On October 9th 1986 the network television landscape did something that hadn’t been done successfully in its 40 year history. A fourth network broke on the airwaves. It was called FOX and wasn’t even going to broadcast 7 days a week. Most pundits in the television industry never gave it a chance. Most of the channels were in the double digit UHF range. This had long been considered the independent station area, and a lot of televisions didn’t pick up this band as well as the established VHF band. And for a while it looked like the network was going to disappear almost as quickly as it appeared. But by 1987 the network suddenly had two big hits on its hands. The first was a silly cartoon, originally aired as a throwaway segment on a variety show. The cartoon featured the most unlikely of television families, The Simpsons. That show is still with us nearly 25 years later. The second hit was a live action series, also based on a very unlikely and this time seemingly unlovable family, the Bundys. Right from the start there was criticism that the name itself was a death knell. At the time America was still dealing with the pending execution of a far more infamous Bundy. Married With Children, however, would become an almost instant break-out hit.
Al Bundy (O’Neill) was a working stiff. He had seen his high school glory years evaporate into the rearview mirror of his ancient Dodge when he married his childhood sweatheart (no, I did not misspell), Peggy (Segal). The red-headed woman would soon become his curse. She was lazy. Peggy wouldn’t know what a stove looked like if it fell on her. She was content to sit around all day while Al worked for minimum wage at a mall shoe store. Tying Al to his meager existence were two children. Bud (Faustino) was a frustrated teen who couldn’t seem to find his cool. Girls scorned him, and he appeared to be headed to the life of his father. Daughter Kelly (Applegate) was a teen slut. She slept around and used her looks to make her way in life, which was likely good, because she was dumber than rocks. Al was also plagued by neighbor Marcy (Bearse) who was a feminist and usually a thorn in Al’s behind. Her second husband, Jefferson (McGinley) was often Al’s accomplice in trouble. Most of the material involved Al’s suffering and the apathy of his family to his lowly station in life.
This was a show that rarely changed. Sure, a couple of characters came and went, most notably Marcy’s first husband, Steve (Garrison). Peg was the foil, and we would love to see Al get just inches from something he wanted badly, because we wanted to see just how it was going to be removed from his grasp. It was predictable. Al was destined to fail in everything that he did. Never before was misery so much fun. Perhaps Al’s life put ours in some kind of twisted perspective. Compared with his existence, ours might not be so bad after all. Whatever the reason, America loved to watch the suffering. The role was played perfectly by Ed O’Neill, who would find it hard to find the more serious roles he sought when Married ended. Since that time I’ve been very impressed with the range he’s shown, but he’ll always be Al Bundy to me, and most of the television watching universe.
The season is filled with funny moments. There is also a moment of change. Buck the dog finally dies in Requiem For A Dead Briard. Al decides to turn his club NOMA’AM
into a church to avoid paying taxes in Reverend Al. In The Two That Got Away, Al and Jefferson accidentally take a nude picture of the actress who took away their fishing lodge. Will it be a dream come true or a nightmare? If you guessed nightmare, you’re a fan. Polk High is about to get a new state of the art scoreboard for their football field in Dud Bowl II. The school wants to dedicate it to Al, but Marcy might have the last word, since it’s her bank donating the money. The gang embark on a holiday in the two part Spring Break episode. Can Florida handle the Bundys?
Obviously we’re talking full frame format here. This looks pretty good. Colors are actually pretty bright, and the series exhibits clean prints. It is definitely comparable to the broadcasts. There is some compression artifact, but you’d better just expect that when they cram so many episodes into a disc.
You get a very basic Dolby Digital 2.0 track here. Dialog’s fine, so there’s really nothing to complain about.
There are no features, but I should point out something most of you probably know by now. But since this is my first review of this series, I want to point it out. The show does not feature its original music. The Frank Sinatra rendition of Love And Marriage is missing. Instead, we are given a carnival sounding clone of the song with no lyrics. It’s pretty bad, so just skip through it and hold your nose. I understand that music rights issues have been a problem for DVD releases. I don’t know how much it would have cost to retain the original theme, but this was a hot enough show. I think sales would have been worth it.
You won’t have any trouble joining this show at any point in its run. After just a couple of minutes with any episode, you know the score. Now all you have to do is sit back and watch it happen. Watching a season of Married With Children is like “scoring four touchdowns in one game”.