Married… with Children was not only the first ever prime-time series to run on the Fox network, but it also remains one with a fiercely loyal fanbase. And the Bundy family’s adventures over 11 seasons from 1987 to 1997 made stars out of Ed O’Neill, Katey Sagal and Christina Applegate and set the benchmark for the modern family sitcom. Here, though, are 30 things that you may not know about the show even if you watched from the start.
30. The opening credits borrowed from National Lampoon’s Vacation
Eagle-eyed viewers of early ’80s screwball comedies may well have noticed that Married… with Children’s opening credits weren’t entirely original. In fact, the shot featuring cars on the interstate was lifted from the Chevy Chase classic National Lampoon’s Vacation, with the Griswolds’ station wagon itself also in full view.
29. The pilot had a different Kelly and Bud
Christina Applegate and David Faustino shot to fame as Bundy kids Kelly and Bud, respectively, but they weren’t the first choice for the roles. No, Tina Caspary and Hunter Carson portrayed the characters in the pilot before being replaced in time for the first aired episode.
28. Sam Kinison and Roseanne Barr were offered the lead roles
Al and Peggy Bundy could have also looked completely different had producers managed to get their first choices on board. In fact, comedians Sam Kinison and Roseanne Barr were initially offered the parts of the Bundy parents. The pair both turned them down, however, in favor of pursuing their respective film careers.
27. It has two Cosby Show connections
It’s a little-known fact that the Bundy family’s next door neighbor Marcy D’Arcy – played by Amanda Bearse – was named after The Cosby Show executive producer Marcy Carsey. However, that isn’t Married… with Children’s only connection with the Huxtables: the sitcom was originally titled Not the Cosbys.
26. Ed O’Neill was given the job on the spot
Ed O’Neill was given his first recurring role as the famously misanthropic Al Bundy without uttering a single word during his audition. In fact, the way that O’Neill walked through the front door of the Bundy family home, with a slump of the shoulders and a defeated sigh, was enough to win him the part.
25. Michael Richards auditioned to play Al
O’Neill’s perfect portrayal of downtrodden Bundy saw him triumph over a future sitcom favorite in the casting process. Yes, Michael Richards, who two years later would land the memorable role of Kramer on Seinfeld, was just one of many actors who unsuccessfully auditioned to play the Bundy family patriarch.
24. The show briefly ruined Ed O’Neill’s film career
However, O’Neill may have started to rue the day he won the part after being dropped from a film because of it. In fact, the actor had became so synonymous with Al Bundy that test audiences of war movie Flight of the Intruder erupted into laughter whenever he appeared on screen.
23. Ted McGinley begged producers to make his character more macho
The man responsible for giving Marcy her rhyming surname, second husband Jefferson D’Arcy, arrived in the third season. However, Ted McGinley – the man who played the show’s resident dimwit – complained to producers about how much of a “wuss” his character was. Later, then, references were dropped in to Jefferson’s macho secret agent past.
22. David Garrison quit the show to act on Broadway
After playing Marcy’s first husband, Steve Rhoades, for four seasons, David Garrison bought his way out of his Married… with Children contract in order to resurrect his theater career. However, Garrison did return to the show on four separate occasions, with his character appearing in a different profession each time.
21. Ed O’Neill and Amanda Bearse didn’t get along
Marcy and Al were arch nemeses on the show, and the two actors who played them were just as unfriendly once the cameras stopped rolling. Yes, in an interview following the show’s 1997 cancelation, Ed O’Neill revealed that he and Amanda Bearse’s relationship was often strained.
20. Katey Sagal fell pregnant three times during the show
Producers had to get creative when Katey Sagal fell pregnant on three occasions during Married… with Children’s run. Her first pregnancy, for instance, was actually written into the storyline – before being envisioned as a dream when the actress’ baby was tragically stillborn in real life. Thankfully, her next two pregnancies, the signs of which were obscured in the show, each resulted in a healthy baby.
19. It was a family affair
Each one of the four main cast members invited one of their family members to appear on the show at various points throughout its 11-season run. The guest stars in question were Ed O’Neill’s wife Catherine Rusoff, Christina Applegate’s mother Nancy Priddy, Katey Sagal’s brother Joey and David Faustino’s brother Michael.
18. David Faustino was a rapper in real life
Art started to imitate life when producers found out that David Faustino – who played Bud Bundy – had a real-life rap alias, D’Lil. In fact, the actor released an album titled Balistyx in 1992 and was subsequently given the chance to showcase his lyrical flow in front of millions of viewers through his on-screen rap alter ego, Grandmaster B.
17. Ed O’Neill would call fans while pretending to be Al
Some Married… with Children fans were lucky enough to receive a birthday or holiday phone call from Ed O’Neill while in character as Al Bundy. However, in typical tight-fisted Bundy fashion, O’Neill only did so by using call collect.
16. The cast weren’t told when the show was canceled
Despite helping Fox score its first prime-time hit, the cast weren’t given the courtesy of a phone call when the show was canceled. In fact, Ed O’Neill only found out that the sitcom had been axed when he overheard a couple discussing it while on vacation.
