Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Good Or Bad #1: Married With Children

Announcing a new topic series for Go Retro called Good Or Bad! I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some retro pop culture paradoxes that could be defined as good, bad, or both. Tonight I'm starting with the Fox TV show Married With Children. I definitely think this was a show that most people either loved or hated, with no in between. Last year I took an informal poll on Facebook on people's opinions of the sitcom and it elicited strong feelings: for every person who said they loved it, there was someone who couldn't stand it. Interestingly, it was the married folks who were fans (and sadly, said some of the scenarios were modeled after their own married life) and single people who generally couldn't stomach it.

I fell in with the latter bunch - it was one of those shows that got so much initial buzz and positive work-of-mouth that I tried watching it on and off before it slowly grated on my nerves. After a while, the only thing I liked was the opening Sinatra song "Love and Marriage." That is not to say that the sitcom wasn't enormously successful and well loved - it debuted in 1987 and ran for a remarkable 11 seasons. The show and its actors were nominated for several Golden Globes, but didn't win any. The series did win some Emmys for its behind the scenes crew work and costumes.

Also known by the moniker Not the Cosbys, (no kidding!) Married With Children centered around the Bundy family - led by father and husband Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill), a once glorious football star who is now a women's shoe salesman with poor hygiene and caveman like behavior. His tacky wife, Peg Bundy (Katey Sagal) is a housewife sporting tight clothes and a whole can of Aqua-Net who didn't actually do anything around the house. The Bundys had two children: blond bimbo Kelly (Christina Applegate) who suffers from missing brain cells and Bud (David Faustino) who is smart compared to the rest of his family, and even attended college. Rounding out the cast were annoying next-door neighbors Marcy D'Arcy (Amanda Bearse) and her second husband Jefferson D'Arcy (Ted McGinley.) Her first husband, played by David Garrison, was written off the show during the fourth season. Oh, and let's not forget the family dog, Buck - the only member of the Bundys that I actually liked!

I guess the problem I had with the show is that I found the characters too obnoxious, loud, and stupid to find them funny. The Bundys certainly didn't fit the mold of the typical families we were seeing on network television up until that point. Even Roseanne Barr, as the outspoken Roseanne Connor on Roseanne showed love and support for her husband and kids, but Peg Bundy faked it when trying to sucker money from her husband to go shopping. I hate to throw the word sexist out there, but the female characters on Married With Children weren't exactly role models, and they were routinely insulted. It didn't help that Al and his friends also formed the NO MA'AM group, which stood for the National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood. NO MA'AM's mission was to protest women power all over the world...while also attending nudie bars. As Al himself put it, "It used to be so great to be a man. Women were there to please us. They'd look after the kids and we go out and have a good time. That's the natural order of things."

Of course, it was exactly this type of politically incorrect behavior and lines that made the Bundys look ridiculous and garner big laughs with viewers. In fact, the one episode I can make an exception by saying I liked it (after viewing it on YouTube recently) was the one called "Rock of Ages" that featured aging musicians such as Peter Noone, Mark Lindsay, Richie Havens, John Sebastian (woo hoo!) Spencer Davis and others whom Al meets in an airport lounge, and ends up recording a parody of We Are the World with (Bundy plays the sandwich):

So how about you? And not to worry if you personally loved the show - different strokes for different folks. But that's another TV show for another time!


weeshaus said...

I'm with you....that show always depressed me. Roseanne was much much better, there were real characters and storylines you could relate to.

Amanda By Night said...

You know, I was just talking about this show the other day while watching the Ropers. My husband pointed out that they seemed to be the role models for MwC (but without kids). They even had the straight laced, annoying neighbors!

I love MwC when it first came out because it was so outlandish, but they also had a little more love for each other. After awhile it got kind of old watching everyone being mean.

Roseanne was definitely based more in reality (well, until she won a bunch of money towards the end), but I think MwC was a show we needed, and probably need now. It's good to have a little offensive with the sweet because I think we are too PC sometimes.

Btw, this is a great idea for your blog.

Lacey said...

"it debuted in 1987 and ran for a remarkable 11 seasons"

Yes, on FOX. Look up "Duet" and see how long THAT ran and in how many incarnations. FOX was so struggling that it had to give back its Monday slot after canceling "Alien Nation," consistently the best written show on T.V. at the time.

I agree with you though, this was another one of those shows that everyone told you you should like, but I never saw anything in. Sort of like "30 Rock" today.

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