A long time
ago…in a galaxy far, far away…1987, there was no internet, no cell phones, no Twitter, and only three broadcast networks, NBC, CBS, and ABC. In the fall of
1984, NBC debuted a new hit “The Cosby Show”, which was followed by ABC’s
“Growing Pains” in fall 1985.
When a new fourth network, FOX, debuted in 1987,
America was introduced to a brand new sitcom family that broke all the rules,
when Married…with Children premiered. It featured The Bundy family of Chicago,
consisting of sarcastic sexist Dad Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill), his lazy, horny
housewife Peg (Katey Segal), their two children, boy-crazy bimbo teenage
daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate) and young con artist Bud (David Faustino).
Along with The Bundy’s, we met their yuppie newlywed
neighbors, Steve and Marcy Rhoades (David Garrison and Amanda Bearse). The
series was created veteran TV Writing duo Ron Leavitt and Michael Moye, who
together their resume included hit shows such as “Happy Days”, Laverne and
Shirley”, “Good Times”, “Different Strokes”, and “The Jefferson’s”, as well as
creating the critically acclaimed, but short-lived (Due to its time slot being
up against ABC’s hit soap, “Dynasty”) 1984 NBC sitcom, “It’s your move” which
starred a then 15 year old Jason Bateman, as well as David Garrison, who three
years later to be a “Married…with Children” cast member as Steve Rhoades.
Leavitt and Moye were tired of happy, sticky sweet
TV Families as featured on “Family Ties”, “Growing Pains”, and television’s
then #1 show, “The Cosby Show”, and felt that other viewers were to, and there
could be an audience out there that would enjoy a more dysfunctional TV family,
in fact the original working title was “Not the Cosbys”.
In a Biography Channel Married…with Children
special, Marcy Vosburgh, a Writer/Producer on the show stated, “Their theory
was, when you watch Television Family Sitcoms, you just feel terrible about
your own life, because your life sucks, and they all have clean houses and hug
at the end.”
“And Ron and Mike wanted to do a show where no
matter what happened”, added Vosburgh, “At the end you could turn of the
television and feel a little better about yourself.”
The show became Fox’s first hit series, and ran in
primetime from 1987, until 1997, and since entering syndication in fall 1991,
has remained a hit in reruns, and the series later enjoyed a successful DVD
In honor of
its 30th anniversary, here are some show fun facts:
1. The original working title of the show was “Not the
2. Originally the show was greenlit as “What if Sam
Kinison and Roseanne Barr were married?” Both turned the show down, though
Roseanne got her own blue collar family sitcom on ABC in Fall 1988, which ran
until 1997, just as “Married with Children”, and in December 1989, Kinison
guest starred as Al Bundy’s Guardian Angel, in an hour long episode spoofing
“It’s a Wonderful Life”, entitled, “It’s a Bundyiful Life”
3. Al Bundy was the last role cast. Show Co-Creator
Michael Moye said in the “Married…With Children E! True Hollywood Story” half
of the actors who came into to audition for the part read it like Ralph Kramden
(Jackie Gleason’s beloved husband character on “The Honeymooners”), yelling, and
the other half in a scarier, creepy way as in “I’ll get you in your sleep Peg”,
like Jack Nicholson from “The Shining”.
4. Seinfeld’s Michael Richards read for Al Bundy
according to Casting Director Mark Hirschfeld during an interview on
“Married…with Children…E! True Hollywood Story”, while Richards didn’t get the
Al Bundy role, Hirschfeld said he later remembered and recommended Richards for
the part of Kramer when casting for “Seinfeld”.
5. The first role cast was that of next door neighbor
Steve Rhoades (David Garrison). Show Creators Ron Leavitt and Michael Moye had
previously worked with Garrison on a 1984 NBC Sitcom “It’s Your Move”, and
wrote the Steve Rhoades character specifically with Garrison in mind.
6. Show Creators Leavitt and Moye were big wrestling
fans, and the Bundys got their last name from pro wrestler King Kong Bundy,
who later appeared as a guest star on the show, first as one of Peg’s
relatives in Season 2, and in a later season as himself.
