about Eddie Stark, a high school history teacher, and Joy, his wife of 23 years. A newlywed couple, Jeff and Stephanie Woodcock, move in next door, Hilarity Ensues
. Originally, the show was meant to be a satirical/comedic take on the differences in the relationships of married couples when they are newlyweds and when they are more mature. However, Jeff and Steph were later written out altogether and the show became an Everybody Loves Raymond
Despite very lackluster ratings, which reached comically low levels later in its run (see here for details
), the show managed to make it to four seasons due to the production company offering it for a pittance, hoping to get enough episodes for syndication to make their money back. Possibly as a result, the show wound up going in weird directions, which didn't gain it any further viewers, but briefly made it must-see TV for television critic types. The strangeness of the fourth season in particular is highlighted in this AV Club
article by Todd VanDerWerff.
This show provides examples of:
- 555: In-Universe, the use of this trope apparently tipped off employers that Joy had used fake references on her job applications.
- As Herself: Mayim Bialik's therapist character from the fourth season. Eventually taken to the logical extreme when Dr. Bialik arranges an In-Universe reunion of her fellow Blossom castmates (but with Joey Lawrence inexplicably replaced by a fat guy who thinks he's Joey) as part of her treatment of Doug's Medium Awareness "delusions".
- Breakout Character: Eddie and Joy's daughter, Allison, was a minor recurring character in seasons one, two and three, then promoted to series regular in season four. Although all the Executive Meddling makes this progression difficult to fully appreciate.
- Break the Cutie: The whole point of the show (originally) was how marriage changes a couple, and in the case of the wife, this is implied to be one of the changes. Joy is the finished example, and Steph is "in the process", so to speak.
- The Cameo / Shout-Out: In the first episode, Ray Romano makes a guest appearance as an old friend of Eddie's. When asked by his acquaintance who Eddie was, Ray remarks "I dunno, some guy I used to work with."
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
- Jeff and Steph, who of course took the show's original premise with them.
- Kenny, after season three.
- Gilbert Gottfried's character from early in season four.
- Lampshaded when Doug inexplicably remembers all of the above during a late-season relapse into "Sitcomosis". The others have zero clue who he's talking about.
- The Couch: Played straight, though the easy chair to the left of it was used just as often.
- Deadpan Snarker: Eddie Stark. Hell, his last name rhyming with 'snark' probably isn't a coincidence.
- Death Glare: Dr. Bialik to Doug, after he calls Jenny Von Oy (Six from Blossom) "The Hot One".
- Medium Awareness: Bizarrely obtained by son-in-law Doug in the final season. In one episode, he spends whatever screen time he has being the Fourth Wall Observer. He is suddenly fully aware of when the camera is on him, that their food is from brands that don't exist, convenient plot elements, censors, the laugh tracks, that all the rooms have only three walls and there is no such thing as a second floor. He is even unfortunate enough to catch a glimpse of one of the mics. Needless to say all the other characters think he's a little off his rocker.
- The Other Darrin: Four different actresses played Ally. In order: Krysten Ritter, Laura Clery, Lindsay Broad, and Kate "Oates" Micucci, with Clery, Broad and Micucci all sharing the role at the same time due to Out of Order. Doug sees the change to Ally 4 during his Medium Awareness. He becomes ok with it only after he realizes Ally 4 is friskier.
- Out of Order: Big time. After the show was pulled early in season three, producer Sony Pictures Television kept producing episodes as if it was still on the air. The eighth episode of that season didn't see air until it kicked off a Christmas night marathon in 2009, fourteen months after the seventh episode and two months after the first three episodes of season four had already reached the air. Once the show landed in the 7pm Sunday timeslot in February 2010, most weeks featured season three and season four episodes airing back-to-back until the timeslot was scaled back to a half-hour in April. And then the series finale by production order was followed up by the last three episodes made for season three. And since the show was retooled in both season three and season four, the differences between these episodes are blatantly obvious (for example, all season three episodes include J.B. Smoove as Kenny, a grown man who was first met Eddie after Eddie was inexplicably assigned to be his Big Brother mentor. He was written out in season four in favor of promoting Doug and a recast Ally to series regulars).
- Revenge: Eddie's new boss in season four declares this her mission in life, as she's a former student of Eddie's, who blames him for a psychotic break she suffered.
- Schedule Slip: Oh so much. The first lengthy hiatus (during season two; lasted about four months) is Justified by the 2007-08 WGA Strike. The second? Not so much, and a direct result of rapidly declining ratings. This one lasted just shy of a full year. Then a third hiatus started in mid-October 2009 after just three episodes (again, blame the ratings) and lasted until an infamous Christmas night mini-marathon that finished dead last among the big four despite the other nets being in repeats. One final hiatus of just over a month then ensued, until Fox went ahead and burned off all thirty remaining episodes in consecutive weeksnote for about five months.
- Seinfeldian Conversation: Several examples, notably a whole episode devoted to Eddie and Joy arguing about whether or not a toaster uses enough electricity when plugged in but not toasting to warrant unplugging it when not in use.
Eddie: If you think I'm plugging this thing in every time I want a slice of toast, you're high.
Eddie: This wood is... MY wood!
- Self-Deprecation: Several characters engage in this toward the show itself while trying to convince Doug that his Medium Awareness is a delusion. At one point, Doug even goes so far as to say he's not sure if his show is on the air right now, in reference to the atrocious Schedule Slip mentioned above.
- The following disclaimer showed up on-screen during a scene, just as Joy was about to sing the song "Memory", from the play Cats:
We'd show you the rest of the scene but the song would cost an extra $40,000. And this is not a real freeze frame, that would cost an extra $89. It's not that we're cheap, explaining this cost us an extra $36 dollars
- Show Within a Show: "The Dr. Bialik Show". Did not help Doug at all.
- Springtime for Hitler: As elaborated by the AV Club:
"Fox kept ordering new seasons of ’Til Death because the production company sold it to them for a steal, hoping to get the series to syndication. But by the end of season four, the ratings had become practically non-existent. Knowing no one would watch freed the show’s producers to wander into off-the-charts insanity. That included making one character aware he lived in a sitcom, recasting a part with a rotating wheel of actresses, and throwing in an animated episode for absolutely no fucking reason whatsoever."
- Stunt Casting:
- Gilbert Gottfried as an annoying, rich-as-hell next door neighbor to the Starks during part of season four.
- Also Martin Mull as a fellow teacher and friend of Eddie's, who winds up in a dom-sub relationship with the school's sadistic, Revenge-seeking, clinically insanenote principal.
- Techno Babble: Eddie tries to show off his knowledge of power tools to a hired handyman by spouting random questions and comments about a power drill. It backfires.
Eddie: Left or right handed? Full torque? Upside-down capable?
Handyman: ...you're saying words, but... they don't mean anything.
- Toilet Humor: With the name 'Woodcock', you'd better believe Eddie had plenty of fun at the expense of Jeff and Steph.
Eddie: I bet with the name "Woodcock" it must be pretty hard for you to get through email filters.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: We get it in stereo with this show.
- You Look Familiar: Look out for Kate Micucci as a server at a restaurant several episodes before she becomes Ally #4.