Married…With Children is Fox’s longest-lasting live-action sitcom. It centered on Al Bundy, a former high school football star turned shoe salesman, his boisterous wife Peggy, their promiscuous and airheaded daughter Kelly, and their girl-obsessed son Bud. Neighbors Steve and Marcy Rhoades also made frequent appearances. The show was controversial at times for its commentary on things of a sexual nature as well as its objectification of women. Yet these themes, particularly when they made headlines, made it even more popular among viewers.
While it was never a huge ratings success, Married… With Children did draw enough viewers to merit 11 seasons, which is quite respectable. Check out some fascinating behind-the-scenes facts about the series…
It Had A Very Amusing Working Title
Married With… Children was one of the first shows on the Fox Network and aired for 11 years from April 1987 to April 1997. It launched when one of the most popular sitcoms of the time was the family value-oriented Cosby Show. Creators wanted to make Married With… Children as different from the Cosby Show as possible and even considered calling it Not The Cosbys.
At first, ratings for the comedy were not very good. Then in 1989 a Michigan housewife criticized its content, which seemed to make it more popular among viewers. It eventually spurred other irreverent shows such as The Simpsons.
Sam Kinison & Roseanne Barr Were Asked To Play Al & Peggy
Series creators Michael G. Moye and Ron Leavitt based Al and Peggy on Sam Kinison and Roseanne Barr, both of whom turned down the roles when they were offered them. At the time, the two of them were both successful stand-up comedians with outrageous personalities. The combination of the two of them may have been a bit over the top (and probably extremely annoying).
Barr declined the role because she debuted her titular series on another network the following year. It was hugely successful and is set to be resurrected in spring 2018. Kinison died in a car crash in 1992 at the age of 38.
The Show Subtly Paid Tribute To National Lampoon’s Vacation
During the first four seasons of the show, producers sneaked something interesting in during the opening credits. As the theme song gets going, you’ll see an aerial shot of a highway in Chicago. Look closely, and you may recognize the car in the video. It’s the famous family truckster from the 1983 film National Lampoon’s Vacation.
The dysfunctional parents in the film were played by Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as the Griswolds. Their children were Rusty and Audrey. Interestingly, Christina Applegate, who played Kelly Bundy in Married… With Children, wound up starring in the 2015 reboot Vacation. She played Rusty’s wife.
Christina Applegate & David Faustino Were Not Producer’s First Choice To Play Kelly & Bud
According to The E! True Hollywood Story, actors Tina Caspary and Hunter Carson played Kelly and Bud Bundy in the pilot, but the producers decided they weren’t right for the roles and replaced them with teen actors Christina Applegate and David Faustino. Carson was the son of actress Karen Black. Faustino had starred in several made-for-TV movies and guest starred in numerous TV shows before he was cast as Bud.
Applegate later said of the show: “We were left alone to our own accord to do what we wanted to do, and I think that’s why we were able to get away with as much as we could.”
Ed O’Neil’s Mannerisms Landed Him The Role
Ed O’Neill had apparently done his research for the role of Al Bundy. While auditioning for the pilot, he impressed the show’s creators by truly embodying the patriarch’s attitude. O’Neill was asked to simply walk in the front door to the Bundy’s home, but the actor added a twist.
Before opening the door, O’Neill breathed in deeply and slumped down as though returning home was truly depressing. Producers watched him do this subtle action, and they were convinced he was perfect for the role because he seemed to truly understand the character and the vibe of the series.
Katey Sagal Thought The Series Was Misogynistic & Women Were Exploited
in 2017, Katey Sagal revealed that she thought Married… With Children was a “very misogynistic show” and didn’t support its themes. She explained during an interview with AOL: “It was when I really, clearly understood that my job as an actor was to interpret the material. It’s not necessarily my belief system.”
She continued, “My belief system has nothing to do with being an actor. You know, I was hired to play a part … The women were portrayed completely exploited on that show. That was part of Al Bundy’s thing — he liked hot women, and they showed them all the time.”
O’Neill Has A Black Belt In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Getting a black belt takes time, patience and determination, all qualities that Ed O’Neill has demonstrated. He has been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for over 20 years. In 2007, he received his black belt from one of the UFC/BJJ pioneers, Rorion Gracie. O’Neill demonstrated the qualities necessary to get such a prestigious honor.
He once said achieving his black belt was “the greatest achievement of my life, apart from my children.” It took him 15 years to get it. He says of his training: “You don’t have to be big, strong or the greatest athlete to do it. You can use certain principles to maximum effect.”
