Season 1, Episode 5
Date of airing: October 20, 1989 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 22.4 million viewers, 14.2/26 in Households
In which the report card hijinks from Eddie and his best friend Rodney turned the episode into the best one yet, because it happened to be the funniest one yet. The way Eddie’s stupidness was portrayed through the jokes was hilarious and the writers almost created a running joke here by having Eddie be this stupid about everything throughout the entire run of the show. I would love it if Laura continues to tease Eddie with his below-average knowledge of math and science, all while Eddie doesn’t notice he and his stupidity are being made fun of, like the whole Columbia thing which he confused for Colombia. If this actually turns into a running joke, it would show that the writers were able to take certain character flaws and made them permanent by using them to tell jokes and make the audience laugh, and honestly, it’s easy to make people laugh about people who are stupid and don’t know it. Then again, getting four C’s and two B’s should not mean that Eddie is stupid, because that report card proves he must be average or above average at school. I don’t even know why he thought that he was stupid with those four B’s on the report card. One of those two B’s must not have been in math, because he could after all not multiply six with five.
Carl was also kind of stupid in this episode by overreacting this heavily to six A’s on a report card. First of all, the family patriarch should maybe have realized that something was fishy about the report card, but apparently Carl believes anything he sees on paper, without questioning it (so, he votes Republican?). Secondly, celebrating so much about having a smart son while he completely forgets about his smart daughter showed off some of his unconscious sexism. I don’t even know if the writers realized that or even shot for that (I assume it was never the latter, or it would have been noticed during the writing process of this episode and seen as problematic, if not putting it into the story somehow by mentioning how Carl foregoes the smarts of his daughter to rain gifts on his son), but Carl did not figure that five A’s is not good enough for his daughter. Carl did not figure that five A’s is a reason to give Laura the computer system or talk to her about colleges in the future, and Carl did not figure that Laura getting the one B and eating herself up over it did not deserve his empathy or wise words like the ones he gave to Eddie at the end. What was it that gave Eddie so much attention in this episode and why did the writers decide to turn Laura’s report card into the sitcom story of the week, when she should have been the one celebrating? Like Carl was overreacting to his son’s report card, I might be overreacting just a little about the way Laura was treated as a character during this episode.
With that in mind, the episode forgot to take care of the other characters in the mix, if you exclude Rachel for a little bit. She may have had that conversation with Eddie about the fake report card, and how Eddie was about to talk to his father after having that conversation with Rachel, but for the life of me I cannot understand why Carl was pretty much the only one celebrating Eddie for his “achievements,” while the rest of the family could apparently not be bothered. Granted, Laura found a way to get all depressed about it, but her behavior didn’t just stem out of the fact that Eddie brought how straight A’s all the way, but because her father neglected her (and to of course make a joke about a B minus making her college aspirations much harder), but I would have loved seeing both matriarchs of the family say something about Eddie and his report card, and how they were proud of the boy, and how they were disappointed at the end when the truth revealed itself. I guess it will take a while for FAMILY MATTERS to get into that part of the show, and for the writers to have known that their show is a success and will be on television for nine years. But this episode was definitely a missed chance in that regard.