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Revisiting ‘Boston’ and ‘Ed’

Midterm grades for two junior year shows.

by Mark D. Johnson
January 10, 2003

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Revisiting ‘Boston’ and ‘Ed’_Mark D. Johnson-Midterm grades for two junior year shows. When The Partial Observer was born in the fall of 2000, I wrote my first two television reviews, which were for the most part positive appraisals of a pair of new hour-long shows, NBC’s “Ed” and Fox’s “Boston Public.” Since then, I’ve kept tabs on them, suffering through the bad moments and enjoying the good, but my opinion of both shows is down from what it was two years ago. Both shows have undergone some personnel and other changes, with mixed results.

Wednesdays at 8/7c on NBC

Recap: Likeable Ed Stevens (Tom Cavanagh) is a lawyer/bowling alley owner in little Stuckeyville who has spent the last two years pining for high school teacher Carol (Julie Bowen), but the two just can’t seem to get together, even after Ed was ready to ride into a church on a horse to stop Carol’s wedding to Dennis, while Dennis called off the wedding at the alter because he knew Carol was thinking about Ed. Ed practices law now and then.

The Bad: In my original review, I said they’d better not let Ed get the girl, but it would be tough to keep the sexual tension thing going. Wisely, Ed and Carol never slept together, but the ongoing tension leading up to Carol’s wedding was getting to be unbearable. Thank goodness that’s over and now they’re just good friends. Right? Please tell us it’s over. Unfortunately, now that Dennis is gone, Molly has become principal and Nancy is a guidance counselor. A little too convenient for my taste.

The Good: The writing consistently contains some humorous chit-chat, often when Ed jokes with his buddy Mike. Cast-wise, I miss Kenny, the bowling alley’s dim-witted oaf, but new manager Eli, played by wheelchair-bound Daryl Mitchell, injects a lively energy into every scene he’s in, and helps keep the obnoxious Phil Stubbs on level ground. The story arc concerning the show’s trio of nerdy teens, led by Justin Long’s excellent Warren Cheswick, has been handled well. I continue to like the light-weight nature of the show’s courtroom drama, which provides enough meat without taking itself too seriously. This past week introduced a new, strong character, a young lawyer who cleverly talks her way into working for Ed. The preview for next week implied she may be Ed’s new love interest, which can’t be good, right?

Outlook: Let’s hope “Ed” is back on track after going a little astray. It’s still a well-conceived show that has earned its ratings increase. Definitely room for improvement.

Grade: B

Mondays at 8/7c on Fox

Recap: Series creator David E. Kelley’s inner city high school is riddled with every conceivable problem in public education, but mostly the issues stem from sex and violence. Give him credit from trying something other than legal themes, but while the problems addressed do exist in the real world, the Kelley approach to them is often as implausible as anything he’s ever cooked up, and boy, he’s cooked up some doozies!

The Bad: The first season centered much around characters Lauren Davis and Harry Senate. The following season saw them take a back seat to one sexier blonde (Ronnie) and one psycho blonde (Hook-Lady). Now, they’re both off the show, and in Miss Davis’ case, without so much of a mention of what happened to her. Mr. Senate had a nervous breakdown, turning a once-intriguing character into a pathetic nuisance. There have been altogether too many cast changes.

Far too much time is spent dealing with the social lives of the teachers. The actors playing the students look well into their twenties, and the classroom scenes are phony. The show has the opportunity to tackle real teen and educational issues in a realistic manner, but instead goes to sensational extremes to appeal to a young demographic.

The Good: Talented cast. And it’s not about lawyers, cops, or doctors.

Outlook: More of the same. I don’t see this show getting any better, but there’s a good chance it will get worse.

Grade: C-

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