Married With Children was an American sitcom that aired in the ’80s and ’90s. It ran for 11 seasons and turned little-known actors Ed O’Neill and Christina Applegate into bona fide stars.
The show has remained iconic since its debut–as sort of an anti-Brady Bunch. It was a trailblazer in breaking the mold of TV sitcoms from wholesome families to more realistic depictions of families. It has enjoyed lots of success in syndication and has had numerous spinoffs and attempted spinoffs. While Married…With Children was never a ratings darling, it did help Fox solidify itself as a network that could compete with the big three (ABC, CBS, and NBC). It originally aired on Sunday at 8:00pm and later moved into the 8:30pm and then the 9:00pm timeslot. During its last season, the network moved it several times on both Sunday and Monday.
The show took place in Chicago and followed the lives of the Bundy family, led by lazy patriarch Al Bundy, ditzy matriarch Peg Bundy, sassy teen daughter Kelly Bundy, and jokester son Bud Bundy. The wacky neighbors (Marcy and Steve Rhoades and later Jefferson D’Arcy) and Al’s shoe store buddies round out the core cast. The Bundys have since become one of the most iconic TV families, and Al Bundy references can still be found throughout pop culture.
Though not an instant hit and never a big ratings machine, the show did remarkably well for its content and being on a new network. Fans adored the show, but it also faced criticism, often from conservative groups. The Parents Television Council called Married…With Children the worst show of both 1995 and 1996. Despite the controversy, Married…With Children ended up being one of the longest-lasting TV sitcoms in history.
Even the show’s most avid fans may not know these 25 fun facts about the show.
1. The show’s theme song, “Love and Marriage,” was sung by Frank Sinatra. It was written by composers Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. Interestingly, Sinatra originally recorded it to be used for another TV program (Our Town), but it ended up getting used for Married…With Children instead. Sinatra’s famous vocals and style made this one of TV’s greatest theme songs of all time.
2. The TV series inspired several books, including a cookbook that was supposedly full of Peg Bundy’s recipes and a comic book series created by NOW Comics. There was also a line of Barbie-style dolls of the family of four Bundys that sold during the show’s run. Such items have become collectors’ dreams and are worth substantially more since they are not longer being made.
3. The show boasted spin-offs in at least nine countries, including Armenia, Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Most of these spinoffs did not do very well and did not last long. In Israel, they aired the originally American series to great acclaim. Audiences in Israel loved the show, and it continued to run in reruns for years after its original airing.
4. Ed O’Neill, who starred in Married…With Children as Al Bundy, continued his very successful acting after the show ended. He currently stars in Modern Family, a wildly popular ABC sitcom. He’s also voiced characters in several hit children’s animated movies, including Finding Dory and Ralph Breaks the Internet. Prior to taking on the role of Al Bundy, he was a successful theatre actor. He also studied martial arts and earned his black belt in jiu-jitsu, which is contrary to what you’d expect from his lazy Al Bundy character.
5. Christina Applegate, who charmed audiences as Al Bundy’s daughter Kelly, also found continued stardom after the show. She originated one of the original “dumb blonde” characters on Married…With Children and went on to play several other dumb blonde types in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Mars Attack. She also played romantic leads in films like The Sweetest Thing, played villains in movies like Bad Moms, and even took a few spins on Broadway, starring in Sweet Charity.
6. Interestingly, though Christina Applegate made the role of Kelly Bundy iconic, Kelly was played by another actress in the pilot before quickly getting recast. The role of Bud Bundy was also recast after the pilot. The original pilot didn’t air. The producers re-filmed the pilot with Applegate and David Faustino before airing the episode.
7. Ed O’Neill earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011, in large part due to his success on Married…With Children. As a nod to his character’s profession as a shoe salesman, O’Neill’s star was placed right in front of the shoe store DSW.
8. Lots of other famous actors were considered to play Al and Peggy Bundy. They included Sam Kinison (who later guest starred on the show), Michael Richards (who later starred as Kramer in Seinfeld), and Roseanne Barr (who famously had her own eponymous show). It’s amazing to ponder how different the show would have felt with any of these–or any other–actors being the Bundys.
9. Katey Sagal, who played lovable Peggy Bundy, got pregnant in real life three times during the filming of the show. Once, her baby was stillborn, and twice she had live, healthy births. The producers had to figure out creative ways to hide her burgeoning belly for each pregnancy.
10. While Christina Applegate normally wore her hair blonde, there was one season where she died it brown in real life for another movie role. She had to wear a blonde wig for several episodes of that season of Married…With Children. Since the show, she has remained blonde for almost all of her other movie and TV roles.
11. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the show throughout its run, and particularly in the beginning as it pushed the boundaries of what the public found acceptable on TV. There was one episode in particular that Fox chose not to run due to its racy content. Several advertisers said they would pulls their ads if the episode ran. In fact, Mitt Romney’s family was particularly angry and led the protest to ban the episode. As societal preferences shifted, Fox chose to air the episode in 2002, which was a few years after the original series was off the air.
