Married with Children... All Things Episodic


0205  -  "For Whom the Bell Tolls"

"Honey, will you be quiet? I'm trying desperately to pretend you're
someone else." (Peg)

At first glance this is another of those episodes where Al tries
desperately to hold onto his current world and falls victim to the
forces of change. In practice, fortunately, it's something a little
different (not to mention a little better). The first hint comes in the
script, with some sparkling lines and an unusually (for this season)
enthusiastic audience. I may be wrong but I think the wolf-whistles and
cheers accompanying the first bedroom scene with Al and Peg make it the
first time that the actors have had to pause in their delivery. Al's
suspicious interrogation of Steve is amusing, too, but more as a
precursor of the much funnier interrogation scene in The D'Arcy Files.
Of course, it's not the first of this kind of episode (the honour goes
to Where's the Boss?), but For Whom the Bell Tolls is much more
polished, and a big improvement. 

"Peg, you want anything?" (Al)
"Ohhhh, yes. But bigamy's illegal in this state." (Peg)

Where the episode falls down is that it can't quite decide what it wants
to be. Kelly is used as a piece of very obvious and not quite
convincing social criticism; Christina Applegate makes a good effort,
particularly in her imitation of a drug addict coming down ("You lie!
It's for me! It's for me!") but it's not really exploited as it should
be - she's part of the background, and would have been better being the
focus. In some ways Al seems to realise the futility of his protests, as
his arguments are often weak and contrived. Even Kelly punches a
hole in the "I can't be a quitter" argument! As with any episode that's
supposed to be about the Bundys, Steve and Marcy make only token
appearances, which again is unfortunate; the reactions of "normal"
people to Al's protest would have provided a bit more balance to the
episode. Steve's is the better of the two, complete with one of the
widest grins he's ever worn as he delivers the news about
Peg's mother coming to stay.

"Who called Dial-a-Stud?" (Al)
[Kelly and Peg both raise their hands.]
"Oh, Mom!!!" (Kelly)

Some unusual family relationships are in evidence in this episode. Bud
is surprisingly devious, and downright malicious when faking Kelly's
phone call, which Al seems almost to take pride in. The two men side
against the women quite frequently in this episode, and there is a
certain desperation in the actions of the other three; in many ways, you
could even say that Al is being inconsiderate. He is immune to his
daughter's (admittedly comic) pain and to the fact - revealed in blazing
glory here - that Peg has so little to her life except contact with her
mother. A less pleasant version of Bundy family life, compared to Earth
Angel or The Great Escape, and much more like the famously experimental
Sixteen Years and What do You Get?, For Whom the Bell Tolls shares the
same problem as the latter episode - it doesn't fit in with our
eleven-years-old jaded view of what makes up Married with Children, and
is judged because of this. It's good, but it's not what I think of as
proper MWC. 

Rating 5.

By Grail


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