7. Steve Rhoades got his last name after wrestler Dusty
Rhoades, and in early episodes, Al had a co-worker at the shoe store name Luke
Ventura (Ritch Shyder) named after Jesse “The Body” Ventura.
8. Ted McGinley, who played Marcy’s second husband
Jefferson Darcy, actually first appeared as Peg’s husband during Season 4, in
the Christmas episode spoofing “It’s a Wonderful Life” where Sam Kinison
playing Al Bundy’s Guardian Angel, showed Al what life would’ve been like if he
was never born, McGinley played Peg’s perfect husband, Norman Jablonski.
9. When the Bundy’s made their TV Debut in 1987,
another series debuted the same time on Fox, “The Tracey Ullman Show”
featured short animated segments before and after the commercial breaks. Two
years later, that animated family had a 1989 Christmas special air on FOX,
followed by a spin-off series debut in January 1990, and the show still airs on
Fox today, “The Simpsons”.
10. David Boreanaz’s first television role was as Frank,
Kelly Bundy’s Biker Boyfriend on a 1993 episode “Movie Show”. When Kelly goes
out to the movies with her family for her birthday, she discovers Frank is
cheating on her, and later has her Dad Al Bundy beat Frank up.
11. Boreanaz of course went on to play Vampire Angel on
“Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and later in his own spin off “Angel”, late r
playing FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth on “Bones” and
currently stars as Master Chief Petty Officer Jason Hayes on “Seal Team”.
New shows premiere each fall TV Season. But most shows are not met with the controversy that "Soap" ignited in 1977 when debuting on ABC.
There was backlash from various religious groups, calling
it “A low-life, salacious program”, protests from The National Gay Task Force,
on the handling of the portrayal of a homosexual character on the show, some
ABC Affiliates refused to air the show, and other that did agree to air it,
only would in a later time slot, not its scheduled Tuesday 9:30pm scheduled
After a Newsweek article earlier in the year on a
possible storyline (Which was later proven to be false), ABC received 32,000
letters, nine didn’t have a problem with the show, but the rest did. Many sponsors also refused to air ads during
the show, and there many notes from the network about what scenes or dialogue
just why was there all this backlash and controversy? What was “Soap” about?
Well, it was a sitcom, that was also a spoof day time soap operas. Basically
the show took all the melodramatic story lines viewers had seen (And still see)
on daytime soap operas (And later night time ones, this was pre “Dallas” and
“Melrose Place”) but played them for laughs, and its continuing storylines
didn’t end in just one half hour episode, and when one storyline was later
concluded, another began, which added to the fun.
even a narrator who at the beginning of each new episode would give a recap of
what happened previously (Remember, this was 1977, before DVRs, or Internet
spoilers, or being able to watch a show online, if you missed an episode, you
had to wait for months or summer time before it was rerun). The Narrator (Rod
Roddy, later the “Price is Right” announcer) would ask “What will happen next?
To find out tune next week to “Soap”.
The continuing storyline of the show
revolved around two sisters, Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond) who had married
rich, and Mary Campbell (Cathryn Damon) whose family was blue collar, and the
spouses and children of both in the fictional setting of Dunn’s River,
Jessica was a spacey, but kind hearted socialite
married to rich, pompous stockbroker Chester Tate, (Robert Mandan) who
unbeknownst to Jessica, was having many extra marital affairs, and now was
being blackmailed by his secretary/mistress. Their promiscuous daughter
Corrinne (Diana Canova) was still in love with her former high school boyfriend
Tim (Sal Viscuso) who was now a Priest, and fought off her advances.
Since Corrine couldn’t have the man she truly was in
love with, she began an affair with her tennis instructor Peter (Robert Urich)
who was having affairs with most of his female students, including Jessica, who
had begun an affair with Peter, because she was lonely because Chester was
never home due to his philandering. Neither Jessica or Corrinne knew the other
was sleeping with Peter. Got all that so far? Oh wait…were just getting
residents of the Tate household included Chester and Jessica’s other daughter
Eunice (Jennifer Salt) a reporter secretly having an affair with a married
congressman. 13 year Billy Tate (Jimmy Baio) was a smart aleck, dealing with
puberty. Jessica and Mary’s father, known only as “The Major” (Arthur Peterson)
was a shell shocked World War II Veteran who still thought the war was going
on, and last but not least, Benson (Robert Guillame) the level headed sarcastic
Tate family butler who couldn’t stand Chester, but stayed because he loved the
rest of family, who needed his help to hold things together.
