What I’m Watching, Part 2—ED

TV. Is there anything better to do with your time while the coronavirus keeps us all housebound? Yes! There are a thousand more productive uses but, admit it, none are easier or more comforting than plopping yourself on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and your soft drink of choice. Which is why most Canadians are watching more television during this quarantine than ever before…yours truly included.

There is certainly no shortage of viewing options. Streaming services and cable companies are delivering more content to our homes than ever before. Unfortunately, all the choices available—and there are literally thousands!—make finding something ‘worth watching’ hard.

I know because I recently grew so frustrated with the over-hyped offerings that I gave up on new shows entirely. Instead I went old school, searching out acclaimed programs that I somehow missed during their initial runs, and started binging ‘classic’ TV. First on my list was the quirky comedy-drama, ED.

Premiering way back in the year 2000, ED developed a small but immensely loyal following upon its debut…and it’s not hard to see why. Wholesome in all the good ways, it centres on a feel-good premise: that you CAN go home again. Focussing on love, friendship, and becoming our best selves, ED follows the adventures of Ed Stevens—a successful New York City lawyer whose life is upended when he is fired and finds his wife cheating on him upon returning to his apartment unexpectedly. Hurting and humbled Ed returns to his hometown of Stuckeyville Ohio and pursues his high-school crush in the most dork-tacular way possible—as he says in the first episode, “If you’re not born with broad shoulders and a strong jaw, there’s only one way to get the girl…you make a complete ass of yourself”—by buying the local bowling alley ‘Stuckeybowl’. There he opens a law office, becoming ‘the world’s first bowling alley lawyer’. Though legal cases do occasionally anchor an episode the show is about people. As IMDB writes, “The series itself settles into a charming, funny, often serious slice-of-life […] focused not solely on Ed, but on the lovable ensemble cast of people who live and work with him in Stuckeyville.”

Oddball is perhaps the best description of the show—both its tone and its characters. Created by two of David Letterman’s veteran ‘Late Night’ producers, and his Worldwide Pants company, there is an underlying irreverence to ED…but also a core of sweetness. This is, above all, a series with heart. Balancing wackiness with relatability is a hard task but, thanks to strong writing and a talented cast, ED succeeds. 

Led by Canadian actor Tom Cavanagh in a star-making turn as the title character, the series regulars (Julie Bowen as the always out-of-reach girl of Ed’s dreams, Carol Vessey, is particularly strong) both elevate and ground the show. No one is exactly normal in this little town and there lies much of the show’s charm. Be it the weirdos ‘running’ Stuckeybowl, Phil, Shirley, Kenny, and later Eli, who provide hilarious hijinks to frustrate Ed and delight viewers or one of the many scenes at the local high school, where Carol and her best friend teach, there are squirm-inducingly awkward laughs in the offing—especially when self-proclaimed ‘ladies man’ and nerd-extraordinaire Warren Cheswick is on screen (played by a young, scene-stealing Justin Long).

Nominated for numerous awards it won the 2001 People’s Choice Award for Favourite New Television Series (Comedy) and garnered Tom Cavanagh the TV Guide Award for Actor of the Year in a New Series. Other accolades came from the Family Television Awards for Actor Tom Cavanagh, the Casting Society of America for Best Casting for TV Comedy Pilot, the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Individual Episode (for ‘The Whole Truth’), and the Online Film & Television Association in 2002, Best Comedy Series and Best Actor in a Comedy Series (Tom Cavanagh)

(Original Caption) The cast of the TV series ‘Ed’ with their award for ‘Best New Comedy Series.’ (Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images)

Finding ED is a problem. It is not available to stream, and you can only purchase Season One on DVD. Your best bet is to watch it on YouTube. All four seasons (77 episodes) can be found online but be aware that, due to copyright issues, the original music isn’t always included. This can be distracting during a montage when the show goes suddenly silent. Another problem is picture quality. The show aired in the early 2000s and, though 20 years ago isn’t that far back, TV clarity—thanks to digital technology, Blu-ray, and HD—has improved by several orders of magnitude. Expect the first season to appear blurry to modern (meaning ‘spoiled’) eyes.

Heart-warming and family friendly (depending on your family, of course), ED is the kind of program you seldom see these days; a gentle, small-town, show where life is full of good people, good friends, and (mostly) good times. There is drama and romance and awkwardness galore but also hope. And, in the midst of a global pandemic where most of us are struggling with isolation and fear, we could use more of that right now. Give ED a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Posted on: April 26, 2020, by :