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Case Number 07894

Buy Married With Children: The Complete Fourth Season at Amazon

Married With Children: The Complete Fourth Season

Sony // 1989 // 511 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Aaron Bossig (Retired) // October 26th, 2005

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All Rise...

The new theme song added to the set has made Judge Aaron Bossig very upset. Somehow, he plans to blame it on the French.

Editor's Note

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 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.

The Charge

"Remember the Bundy credo: A Bundy never wins, but a Bundy never quits."

"No, Daddy, it's 'A Bundy never eats.'"

"No, no, no, it's 'A Bundy never learns.'"

"Wait, isn't it 'A Bundy never dies?'"

"Uh, 'A Bundy never cares?'"

-- Al, Bud, and Kelly in Episode 423, "Yard Sale"

Opening Statement

In my review of the previous season of Married With Children, I complained about Sony replacing the opening theme song. At the time, I was willing to look the other way, in the hope that someone at Sony would be trying hard to correct the issue before Season Four was released on DVD. Here I have Season Four in my hand, and still don't hear any Frank Sinatra.

Facts of the Case

When Season Four arrived, Married With Children was officially rocking and rolling. It had a large, loyal weekly audience that was steadily growing. Despite critics condemning the risqué humor of the show, Married With Children was a success with the American public. Then, in the midst of so much success, change reared its ugly (yet comical) head. The series reached a turning point when David Garrison announced that he'd be leaving the role of Steve Rhodes to pursue other projects. The change in cast left Marcy (Amanda Bearse, Give or Take an Inch) without a husband, and dealt Married With Children a change that ruined many other shows.

The Evidence

The challenge of Season Four was to do everything done in the first three seasons, only better. The first real challenge would come from within: how can we remove Steve from the cast without alienating viewers or disrupting the delicate chemistry between the actors? Looking back, Steve had been slowly and carefully detached from the show for months prior. Recalling that Steve and Marcy were introduced in the pilot episode as the perfect lovey-dovey couple, the events of the past three years had soured their marriage, and by Season Four, you could almost hear the clock counting down to Steve's departure.

• Episode 401, "Hot Off the Grill"—Steve is in a foul mood over Marcy's obsessive mourning of her late aunt.
• Episode 403, "Tooth or Consequences"—Steve joins in on Al's "Marcy is a Chicken" jokes.
• Episode 404, "He Ain't Much, But He's Mine"—Steve makes his own wisecracks about Marcy's appearance.
• Episode 406, "Fair Exchange"—Steve knows way too much about having an affair. He's apparently given quite a bit of thought to this.
• Episode 407, "Desperately Seeking Miss October"—Steve needs a Playboy to have sex. During their first year of marriage, Marcy made Steve give up porn.
• Episode 408, "976-SHOE"—Marcy gets catty with Steve about their sex life.
• Episode 410, "At the Zoo"—Steve shows a lot of interest in nature, zoos, and animals. Marcy confides in Al, saying that she's been keeping secrets.
• Episode 412, "It's a Bundyful Life, Part I"—Steve is spending Christmas with his mother. He rushes off without kissing his wife goodbye.
• Episode 415, "A Taxing Problem"—Steve quits his job and says he wants to "be the outdoorsman I was born to be."

By the fourth year, Steve and Marcy had been so exposed to enough of the Bundys' marriage, the two had almost become mirrors of Al and Peg. Steve was so unhappy with his home life he was finding any excuse to stay out of the house. Marcy had become so disgusted with Steve that she'd become bitter toward all men. Of course, a lot of that was due to Peg's "helpful hints." Who knows? If it weren't for the Bundys, Steve and Marcy could have lived a long and happy life together. Whatever the case, ending Steve and Marcy's marriage was a natural step for the writers to take, given how much they'd changed. David Garrison's career ambitions were simply a catalyst for the change. That's a huge part of why Married With Children didn't decline after Steve left: his leaving just gave them an opportunity to make the characters more miserable, which of course gave them more opportunities for humor later on.

The humor of the show got a bit broader during this season. For the first time, a running gag will be established out of seeing Al scream and fall off the roof. Everyone can see that it's not even a stuntman, just a dummy dressed like Al, but the limp "splat" it has on impact makes for a great visual joke. We'll also see him get electrocuted, and other slightly cartoonish exaggerated gags. Some have said these types of jokes made the show decline. I say it just gave me more to laugh at. Married With Children was trying to demonstrate that it had a lot of tricks up its sleeve. I'm sure having Al get into a wrestling ring was the height of absurdity in 1990, but it was nothing compared to what was to come. Married with Children was preparing to get even better, even if it had to leave a cast member behind.

As far as the picture and sound quality go, the DVD set presents the show as it originally aired: soft and unimpressive. It's standard for what you'd see in the late 1980s. This is a DVD set you watch for the laughs rather than the stunning visuals (Kelly notwithstanding).

The Rebuttal Witnesses

While the quality of the show steadily improved across these first four seasons, the quality of the DVD sets seems to be dropping at an alarming rate. We've gone from fairly minor extras to no extras at all. Likewise, the theme song has again been changed from the classic "Love and Marriage" to the hokey instrumental theme. Whereas Season Three noted this idiocy in big letters on the DVD box, the set for Season Four makes absolutely no effort to acknowledge or excuse it.

While I would greatly enjoy some extras to go with one of my favorite shows, I can live without them. Extras are, by definition, something that isn't necessary for the set. Changing the theme song, however, is just cheating us customers. It doesn't give us the show we remember, nor does it make that show better. All this change does is give someone a nice bonus from having saved Sony a lot of money. I'm sickened by the idea that this is considered to be an acceptable practice.

Closing Statement

I love this show as much as ever, but the altered theme song offends me as both a critic and a consumer. It's been half a year since the last season of Married With Children was released on DVD, and I find it hard to believe that the Sinatra estate and Sony Home Entertainment could not reach a reasonable compromise. Instead, I'm led to believe Sony simply isn't interested in committing the money or resources into keeping this series intact. It's cheaper for them to release the series this way, and that's all they really care about.

I'm not going to advise you to buy this anyway, in spite of the damage, but I'm not going to ask you to boycott it. What I will do is ask fans and potential buyers of Married With Children DVDs to voice their opinions on this set. Let Sony know how many people have purchased Seasons Three and Four and are unhappy with them. Try to convey how many people have been discouraged from buying them in the first place. It's clear now that the only way this corner-cutting will stop is if studios know that we fans do notice it, and it does affect our buying decisions.

The Verdict

Sony is found guilty of multiple counts of TV series neglect, and the court does not take kindly to the arrogant attitude they are taking toward the whole project. As a judge, I'm forced to hand down the strictest sentence allowed by law. Sony must be subjected to something that pushes the limits of our "cruel and unusual" restrictions. It is with a heavy heart that I decree Sony's punishment: sex with the wife.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 76
Audio: 77
Extras: 0
Acting: 89
Story: 92
Judgment: 89

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 511 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None

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