Meanwhile, across town, Mary lived with her second
husband Burt Campbell (Richard Mulligan) a construction worker and decent fella
with one slight problem…impotence. Unbeknownst to Mary, the reason for Burt’s
impotence was due to Burt feeling guilty about killing Mary’s first husband, a
Also living in the Campbell household were Mary’s
two sons from her first husband. There was Danny (Ted Wass), who also worked
for the mob, but wanted out. The Godfather agreed only if Danny killed the man
who killed his father…which would be Danny’s Stepfather Burt.
Mary’s younger son Jodie (Played by Billy Crystal,
pre “Saturday Night Live” and his successful film career) who was a homosexual,
who wants to have a sex change to be with his boyfriend, an in the closet
popular pro football player.
also has two sons from a previous marriage, Chuck (Jay Johnson) a ventriloquist
who thinks his dummy Bob is real. Chuck is mild mannered and shy, but uses Bob
to express a lot of politically incorrect views he feels deep down. Burt’s other
son? Well…he turns out to be the previously mentioned Peter, the womanizing
tennis pro, who ends up being murdered midway through the first season, though
at first we don’t know by who, setting a murder mystery where all the
characters are suspects the second half of the first season.
Who did it? Well Jessica ends up being put on trial
and found guilty, but we learn she isn’t the real killer, Peter’s real murderer
is…well…you’ll have to watch the series (All four seasons available on DVD) to
used in later seasons episodes include, soap opera staples such as amnesia,
child custody battles, convicts, kidnapping, love triangles, revenge, duels,
more affairs, cliffhangers, corruption, shocking revelations, shot-gun
weddings, scandals, a baby possessed by The Devil, cults, and horny aliens…yes,
you read that last one right. Everyone loves horny aliens.
“Soap” ran for four seasons on ABC before being
cancelled in 1981, leaving a lot unanswered cliffhangers, but has lived on in
reruns. The character of Benson got his own spinoff in 1979, which ran until
1986, and in a 1983 episode, even helped partially resolve one of the
unresolved cliffhangers from Soap’s last episode.
found a whole new audience in January 1994, when Comedy Central (pre “South Park”
era) began airing reruns of the show. Originally it only aired at 7:30pm
weeknights, but soon became the network’s highest rated series. Just a few
months later, Comedy Central began airing it 7:30, 8:00, and 11pm weeknights,
and occasionally aired weekend marathons.
mentioned before, the entire four seasons of “Soap” are available on DVD,
either separately by season, or all four seasons as a set. I can’t recommend
this series enough, it’s my #2 all-time favorite series after “Cheers”. The
first two seasons of “Benson” are also available on DVD, and while not
serialized like “Soap”, “Benson” has a more traditional sitcom setting, (And
season two features a then unknown Jerry Seinfeld, appearing in three episodes)
It’s a funny show worth checking out. Burt and Benson were tied as my two
favorite characters, and actor Robert Guillaume, who sadly recently passed
away, was an excellent actor, giving top notch performances in both series.
“Soap” was created by veteran TV Writer Susan
Harris, who perhaps had her greatest success with creating “The Golden Girls”
in 1985. According to a recent book on The Golden Girls, Rue McClanahan was
originally cast as Mary Campbell on “Soap” but declined, because she wanted to
play Jessica, whom she thought was a more interesting character, but that part
had been already cast with Katherine Helmond, who later in 1984, would go onto
play Mona on “Who’s the Boss?” Richard Mulligan (Burt) later starred in “The Golden
Girls” spin-off “Empty Nest”.
Susan Harris wrote just about every episode of the
first two seasons herself, and even appeared on screen in two episodes in
Season One as a prostitute named Babette. Having created many hit shows, Harris
says her favorite to write for was “Soap”, with great writing and a great cast,
I’m going to shut the hell up now, and let you check it out for yourself.