Set your DVR and make sure there’s plenty of space on it, Ed fans, because while the show maddeningly remains one of the few not available on home video, it’s coming back to a TV near you this weekend. The UP network will air a five-hour marathon of the beloved 2000-04 NBC dramedy on Sunday, Jan. 10, then add Ed and his fellow Stuckeyvillians to its daily schedule on Monday, Jan. 11 (4 p.m.). To prepare you for the return of the quirkiest small-town primetime folks this side of Stars Hollow, here are 18 things you should know about bowling alley attorney Ed Stevens (Tom Cavanagh) and friends.
1. Ed was created by The Late Show With David Letterman producers Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman, and co-produced by Letterman’s Worldwide Pants company. Originally pitched to CBS under the title Stuckeyville, the series landed at Letterman’s old network, NBC, after CBS passed. Two more Letterman connections: Dave’s band leader, Paul Shaffer, and announcer, Alan Kalter, guest starred on Ed.
2. Ed Stevens was originally going to be a Wall Street trader, until Beckerman and Burnett realized making him a lawyer would mean he could continue his occupation in Stuckeyville.
3. Though the fictional Stuckeyville was set in Ohio on the show, Ed was filmed just outside New York City in New Jersey small towns like Montclair, Nutley, Cranford, Westfield, Ridgewood, and Northvale. East coast-based Burnett had sought to make a series in the NYC area, and the Jersey locales were a shout out to his hometown, North Caldwell. “When I write, I’m thinking of the North Caldwell of my teenage years,” Burnett told The New York Times. “It’s a New Jersey that is good-looking, that is a great place to be. Those people who think otherwise, well, they have probably just been on the Turnpike, so they just don’t know. It’s a place where you can smell the trees at night and listen to the cicadas.”
4. Ed not only provided career boosts for stars Tom Cavanagh and Modern Family two-time Emmy winner Julie Bowen, but it was the first screen credit for The Big Bang Theory multiple Emmy winner Jim Parsons. In the Season 3 episode “The Road,” Parsons played Chet, a park ranger Carol met when she was planning her wedding with Dennis… played by a pre-Mad Men John Slattery. Other Ed supporting cast members included comedian and author Michael Ian Black, big-screen actor and former Mac ad guy Justin Long, Big Love and Once Upon a Time star Ginnifer Goodwin, Sports Night’s Sabrina Lloyd, and Trapper John, M.D. alum Gregory Harrison.
5. Bowen is not the only Modern Family star who owes Burnett and Beckerman a shout out for an early career lift. One of Sofia Vergara’s first series regular roles in an American TV series was on the short-lived 2007 ABC comedy The Knights of Prosperity, created by Burnett and Beckerman and produced by Worldwide Pants.
6. Among the impressive list of other Ed guest stars: John Goodman, Bob Odenkirk, Margo Martindale, Chris Isaak, Kelly Ripa, Danny DeVito, Neil Patrick Harris, Mary Taye Diggs (as himself), Christopher Lloyd, Burt Reynolds, June Squibb, Jim Gaffigan, Dan Lauria (as Carol’s dad), Lea Thompson (as Ed’s ex-wife, Liz), Curtis Armstrong (as the dad of Justin Long’s Warren), Amy Sedaris, Blair Brown, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., Breaking Bad Emmy nominee Mark Margolis, Josh Duhamel, Mo Rocca, Molly Shannon, Mitch Hedberg, Andy Richter, Chris Elliott, Clay Aiken, J.B. Smoove, Kate Mara, Casey Wilson, and Daryl Hall and John Oates (as themselves).
And the first TV credit on The Office star John Krasinksi’s resumé was as a process server in the Season 3 Ed episode “Good Advice.”
7. The Stuckeybowl, the bowling alley from which Ed Stevens operated his law practice (and a bowling alley), was “portrayed” by the Country Club Lanes in Northvale, New Jersey. The alley was demolished in 2006, but Burnett told the Wall Street Journal in 2000 that he had heard there was a real-life attorney — in Ohio — who operated her law firm from a bowling alley.
8. Ed’s theme song for Seasons 1, 3, and 4 was the Foo Fighters’ “Next Year.” Burnett, Beckerman, and Letterman were big Foo fans, and decided to use the song even though it went against co-production company Viacom’s policy of not using a tune unless the company owned the rights to it. But when “Next Year” was replaced in Season 2 by Clem Snide’s “Moment in the Sun” as the Ed theme, fans — as well as Burnett and Beckerman — protested until Viacom caved, and “Next Year” returned. For the UPtv airings of Ed, “Next Year” will remain the theme… but only for Seasons 1, 3, and 4.
9. For several years, music rights for Ed’s tune-heavy episodes are also what held up any DVD releases of the show, which remains one of the few TV series not available on home video or streaming sites. But in a 2012 Reddit AMA, Burnett said that’s no longer the issue. “On the DVD thing, it’s a question I get asked all the time,” Burnett told a fan. “At first we were told it was an issue with music clearance, but Jon and I went through and said we would take out all of the non-essential [background-type] music. That issue seemed to get cleared up. Now I think it’s just two big companies who co-own the show — Paramount and NBC/Universal — who can’t agree or don’t care enough. It’s a bummer. Jon and I would love it to be released.” In other words, seriously, make space on your DVR for those UPtv airings.
