Married... with Articles


Rewind to the May 20, 1989, TV Guide cover and you'll see Roseanne Barr of Roseanne standing with her mouth ajar next to a screamin' headline. "Temper! Temper!" it says. "Behind Roseanne's Backstage Battles." Fast-forward - but not too fast - to that year's July 29 TV Guide cover story on the barely human Bundys. Their headline reads, "Does Married... With Children Go Too Far? Will It Give in to Critics?" There you have it. In their formative years, both shows took on personalities that would last them a lifetime. Monday closes the book on Fox's Married, while ABC's Roseanne will rest in whatever peace it has found after the May 20 episode. Bless their heavily mortgaged houses. A cursory look tells us that the Bundys and Conners were blue-collar, bombastic nuclear families prone to blowing up at each other with the regularity that a previous generation's Ozzie Nelson trilled, "Hi, honey, I'm home." But the cutting-edge, Emmy-caliber comedy of Roseanne often was overshadowed bythe star's seeming determination to be a nonstop bull in a china shop. Her hurricane-force personal life and tyrannical demeanor on the Roseanne set made America wince and recoil. Still, the show somehow kept going, providing big laughs and requiring tough love. Married had few, if any, serious off-camera rumblings. The stars punched in, and the show never aspired to be anything more than coarse, sexist, childish, stupid and - easy to forget - funny. Self-appointed decency crusaders swung from the heels at it, branding Fox's very first sitcom a bottomless vat of vulgarity. Its renegade creators, Ron Leavitt and Michael G. Moye, were of no mind to disagree. From day one, the Bundys were supposed to be unmitigated anti- Cleavers, a direct hit on June's Jell-O mould. Why? The answer isn't much deeper than "Just because." Because they were, and are, dirty to the touch, the Bundys aren't getting any big, commemorative send-offs. You take them out with the trash and hope the garbagemen aren't on strike. Married leaves more of a stench than a legacy, although its sub-Neanderthal humor perhaps hits the spot more often than most might admit. Throughout their decade on FOX, Al, Peg, Kelly and Bud Bundy have virtually cornered the cretin market, no doubt leaving Pauly Shore openly envious. The premiere episode, with its emblematic opening line, "Die, commie bimbo," also found a solicitous Al (Ed O'Neill) asking Peg (Katey Sagal) if there was anything else he could do for her. "You could shave your back," she answered. "The hair's there for a reason," Al rejoined. "It keeps you offa me at night." Al and Peg's hate-hate relationship avoided nuance at all costs. She was shapely, ditzy and lazy. He was lazy, ignorant and oafish. A former high school football hero - in his mind, at least - Al yearned to bed anyone but his wife. Avert the eyes But they "did it" at least twice, producing similarly impaired offspring. Daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate) had the IQ of a rump roast and the sex drive of 2,001 pre-pregnant Madonnas. Son Bud (David Faustino) was clueless far before the movie - and regressed. They all fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle gnawed on by their long-suffering dog, Buck. Unlike the Conners, the Bundys also afflicted their base sensibilities on a pair of next-door neighbors. Marcy and Steve Rhoades (Amanda Bearse and David Garrison) approached the Bundys as though they had encountered a Big Mac at Spago. "How could you marry such a chauvinistic, sexist man?" Marcy asked Peg. "Look, I'm not sexist," Al interjected. "I'm just saying women don't know nothing." When Mr. Garrison decided to leave the series, he was replaced by vain Jefferson D'Arcy (Ted McGinley), who married Marcy and somehow bonded with Al. Mr. McGinley no doubt appreciated the acting challenge. He previously played photographer "Ace" Evans on The Love Boat. Last Monday's double-shot of Married was par for the coarse. Al dreamed he had descended to hell and fell to his knees in gratitude when the devil told him, "For the rest of eternity, you'll never see your family again." Alas, it was only a dream. When Al came to, he realized "there's no hell like home." On Married, this passes for a sentimental moment. The other episode tried to upstage Ellen's 'coming out' episode by having the openly gay Ms. Bearse play Marcy's look-alike lesbian cousin, Mandy. Al exhibited his usual open-mindedness when Mandy asked him, "So, you don't have a problem with two women being together?" "No," he assured her. "As long as there's a guy watchin'." Married, which will marry off Kelly on Monday's finale, has always been a quintessential "guy" show. Roughly two-thirds of its audience is men, according to Nielsen Media Research. The Three Stooges no doubt held similar sway. Moe, Larry and Curly physically hit, poked and bit each other for laughs. Married verbally punched below the belt, never aiming high for fear of insulting its core audience. "You have very strong forearms," a sculpted blonde named Sherry once told Al. "It must be from all that flushing."
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