In the early years of Fox, "Married...With Children" was an example of a perfectly cast series that was offensive and edgy, yet brilliantly so. It was also certainly one of the network's few early hits, continuing on for ten years. While tasteless, nearly every one of the show's lines of dialogue remains brutally funny, delivered to perfection by the cast, especially Ed O'Neill, whose Al Bundy is still a television icon.
Years later, some of the "cutting edge" humor doesn't seem so edgy anymore, but in a time when entertainment seems to be getting more and more afraid of being the slightest bit offensive, "Married" seems refreshing. As irritable and sarcastic (and occasionally vicious) as the show's humor could be, there was still very much the occasional hint of genuine care between the characters.
Of course, the show stars Ed O'Neill as Al Bundy, a former high school football "legend" who now finds himself with a wife (Peggy Segal) he hates (in the 10th season's "How Bleen Was My Kelly": Peg: "Al, if you're going to come in, can you shut the door? Al: "Peg, if you're going to live here, can you shut your mouth?") and two children (David Faustino and Christina Applegate) who he can't stand.
Although early episodes focused a bit more on Bud's unsuccessful attempts with women and Kelly's incredible stupidity, the remaining seasons achieved a better balance between the misadventures of the children and the unholy turmoil of Al's life and Peggy's general indifference. There's also neighbors Marcy (Amanda Bearse) and Jefferson (Ted McGinley), who consider themselves better than the Bundys, but by this point had started sinking to their level more often.
The ninth season of the series saw the show trying to fall back on what's worked, and the results - while hysterical at times - are a little uneven and don't match the output of the show at its prime. The series occasionally threw out 2-parters throughout its run, and while they were often highlights, the trio here come up a bit short. "I Want My Psycho Dad" sees Al and his "NO MA'AM" group heading to Washington, DC to protest the cancellation of "Pyscho Dad". "Business Sucks" and "Business Still Sucks" follows Al's troubles after he bans breastfeeding in the store.
The 10th season of the series is nearly the show's last (as the show ended after season 11), but the episodes rebound nicely from the rather uneven 9th round. While it's not one of the show's finest moments, "Requiem for a Dead Briard" is one of the highlights from the season, as it focuses on the passing of Buck, as well as how the family deals with it. Meanwhile, Buck is in the great beyond, undergoing a legal battle in order to see what animal he's reincarnated as. In true Bundy fashion, Buck gets a cat judge who doesn't take too well to Buck's previous run-ins with felines. The hilarious ending shows that Buck can never truly escape.
Of course, it's not a season of "Married...With Children" without a "Get Rich Quick" scheme. This time around, it's "How Bleen is My Kelly", which sees Kelly coming up with a spectacular hair regrowth formula by accident after her idiotic attempts to create a new Crayola color. Not surprisingly, Al wants to take advantage and market the product. However, they eventually decide otherwise, as side effect of the substance - wanting to be more romantic with their wives - leads Al and the other No MA'AM test subjects to believe that regrowing their hair isn't worth it. There's also "Reverend Al", where Al and the No MA'AM group, Al tries to avoid paying taxes by claiming No MA'AM to be a church to avoid paying taxes. While Marcy busts Al, men across the country start pleging their support to Al's cause - leading to donation inflows.
The season also offers a pair of two-parters, although the better of the two is "Spring Break", where Kelly and her friends actually come up with a scheme to get Spring break plane tickets to Florida away from Bud and his friends. When Marcy finds out that Jefferson tricked her and is actually in Florida instead of computer camp, Marcy vows revenge and takes Bud and his friends with her.
Other highlights include: "The Two That Got Away" (Al and Jefferson seek revenge on actress Shannon Tweed when she gets them booted from their cabin), "Love Conquers Al" (Peggy takes Al and her parents to a marriage therapy retreat), "Turning Japanese" (To get a promotion at the bank, Marcy must buy Al's car for her Japanese boss), "Al Goes to the Dogs" (Al and Marcy clash over a doghouse for Lucky) and "The Agony and the Extra C" (Jefferson's anniversary surprise is ruined when a drunken tattoo artist misspells Marcy's name.)
Unfortunately, the set doesn't include the "Al Bundy Sports Spectacular", a special that aired during this season. It also continues to include the replacement theme music over the opening.
212. 10- 1 1002 17 Sep 95 Guess Who's Coming to Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
213. 10- 2 1001 24 Sep 95 A Shoe Room with a View
214. 10- 3 1003 1 Oct 95 Requiem for a Dead Briard
215. 10- 4 1004 8 Oct 95 Reverend Al
216. 10- 5 1005 15 Oct 95 How Bleen was My Kelly
217. 10- 6 1006 22 Oct 95 The Weaker Sex
218. 10- 7 1007 29 Oct 95 Flight of the Bumblebee
219. 10- 8 1008 5 Nov 95 Blonde and Blonder
220. 10- 9 1011 19 Nov 95 The Two That Got Away
221. 10-10 1009 26 Nov 95 Dud Bowl II
223. 10-12 1010 3 Dec 95 Bearly Men
224. 10-13 1013 10 Dec 95 Love Conquers Al
225. 10-14 1012 17 Dec 95 I Can't Believe It's Butter
226. 10-15 1014 7 Jan 96 The Hood, The Bud and the Kelly (1)
227. 10-16 1015 14 Jan 96 The Hood, the Bud and the Kelly (2)
228. 10-17 1016 4 Feb 96 Calendar Girl
229. 10-18 1019 11 Feb 96 The Agony and the Extra C
230. 10-19 1017 18 Feb 96 Spring Break (1)
231. 10-20 1018 25 Feb 96 Spring Break (2)
232. 10-21 1020 17 Mar 96 Turning Japanese
233. 10-22 1022 24 Mar 96 Al Goes to the Dogs
234. 10-23 1024 14 Apr 96 Enemies
235. 10-24 1021 28 Apr 96 Bud Hits the Books
236. 10-25 1023 5 May 96 Kiss of the Coffee Woman
237. 10-26 1025 19 May 96 Torch Song Duet
238. 10-27 1026 19 May 96 The Joke's on Al
VIDEO: Presented in 1.33:1 full-frame, the eighth season episodes of "Married...With Children" appear to offer the same sort of image quality as one sees during broadcast re-runs of the series. Sharpness and detail are generally pretty decent, although some darker or dimly-lit scenes can appear noticably softer. Some mildly noticable compression artifacts pop up from time-to-time, as did some shimmering, but these issues aren't too terribly distracting. The elements used seemed clean, with no visible wear or damage. Colors are generally accurate, with no serious problems.
SOUND: The stereo soundtracks provide clear dialogue and a balanced mix between sound effects, laugh track and dialogue.
Final Thoughts: Although the show was a bit past its prime by this point, "Married..."'s 10th season does certainly have some highlights, and is an improvement over the prior season. The DVD set offers fine audio/video quality, as well as nothing in the way of extras. Recommended for fans.