Rolling Stone (Magazine):
Article about Married... with Children
Last update April 13, 1998
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Transcribed by Ralph Morse
From Rolling Stone Magazine issue #555, dated June 29th,
1989, so the article was written right around the end of season 3.
There was a 3.5" x 4.5" picture of Al and Peg on the couch; the caption said
"Married to the slob: Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill) and wife Peg (Katey Sagal) at
By Paul Simms
Bad odors are to 'Married ... With Children' what blood was to the Grand
Guignol. Al Bundy's wife, Peg, carps about his foot odor. His friends belittle
his bodily hygiene. Peg cooks bad-smelling meals. The yard is full of dog
crap. Potty. Caca. Doody. And so on.
"The show was sold on the premise that no one is ever going to learn anything
watching it," says creator and executive producer Michael G. Moye. "We're not
going to raise anybody's consciousness. It's basically for the man and woman
that comes home beat to shit every day and wants to turn on the TV and laugh."
Moye and the show's other creator and executive producer, Ron Leavitt, have
kept their word. Al, (played by Ed O'Neill) is a shoe salesman burdened with a
horny wife, Peg (Katey Sagal), a slutty teenage daughter, Kelly (Christina
Applegate), and a hormone-oozing pubescent son, Bud (David Faustino). The
daughter talks about getting laid. Al tells Peg she never satisfies him
sexually. Peg tells Al he never satisfies her sexually or financially. And
then Al goes to the bathroom to take a dump.
Actually, to enjoy a dump. Al likes nothing better than to get up off
the ratty living-room couch, tuck the sports section under his arm and parade
upstairs like a conquering hero to linger over a nice long one. It's a running
joke on the show.
Get it? Apparently, millions of Americans do. Married ... With Children
is Fox's top-rated sitcom; it gets more eighteen-to-thirty-four-year-old
viewers than any other show in its time slot.
"You go into Western-wear stores and they quote entire lines from Sunday's
show," Leavitt says. "I mean, they've memorized the goddamn show!"
"When people see my Married ... With Children jacket," Moye says,
"they'll cross the street in the rain and traffic to say, 'That's my favorite
show. I hate TV, and that's the only show I watch.'"
The show does seem to inspire a strange level of enthusiasm among its fans. Al
gets a roar of approval from the studio audience every time he heads upstairs
to the bathroom. They hoot every time Kelly exits, because they can see her
jean-covered bottom. And they roar with laughter at the steady barrage of
vibrator jokes, dog-doo jokes, impotence jokes and other single-entendres that
pass for conversation on Married ... With Children. They never groan at
the ridiculously obvious punch lines, and they certainly make no distinction
between verbal wit and a new slang word for breasts.
Many people, however, find the show childish.
And some think it's even harmful. Terry Rakolta, a Michigan housewife,
objected to Married ... With Children so strongly that she organized a
letter-writing campaign, made major corporations reconsider their decisions to
advertise on the show and basically got it more press coverage than any P.R.
agent could have.
"That was a joy," Leavitt groans. "My theory is that somewhere someone
spoke to her and said, 'Hey. Guys are having fun. Stop them.'"
"At first," Moye says, "it pretty much amused me, because here was one woman's
opinion and suddenly it was on the front page of the New York Times. I
mean, did anybody kill anybody in Lebanon today? This is the best you
can do for the front page? It's not my responsibility to raise her children or
anyone else's children. I'm having a hard enough time raising my own. I
haven't been quite convinced yet that letting a kid watch Married ... With
Children will turn him into Ted Bundy when he grows up."
Despite the controversy, Leavitt and Moye say they don't plan to tone down the
writing in the future. "Actually, we're going to delve into bestiality next
season," Moye says. "No, I'm just kidding. Believe it or not, we do censor
Not enough, according to the Fox censors. Earlier this season, for example,
Leavitt and Moye submitted a script in which Kelly joins the cheerleading
squad. The female coach (who seems to have taken a shine to Kelly) invites her
over for "the annual pajama party," saying, "We'll give each other crew cuts."
"A note came back that this was obviously a pussy-shaving joke," Leavitt says
incredulously. "We said 'What? Do the marines know about this?' These guys are
sicker than we are."
"So we took out the crew-cut line," says Moye, "and put in 'So we'll all get
together at my house. You know what I mean?' Which made it even more
Leavitt and Moye say their original inspiration for the show sprang from their
hatred of sitcoms like Family Ties, which all too often devolved into
laughless, weepy kitchen therapy sessions in which Dad and Alex finally
mustered up the courage to trade I love yous because the family pet or
grandmother had died.
"We'd see commercials for all these shows where people would hug all the
time," says Moye. "And we thought, 'Jesus Christ, isn't there a show where a
married couple can not always say, "I love you," every five minutes?'"
"Is every family happy?" Leavitt asks. "Do they all dress well?
Do both Mom and Dad have great jobs in every house in the world?
We didn't when we were growing up. I mean, you watch the dinner on
The Cosby Show, where everybody's enjoying each other's company and all
that. When we were growing up, dinner meant you grab the food, you get
screamed at, and you get the fuck out."
Moye and Leavitt were also tired of sitcoms that had become twenty-six-minute
morality plays designed to teach children and Americans in general that
honesty is the best policy.
"I can't believe that you need your morality taught by the kids on Facts of
Life," Leavitt says.
"Yeah," Moye says. "If you want to watch a show and learn about premarital
sex, let Alf teach you."
Grotesque, cartoonish and unpleasant, the characters on Married ... With
Children are the adult equivalent of Garbage Pail Kids. "You can look at
these people and say, 'At least I'm better than them,'" Moye says. But at the
same time, Leavitt and Moye think viewers identify with the Bundys. "Here are
two kids who don't agonize over cheating on a test and go talk to Mom and Dad
to straighten things out," Leavitt says.
Moye agrees proudly, "People will say, 'You know, my uncle Henry puts his
hands down his pants when he watches TV. I thought he was the only one who did
that.' There's always someone saying, 'You must have been peeking into our
living-room window.' I have yet to hear, 'Cosby is just like my uncle
Herbert.' Or 'Roseanne is just like my aunt Sadie.'"
And what about Roseanne?
"She's pretty fat, isn't she?" Leavitt says, laughing. "Oh, you mean the show?
I don't know. I saw it a couple a times, and it seemed kind of boring."
The two shows are frequently compared, primarily because both families are
blue-collar and argue openly.
"It's much closer to Cosby than it is to us," Leavitt says. They're
very sweet and fat."
Moye adds, "The only similarity is that both households make under thirty-five
grand a year."
The major difference is that a lot more people watch Roseanne, which
currently rivals Cosby as America's top-rated show. Also, viewers seem
to laugh along with Roseanne. They don't laugh along with the Bundys, because
the Bundys are stupid idiot people.
Those who hate Married ... With Children will probably never understand
its appeal. According to Leavitt and Moye, the bottom line is escapism. Or as
Leavitt says, "Personally, I like to watch a show and forget that AIDS exists.
It's like 'Hey, leave me alone for a half hour.'"
That sounds a lot like Al Bundy's frame of mind when he gets up off the couch,
tucks the sports section under his arm and heads upstairs....
(c) 1989 STRAIGHT ARROW PUBLISHERS INC.
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