Married with Children



"I'm going to beat you up!" (Starla)
"Would you mind putting on a nightie, first?" (Bud)

Of all the writers new to the eleventh season, Valerie Ahern and Christian McLaughlin 
were possibly the most traditional in their approach.  Self-confessed fans of the show, 
their scripts tended to emulate the mood and feel of the third season, and "The 
Desperate Half Hour" is one of their best efforts, and possibly the best episode of the
entire season.  Filmed as a real-time episode (an experiment previously used in season 
one's "Johnny Be Gone"), the plot concerns a siege in the Bundy living room, led by Bud's
prisoner pen-pal, Starla.  Unusually for this season, the story is simple and focused and
provides a good vehicle for each of the regular characters.  Especially notable are the 
cast's performances, which are well judged and work to compliment the action, giving a 
real feeling that they are enjoying themselves in the process.        

"I don't usually say this fully clothed, but I love you too!" (Kelly)

Despite the simple story, this episode also succeeds in taking a number of disparate 
story threads, and weaving them into one cohesive narrative, which for once doesn't seem 
to rely on protracted contrivances in its conclusion.  Kelly's whirlwind romance with 
Starla's accomplice Lonnie could have been a disaster, yet is made convincing and 
believable.  The guest cast is also unusually good, and the parts of Starla and Lonnie 
are unusually well written.  Sure, we never find out their real motives or backgrounds, 
but given the pace and ingenuity of the story, one never has enough time for it to become 
a consideration.  Instead we have a seamless marriage of sharp dialogue and plotting, 
with some great moments.

"Poor Clicky!  So young, and so many channels left to change!" (Peggy)

Even if there are other episodes in this season of equal merit, "The Desperate Half Hour" 
is probably the most memorable.  The one-liners shine, and there are some brilliantly 
surreal touches; Marcy and Jefferson as Little Bo Peep and her sheep; her unsuccessful 
attempt to conceal her car keys in her cleavage; the glowing halos that adorn the lovers; 
Lucky mounting Jefferson's leg; Peggy lamenting the death of the remote control; and Al's 
bizarre slow motion gurning upon being shot.  Once again, there is evidence of a darker 
element to the action, and with the slow motion shooting sequence, the comedy is 
juxtaposed with a momentary flash of drama, which just as deftly moves back towards comedy.
Playing cleverly upon the audience's knowledge of the characters, when Peggy expresses 
concern over Al's condition, we really are fooled into thinking it's for real.  

"Al's been hit!" (Peggy)
"Stand back, I know C.P.R!" (Marcy)
"I'm fine!" (Al)

Whilst not necessarily typical of the series, "The Desperate Half Hour" is a highly 
successful show which ranks with the best of them.  Slick, blackly witty, and very, very 
funny, it proved that even after eleven seasons, the "Married with Children" format still 
had potential, and re-establishes Al's status as the unlikely hero (note the way he
instinctively moves forward to shield Kelly).  Perhaps the writers should have explored 
the consequences of the events more, but I don't feel that was the intention.  Starla may 
well come across as a cartoon villain, but the story never requires her to be anything more. 
Instead, the episode just tries to work as a well-written funny show, and it achieves its 
aim admirably.

Rating: 9

By Grail


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