Episode Title: “Al… with Kelly”
Production Code: 0501
Reviewed By: Nitzan Gilkis
Rating: 6 out of 10
“Al… with Kelly” is a very unique episode, with no equivalent in any other sitcom as far as I know. As its title so blatantly implies, it’s about Al and Kelly spending a week alone at home, and for the most part they’re the only two regular characters present. A bold experiment, and to the writers’ and actors’ credit, they manage to pull it off with considerable success.
Al: So… how old are you?
Kelly: Well, going by the number of birthday parties you have thrown for me, I’m three.
For an episode that deals solely with Al and Kelly, “Al… with Kelly” does surprisingly little to shed more light on their relationship, making it a bit of a missed opportunity. Kelly makes some serious accusations towards Al (they never did anything together, he never read her a bedtime story, her birthdays were rarely celebrated…), but these are either ignored or treated jestingly by him, as though the script is afraid of delving too deeply into the the sometimes unpleasant realities of the Bundys’ parent-offspring relations. Which is okay, I guess; after all, we wouldn’t want MWC to start turning into a drama series… Another thing worthy of notice here – and this is something that the show was pretty consistent about through the years – is that while it appears that deep down inside Al loves and cares for his family (especially his beloved Pumpkin), the opposite usually doesn’t seem to be true, with the other three often coming across as selfish and egoistic. Here it’s evident in the way Al dedicatedly takes care of Kelly while she’s sick, going out to get her bread in a thunderstorm and all, and then once the tables have turned and Al’s the sick one, Kelly leaves him alone to suffer. Despite this, the episode contains plenty of heartwarming father-daughter moments that’ll make you go ‘awwwww’, once again establishing Al and Kelly’s kinship as a much closer one than Al and Bud’s. It’s interesting to see Kelly transform back into “daddy’s little girl” during her sickness (trying to make up for childhood deprivation, perhaps?), asking Al to read her a bedtime story and generally trying to bond with her father. Quite a sharp contrast to her everyday rebellious-slut persona, and good acting by Christina Applegate (who also deserves praise for faking a cold so well for almost the entire duration of the episode).
“it’s not what you think!”
The episode’s main flaw is the hasty way in which Bud and Peg are done away with. As usual, the writers opt for the easy way out and send them to Wanker County, but it’s not so much the Wanker thing that bothers me here as it’s the ease with which Al and Kelly convince Peg that they’re sick, especially given how suspicious she usually is in such situations (in “The Two That Got Away” and “I Want My Psycho Dad”, for example, she could easily see through Al’s lies). The situation becomes even less believeable when Al says “That hurts, Peg. You know how much I love that huge fat woman” and Peg accepts it without qualms. You’d think that after 20 years of marriage she would know how Al really feels towards her mother… Bud’s role, too, is somewhat unconvincing. I would have expected him to put more effort into proving Al and Kelly are feigning their sickness. And it would’ve been nice if the script had given some explanation as to why Al and Kelly didn’t include him in their plotting. (my guess is that it’s because neither one of them is too fond of poor Bud, and they wanted to get two birds with one stone)
“darkness fell on Shoe-town…”
Mom, I’m telling you they’re not sick. I saw them whispering and plotting in clipped and hushed tones. (Bud)
“Al… with Kelly” was the first MWC episode to be (co)written by Stacie Lipp (probably the raunchiest of the show’s writers), and while not as outrageous as some of her later works (e.g. “Banking On Marcy”, “Bud Hits The Books”), it certainly hints at things to come with Al’s three dream scenes (featuring megababes Pamela Anderson and Beckie Mullen), the latter of which ranks right up there with Kelly’s “Fever” dance as one of the most erotic MWC scenes ever. While I’m sure most of the male viewers greatly enjoyed those scenes, they’re actually remarkably unfunny most of the time, and rather superfluous as such.
“Al as in ‘al night long’?”
The store was packed with women. Well actually there were only two in the store, but it was wall to wall. (Al)
So, is this episode any good? Well, yes, it certainly is, though it’s far from perfect. In addition to the flaws I mentioned above (Bud and Peg’s parts, the not-so-brilliant dream scenes), the episode contains a couple of very weak one-liners, like Al’s favorite oldie “See Me, Touch Me, Feel Me, Marry Me, Kill Me”, and his “doors are hard” tip for the pizza delivery guy. The “red thing” bedtime story fails to produce any real laughs (indeed, the similar tale in “Buck Saves The Day” a season earlier was much better), and the Kellyisms (“feet are cold starve for pizza”, “we’ve got Monte Cristo’s revenge”) aren’t that funny either. But it’s all outweighed by the ‘good stuff’: the jokes about Peg’s mom’s dog-eating, the numerous funny one-liners in the kitchen scene, all the bell-related jokes, Kelly’s hilarious lines about germs (note to the writers: that’s how to portray Kelly’s stupidity in a funny way), and the wonderful chemistry between O’Neill and Applegate throughout. In addition, this episode boasts one of the best MWC endings ever – Al’s nightmare of the fat nurse with the enema (“Al… it’s enema time!”). Loved the terrific close-up of the nurse’s devilish face, followed by Al’s utterly terrified expressions and then an outside shot of the house with Al being heard screaming for help. This time, though, there’s no one there to interrupt his dreaming…
it’s enema time
In conclusion, “Al… with Kelly” is one of those “good without being great” episodes, but given the circumstances, that in itself is a real triumph.