Married ...with Children

Part 1: A look back at some of my favorite episodes
April 10, 2008

When the FOX network debuted it's programming on Sunday, March 5, 1987, the first show to be broadcast would later prove to be one of its most successful of all time, Married ...with Children. Created by Michael G. Moye and the late Ron Leavitt, who had worked together on sugary sweet sitcoms, the two brought innovation to the genre, by bringing in raunchiness and controversiality in the form of a lower-class dysfunctional family living in the suburbs of Chicago. Led by Al (Ed O'Neill), a hapless women's shoes salesman with nothing but utter disdain for life. Followed by his wife Peggy (Katey Sagal), a shiftless housewife who relentlessly spends every last penny of Al's already miniscule paychecks. And finally there's their children, slow-witted teenage sexpot daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate) and unlucky in love son Bud (David Faustino). This show has got to be one of my all time favorite sitcoms, if not my favorite, as I can identify with certain aspects of Al's life yet feel better about myself when I'm down cause he always has it worse. Not to mention the fact that I've literally seen every episode over and over again and they've never gotten old. I've found the series has aged quite well, as it was ahead of its time from the start. So now, in the first of a 3-part article, I've selected 25 episodes out of the 262-episode run which are my personal favorites. Here we go...

1.1 Pilot (Original Air Date: 4/5/1987)

In this first episode, newlyweds Steve and Marcy Rhodes move in next door to the Bundy's, and Al and Peggy take turns corrupting their naive minds with their years of matrimonial cynicism. It should be noted that originally the Bundy kids were played by Tina Caspary and Hunter Carson before being recast by Applegate and Faustino, and one great quote of Al's was cut never to be heard again, where described P.M.S. as standing for "Pummel Men's Scrotums." However still all in all a solid start to the series with many other good quotes including:

Boy: I want a balloon.
Al: You've already got one.

Peggy: Hard day?
Al: Yeah, you?
Peggy: Oh, yeah.
Al: It must've been, even the TV's sweating.

Peggy: Would you for once think about me? I am at home all day alone. You're out there around people all the time.
You know, I need some fun too.
Al: Too? Oh sure, on the surface selling women's shoes is fun. But once you cut through all the hype, the myths, the glamour, it's really very much like any minimum wage paying slow death.

Steve: I'm going to the game next week with Al.
Marcy: My mother's coming over next week.
Steve: Oh yeah? She gonna teach you how to bury me like she buried her three husbands?
Marcy: Steve! Are you implying that their suicides had something to do with mother?

1.11 Nightmare On Al's Street (Original Air Date: 6/14/1987)

While Steve is out of town on business, Marcy makes a financial decision that turns out to be a scam, which she ignored Al's warnings about, and the guilt causes her to have sexual fantasies about Al. One of my favorite moments in the episode occurs when Marcy has a dream where she thinks Steve has come home, but it turns out to be another Al fantasy, then she thinks she's woken up for real to welcome Steve home, but it turns out to be another Al fantasy. She then finally wakes up for real when Steve comes home but thinks she's still dreaming. The look on her face is just priceless. Another great moment happens after Steve can't get Marcy in the mood for sex for days, so he goes to Al's front door and says...

Steve: Al, I'm horny, what are you gonna do about it?

1.13 Johnny Be Gone (Original Air Date: 6/28/1987)

Al and Peggy's high school hangout burger joint is having a closing down for good ceremony, only problems with the kids keeps them from heading out the door. Meanwhile Marcy and Steve are hosting a party for foreign executives, only Marcy winds up getting stranded at the Bundy house in a towel after her power dress gets stained. As a television first, this entire episode takes place in real time, similar to what Seinfeld did a few years later with "The Chinese Restaurant," and it also features the first times Al makes chicken and small breast comments to Marcy, truly one of the best episodes.

Marcy: Do you see a fish eye?
Al: No, but I see a chicken leg.

Al: Kelly, there were plenty of parties I wasn't invited to when I was a kid.
Marcy: There's a mystery.
Al: Here's another one, what the hell's holding that towel up?

2.5 For Whom the Bell Tolls (Original Air Date: 10/25/1987)

A mysterious $80 charge for a Vancouver call appears on the Bundy's phone bill, and after Al refuses to pay it their service is disconnected, much to the dismay of the Rhodes who begin taking around the clock calls from Peggy's mother. Meanwhile, a new neighborhood crime light is keeping Al awake at night, and to make matters worse he's being charged a fee for its installation. Best moment is when Al tries to find out who made the call to Vancouver by asking Peggy:

Al: How bout it, Peg? Your mother gotten so fat she spread across the border?

