All in the Family (1971–1979)
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The Saga of Cousin Oscar 

Archie's freeloading cousin, Oscar, dies in the guest room. Archie and Mike host an impromptu wake in their home, as they ponder whether to hold a funeral service or simply dispose of Oscar's body.

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(developed by), (teleplay by) | 3 more credits »
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Cast

Episode cast overview:
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Jack Grimes ...
Mr. Whitehead
Will B. Able ...
Rev. Felcher
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Billy Hartfield
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Jimmy McNab (as William Benedict)
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Mrs. McNab
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Bertha
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Storyline

Archie flies into a panic when his good-for-nothing cousin Oscar stays the night and then dies in his guest room. The Bunkers put together a wake at which Archie tries to figure out how to put Oscar away without having to spend too much money. He gets a rock bottom statement from the funeral director but still thinks it's too high. Then Mike does some research and discovers that since Oscar is not technically Archie immediate family then all he has to do is call the coroner, who will collect the body and bury him in a pauper's grave at no charge. Archie jumps at the chance especially when he gets the news that the grave diggers are about to go on strike. Written by Jerry Roberts <armchair-cinema@hotmail.com>

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Comedy | Drama

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18 September 1971 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This episode marks the only on screen appearance of the oft-mentioned Reverend Felcher. See more »

Quotes

Louise Jefferson: Was it a timely death?
Archie Bunker: Yeah, around lunchtime.
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Connections

Referenced in All in the Family: Lionel the Live-In (1974) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The High(larious) Cost of Dying
12 January 2017 | by (Omaha, Nebraska) – See all my reviews

A typically excellent early episode of the iconic series. Death is the sacred cow that gets tipped this time around. Archie's cousin Oscar has been enjoying an extended stay with the Bunkers, drinking brandy, eating steak, and smoking cigars all on Archie's dime. Enough is finally enough and when Archie finally musters the courage to throw the bum out, he dispatches Mike to drop the axe on the old guy. But the Grim Reaper beat him to it--Oscar's dead.

The satire really kicks in once word gets out. The funeral director--don't call him an undertaker--is trying to sell Archie a deluxe package funeral while neighbors and a distant relative (a hilarious Peggy Rea) drop in. A nice touch was Louise Jefferson coming by with a cake. Even the Reverend Felcher--don't call him Fletcher (whatever!)--makes a personal appearance. This series often had such small casts, many times just the four stars and maybe Lionel, that it's overwhelming to see the set filled with people, which reflects what Archie was feeling at the time.

Yeah, Archie's cheap, and he has no compunction about Cousin Oscar being buried in Potter's Field. And why should he? Cousin Oscar was a thorn in Archie's side (and face) since childhood, and a shameless freeloader in his waning days. The Bunker Bunch in Detroit and Cicero raised a whopping $73 to help with expenses, evidencing what low esteem Oscar enjoyed in his own family.

Mr. Whitehead, a slick salesman first and a lodge brother a distant second (i.e. expect no breaks from him) knows people and what they've been acculturated to expect when death strikes. How can Archie tell his family and friends he'll have his cousin Oscar dumped in Potter's Field? Mr. Whitehead knows he'll seal a deal and he does.

This episode really allowed Archie to shine. He's in near constant motion throughout the entire episode, enjoying a cigar and a rest in his chair only at the conclusion. He interacts nimbly with so many characters and--look out Bob Newhart!--displays his deftness at the one-sided telephone call. Only Archie could cuss out a little kid on her birthday and make it a laugh line!

In the end, Archie is a sympathetic figure, beaten down by forces he can't understand. His principles--such as they were--waver in the faces of the bereaved, who expect the funeral with its pomp and pageantry and of course the accompanying luncheon. Archie does in the end snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, basking in the success of the funeral and bragging of his E. F. Huttonesque abilities to draw a crowd.

Unexplained in the end are comments by Mike and Gloria, who called the funeral a travesty and barbaric. Exactly what were they describing? The hordes who turned out for a funeral for a man they didn't know? Or just how Mr. Whitehead and his ilk make death a commodity? "The Saga of Cousin Oscar" and many other episodes--especially the early ones--strike this perfect balance between leaving you laughing and thinking.


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