Before Married… With Children hit the airwaves in 1987, the family sitcoms that littered the television landscape were a 1980’s reproduction of the family sitcoms of the 1950’s. Following in the groundbreaking steps of Roseanne, Married With Children push the envelope in ways that had not been seen before.
Al Bundy and Peg Bundy (Ed O’Neill and Katey Sagal) appear to be the hetero-norm, middle class white suburban couple that has been seen on television since it’s inception. But they aren’t. Al works in a shoe store for a living and hates every minute of it with a passion. Peg is a housewife who does not do housework. Their teenage daughter, Kelly (Christina Applegate), has only one thing going for her: her looks. Ne’er do well son Bud (David Faustino) is not exactly the brightest bulb in the box. Their new neighbors Marcy and Steve Rhoades (Amanda Bearse and David Garrison) are newlyweds and the picture perfect image of suburban normal-ness.
Married With Children was crude, rude and so far from politically correct that it didn’t even have a moral compass. But it was and is so funny. It was the perfect antidote to the perfect TV families of the late 1980’s and 1990’s. But that was the brilliance of this show. It mocked the perfection of the genre in a way that was refreshing. Sometimes when you turn on the television, you don’t want to think. You just need a dumb show to make you laugh and Married With Children was that show.
The legacy of Married With Children is not just the pushing of the envelope, but the idea that families on television reflect the audience who is watching. Families are messy and no one is perfect. While this show was a little far from reality, it revealed a truth about life and what audiences really want to see on television.