A Christmas Carol (Review)



This one word is a direct order from the cast of this new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale A Christmas Carol from author Jack Cantey.  The seven-member cast, who begin by introducing themselves with their real name and their various parts (I’ll get to that), request that the audience imagine the scenery, the setting, and the situation.  

Of course, it is highly likely that anyone reading this is also familiar with the Dickens story that tackles greed and benevolence as the life of Ebenezer Scrooge is examined through the past, present, and future. Thus, it becomes a challenge for any adaptation to stand out unless it has with it some clever artistic liberties.

It was Dickens’ language that thrilled Cantey as he prepared this script, although he notes that the actors were without an “established, unchanging text” prior to this premiere run.  The inventiveness of this new adaptation calls for less attention to elaborate stage design and costume changes and much more focus toward pinpointing the essence and key phrasings from Dickens’ original tale.  It should be noted that Sophia Young’s set is exquisitely designed for Cantey’s vision. The stage suggests a frosty winterscape along with a projected yellow image at the top-center that will play its own small role throughout the performance.  

With a small cast of seven, some familiar characters from the original version and/or popular adaptations are dropped.  This stripped-down script still includes the chief characters (Scrooge, Fred, Tiny Tim, and the Ghosts just to name a few) in order to create the required dynamics of the heartwarming tale.  Through the use of scene-introducing voiceovers coupled with the occasional inclusion of a live narrator, Cantey’s adaptation contains a limited amount of lengthy monologues.  

The seven-member cast is chock full of locally grown talent.  Because various scenes from Scrooge’s life are presented, each of the four male members of the cast play a version of the infamous penny-pincher. Simultaneously, each of the three female cast members successfully complement these scenes through strong renditions of multiple significant characters.   

FPT veteran Scott McMeen, while playing the eldest Scrooge, captures the essence of the burdened man in the counting-house and convincingly exhibits the likeable man who redeems himself with his remaining family.  Rachel Dostal’s dynamic Ghost of Christmas Past and loveable Tiny Tim characters serve as the adhesive to this compacted adaptation.

Billy Hofman takes on a younger Scrooge, Old Joe, and Fezziwig, who again serves as crowd favorite. Kyle Nelson, who recently performed in An American Lynching: The Emmet Till Story in Indianapolis, excels as Bob Cratchit throughout the play, but his six other roles are not to be dismissed. Kendallville native Allison Brandgard serves as the Movement Director as well as six total characters–most notably as Belle and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  The overall choreography of this performance led by Ms. Brandgard is among its best features. Ashley Shewman shows off her advanced acting chops with performances as Fred Scrooge and Belle, but her strongest presence is as Mrs. Cratchit.  Lastly, Fort Wayne’s own Dalen West does an extraordinary job in his laundry list of roles, including a very humorous man-child who is summoned to purchase some poultry.  As The Reader throughout the play, West further provides textual notes that serve audience members young and old.  

Christina Connelly, the Assistant Director, also reads the voiceovers.  These short lines occur at the beginning of each scene and work quite well as a short preview to the forthcoming action.   Jeanette Walsh’s costumes are predominantly simplistic blacks and whites, which evoke a subtle nod to common oppositions found in all art: life vs. death and good vs. evil.  The technical director is Rae Surface, who has loved being involved with FPT during this, her first season.

Even though Cantey admits he was hesitant to write this adaptation along with FPT’s Managing Artistic Director Thom Hofrichter because so many adaptations exist, he states in his program notes that both of them wanted to tell this holiday tale “in a fresh way.”

This fresh approach is immediately apparent as the entire cast hauntingly discusses a recent death during the opening scene.  Over the next ninety minutes, the audience is whisked away through the pages of the famous author while a visually aesthetic experience unfolds before them.  Through the use of creative staging, lighting, and puppetry, Cantey has created a stirring, modern take on the classic tale.



Review of “Faith Healer” 


This is my first published review.  It appeared in the October 11, 2017 issue of “Whatzup” in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  I want to thank my colleague Kevin Smith for recommending me and helping me have this opportunity!

