Tuesday, March 17, 2015

All In The Family: "Too Good Edith"

Premiered April 8, 1979.

Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton) takes her niece Stephanie Mills (Danielle Brisbois) to see Dr. Sidney Shapiro (George Wyner) for an appointment.

Stephanie's health is fine, but Shapiro notices Edith is favoring her left leg.  After an examination he diagnoses Edith with phlebitis and tells her she needs to stay in bed and off her feet for a while. Edith is upset over this, because she planned to cook most of the feast for her husband Archie's (Carroll O'Connor) St. Patrick's Day party.  The party will be held at the bar Archie recently purchased.    

When Archie gets home, he's brought a ridiculous amount of corned beef and cabbage and expects Edith to cook it all.  She asks Archie if he can possibly have it catered.  He says no and Edith can't bring herself to tell him she's sick.  

Edith spends all day cooking, limping around the kitchen to the point where she can barely stand up. When she tells Archie, he says he needs Edith to serve the food at the bar.  She finally falls down and Dr. Shapiro comes to visit and sends her to bed. 

Will Archie understand that Edith is sick or will he be angry at her for not serving food at the St. Paddy's Day party?   

J.A. Morris says:
As a child of the 70s, All In The Family was a big part of my TV education and it's one of the greatest shows of all time.  But I don't recall seeing this episode before.  "Too Good Edith" was the last episode ever produced of this series.  It morphed into Archie Bunker's Place for the 1979-80 season and ran in that form until 1983.  

Even back in when I was a kid, I wasn't crazy about the show after the departure of Gloria and Michael (a "Shark-Jump" moment in my opinion), followed by the addition of Stephanie, but I kept watching.  

At the end of the episode, we get a touching scene where Archie comforts an ailing Edith, showing that in spite of all their arguments over the years, they truly love one another. 

St. Patrick's Day isn't always at the forefront of "Too Good Edith", but the holiday serves as the catalyst that drives the story here.  We've all been in scenarios when we didn't feel well enough to do something, but didn't want to let down a friend or family member.  So Edith's hiding of her illness is relatable.

A note about the cast:
Dr. Sidney Shapiro is played by George Wyner.  He's been a prolific character actor in film and TV over the last four decades.  

Wyner is probably best remembered for his portrayal of Irwin Bernstein on Hill Street Blues and as Colonel Sandurz in the movie Spaceballs.

Wyner as "Colonel Sandurz."
"Too Good Edith" can be found on the season 9 dvd set of All In The Family.

It's not a great episode and it doesn't have any of the political content that made All In The Family a groundbreaking series.  But "Too Good Edith" serves as a nice farewell episode for the series.  

J.A. Morris' rating:

3 Shamrocks. 

RigbyMel says:

There aren't that many St. Patrick's Day themed shows out there, and this final episode of the classic All In The Family series is a pretty good one.  

Too much corned beef and cabbage?
We get to see Archie all dressed up in green finery.   Edith heroically prepares an insane amount of corned beef and cabbage for the party at the bar in spite of her illness.   They don't wind up getting to attend their own party due to Edith collapsing, but we get a very heartfelt scene where Archie tells Edith that he wouldn't be anything without her, which really makes for a touching summation of the whole series.   

Edith relaxing --- in Archie's chair!! 
Even though this episode isn't as blatantly political as some episodes earlier in the run of All In The Family there is definitely some feminist subtext underpinning the proceedings.   Edith feels obliged to buck up and get the St. Patty's Day cooking done in spite of her illness because she loves Archie and also since Archie expects it.  Moreover, her upbringing has conditioned her to see her role in the relationship as the one who cooks and keeps the house.   

Exhausted Edith and silly hat
This episode also has a bit of inter-generational conflict, with young Dr. Shapiro getting picked on by Archie repeatedly because of his youth.   Dr. Shapiro yells at Archie for making Edith cook after her collapse, not realizing that she hadn't told Archie she was unwell.   Shapiro, who has know the Bunkers since he was a kid then has a brief reversion to being that kid apologizing, despite the fact that he himself is now a trained and competent doctor.  However, his assumptions based on Archie's general curmudgeonliness are understandable.  

The conflict is resolved with a very sweet exchange between Archie and Edith where they talk to each other and, in their own quirky ways, show how much they really love one another. 

The last shot of the series is an iris slow wipe showing Archie and Edith 
This is a solid, if not an outstanding episode and St, Patrick's Day drives the plot. 

RigbyMel's rating: 

3 shamrocks.