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 he hates (Peggy Segal) 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.
By the seventh season, the series had already crafted some classics (season 5's "We'll Follow the Sun", Season 3's "Poke High" and many others) and saw a fairly major cast change when David Garrison was replaced by Ted McGinley. While there are some terrific episodes in season 7, the season also saw the show's most controversial change of all - one that still dismays fans of the series. The addition is called: Seven. In the opening episode ("The Magnificent Seven") sees Peggy's relatives coming over to visit, much to the horror of Al and the kids. After the relatives leave, they realize that they've left their kid - Seven - behind.
Seven seems more like a network directive to add a cute kid to the series than anything else, and the character was eventually written out later in the season ("Peggy and the Pirates", where he's put to bed and then never seen again, aside from a few brief appearances in the season after) He wasn't funny, the series was never about "cute" (or nice, for that matter) and he never seemed to fit in with the stories. While I never thought the series "jumped the shark", some fans thought the addition of Seven was the point where it did.
After Seven nearly took down the series in season Seven, the series dusted itself off and came out with some strong episodes, starting with "Luck of the Bundys", where Al suddenly has a streak of incredible luck - the kids are moving out, he's winning at poker and everything seems to be going his way. However, Al knows that there's a bigger problem boiling underneath - the "Bundy Curse", which means that anytime Al has a run of good luck, it is met with a serious dose of bad luck - which all piles on poor Al at the end in spectacular fashion after Jefferson gets Al in on a gambling scheme (when approached by Jefferson, Al says he'll call his broker, "EF Nuttin'.")
Some of the other highlights in this season include: "Banking On Marcy" (Marcy's boss has to make a speech in front of shareholders about how the bank has lost a ton investing in "Last Action Hero", but she's afraid to until it's suggested she focus on sex while giving the speech - which leads to surprising results), "No Ma'am" (Al and his friends take a stand against women's lib), "How Green Was My Apple" (When Jefferson steals an Apple from Al's tree, the two neighbors go to war over their shared property line), "Kelly Knows Something" (after Al is booted off a game show because the audience didn't like him, he teaches Kelly what he knows - but every fact she learns bumps one out of her head), "The D'Arcy Files" (Jefferson reveals his past life as a spy) and "The Worst Noel" (Al remains unaware he's uninvited to this year's D'Arcy Christmas party.)
158. 8- 1 5 Sep 93 A Tisket, a Tasket, Can Peg Make a Basket?
159. 8- 2 12 Sep 93 Hood 'n the Boyz
160. 8- 3 19 Sep 93 Proud to Be Your Bud?
161. 8- 4 26 Sep 93 Luck of the Bundys
162. 8- 5 3 Oct 93 Banking on Marcy
163. 8- 6 10 Oct 93 No Chicken, No Check
164. 8- 7 24 Oct 93 Take My Wife, Please
165. 8- 8 7 Nov 93 Scared Single
166. 8- 9 14 Nov 93 NO MA'AM
167. 8-10 21 Nov 93 Dances with Weezy
168. 8-11 28 Nov 93 Change for a Buck
169. 8-12 12 Dec 93 A Little off the Top
170. 8-13 19 Dec 93 The Worst Noel
171. 8-14 16 Jan 94 Sofa So Good
172. 8-15 23 Jan 94 Honey, I Blew Up Myself
173. 8-16 6 Feb 94 How Green was My Apple
174. 8-17 13 Feb 94 Valentine's Day Massacre
175. 8-18 20 Feb 94 Get Outta Dodge
176. 8-19 27 Feb 94 Field of Screams
177. 8-20 20 Mar 94 The D'Arcy Files
178. 8-21 10 Feb 94 Nooner or Nothing
179. 8-22 24 Apr 94 Ride Scare
180. 8-23 1 May 94 The Legend of Ironhead Haynes
181. 8-24 8 May 94 Assault and Batteries
182. 8-25 15 May 94 Al Goes Deep
183. 8-26 22 May 94 Kelly Knows Something
Note: Apparently, due to rights issues, the "Love and Marriage" Sinatra theme song so familiar to "Married" fans is not found here. It has been replaced by a generic piece of theme music. Although I can understand the rights issues not being cleared up (I'd rather have some Bundys than no Bundys), I can't believe a better piece of music than what they used here couldn't be found.
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.
EXTRAS: Two "minisode" (a kind of bizarre concept - 3 minute versions of episodes) versions of episodes - one from "VIP" and the other "Silver Spoons". Odd. There's also previews for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: "Married..."'s eighth season is a return to form after the disappointing seventh round, as the season offers some hysterical episodes, especially "How Green was My Apple" and "Luck of the Bundys". The DVD set offers a couple of minor extras and decent audio/video quality. Recommended.