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Friday, March 01, 2013

Unhappily Ever After

Okay, this is going to sound really schmaltzy or cheesy, but I hope that someday, I'll be a married man. I'm not just saying this because most of my friends are already in relationships or have gotten married. I want the experience of growing old with someone who I have vowed to love for the rest of my life. I truly hope that marriage is something that is in the cards for my future...but if it doesn't work out that way, I suppose that is something that I will have to make peace with. That being said, I am only thirty-one, so I still have time. I'm still optimistic, let's leave it at that.

I do understand that marriages are not necessarily easy. In a lot of cases, it takes a lot of work and effort from both parties to make sure that it is more or less a happy marriage. My parents may have been married for nearly 48 years and counting, but even they have had moments in which I'm surprised they made it 48 months! Though I suppose having mutual trust, understanding, and affection helps in that regard.

Of course, in these times, nearly fifty-one per cent of all new marriages end in divorce, and while we all hope that this is not the case when we enter a partnership where death does us part, for one out of every two of us, it will.

Now, some divorces are amicable, and the partners find that they make better friends than lovers. Some couples try to have a civil bond with each other to try and make it easier on any children that they might have had together. Some couples are so bitter over the split that they try to hurt the other person just as much as they feel they've been hurt. And, some exes try to run over the other person with their brand new minivan.

And, then there's the case of one man. After his wife throws him out of the house, he moves into a seedy apartment where his only friend is a stuffed bunny puppet that his son gave to him upon leaving the family home. He eventually finds a way to get back into his home, but ends up sleeping in the basement with the bunny toy. Then his ex-wife dies in a freak accident, becomes a ghost for a bit, is brought back to life, and then leaves the family once more so she can be with her lesbian lover. Have you ever heard of something so preposterous?

Well, perhaps you have if you were watching the now defunct WB network between 1995 and 1999.

Today's blog topic is the series “Unhappily Ever After”...a show that could be considered a near carbon copy of “Married...With Children”. I guess when you consider that the creators of the show, Ron Leavitt and Arthur Silver once worked on the staff of “Married...With Children”, it makes a lot of sense.

Certainly the show did have its similarities. In both shows, the patriarch of the family had a crummy job (one was a shoe salesman, the other sold used cars), both families had an insanely good-looking daughter, and both families had a son who was the subject of ridicule in nearly every episode.

What made the show stand out was the fact that it never did try to take itself seriously. It broke the fourth wall, it had a puppet as a main character, and it even killed off one of the main characters, only for a network executive to arrive on the set of the show to inform everyone that they were bringing them back to life! And, in some weird way, it worked because people did tune in for five seasons.

Debuting on January 11, 1995, “Unhappily Ever After” was one of four sitcoms that kicked off the launch of the then brand new WB network (the other three were “The Wayans Bros.”, “The Parent 'Hood”, and “Muscle”).

Believe it or not, the sitcom was originally designed as a starring vehicle for comedienne Stephanie Hodge. At the time she was hired, Hodge had just completed a role on the NBC sitcom, “Nurses”. When the show began, the focus of the first few episodes revolved around the character of Jennie Malloy (played by Hodge). Jennie had thrown her husband Jack (Geoff Pierson) out of the house, and the focus was put on Jennie trying her best to raise three children as a single parent (even though Jack made frequent appearances throughout the earliest first season episodes). Jennie's three children were Ryan (Kevin Connolly), Tiffany (Nikki Cox), and Ross (Justin Berfield). Rounding out the cast during the first two seasons was Jennie's mother, Maureen (Joyce Van Patten).

Oh, and there was also Jack's friend, the perverted, smoking gray bunny toy named Mr. Floppy, who was voiced by comic Bobcat Goldthwait. The running gag throughout the whole series was that Jack was suffering from schizophrenia, and he was the only one who could have conversations with Mr. Floppy.

Yep, the show was an equal opportunity offender in many ways. But, I think that's one reason why I can't really say that I hated the program...everyone was fair game for insults.

Now, if you're thinking that the Malloy family is your picture perfect family...think again. Every single member of the family had their problems, and those problems seemed to be compounded when it was decided early on to have Jack move back into the Malloy household.

We already discussed Jack's schizophrenia and his penchant for learning life lessons from someone made out of fur and stuffing. But Jack is also an alcoholic, cynical, and suffering from extreme depression over doing a job he hates, and with the exception of his daughter Tiffany, he has much resentment towards the majority of his own family.

Of course, Jennie isn't much better. She's very promiscuous, she's not very compassionate or loving towards her children, and she sometimes gets extremely jealous of other people to the point where she loses her mind. She almost appears to be kind of bitchy, and self-absorbed. And, unlike Jack, who adores Tiffany, Jennie seems to have nothing but disgust for her.

By the way, Jennie's the one character who dies during the series (ironic given that the show was originally designed to be centered around her character). She is killed in a freak tanning bed accident, and becomes a ghost for part of season four. But with viewers of the show complaining about Jennie's fate, they brought her back to life without any real explanation to the audience. When Stephanie Hodge left the series at the beginning of the show's final season, they wrote out Jennie by having her fall for a lesbian.

Again, “Unhappily Ever After” NEVER took itself seriously.

With Jack and Jennie's parenting style, is it any wonder that the kids ended up so weird? Eldest child Ryan was the most upbeat, positive Malloy child. Unfortunately in the Malloy household, being positive and happy go-lucky meant that you also got the most abuse. He never has luck with the women (one actually blew herself up in a chem lab explosion to get out of going to a dance with him), and his family believes that he is stupid and worthless. I guess in this sense, he's a lot like Bud Bundy...only Bud sometimes gets his comeuppance. Ryan never really did.

Tiffany Malloy is almost a carbon copy of Kelly Bundy. There's just two main differences. Tiffany has red hair, and she also happens to be a genius in school. In fact, if I had the choice between dating Kelly Bundy and Tiffany Malloy, I'd probably go with Tiffany because I appreciate a woman who has genuine intelligence.

Then again though, Tiffany's personality is similar to that of a gold digger...using her sexy figure and her charm to get everything she wants. She acts incredibly selfish and can channel Jennie's sarcastic, snotty personality at the drop of a hat.

As for Ross, well...he doesn't really get many storylines. In fact, some episodes he gets barely noticed by his family. Although he does seem to love his father, his father doesn't really seem to bother with him much. Ross also can't stand Tiffany's self-centered attitude or Ryan's stupidity. In many ways, Ross seems to be the most mature member of the Malloy family. Unfortunately, maturity doesn't seem to be a value held in high esteem in the Malloy household.

So, really...when you stop and think about it...doesn't the Malloy family make your family and marriage seem normal?

I should note that although the series was very goofy and silly, when “Unhappily Ever After” went off the air in May 1999, the majority of the actors continue to act today. Geoff Pierson has had recurring roles in 24, Dexter, and Boardwalk Empire. Nikki Cox starred in the long-running NBC series, “Las Vegas”, and married comedian Jay Mohr (after having relationships with both her onscreen brother and Mr. Floppy!). Kevin Connolly earned critical acclaim for his role in the HBO series “Entourage”, and Justin Berfield set a record for being the youngest actor to appear in one hundred episodes of two long-running sitcoms (“Unhappily Ever After” and “Malcolm in the Middle”).

So, although the series was canceled...some of the people lived happily ever after.

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