Last update May 13, 2010

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Basic Facts


Married... with Children is an American TV situation comedy, a sitcom. 259 episodes (pilot and spin-off pilots included, specials not included) in 11 seasons premiered from April 5, 1987 to June 9, 1997 on Fox, an American TV network. On April 17, 1997, it was cancelled by Fox, basically as the network didn't accept the price of US$ 1.5 mio. per episode for season 12. Reruns are still on the air on weekdays and the show was sold to over 60 countries. Fox is owned by Rupert Murdoch, an Australian media tycoon. The network premiered on April 5, 1987, 8 pm with the pilot of "Married... with Children", followed by "The Tracey Ullman Show" pilot. Each show was aired three times on that night. The new network was created as a rival of the 3 classic networks NBC, ABC and CBS. Fox wanted to be different from these conservative networks, and so the unconventional Married... with Children became its flag-ship for the first few years.


 The Bundys The show is about a chaotic white trash family, the Bundys. They live in Chicago in disharmony. But they will always stay together, or as Al, the father of the family, says: "Love, hate, look, we're a family, what's the difference?" (episode 501). The plot is a parody on US family sitcoms of the mid-eighties, and so the working title of the show was "Not The Cosbys". Main issues in Married... with Children are sex, failures, indifference, parasitism and falseness. But the characters' lives go on, or as Al says: "Bundys are losers, not quitters" (episode 708). Its characters are usually politically incorrect, and some of them are more or less dumb. The show is so obnoxious that it never had really famous guest stars. As a compensation, the producers hired many Playboy Playmates and other beautiful women for small parts. During its 10 production years, the show changes a lot, but the Bundy family always stays together.

Additional Facts

Pre-Production Era

The series was created by Ron Leavitt († 2008) and Michael G. Moye. They were writing partners for "The Jeffersons" and produced series like "Silver Spoons" and "It's Your Move". The NBC series "It's Your Move" premiered on September 26, 1984, and lasted for 18 episodes, featuring David Garrison who played a neighbour as he did two and a half years later on Married... with Children. Tricia Cast, who was Marla in the second-last Married... with Children episode ever, played a daughter. Famous guest actors were River Phoenix and Kathy Ireland. Some Married... with Children episodes were just copies of "It's Your Move" episodes. For instance, the MwC episode "Just Married... with Children" (220) is a plagiarism of the IYM episode "Dad and Me". First, Leavitt and Moye considered Sam Kinison and Roseanne as Al and Peg, but they finally chose Ed O'Neill and Katey Sagal. Kinison had a guest appearance in "It's A Bundyful Life, Part II" (413). Roseanne got a show of her own one and a half years after the premiere of Married... with Children. The first pilot episode was shot with other actors as Kelly and Bud - Tina Caspary and Hunter Carson. Therefore it had to be reshot with Christina Applegate and David Faustino.

Rise and Censorship

 Steve and Marcy In 1989, Terry Rakolta of Bloomfield Hills (a suburb of Detroit, Michigan), started a fight against the show as she objected to it as negative for families. She wrote to all the sponsors of the series and took part in several talk shows to stop Married... with Children. The show lost a few sponsors for a short time, but Rakolta's fight made people curious about this series. The ratings improved and since then the producers have sent a fruit basket to Rakolta every Christmas. However, a 1989 show called "I'll See You in Court" wasn't sold to Fox as it was too crass for them. It is now known as "The Lost Show". Outside the US it was broadcasted many times as there is actually no notable difference to other episodes, but the US premiere on FX didn't take place before June 18, 2002 - 13 years, 5 months and 12 days after the taping of the show. Unfortunately its world premiere is unknown. Rakolta later became president of the organization "Americans for Responsible Television". Another concession towards Fox is about the two-parter "I Want My Psycho Dad". This episode was scheduled for early season eight (1993). It's about violence on TV which was a big issue in US Congress and Government at that time, so it was moved to early season nine.

Production Years and Places

In its eleventh and last season, Married... with Children was the longest-running entertainment series on American TV (when the CBS show "Murder, She Wrote" was cancelled in spring 1996 after 12 seasons). Nobody expected this success when the show was created. Therefore season 1 has only 13 episodes, which is actually only half a season. Before Fox saw the tape of the pilot episode, the order was even only 6 episodes. Married... with Children was produced by Embassy Communications, ELP Communications and Columbia Pictures Television at ABC Television Center in Hollywood (until season 2) at Sunset-Gower Studios in Hollywood (seasons 3 to 8, historic Columbia Pictures Studios) and at the Sony Pictures Studios (from season 9, historic MGM Studios on 10202 West Washington Blvd.) in Culver City, a town 10 miles (16 kilometers) southwest of downtown Los Angeles (from season 9 on). The first taping for the pilot was on December 12, 1986, the last one was on March 28, 1997, for "How to Marry A Moron" (because of scheduling problems with a family and friends audience). Today, the rights for the show are owned by Sony Pictures Television (SPT). SPT is part of the Columbia TriStar Television Group which is owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE). Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment - another SPE company - would be responsible for a DVD release of the show.

