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TV Preview: 'Ed' creators hope to keep show fresh

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

When Jon Beckerman shows up for his 15th high school reunion next month, he'll bring more than the usual memories of math class, cafeteria food and senior prom.


WHEN: 8 tonight on NBC.

STARRING: Tom Cavanaugh, Julie Brown


He will tote a tape with clips from the NBC series "Ed," which Beckerman and Rob Burnett created. "I've exhaustively compiled every reference to Pittsburgh or Pittsburghers that's been on the show, and it's several dozen at the least. Most of them, the average reader wouldn't know -- teachers from school or kids from the school," he says, but it should tickle his fellow alumni.

Squirrel Hill native Beckerman, a 1987 graduate of Shady Side Academy, says he will continue to slip sly nods to his hometown into the series, returning for its third season at 8 tonight. When we last left the sleepy town of Stuckeyville, bowling-alley lawyer Ed (Tom Cavanagh) had made a last-ditch effort to stop the woman of his dreams, Carol (Julie Bowen), from taking a cross-country trip with his romantic rival.

Tonight, Ed loses one employee, gains one employee and tries to help his doctor pal caught in a gambling scam. Mike Starr, who plays beefy Stuckeybowl employee Kenny, is leaving to pursue movie roles, and Daryl "Chill" Mitchell joins the cast. Once a regular on "Veronica's Closet" and "The John Larroquette Show," Mitchell was in a November motorcycle accident and now uses a wheelchair to get around.

Although executive producers Beckerman and Burnett were leaning against replacing Starr, they met with Mitchell. "We just had an incredible, just unbelievable meeting with the guy," said Burnett. "It really was a case -- before the guy came into the room, there was no part." After he came in, there was a part and it was his.

In a call with reporters, the creators also revealed:

The Foo Fighters theme song, "Next Year," is returning after a year. "We had misplaced the tape the whole second season; we finally found it in the back of Jon's car," Burnett joked. "Complicated business reasons" forced the hiatus, he said, and "through a lot of begging, pleading and giving up unborn children of ours," the tune is back.

Danny DeVito, appearing tonight, is the first in a handful of guest stars. Kelly Ripa will be back, and "Saturday Night Live" players Horatio Sanz and Chris Parnell will play a popular morning radio team splitting after 15 years. Lisa Ling will turn up as a marriage counselor.

Look for more hapless adventures of high school senior Warren Cheswick (Justin Long). Lesley Boone, who plays Carol's gal pal Molly, has a juicy story line in her future, but the producers declined to detail it. "It would give away another major plot development that would kind of give away the whole first half of the season."

Ushering "Ed" into its third season brings its own set of challenges.

"We've done, at this point, 51 episodes of the show, and once you've done that many, you have a certain rhythm, and the characters begin taking on a life of their own and stories begin to suggest themselves to you," Burnett said. "Whereas, at the beginning, you're trying to fill up a blank slate and you have a fear of being completely unconfined, if that makes any sense.

"So the challenge, of course, in any show is to try not to repeat yourself and to continue to push things further along and at the same time, not push them so long that you've changed what people like about the show. ... And it gets progressively harder, the more you do it, until eventually you decide to have Fonzie jump the shark."

Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.

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