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Whatever Happened to Ed?

Whatever Happened to Ed?

Ed cast photo

Mr. Ed was a horse, and he ended up more reputable than Ed Stevens, the titular character in NBC’s Ed. Created by Jon Beckerman and Rob Burnett, this 2000-2004 series is criminally underrated and deserves more attention than it’s gotten, and is one of the most regretfully forgotten television shows of all time.

Ed‘s premise is a simple one. The lead character is Ed, of course, who travels back to his home town following his divorce from an unfaithful wife. Originally, his plan was only to visit his hometown of Stuckyville, but following a run-in with a girl he loved in high school, Ed decides to move back home permanently. What follows is a wonderful story that may seem somewhat plain by today’s television standards. Ed is a good person and he works as a lawyer in his home town helping people and facing the occasional moral dilemma. He fights to win over Carol, the women he loved in high school, and he hangs out with his best friend of many years, Mike.

Where did Ed go? There have been rumors that issues with copyrighted music have held up any release of the DVDs, but the other problem is the almost complete lack of demand there seems to be for them. In an era where television is incredibly good, and incredibly dark, a show like Ed seems out of place. Even so, Ed was much better than most of its contemporaries and still holds up largely because of its wonderful characters and hilarious dialogue. Ed very much fed on the ideals of America in the pre-9/11 era. Far from the antiheroes that have been the new mode as of late, Ed is a consistently good guy whose moral dilemmas are in large part scaled down from the large good vs. evil battles that rage on today. In many ways, Ed is a brother series to Gilmore Girls, both in content and in tone. Both deftly blend comedy and drama to wonderful effect and both explore the dynamics and quirks of life in suburbia, as quiet and contained as this can be. It’s no coincidence that the two shows premiered in 2000, the year before a large part of American idealism was crushed in favor of a new, darker worldview. 

Ed represents a kind of TV that people no longer seem to want in an era that has become rife not only with complex, morally ambiguous characters but also with incredible serialized narratives which have flourished because of the rise of the internet viewing experience. As fascinating as these shows can be, counterpoints need to exist. Ed‘s primary goal is to make the viewer feel good, not question whether their neighbor is planning to murder them, and that’s why it works. Despite its many charms however, Ed is by no means perfect television. It had a fourth season which tended to drag, largely resulting from the show’s decision to finally pair up Carol and Ed. Their courtship, wonderful as it was, was an integral part of the show’s earlier seasons and though they had to inevitably get together, this came at a slight decline in the show’s overall quality. On the whole though, the show is a delightful one populated by wonderful characters who are genuinely fun to spend time with. Across the board, the performances are fast-paced and fun and the whole thing is buoyed by Tom Cavanagh as Ed and Julie Bowen as Carol.

Ed is a relic of a time gone by. A time which, many might argue, was simpler. Even today though, it should be appreciated for what it was and prompt discussion as to why shows like Ed no longer populate American television. Violence and danger can often make for compelling drama, but shows like Ed can be just as engaging. They depict worlds where communal families are important, worlds where good guys can win some battles, even if they aren’t the major ones. Ed is a show about a good guy doing his best to live his life to the fullest. It’s schmaltzy, but it’s also wonderfully joyous and it’s the kind of television experience that seems to have disappeared. TV needs more shows like Ed; we’ve got to be happy sometimes.