Ratings and Cancellation

 Jefferson and Bob Rooney The show was Fox's first hit series. On November 27, 1988, Married... with Children became the first Fox show to deliver a 10 rating and a 25 share, i.e. 10% of all American households and 25% of all American households watching TV that time were watching the premiere of the episode "Poke High" (304). With the season 6 premiere on September 8, 1991, it hit number one in the rankings with 29.2 million viewers and its highest share of 29, i.e. 29% of all running US TV sets were tuned to MwC. In some areas - like Los Angeles or Washington D.C. - it was the top show of the week many times. From season 4 to 10, its time slot was Sunday at 9 pm. In season 11, Fox switched the show to a Saturday night slot. Since Bundy fans do have lives, ratings became worse, so the episode premieres were moved to Sunday pre-primetime. After problems with football overtimes it was moved to Monday primetime. Meanwhile, there was hardly any advertising for the show, just as if Fox didn't believe in MwC anymore. All these factors made the ratings sink from 14 to 9 million viewers and the series disappeared from the top 100 shows list. Another problem in season 11 was the fact that Columbia TriStar couldn't produce severals episodes on time. After all this trouble, Fox didn't want to pay US$ 1.5 mio. per episode for another season as the show already lost some viewers in season 10, and there would be more TV channels on the air in the future. They decided that buying the show would be a risk as they couldn't be sure that they would receive advertising revenues of the same amount as the purchasing costs. Fox decided on April 17, 1997, to cancel the show. I don't know if Columbia TriStar offered the show to other networks or stations, but since there was nobody to buy season 12, production of the show ended. Since Fox's decision took place after the last season 11 taping, there is no actual final episode.


Despite these successes the show has never won an Emmy Award due to its disreputable image. There were only some Emmy nominations:
Outstanding Editing for a Series (Multi-Camera Production) - 1989 - Larry Harris (Editor) - Requiem for a Dead Barber
Outstanding Achievement in Costuming for a Series - 1990 - Marti Masamitsu (Key Costumer) - Raingirl
Outstanding Editing for a Series (Multi-Camera Production) - 1990 - Larry Harris (Editor) - Who'll Stop the Rain
Outstanding Achievement in Costuming for a Series - 1991 - Marti Squyres (Costumer) - Married...with Aliens
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Costuming for a Series - 1994 - Marti Squyres (Costumer) - Take My Wife, Please

Live Audience and Set

 Steve and Marcy The live audience becomes a part of the show through the seasons. The laughters, applauses and awwws you hear are real. There is no canned audience sound added. The first time an incoming character gets applause just for entering is in "You Gotta Know when to Fold 'Em, Part 1" (416) for Al. It's the first episode without Steve as a regular character. The record audience applause is for David Garrison's surprise entrance in "Get the Dodge Out of Hell" (917), lasting over 20 seconds. David makes fun of that by looking at his watch. The set of Married... with Children was also used for other shows. For instance, Al's shoe store can be seen in an episode of the sitcom "One Day at A Time" when it's used as the office of an air-travel agent. More details about the development of an episode at Making of MwC.

MwC's Place in US Comedy History

There are TV shows that have been running for decades. NBC's "Meet the Press" is on the air since 1947. NBC's "Today Show" is the longest-running infotainment show, broadcasted since 1952. "The Guiding Light" started on CBS the very same year and ist the oldest TV entertainments series. NBC's "The Tonight Show" has been on the air since 1954, being the longest-running TV comedy show. Have a look at a list of the longest-running weekly US comedy series (without sketch shows):
 Jefferson and Bob Rooney
  450+ episodes
435 episodes  
369 episodes
336 episodes
274 episodes
274 episodes
269 episodes
264 episodes
259 episodes
255 episodes
255 episodes
255 episodes
254 episodes
253 episodes
251 episodes
The Simpsons
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet  
My Three Sons
Make Room for Daddy
The Beverly Hillbillies
The Donna Reed Show
Married... with Children
King of the Hill
Happy Days
Love Boat
The Jeffersons
20 years
14 years
12 years
11 years
9 years
8 years
11 years
11 years
10 years
13 years
10 years
9 years
8 years
10 years
11 years

Read more about the show at the Legacy page.

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© Andreas Carl 2003

Thanks a lot to Scott J., Richard Ballard, Ralph Morse, Grail, StuartM, Carolyn Crapo, Harald van Bebber, Leandro M. Pinto, Bertram Thompson and "DON3k". Special thanks to Gert Walliser.