12. Bud Bundy’s first name was actually Budrick. Producers released Bud’s full first name to the media, despite it never being spoken on the show. In fact, his full name was said to be Budrick Franklin Bundy.
13. The character of Al Bundy famously loved to be a couch potato. He’d sit in his signature position on the couch watching TV in many episodes. One little-known fact is Al’s favorite TV show was Psycho Dad. They only mentioned it in a few episodes, but the audience can assume that that’s generally the show he’s watching while on the couch. Some die-hard fans now wear TV shirts that say “Bring Back Psycho Dad” as a nod to Bundy’s favorite show. Also, Al Bundy was the only character to appear in all 258 episodes of the show.
14. Bud Bundy was supposed to get a spinoff in 2014. Despite the facts that the shows other stars, including Christina Applegate and Ed O’Neill, had signed on to make cameo appearances, the show never really got off the ground. The actor who played Bud, David Faustino, has had arguably the least amount of success following the completion of Married…With Children.
15. Married…With Children was irreverent and broke the mold of the classic, wholesome TV family. In fact, the show was proud of that distinction and originally planned to title their show “Not the Cosbys.” Ultimately, the network didn’t like that title, so it was renamed. And given all that has happened since with Bill Cosby and his criminal history, the title of “Not the Cosbys” would have been remarkably ironic because while the TV family in Married…With Children was not wholesome, their off-screen lives were far cleaner than Billy Cosby’s.
16. The sitcom was the first primetime show ever for Fox, which in the late 1980’s was a young network attempting to compete with network heavyweights ABC, CBS, and NBC. The show ran for 11 seasons before calling it quits. The show was reportedly cancelled because the ratings dropped off and the stars continued to ask for higher salaries. At the time, Ed O’Neill was making about $500,000 per episode, making him one of the highest paid TV actors ever. To date, it is still Fox’s longest running sitcom.
17. Ed O’Neill’s career was both made–and for a time, broken–by Al Bundy. He became so recognizable as the rude, crude, hilarious Bundy, that O’Neill was fired from a serious movie about war. Producers thought audiences would only find him funny and wouldn’t be able to appreciate the heaviness of the plot with O’Neill in the role. O’Neill’s career eventually bounced back, but for several years, he had trouble getting cast in anything.
18. Katey Sagal came up with the signature flashy style for Peg Bundy. She told producers that she thought her character had an “inner hotness” and she suggested the poofy red hair and sky-high heels. She also wore Spandex and animal prints in many episodes. Sagal thought this helped her character take shape.
19. The actor David Garrison who played the Bundys’ next door neighbor Steve Rhoades decided to leave the show after three seasons–which was also at the height of the show’s popularity. Audiences were surprised by his departure, but he chose to go back to doing live theatre for a while instead. He said that after three years of TV, he missed the stage. He continued to make cameo appearances throughout the remaining 8 years of the run.
20. Lots of famous or soon-to-be famous people guest starred on Married…With Children, including Matt LeBlanc, Pamela Anderson, Pauly Shore, Jerry Springer, Vanna White, and Jon Lovitz. Matt LeBlanc actually starred as Christina Applegate’s on-again-off-again boyfriend on the show, and he got a spinoff as his character of Vinnie. The spinoff, called Top of the Heap, didn’t last long, but he went onto mega success as one of the core cast members of Friends.
21. Many fans have noticed parallels between the show and National Lampoon’s Griswold family. The families have many similarities in appearance and style, and both embrace their lovable irreverence. In fact, the opening credits of Married…With Children uses a clip from National Lampoon’s Vacation and you can actually spot the Griswolds’ car onscreen.
22. Though Married…With Children was wildly popular with fans, it was snubbed by the Emmy Awards. The show never won a single Emmy in any category. In fact, the show was the longest running TV show not to win an Emmy until it was passed by Baywatch in 2001.
23. At the height of the show’s run and Ed O’Neill’s stardom, he would often call fans for their birthday as Al Bundy. In true Al Bundy style, however, he would only call them collect and make them pay for the call because Bundy was the ultimate cheapskate.
24. Not everything went smoothly on set. Ed O’Neill and Amanda Bearse, who played the Bundys’ neighbor Marcy, apparently hated each other off-screen. And their characters rarely got along onscreen. This is yet another case of art imitating life.
25. In Al Bundy’s shoe store, there was a signed that read “VISTA” rather than “VISA” accepted. Vista is not a real credit card company, but they avoided any conflict with Visa by not using the company’s actual name. In today’s age of product placements, Visa likely would have been thrilled to have their true company logo represented, but at that time in TV, producers typically opted for off-brands or made-up companies.
Married…With Children has been off the air for more than 20 years, but it still remains famous as one of TV’s biggest hit shows. It still runs in reruns, maintains steady DVD and download sales, and the characters and actors are still recognizable.