Reviewed by David Williams (March 24, 2004)
Very few television shows have ever stirred up more controversy than Fox’s Married With Children. Even so, the show enjoyed a rather lengthy, rude, tasteless, and quite successful run on the network and was definitely one of a kind when it hit airwaves back in the late 80’s. Back then, Fox was a recently birthed network and the newest kid on the block … going against networks more than a quarter-of-a-century their senior. Married With Children was one of the network’s maiden shows and a huge part of its new lineup … in hindsight, it was their lineup. The show promised to push the envelope and be anything but your typical family sitcom … a pretty bold move for a fledgling network that hadn’t even been picked up in all markets yet. However, Fox would have the last laugh, as Married With Children would go on to become one of the most successful sitcoms of all time. While not quite as offensive or edgy in hindsight, the show remains a staple of Americana and very funny to boot.
The first season does a great job of character development and introduces us to local high school football “legend” Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill) and he’s working a dead end job at a local shoe store and finding out that living out the American Dream isn’t all it was cracked up to be. Al and his wife, Peg (Peggy Sagal), seem to loathe each other in equal amounts and while they don’t have sex much these days, they had to have had it at least twice in the past, as they are raising two teenaged kids the best they know how. The Bundy’s pride and joy includes a daughter, Kelly (Christina Applegate), who epitomizes the term “dumb blonde” and a son, Bud (David Faustino), a nerdy, yet witty kid who sees himself as quite the ladies man. There’s also the neighbors; Steve (David Garrison) and Marcy (Amanda Bearse) Rhodes. They are essentially the polar opposites of Al and Peg and their neighborly relationship with the Bundy’s allows for a lot of comical situations to arise during the season.
Thankfully, Columbia quickly abandoned the “Most Outrageous Episodes” concept with Married and decided to bring the series home to fans in complete seasons. Here, the studio presents us with the thirteen episodes from the show’s inaugural season in a two-disc set that contains the following episodes (which, by the way, are presented out of order from the original air date … it must’ve been the way the show’s producers intended them to be seen):
- Disc One -
Pilot (Original Air Date: April 5, 1987)
We are introduced to Al Bundy and get to see him in action at the shoe store. His partner, Luke (Rich Synder), is portrayed as a sleazy ladies man who’s much more interested in bedding the female clientele than selling shoes. (For those of you who don’t recall Luke, his character wouldn’t make it much farther than the first season.) We then move on to the Bundy household and see Peg lounging around and neglecting her housework until Al comes home. Peg informs Al that she has decided to invite over the new neighbors, Steve and Marcy Rhodes, for dinner. The Rhodes’ are newlyweds and are the exact opposites of Al and Peg … still deeply in love and overly affectionate. However, that soon changes after they spend an evening with the Bundy’s and by the time they leave to go home, they are arguing and fighting like never before. (The show does a really good job of setting up the relationship dynamic between the four main characters and while some things would change over the course of the series, the generalities are laid out well here.)
Thinergy (Original Air Date: April 12, 1987)
Peggy jumps on a fad diet craze when Marcy gives her a book entitled “Thinergy”. Peg goes on the diet and is so thrilled with it, she tries to get the whole family involved … and they quickly refuse. Peg hopes that she can convince Al to go on the diet with her in order to spice up their love life and Al finally agrees; with a little convincing from Steve. However, Al’s motives aren’t quite pure, as he only goes on the diet in order to convince Peg to quit.
Sixteen Years And What Do You Get? (Original Air Date: May 10, 1987)
It’s Al and Peggy’s wedding anniversary and Al is unable to buy a gift for Peggy when his credit card is maxed out. Although Peg stated that she felt they should go without gifts for each other this year, Al is feeling a little down about not having Peg a gift. However, when he gets home, he learns that the reason the card is maxed is because Peg spent so much on his anniversary gift.
But I Didn’t Shoot The Deputy (Original Air Date: April 19, 1987)
The local “Neighborhood Watch” folks alert the Bundy’s about a rash of local break-ins and burglaries. This convinces Steve and Marcy to buy a dog … and the Bundy’s buy a gun. In a hilarious chain of events, Al thinks he hears a burglar one night and accidentally shoots the Rhodes’ dog, rather than the phantom burglar.
