15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Married... With Children’
With the working title of Not the Cosby’s, the 1980s sitcom Married… with Children was the show that flipped the bird at wholesome American families by being rude, obnoxious and, according to some folks, too horny for TV. It was the show that gave us the ‘80s version of Archie Bunker, Al Bundy, and his equally terrible white nuclear family. It features many, many scenes which, today, just aren’t that funny (at least for some), but there are still many who revere the show for making them laugh at the ridiculous Bundy family.
So smack some Tang on a sandwich, get ready to hear the show’s theme song for the rest of your day and read on about the often controversial tales surrounding the making of Married… with Children.
Roseanne Barr as Peggy?
Yeah, that’s how the show was originally pitched, because co-creators Michael Moye and Ron Leavitt (both who wrote for The Jeffersons) created the concept of their sitcom with Barr and Sam Kinison as their married couple. Both stars, however, declined. Seinfeld’s Michael Richards was also considered for the role of Al Bundy. “He wasn’t right for Al Bundy,” casting director Marc Hirschfeld said in an episode of The E! True Hollywood Story, “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.”
Married… to Each Other
Coincidentally, Kinison would briefly date Jessica Hahn after the model appeared in his “Wild Thing” music video. Hahn, after the Jim Bakker scandal, would go on to pose for Playboy, make an appearance in Married… with Children and marry the show’s co-creator, Leavitt.
Al Bundy Ruined a Movie
Ed O’Neill had to be recast after test audiences couldn’t stop laughing at his Navy captain character whenever he appeared on screen in the 1991 war drama, Flight of the Intruder. “My scene comes an hour or so into the picture,” O’Neill told the L.A. Times. “There’s no introduction to my character — I come from out of nowhere. Suddenly there I am, in a uniform, walking around this table at a court martial. I think that, to audiences who aren’t expecting me, it’s as if Al Bundy suddenly appeared. It’s like Al Bundy Joins the Army.”
“I don’t feel good about what happened,” O’Neill stated. “As an actor, it’s kind of frightening. It shows what TV can do to you. At the same time, I can’t complain about what the series has given me. It’s a double-edged sword. What I don’t want is for these producers in town to think they can’t use me in serious films — especially since all I did before this (Married… with Children) was serious,” said the actor who was cast as Al Bundy after impressing the casting director who saw him in the Hartford Stage production of Of Mice and Men.
The Mom Who Wanted to Take Down the Series
Terry Rakolta, a Michigan Mormon and known anti-obscenity activist, led a successful boycott against the show in 1989. This after her kids watched the episode, “Her Cups Runneth Over,” where Al buys Peggy a bra.
Scarred by the display of abs and cleavage, she wrote a presumably scathing letter to the show’s sponsors who, at first, did pull their ads from the show. Fox responded by moving the show’s time slot from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and toning down the general horniness of the series. Their sponsors eventually returned, and the show ended up referencing Rakolta in Season Nine, blaming the cancellation of a series based on the Bundys’ lives on “some woman in Michigan who didn’t like it.”
Laughing at Misogyny
Bundy treated women like objects but, as the show loved to constantly point out, “Men, LOL.” And, while the series allowed Peggy to vent about her sexless marriage instead of having the man do it, they reduced Peggy’s daughter, Kelly, to a “dumb blonde” stereotype. Actress and director Amanda Bearse, who played Mary D’Arcy, has since called it a “mean-spirited and misogynist show,” adding that Married… with Children “was just so completely inappropriate. Today I don’t think the show would be produced because it’s so globally offensive. Even then it wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea but for some reason it’s had this amazing longevity.”
“It was a very misogynistic show,” Katey Sagal also stated in 2017. “Women were completely exploited."
On Playing the Show’s Feminist Character
“I loved Marcy, she was near and dear to me, she became more complicated and then less complicated as all the characters did as time went on,” Bearse continued. “It became full-on ludicrous. But I have great affection for her, and I really appreciate a lot of the writing that went her way. Hers was a different voice than any of the others on the show.”
The Illicit Sex Tape Episode
It took more than a decade for Fox to uncensor and air the Season Three episode, “I’ll See You in Court,” that saw Al and Peggy learn that their night of hot sex at some motel was recorded by the motel owner.
