October 8th: Step By Step

Inattentive archers wanted.

I don't know about you, but this place definitely carries the feel of your local Wisconsin. Let's flash back to the early 90s, when some well-paid television exec came up with an idea:

"Hey, do you guys remember when we had that bunch of Bradys and we gave them a series that still runs in syndication everywhere, all the time? Well, we should do something like that, but without the pleasant atmosphere of California to muddy things up with its sunshine and great vibes. Somebody get me Patrick Duffy, a Thighmaster, and a midwestern state with zero sex appeal, pronto!"

Step By Step

That's right, we're checking in on the Lamberts - you know, Frank, Carol, J.T., Dana, Mark, Al, and the other two kids, whose names have been lost to history (Claire? Brandon?) And let's not forget stonery cousin Cody living out in the rock 'n' roll party van in the driveway! Dude!

All of these ingredients combine to form a comedy stew of family-sized proportions, buttressed by an under-the-table beauty salon, shady construction deals, and innumerable misunderstandings that are quickly resolved through some good old-fashioned communication. And yet, I wonder... will there ever be a second time around? Let us knock on that perfectly Lambert-planed door and find out.

Space: Port Washington, WI
Time: October 28th, 1994
Episode: "Something Wild" Season 4, Episode 6

Ugh, right off the bat we get driveway-fresh Cody, the Codiest Cody of them all.

And what is this, this, this... extension growing off the back of his head? Is this a mullet in the wild or is this a fifth limb that will soon end with a foot or hand? And why? We are deep into the 90s at this point, this wasn't called for. Sure, we were not that far removed from the Juno award-winning uber-single "Achy-Breaky Heart," but that doesn't make it right - it does not!

So, Cody is working on the world's largest jack o' lantern, just as he's working on his Pauly Shore material. Again, we are well into the 90s here, Son-In-Law is a hit, MTV veejays have a lot of entertainment clout, and Jury Duty is not yet a glimmer of the disappointment it will end up becoming. And still, none of this was called for.

Elsewhere, we follow the drippy kid, Mark. He's pining after the "bad girl" at school, which is makes sense and is respectable. Especially after you realize it's the original Bad Girl herself, Academy Award-nominee, Jen Lindley!

That's right, Capeside's world-weary sophisticate polishes her routine here as JJ Jenkins, your mother's worst nightmare - you know, because she has a 1930s Brooklyn accent. Look, I know Jen Lindley's backstory was one of drunken townhouse parties and pill-popping limo rides with that dude from Roswell, but I'm willing to bet that there's room in that canon for a few months of Jen - I mean "JJ" - living with an Aunt and Uncle in Wisconsin, before returning to the posh Upper Best Side for her final flameout. You know, the final flameout before the one that happens when Abby gets drunk and dies falling off the pier.

I was surprised by how deep the sets are on this show. At one point, Frank moves from upstage to downstage in the kitchen (roughly the size of a roller-rink) and it takes him about 20 minutes to get there. Here we see enticing glimpses of that back room with the bonus dining table I don't recall being used by anyone - so much potential back there! Think of all the possibly-comedic situations that have happened and will continue to happen there that we're probably, maybe missing, all because we don't have access to that room!

What follows is an awful scene with two guys who act like Beavis and Butthead. It's unclear whether they're supposed to actually be Beavis and Butthead, or if they're a couple of randos doing impersonations, but reference is made to them having shown up for Dana the year before, so they must have been a smash when they were on. Again... it's 1994. I'm not going to dignify them with their own screen-grab, because that's exactly what they want me to do. You can't give attention to people like this - it only leads to them sticking around longer. Utter. Shit.

Let's focus instead on what happens when worlds collide! Mark's squeeze comes over, sasses her way past Carol, and makes right for party table #2, this one set up in the foreground.

Look at the investment the Lamberts have made in their party-planning - you've got no fewer than three big bowls for candy, a spooky tablecloth, and matching cups 'n' plates. Who wouldn't want to take her bad attitude over there for some French-onion dip?

Also, is this the Lambert Family, or the Lantern Family? Yes, in the first real decorating progress since the days of ChiChronCrepe (as it's now known - #ChiChronCrepe), a sound investment in paper products has been supplemented with strings upon strings of lanterns. This adds a new dimension to the vibe-cranking, and demonstrates the stranglehold power mood-lighting can wield over a situation. Not getting enough lanterns inside? Why not check on the porch for further lanterns.

Sure, let yourself get talked into poor decisions to the soothing ambience of lanterns. Still not enough proof of celebrating a lantern-based lifestyle? Why not check out the interstitials of the house's full exterior - that's right, both of them have been tweaked for this Halloween ep. This commitment to Halloweening in a Halloween ep is unprecedented.

Meanwhile, the action at party table #2 will not be stopped, with Carol literally stewing over her juices, if not directly in them (because punch can be expensive to put together).

She inwardly gloats over the small victory of being vindicated in having two party tables: 'And Frank thought we didn't need any party tables, that stupid sonofabitch - well who's snacking now, huh, Frank!?'

And honestly, between the commitment to lanterns, quality paper products, and amazingly-flavorful punch, the Lamberts seem to be having the best party we've seen on our adventure - and who are all those guests!? Whoever they are, they're about to get slapped across the face with the cold fish of reality, as lil Marky Lamb-nerd gets hauled in by the cops for egg-on-house crimes in a tableau torn straight from the headlines of Mr. Belvedere.

...and just like in Belvedere, the kid's middle-class and white, so it's all no big deal and that house can clean the egg off its own facade for all we care.

But Frank and Carol can't fucking believe it.

I'll never get over their reactions here, they just send me right to the floor.