Episode Title: “If I Could See Me Now”
Production Code: 0607
Reviewed By: Nitzan Gilkis (email@example.com)
Rating: 4.5 out of 10
“If I Could See Me Now” was taped three days before Katey Sagal’s child was tragically stillborn, but the character of Peggy is already absent here (she can be heard briefly in the first scene, though). Her absence is explained by a food coma. Odd… This episode was Amanda Bearse’s directorial debut, so Marcy’s missing too; add to that Jefferson’s very brief appearance, and we get an episode that revolves entirely around Al, Kelly and Bud. Episodes like this rely heavily on good acting to keep them from sinking, but Christina Applegate and David Faustino seem to be sleepwalking through their parts for the most part, and lack their usual enthusiasm (though I have to admit Christina’s geek impression in the second act is fabulous). Luckily Ed O’Neill is on top form here, and manages to carry the episode almost all by himself and buoy it towards average.
I thought I was gonna die. And worse than that, I thought I was gonna die with my family. How uncool is that? (Kelly)
I always get a weird feeling watching those ‘Peg-less’ episodes. They make you realize just how essential she is to MWC. Her sarcastic remarks and the constant sniping between her and Al are the show’s heart, and when she’s absent it feels like watching an entirely different series. The dynamics between the characters feel somehow different, they seem a bit closer, perhaps. And the house feels kinda empty. Or maybe I’m imagining things… oh well, enough rambling. Let’s get down to business.
cruising around with Al takes its toll on Bud and Kelly
What bothers me most about “If I Could See Me Now” is its inconsistency with regards to other episodes*. I mean, we’ve seen Al reading and writing with no trouble plenty of times in episodes before and after this one, and functioning completely normally. Yet here his eyesight is so bad that he can’t tell the difference between a banana and a remote control, can’t make out the picture on the cover of ‘TV Guide’ and can hardly even read the magazine’s name. I know, it’s a sitcom, but it feels a little like contempt for the viewer on the writers’ behalf when they write an episode that is so contradictory to the others. Contradictions aside, Al’s poor eyesight does help explain things like how he endures his job (see quote below), or his poor aiming in the bathroom, or why he isn’t bothered by the dirt and filth in the house. The episode tries to present Al’s poor eyesight as the key to his (relative) happiness, and I think that’s simplifying matters a bit too much. I mean, the way they show it here, it’s like Al has been living in some naïve detached world of his own till now, and putting the glasses on suddenly snaps him back to reality. I, for one, don’t buy it.
People who work putting shoes on fat women who wear dresses should not have 20/20 vision. I saw things on human legs today that would’ve put a white flag in Schwartzkopf’s hand. (Al)
The script here also loses points for creativity. Too routine. It’s exactly what you would imagine an episode about Al (or anyone else) getting glasses to be, clearly divided into three parts: the motivation, buying, and the consequences. It’s also rather slow-paced, with some overly long scenes that feel stretched at times. But there are enough good bits scattered throughout to make the episode worth watching; they’re just harder to find than usual.
The first two scenes are rife with examples of Al’s poor eyesight, some funnier than others. For example, I found Al using binoculars to watch TV to be hilarious, while confusing Delta Burke and Raymond Burr or Fidel Castro and Bea Arthur hardly raised a smile for me. Ed O’Neill proves here once again that he is truly the master of facial expressions – highlights include his squinting while trying to read the TV guide, his face after Jefferson’s “it’s a young man’s world” line and, of course, the one he makes in response to Kelly’s story about the boy she used to date in fourth grade. Kelly’s story is the only thing that made me laugh out loud in those two scenes as far as I can remember. It’s so side-splittingly funny that I just have to quote it here in its entirety (and remember, this is meant to convince Al to get glasses):
Kelly: Let me tell you a little story about a boy I used to date in fourth grade. He was very handsome. Tight little butt, big blue bedroom eyes…
Al: This was in the fourth grade?
Kelly: Probably was left back a grade. Anyway, this guy was great. He was the most popular guy in school. And then one day he got glasses.
Al: And you liked him anyway.
Kelly: God no, I dumped him right away. He looked like an idiot with those glasses. Everyone laughed at him. Ruined his life. Think he ended up in an institution
or something. It’s a sad story, I don’t know.
Al: …Is there a point to all this?
Kelly: Yes there is. Now if a guy who had everything to live for got glasses, there’s certainly no reason for you not to. For to see is more important than to
The man with the goo-goo-googley eyes
The scene at the eyewear store is the episode’s high-point in my opinion. I don’t know who the actor who plays Wally (the salesman) is, but he’s very funny and does a great job as the stereotypical nerd. And I just love the “Sharp Dressed Man” clip. It has a special charm of its own, with its fun and joyful atmosphere that makes it very uplifting to watch. Ed is on fire here, with some more great facial expressions and his hilarious goofy dancing. And the bizarre frames he tries on are very funny, too. Where on earth did they come up with some of those??
Bud at the age of thirty (according to Kelly, anyway)
The last scene is the weakest, and watching it you get the feeling that the writers ran out of ideas at this point. A lot of it feels like filler, and that’s quite rare on MWC. Bud’s phone-call is routine and recycles jokes that were used before, Kelly’s “Grandmaster B” malapropisms are about as funny as a funeral, and the computer-composite-of-Bud-at-the-age-of-thirty joke is silly and redundant. So once again it’s up to Ed O’Neill to save the scene, and he nearly succeeds in doing so. Just seeing him with those oversized specs is already hilarious, but it’s his acting here that makes the difference. He does a superb job portraying Al as a broken man whose illusions are all shattered as he makes some unpleasant discoveries and comes to painful realizations about himself and his life. I don’t remember ever seeing Al so genuinely sad like he is here, with the apex being his “I’m an old man” line, truly a brilliant piece of acting from O’Neill. Unfortunately it all goes downhill from there on. Having Al walk around removing and replacing his glasses and wincing at each thing he sees isn’t funny and drags on for too long. The blurring and un-blurring of Peg and the kids is boring. And why does Al wince upon seeing the kids, anyway? Why would anyone wince upon seeing Kelly ? J
Now I’m about to go out and partake of some of the beauty which our fair city affords us. If you need me, I’ll be at the nudie bar. (Al)
I really don’t like the ending. It’s too simplistic. Al smashes the glasses, and almost immediately things go back to normal. I know, one of the basic rules of MWC is that at the end of every episode things must go back to their initial state, but it just seems odd that Al so easily forgets all the depressing realities he became aware of just moments before. Also, the episode ends with one of the weakest punchlines in the show’s history: “I didn’t think there was this much action on ‘Designing Women’!” (Al, watching a western). A suitable ending, I suppose, for a very uneven episode.
“Forty! She’s old!”
* - to be fair, Al’s poor eyesight is mentioned again in the episode “Movie Show” a season later. Al mistakes a zit for a hooter and Peg tells him to put on his glasses. Al’s glasses are also mentioned in the episode “Yard Sale”.