Married For Life (ITV, 1996)
Here’s how I chose the next show to review in my “were there any decent 90s ITV sitcoms” series, following on from Sometime, Never and Not With A Bang. One thing that ITV tried throughout the 90s was adapting American sitcoms, and they managed to have success with The Upper Hand which was the British version of Who’s The Boss? and ran for seven series. So maybe it was time to adapt another American sitcom?
One American sitcom that I am a fan of is Married… With Children which was shown a lot on ITV in the early-90s, although I first saw it on Paramount about a decade later. In 1996 ITV launched their own version called Married For Life. I don’t remember watching this first time round, but I have wanted to see it for a while, so again I went on YouTube and I was pleased to discover that the majority of the episodes are on there.
One thing that is notable about Married For Life is who plays the lead role. Throughout the 80s Russ Abbot had been a popular comedy figure on TV, and he also had a Top Ten hit single, appeared on the cover of Radio Times a few times and starred in cigar adverts. But a decade on his comedy show (which had moved from BBC1 to ITV) was faltering, so maybe it was time to try something a little different.
In Married… With Children, the Bundys were considered to be the most outrageous family on TV until The Simpsons come along, and in Married For Life they were re-imagined as the Butlers. Russ Abbot played Ted (Al in the American version), who worked in a shoe shop and was rather unhappy with where he was in his life. His wife Pam (the Peggy role, played by Susan Kyd) was rather glamorous and spent most of the little money he made.
They had two teenage children, Nikki (Kelly/Lucy Blakely) and Lee (Bud/Peter England). The next door neighbours were the Hollingsworths (instead of the Rhoades), Steve (Steve/Hugh Bonneville) and Judy (Marcy/Julie Dawn Cole). One thing that was notable about Married For Life was that the scripts were recycled from the American version, with some localised changes.
One problem with this was that the reworked episodes were taken from the early series around 1987/1988, so by the time of this version they were almost a decade old which made things seem a little dated. So how well did Married For Life end up doing for ITV? There is one fact that tells you all you need to know: there were over 250 episodes made of Married… With Children, Married For Life came to an end after seven.
Married For Life turned out to be a big flop and there has been no DVD release, although it does have a Wikipedia entry. It is notable that it is rather strange seeing familiar episodes being played out with a different cast, but the humour seemed to make no impact with viewers, and it disappointed in just about every department compared to the original. However, later in the 90s ITV adapted some more American series that they hoped would do better, and I might review those soon too.