Special Features

Scenes from a Snow Day: Bonding Over Marathon Viewing of the TV Show Ed

Do you ever read or hear about some massive winter storm bearing down on a region of your country only to quickly stop caring when you find out the storm will not affect you nor any of your loved ones?  At the risk of outing myself as a horrible person, I’ll admit to having been guilty of this in the past.  In fact, this just happened to me within the past two weeks with Winter Storm Nemo, the blizzard that told the collective northeast region of the United States to suck it.  Well, funny thing…karma is a bitch.  And not shy about dishing out second helpings.

Simpsons Snow
I insist that the mayor of my city bow to the demands of whichever winter-themed super villain is unleashing snowmageddon upon us.  They’re pretty sure Batman is on his way, though.

So, what I am currently experiencing is a snow day gone a little too far. I actually have quite a bit of fondness for the more optimal snow days from my youth where there might be some light snow shoveling involved and definite layering of clothes, but also snowball fights and laughing at the strategically placed twig meant to emphasize the man in our snowman.  There was also huddling around the television and soaking in images of environments not blanketed in snow.  My favorite pop culture snow day memory involves a marathon viewing of a television show back when you needed VCRs and VHS tapes to do something like that.  His name was Ed.  His profession? Lawyer.  Correction, bowling alley lawyer.

A Stalker Named Ed…Only Don’t Focus on the Stalker Part

ed-2

Ed (2000-2004) was a quirky NBC dramedy about a lawyer named Ed (Tom Cavanagh) who responds to the dual drama of uncovering his wife’s infidelity and loss of his job at a New York law far firm by running back to his home town in Ohio and processing his emotions in a familiar setting.  Of course, Ed’s method of processing is different than our’s.  He buys a bowling alley, out of which he will run his new small-town law practice, and sets his eyes on winning the heart of the future Mrs. Dunphy (Julie Bowen), one-time high school crush, now full-time high school teacher.  He announces his intentions from within a suit of armor, on bended knee and presenting her with flowers at the high school in front of her students, most of whom would have likely been recording the event and posting to YouTube had such a possibility existed at that time.  For the next four seasons, Ed wooed, courted, and mostly whimsied Julie Bowen’s character into submission.  He also practiced law, mostly taking only the quirkiest cases he could find (such as defending a man sued by the city for feeding people’s parking meters), and oversaw a staff of three odd employees at the bowling alley.  That last part entailed tolerating Michael Ian Black’s antics.

Like Twin Peaks and Northern Exposure before it, Ed was purposefully quirky and incredibly easy to mock, with the show itself occasionally engaging in self-mockery or giving voice to those who would characterize Ed’s flights of fancy as alarming and just not normal.  The below scene from the third episode of the show features Justin Long’s high school student character bluntly pointing out the strangeness of running a law practice out of a bowling alley:

I was immensely fond of Ed when it was on the air.  It was Capra-corn, through and through, with Cavanagh standing in for Jimmy Stewart.  At the time, I loved that kind of story.  Plus, as an amateur bowler in my youth I could watch the bowling scenes and think things such as, “You know why they made that obvious cut just there in the editing?  Because that bowling ball coming out of that hand with that release angle would never have produced a strike!”  Tom Cavanagh made for an incredibly charming male lead, and among the supporting players I particularly enjoyed Justin Long, whose character was similar in both temperament and appearance to Ed.  The show often drew parallels between the two, with some of the comparisons between high school mentalities on romance versus adult mentalities proving equal parts funny and insightful.

ed-justin-long-1
Justin Long, pictured here from Ed. This was before people decided they hated Justin Long.

As a fan, I taped every episode of Ed to VHS, which is something I did back then for my favorite television shows and sounds less sad when you remember that a habit such as this foretold the current environment of DVRs and tv shows on DVD.  Wait, did I just imply I predicted DVRs and DVDs?  Anyway, when one snow day was delivered unto us in 2001 I exposed my mom to Ed via my VHS tapes.  This was during the show’s incredibly divisive second season when a pre-Mad Men John Slattery joined the cast and quickly wooed Julie Bowen’s character by being a complete and utter asshole to her (e.g., she is the one who first kisses him, and he responds as if he’s been more entertained by prostate exams).  Granted, keeping it in the Mad Men family, that strategy has been a certified panty-dropper for Don Draper for some time now.   However, it was an incredibly jarring introduction into the Ed universe, and a general indication of the slightly darker shades of color the show would paint its world with in later seasons.   However, the situation was pure standard romantic triangle material.  Ed had his alternate love interest in the first season, the should-have-been-on-the-show-longer Rena Sofer.  So, Slattery played the role of Bowen’s alternate love interest.  You take the full-time characters on the show who you are going to pair up romantically, and you pair them off in turns with temporary characters so that they can take turns being jealous of one another (SEE: classically, Friends, currently, New Girl).  But you know who cared not for such logic?  My mom. She just hated Slattery’s character so much.

John Slatter
Look at Slattery! He’s not even trying to help Julie Bowen hold that binder which is about the size of her upper torso.  What’s the binder for, you ask?  Oh, she’s just planning their wedding.  Has he helped?  Of course not.

It made for hilarious marathon viewing.  Next thing I knew, we had watched multiple episodes when we only intended to watch one and had ordered a pizza, pausing only slightly to ponder the moral ramifications of contributing to some poor delivery driver being sent out into a post-civilization snow-capped hell state known as “every man, woman, and child for themselves.”  Actually, it probably wasn’t that bad out, not that we would have known because we were so into seeing if perhaps Slattery would just fall down a manhole and call for help only to have the other characters instantly pretend as if he had never been on the show.  As a result of this marathon, up until its series finale the show became a shared experience for my mother and I.  Not just because it was enjoyable to wish death upon an annoying character but that we had been drawn into the universe and through watching her watch the show I had come to appreciate it all the more.  This was a bonding experience we may not have had were it not for Mr. Freeze (my go-to winter-themed villain of choice) having held our city ransom, which, as I established earlier, is what I truly believe to be the source of all wintery weather.

Mr. Freeze has also helped me devote snow day time to other forms of pop culture.  John Madden football has been a guest to many a snow day, and of course I was that guy who would change the weather settings so that in the football game I was playing on my Playstation the players would play in the snow because it was snowing where I was at the time.  Accuracy, people.  Authenticity.  Without them, video games are lost.   I also recall spending snow day time being thrilled by multiple head-chopping episodes of  Highlander, only to then wonder if people calling themselves Team Connor or Team Duncan to indicate which respective MacLeod they preferred (Christopher Lambert from the original films or Adrian Paul from the syndicated television show) was a thing I could start.   Regrettably, I first picked up Stephen King’s The Shining during a snow day.  It’s tale of a snowed-in family in a haunted Colorado hotel inspired me to get proactive and take the axe to my parents before they turned on me.  There were, shall we say, complications with this plan.

However, my favorite pop culture memory is bonding over a man named Ed with my mother. Due to music licensing issues, Ed has yet to be released on home video, either through digital or physical channels.  Boy, do I now regret having thrown away my old VHS tapes of the show before converting them to digital format.  However, clips and, in certain cases, entire episodes of the show can be found on YouTube.  You can see a truly atrocious first season promo below, which is a good indication of how the show was sold.

As an indication of the pathos found in the show’s later years after it decided to stop simply being 100% whimsical, below is what I regard as a truly devastating conversation between Ed and Julie Bowen’s character from the third season.  The heartbreak begins at around the 2 minute, 20 second mark.

What about you?  Any revelatory television marathon viewing in snow days past?  Catching up on video game playing?  Let us know in the comments.

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