Ask your local gentry, and they will say Judge Daryl Loomis is elementary.
Our reviews of Married With Children: The Complete Second Season (published April 21st, 2004), Married With Children: The Complete Third Season (published March 30th, 2005), Married With Children: The Complete Fourth Season (published October 26th, 2005), Married With Children: The Complete Fifth Season (published August 9th, 2006), Married With Children: The Most Outrageous Episodes Volume 2 (published July 7th, 2003), and Married With Children: The Most Outrageous Episodes Volume 1 (published November 6th, 2003) are also available.
Love and marriage, love and marriage
On April 5, 1987, a burgeoning young network known as Fox debuted their first ever primetime program. That show was Married with Children and, through controversy and poor ratings, it became one of the longest running and best remembered comedies in the network's history. How its one note humor lasted for a full decade is beyond me, but with the first two seasons now available from Mill Creek, it's clear how people were charmed by it in the first place.
Facts of the Case
Meet the Bundys. First, we have Al (Ed O'Neil, Modern Family), the shoe salesman patriarch of the family. Next, Peggy (Katey Sagal, Sons of Anarchy), the lazy housewife who takes Al's money and delivers nothing in return. Their eldest child is the hot, slutty, and ultra-stupid Kelly (Christina Applegate, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy), while smart-mouthed Bud (David Faustino, RoboDoc) brings up the rear as the youngest son. Along with the soft and feminine neighbors, Steve and Marcy Rhoades (David Garrison, Whirlygirl; and Amanda Bearse, Fright Night), they do everything in their power to make Al feel like an even bigger failure than he already does.
Television has changed a lot since Married with Children first aired and its presence on Fox had a big hand in that. It may seem relatively tame today, but show creators Ron Leavitt and Michael G. Moye took the standard family sitcom and turned the raunch up as far as the censors would allow them to go. But it wasn't just the flood of sex jokes that changed television; an outside force catalyzed all that. One woman's outrage over the content sparked a controversy that finally let people know it existed and instead of getting the show cancelled, audiences came in droves. While never the most popular show on television, it endures as the most adult comedy of the 1990s.
But before all that were these first two seasons, which present a program in motion, one that hasn't quite found its voice yet, but sows the seeds for what was to come. There would be more changes between seasons two and three, but there's quite a lot of difference between one and two, as well. If you watched the whole show, but never went back and rewatched the first season, you may barely recognize some of the characters. Al's pretty much on point, though he has some modicum of control over his family, and Bud will continue to be terribly irritating from the pilot onward, but Peg actually seems to have a healthy relationship with her husband. The biggest change is in Kelly, and not just because she's completely dressed the whole season. She's bad in school, but that seems more because she doesn't care than that she's stone dumb.
The show's direction becomes clearer in the second season, where they start to go farther with the jokes, though not nearly so over the top as they'd go in later seasons. The show's problems start to manifest as they start to rely on those gimmicks more often. Soon, you start to see the logical inconsistencies in the writing, and I'm not just referring to the reset button that got pressed every week in sitcoms back then. For instance, Kelly is doing better in school one episode, and then is flunking just a couple of episodes later. In another, we find out that Peggy grew up in the hillbilly wonderland of Wanker County (which includes a funny cameo from legendary pro wrestler King Kong Bundy), yet we've known from moment one that Al and Peggy were high school sweethearts. It's lazy writing; as long as it serves the joke, it doesn't matter what's been said before. When the jokes are good, then, the episodes work, and there are a few hilarious episodes scattered throughout these seasons; when they don't work, there's nary a chuckle to be found.
The writing gets worse as the show goes on, but the acting talent is evident right out of the gate. There is some genuine talent in this cast, and it all starts with Ed O'Neil's iconic portrayal of Al Bundy. He is the picture of the 1980s put upon working husband, hating what his life has become and wallowing in the former glory of scoring four touchdowns in one football game, believing that that shallow act means the world owes him something and hasn't come through. Katey Sagal is an odd casting choice, but only because of the way the lazy writing treats her. Supposedly, she's playing an ugly, undesirable housewife; actually, she's a very attractive and witty woman. Her charm comes through in spades, though, even if the insults Al directs at her don't really compute. Christina Applegate doesn't have as much to do here as she would in later years, but while a decidedly supporting player, still shows her talents very well. The only down note is David Faustino, whose Bud starts annoying and becomes increasingly so as the series progresses.
Talented performances and lazy writing make for a show that's watchable, but forgettable. Strange, then, that it would last for a decade on television and endure in the hearts and minds of audiences into today. While not a bad show, Married with Children has plenty of problems.
Mill Creek presents the 35 episodes that make up Married with Children: Seasons 1 and 2 are presented over three discs, with the first season on Disc 1 and the second on Discs 2 and 3. It's exactly what I've come to expect from the label, so I'm neither surprised nor excited. The full frame image looks as good as '80s broadcast television is going to look without any effort put into it. It's fine, but the colors are washed out and detail is lacking. The sound is fine, as well, with a minimum of noise and perfectly audible dialog. No extras on the disc, so if you have the original versions that had a few supplements, hang on to them.
Married with Children many seem fairly tame today, but when Fox put it on in 1987, there had never been anything on television quite like it. Somewhere between Archie Bunker and Rosanne Conner sits Al Bundy, sitting on his couch with his hand in his pants, begging his wife to leave him alone. If you were a fan of him back in the day, the show holds up just fine, but if you hated it when it aired, nothing here in these first two seasons will convince you that you were wrong.
Come to bed, Al!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
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