show' ended its first season as the 48th most-popular series, but started to build an audience by the fall of 1996, placing 18th overall. The second season also disposed with a short cartoon opening and the theme song “Moon Over Parma” (sung by Carey). The second-season opener featured a music video based on the 1965 hit “Five O’Clock World” by The Vogues; a shortened version of the video served as the opening credits for the second season. Also that season, the unseen Mr. Bell was replaced with British supervisor Nigel Wick (Craig Ferguson), an offensive, crude man who suffered a cocaine habit (and later went into rehab). During the season, the gang created Buzz Beer (tastes like coffee with a jolt of caffeine); the brew was made in Drew’s garage.
As the seasons went on, fans relished the occasional “stunt”events. In “What’s Wrong With This Episode?” viewers had to point out the deliberate mistakes; the viewer who had the most correct answers won a prize. “Drew Live,” as the title implied, was performed live three separate times (for the Eastern, Central and Pacific time zones). In Season Five, there was a “Very Special Drew” episode that involved melodramatics–all in the effort to pick up an Emmy nomination. (It failed; Drew ended up spending $100 for some Golden Globe statues!) And there was the all-Pig Latin episode (don’t ask).
Season Three scrapped the “Five O’Clock World” theme for a new music video opener, using the tune “Cleveland Rocks” (a tribute to Carey’s real-life hometown), performed by The Presidents Of The United States of America. During the next few years, there were plot developments–Drew falling in love with his co-worker Lisa (she moved in with him but it didn’t work out); Wick and Drew “getting married” in Vermont (where same-sex unions were legal) so that Wick could stay in the States; Kate and Drew getting romantically involved (they went back to being just friends after they couldn’t agree on whether to have children). Also making his appearance was Drew’s cross-dressing brother Steve, who fell in love with Mimi and married her–making Drew’s worst enemy his sister-in-law!
During this period, Carey was also host of ABC’s American version of the British improv show 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' Ryan Stiles (who was a regular on the UK version before he joined “Drew Carey”) was also part of the American “Line,” as was Colin Mockrie and comic Wayne Brady. The U.S. 'Whose Line Is It Anyway' ran from 1998 through 2003. But all the gimmicks, stunts and cross-appearances on “Whose Line” couldn’t stop the slow, steady decline in viewership of 'The Drew Carey Show.' Ranked as the 14th most-popular show in the 1998-99 season, “Carey” slipped to 24th place the following year. The 2000-2001 season saw the series fall to 41st place overall. Nevertheless, ABC (which was suffering from its decision to over saturate the prime-time game show hit 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire') renewed 'The Drew Carey Show' (with a giant contract) through the 2003-4 season. It turned out to be another bad decision on the part of ABC; “Drew Carey’s” ratings slide continued, making the expensive deal one of the jokes of the television industry. The 2002-03 season saw the end of Winfred-Louder; in its place was an Internet startup called “Neverending Store.” Drew was hired by the new company, as was Mimi. Wick ended up as a janitor; actor Craig Ferguson left the show soon after (and later became a hit as host of CBS’ post-David Letterman offering 'Late Late Show'). Christa Miller also left the cast that season; she was replaced by a new female foil for Drew, Kellie Newmark (Cynthia Watros), an old high school pal who later became a stripper. She and Drew started dating; the two married after Kellie gave birth to Drew’s child.
But with ABC’s ratings in such poor shape during the early years of the new decade, not many viewers cared. “Drew Carey” ended the 2002-03 season in 119th place (alongside a number of shows on smaller networks UPN and WB). Worse, ABC could not get out of its multi-million dollar contract, so it was forced to pay for two additional seasons of a low rated series. “Drew Carey” jumped around from timeslot to timeslot and was burned off in the summer months; the final episode aired September 8th, 2004. By this time, Carey was making as much as $750,000 an episode–probably a record salary for a show that was scraping the bottom of the ratings.
After the demise of 'The Drew Carey Show,' Carey went back to standup comedy and hosted a short-lived WB improv series called 'Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show.' But he found a second career as a game show host. In 2007, Carey won praise for his work on the CBS prime time quizzer 'Power Of Ten.' Soon after taping the show’s pilot, CBS approached him as a possible replacement for the legendary Bob Barker on 'The Price Is Right.' One month after Barker signed off as the show’s host, CBS announced Carey would replace Barker in what would be the show’s 36th season. Carey became the new host of “Price” in October 2007. He soon made changes from the Barker era. A 1991 ban on offering imported cars as prizes was lifted. Carey, a self-described conservative Libertarian, also lifted Barker’s previous bans on prizes such as meat-based products and leather items. One Barker tradition remained: Carey continued to end each show urging the audience to spay and neuter their pets.
Drew Carey did something few comics have done: He proved he could succeed in two different television formats. Not only did he headline a successful comedy series, but made the smooth transition to a live and fast-paced game show. With Carey at the helm, 'The Price Is Right' has continued to thrive on the CBS daytime schedule (and on occasional prime time specials), leaving Bob Barker’s legacy in good hands.
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