For some reason, Judge Aaron Bossig felt the need to type this review with his hand wedged under his waistband.
Our reviews of Married With Children: The Complete Second Season (published April 21st, 2004), 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.
"So you think I'm a loser? Just because I have a stinking job that I
hate, a family that doesn't respect me, a whole city that curses the day I was
born? Well, that may mean loser to you, but let me tell you something. Every
morning when I wake up, I know it's not going to get any better until I go back
to sleep again. So I get up, have my watered down Tang and still-frozen Pop
Tart, get in my car with no upholstery, no gas, and six more payments to fight
traffic just for the privilege of putting cheap shoes on the cloven hooves of
people like you. I'll never play football like I thought I would, I'll never
know the touch of a beautiful woman, and I'll never again know the joy of
driving without a bag on my head. But I'm not a loser. 'Cause despite it all, me
and every other guy who'll never be what he wanted to be, are still out there,
being what we don't wanna be, forty hours a week, for life. And the fact that I
haven't put a gun in my mouth, you pudding of a woman, makes me a
Married With Children once again ventures into any territory for a laugh, poking fun at topics such as menstruation, fast food, and credit card fraud. Sony's presentation of this terrific series, however, is not quite so funny.
Facts of the Case
Season Three was the beginning of Married With Children's Golden Age. The plots get that "anything can happen" quality, and running gags become established that will last the series through its entire run. Al introduces the legendary Fergusen toilet, and starts talking about his glory days playing high school football. Peg (Katey Sagal, Futurama) starts perfecting the art of doing nothing. Bud (David Faustino, MacArthur Park) gets shiftier, and Kelly (Christina Applegate, View From the Top) gets dumber and hotter. (Sorry for being lewd, but we're talking about Married With Children. Could you expect any less?) Don't blink, or you'll miss guest appearances by Giovanni Ribisi and Pauly Shore.
There's something incredible about the third season of a TV show. Gone is the inconsistent experimentation of the first season, or the careful evolution of the second. By the third season, the cast and crew of the show have realized they must be doing something right, so their job is to just keep up the good work. By now, they've developed chemistry and rhythm. A show that can make it to a third season will likely go even longer.
Married With Children was a perfect example. Season Three features "Can't Dance, Don't Ask Me," wherein Kelly has to humiliate herself by taking tap class; meanwhile, Al is convinced that the neighborhood wives are signaling something by making socks disappear in the wash. Al's paranoia didn't end there; he was always spotting ways in which the rest of the world was bugging the average guy. Typically, he blamed wives, light beer, or the French, but anyone was a candidate as long as it was funny and the audience could find some nugget of truth in it.
The Bundy family also embarked on their share of schemes in order to pursue bigger and better things. In "I'm Goin' to Sweatland," the Bundy home becomes a media hotspot (and certainly not for the last time) when a sweat stain in Al's shirt bears a striking resemblance to Elvis, and Peg becomes convinced she saw the King in the shoe store. Peg quickly invents sizzling stories for the tabloids, while Bud and Kelly hawk cheap souvenirs.
Increasing the charm of the set, at least in hindsight, are a few choice 1980s anachronisms. With the Bundy family taking an unrestrained view of the world around them, they're bound to comment on a few things that date the material. We see the advent of personal computers, and the decline of Betamax. In the classic episode "Her Cups Runneth Over," Al ogles a woman's impressive rear end, and grins "Let's see the Japanese build a better one of those!" The crowd went wild; the 1980s were characterized by a singular paranoia that the Japanese would beat Americans at everything they'd ever been good at. With a booming economy and unquestioned technological superiority, it was certainly a reasonable fear at the time. A decade later, the Japanese and American economies had seen enough changes to quell such fears.
The Japanese weren't the only ones changing American traditions. In "Requiem for a Dead Barber," Al fights against the decline of the classic men's barbershop. First letting his hair grow, and then surrendering into getting his hair cut at a salon, it seems to be a lost cause. Not only are salons more expensive, the poufy hairstyles end up making Al and his buddies feel fruity. On behalf of all men in the audience, Al wonders why we can't leave well enough alone.
Season Three also contained numerous milestones for the show, not the least of which being "I'll See You in Court," the so-called Lost Episode. Deemed too controversial, it was removed from the schedule and not aired on US TV until long afterward. Al and Peg had spent the night in a motel, only to discover that their nookie had been recorded on videotape. Yeah, there are a few risqué comments, but I don't think it differs from the rest of the episodes all that much. On a similar note, "The Camping Show," went through similar scrutiny. When the Bundys and Rhoadeses take a trip to a fishing cabin, the vacation goes sour when the women begin cycling at the same time. Thankfully, this episode did air, but its title was changed from the original "A Period Piece."
