Ten Years After The Finale, What Is The Legacy Of ‘The Drew Carey Show’?

Entertainment Features
09.08.14 58 Comments

The Drew Carey Show ran for nine seasons, from 1995 to 2004, during the same years that Friends ran on NBC. It always lived in the shadows of better, more popular sitcoms, like Frasier, The Simpsons, Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld and even Spin City. That’s part of the reason that, despite being one of the longest running series of the 90s, it’s not particularly well remembered.

It wasn’t a particularly original or innovative series, either. The writers’ room from that sitcom has not been hugely influential. In fact, of all the writers on the show, the only one you’re likely to recognize is Paul Lieberstein, who played Toby on The Office and was the showrunner during its bad, later seasons. Besides Carey, the most prolific writers on the show have done very little since Drew Carey ended its run. The co-creator/head writer, Bruce Helford, is best known since for creating Charlie Sheen’s Anger Management, and another writer, Ed Lee (responsible for 52 episodes) was a staff writer on Are You There, Chelsea, while Les Firestein (17 episodes) is a writer/producer on FX’s Partners. That’s about it.

The availability of the series has certainly played a major role in its dim legacy. The Drew Carey Show has been on syndication, but it’s never been hugely popular in reruns. In fact, after its initial syndication run on TBS, ION picked it up, and only aired episodes from the first five seasons. The CW aired reruns for a short spell in the late aughts to replace a cancelled block of programming, but as of now, no cable channel airs The Drew Carey Show. Moreover, because of music rights, the series can’t even be found on Netflix. With the exception of the first season, it’s not even a show you can own on DVD. In fact, if you wanted to watch the second season or beyond of The Drew Carey Show right now, you couldn’t do it legally.

It’s also not a series that ever really had huge ratings. It never placed inside the top 10 for any year. It peaked at number 13 in its third and fourth seasons, and then plummeted in the ratings. By the end of the series, no one was watching it. In fact, the only reason there was even a ninth season was because ABC was contractually obligated to air one, which meant that the 26 episode 9th season were burned off over the summer, often two a night. Indeed, a decade ago, when the final season of The Drew Carey Show aired, it was seen by an average of 3.1 million viewers, which is bad even by today’s rating standards. It was the 150th most popular show on the networks. I don’t even remember the finale. Apparently, it was a remake of the pilot episode.

It’s no wonder then, that — with the exception of one actress — almost every one from The Drew Carey Show is better known for something else, even Drew Carey, who is probably better known now as the host of The Price is Right. Diedrich Bader is probably better known for Office Space now. Craig Ferguson, of course, is best known for his late night talk show. Ian Gomez for Felicity and Cougar Town. Christa Miller for Scrubs and Cougar Town. Kate Walsh for Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. Ryan Stiles for Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Megyn Price for Grounded for Life. Cynthia Watros was Libby on Lost (I don’t even remember her on The Drew Carey Show), and Kaitlin Olson — who had a recurring role in the last two seasons — is best known for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Because no one watched the last two seasons of Drew Carey, barely anyone even realizes that Olson was on it.

The one major character who is best known for The Drew Carey Show is Kathy Kinney, who is much better known by her character name, Mimi Bobeck.

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It’s just not a show that had much of a legacy, to be honest. It isn’t a show that people still quote. It’s not a show that people still watch. It’s not referenced often (in fact, the last time a pop-culture reference was made to it was on an episode of Saturday Night Live in a Guy Fieri sketch). It was never a hugely beloved show.

It was a well-liked show, however. It was a show that we didn’t turn off when we stumbled upon it. It’s a show that sometimes made us laugh. It introduced most of us to Craig Ferguson and Diedrich Bader and Ryan Stiles. It also introduced most of us to the American version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, which was practically a spin-off of The Drew Carey Show by the end.

In fact, if there’s one thing that The Drew Carey Show is most remembered for, it’s probably the Cleveland Rocks cover from the Presidents of the United States of America, a song that I still think of practically every time I think of the city of Cleveland. No offense, but beyond the Browns and Cavaliers, the only time I ever really think of Cleveland is in the context of The Drew Carey Show, so it at least has that going for it: The Drew Carey Show put Cleveland on the pop-culture map. And that about sums up The Drew Carey Show: It’s the Cleveland of sitcoms.

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