Sagal Got Pregnant Three Times During The Show’s Run & One Pregnancy Ended Tragically
During the show’s 11-year run, Katey Sagal got pregnant three times. The first time occurred in 1991 during the show’s sixth season. They worked her pregnancy into the storyline, but then creators were forced to write it out after she experienced a stillbirth seven months into her pregnancy.
Sagal got pregnant a second time in 1994 during the end of season eight and beginning of season nine. Her third pregnancy occurred in season 10 from 1995-96. Both times, producers decided to hide her pregnancies from viewers through clever camera tricks, and neither one was included in the storylines.
One Episode Was Banned For Questionable Content
Married… With Children was known for pushing the envelope and for its political incorrectness, yet even its creators would occasionally go too far. One episode from season three, “I’ll See You In Court,” was scheduled to air on Feb. 19, 1989. Yet the network didn’t air it, and it became known as the “lost episode.” While other countries wound up airing it, the United States refused to do so until 2002.
An edited version was finally released on FX. The episode featured the Bundys and the Rhoades having their sex romps recorded on a motel sex tape. Actually, that storyline is rather tame by today’s standards.
Jennifer Lyons Appeared in Three Episodes
Actress Jennifer Lyons appeared on Married… with Children for three episodes, playing beautiful and ditsy Ariel. In each episode, Bud Bundy tried to keep her attention, but he didn’t have a chance.
Since appearing on the show in 1996, Lyons has also played roles in several TV shows including Monk, Malcolm in the Middle, Desperate Housewives and Valley Peaks. She also played a cheerleader in Step by Step and numerous film roles.
O’Neill Didn’t Get Along With One Particular Cast Member
Ed O’Neill starred alongside lesbian actress and director Amanda Bearse (Marcy Rhoades) for 11 years. She was the only cast member he struggled to get along with. During an interview with the Television Academy’s archives, he noted that Bearse became more masculine over the years and changed as a person.
He and co-star David Faustino were the only cast members not invited to her wedding. She was afraid he would laugh at her and her wife coming down the aisle in tuxedos. O’Neill told her he thought it would be funny and acquiesced “she may not have been wrong in excluding me.”
No One Told The Cast That The Show Was Cancelled
In 1995, 15 million people turned into the show each week, but two years later viewership dropped to around 9 million. Fox moved the program from Sunday night to Saturday night, further dooming the sitcom, before finally moving it again to Mondays. Producers were unclear on whether the show would return for another season, so there was no closure for the series.
Even though the series at one time was a huge hit for the network, no one from the cast was informed of its cancellation. Ed O’Neill overheard the news while on vacation when a couple next to him was discussing it.
O’Neill Was One Of The Highest Paid Actors On Television
At the time of its cancellation, Ed O’Neill was making more than $500,000 an episode, making the actor one of the highest-paid stars on TV. Salaries for his co-stars Katey Sagal, Christina Applegate and David Faustino had also gotten quite high, making the series quite expensive for FOX to keep producing it. These factors in conjunction with declining ratings led the network to cancel the series.
There was some talk between Fox and Columbia TriStar Television to create a spinoff of the series, none of which were successful. These days, stars such as Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) make upwards of $1 million per episode.
Kelly’s Boyfriend, Played By Matt LeBlanc, Starred In Two Failed Spinoffs
Producers had a tough time letting the show go and pitched the “Radio Free Trumaine” and “Enemies” episodes as potential spinoffs. The network rejected both of them. However, Fox agreed to do something with Kelly’s one-time boyfriend, Vinnie Verducci, who was played by Matt LeBlanc.
He appeared in two spinoffs: Top of the Heap and Vinnie & Bobby, neither of which aired more than seven episodes in the early ’90s. It’s probably just as well. LeBlanc secured the role of Joey Tribbiani in the highly successful comedy Friends just a couple of years later and earned several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.
Peggy’s Maiden Name Means Something Scandalous To The Brits
The show was remade in a few international markets, but it wasn’t always successful. What Americans find funny isn’t always amusing to other cultures. A U.K. version starred Russ Abbott and was titled Married For Life in 1996. Critics hated it, and the show had terrible ratings. It was canceled after just a few episodes.
It probably would have been dumped earlier had they known about Peggy Bundy’s maiden name — Wanker — which was barely mentioned during the show’s 11-year run. While it means stupid in the United States, in the United Kingdom it’s a swear word and the slang for someone who pleasures himself.
The Bundys Were Named After A Wrestler, Not A Serial Killer
It’s been rumored for years that the Bundys were named after infamous serial killer, kidnapper, rapist, and necrophile Ted Bundy. But in fact, the family was named after a wrestler named King Kong Bundy (real name Christopher Alan Pallies), who was also a stand-up comedian and actor.