Most notable of all, however, would be "Her Cups Runneth Over," which launched the show into a new height of popularity after Terry Rakolta saw it, got offended, and launched a campaign against the show. Married With Children was often criticized for succeeding because of lowered standards of decency and taste. Allegedly, it was a show that triumphed because of shock value, and its detractors felt that obscene jokes and cleavage might drain primetime television's collective IQ. I don't think there's any truth to that.
The show's perspective was that life was essentially one big uphill battle, and that happy, just endings weren't guaranteed after 30 minutes. The Bundys, then, made their own. That stuck a chord with the audience, and still strikes a chord today. That's why Married With Children is more than just shock value. When the audience applauds, they're cheering for Al, who isn't afraid to fight technological overkill and smash his computer. They're cheering for Peg, who's perfectly willing to tell the neighbors when they're being annoying. They're cheering for Kelly, who can use her sizzling dance routine to mock the public school system.
Enjoying Married With Children wasn't at all about reveling in mediocrity. It was about being able to bloom where you were planted, and having the strength to lampoon a world that gave you nothing but grief. That's why the Bundys can be role models: their lack of manners and etiquette give them opportunities denied to polite society. They make their own satisfaction, because that's all the satisfaction they'll ever get. In doing this, we can all live vicariously through these people, who we otherwise would want nothing to do with.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I can't fault Married With Children: Season Three for anything. What you see here is a good show getting better. Complaints could be made about the video quality, which is on the soft side, but that's to be expected for a late-'80s TV show. It was shot on video at a time when picture quality wasn't much of a concern. What you see is what you get.
No, the real problem here is the music. The classic "Love and Marriage" theme song, which served the show so well for all 11 seasons, is not present on this DVD set. Apparently, whoever holds the rights to the song wanted to re-negotiate their compensation for the third season set, and asked for an obscene amount of money. Sony, then, had three choices: agree to their price and increase the cost of the set by a very significant amount (and then face the same dilemma when Season Four is released), release the set with different music, or not release the set at all.
In my opinion, the change is just unacceptable. Imagine what Cheers would be like if it started off with a funky hip-hop beat. Do you think All in the Family would be the same if it switched themes with My Three Sons? Could anyone imagine what The Brady Bunch would be like if it opened with a Rick James cover of "Muskrat Love"? The theme song might not be part of the story itself, but it does set the show's tone. "Love and Marriage" was perfect, as Sinatra's blissful and simplistic lyrics contrasted so perfectly with the reality of the Bundy household. Frank sang about marriage being the most basic choice in a man's life, but Al's misery made that idea crash and burn. Irony makes for comedy, and I don't care how good of a substitution the new music may be, but it's simply not good enough.
What is the new music, you might ask? It's some generic tune that I suppose is "inspired by" the original "Love and Marriage." It's almost close enough to be an instrumental version of the song, but different enough to irritate you again just as you begin to tolerate it. The new music is close, but no cigar. As it stands, it just serves to remind you that some numbnuts had to change it in the first place.
All things considered, I'm not sure if I want these altered sets to sell well or not. If they don't sell, the jackals will have won, and studios will know they have to pay whatever it takes or not release anything at all. I fear that will reverse the current trend to release every TV show imaginable onto DVD. On the other hand, if the sets sell like hotcakes, studios will think it's perfectly fine to change a show whenever someone involved asks for an extra nickel in royalties. That extreme is just as scary. In this situation, we the fans lose either way.
Only one extra is offered: clips of the excellent reunion special hidden as Easter eggs. I'd have preferred being able to watch the special in one sitting, but I suppose it's nice that it's there at all.
I'm sitting here, grumbling and gnashing my teeth at the changed music, yet the box set sits on my shelf all the same, next to Seasons One and Two. I love the show too much to not get it, and I can't even participate in a boycott if I know the studio was pushed into making the changes. The bottom line is, I can't watch this show and not have a great time.
This court finds the Bundys and Rhoadeses not guilty. Sony Home Entertainment is found guilty of Corruption of a Theme Song, but will be placed on parole in light of having been coerced.
Whoever holds the rights to "Love and Marraige" is found guilty of exploitation, and is sentenced to be thrown, bodily, out of this judge's house—but not before hitting the door frame once or twice.
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