Drew Carey Show, The: The Complete First Season (DVD)
One of television's brightest comedy sensations, Drew Carey headlines as an average, single everyday Cleveland guy with an underwhelming job and some unfulfilled dreams, struggling to stay financially and romantically afloat in an unpredictable era. This half-hour comedy depicts the life of a wannabe upwardly mobile guy whose looks, well, wouldn't get him work modeling Speedos, but at least he's got a brain and a steady supply of perspective and attitude from his lifelong pals, Oswald (DIEDRICH BADER), Lewis (RYAN STILES) and Kate (CHRISTA MILLER). On the other hand, Drew's omnipresent office nemesis, the cosmetically challenged Mimi (KATHY KINNEY) delights in spreading her own version of hell into both Drew's private and professional lives. Add to this Drew's ruthless English boss, Nigel Wick (CRAIG FERGUSON), and his insatiable need to find new and more sadistic methods of firing employees and it's clear: THE DREW CAREY SHOW is a lot like real life. Just a whole lot funnier.
After the release of a six-episode Television Favorites sampler, The Drew Carey Show
has earned a well-deserved promotion, DVD-wise, with this complete first-season set. Few television workplace comedies so keenly or hilariously captured the mind-numbing drudgery and soul-crushing despair of cubicle culture as The Drew Carey Show
, a kindred spirit to the "Dilbert" comic strip. The pilot episode introduces the bespectacled, buzz-coiffed Everyman, a "go-getter" in his seventh year as the assistant director of personnel in a Cleveland department store, a position, he notes, "of indirect respect and oblique power." The giddy delights of The Drew Carey Show
are many, from the smile-inducing theme song, "Moon Over Parma" ("We're going bowlin' / So don't lose her in Solin") to one of TV's most likeable ensembles: Ryan Stiles as goofy Lewis (or, as Jason Alexander joked on Comedy Central's Drew Carey roast, "Kramer-lite"), Diedrich Bader as Oswald (less of a doofus here than in later seasons), Christa Miller as tomboyish Kate, Drew's lifelong platonic friend and unrequited crush, Kathy Kinney as Mimi, Drew's office nemesis, who is Bluto to his Popeye. The appealing Katy Selverstone is also featured as Lisa, with whom Drew has a secret inter-office romance that will last but this one season.
After the enormously telegenic Friends cast, Drew and company are "a cold little splash of reality," portraying relatable, regular people. In this first season, the series is still finding its feet (enjoy them while you can: Drew's hillbilly neighbors, and the voice of Kevin Pollack as Drew's abusive boss, Mr. Bell). But by season's end, as guest star Jamie Lee Curtis (as Drew's hard-partying barber) polkas with Mimi in the hilarious episode "Playing the Unified Field," the series has established its spontaneous, off-center niche. While there are no episode commentaries, this set puts in some valuable overtime with "Life Inside a Cubicle," a retrospective in which cast and series creators reflect on the series' rocky beginnings. --Donald Liebenson