Different Kid Actors
Before David Faustino and Christina Applegate would get cast as Bud Bundy and his sister, Kelly Bundy, the two of them were portrayed by Hunter Carson and Tina Caspary in the show’s unaired pilot. Also, instead of a smart-alec type, Bud came off more reminiscent of another famous Bundy.
Sagal Didn’t Think the Show Would Make It
“I remember reading the script and thinking, ‘This is hysterically funny, but no one will watch it because it’s just too outside the box. We’ll get canceled immediately,’” she told ABC News 30 years after the fact. Plus, “it was on a network (Fox) nobody had heard of,” she added.
The Origins of the Bundys
The creators named their dysfunctional family after King Kong Bundy, a famous wrestler and actor at the time. King Kong Bundy even featured in the episode where Bud “Bumblebee” Bundy ends up wrestling him.
As for the Rhoades family, they were also named after a famous wrestler: Dusty Rhodes.
Applegate on Kelly
Applegate was 15 when the show premiered, and she told Vanity Fair that “looking back on it in hindsight, it’s pretty gross,” referring to the way people sexualized her. “Men had posters of this little 17-year-old, with me holding pearls. Like, who let me do that? I didn’t even know what the connotation was.”
Applegate also lamented the fact that, following Kelly Bundy, everyone was sending her offers to play the exact same part. “I never took one of them,” she said. “I would audition for stuff, and people would be like, ‘Oh my god, she gave the best audition of anyone, but it’s Christina, and we can’t have that name associated with this masterpiece.’ That happened more times than you can even imagine.”
The Beef Between O’Neill and Bearse
During an interview with The Archive of American Television, O’Neill said that he didn’t get along with Bearse and continued to say the kind of sexist things about Bearse that you’d expect from his character. “We didn’t get along that well; we argued about certain things,” he began. “She changed a bit. I have to say that when she started out, she was gay — she was gay a long time. She was more or less the female in the couple. She was very, very feminine and cute. And then as the show — 11 years it went — as it progressed, the change took place where she then was the more masculine of the two. She had several relationships over that time, and that became kind of interesting because then as she became more masculine, she became a little more snarky. She could grow a tooth, as we used to say.”
O’Neill then told a story about laughing at the idea of Bearse and her partner getting married wearing tuxedos, before saying, “Another time we got in a big fight over something stupid in the makeup room. And she said something about you’re a bully or something, and I said, ‘Well, you’re miserable.’ It was just bad. In front of everybody, by the way. And then I said, ‘You’re not very bright, is your problem.’ And she was bright, but in a way she wasn’t because I said look — she said, ‘I’m not bright?’ And I could just see her gearing up, like, ‘I’m smarter than you.’ And I said, ‘No, because I’ll tell you why. I have a button I could push. That button says, ‘Get rid of Amanda Bearse.’ You don’t have a button that says get rid of it Ed O’Neill. Your button doesn’t work. Mine works.’ Now, this was a mean thing to say — I never was going to push that button — but it was true. I could go to them and say, ‘I can’t work with her. I go or she does.’”
Bearse, in turn, has affirmed that there was “no love lost there” but said that she follows “the Thumper rule: If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I will share, he was not happy toward the end of the series, so that affected everything. And that’s, really, why the show didn’t go off the air with a big finale. The company wasn’t really quite sure if we were going to come back for a Season 12.”
Al Bundy’s Hollywood Star
Sure, the Walk of Fame star belongs to O’Neill, but it’s situated in front of a shoe store in honor of his most famous character, a shoe salesman.
How O’Neill Wanted the Show to End
“Peg and Al are retired and living in Vegas; they won the lottery,” he said, explaining that they wanted to do that for the series and then let it spill over into a possible spin-off Faustino had about following the life of adult Bud. According to O’Neill, however, the project was canned because Leavitt passed away, and his son wouldn’t sign off on the spin-off.
There Was a Spin-Off
Married… with Children did enjoy a brief spin-off in the form of the 1991 series, Top of the Heap, that featured Friends star Matt LeBlanc as Vinny, Kelly’s boyfriend in its parent show.