For decades Hollywood movies and romance novels have leaned on consumers’ unwavering desire to be entertained without the nuisance of actually thinking. They apply formulaic plot lines and rarely add little more than a short-term distraction with no real substance. Conversely, live theater audiences flock to their seats because they expect to be entertained and to gain perspective. If you prefer the latter of these two groups, you will not be disappointed if you see Faith Healer, currently running in the lower-level theater of First Presbyterian Church.

At some point in life, many people may internally or externally debate whether or not faith ever really means anything or actually has any real impact. These and other questions of the soul and of our existence–and more directly how our faith in others affects each of us–are presented in this performance, which runs until October 21 in downtown Fort Wayne.  

In a drama that also deeply explores issues such as Truth and Shame, Thom Hofrichter’s 2017-2018 season directorial debut at the historic First Presbyterian Theater shifts internally and examines many of life’s toughest questions. Hofrichter chose this drama rather selfishly, he admits in his director’s notes, because he has been a long-time admirer of the language and themes of Irish playwright Brien Friel’s introspective, soul-examining play. Theatergoers are in for a monologue-driven wallop starring three seasoned First Prez veterans.

The three main characters each recall multiple events they experienced together while travelling through Wales, Scotland, and Ireland from the late 1950s to the late 1970s.  

FPT mainstay Austin Berger leads off this performance as Francis Hardy, a likeable but heavily flawed man who has spent his adult life examining his own existence and abilities through decades of performing a one-man travelling exhibition as a self-described “Faith Healer.” Because there is nary a scene where multiple characters interact, Francis (”Frank”) begins this tale by revealing what could very well be his truest self more to a non-existent listener than he apparently ever did to the two people who devoted their lives to him. It is only when the other two characters later present their stories that the audience begins to question if anything he’s said so far is true.  

Co-star Nancy Kartholl, whose FPT resume includes highly esteemed roles such as Vivian Bearing from WIT and Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello,  exquisitely performs the rather tainted and unrefined Grace Hardy. Going against the wishes of her father, she chose a life with Frank, who, when they met, seemed to be her life’s missing puzzle piece. Ironically, Grace, clearly jarred by the events recalled during her lengthy monologue, exhibits anything but what her name might indicate. Kartholl arrests the stage as she achingly dispels information that Frank had either conveniently omitted, forgotten, or perhaps did not actually occur whatsoever. Enter: the audience’s aforementioned role in deciphering the Truth.

The third member of this tragic-laden threesome is Teddy, Frank’s manager, played by a visibly (intentionally) shaken Daniel Bulau. Previous audiences of FPT might recall his stirring performance as the lovable Herman in On Golden Pond. In this role, Bulau’s Teddy, the lone American character of the trio, appears to offer an air of authority at first, but his natural ability as an entertainment manager to rake in naive customers through fast talk and quirky, sage witticisms becomes more and more obvious, forcing the audience to sort out which character has been the most truthful as they have now all recounted contradictory details of the same general memories.

In the final scene Berger as Frank returns as the final witness in this case where the audience is judge and jury. Though omitted here for obvious reasons, trust that some surprises and key insights are in store for the audience who should be thirsty by that point for a satisfying explanation.  

By the way, a subtitle I considered for this review was “In Vino Veritas” because the use of- and memories shared about alcohol adds an arguably unsavory but tremendous function in the audience’s goal in filtering out the truth from each character’s recollections.  

As for the additional production team, it is of note that Jeanette Walsh’s costume designs subtly and cleverly depict what each character has come to be at given points in time. Coupled with the these costume choices, the simple set functions quite nicely for such a series of four dense soliloquies. According to the production notes, Rae Surface (technical director) is no stranger to Fort Wayne theater but is fairly new to First Prez, and the light and sound operator-slash-stage manager is Associate Pastor for Children Bill Lane.  

This play demands your attention and patience. Audiences are bound to have varying opinions of what really happened among these three characters, but that’s among the powerful effects of live theater. In two two-scene acts, this performance lasts a little more than two hours, including one ten-minute intermission.  

“Find the Bad Guy” – Jeffrey Eugenides (2013)


Finally got around to reading this story from The New Yorker from almost a year ago!  He’s rapidly becoming one of my favorite contemporary writers!

