Dec 6, 2014

The Drew Carey Show: All About the Beefcake?

When I was living in New York, my favorite tv program was The Drew Carey Show (1995-2004).  I'm still not sure why.

Not because of the beefcake: Diedrich Bader (left) rarely disrobed on screen, and the other male characters were not particularly attractive.

It starred dumpy, nerd-eyeglassed comedian Drew Carey as a human resources drone at the Winfred-Louder Department Store in Cleveland.

His work life is bedeviled by a series of horrible bosses and his worst enemy, the over-made up, abrasive Mimi (Kathy Kinney).

At home, he has three friends: Kate (Christa Miller), with whom he has the obligatory "will they or won't they?" quasi-romance; and slackers Oswald and Lewis (Ryan Styles, Diedrich Bader).

Heterosexism was everywhere:

1. One of the theme songs, "Five O'Clock World," was about how all of the little miseries of the workday get better when the man goes home to his wife.

2. Drew was supremely attractive to women.  His show, his rules.

3. Oswald and Lewis had been living together for 20 years, yet no one ever treated them as a couple. In one episode Mom showed up and tried to fix them up with women, explaining, "I don't want you to be alone,"  Um...they weren't alone.

4. Drew's brother Steve (John Carroll Lynch) was probably the only heterosexual crossdresser on tv at the time.  But when he arrives for a date with Mimi in drag, she is upset: a date is a boy-girl activity, and she's the girl, so he should dress as a boy, right?

Hey, Mimi, gay people go on dates, too!

When the romance with Mimi blossoms, the drag is summarily abandoned, and never mentioned again.

5. Gay characters appeared only in the standard 1990s sitcom plotlines:

Oswald dates a guy for two weeks without realizing it (come on, two weeks without any physical attention?)

Drew is mistaken for gay.

The guys pretend to be gay to get some of the wonderful "privileges" that gay people enjoy.

So why did I like The Drew Carey Show so much?

Maybe because I was homesick for West Hollywood, and Drew Carey was all about finding a home.

Or because it was set in Cleveland, one of my favorite cities.

Maybe it was Mimi and Drew's pleasantly weird sparring enemy-ship.

Or the cool musical numbers.  Here a duel between the "old drag" of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the "new drag" of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

Or maybe it because of the beefcake after all.

See also: Frasier. A Beefcake Tour of Cleveland.