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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ode to Ed: Nice guys don't always finish last

March 24, 2004

Can we please have a moment of silence for Ed?

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

It appears Edward J. Stevens has bowled his last game. Although NBC hasn’t officially canceled the show, pieces of the New Jersey bowling alley set were auctioned off last week to fervent fans. So, it’s a safe bet that Ed is dead. And I’m one step closer to giving up my couch-potato ways in favor of a more productive pastime.

For those of you who never found this whimsical hour of brilliance, I’m sorry. Perhaps you can catch it in syndication or on DVD. For those of you who fell under Ed’s spell, let’s say goodbye together.

In theory, the idea of a bowling alley lawyer seems utterly ridiculous. But for Ed, it seemed to fit.From the moment he ditched his New York law firm and cheating wife and returned to his roots in small-town Stuckeyville, Ohio, I was hooked. Any man willing to forgo pride, don an armored knight suit, march into his alma mater and declare his feelings for unrequited high-school-love CarolVessey, gets points in my book.

Ed was young at heart.He took great pleasure in celebrating life, whether it was eating pie, owning a bowling alley, running in the rain or coaxing best friend Mike to fly in the face of etiquette for one of their infamous $10 bets.

Ed was a sweet, humorous optimist in a world of bitter cynics. He chose to believe in possibility. And by doing so, he gave hope to awkward underdogs everywhere.

But the best part of Ed wasn’t the main character. It was the wacky, supporting folks who lived in Stuckeyville. There was eccentric bowling alley employee Phil Stubbs, who tried to get rich by creating a new, hipper Happy Birthday song. There was crabby Dr. Jerome, who made it his life’s mission to torment protégé Mike.And who could forget king-of-the-geeks, Warren Cheswick, who made you cringe in embarrassment for him during those futile attempts to be popular? Then, there was bug-eyed Shirley, lovable Molly and realistic teens Diane and Mark.

Unfortunately, the last season of Ed became too much about Ed and Carol and less about the intriguing supporting characters that were the backbone of the show. I liked Carol. I didn’t love her. She was too wishy-washy for me. I did however, love - that’s right - love, the ensemble cast.

I blame the network, in part, for the downfall of Ed. NBC couldn’t decide on a permanent time slot for the show. It was moved from Sundays toWednesdays to finally the death slot, known as Friday night before 9 p.m. NBC struck gold with Ed. It’s too bad they never knew it. They could have spared us the inevitable, unworthy replacement that’s sure to emerge.

For those who aren’t ready to say goodbye, you can visit www.stuckeyville.com. It’s a Web site dedicated to the show that has plots, quotes, character information and thousands of registered fans. Or you can surf eBay to bid on your very own piece of Ed memorabilia. You can find a cast-autographed bowling pin, Dr. Jerome’s wall plaque, even a Stuckeybowl T-shirt and some bowling shoes.

The final episode of the show proved that nice guys don’t always finish last. Ed got the girl. In fact, he married her in true Ed style, in what started as a circus-themed wedding but evolved into a romantic ceremony.

As I say goodbye to one of the quirkiest shows to ever hit the airwaves, I can’t help but remember the episode where Ed questioned his life’s purpose. He worried that he had done nothing significant and would leave no legacy, unlike an artist who came to town selling his artwork and living by thecredence that “art was his life.”

Ed sweated the entire show trying to come up with his own worthy epitaph. And although we won’t get to see his gravestone, we can appreciate the words he wanted to leave behind.

“Ed Stevens: Life was His Art.”

Originally published 3/24/06 in The Exponent Telegram newspaper.


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