Tuesday, December 22, 2015

When the Bunker Baby Was Born

On this night in 1975, All in the Family concluded its two–part episode on the birth of Archie and Edith's grandson.

When the audience last saw her a week earlier, Gloria (Sally Struthers) was in labor in a phone booth in an Italian restaurant. The door of the phone booth was stuck, and emergency workers were trying to get her out so she could be taken to the hospital — where Archie (Carroll O'Connor) and Edith (Jean Stapleton) were waiting. Meanwhile, her husband Mike (Rob Reiner) was practically hysterical.

The admissions nurse kept insisting that Gloria hadn't arrived, but Archie, who had been in a minstrel show at his lodge when he was summoned to the hospital, was sure that he saw Gloria's name on the register and set off to find her, still wearing blackface.

Needless to say, it wasn't Gloria. The name was, as the admissions nurse had said, "Stipic," not Stivic.

The delivery scene really was entertaining. The doctor told stories about two sisters, Dorothy and Bernice, who worked as nurses at the hospital. Apparently, they lived together, but they didn't really get along too well.

At one point he instructed Gloria to push as if she were putting her foot to the accelerator of a car. Between breaths, Gloria replied, "I don't drive."

Mike, who was still hysterical, observed that Gloria was panting and pushing and still making jokes. "Isn't she terrific?" he kept saying. "You're terrific, honey!"

Bernice, who was assisting, told Mike to relax. "We haven't lost a father yet."

Mike observed that the nurse was "terrific. Everybody's terrific!"

After the baby was born, Mike went to the waiting room to deliver the news to Archie and Edith.

What followed was a scene most All in the Family watchers probably thought they would never see — Archie and Mike embracing.

Archie was a traditionalist, a man's man (at least in his own eyes) who wouldn't hug another man. But this was a special occasion for both.

I can't say whether this was one of the series' most memorable moments for the majority of its fans. I was a fan of the show, and I remember the episodes. Why, I cannot say with any certainty. Why does any episode of any series stick with people? OK, some really are special for one thing or another, like I Love Lucy's early episode in which Lucy did a commercial for a product that had a pretty high alcohol content or the Mary Tyler Moore episode in which the unseen Chuckles the Clown was killed in a circus parade and the newsroom gang attended his funeral.

But it seems to me that other TV episodes are memorable because they evoke certain emotions within the viewers. They may not have anything special to say about the topic, no lesson to teach, nothing more than observations about life.

Those two episodes were probably among the best of that season for All in the Family. Were they among the best of the series' entire run? I can't say that for certain.

But I would rank them in my personal Top 10 for the series.