Married… with Children: The Complete First Season (review)

Crude, mean-spirited yucks went mainstream with the debut, in 1987, of Married… with Children, a vicious rejoinder to the domestic tranquility that ruled the primetime sitcoms of the era, like The Cosby Show and Family Ties. The Bundys — put-upon shoe salesman Al (Ed O’Neill), layabout housewife Peg (Katey Sagal), slutty teen Kelly (Christina Applegate), and horny preteen Bud (David Faustino) — are as unlikely a family as the Cosbys or the Keatons, but on the flip side, as a paragon of dysfunction. Marital insults fly — Peg can’t cook, Al is lousy in bed — and the kids are ignored, forced to eat from the dog’s bowl for sustenance. But for all its tastelessness, there’s little bite. The series falls back on overdone stereotypes and overplayed plots — Peg maxing out credit cards, Al missing the big game — done up with a coating of juvenile sex jokes and flushing toilets, a sound effect deployed with such glee that you’d think the producers invented it. Maybe it’s something we don’t usually hear on TV, but that still doesn’t make it funny. These 13 episodes, the entire first season, have been remastered with crisp image and sound, so you won’t miss a single Bundy smirk or a single flushing toilet. As a moment of TV history, a new low for the bar, Married… is vital. Whether you find it actually entertaining will depend on whether you think the bar needed to be lowered.

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