Married with Children... All Things Episodic
0923 - User Friendly
Part of a pretty inventive season in general, User Friendly nonetheless stands out above its
compatriots as one of the better examples of Al and the guys fighting against all reason in a
desperate attempt to do something himself. The episode concerns, this time, a mysterious switch
that lurks under the telephone stand. Of course, the one thing this makes you want to do is run
back to your tapes of other episodes to find out if that switch is visible in other stories!
Multiple electrocution jokes notwithstanding, many of which are surprisingly varied - compare this
to the other electrocution scenes in other episodes - the quest to find out what the switch does
is not played to death, but exploited for a surprisingly good amount of comedy. And, best of all,
it does not end with the humiliation of Al but with a pretty decent resolution all round.
Meanwhile, the subplot of Bud's experiment and Kelly and Amber's quest to find out what he's up to
is enjoyable, but perhaps not made as much of as should have been, particularly given the effective
and skilled script for the main storyline. Paring Juliet Tablak with Christina Applegate is not a
particularly good idea, unfortunately, because the former cannot compete with the latter, who is
far more used to the format and demands of the show. It's not a case of acting ability, but that
Married with Children characters tend to fail into two distinct types - the crazies, who are on the
side of the Bundys, and the normal people, who are like us and are always dealt with by the Bundys.
Amber is an attempt to bridge the gap, but placing this episode puts her too far in the "crazy"
camp and Tablak is overshadowed by the more confident Applegate. David Faustino seems to enjoy
himself - well, who wouldn't, given his position? - but as ever, with the exception of the earlier
episode Naughty But Niece, his relationship with Amber fails to convince.
In summary, then, this episode is very enjoyable but it doesn't come off too well because it has
problems with one of its key character pairs (Kelly/Amber). While the adults' plotline is a big
ensemble piece - look at how Marcy, Griff and Bob Rooney all form background characters who appear
for just odd lines, giving support to Al, peg and Jefferson - leaving the three young people to
carry the subplot on their own inevitably means they come off second-best. The story's lack of
balance is what lowers its rating, which is a shame, because otherwise it would have been pretty
good for the switch plotline alone.
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