In 1986, Bundy wrestled Hulk Hogan, and at his peak weighed around 440 pounds. He was a fan of Married… With Children and repaid the creators by appearing on the series two times. Once he played himself, and the second time he served as Peggy’s Uncle Irwin. He continued to wrestle through the mid-’00s.
One Canine Played Buck The Dog For 10 Seasons
Buck the Dog (real name Michael or Mike) was a wisecracking pet who delivered sarcastic commentary about the family’s activities. He was on the show from season 1 until 10 when producers retired him due to old age. He passed away shortly afterward in 1996 at the age of 13, something that was predicted during the season 5, episode 19 “Kids! Wadaya Gonna Do?”
The dog who played Buck had grown old and was having a difficult time understanding his trainer’s directions. He was voiced by three different people: comedian Cheech Marin, writer/producer Kevin Curran, and producer Kim Weiskopf.
The Stars’ Family & Girlfriends Made Guest Star Appearances
If you really want to make your friends and family happy, invite them to star on your hit TV show. During the course of Married… With Children, the actors invited their friends and families to make guest appearances. Ed O’Neill’s wife, Catherine Rusoff, showed up in two episodes.
David Faustino’s brother, Michael Faustino, also made a couple of appearances. Christina Applegate’s mother, Nancy Priddy, appeared in an episode, and Katey Sagal’s brother, Joey Sagal, also showed up a couple of times. David Faustino’s then-girlfriends Elaine Hendrix and Juliet Tablak were also able to get some small-screen time on the series.
Michael Richards Auditioned To Play Al Bundy
During casting for the 1986 series, Michael Richards was one of many who auditioned to play Al Bundy. Don’t feel bad for the star. He later went on to play Kramer on the immensely popular Seinfeld. According to casting director Marc Hirschfeld: “He wasn’t right for Al Bundy, but a couple of years later when I was doing the original casting for ‘Seinfeld,’ I thought about Michael for that and that’s when he got the role of Kramer.”
Richards went on to win three Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his role on Seinfeld.
O’Neill’s Walk Of Fame Star Was Strategically Placed In Front Of A Shoe Store
The name of the shoe store where Al Bundy worked was called “Garry’s Shoes and Accessories for Today’s Woman”. Al was annoyed when he discovered that “Garry” was actually a woman. His work as a lowly shoe salesman was often mentioned on the series. So, it was fitting that when Ed O’Neill received a huge honor, it was in front of a store that hearkened back to his days on Married… With Children.
O’Neill, who is also known for his award-winning work on the sitcom Modern Family, was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011. His star was strategically placed in front of a shoe store.
O’Neill Had A Grand Vision For The Show’s Finale
When O’Neill finally learned that the series was being canceled, he put in some thought about how he felt it should end. He came up with a grand idea that he pitched to producers. He believed the family should win the lottery and then subsequently be hit by a tornado while they’re celebrating.
Needless to say, the final episode did not end up with this storyline. Instead, it focused on Al and Griff trying to acquire a massage chair. Interestingly, the 200th episode of Roseanne showed the Connors winning the lottery. So, perhaps O’Neill’s idea wasn’t very original?
David Faustino Got Into Animation
Since playing Bud Bundy, David Faustino has shown up in a series of guest spots on “Modern Family,” “The X-Files” and “The Bernie Mac Show.” He has experienced considerable success in voice-overs for animations for networks such as Nickelodeon.
In 2007, he was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession and also divorced his wife.
Al Bundy Resembles Some Of O’Neill’s Friends And Family
O’Neill worked hard to craft the character of Al Bundy, using his uncles and an old high school friend as inspiration. While his family and friends would have appreciated the similarities, they didn’t get the opportunity to see his performance as their hometown didn’t receive the Fox network when it first began to air.
Perhaps they caught his performances in re-runs or on DVD.
David Garrison Left Mid-Show
Remember the next door neighbor, Steve Rhoades, who was played by David Garrison? While he left the show prematurely to return to working in theater, he has appeared in an array of guest spots on TV.
You may have seen him on “The West Wing,” ‘The Good Wife,” “Law & Order” or “30 Rock.” It was quite a shocker when he decided to no longer keep his role.
Ted McGinley Appeared On Dancing With The Stars
While Ted McGinley gained popularity in his roles on “Happy Days” and “The Love Boat,” he was loved by many as Jefferson D’Arcy on “Married With Children.”
Following the show, McGinley had spots on “Hope & Faith” and the “Mentalist” and even joined the cast of Season 7 of “Dancing with the Stars” — where he was the second person eliminated from the show.
A Very Small Budget Was Set For The Show
The budget for “Married With Children” was so small in the beginning that several of the items used on the show were brought from the cast and crew member’s own home. All the way through to Season 3, Peggy’s hair is really Sagal’s hair. It wasn’t until later that they allowed her to buy a wig.
