From the Cleavers to the Brady clan, the stereotypical sitcom family has typically been portrayed as one of angelic faces and dinner table chats. They are perfect in a way that most families could never hope to achieve in real life. Then came the Bundy family, offering a different kind of clan – a conniving, acid-tongued group of misfits that gave new meaning to the term “dysfunctional.” It wasn’t that they didn’t love each other; they just had an odd (and often hysterical) way of showing it, on the enormously popular sitcom, Married with Children.
Acting as the family patriarch was the hulking ex-high school football star and current disenchanted shoe salesman, the gruff Al Bundy (Ed O’Neil). By his side, a buxom redhead named Peg (Katey Segal), with a penchant for shopping and the ability to massacre any meal she attempted. Their gifts to the world were their two children – Bud (David Faustino), a bumbling, wannabe lady-killer in training and Kelly (Cristina Applegate), beautiful-and-clueless, slut extraordinaire. The Bundy family lives in a suburban area of Chicago alongside their yuppie-go-lucky neighbors, Steve and Marcy Rhodes (David Garrison and Amanda Bierce).
Bad luck and misfortune followed the Bundy family wherever they went, usually the result of one of the various schemes the family attempted to better their way of life. Even a holiday as joyous as Christmas wasn’t immune to their collective jinx, as was demonstrated when a skydiving Santa Claus died in their backyard after his parachute failed to open. Still, for all their misfortune, the Bundys were a clan that stayed together through thick and thin and when all else failed, could always torment their neighbors when they needed to feel better. In fact, although Steve and Marcy started out as polar opposites to the Bundys, they were soon assimilated into the various schemes that Al and Peg devised. Marcie would eventually end up divorcing Steve and marrying Jefferson Darcy (Ted McGinley) who soon became Al’s new partner in crime.
Married with Children began its 11 season run in 1987 and quickly gained popularity with a television audience that had tired of the stereotypical sitcom family. It offered a fresh perspective – a cranky, deceitful, sexually active family, the likes of which had never been seen on television before. Controversial right out of the gate, Married with Children was boycotted, rallied against, and even despised by those who saw it as a horrific portrayal of the American family unit. None of this affected the ratings one bit and the show frequently inhabited the number-one weekly spot. It is the eighth-longest running sitcom in television history.
For all of their dastardly deeds, it was impossible not to hold affection for the Bundy family. Sure they didn’t fit the mold, sure they acted in ways that would be abhorrent to most civilized folks. But that only served to make them more realistic, more human – and audiences adored their antics, their insults, and their imperfections to no end.
If you faithfully tuned into Married with Children each week, we hope you’ll share your favorite Bundy family memories in our comments section.