Episode Title: “Breaking Up Is Easy To Do (part 1)”
Production Code: 1116
Reviewed By: Nitzan Gilkis
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Before I get to the review itself, here’s some background information* for those of you who are unfamiliar with the break-up trilogy’s behind-the-scenes story. This three-parter was originally intended to be a two-parter, and was supposed to be unusually serious for MWC. But when the cast read the script for the first time, four days before taping was supposed to take place, they all agreed that it would never work (and frankly, can any of you imagine a serious MWC episode? I mean, just the last 20 seconds of the counsellor scene here were already more than enough for me). So the taping was cancelled and the whole thing had to be re-written in time for the following week’s taping (and to prevent falling too far behind schedule, it was also decided to turn it into a three-parter). Clearly these were far-from-ideal writing conditions, and the episode most affected was part one, which had to be ready first. I’m not saying it’s a bad episode – it certainly isn’t – but certain elements in the script definitely feel rushed-through. More details in a minute.
Peg: It tests how much you know about the person you love most.
Al: Fair enough, I’ll take John Wayne for 20…
When the “Breaking Up…” episodes first aired, they caused a bit of controversy among MWC fans, some of whom felt they were untrue to MWC’s traditions (Al and Peg will never leave each other no matter what, etc.). Personally I’ve always felt that these episodes did quite the opposite, i.e. reaffirm the fact that Al and Peg are the only ones for each other and can’t truly be happy apart (which was one of the show’s main principles from day one). A divorce would have indeed been a severe violation of the, er, ‘Bundy Code’, but a temporary break-up is fine by me; matter of fact, we already saw something like that as early as season one (in “Al Loses His Cherry”). I do, however, have my reservations about the trigger the writers chose to use, namely the “Passion” board game the Bundys play with the D’Arcys and Griff. Feels a bit like laziness on their side, don’t you think? I would’ve expected it to take something a lot more dramatic to destabilize Al and Peg’s relationship to the point of having to see a marriage counsellor, considering how long they’ve been married, and all they’d done to each other in the past and still stayed together. Then again, maybe the frustration at Al’s lack of attention had been building up inside Peg for a while, and the “Passion” game was simply the squaw that stroked the camel’s sack (sorry, couldn’t resist). But if that’s the case, it would’ve been nice to see hints of this in earlier episodes, like what they did back in season four to set the ground for Steve’s departure. Or at least an additional Al-Peg scene before the game scene, instead of the utterly dispensable boxing subplot… Ah well, given the amount of time the writers had I guess they did a pretty good job. But it’s a shame a milestone episode like this one had to be written in such a haste.
“A ballerina? Well you certainly are my nutcracker”
Al: [trying to guess Peg’s childhood dream] Well, since “sucking the life out of my husband and leaving him an empty husk” was too long for card, I’ll say ‘cow girl’.
Peg: Try again.
Al: A cow?
The break-up scenes may not be that plausible, but at least they’re all funny and well-written. The board game scene has a lot of good lines, most of them Al’s, but Griff and Nancy’s bits spoil it a little. I know the writers were trying to use them to emphasize just how little Al knows about Peg, but it’s too transparent, and Grilff’s ‘lucky guesses’ are simply too unbelievable. The counsellor scene is also quite funny, except for the last few seconds of course. I don’t see why so many fans hate the Dr. Longo guy; personally I thought he was hilarious and loved the lines about his vinyl pants, even if they weren’t that clever. In between we have a nice little scene with the D’Arcys that brings up memories of the very first seasons (the episode as a whole, minus Bud and Kelly’s parts, is very early-MWC-ish), with the husbands talking on the couch and Marcy giving Peg advice at the kitchen table, just like the ol’ days. Again, the dialog is very good, though I felt that Peg using her mom to convince Al to go to counselling with her was way too obvious and predictable.
“you can probe around in my head all you want, you won’t find a thing”
Peg: It was on a crate behind the Tasty Freeze, and it was beautiful!
Al: I remember, sweetheart. And then we shared a ‘Mr. Softie’.
Peg: And we’ve been sharing one ever since.
One thing that struck me as slightly odd about the episode was Peg’s behavior in certain parts. I don’t know if it’s the new writers, or Katey was in a bad mood, or what, but Peg seems unusually touchy and irritable, even downright hostile to her husband at times, and some of her bits are more than a little out-of-character for her in this reviewer’s opinion. Anybody else notice this?
“with what, that planet you call an ass?”
Bud: You hit like a girl.
Kelly: Well you pee like one.
Bud: That was a temporary medical condition!
The dumb and pointless Kelly-boxing subplot is so obviously last-minute filler it makes you cringe (why oh why didn’t they stick with two parts?). It’s as uninspired as they come, and has nothing to do with the main story. I liked Kelly’s exchange of verbal volleys with her rival at the fitness club, but not much else is funny about this sorry storyline. The fight scene is especially lame (although fun to watch if you’re a guy… or a female gym teacher…), with no real laughs and a failed attempt at spoofing the Rocky movies. The punching stunts (esp. when Kelly hits Bud during training) are pretty bad, too.
“I can’t wait to see my face on the big screen!”
Heather: You fight as bad as you act.
Kelly: Yeah well you fight as bad as Brooke Shields acts!
All in all, a decent episode that should have been more.
* - for more info see issue 10 of the Bundy Quarterly, pages 7-8