2.13 You Better Watch Out (Original Air Date: 12/20/1987)

San-ta Claus is com-in' to-the-Lakeside-Mall. In this hilarious and controversial episode, The new Lakeside Mall is having their Santa Claus parachute down on Christmas Eve, only he gets blown off course and crash lands in the Bundy's backyard when his chute doesn't open. Then it's up to Al to disguise himself as Santa to lure the gathering crowd of kids away so the Coroner can carry the body out. This episode features the debut of their great body dropping the backyard running gag.

Peggy: Come on Marce, these things happen.
Marcy: When has this happened?!
Peggy: Come on Marcy, cheer up. It could've been worse, he could've landed on the picket fence.

Coroner: Uh-oh.
Al: What's wrong now? The Easter Bunny hang himself in my front yard?

2.18 The Great Escape (Original Air Date: 2/21/1988)

The Bundy house has to be fumigated for termites, so Al has the whole family move into the shoe store for the night, as a grounded Kelly tries to sneak out for a concert. Best moment is when Kelly poses as a mannequin as a half asleep Al wanders by, only for him to comment...

Al: Damn mannequins look like hookers.

Other great quotes include:

[reading Kelly's report card]
Al: F, F, F, D. What happened, Kel, you attend one?

Al: $1750 for a tent to put over a house. Listen, why don't we just borrow one of your mother's mu-mus?
Aw hell, if she doesn't wash it, we won't have to pay for the poison either.

Woman: I need shoes!
Al: Well, the blacksmith's right around the corner.

3.1 He Thought He Could (Original Air Date: 11/6/1988)

While cleaning out the attic, Al discovers a copy of The Little Engine That Could, which he checked out of the library in 1957. Al's reluctance to return the book stems from the fat librarian Miss DeGroot that hated him as a child. After Steve convinces him there's no way she's still alive after 31 years, Al decides to return it, only to find her there waiting for him and looking for compensation. Quite possibly the best episode of the entire series, as well as another episode to beat Seinfeld to the punch on groundbreaking writing. The episode also features a memorable monologue of Al's after Miss Degroot calls him a loser:

Al: So you think I'm a loser? Just because I have a stinking job that I hate, a family that doesn't respect me, a whole city that curses the day I was born? Well, that may mean loser to you, but let me tell you something. Every morning when I wake up I know it's not going to get any better, till I go back to sleep again. So I get up, have my watered-down Tang and still-frozen Pop Tart, get in my car with no uphoulsty, no gas, and six more payments, to fight traffic just for the priviledge of putting cheap shoes on the cloven hooves of people like you. I'll never play football like I thought I would. I'll never know the touch of a beautiful woman. And I'll never again know the joy of driving without a bag on my head. But I'm not a loser. Cause despite it all, me and every other guy who will never be what he wanted to be, are still out there being what we don't want to be, forty hours a week for life. And the fact that I haven't put a gun in my mouth, you pudding of a woman, makes me a winner!

3.5 A Dump of My Own (Original Air Date: 1/8/1989)

Al is fed up with having to wait to use the bathroom, so he decides follow his life's dream to build his own personal bathroom in the garage. Meanwhile, Peggy searches for money to play the lottery when the bathroom sucks up the family budget. Full of many memorable quotes including:

Al: We all have to live with our disappointments. I, of course, have to sleep with mine.
Peggy: Is that its new name?

Al: [to the Ferguson] Daddy loves you!
Peggy: What does that toilet have that I don't?
Al: A job.

[after his tools become missing]
Al: Must be the neighbors. You know, people hear you got a Ferguson, they think you've got money.
Peggy: Yeah, well, people hear you got a husband, they think you have sex.

3.6 Her Cups Runneth Over (Original Air Date: 1/15/1989)

When Peggy's birthday rolls around, she becomes depressed with the realization of growing older, as well as the fact that her Fancy Figure 327 bra has been discontinued. So Al and Steve travel to Francine's of Hollywood in Wisconsin to find a replacement while Marcy entertains Peggy with a male stripper. One of the most controversial episodes of the series, as an outraged Michigan housewife named Terry Rakolta stumbled across this episode while watching TV with her children and tried to get the show off the air. However, her campaign inadvertently put the show on the map instead and rocketed the ratings. Funny how some things work out.

Marcy: I don't know why we even need bras.
Al: Well, I think it's to keep your breasts off the plate when you eat.

Marcy: You know what would happen if men had breasts?
Al: We wouldn't need women anymore?
Peggy: And if you had what other men have, I wouldn't need batteries anymore.
Al: That's what happened to my Die Hard!

And so, that about wraps things up for this first part, next time I'll be covering more of season three through five, stay tuned!
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