TV or Not TV is the twentieth episode of the first season.
After failing to pay the electric bill on time, the electric company shuts off the Heck's power. This leads Frankie and Mike to cut down on their unnecessary expenses, including their cable TV. The kids take up other activities to fill the void, but Frankie and Mike have difficulty figuring out what to do. Meanwhile, Brick and his other socially-challenged friends have to go outside for recess when the school library shuts down.
While Sue was standing outside Hot Dogs USA at the mall, a woman approached her to say she has what it takes to be a model. She just needs $500 to launch her runway career. Unfortunately, her family doesn’t even have enough money to pay the electric bill. It’s lights out at the Heck house. TV’s gone, too. Frankie says, “This is an outrage. If you’re gonna shut off the power, do it at the top of the hour before I’m already hooked on Conveyor Belt of Love.”
With the power out, everyone must blindly pull an item from the fridge and quickly shut the door to keep the cool air in. Axl gets peas, and Mike grabs a beer. Brick is psyched when he snags the whipped cream. Frankie makes him a deal. If he gives up the whipped cream, he gets a bonus grab. Brick’s a gambling man by nature, so he decides to go for what’s behind refrigerator door number one. Too bad it’s sauerkraut.
Frankie and Mike decide to see a financial planner. They are spending a lot more than they earn, so they need to cut unnecessary expenses. Things like insurance, gas, and the orthodontist are on the chopping block until the financial planner informs them that those are actually “necessary” expenses. An extra cost would be something like cable TV. Now they just have to break this news to the kids.
Axl, Sue, and Brick freak when they find out their parents are ditching the cable. Nevertheless, they decide to make the most of things. Sue takes on extra babysitting gigs to raise funds for her future modeling career. Brick reads books, which is actually par for the course. Axl tries to start a rock band with his buddies. As for Frankie and Mike, they’re spending all their TV-less time at the Bingo hall with Aunt Edie and Aunt Ginny. It’s not as bad as it sounds. The center square is a freebie.
As Frankie tries to glean info about what’s happening on The Bachelor from Aunt Edie, Mike realizes that his wife has Bingo. He wants to collect their prize and hit the road. They’re shocked to find out that the top prize is a thousand dollars. That’s real money, not church bucks or diner coupons, as Frankie feared. Now, what to do with their newfound fortune? Should they do the responsible thing and pay down their credit card debt or give in to temptation and bring back the cable?
Figuring the kids will want their cable TV, Frankie and Mike decide to ask them what they should do with the money. By making this a family decision, it’ll alleviate their guilt. The plan backfires. The kids all want to use the new loot for their own personal whims. The children are deemed useless and summarily dismissed. Frankie says, “Given our situation, I think we both know what we have to do.”
Sadly, Frankie and Mike had different ideas about what they “have to do.” She prepays for a year of cable while he mails a check to pay the credit card bills. Frankie thinks things will work out, but Mike insists she’s being naïve. Turns out Frankie was right. A TV news report says the Orson quarry is reopening. Mike can go back to work! This is wonderful news that would have gone unknown if not for the miracle of cable TV.
At school, Brick discovers that his group of socially-challenged friends will no longer be able to enjoy recess in the library. Instead, they must spend their free period in a perilous battlefield known as the playground. As the boys navigate the treacherous terrain, they lose one of their own in a tragic jump rope tie-up. The others manage to make it to the underbelly of the big slide. They’re safe…for now.
One of the books Brick read instead of watching TV was all about Marine battle strategies. He devises a way to get back into the library. It’s an impressive battle plan designed to distract the playground monitor away from the library door. It involves causing a clash between the kids playing four-square balls and the ones playing handball. As the two sides confront each other, Brick tosses a bunch of candy into the center of the yard. It’s a free-for-all!
With the recess monitor distracted, Brick makes his way toward the library door. But one of the men in his unit loses his shoe in the sandbox. This particular soldier has an unexplainable fear of getting his socks dirty. He tells Brick to go on without him. But no one gets left behind. Brick grabs the arm of his single-shoed comrade and pulls him to the safety of the library.
- The title may be a parody of "To be, or not to be".