It’s a good thing that I’m familiar with the later, superior seasons of this long-running sitcom, or this first-time watch of the show’s inaugural season would have put a nail in the coffin of our acquaintance. From the first few episodes, everything positively reeks of amateurish slapdashery, from the stiff performances (Christina Applegate is particularly lost as a barely-developed Kelly) to the clumsy, often cringe-worthy writing and the noticeably large amount of dead air between jokes. Amanda Bearse is on hand as nosy neighbor Marcy, and while the character is not quite rounded out yet here, at least Bearse herself is a lively onscreen presence with terrific timing. This early version of Peg and Al’s marriage hedges closer to a bickering-but-loving couple than the hate-hate dynamic that gradually develops over the seasons, and their men-are-from-mars-women-are-from-venus relationship is probably the most satisfying thing about this first season. But make no mistake, it’s occasionally a slog to get through (other than for the nostalgia, I imagine).
Rating: ★★ (out of 5)