Married with Children... All Things Episodic
0202 and 0203 - "Poppy's by the Tree"
"Remember our motto; if we don't got it, you shoulda brought it." (Guy)
"Remember our motto; we ain't got it." (Al)
"An odd title for an odd two-parter" is an eight-word sentence that sums up
the entire storyline, really. Considering this was apparently the second
season opener when first transmitted I find it strange that MWC even made it
to the third year - let's hope the season improves. Part One opens very
oddly indeed, with a black and white shot of Poppy's and a series of
remarkably unfunny captions 'don't worry, this is MWC, we know it's black
and white, it'll be colour soon'. Then some unfunny tourists and an axe
massacre for no reason whatsoever. In fact, there's nothing to laugh at
until about five minutes into the episode. Come to think of it, there's
precious little to laugh at after that as well.
"Be careful. The one with the powerful feet has a fork in his pants."
So then, what do we have? This episode is the first of the 'vacation
stories' that were to serve later MWC so well, some of them good and some of
them as dire as "Spring Break". The first noticeable difference between this
two-parter and its descendants is the absence of Steve and Marcy save for a
single token scene in each episode. In later stories the writers would jump
through hoops to get every character to the vacation scene, especially in
the "England Show" three-parter. "Poppy's" is much better because it does
not try to justify this and settles on the Bundys alone. The story also
manages to spread its focus relatively evenly between all four family
members, making a pleasing change from the Al & Peg - heavy first season.
David Faustino is still a little unsure and Christina Applegate still a
little too "rebellious teenager" but they manage to carry several scenes
just by themselves this time. The exchange quoted below is the first one of
theirs I've actually liked. Funny to see Kelly having to drink covertly...
"Bud's in luurrrrve." (Kelly)
"She's pregnant, Dad." (Bud)
"Oh, it must just be your beer belly then."
This is also one of the rare episodes where we see the characters away from
the Bundy household *and* acting differently. In other vacation stories,
they tend to simply transplant their existing behaviour (e.g. Al and the
bathroom) into strange and comically inappropriate locales, such as
Harrod's. Here, there is no such 'Al and the bathroom' scene; it is replaced
by such things as checking out the hotel rooms armed with a plastic fork
(Part 2); or, if you prefer, Peg does not simply smoke and watch TV but is
out for sex and, yes, a genuinely good time. Bud and Kelly do not actively
seek the company of others until Part Two - in Part One they stick with
their parents, whereas at home they normally do their level best to be
By the way, who's Andy Griffith?
However, ultimately, I didn't really like this two-parter; the reason is
that it's simply not very funny. The idea of the town adopting the serial
killer is nice, but the Dumpwater locals are utterly unconvincing, with
several performances being based solely upon having stupid voices. Idiot
Southerners is a cliche, but it has been done far better in other episodes
(for example, the clerk in "The Juggs Have Left the Building"). Basing a
comedy instalment on a psychotic serial killer sounds like some writers read
a film review containing the words 'black comedy' and thought they'd like to
try something similar, then totally hashed it up. So although the regulars'
performances are improving and the writers are understanding O'Neill, Sagal,
Applegate and Faustino's capabilities better, this is still a duff story.
Bottom of the line? A pretty average story and disastrous as a season
opener. So there.
Rating 5 (Part One) and 3.5 (Part Two).
send your MWC review to me
home on the range