Changes throughout the Seasons
Last update April 10, 2001
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When you compare a Married... with Children episode from season one to an episode from the last season,
there seem to be more differences than there are things in common. It almost seems as if they are from
different series, but that should be normal when a sitcom is on the air for ten years. I'd like to have
a look at the changes which caused this and when these changes took place. Thanks a lot to StuartM
who helped me a lot with his thoughts. The most important changes are also mentioned on the
Episode Titles page.
Principal Actors. The most obvious differences are the changes in the cast. The series has six principal
characters: the four Bundys (Al, Peggy, Kelly and Bud), Marcy and her husband. Marcy's spouse used to be Steven
Rhoades, until he decided to escape from her after 72 shows in episode 415. For the next 19 episodes, Marcy was
a single. In episode 512, she woke up and was married to Jefferson D'Arcy for the next 168 shows. Marcy - who
was quite shy at the very beginning -
became more important when Steve lost his job. The writers also emphasized her male characteristics, which make
her almost androgynious (e.g. she speaks like a man in a bar in 410, people think she's a man in 619, she plays
a cabin boy-girl in 718). The Rhoades name their dog after the Democrat feminist Bella Abzug in 104, but Marcy
turns into a Republican by episode 704 (she repeats that fact in 925). Steven - who
reappears in four episodes (617, 718, 917, 926) - was very different from Jefferson. Marcy's first husband was
a successful banker until he lost his job in episode 408. However, he was more equal to his wife than Jefferson
who isn't much more than Marcy's gigolo. When Steve lost his job, we have a working person (Al and Marcy) and a
lazy spouse (Peggy and Steve/Jefferson) in each household.
Sometimes, Jefferson earns some money with obscure jobs, but I think he's such a
colourless personality that Al's shoestore colleague Griff becomes an important figure from season nine on to
fill out this space (44 appearances from 904 to 1124). In the first half of season seven, the writers tried to
create a seventh principal character: the third Bundy kid called Seven. But the audience didn't accept this new
element and he only shows up from episode 701 to 718. His picture reappears three times (823, 825 and another one),
though. The Bundys' briard Buck suddenly starts to talk in episode 421, which makes him kind of a principal actor,
too. Finally, Buck died in episode 1003 and was reincarnated as Lucky, so the family dog's voice stays the same.
Al had a working-class accent which he lost after season one.
Main Issues. The show's main issues always remain the same, but their presentation may vary.
First of all there's sex. There are many jokes about
that topic, and the characters - especially Kelly - are styled for a certain sex appeal. Many guest actresses
are pretty women, including over a dozen Playboy Playmates. Kelly is portrayed as a tramp. All possible kinds
of sex are mentioned from the very first season on: masturbation, homosexuality, sm, oral sex, incest and more.
Along with sex go other aspects of sexuality, e.g. menstruation or circumsision. A lot of episodes are entirely
about sex or sexuality, e.g. episode 805 where Marcy has orgasms while speaking in front of an audience. During
10 years of MwC, sex was shown more and more explicit and Bud became more and more horny. Another main issue is
the Bundys' ostensible indifference to each other. Eg Peggy doesn't care about the household or her
familiy's nutrition. The Bundys are not particularily fond of each other (Peg to Al in 922: "How come you never
send me flowers?" Al: "I don't like you, Peg!"). But they stay together anyway because they like their family deep
inside. Indifference usually goes along with a third main issue: failure. The Bundys often profit
spiritually or materially from the other Bundys' failures, though, e.g. in 514 where Bud
stops for money Kelly's lucrative relationship to a powerful man as his family neglects him. Failure is a
constant pattern on MwC; from season one to eleven he had the same job, he had the same car and by the end of
the series he must owe hundred thousands of dollars to his creditors. Indifference as an issue might be
partially replaced by parasitism when shirker Jefferson shows up and Kelly stays at home after school
for years. Peggy has been the biggest parasite all over the show. A last main issue of the show is the sharp
portrayal of falseness in society, e.g. Christmas, politicians, TV, justice, food industry etc.
Stereotypes. A very important element in sitcoms are running gags. The writers experimented a bit in the
first couple of seasons to find a typical style of the series. One thing is Al's general fear of cuddling or even
having sex with his wife. In some of the very first episodes, Al even initiates intimacies with Peggy. After season
one, this happens only very rarely (e.g. in 302, 401, 722). Al's infamous hatred of the French is already present
in season one (starting in episode 106). His favourite TV show "Psycho Dad" can be heard for the first time in
episode 501. It reappears several times (621 including Psycho Mom, 813 the Christmas episode, 823) until it is
cancelled in the two-parter 913/914. Al likes to put a hand down his pants all through the series.
From episode 501 on, Al keeps on mentioning his biggest merit: scoring
four touchdowns in a single high school football game. The biggest change in the series concerns Kelly's mind.
