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 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 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. 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 11th season was the show's last and, as much as I loved (and still do love) the series, it had reached the point where it was time to close up shop. While the show had gotten a remarkable amount of hilarious mileage out of the core concept, the prior few seasons had gotten somewhat more uneven. However, probably aware that the 11th round was going to be the last, the series certainly seems to have wanted to go out on a high note and there are some classic moments within. On a secret mission to meet old adversary Fidel Castro in the two-part "Requiem for a Chevyweight"), Jefferson shows Castro a picture of Marcy, to which he replies, "You married the kid from 'Home Improvement'?"
The season starts off with "Twisted" - while not a classic, it hits all the usual high notes. The episode has a tornado hitting Chicago, driving the Darcys and Bundys into the basement together. The episode plays up the show's usual gags, but does so better-than-average, with a favorite moment being Al getting sucked up into the tornado - elsewhere, Kelly wonders if it'll be like "Wizard of Oz", to which Peg replies: "Kelly, what are you thinking? Daddy's going to get sucked up by the tornado, spin around in the air and land smack on some wicked witch?" Sure enough...
Other highlights from the season include: "Damn Bundys" (Al sells his soul in order to play in the Super Bowl and is soon joined in hell by familiar faces), "Requiem for a Chevyweight" (Al struggles to find a part for his legendary Dodge, then faces the problem of finding a new car), "Children of the Corns" (Al and Griff try to blackmail their sweatshop-owning boss into giving them a raise) and "The Jugs Have Left the Building" (Peggy and Kelly team up for a singing contest in Branson.)
Overall, while it was probably the time for the series to exit, it goes out with a successful final season, delivering a great deal of laughs.
VIDEO: Presented in 1.33:1 full-frame, the 11th 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.
EXTRAS: Previews for other titles from the studio. Otherwise, nothing - too bad that this last season couldn't have at least a retrospective.
Final Thoughts:Overall, while it was probably the time for the series to exit, it goes out with a successful final season, delivering a great deal of laughs. The DVD set offers fine audio/video quality, but next-to-no extras. Recommended.