Judge George Hatch wishes he had a toilet in his living room.
Our reviews of 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: Seasons 1 and 2 (published February 2nd, 2014), 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.
"A man's home is his coffin."—Al Bundy, quoted on a T-shirt
There was a time when father knew best, people made room for daddy, and everyone left it to the Beaver. They lived in cozy, well-appointed homes on Elm or Main Street, in discriminating small towns auspiciously named Springfield or Mayfield where voices were never raised, no one questioned Dad's authority (including Mom), and Junior and Sis were always taught a weekly lesson in growing up. They walked around in a perpetual Ozzie-and-Harriet-style daze, like the body-snatched pod people of the same era, oblivious to the real world crises that saturated the front pages and follow-up columns of every newspaper—except the television listings—and never faced a problem more perplexing than having to decide who should wear what to the school prom. But while the sugarcoated lives of these antiseptic nuclear families satisfied America's craving for escapist entertainment, they also ate a cavity in the country's sweet tooth the size of a Motorola console TV. Some nitrous oxide was called for, better known as "laughing gas."
Facts of the Case
It arrived in the form of Married with Children, when Fox aired the first half-hour episode three times (in rotation with The Tracey Ullman Show) on April 5, 1987—a Sunday evening that was generally considered "family night." Within weeks, millions of viewers were tuning in to watch the dysfunctional Bundy family subvert the traditional sitcom and lay waste to the American Dream. Al Bundy was a shoe salesman earning minimum wage to support a family that never missed an opportunity to degrade him as a husband and mock him as a father. His wife, Peggy, costumed in K-Mart catalog couture, ridiculed his hygiene and masculinity at every turn, while siblings Bud (named after the beer) and bimbette Kelly taunted him for his inability to cough up a decent allowance. Their up-scale neighbors, Steve and Marcy Rhoades, took potshots as well, but thanks to scripts that were banged out with a sledgehammer and edited with a razor during rehearsals, it was Al who often had the best lines defending what little dignity he had.
Al Bundy was a chauvinist ("Women have the same urges we do, Steve, they just don't show it because they're spiteful. They need us because we can do the job, and you can't take a battery home to your mother."), a racist ("When I'm standing in line with a bunch of foreigners who smell like vegetables, I'll probably be in the wrong line—the one where they're barbequing a Chihuahua."), and a failure to everyone but himself ("So much for Bundy unity. This is the first time I've been embarrassed by my own family." "You'll get over it, Al. We did.") But he touched a nerve with viewers (okay, with the male 18-49 demographic) and the readers of leading tabloid The New York Post voted him "the greatest TV Dad of all time" in 1996.
The shows were fast-paced, well edited, packed with crude innuendos,and sidelined with wicked sight gags, as when Peggy snips two radishes into a salad while insisting their dog be neutered. None of this would have worked, however, if Ed O'Neill and Katey Sagal hadn't tackled their roles with such titillating bravado. They were like Edward Albee's George and Martha on steroids hurling caustic, ego-deflating insults in a Mad Magazine landscape. O'Neill had a theatrical background but broke into films playing a detective in William Freidkin's Cruising and was soon typecast as a cop—but everyone remembers him as Al Bundy. Though Katey Sagal had no formal training, she was a back-up singer for several musicians, and toured with Better Midler as one of the trashy Harlettes. This undoubtedly gave Sagal the flair and attitude she incorporated into her role as Peggy. Both were nominated for Golden Globe Awards, but with its disreputable depiction of lower-than-low middle class family life, the show itself was never officially recognized during its 10-year run and received only four Emmy nominations, evenly split in the technical categories of Editing and Costuming.
The cancellation of MwC, as it is referred to on over 200 websites devoted to the Bundys, resulted in dozens of petitions requesting the series be brought to DVD. The short first season was released last year; however, the show had proved so successful that the number of episodes was doubled for the Season Two, all of which appear on this new three-disc set. The Evidence lists the shows as presented with a plot recap and some Bundyesque dialogue, but it should be noted that hilarious hour-long "Poppy's by the Tree" was the original season opener.
"Buck Can Do It"
"Poppy's by the Tree, Part 1"
"Poppy's by the Tree, Part 2"
"If I Were a Rich Man"
"For Whom the Bell Tolls"
"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Part 1"
"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Part 2"
"Born to Walk"
"Alley of the Dolls"
"The Razor's Edge"
"How Do You Spell Revenge"
"You Better Watch Out"
"Guys and Dolls"
"Build a Better Mousetrap"
"Master the Possibilities"
"Peggy Loves Al, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah"
"The Great Escape"
"Just Married…With Children"
"All in the Family"
With nine episodes on two discs and only four on Disc Three, there was plenty of room for some bonus material, but the skimpy extras are only 13 Easter eggs, snippets of the cast reminiscing about the show. Sure, it was interesting to learn that Katey Sagal wanted to make Peggy a sexier character and that she was probably an older version of daughter Kelly, but having to watch what was at most a half-hour conversation cut up into tiny clips was annoying; and while the eggs are easy to find, they were hardly worth the effort.
I would like to have seen an interview with Linda Day, who directed 18 of the 22 episodes, and welcomed some input from Ron Leavitt and Michael G. Moye, the show's creators and executive producers. The comments of a woman, an African-American, and a Jewish man would shed a lot of light on their take and presentation of the Bundys, especially Al.
Some bloopers and outtakes could have been included, too. There are so many scenes during which the actors could barely deliver their lines that a behind-the-scenes look at the tapings would surely be entertaining. And how about a commentary on at least a few of the shows, particularly "You Better Watch Out," one of the nastiest, cruelest—and funniest!—Christmas shows I've ever seen. Wake up Columbia TriStar: this episode alone puts your Most Outrageous… compilations to shame, and along with a "It's A Bundyful Life" from the Season Three, a DVD with the other holiday-themed episodes would relegate Charlie Brown and his withered tree to the outhouse.
No remastering was done, so the transfer looks no better and occasionally worse than the episodes now in syndication. Most noticeable are the bleeding reds in clothing worn by Peg and Kelly in several episodes. The dialogue, however, sounds excellent in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.
In the 1950s, the Kramdens traded some mean quips, usually about Ralph's weight, but they were blue-collar folks living in a dilapidated tenement with no kids. By the 1970s, Archie Bunker brought the working-class ethic to the suburbs along with some occasionally controversial subject matter that alerted the networks to start screening shows for content. In the mid-1980s, Fox wasn't even considered a "network" and had such a low profile they could air just about anything they chose. Married with Children flew in under the radar and changed television history—for better or worse, depending on your point of view.
Married with Children: The Complete Second Season presents the series at its best. The actors were still playing it fairly straight—and to each other instead of mugging for the audience—and the plots were clever and character-oriented instead of relying on what eventually became boilerplate essentials, such as Kelly making an entrance clad in skimpy costumes and repetitive jokes about Bud's hairy palms. But if you are a Bundymaniac, as I am, this DVD set is a must-own and multiple viewings will continue to provide plenty of laughs.
The Bundys are guilty of lewd, crude, and licentious behavior and are sentenced to life in syndication. They are, however, to be paroled on DVD on an annual basis.
Columbia TriStar is hereby remanded to the vaults and sentenced to deliver the remaining seasons of Married with Children—including a Christmas DVD special—with improvement on the quality of the transfers.
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Scales of Justice
• 13 Easter Eggs Featuring Interviews with the Cast
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