Have Your Driven A Ford Lately? (Original Air Date: May 3, 1987)
Al and Steve decide to buy an old, beat-up ’65 Mustang to restore and it draws the ire of their wives. The project brings Al and Steve closer together as they unite against their wives, but it also brings Peg and Marcy together for a common cause as well …
Whose Room Is It Anyway (Original Air Date: April 26, 1987)
Steve and Marcy plan on adding a room to their home and somehow, Al and Peg end up arguing over what the Rhodes’ new room should be. Al works on Steve for a game room and pool tables, while Peg hits Marcy up for an exercise room. It’s a battle of the sexes and somehow, Al finds a way to blame the French for the whole mess.
Al Loses His Cherry (Original Air Date: June 7, 1987)
Al and Peg argue about visiting family and Al decides to take refuge at Luke’s bachelor pad. Al finds himself enjoying the life of a bachelor quite a bit, but when he is propositioned by a stewardess while staying with Luke, he declines her invitation and declares himself loyal to Peg.
Peggy Sue Got Work (Original Air Date: May 31, 1987)
Peg wants a VCR (remember those?) and Al refuses to buy her one. In order to make some extra money and buy one herself, Peg decides to take on a job at a local department store. After a while, Peg starts regretting going back to work, but refuses to quit because she knows Al will ride her about it.
Married … Without Children (Original Air Date: May 17, 1987)
Steve and Marcy agree to watch Kelly and Bud while Al and Peg take a weekend away. While Peg thinks that the hotel they’re staying in is to spice up their marriage, we learn Al has only chosen the hotel so that he can watch a boxing event over the weekend since their home doesn’t have cable and this hotel chain does. Meanwhile, Steve and Marcy learn the hard way that it’s not real easy keeping up with the Bundy kids.
- Disc Two -
The Poker Game (Original Air Date: May 24, 1987)
Al is driving Steve home and the two decide to stop by one of Al’s local poker games already in progress. Al asks Steve if he’d like to play and Steve readily accepts. Steve is quite the confident card player, but when the night’s over, he finds himself minus one paycheck … losing all of it to Al. Steve pleads with Peggy to give him his check back, but Al bribes his wife with some jewelry to ignore Steve’s begging.
Where's The Boss? (Original Air Date: June 21, 1987)
Al mistakenly thinks that his boss at the shoe store is dead and while trying to kiss up to the family, he sends them some flowers. However, when it’s learned that his boss isn’t dead, Al becomes slightly perturbed when the family fails to even acknowledge the flowers he sent them. Al swears that he’s going to quit his job and go work for someone who actually appreciates him.
Nightmare On Al’s Street (Original Air Date: June 14, 1987)
Marcy gets very concerned when Al starts showing up in her dreams on a nightly basis. With Steve out of town in Buffalo, Marcy decides to tell Peg about her strange dreams. Peg tells Al and immediately he gets the big head … and when Marcy tells Peg that the dreams are recurring, Peg gets a little jealous. Marcy works through her dreams and finally figures why she was dreaming about Al and reconciles with him by show’s end.
Johnny B. Gone (Original Air Date: June 28, 1987)
Personal problems plaque Kelly and Bud, so Al and Peggy try to help them out while still trying to make it to the closing night of their favorite burger joint. Obviously, Al and Peg are torn between helping their kids and making it to the restaurant on time. Meanwhile, Steve and Marcy have problems of their own while trying to entertain some Japanese executives at their home.
The first season of the show finds Married With Children looking for its footing. There are admittedly a few hit or miss episodes here, but as a whole, they’re easy to overlook as fans like myself are simply glad to see the show finally being released in complete seasons.
One of the first shows to appeal to the blue-collar family, Married With Children took the trail blazed by shows like All In The Family and added a bit more of a contemporary and vulgar twist to it. The show, its execution, and its subject matter don’t allow for too many casual fans and while this first season boxed set isn’t going to change anyone’s mind who already hates the show, it’ll sure put a smile on the faces of those of us who have been waiting on this series’ debut for quite some time.