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.
After the terrible idea of adding a cute kid named Seven nearly took down the series in season seven, the series dusted itself off and came out with some strong episodes for season eight, 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'.")
The ninth season of the series sees 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.
"Ship Happens" has its moments as it sees the Al and Peg going on a cruise with Jefferson and Marcy, which results in disaster when a passenger causes the ship to sink and the bunch to be stuck on a raft with Gilbert Godfried. Both episodes are examples of how the series started to crumble a little bit at this point: the plots are still clever in their own twisted, crude Bundy way, but the episodes themselves seem to strain to get laughs. "I Want My Psycho Dad" has a funny concept, but it only gets some chuckles and the plot definitely doesn't seem as if it needed two episodes.
While the two-parters don't get the kind of laughs one would hope, there are some highlights to be found throughout the season. "Get the Dodge Out of Hell" (Marcy's ex, Steve appears in an episode where the Bundys accidentally "lose" their car when it never came out of a car wash) has some good laughs throughout and ends with a conclusion that's classic Bundy. "A Man For No Season" also manages to get some chuckles, as Al and his friends decide to break into Wrigley Field and, as a result, get picked to start their own league since pro sports are all on strike. Some of the other winners from the season include: "Sleepless in Chicago" (Al has to sleep with Marcy so that Jefferson can cash in Marcy's Barbie doll) and "Shoeway to Heaven" (Jefferson and Al find a ton of vintage shoes hidden in the shoestore and decide to cash in).
Note: while "best of" epsiodes frequently are left off of season sets, two special episodes: "Best of Bundy" and "My Favorite Married" (the first a clip show, the second a look by the cast at their favorite moments) have found their way onto this set.
184. 9- 1 901 4 Sep 94 Shoeway to Heaven
185. 9- 2 902 11 Sep 94 Driving Mr. Boondy
186. 9- 3 903 18 Sep 94 Kelly Breaks Out
187. 9- 4 904 25 Sep 94 Naughty but Niece
188. 9- 5 905 2 Oct 94 Business Sucks (1)
189. 9- 6 906 9 Oct 94 Business Still Sucks (2)
190. 9- 7 907 16 Oct 94 Dial "B" for Virgin
191. 9- 8 908 23 Oct 94 Sleepless in Chicago
192. 9- 9 909 6 Nov 94 No Pot to Pease In
193. 9-10 910 13 Nov 94 Dud Bowl
194. 9-11 911 27 Nov 94 A Man for No Seasons
195. 9-12 913 11 Dec 94 I Want My Psycho Dad (1)
196. 9-13 914 18 Dec 94 I Want My Psycho Dad (2)
197. 9-14 912 8 Jan 95 The Naked and the Dead, but Mostly the Naked
198. 9-15 915 15 Jan 95 Kelly Takes a Shot
199. 9-16 917 5 Feb 95 Get the Dodge Outta Hell
S-17 5 Feb 95 Best of Bundy
201. 9-18 918 12 Feb 95 25 Years and What Do You Get?
202. 9-19 919 19 Feb 95 Ship Happens (1)
203. 9-20 920 26 Feb 95 Ship Happens (2)
204. 9-21 916 12 Mar 95 Something Larry This Way Comes
205. 9-22 921 26 Mar 95 And Bingo was Her Game-O
206. 9-23 923 9 Apr 95 User Friendly
207. 9-24 925 30 Apr 95 Pump Fiction
S-25 30 Apr 95 My Favorite Married
209. 9-26 926 7 May 95 Radio Free Trumaine
210. 9-27 924 14 May 95 Shoeless Al
211. 9-28 922 21 May 95 The Undergraduate
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: Minisodes (clips from episodes) of "Facts of Life" ("Dope") and "Sheena" ("Do As the Romans").
Final Thoughts: While the ninth season of "Married...With Children" doesn't generate the kind of consistent laughs the series did in its earlier seasons, even lesser "Married" is still funnier than most sitcoms these days. Audio/video quality is average and the extras are minimal, but the set still gets a recommendation for fans.