Now, I know that I've said the strip started to show a marked decline in the believability of the plotlines and likeability of the characters at two key occasions in this decade. The first was the suspicious timing of Deanna's first pregnancy. It seemed deliberately timed to prevent Michael from taking the world-wide trip he and Jo Weeder wanted to make as well as establishing a pattern of behavior: Deanna's subtle manipluation of her husband's activities to suit her whims. Deep down, Mike seems to realize he's being played like a pinball machine. Instead of calling her on it, though, he reacts by exhibiting a sickening over-caution. The second was Elizabeth's relationship with Eric Chamberlain. We'd had hopes that she might grow into an interesting young woman only to have them dashed by her obliviousness to the problem and immature, passive-aggressive over-reaction to her discovery of his cheating. Again, a pattern of behavior was established. On further reflection, the rot set in a lot earlier. We all remember that when April was a young child, she'd found a means of opening the back gate and the mischief it caused. One day, Elly actually saw HOW she did it and did .... nothing! Sure, she said not to open the gate again unless she said it was okay but, as we all know, bargaining with a toddler just doesn't work. Everybody remembers her brush with death but very few people recall HOW she got out in the first place or WHY she was left to her own devices. Both the 'how' and the 'why' can be explained by the same thing: Elly's negligence as a parent. I cannot possibly fathom why she and John wouldn't put a sturdy padlock on the gate if they knew she could open the thing. I mean, REALLY! Letting a toddler roam loose on the streets because you're too stupid and lazy to buy and install a damned lock! Thinking it's easier to risk your child running into traffic than to fumble for a key! They should have been ashamed of themselves! Especially since they thought a helpless four-year-old could be left to her own devices so they could stand around doing something trivial and silly. I'm pretty sure that, off-camera, the cops and EMTs let the Pattersons have it. I'd also like to state they weren't the only ones by a long shot, nosirree, Bob! Their pathetic bleating about how their accusers didn't understand was most likely met with an assurance theat they understood far too well. I'm pretty sure that if we were to look at that creek back then, we'd see a shark fin in the water 'cause that's when the Foobs jumped the shark. It's also one of the reasons why they treat April the way they do. Just like Mike used to blame Liz for getting him into trouble because she snitched on him, the whole family is punishing April for 'publicly embarassing' them. Since they'd rather blame the victim of their negligence for the well-deserved outrage the community felt towards them than own up to being incompetent, they destroyed themselves as sympathetic characters. What we were left with was the chronicles of a group of anti-heroes wallowing in denial.