Don’t read any more of this short analysis without reading the story yourself.  For example…here ya go.  Click the following words

“Find the Bad Guy” by Jeffrey Eugenides

Hey!  You’re back!  If you’re really wise, upon finishing this essay, you’ll seek out a couple more reviews and perhaps decide to write one  yourself.  That is, of course, unless you are Jeffrey Eugenides.  (If you are he…Hey, buddy!)

Okay.  I’d like to talk briefly about two elements of this story that stood out.  Prior to this story, my experience with this author was zilch, unless you count watching the movie The Switch dozens of times late at night with my wife.  Charlie D. is, hold on now, a rather likable guy.  Sure, he made a poor decision during a booze-induced, wife’s-outta-town depressive state.  Who hasn’t?  Seriously, though, let’s step down from our high horses for a few and evaluate the guy.

The guy is a jokester who loves his kids and tries to love his wife.  He’s very good at measuring distances with his eyes, but that talent was superseded by his inability to properly read a temporary restraining order.  There’s no doubt that the relationship with the babysitter should not have progressed in the manner that it did; Charlie seems filled with regret when thinking of that version of himself.  It’s a deal-breaking event, but he’s slowly returned to civilized behavior.

The fire pit, on the other hand, is a wonderful symbol.  Throughout the story, we learn its varying value to the key players–it’s a wasteland to his wife, a sanctuary for Charlie, and a rite of passage for the sitter.  For anyone who has experience with doomed relationships, the situations here become (ahem) close to home.

Poem Review: David R. Slavitt’s “Titanic”



Who does not love the Titanic?

If they sold passage tomorrow for that same crossing,

who would not buy?

To go down…We all go down, mostly

alone. But with crowds of people, friends, servants,

well fed, with music, with lights!Ah!

And the world, shocked, mourns, as it ought to do

and almost never does. There will be the books and movies

to remind our grandchildren who we were

and how we died, and give them a good cry.

Not so bad, after all. The cold

water is anesthetic and very quick.

The cries on all sides must be a comfort.

We all go: only a few, first class.

Wining and Dying:  An Analysis of “Titanic”

Approximately twenty years ago, many people turned their attention toward the infamous Titanic disaster.  Hollywood created a film based on the event, and interest grew in the minds of children and adults.  About ten years prior to that, David R. Slavitt published his poem “Titanic” that suggests a less popular philosophical notion.  This poem, while reminding a general audience of a tragic event, posits that humans would be inclined to knowingly die on a ship such as the Titanic and meet a similar fate.  In short, his speaker declares, there does not seem to be a more exciting and rapid method of inevitable death.

“Who does not love the Titanic?” opens this poem.  The speaker begins casually, as if beginning a conversation over coffee.  Before the end of the opening stanza, a hypothetical situation is stated.  Should people be offered to board the ship bound for certain peril, our speaker believes only logical thinking individuals would take that opportunity.  Later, the speaker reminds us—rather directly and grisly—that “[w]e all go down, mostly/alone.”  Immediately afterward, though, he reminds us that the elegance of the ship cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the world.  This notion continues throughout the poem.  While a vast majority of people do not get to decide their own method of death, the speaker is suggesting a utopian demise.

To further his case, the speaker offers predictions of the aftermath of this hypothetical death.  While it seems obvious any given person would like to be remembered or honored upon their death, the speaker takes it a bit further.  He states that the world would be “shocked” and that “books and movies” would “remind our grandchildren who we were/and how we died, and give them a good cry.”  This brutally honest vision of a deceased observing those left behind, it seems fair to say, is something the speaker believes is universal.  What, he might be saying, is the point of living if no one will remember anything we did?

To finish the dismal view of death, the speaker reminds us that perishing in the cold waters of after a ship crashes into an iceberg.  If one must die, should not the rapidity be an appealing factor?  The line “The cries on all sides must be a comfort” might disturb a reader, but it does offer a vision that makes death a little easier to accept.  The final line, as it should, summarizes this speaker’s perspective.  “We all go” could not be more direct and obvious.  “[O]nly a few, first-class” is perhaps his advice to the reader.  Death is inevitable, so why not enjoy it?  It seems like the obvious choice.

