For a few decades, love and marriage really did go together like a horse and carriage when it came to sitcoms. Loving parents fostered tight-knit families that reflected the very best parts of their audiences, like, you know, respect for one another. Then in 1987, Fox’s Married… With Children came along,
The show’s dysfunctional Chicago family kicked down (or rather, joylessly entered) the front door of the typical sitcom-family home: Al Bundy was stressed, Peggy was a drag, and their kids were nightmares. This, apparently, was just what America needed at the time because the show was a rousing success — but even its biggest fans don’t know all that went on behind the iconic show’s scenes…
1. The show’s original name: Before settling on the now-iconic name, producers used another name for what would eventually become Married… With Children: Not The Cosbys.
2. The show made people mad: Certain circles of folks weren’t exactly jumping for joy when they saw Kelly’s skimpy outfits and flirtatious behavior broadcasted into their living room at prime time. They filed several formal complaints.
3. These complaints made the show popular: Married… With Children really took off once a family activist started a letter writing campaign to condemn the show for anti-family values. Once in the media spotlight, the show flourished.
4. Ed O’Neil’s killer audition: To win the role of Al Bundy, O’Neil was given a simple task: walk through the front door of the Bundy home. Before doing so, O’Neil slumped his shoulders and sighed, and that sealed the deal.
5. Don’t mess with Al: You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but Ed O’Neil could probably kick your butt. The actor has a black belt in Brazilian jujitsu!
6. Katey Sagal’s audition: When trying out for the part of Peggy, Sagal wore a short dress, tons of makeup, and her hair up all big and tall. In other words, she dressed as she envisioned Peggy, and producers appreciated that.
7. The other Al Bundy: Before producers awarded Ed O’Neil the iconic role, there was another in contention for the part of Al Bundy, Michael Richards! Had he earned the role, he might not have ever played Kramer on Seinfeld.
8. Producer’s other choices: Ed O’Neil and Katey Sagal were not the first choices for Al and Peggy. Producers originally selected Sam Kinison and Roseanne Barr for the roles, but apparently, those selections fell through.
9. It was expensive to produce: Every episode of the show cost Fox $1 million to make, an exorbitant fee given that episodes weren’t exactly brimming with special effects and explosions.
10. Ed O’Neil’s birthday surprises: A true man of the people, O’Neil often called fans on their birthdays or holidays; a man true to his character, O’Neil only made these calls collect, meaning the recipient had to accept the charges.
11. The Dodge’s secret: Al Bundy frequently referred to his “mighty Dodge,” but the car wasn’t actually a Dodge at all. It was a 1972 Plymouth Duster.
12. The lost episode: Fox refused to air a season three episode titled “I’ll See You In Court” after a powerful anti-obscenity activist got advertisements pulled from the show. The episode, which features Al and Peggy being unknowingly recorded in a motel room, was eventually released in 2003.
13. Kelly and Bud swap: Ed O’Neil never met the actors who were first cast as Kelly and Bud. When he did finally meet them, he didn’t like them and demanded a change. That’s when Fox found Christina Applegate and David Faustino.
14. Episode one re-shoot: Before O’Neil realized the original Kelly and Bud actors were as pleasant as a kick to the shins, the cast had already filmed the pilot in its entirety. When the actors were replaced, they had to re-shoot the entire first episode.
15. Christina’s side hustle: As her popularity skyrocketed thanks to the show, Applegate took on modeling and other acting gigs. Producers agreed to give her time off every now and then (she made a guest appearance on Friends) — and fans weren’t happy!
16. Kelly’s hair: In taking on those other roles, Christina Applegate dyed her hair a brunette color. This wouldn’t work for her blonde character, so while filming later seasons, she wore a wig.
17. The on-set feud: On-screen, Al and Peggy got along well with their neighbors, Marcy and Steve. In reality, Ed O’Neil had great contempt for Marcy-actress Amanda Bearse. He was the only cast member she didn’t invite to her wedding.
18. Hooray for the dog: The family dog, Buck, was played by the same pooch for 10 seasons! After that, producers felt the aging dog earned his retirement, so they threw him a party as a sendoff.
19. Ed O’Neil’s vision for the ending: The actor had thoughts on how the show should end. He wanted the Bundys to win the lottery! Only to have a tornado tear through town and wipe out their home — and the winning ticket — during a celebration.
20. News of the show’s demise: While out for a meal on vacation, Ed O’Neil overheard a couple talking about a newspaper article announcing the show had been canceled. This was how he learned he was out of a job!
21. Ed O’Neil made some cash: By the time the show wrapped up after 11 seasons, O’Neil was earning about $500,000 per episode, making him one of the highest paid television actors at the time.
22. No love?: Despite a massive cult-following — and becoming the longest running, scripted live-action show in Fox history — Married… With Children never won a single Emmy. It was the longest running show to go without one (until Baywatch ended).