Friday, May 18, 2012

#1: Foreverware

Episode 1001: "Foreverware"
Watch on Hulu

Original Airdate:  September 15, 1991

One-Sentence Synopsis:  Marshall's mother is introduced to Tupperware-style containers that keep food -- and people -- fresh forever.

Summary:
13-year-old Marshall Teller and his family have recently moved to Eerie, Indiana.  Marshall's father works at "Things, Inc.," a company that tests new inventions and products.  Since Eerie is statistically the most normal city in America, the family was relocated there.  As Marshall notes, "Statistics lie."

At breakfast, a new neighbor named Betty Wilson arrives with her two twin sons, Bertram and Ernest.  She seems to have stepped right out of the '60s, with her bubbly homemaker persona and fashion.  She welcomes Marshall's mother, Marilyn, to the neighborhood and shows off her line of plastic storage containers known as "Foreverware."  Invented by her late husband, Foreverware is guaranteed to keep food fresh for a lifetime.  She invites Marilyn to her home for a Foreverware party with the rest of the neighborhood wives. Since moldy leftovers are taking over her fridge, Marilyn reluctantly agrees.  As a parting gift, she leaves a Foreverware-sealed baloney sandwich, still fresh, from 1974.

As the Wilson family leaves, one of the twins subtely hands Marshall a note that reads "Yearbook 1964."  Marshall recruits his neighbor, 10-year-old Simon Holmes to help him look through all of the 1964 yearbooks in the library.  Finally, they find a picture of the twins in 7th grade, looking exactly as they did earlier that day.  Realizing something fishy is going on, Marshall sneaks over to the Wilson house at night and spies Mrs. Wilson sealing her children into bed-sized Foreverware containers!

The next day, as Marilyn goes to the party, Marshall sneaks into the house to get a better look at the giant Foreverwares.  While Marilyn surprisingly hits it off with the rest of the mothers who have clearly been preserved since the 1960s, the twins discover Marshall in their room and he agrees to help them escape this curse of eternal youth.  Marshall has to act fast, however, because Marilyn decides that she too wants to join the Foreverware family.

That night, Marshall sneaks into the twins' room once again and opens up the twins containers.  They thank him and tell him that they'll deal with their mother.  In the morning, Marshall's father discovers that the sandwich Mrs. Wilson had left with them has gone horribly bad (due to Marshall accidentally leaving the top open the previous day).  17 years of life had caught up with the sandwich overnight, leaving it a disgusting mess.  Marilyn decides that Foreverware isn't as reliable as Mrs. Wilson made it out to be, so she and Marshall return to the Wilson residence to cancel her contract.  There, they find two grown twins preparing to sell the house, explaining that Mrs. Wilson had to leave suddenly (and that twins run in the family).  Upstairs, an elderly Mrs. Wilson pokes her head out the window.

Evidence Locker Item:  The baloney sandwich container with the petrified baloney sandwich still inside. They probably should have rinsed out the container first.  (It's hard to make out the tag number.)

References:
Donna Reed - Donna Reed was an actress whose prominence was in the '40s-'60s.  She is well known for her roles in It's a Wonderful Life, From Here to Eternity, and The Donna Reed Show where she played the "perfect" housewife Donna Stone.  After Marshall looks at the state of the fridge, he laments "Where's Donna Reed when you need her?"  Of course, this is right before Betty Wilson walks through the door.

Jackie O - The pink outfit with the pillbox hat that Betty Wilson is introduced in is the spitting image of the trademark outfit of Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, wife of John F. Kennedy.  Kennedy was in office from 1961-1963, and Wilson started her self-preservation in 1964, so clearly she has retained the look of her idol.

Bert and Ernie - The twins appear to have been named after the famous Sesame Street duo.  Except, those characters premiered in 1969, years after Bertram and Ernest Wilson were born.  Maybe these twins were named after the similarly named characters in It's a Wonderful Life.

Tupperware Parties - Foreverware is clearly a take-off on Tupperware storage containers, which were invented in 1946.  During the early '50s, a method of direct marketing was invented in order to sell the Tupperware product straight to stay-at-home wives and mothers.  The host would purchase a kit with a variety of Tupperware for demonstration and they would present a catalog of wares to their neighbor friends during such events.  The host would then get a portion of the profits.  While the atmosphere of Tupperware parties was supposed to be fun and casual, the goal was always to sell more products.  This method of sales took off with other products but Tupperware was the pioneer.  Although such parties still continue today, their popularity was at its peak in the '60s and '70s.

Pillsbury, Crocker, Swanson, and Stouffer - The other women of the neighborhood all share their last names with brand name food companies, hammering in the outdated theme of perfect housewives who can be found in the kitchen.

Review:
"Our goal has always been to seal the freshness in forever!"