In the beginning of season two, Kelly was still a smart character, so she had no problems to pass the driver's
license test in episode 208. But her IQ falls tremendously by episode 214, and Kelly
admits in episode 406 that she is the stupidest girl in America. Her silliness is probably the best-known plot
element of Married... with Children. Kelly's image as a slut roots in early season two at the latest. In episode
204 she comes home and admits that she just had sex. Kelly also has several jobs during the years, starting at
the end of season four ("rock video slut" in 414, "weather bunny" in 419, model from 506 on, "Verminator" from
622 on, waitress from 708 on, actress from 909 on). Other running gags are about Marcy. Al teases her from the
very first season
on because of her flat chest and calls her a chicken (for the first time in episode 113), so there's no change at
all. Peggy becomes the laziest housewife in America very soon, too. However, she cooks some meals and does the
laundry in a couple of season one episodes. After that, Al's constant hunger and his weird meals (a tooth-paste
sandwich, one single m&m, dog-food etc.) are another permanent element of the show. Most of Peggy's relatives are
hillbillies from Wanker county, Wisconsin. This running gag starts in season one as well.
Bud is an A student and has big problems to get dates and to find
friends all through the series. However, he used to have male friends in the early seasons when he didn't
desperately try to get a girl, yet. By the way, in my opinion he had sex for the first time in episode 521, but
others think that this didn't happen before episode 713. In the last seasons, Bud has jobs (driving examiner in
season 9, agent in season 11) and moves to the basement of the Bundy house (1002) in the later seasons. The
"Bundy Cheer" is performed for the first time in 209 and for the last time in 1020. Another classic shows up
rather late: people falling down the basement stairs as one step is never fixed. This happened for the first
time in 620.
Guest Cast. A major change are the growing guest cast lists for every episode. In season one, 30% of the
shows didn't have a single guest actor. This percentage drops constantly to zero in season six. The stories of
early episodes concentrated on the principal cast. In the later seasons, more and more guest actors and actresses
showed up which made it impossible to make a picture of their characters and subtle stories about the
relationship between the principal actors. This problem became even bigger when Kelly and Bud
became adults as they got better written parts. But there was a turn in this evolution in season eleven, when the
guest cast parts became smaller again. Another change were often recurring characters. In the
early seasons, there was only one of them: Al's friend Norris (7 times from 104 to 603). Starting with season eight,
the number of these half-principal actors increased tremendously: Al's co-worker Aaron (5 times from 808 to 821),
Al's friend Bob Rooney (23 times from 809 to 1112), Officer Dan (15 times from 809 to 1112),
Marcy's niece Amber (4 times from 904 to 923),
reporter Miranda (9 times from 905 to 1102), Al's boss Gary (7 times from 906 to 1121),
Al's friend Ike (18 times from 911 to 1112), Peggy's dad Ephraim (4 times from 1002 to 1026) and
Kelly's friend Fawn (4 times from 1008 to 1018). Gary was mentioned in earlier shows as a man, but she was
definitely a woman when she finally showed up. We can hear Peggy's mom for five times from 1002 to 1012,
but Peggy already used to phone with her in the early seasons. Al, Jefferson, Griff, Bob Rooney, Officer Dan
and Ike became hardcore members of their men's club NO MA'AM, which was founded in episode 809.
Cartoonism. Married... with Children started as a series which should be much closer to the real world
than typical mid-eighties sitcoms like "The Cosby Show" or "Family Ties". However, gradually the characters
became caricatures. This development peaked in more or less cartoonish episodes (e.g. the Rhoades house disappears
in 316, Al falls from the roof several times in 411, aliens visit Al in 507, Al hunts a rabbit as Elmer Fudd in
508, Al jumps out of a plane in 614, fantasy adventures on a pirate ship in 718, a wardrobe falls onto Bud in 813,
Bud is tortured in a slapstick comedy way in 1121).
Speaking of caricatures, we can certainly include the unique Married... with Children audience. During the series,
it became rather wild. But it took a while until incoming characters got applause just for entering; it didn't
happen before episode 416.
Range. The center of the Bundys is their living room - and the center of this room is the Bundy couch.
Throughout the seasons, we discover other rooms of their house (the parents' bedroom from 102 on, Bud's room
from 701 on, the basement from 722 on) and the Rhoades house (living room from 109 on, bedrooms from 112 on).
Al's shoe store can be admired from the very first episode on. Very soon, we also see the Bundys in other
places in Chicago (from episode 107 on), and they leave the town for the first time in season two (a vacation
in Florida in 202/203). Finally, they even leave the US for a trip to England (624-626).
Occasionaly, we even have scenes which weren't taped in a studio (Al & Steve cruising in a Mustang in 105,
the England trip 624-626, the Bundys cruising through the city in 724, Al driving in the desert in 817, a football
game in 910).
Irregularities. Some big changes are never mentioned directly. We never hear about Steve and Marcy's
divorce. Marcy's father seems to die between episode 222 and episode 710.
The series also includes changes which aren't part of a straight development.
For instance, in some episodes Kelly goes wild for boys, in other ones she's rather indifferent.
Al sometimes cares about Kelly's moral, sometimes he doesn't. He doesn't seem to have actual principles about that.
Bud has some successfull moments: he manages to have sex with a couple of girls and he becomes a frat member
in 804. Al isn't against homosexuality in general, but he doesn't like how so-called sissy marys behave.
Al's toilet in the garage moves from one side of the door to the other side after some seasons.
Marcy is rather inconsistent regarding Jefferson's sexual abilities.
Thanks to Harrison Inefuku, Sebastian Franke, "FD" and Joachim Raue.
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© Andreas Carl 2001