Slavitt’s poem touches on the popularity of the Titanic and the unpopularity of death.  Poets have long evaluated this final moment of life and have, for centuries, suggested advice or commentary on our mortality.  Slavitt’s angle is refreshing and deceivingly persuasive.  No one who ever reads this poem or this analysis will escape death.  Thus, if given the opportunity, we would most likely like to die in an elegant manner and be remembered generations afterward.

Notes about Old Town Alexandria


I asked Siri where the closest sushi place was after today’s sessions at the NCTE conference.  She directed me to the historic district of Alexandria, Virginia.  I must admit my geographic ignorance because I failed to realize I would be able to check off Maryland and Virginia from my States Never Visited List.  That list doesn’t actually exist, but I know I hadn’t been there.

Anyway, I ended up at a place called Ichiban.  At a quarter to six, there were more employees than diners.  My presence did not change that.  The family consisted of a gray-haired man, his wife, and their (probably) eight-year-old son.  It was a fun preview for my life, in a way!

I ordered a hot tea, which reminded me of Cracker Barrel.  It’s been a little cold here–more windy than anything–and the tea offered a cozy balance to the temperatures outside.

The sushi was on special until 6:30, so of course I ordered too much.  I’d only eaten a bagel at breakfast and a bowl of chili at lunch.  I splurged, but was able to get three rolls and a red snapper appetizer for $16.50!  It was (presumably) fresher than anything I’d had in Indiana, and it was very tasty.

But enough about what I ate.  No one really cares, right?  I do want to tell you, devoted reader, about the Historic District of Alexandria.  Go there.  It’s so quaint and endearing!  Brick buildings, brick roads, brick cheese (probably), and numerous specialty shops and restaurants.  Fellas, they have a cigars and whiskey lounge with live music every night!  Ladies, there are cute places like Three Sisters and a lingerie shop as well.  I popped in a few knick-knacky places that had loads of Christmas decor.  There was a (surprisingly busy) ice cream shop, a Starbucks, and a Gentleman’s Quarters where, if I had wanted, I could have had a close shave, a neck massage, a manicure or all (for a lot of money, unfortunately).

Between dinner and browsing, I was probably there two hours, but I could have stayed longer–I believe I only saw a little bit of King Street!

Day 15 – 1500+ words (Summary of novel)


Spoiler Alert…this is not quality writing.  But I made a challenge and by gosh I’m sticking to it.

The Great Gatsby…in 1500+ words

*Note:  Legend has it that author Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) typed out the entire text of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in order to know the feeling of writing a great novel.

This is not going to be that.


A-freaking number one.  Nick Carraway is not the booze hound driven to professional therapy he’s made out to be in the 2013 film.  That said (and I do feel better now) let’s get started.

Nick’s over 30 when he begins telling you what he recalls from about three years earlier when he lived in New York briefly in 1922.  He starts by expressing that one of the staples of his father’s advice was that not every kid has the exact same advantages and upbringing.  It’s a hard fact for others to swallow, but it certainly applied to the people with whom he spent time that fateful summer.

After his friend ditched him and took a job elsewhere, Nick was left to find a place of his own and landed in a place called West Egg.  Even though his former servants’ quarters was small, he was surrounded by new, phenomenal mansions that rented for over sixty times what he was paying.  The people of West Egg were classy, but they essentially received sneers from those who lived across the water at East Egg.  Nick’s not too materialistic and doesn’t really give a shit what they think.  He’s just trying to learn the job his time at Yale prepared him for.

As it happens, a cousin close to his age has married one of Nick’s classmates from college and now resides just across that same body of water–in East Egg.  Shortly after being settled in, Nick pays her and her husband Tom Buchanan a visit.

Tom’s pretty much a rich prick who’s had everything around him handed to him.  Sure, he went to school, but he’s no nine-to-fiver.  Tom doesn’t punch a clock, he clocks women–but we’ll get to that in a little bit.  Daisy is Nick’s cousin and is almost weirdly overjoyed that he’s come over.  Her friend, a golf pro named Jordan Baker is hanging out with the Buchanans.  They’re all just drinking and lazily maintaining minimal conversation.

