Married… With Children (Fox, 1987-1997)
Although I am a big fan of TV sitcoms, I’ve never really been a fan of many American ones, there is a story of how I got into this one however. In the 90s I remember often seeing in TV magazines that very late on ITV in various regions there was a sitcom being shown called Married… With Children. In 2001 when the Paramount channel came to ITV Digital, I noticed that this sitcom was being shown at a much more accessible time, so I thought I would take the opportunity to finally see some episodes for myself and I was rather surprised.
Married… With Children is a sitcom that is set in Chicago and is all about the family life of the Bundys. Al used to have dreams of becoming an American Football player, but he now works in a shoe store and he can’t stand it. The few pennies that he does earn are usually spent on clothes by his glamorous wife Peggy. They also have two children, the dumb blonde Kelly, and Bud who fancies himself as something of a ladies’ man. The next door neighbours Marcy and Steve also regularly featured, and Marcy later married the much more handsome Jefferson.
There were lots of great episodes over the years. Some of my favourites include the one where Al and Peggy are contestants on a game show (of course), another one where they attend a school reunion, and a rather ridiculous one where aliens invade the house and steal Al’s socks to use as fuel for their rocket to return home, much to the delight of the famously overexcited studio audience.
The end of the sixth series was rather interesting. The final three episodes were all set in England, and the Bundys came to London. Naturally there was lots of absurd stereotyping and it was rather odd seeing these characters suddenly walking around in places in the city of my birth. This was also a chance for some British actors to appear in the show including Bill Oddie and Alun Armstrong. Married… With Children eventually ran for over 250 episodes and 11 series, and very few other sitcoms on TV can boast longevity like that.
Married… With Children caused something of a stir in America. Most episodes were based around such daft bad taste jokes as blocked toilets, bad lovemaking and smelly socks, the like of which hadn’t been seen much in an American sitcom before, and it could be argued that it featured a curiously “British” sense of humour. Because of this, there was an attempt at making a British version of Married… With Children called Married For Life which was shown on ITV in 1996. I don’t remember seeing it but it seems that I didn’t miss much, and it ended after only six episodes.
Married… With Children was one of the programmes that helped to establish the Fox channel in America and it’s easy to say that it paved the way for another dysfunctional family who would have huge success in The Simpsons. After ITV Digital closed, repeats turned up for a short while on ITV2. Also, only the first four series have been released on DVD in this country, I hope we’ll get the rest one day, because three decades after it launched it’s still a great watch.