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Quirky ‘Ed’ and the gang are a sure bet

SHARE Quirky ‘Ed’ and the gang are a sure bet

Ten dollars says you can't get that guy to say "tater tots" in 30 seconds.

That's just the kind of wacky challenge guaranteed to send Ed over the edge. Ed Stevens, that is.

If you haven't been watching "Ed," you're missing a real treat. The NBC show (which airs locally on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on Ch. 5) is a sort of goofball amalgam of "Northern Exposure" and "The Andy Griffith Show," with some (usually offbeat) courtroom antics thrown in. Oh, and bowling.

And during this second season, the $10 wagers between Ed (Thomas Cavanagh) and his best friend Mike (Josh Randall) have often been the show's weekly opening act.

Other bets have included Mike hugging a guy in a chicken suit outside a restaurant, Ed asking a waitress for a to-go box for the lone French fry left on his plate, Mike going up to a stranger (who turns out to be an old family friend) and calling him "Mommy," Ed touching a stranger's bald spot and Mike riding a toy horse in a park playground, while yelling "Yee-hah!" And there have been many others.

My favorite came when Mike said he'd give Ed $10 if he'd go over to a group of women and say, "I'm a jackass." Ed hesitatingly approached the women, but then, as he greeted them, one turned and said to him, "Whaddaya want, jackass?" And Mike came over and paid her the $10. (He also paid Ed.)

Aside from that weekly routine, the show is comprised of a mostly delightful group of quirky characters spouting witty dialogue — some of which flies by at "His Girl Friday" speed. The show's premise has New York lawyer Ed returning to his hometown, Stuckeyville. He buys a bowling alley and practices law out of his office there.

Ed also came back to look up the unrequited love of his high school life, Carol Vessey (Julie Bown), who is now teaching at the school.

Secondary characters include:

— Molly (Lesley Boone), Carol's best friend, also a teacher, who is insecure because she's overweight.

— Mike's down-to-earth but occasionally flighty wife Nancy (Jana Marie Hupp), a stay-at-home mother.

— Dr. Jerome (Marvin Chatinover), who was supposed to retire and leave his practice to Mike, and who spent much of his time ridiculing and belittling Mike. (Mike struck out on his own last week; if he sets up his own practice, will doctor wars ensue?)

— Bumbling Warren P. Cheswick (Justin Long), the epitome of the high school geek who pines for a cheerleader. (Perhaps in the same way Ed pined for Carol during their high school days.)

— And finally, bowling-alley employees Kenny (Mike Starr), Shirley (Rachel Cronin) and Phil (Michael Ian Black). Kenny and Shirley are hysterical and practically define "quirky," but Phil is an obnoxious jerk.

I love "Ed," but I'd like the show a lot more if Phil was dropped. And I'm not alone. Most people I've talked to about it can't stand him. They tune out, get up for a snack or, worse, change channels when he comes on.

Also, enough already of Ed longing for Carol. Let's do something innovative here — let's pair him with the ever-delightful Molly. Boone is a doll and much more "right" for Cavanagh's Ed character.

OK, so she's overweight and he's a rail. So what? Such romances occur in real life. Hey, "Ed" writers — break some ground. Try something unexpected. (If the plotting on this show was as surprising as the dialogue, which often skewers cliches, the show would improve markedly.)

On the other hand, leave things as they are and I'll still watch.

There isn't much TV that attracts me these days; "Ed" is one of only a couple of shows I try to see every week.

Ten dollars says you'll agree if you give it a chance.

E-MAIL: hicks@desnews.com