For the first episode, "Foreverware" does a great job of establishing the characters, the premise, and the dynamic of the show.  The show establishes itself by mocking the conventions of the traditional family sitcoms of previous decades.  Turning the notion of "It's always sunny on television" on its head, the show seems to say that there is something sinister behind the "normal" lives television usually presents to us.  Shows like Leave It To Beaver present us with a suburban utopia, and Eerie, Indiana pushes it to its logical extreme.  While later episodes would test the boundaries of outlandish weirdness, this episode  aims for the specific target of "preserving the good old days" and taking it literally.

Save for Marshall, the Teller family is introduced as being the most normal family on television.  The father is overworked.  The mother is lazy.  The older sister is self-abosrbed.  Yet, they aren't exaggerated.  Their obliviousness to the weirdness stems from their own normal behavior.  They expect no excitement in their lives, so they have difficulty seeing it.  It's only when Marilyn comes face-to-face with the grown up twins that she starts to feel as if something is off, but she doesn't make a big deal out of it.  But Marshall, he wants excitement, so he hunts it down.

Simon gets a brief introduction here and his background will be explored in later episodes, but already we get a big insight into his relationship with Marshall.  The psychological gap between a 10 and 13-year-old is huge, and a friendship between people of those two ages would be practically unheard of.  Yet, Simon's family has all but abandoned him and he has turned to Marshall as a role model.  Marshall claims that Simon is the only other person in Eerie who can see the weirdness, but I expect that Simon's youth has just allowed him to be more susceptible to the idea.  Since Marshall is the only one interacting with him, he has no choice but to see the truth.

The Foreverware containers are a fun concept and they meet that nice blend of normal and wacky.  Betty Wilson may be a bit over the top in her evilness, and the twins' monotone voices are needlessly creepy, but the overall concept is wonderful.  The Foreverware party in particular hits that right note of satire as we see Marilyn becoming swayed by the Forever-mothers, blindly following in the footsteps of conformity.

When I think of Eerie, Indiana, I think of Foreverware.  It captures the spirit of the series and presents a world where normal and weirdness are easy to confuse.

Random Observations:
- Marshall Teller:  Marshall is our narrator.  He tells us the truth.  Also, a Marshal is a soldier and protector.  Marshall sees himself as a defender of normalcy.

- Simon Holmes:  Sherlock?

- Marilyn Teller:  Possibly named after Marilyn Monroe, by I'm taking it a step further and saying she's named after Marilyn Munster, the normal one in the Munster family.

- Edgar Teller:  An inventor, possibly named after Edward Teller, "father of the hydrogen bomb."

- Syndi Teller:  She spells her name in a "unique" way.  Could she be any more normal?

- My ears may be playing tricks on me, but when Mrs. Wilson opens her fridge stocked with Foreverware items, the door seems to whisper/sigh, "Forever."  Also, when the twins' Foreverware beds are opened, I think I heard "Fresh."

- I get that Mrs. Wilson is overly-protective of her boys and Foreverware youth regimen, but why does she laugh maniacally when she catches Marshall spying on her?  That's just weird.

- Simon knows what to do with the evidence locker in case Marshall dies: "I go straight to the president.  And if I can't get through to him, I'll tell your mom and dad."

- After Marshall hugs his mom in a burst of love and emotion, relieved that she has decided to not go through with the Foreverware, he covers his tracks with a "You're okay, too, Dad."

- Even though Marshall rescues the twins, there are still plenty of families using Foreverware in Eerie.  And, even though it was being abused by suburbanites, it is still marvelous technology that has many uses.  I don't think this will be the last we see of this product or its users.

- Other items spotted in the evidence locker:  A doll-like mask (#62), a dummy head (#33), a magnifying glass focusing on an eyeball (#9-), an old View-Master(?) (#24), an old camera, a monkey toy, a Morse telegraph, and most frightening, a pair of baby shoes.  There are some good stories buried in there.

Conspiracy Theories:
- In the opening of the show, we see a crow carrying an eyeball in it's mouth.  At the beginning of the episode, we see (presumably) the same crow pecking at the Tellers' mail.  At the end, Mr. Teller notices all the destroyed letters, including a Publisher's Clearing House envelope with Ed McMahon's eyes pecked out.  Just what is this crow up to, and what does it have against eyes?  Is it trying to send a message to Marshall?  Or is it threatening him to stop "looking" for weirdness?  Did Marshall steal its treasured eyeball and put it in his evidence locker?

Grade:  A perfect introduction to the series, but there's room for improvement.  A-

1 comment:

  1. The eyes and the crow may be a Hitchcock reference, with “The Birds”. A few of the mothers make a recurring appearance in the series, look for them later.

    ReplyDelete