In our technological driven age, a fully automated house seems like a dream come true. But dreams and reality don’t always mix.
In the 1999 Disney TV movie Smart House, Ben (Ryan Merriman) and his family have just won a fully automated house. The computer, known as Pat (Katey Sagal) seems easy enough to control. But when Ben starts tinkering with Pat, whatever plans Ben had go out the window.
Smart House is one of those TV movies that is meant for a specific audience. The problem is that unless your part of the desired demographic, this TV movie is neither memorable or entertaining.
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.
In the 1980’s, family sitcoms were basically a retooling of the family sitcoms from the 1950’s. Even with modern updates, it was the same concept. It was still the happy nuclear family who would somehow (with the exception of the very special episodes) find a way to resolve any issues within a 30 minute episode.
Then Married With Children premiered. It was everything the other shows were not. It was raunchy, it was sexist, it was so far from politically correct that one needed a telescope to find the political correctness in a show. But it was funny and it is still funny today.
Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill) works in a women’s shoe store and tries to relive the 15 seconds of glory he had on the high school football field. His wife, Peggy (Katey Sagal) is suppose to be a housewife, but doesn’t do much housework. Their daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate) is a blonde ditz and their son Bud (David Faustino) has only girls on the brain. Living next door are the yuppy Marcy and Steve Rhoades (Amanda Bearse and David Garrison). Later on in the series Steve leaves and Marcy marries Jefferson D’Arcy (Ted McGinley).
As far as I am concerned, there is nothing like waking up a Saturday morning and beginning my weekend with a Married With Children rerun. What makes it’s so funny is that is more real that other family sitcoms of the same era. Not every issue is wrapped up neatly within 30 minutes and not everyone is as lovey dovey to their spouse and children as television would make it seem. Sometimes you need to laugh out loud and Married With Children never fails to make me laugh out loud.