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Saturday, Feb. 7, 2004 - 11:29 a.m.

Now leaving Stuckeyville

The folks at Frasier are upset at all the attention Friends is getting in its final season. HBO is finally letting Sex and the City go and some people certain entertainment magazines are acting like it's the end of the greatest show ever while I roll my eyes and watch the end of the run just for the hell of it. Countless shows get cancelled before renewal, never lasting long enough to establish a following that cares enough to lament their demise. Others in recent years Freaks and Geeks, Family Guy get axed by networks despite small but devoted followings that give the shows new life on DVD (perhaps to the point of bringing new episodes of Family Guy back to TV). Finally, there are shows loved by the critics but for whatever reason just can't seem to get the audience the ratings the networks like to see in order to keep these shows around.

As we watched what NBC waveringly billed "the final episode" not "series finale" of Ed, I tried not to look. I watched, sure, but I tried not to notice the final scenes, which were played out like a true, final end of the run. I don't know precisely what was said about Ed over the years, but while it never seemed to win a timeslot or get mentioned in the weekly rundowns of the previous period's top shows, it must've had some support to last four seasons. Somebody must've liked it.

I certainly did. Last night, the whole gang was there at Stuckeybowl for the wedding of Ed and Carol. Ed gave a heartfelt thank you speech as the camera switched from the happy couple to the assembled multitude, and then panned through the faces. "It sure looks like a series finale," I thought, but tried not to believe it. Then the music started, one more nice little subtle-yet-fitting acknowledgment to the show's New Jersey roots: "My Little Corner of the World" by Hoboken's own Yo La Tengo. It's a jaunty but touching song, sung sweetly by Georgia that's both perfect for the wedding plotline and the show's penultimate scenes. The black-and-white still photos that would fit just as well in a show scrapbook as in a wedding album were poignant and made me smile.

I'm not upset about the show's ending in and of itself. Though it did redeem itself after a subpar second season (call it the Curse of Clem Snide, some New York band who got a favor from a producer and had their song "Moment in the Sun" replace the Foo Fighters' "Next Year" as the opening theme), I began to watch more for the location shots around New Jersey than I did for the daily happenings in Stuckeyville. But without Ed showing up weekly on NBC, saying I've been to Stuckeybowl and The Pond and The Smiling Goat or at least their exteriors won't mean as much; it won't be as fresh in people's minds.

But mainly it won't be the same for me. Who knows what will happen to Stuckeybowl. Once NBC comes out with its fall schedule in May, the network or the producers or whomever owns the bowling alley in Northvale will know whether or not to get it ready for one more go, or to put it on the market. It's fate then would most likely and, unfortunately, be dire Jeff Zucker admits there's a small possibility that the show could return, but the fact that they've given the cast the OK to accept other projects certainly doesn't bode well.

Is it weird to have so much personal history tied into a show when we've got nothing invested in it otherwise? Casey's right when she associates it with the growth of our own relationship, but is that silly? I don't think it is, and while clearly our future does not hinge on the show's longevity we'll hopefully be watching it on DVD well into old age it's a shame to see it end. I think it could do well if NBC would stick to it on one night. Friday seems best, since the fans most likely to stick with it aren't the young types who wouldn't be able to name one show on TV that night. Though I never saw it, Providence seems to have some parallels to Ed, not the least of which is the fact that both got quiet, perhaps premature, cancellation notices.

The last time I felt so strongly about a show's ending was in high school when ABC axed The Wonder Years which coincidentally starred as Kevin's father Dan Lauria, who played Carol's father on Ed a few times this season, including last night. I loved that show. I was swept up into the nostalgia of a time a few years before I was born. The fact that Kevin and I were the same age during the show's run certainly helped. Though the historical events the space program, the Vietnam War did not line up, I related to much of Kevin's struggles with school, with girls, with jobs, with friends. If it weren't for the clothes, I could see myself as Kevin. I railed against the cancellation in an essay I wrote for no one in particular. I must've shown it to some friends in class or something, because my English teacher became curious. I let her read it, and she was impressed.

I found it recently, and while some (Jessica) might not care for it, here it is, in its entirety with only minor editing for some punctuation. Keep in mind this was written 10 years ago by a jilted 16-year-old who apparently liked hyperbole. I chuckle at my style then.