As Nick gets comfortable, Jordan asks him if he’s knows Gatsby since they both live in West Egg.  Nick had heard the name but has not met him in person yet.  Daisy repeats the name rather oddly and Tom just pours down another scotch.

The four of them sit to be served dinner.  The discussion soon turns to race because Tom has read some profound book that suggests the white folks are in trouble and will decline as a race unless they stand up.  Nick and Daisy (and probably Jordan, though she doesn’t say much at the table) just chalk it up to Tom Being Tom and they all but drop it.

Then the phone rings and, over the next minute or so, we learn that it’s some dame Tom has been banging on the side.  The even more curious aspect of the call is that Daisy followed her husband into the next room and argued with him about the call.

Nick leaves shortly thereafter, and when he gets home, he sees a man he correctly presumes to be Gatsby staring off toward Tom and Daisy’s place–specifically at the green light at the end of their dock.

Some short time passes and Nick is abrupty whisked away on a Sunday afternoon by Tom who wants him to meet his girl on the side.  They stop at a filthy auto garage and Tom talks with the owner, a man named George Wilson.  Soon after, George’s wife comes downstairs from their apartment and George leaves the room long enough for Nick to piece together that this woman–Myrtle Wilson–is Tom’s mistress.  A rendezvous is set and Nick and Tom leave a moment later.

With Myrtle, the two classmates go into New York City and end up at an apartment Tom rents.  It’s small and sparce–just the type of place a man takes a woman for a short, intimate time or to have a small gathering of people.  On that Sunday, Tom and Myrtle call up some people and the room is quickly buzzing with their friends.  Nick, who tried to leave earlier before the other partiers arrived, is now getting blasted and mixing with strangers.  One woman, Catherine, is Myrtle’s sister.  She doesn’t think Myrtle and Tom love either of their spouses, and she’s probably right.  However, Tom has told Myrtle (who has told Catherine) that he can’t get divorced due to her religion.  Nick finds this curious because Daisy is far from Catholic.

The party continues and people drink.  Myrtle gets a little too gone and starts in on Tom about his wife Daisy.  She says his name loudly, as if to humiliate him.  He shuts the door on that though and breaks her nose right in front of everyone.

Nick changes the mood in his tale and shifts to the night he met Gatsby.  All summer long, Nick’s next door neighbor Jay Gatsby had been putting on these incredibly elaborate parties every other Saturday.  The guy was droppin’ major dollar bills to host hundreds of people at his mansion and estate.  Live music, two separate meals, champagne everywhere, dancing until the wee hours.  All standard.  At one of these parties, Nick shows up and runs into Jordan.  Eventually, Gatsby settles in beside Nick at a table and they strike up a converasation.  Only, Nick doesn’t know it’s Gatsby right away.  Nick’s told he’s to ask for anything he wants and to enjoy himself.

A little later that night, Jordan is pulled away for about an hour to talk to Gatsby alone.  She finally comes out of his office as the party is dwindling.  While she can’t tell Nick what she and Gatsby discussed at that moment, she promises to do so in the near future.

Nick shifts again and tells the reader a little about the types of people who went to Gatsby’s that summer.  Mostly wealthy people and/or entertainment celebrities.

Nick and Gatsby, one day, take a ride into New York for lunch.  They end up meeting a older distinguished man named Meyer Wolfshiem.  This dude’s a sophisticated gangster.  Gatsby tells Nick later that he’s the guy who fixed the World Series a few years earlier.  Anyway, we get the impression that Nick is uncomfortable and tha t Gatsby just thought him meeting Wolfsheim would maybe make a deal offer a little sweeter.  Nick’s far too busy to dwlve into deals of that gravity.  It’s at theis moment that Jordan–in a talk later–explains to Nick what she and Gatsby talked about at that previous party.

Turns out that Daisy and Gatsby have a bit of a past.  They fell hard for one another about five years earlier–long before she met Tom.  Now, Gatsby’s back from the war, rich as shit, and wants his dreamgirl back in his life.

Over the next couple chapters, things are looking good.  The previously jaded Daisy has all but forgotten about her husband’s disloyalty and has been seeing Gatsby on the reg.  Nick’s not privy to everything they do, but he has to know that it isn’t right.  He knows someone will get hurt in the end, it seems.