10. Another tidbit from Burnett’s AMA confirmed how close the Ed cast was behind-the-scenes. When then-Ed producer Larry Teng was going to propose to star Lesley Boone — who played Carol and Ed’s friend Molly — Teng asked if he could ask Boone to marry him on camera. “So we wrote a scene where the whole cast is sitting around the bowling alley and Molly is talking about how she’s the only one without a spouse. [This was after Ed had proposed to Carol.],” Burnett shared. “She’s going on and on about how she’s never going to find anyone. It was a completely made up scene. And then Larry… walks in, gets on one knee and asks Lesley to marry him. The look on her face was amazing. She had no idea what was going on, and we had it all on film. Her parents were there and came out. It was really nice. And now they have the cutest babies ever!!!”
11. Ed’s Mayberry-meets-Stars Hollow setting and gentle, goofy, positive tone set it apart from most other series in the early aughts, so it’s no surprise that the show was unique from the get go. Most series would devote at least the pilot episode to unfolding the backstory of how Ed returned to his Stuckeyville hometown after getting fired from his attorney job in New York City and catching his wife in bed with the mailman (not even their mailman… just a random mailman). Instead, the Ed premiere devoted a roughly two-minute montage, with voiceover, to setting up his return to Ohio, and then jumped right into his new life of bowling alley ownership, Carol Vessey pursuit, and tomfoolery with his childhood BFF, Dr. Mike (Josh Randall). A more traditional pilot had been shot — with Donal Logue in the role played by Michael Ian Black and Janeane Garofalo playing Ed’s ex-wife — but after recastings, a few scenes were reshot and the pilot was edited down to the aforementioned montage.
12. About that tomfoolery, throughout the series, Ed and Mike made a series of $10 bets, where they could earn a ten-spot by daring each other to do increasingly humiliating, silly things in public. Like… Mike dared Ed to meow loudly enough to get a man on a bench to turn around, to drink a bottle of maple syrup, to order a meal in rhyme, to call lettuce “let-oose” when asking for help from a grocery store produce manager, to order a Shirley Temple on a date, and to yell “I love kitties!” as loudly as he could at the Stuckeybowl. Ed challenged Mike to do a snake dance for strangers at a bus stop, pretend a man at the diner was Kenny Rogers and ask him for his autograph, approach a man and call him “Mommy,” stand on a chair and bark “Jingle Bells,” approach a stranger and sing “Tonight, I Celebrate My Love,” and compliment the shirt of a stranger while standing beside him at a urinal. A series of YouTube videos compiles all the bets.
13. Daryl “Chill” Mitchell joined the cast in the Season 3 premiere, playing Eli, the new supervising manager of the Stuckeybowl. Mitchell replaced Mike Starr’s handyman, Kenny, who left the alley after nearly bowling a perfect game. There was nothing left for him to accomplish, he reasoned.
14. Actor Michael Genadry, who played high schooler Mark Vanacore, BFF of Justin Long’s Warren Cheswick, underwent gastric-bypass surgery during the series, and the procedure, and his resulting weight loss, was written into Season 3. Genadry, who weighed 475 pounds when the series began, had lost more than 150 pounds by the time the series wrapped in 2004.
15. Tom Cavanagh and Michael Ian Black enjoyed working together so much on Ed that they decided to do a podcast together. Their idea: a podcast about one of their favorite pastimes, “Mike and Tom Eat Snacks.” And just like the title suggests, they ingest and discuss various munchies during each episode, including Chex Mix, Devil Dogs, Japanese Kit Kat bars, Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, marzipan, Chicken in a Biskit crackers, grapes, rice cakes, Nilla Wafers, hard boiled eggs, astronaut ice cream, Reese’s Cups, raisins, and Kind Bars. In their first podcast of 2016, the pals nosh on Tom’s brand pork skins and bacon cheddar fries and review them for Episode 98.
16. What else is the cast of Ed up to these days? Cavanagh continues to play Dr. Harrison Wells on The CW’s superhero drama The Flash, while Black just released a new memoir, Navel Gazing, and plays the BFF of Jim’s wife on the TV Land comedy The Jim Gaffigan Show. Julie Bowen has received six consecutive Emmy nominations for Modern Family; Josh Randall will co-star with Logan Marshall-Green and Justified’s Damon Herriman in Cinemax’s upcoming drama Quarry, about a Marine who returns home after the Vietnam War and finds himself being shunned by loved ones and the public; Lesley Boone plays switchboard operator Rose on ABC’s Agent Carter; Long co-stars with Bill Burr and Laura Dern in the new Netflix animated comedy F Is for Family and continues to voice Alvin in the Alvin and the Chipmunks big-screen movies; and Daryl Mitchell plays computer specialist Patton Plame on NCIS: New Orleans, and co-stars with Cavanagh in the upcoming indie comedy film Offer and Compromise, in which Mitchell plays a character named Ed.
17. Though the series was never a ratings powerhouse — and faced timeslot competition from shows like American Idol and The Simpsons — it ran for four seasons and wrapped up with an episode that served as a satisfying series finale. No specific spoilers, but the ep is titled “Happily Ever After.”
18. Even if you’ve never seen a single episode of Ed, this scene is perfect, and will make you cry:
Ed premieres with a five-hour marathon Jan. 10 at 4 p.m. on UPtv, and joins the network’s daily lineup Jan. 11 at 4 p.m.