15. Ed O’Neill wanted to end the show in dramatic style
After eventually coming to grips with the show’s demise, O’Neill gave producers a rather dramatic pitch as to how the Bundys should exit the screen. Strangely, the actor suggested that the family should win the lottery, only to be immediately hit by a tornado during their celebrations.
14. Fox refused to air one particular episode
A 1989 episode of the show was considered so risque that Fox banned it from airing until 2002. “I’ll See You in Court” saw both the Bundys and the Rhoades sue the owners of an inn after learning that the establishment had secretly taped each couple in their bedrooms.
13. There were numerous failed spinoffs
The “Radio Free Trumaine” and “Enemies” episodes were both pitched as pilots for brand new spinoff shows that were ultimately rejected by Fox. Nevertheless, Kelly’s one-time boyfriend Vinnie Verducci – played by Matt LeBlanc – later landed two spinoffs; both Top of the Heap and Vinnie & Bobby failed to make it past seven episodes, however.
12. A U.K. remake lasted just seven weeks
The show was given the international remake treatment, but it didn’t always translate particularly well. For example, a U.K. version starring comedian Russ Abbott called Married for Life was launched in 1996. However, thanks to a mixture of scathing reviews and low ratings, it was canned after just seven episodes.
11. Not everyone was a fan
Surprisingly for a show that lasted 11 seasons, Married… with Children’s ratings were never particularly high. This was largely due to the fact that Fox was a relatively new network back then. However, incurring the wrath of the Parents Television Council did little to attract viewers; the conservative organization labeled it the “crudest comedy on primetime TV.”
10. Peggy’s maiden name is very rude across the pond
It’s a good thing that Peggy’s maiden name of Wanker was hardly mentioned during the show’s run, as it might have proved problematic in selling the show to Britain. Why? Well, although the word is often considered to simply mean an idiot in the States, over in the U.K. it’s actually both a fairly strong curse word and slang for someone who masturbates. Yikes.
9. David Faustino used embarrassing measures to be recognized in public
A young David Faustino so desperately wanted to be recognized when the show first started airing that he did something both bold and a little foolhardy. Specifically, he wore a shirt emblazoned with the Married… with Children logo during a trip to a crowded mall. Rather humiliatingly, though, not one person showed that they had a clue who he was.
8. The Bundy family were named after a wrestler
Despite rumors to the contrary, Married… with Children’s main family weren’t named for notorious murderer Ted Bundy. Instead, inspiration came from professional wrestler King Kong Bundy. And to repay the favor, the sportsman also known as Chris Pallies actually turned up in the show twice: once playing himself, and the other time portraying Peggy’s Uncle Irwin.
7. The Bundys have two different addresses
Eagle-eyed viewers may have spotted that the Bundy family’s home address changes ever so slightly from episode to episode. In some, it’s listed as 9764 Jeopardy Lane, Chicago, Illinois, while in others the house number appears instead as 9674. We pity the poor mailman who serves their street.
6. Divine could have appeared in the show
Believe it or not, but Harris Glenn Milstead, a.k.a. world-famous drag queen Divine, was actually cast to play Uncle Otto in the final episode of the show’s second season. Tragically, though, the flamboyant star passed away from a heart condition shortly before he was due to make his first appearance on set.
5. The show’s early budget was tiny
The Married… with Children team had to be resourceful during the show’s early days due to its extremely limited budget. In fact, for one storyline, the cast and crew were forced to bring items in from their very own homes. If you’re the nosy type, then, watch season two episode “Master the Possibilities” and see what things the family buy after receiving a credit card addressed to their dog Buck.
4. Al’s shoe store was the travel agent set from One Day at a Time
And along with making spending sprees work on a shoestring, Married… with Children’s producers were similarly shrewd when it came to the show’s locations. In particular, fans of One Day at a Time may well have spotted that Al’s beloved shoe store was the same set used for Barbara and Max’s travel agency in the final season of the CBS sitcom.
3. Ed O’Neill took his inspiration from close to home
Youngstown, Ohio, couldn’t pick up the Fox network during Married… with Children’s early days. And it’s probably a good job, too, since some of its residents may have recognized themselves somewhat in hometown boy Ed O’Neill’s portrayal of Al Bundy. Yes, the actor based his grouchy central character on several of his uncles and a high school friend he has described as “crude.”
2. We could have seen more of Kelly Bundy
Unfortunately for some, Christina Applegate turned down the chance to appear in a spin-off based on her Married… with Children character Kelly Bundy. But she did so in order to broaden her career horizons. And as she’s since starred in numerous hit Hollywood comedies over the past two decades, her gamble well and truly paid off.
1. Christina Applegate didn’t always sport her real hair
Christina Applegate did pursue some outside ventures when filming the sitcom – in particular, Gregg Araki’s indie movie Nowhere. Somewhat trickily, though, the role required that Applegate color her hair red. And as a result, when she returned to the Married… with Children set in the fall of 1995, the star was forced to wear a blonde wig in order to hide her brightly hued real locks.