The culminating chapter is cahpter seven when all five of the major characters–Gastby, Nick , the Buchanans, and Jordan–are together for the first time alone in the same room.  The tension and the temperature are rising fast, and Daisy suggests the group drive to New York and find something fun to do.  They take two cars–Daisy and Gatsby go in Tom’s blue one while the other three take Gatsby’s yellow one.  On the way, Tom stops at Wilson’s garage.  He’s already upset about thinking his wife’s been spending too much time with this unknown Gatsby guy, but that’s just the beginning.  Turns out that Wilson has figured out that his wife has been cheating on him too!  Of course, we know it’s been with Tom, but Wilson has yet to put that together.  The garage man says he and his wife are moving out of that dump soon.

Now Tom’s red-hot irritated.  He’s pretty used to getting his way, though.  So, he keeps his cool once all of them end up at the ritziest hotel in Manhattan.  Things are a little lighter, but that doesn’t last.  Tom goes after Gatsby’s character and a fight ensues.  No fists, just accusations and stories.  Based on what he’s learned about Gatsby, Tom can’t believe his wife would want to marry someone with such a checkered record.  Gatsby, on the other hand, seems more confident than ever that she’s going to leave Tom and be with him.  They’re sent home together, which suggests that Tom knows Daisy will never leave him.

Since we’re only with Nick, we ride along as they head home.  They come up on an accidnet at Wilson’s garage and see that someone has died in the street.  It turns out to be Myrtle, who was evidently running toward the car she thought contained Tom.  That car hit her and never even stopped, the witnesses say.  George remembers the car they describe and thinks Tom must have been involved.  Tom explains the car mix-up and they jet out of there.

With Myrtle dead, Tom’s distraught and Daisy has yet to make her decision clear.

Nick advises his neighbor that it’s a good time to lay low and even bounce outta town for a minute.  No can do, Gatsby says.  He’s going to just wait for Daisy to come over and they can work on their future.

Nick goes on to work but can’t truly function.  That afternoon, George, thinking Gatsby’s the one who killed his wife–almost forgot to include that Daisy had been driving and ran over her husband’s mistress–shoots him, then himself.

Nick learns of the murder-suicide and is immediately put in charge, since no one else seems to really know much about Gatsby.  All his friends–and Daisy–are suddenly unreachable.  Gatsby’s dad arrives and Nick has to tell him about the success his son had enjoyed before his untimely death.  You get the impression that Gatsby and his dad were not really eye to eye on much, but at least he came once he learned the news.

After the sparcely attended funeral, Nick learns that Tom directed Wilson to Gatsby–made him think he was the driver/killer.  Both Tom and Daisy bounce out of New York in a minute and are never heard from again.  Nick’s fed up with all of them anyway–especially Jordan.  He moves back to his hometown and appears to be putting his own life back together.

Day 10 – 1000 Words – Summary of TV Show


I chose to write about Married…With Children because it’s been about a quarter-century since I watched it regularly but I realized how much of it I recall.  Unlike Seinfeld, which I have all but memorized, MWC is formulaic, which could explain why I remember so much.  As I kept typing, the words and images kept falling out.

Kelly (Christina Applegate) and Peg (Katy Sagal).

Married…With Children


Someone today is probably still cashing checks for approving the production of what became a cult classic sitcom in the late 1980s.  Shown then on little-known Fox, Al Bundy and his hysterically funny and dysfunctional family, friends, and neighbors, presented a new voice of Americana.  Sure, there was nothing knew about a white family whose house had been cut open for the viewers to peek inside.  Furthermore, the fact that only one adult within the home had a regular (paying) job while the other stayed home was not shocking.

But it pretty much stops there.

Peggy Bundy, Al’s cigarette-laden wife, regularly dressed in skin-tight leggings and/or high-waisted pants.  She epitomized the ‘anti-wife” of American television, much in the same vein as a rival TV mom played by comedian Roseanne Barr.  The younger sibling, Bud, was an adolescent boy whose wit outweighed his “game” with girls his age.  He was, in short, an Al in the making.  Lastly, perhaps topping Al as the most sought-after character (my own bias notwithstanding) was Kelly Bundy.  Kelly, played by Christina Applegate, fulfilled more cliches than a single sentence can possibly contain.  However, looking back on the show some twenty-five years after watching it each week, I have found a new, enlightened perspective on its value to 1980s and 90s American culture.

