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STUDIO: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 530 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: None
The Bundys descend further into poor taste and absurdity in the eleventh and final season.
Ed O’Neill, Katey Sagal, Christina Applegate, David Faustino, Amanda Bearse
Do I really need to spell it out? It’s FOX’s first ever series– Married…With Children. Al hates his job and pleasing his wife, Peg, who sits on the couch and eats Bon-Bons all day. Bud is horny and Kelly is stupid. The formula wasn’t really messed with, and thank God for that.
I was always a huge fan of this show, and grew up watching it. It was refreshing because it turned the idea of the American family on its head. Other sitcoms were clean-cut, giving you the nuclear family that sat at the table and ate together every night, that went out and sang Christmas carols during the holidays. Lessons were learned at the end of the episode. But this show seeked to destroy those stereotypes and ideas of what a family should be. And this show came on back when television could genuinely shock you. We’re shocked by nothing these days. No behavior is taboo. But this really is America’s first dysfunctional TV family. My mom loved it, too. To this day if she sees the show on television, she’ll tell me about it and lovingly recount an old episode where Al goes to the dentist and the dentist exclaims “Mother of creatures big and small!” upon looking in Al’s mouth. That episode or the one in which Santa Claus fell into the Bundys’ backyard and died. The show, maybe the best anti-sitcom ever, is chock full of classics. There aren’t really any in this season, but there’s still lots of fun to be had and subpar Bundy is still good Bundy in my book.
So clearly this wasn’t the greatest season, and a decline is inevitable when a show is on this long. But there were some standout episodes mixed in. One of the best episodes was where COPS followed Al and his police officer friend around, even though Al wasn’t a cop. Another highlight was “God Help Ye Merry Bundymen”, the Christmas episode in which Al and Griff lose their jobs at the shoe store and sit in the mall singing Christmas songs while holding a sign that says “Will Stop Singing for 25 Cents”. Also of note is “The Stepford Peg” in which Peg slips and falls, hitting her head and wiping out her memory. She awakes and becomes the housewife Al always wanted, cooking party snacks for Al and the guys while they watch a wrestling pay-per-view. The saddest part of this set, though, and of the show in general, is the lack of a proper series finale. “How to Marry a Moron”, in which Kelly almost marries a guy whose family is filthy rich, was apparently billed as the series finale by FOX even though they aired one more episode, “Chicago Shoe Exchange”, after it. It was surely a casualty of the show’s decline in ratings and eventual move to Saturday, the other place (besides Friday) where shows go to die a slow, horrible death. But it’s bullshit, because the show deserved better. Way better.
Another aspect of note, and worth pointing out even though it’s pretty obvious, is the stepping-stone this show served as for those involved. David Faustino’s career was never huge, although he has appeared in things over the years, just nothing major. Christina Applegate, on the other hand, had already started becoming a movie star while the show was still on the air. Katey Sagal, of course, branched over into Futurama not too long after MWC went off the air. But I don’t need to tell you guys that, I’m sure. And she’s now owning our faces on Sons of Anarchy. Ed O’Neill, on the other hand, was here and there for awhile until landing several roles on TV, not the least of which being The West Wing. Soon after that, of course, he became part of the cast of John From Cincinnati, and while his performance was good and reliable, the show was dogshit. 76 different flavors of it, to be exact. But that’s besides the point. It’s all balanced out since now he’s enjoying newfound success with Modern Family, that of which the Academy will hopefully see fit this year to rewarding him with a long-deserved Emmy.
Look, Al Bundy is an iconic character in television history. He’s not as complex but every bit as influential as Archie Bunker for the era he was around in. His memory as a poor husband and father, women’s shoe salesman, and High School football hero will always live on. So yeah, the show had begun going downhill, as most shows that wear out their welcome usually do. The storylines became more absurd and unbelievable, the jokes were seen coming from a mile away, and the show lost the spark that it used to have, even though it was somewhat there in certain episodes. It’s unfortunate but not surprising. The thing is, though, the show was always watchable because of how well the actors always sold it and how we could oddly relate to them. This really was America’s family during a time that we really didn’t want to admit that it was closer to reality than, say, Full House or Home Improvement. When the man gets us down, when our significant other does something that annoys us, or when we just want to relax in front of the TV with our hand down our pants, I think we all have a little Al Bundy in us. Whoooaaaaaaaaa Bundy!
The picture quality is at least decent enough, but there are no special features at all. No retrospectives or cast interviews is a real bummer. But when these DVD releases couldn’t even bother to have Frank Sinatra’s original “Love and Marriage” theme song as opposed to the elevator music stand-in, we can’t expect much. I know music rights are a bitch to obtain but I’d prefer silence over what they replaced it with. Or sounds of torture.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars