Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Lesson in Commitment

I've never been married, but most of my friends have. (Why do I suddenly feel as if I'm writing a script for a Holiday Inn Express commercial?) I have observed most of the aspects of married life through them.

Consequently, I've never been through the experience of being the expectant spouse, either — although most of my male friends have. Again, I have observed most of the aspects of that experience through them.

Based on my very secondhand knowledge, I would have to say that there is more than a nugget of truth in the episode of All in the Family that was first shown 40 years ago tonight.

All of the episodes that dealt with Gloria's pregnancy seemed to ring true. Her mood swings were plausible, and the situations were realistic, if a bit exaggerated.

The episode that first aired on this night in 1975 was a good example. Archie (Carroll O'Connor) and Edith (Jean Stapleton) were excited about their soon–to–be born grandson, but Gloria (Sally Struthers) was going through that stage that expectant mothers always go through — feeling fat and unattractive.

"How do you feel?" Edith asked Gloria.

"Like it should say 'Goodyear' right across here," Gloria said, indicating her belly with her hand.

Gloria was also uneasy about Mike (Rob Reiner), who had been tutoring a comely coed named Linda (Bernadette Peters), who suddenly needed two sessions a week instead of one.

"I guess she's only half as smart as she thought she was," Edith said.

"She doesn't have to be smart," Gloria replied. "She might have a C–minus brain, but she's got an A–plus body."

It had been Linda's habit to come to Mike and Gloria's house for her tutoring sessions. But on this occasion she had asked Mike to come to her place.

Gloria confided to Edith, "I'm beginning to wonder if Linda is taking lessons or giving them!"

When Archie learned of Gloria's suspicions, he tried to reassure her that Mike loved her, but as soon as she left, Archie turned to Edith and asserted that Mike was "fooling around." Edith wouldn't accept that, insisting that all Mike was doing was earning some extra money.

Archie resolved to get the truth out of Mike while Edith and Gloria were at the movies. He said he would get Mike drunk on wine and find out what was going on.

By the commercial break, it appeared that something, indeed, was going on between Mike and Linda.

After he had stumbled around Linda's apartment, both verbally and physically, when he tried to get started on the tutoring session, Mike found himself with Linda sitting on his lap and kissing him passionately. Fade to black.

When the broadcast resumed, Mike was at Archie's, drinking wine and — apparently — bonding. They were so chummy that Mike started to confide in Archie. He wanted to tell him what happened at Linda's place, and Archie appeared to comprehend before Mike said anything, but then he passed out — and missed Mike's affirmation that he had resisted temptation.

"When the chips were down," Mike said, "I thought to myself, 'What am I, crazy? I mean, I've got a wife that I love and a baby on the way. What am I gonna do? Am I gonna throw all that away?' So, before anything happened, I jumped up, and I got the hell out of there."

Mike certainly was to be commended. Not many men could resist Bernadette Peters.

And he was to be commended for what he did the next morning. He bolted out of the house early, leading Gloria to further suspect that he was up to something — which he was, but it wasn't what she thought. When Mike returned to the Bunkers' home that morning, he said he had a big surprise. Gloria confronted him and demanded to know what had become of the money he had been supposedly earning through tutoring.

Mike told her that was the big surprise he had for her and went out to the porch of the Bunkers' home, returning with the baby buggy he and Gloria had been wanting, but they had decided it was too expensive.

It also happened to be the same buggy Archie had picked up the day before.

Within a month, Gloria would give birth to the Bunkers' grandson — and the infant would inevitably lead the ground–breaking series to new television milestones — like the first case of full frontal nudity on television when Archie tried to change the baby's diaper.

But that is a topic for another blog post about two months from now.