While any one individual episode is too difficult for me to remember, I’ll be speaking from here on out on a general level.  The images I’ve retained should suffice.

The formula for the show was similar to other sitcoms from the past, present, and future (nowadays).  Usually, Al found himself saying or doing something that, to him, exemplified his discontent with his family, other citizens, or the Washington beauracrats.  His rallying cries stirred up a live audience that was not discouraged to catcall any time any attractive woman hit the set.  He confided a lot with his son–teaching him the morals he’d learned and exemplified.  A running joke in the show referenced Al’s long-ago success on the high school gridiron.  Many of his buddies played with him and they all seemed disgruntled with adulthood and enamored by their memories.  As a ladies shoe salesman, Al had the misfortune to spend his working hours surrounded by women’s sour attitudes toward male clerks and their sour feet.  The typical customer he dealt with was either unattractive, rude, overweight, or simply just bitchy.  Upon arriving at home, where he longed each day to be a place of sanctuary, Al found himself never getting the chance to unwind for a long period.  Anytime he turned on a favorite program or a sporting event, his life was rudely impeded upon by his son’s desire to have a man-to-man talk, his daughter’s dates trapsing in and representing disaster (and typically a toss out the door), or his wife’s pleading to “come upstairs.”  While Peg had a more mature sex appeal, Al was rarely if ever anxious to storm upstairs to be with his wife.  In fact, their relationship was perhaps the most uncouth on the show.

Peg and Al made a habit of meticulously poring over each others’ flaws and mistakes.  While Al typically felt proud that he was the breadwinner, thus entitling him to certain freedoms, Peggy equally felt her household maintenance went unnoticed, which led her to feel unappreciated.

The character who became the mystery was the son, Bud.  Bud was at times, for me, the most relateable.  He vehemently tried to get laid, fit in, and had no qualms about calling out his sister for her poor choice in boyfriends or dates.  An obvious Al-in-training, Bud snuck swings of warm, cheap domestic beers, had fairly intelligent chats with his father, but also had a rather embarrassing collection of pornographic magazines in his bedroom.  Standing probably five-six at best, he was inherently socially awkward with girls who agreed to date him.  Bud was on course to become a hapless romantic who may or may not sell women’s shoes one day.

The final member of the Bundy clan is Al’s daughter Kelly.  Kelly Bundy covers the spectrum as a functional character in a sitcom.  Kelly Bundy was a teen hearthrob.  The amount of clothing she wore in any given episode would rival that of a pillowcase.  Since almost each episode of the show dealt with Al dealing with something that bothered him, the stress was balanced by the free-spirited, dingy daughter.  While he was either getting screwed by the government, sports, people at work, or his own family, his daughter, as scantily clad as she was, was always his sweetheart.  He cherished her.  He never said anything too deroggatory about her.

In short, he was the worst parent she could have had.

Even though she may be remembered for her sex appeal, Kelly Bundy was one of the most significant overall characters from the 1980s.  She used her body more than her brain at times, but she ended up usually playing an integral part of the moral to the story.  That is, when the episode had a moral.

This is where the cliches begin.  Sure.  I think Married…With Children changed television.  Many shows have done that.  Groundbreaking?  Perhaps.  While I don’t believe the spouse-bashing began with the show, they certainly worked their way to the apex of that list.  As a kid, I also loved shows whose teenage girls varied in attractiveness, but none came close to Kelly.  I don’t need to close my eyes right now to remember the Christina Applegate poster that hung in my room throughout my teens.  Curled hair with one hand pushing part of that blonde hair back.  Deep red-lipped smile.  Black floral top.  High-waisted denim shorts.  Printed signature with, I believe, a heart beneath.

This truly American family made its mark twenty-five years ago.  It should be eternally available in syndication.  It will be shown one day on an Oldies-style television channel.  My two-year-old son will someday discover it.

But will I watch it with him?