Married with Children... All Things Episodic
0111 - Where's the Boss?
One of the show's first 'stolen' titles, referring to a cheesy American sitcom Who's The Boss,
this episode is pretty odd to watch nowadays. It's probably the episode that has dated the most,
mainly because most of it is contradicted in later years. On the other hand, it has a genuine MwC
theme of the little man taking a stand (and failing), and there are bits of this show which have
an enjoyably loose connection to reality - the story of Gary's survival, for example, echoes Al's
own wild tale in Ship Happens nearly eight years later. It's unfortunate, then, that in creating
the character of Gary as played by Janet Carroll, the writers chose to invalidate much of this
As mentioned, the good side of Where's The Boss is in its theme. This is one of the better
examples, probably because of it being situated firmly in early-era MwC; the disgust and, yes,
contempt of Peg and the children is much harder and the audience feels a lot of sympathy for Al.
Ed O'Neill's slouched, sullen performance is considerably more touching than his wild
gesticulations and demonstrations of later 'Al-takes-a-stance' stories (e.g. I Want My Psycho
Dad), and his "I'll be there" speech is the highlight of the episode. Also, whereas in first
season stories like Sixteen Years And What Do You Get? or Nightmare on Al's Street he would
be the person to whom things happened, or who sat back and watched wide-eyed, in this episode Al
is genuinely the main character. The writers have recognised where the show's strengths lie
actor-wise and are giving Ed O'Neill a greater share of the pie, it seems.
The downside is that the episode is somewhat disappointing in its end. Al cheats fairly
frequently, but always in a humorous or ultimately enjoyable way; his victory in this story,
however, is sordid and an illusion. It leaves the audience feeling cheated and, suddenly, Al
isn't our hero any more. He has duped his fellow mall-store workers, too, who ought to be his
compatriots. Peg is also an unsympathetic character in this episode. In later years she would
look on with weary tolerance of Al's games and tomfooleries, yet we all knew that Peg loved
him really. It doesn't have to be cosy, but it doesn't have to be quite as uncomfortable
as it is here. Only the couch scene with Al and Peg redeems their relationship here, while Steve
and Marcy are just plain irritating. In other episodes, when they get too superior, they
suffer for it with some devastating wit from Al. In this one he just sits there and takes it.
Where's The Boss isn't really enjoyable or recommended. The ending is bad, there isn't
a lot to enjoy during the rest of the story and it's surrounded on either side by two much
better tales. Pretty dire, really.
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