Making of Married... with Children

Last update November 25, 2002

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by Alex De Rouck, edited by Andreas Carl

Making of a Season

The storylines for the first half of the season ar at least decided a month or 2 in advance. The subjects of the first half of the season are usually written down before the first taping takes place. Some key writers/production people come back early from their vacation to work out these storylines. The ideas for the second part of the season are mostly decided on before new year.

Once the subject is decided, the actual script is written by a staff writer. The script is scheduled to be done 2 weeks before the actual taping week. The writer's work is reviewed by the producers/director who makes comments and may suggest changes. The script is finalized mostly by the writer in charge, but almost always with input from the producers. When an episode gets credited to a non-staff writer, those persons usually work out the storyline and script themselves, but it is also heavily supervised by the producers and staff writers before it serves as a Married with Children script.

The production staff is responsible for all aspects of the show: supervising the writers, director and cast, making sure the sets are built on time, booking guest stars, hiring extras, in general make sure everything is okay for the taping week. One episode costs about 1 million dollars to produce, including cast salaries. When the filming is being done, whether it is rehearsal or actual taping, the cost of having the crew around is about 50 000 dollars an hour. Since delays are expensive, everyhting must be in place before the taping week takes off. The taping season is from mid August till April. There is usually a "wrap party" at the end of a taping season. The cast and staff bring their families and the whole bunch goes to a restaurant or an amusement place.

Making of an Episode

The old set is torn down, the new one is build. Since season 9, the Bundy living room is a permanent set on stage 28 at Sony Pictures Studios (historic MGM Studios) in Culver City, a town 10 miles (16 kilometers) southwest of downtown Los Angeles. From season 3 to 8, Married... with Children was taped at stage 9 of Sunset-Gower Studios (historic Columbia Pictures Studios) in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Before that, it was taped at ABC Television Center in Hollywood. Take a look at a picture of "upstairs" in the permanent set of the Bundy living room. The main additional set is built to the right of the living room set. If there are more additional sets on an episode, they are built on a different stage. Scenes on those sets are taped before the main tapings on Friday and shown to the audience on monitors.

The cast, director and producers read the script in the afternoon. This is mostly the first time the cast sees the script, which is called "Table Script" at that time. Comments are made, changes suggested, staff writers not involved in the material also may make comments. The script is changed accordingly. In the later seasons, this is an off day for the cast, i.e. everything they used to do on Monday is made on Tuesday.

Actual rehearsals (without cameras or costumes) take place. The director is involved, giving comments on camera angles and stage directions. The cast/crew looks how the script lines/dialogues work, more script changes are usually made.

Two more non dress rehearsals. Then, a run-thru with camera, lighting and sound people present takes place. Script changes are still possible. If location shoots are necessary, they also take place on Tuesday or Wednesday.

A dress run-thru (without the wigs) with the entire crew present. This afternoon run-thru is recorded. The staff reviews the tape, changes (directorial or scriptwise) are still possible. Also on this day, pre-tapings are held (flashback scenes for instance). This scenes are not held before an audience, because most of the time it takes too long (costume changes etc.) to tape them, and it seems that the audience is bored very soon (wisdom from the strange, but true category).

On this day, 2 tapings take place. The first taping (usually at 5:30 PM, out at 6:30 PM) is a full dress rehearsal in front of an audience. Not a single clip of this taping makes it on the screen. After this taping, the cast and crew review it, final comments are made, changes are still possible. The second taping (usually at 8 PM, out at 9 PM) is the real deal, this is what we see and hear on TV, from season four on in stereo. The audience reaction is real, no canned applauses or laughs are added. A clip of memorable scenes and a warm-up guy cheered up the audience before. After that, the cast is introduced. Ed O'Neill and Christina Applegate ususually get the loudest ovations. Then the taping begins. If a mistake occurs, it is done over and over again until it's done right, or until the producers/director are happy with it. As mentioned before, pre-taped scenes are shown to the audience on monitors. After the taping, when the audience already is gone to dream their sweet dreams, the cast is held at the studio. The producers and writers skim the tape for scenes where the actors could have done better. A last minute change can be slipped in and the actors can be called back to redo the scene. The actors HATE waiting around for the producers to say the recording is 100 % okay, but once the decision is made the tape is 100% okay, there is no turning back because first thing saturday morning the old set is torn down and the set for the next taping is being put up.

 Married... with Children Ticket

The July 15, 1995, issue of the Bundy Quarterly includes an interesting taping report from an audience member's point of view. You can get it at Andreas Paul's site. Thomas Fuchs reports of his visit to the very last public taping of a Married... with Children episode (The Desperate Half-Hour - 1123) on his website (go to "Miscellaneous" -> "More Stuff" -> "The Bundys' Residence").

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© Alex de Rouck & Andreas Carl 2002