Read on to learn which episode didn’t air for 13 years.
One Episode Didn’t Air Until 13 Years Later
An episode of “Married With Children” that was scheduled to air in 1989 was found to be too controversial for audiences at the time and wasn’t shown until 13 years later in 2002. When the episode, “I’ll See You In Court” finally aired, it was on the FX channel in an edited format. You know that was a controversial episode if it was even too shocking for the “Married With Children” crowd.
The Theme Sound Was Originally Sung By Sinatra
The show’s theme song “Love and Marriage” was originally recorded for the TV production of “Our Town” and sung by Frank Sinatra. The version that aired for “Married With Children” can be found on the Sinatra’s album “This Is Sinatra!” which was recorded in 1956.
That’s quite the classy singer for a less-than-classy TV series.
McGinley’s Character D’Arcy Was Toughened Up
Jefferson D’Arcy, played by McGinley, was turned into a secret agent after much complaining by the actor. He thought the character of Jefferson acted like a wuss and needed to be toughened up a bit.
The role of a secret agent for D’Arcy may have been just what the show needed, as it made for an interesting storyline.
A Russian Version Remade Every Episode
The show was so popular that it was remade for a Russian audience. The Russian version translates loosely to “Happy Together.” Rather than simply dub the original version of the Fox TV hit, producers in Russian found a new cast and re-filmed the entire series — completely in Russian.
As the promo shot above shows, they look nothing like the original cast we all came to love or hate in America.
Where Is Juliet Tablak Now?
Juliet Tablak played Amber, Marcy’s niece, during season 9 of “Married With Children.” Amber was sent to live with Marcy to get her out of the dangerous L.A. neighborhood she’d been living in.
Her character disappeared without mention after the ninth season. Juliet Tablak eventually retired from acting and is now a Pilates instructor.
Type Casting is Real
Many actors from other shows have been typecast because fans just cannot see them outside of the role that they grew to love them in. For instance, everyone sees Hilary Banks as the snobby rich daughter from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air no matter what.
O’Neill was Al Bundy everywhere he went. A test audience for Flight of the Intruder busted into laughter whenever he came on the screen.
Bitter Beef Between Neighbors
They were enemies on the show, yes but that was also true for real life too. Ed O’Neill and Amanda Bearse did not get along. Maybe it was easier to play enemies on the show because it didn’t take much acting to do so. There is one plus from the relationship.
Will The Real David Faustino Please Stand Up
Remember Grandmaster B? That was David Faustino’s rap alter ego on the show but it was not from nothing.
Faustino was actually a rapper in real life and producers knew that so they gave him the chance to show his skills on-screen. His rap name was D’Lil.
He Wanted Attention
David Faustino wanted acknowledgment, to say the least. During the start of the show when he was younger, he pulled a stunt to try and get people’s attention.
He went to the mall with the Married… with Children logo on his shirt in hopes that he would get noticed. Sadly, no one knew who he was.
It Was Fox’s First Primetime Show
Married… with Children was the first program that Fox put in its primetime slot when it premiered in 1986. MWC was one of only a few shows to air during the 8 p.m. slot and then again at 9 p.m.
The offensive comedy ran on Sunday nights from 1986 to 1996, then switched around between Saturday, Sunday, and Mondays in 1996 and 1997.
Peg Bundy On Futurama?
One of Katey Segal’s most beloved post-Married… with Children roles was voicing the character of Turanga Leela in the Fox animated series Futurama. Leela is the one-eyed mutant captain of a delivery ship.
Segal was the only cast member who was responsible for voicing just one character. The other actors had multiple roles. Futurama ran from 1999–2003 and again from 2007–2013.
Katey Segal Wasn’t The Only MWC Star To Do Voicework
Katey Segal wasn’t the only cast member from Married… with Children to go on and do voice work. Ed O’Neill co-starred alongside Ellen DeGeneres in the hit Disney-Pixar animated film Finding Dory. O’Neill played Hank, a gruff seven-armed octopus.
Director Andrew Stanton said of casting O’Neill in the part: “We never thought of anyone else. I think we’re a product of the TV we were watching at the time, and he’s kind of the Archie Bunker of the day, you know?”
A Career That Won’t Quit
Ed O’Neill keeps himself very busy with work. Apart from his television shows, cameos, and animated films, he’s also starred in live-action movies. The most recent is 2017’s comedy-drama Sun Dogs.
In it, he plays the stepfather of a mentally ill young man who wants to enlist in the Marines. The film received positive reviews and snagged the Best Narrative Feature award at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival in 2017.