Okay, this is wrong, I agree, but if I don't say something then I don't think anyone will. I'm putting my mini-somewhat-half-almost-but-not-quite-a-research paper, due in two days, aside to voice my voice on this outrageous atrocity. I was just informed, as I set my VCR (yes, I can actually set my VCR and MAKE IT DO WHAT I WANT IT TO!) to tape the season finale of The Wonder Years (starring Fred Savage, Danika McKellar, Josh Saviano and Dan Lauria, among others) that this is not the season finale, but the series finale. Hold on, wait a second, rewind, back up, run that by me again please? Did you say series finale, as in that's it, the end, no more, see ya, syonara, adios, aur revoir? What cha talkin' 'bout, Willis?

If you don't know that this is one of my favorite shows, then you've never met me. The Wonder Years has it all. For starters, it has the best theme song on television. Nevermind that when the show started it was set in the late sixties and Joe Cocker hadn't recorded "A Little Help From My Friends" yet; it's still number one. It beats out Cheers (a close second for best song), Murphy Brown and any other current sitcom. In addition, this is a show about us, the teenage high school viewers .. in the early seventies. Sure, our nineties has its share of historical events, but the seventies had events all its own, which were touched upon, if not the center of, in several episodes. Furthermore, it was kind of fun to start a new grade in September and then see Kevin Arnold begin the same year a few weeks later as the new television season kicked off. Kevin went through life in his small, stereotypical, suburban nineteen seventies town just as we are here. Episodes involved his first kiss, his first girlfriend, his first job, getting his driver's license, starting high school, the list goes on and on. He experienced in his nameless town everything that we did in Little Silver, Rumson, Fair Haven, Red Bank and all of Monmouth County.

This show beat out any other it went up against. Unfortunately, the Nielsons didn't think so. In my opinion, the Nielson Ratings are as accurate as the Associated Press Top 25 College Football Poll, which has been known to be inaccurate at times (believe it or not, strength of schedule bears little, if any, meaning on where certain teams are ranked). We all know, but might not have realized, that the knockout blow came when Beverly Hills, 90210 moved from Thursdays to Wednesdays. 90210 killed it cruelly, selfishly, coldheartedly and ruthlessly. The Wonder Years is ten times better than Beverly Hills With Numbers (thanks, Pat). The plot each week was better, the dialogue more sophisticated, and the actors closer to their characters' ages. "Shut up, Wayne," "Hey, Butthead," "Work's work," and "Hi ... Hi ..." became common, characteristic phrases that could be seen frequently on channel seven. Fox, on the other hand, gave us, "Cool," "Far out," "Well, it must be that time of the month. It is but it isn't, if you know what I mean," "Hey, bro," and a few other unoriginal, juvenile, things-we've-heard-before lines. To tell you the truth, I find the dialogue in this show to be a few levels too low for the script content. In other words, I'm not convinced by what these teenagers say and do in the situations they find themselves in.

Now a quick quiz: Is your life and surroundings closer to A) the sand, shops, sun, school (listed in order of importance to the characters in the show) atmosphere of 90210 or B) the quiet, small-town, suburban, high/junior high school shopping mall surroundings on The Wonder Years? If you said A, save yourself a lot of money and move to L.A. as soon as you can so that you can actually tell the truth when giving this answer. And are your weekend activities better represented with the outrageous, unexplainable ones in California or the down-to-earth, realistic ones that Kevin, Winnie, Paul and the others go through? Tell me, which of the following have you experienced more recently? Have you gone to a party that involved drugs, alcohol and your best friend nearly getting raped at a huge, white mansion with two swimming pools, a hot tub and more rooms than Red Bank Regional High School? Or have you sat around with your close "buddies" and argued about what to do and where to go? I know what I've done, and who I've done that with (the second one, of course). In short, The Wonder Years was a better show simply because it represented more closely our lives than did B.H.

Kevin had his idols, as we do; Kevin had his male teenage mind, as some of us do; Kevin had his strict but caring father, as we do; Kevin had his sometimes annoying, sometimes embarrassing, but always loving mother, as we do; Kevin had his out-of-touch, older, self-centered sister, as some of us do (or some of us are); Kevin had his circle of friends, as we do; Kevin had his own car, as some of us do; Kevin had homework, as we (some more than others) do; Kevin went on school trips, to dances, and on dates, as we do. But most of all, Kevin had fun, and I, for one, had fun with him.

Thanks for the memories, Kevin. And Ed.

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