Married with Children... All Things Episodic



"And the burgers take the field..." (Al)

One thing about this episode is truly remarkable. It takes the most obvious
premise imaginable and still manages to construct a decent and even
enjoyable tale. Explaining the plot can be done with a few words - Marcy's
aunt has been cremated, while Peg has knocked over Al's barbecue and spilled
some ashes out of it. From the second that Peg says "where can I get some
ashes?" the audience makes a loud uh-oh noise, just as we the viewers did
the second the barbecue and the ashes first made an appearance. The episode
is utterly, utterly predictable. So why is it so enjoyable? Because of the
final scene in the garden. Although we could have expected the traditional
slapstick comedy with Peg, Kelly and Bud one by one spitting out their
burger meat, then Peg chasing her daughter around the garden, it is with
Steve's reaction to the news that you realise the episode has actually been
written in the full knowledge that it was taking an obvious path. Just as
with Ship Happens, for example, where we knew the ship was going to sink.
Steve's delighted grin and then enthusiastic bite of the burger is

"It's not Leech Day; that's Christmas. It's not Parasite Day; that's
Mother's Day." (Al)

The episode sets another precedent, just as He Thought He Could (last
season's opener). This is really the second example of Al dragging the other
Bundys on some stunt to foster an unreal sense of family, the first being
last season's Life's a Beach, but Hot off the Grill is much better and far
more memorable. Another similarity with the season three premiere is Al
making a long speech; in the other episode it was a classic statement of
Al's philosophy, whereas in this one it is a long, maudlin and
over-idealistic speech about Labor Day (with some anti-women comments tossed
in, which doesn't exactly make a change). The episode is an ensemble piece
really, with Al providing the motivation but the other characters mostly
getting a decent look-in. For once Steve and Marcy are allowed to break out
of their usual pattern of arriving at 9764 Jeopardy Lane in harmony and
leaving in exactly the opposite mood; here, their argument has a ring of
realism, too, as we have seen throughout that neither of the Rhoadeses gets
on with their spouse's family. Katey Sagal has a surprisingly large role in
the episode, although her doing what Al orders her to is a little
unconvincing. When she leans against the door and delivers, in a tone too
exhausted to be angry, her line about "I hate Labor Day so much", you again
wonder how she put up with eleven years of just the occasional good episode
for her.

"Today is Al Bun-day." (Al)
"Gee, I thought that was Al-oween." (Peg)

As a sample of Married with Children, as an episode to show newcomers, or as
a season premiere, the episode presumes a bit too much - a knowledge of some
Bundy elements and the relationships between the characters. Yet at the same
time it's not the ideal example of any of these elements, and so the episode
can't be called a classic. The script is skilled in taking this obvious idea
and making it much more funny than I would have thought possible (or even
likely), but it is no match for original ideas in such brilliant gems as
other season openers like Married..with Children, He Thought He Could, She's
Having My Baby, Magnificent Seven and Twisted.

Rating : 7.

By Grail


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