Among the classic sitcoms of the 1990s, “Married… with Children” revolves around the Bundys, a dysfunctional suburban Chicago family whose members wouldn’t say a kind word to one another for a million dollars. Fox’s longest-lasting, live-action sitcom was loved by all because of Al, the family patriarch and failed shoe salesman, Peggy, the housewife who doesn’t actually work around the house, and the pair’s misfit children. The show, however, is full of behind-the-scenes surprises both on and off screen, and even if you’ve seen every episode, you can rest assured you don’t know the half of it. Better yet, we bet you didn’t notice the iconic mistake made on the show. To find out, read on to learn things that will surprise you.
1. Every Episode Cost A Fortune
Producing big-time movies isn’t cheap, and television shows can be just as expensive. Especially shows as lengthy as Married… with Children. Despite its huge success and prolific fandom, the production for the show was costly – very costly.
Every episode of the hit 11-season show reportedly cost about $1 million, and that could partially explain the series’ untimely cancellation. Each broadcast became too expensive and the profit margin wasn’t favorable enough, according to some.
2. An Overnight Hit
Married… with Children was Fox Broadcasting Company’s very first prime-time television series, and it was an absolute hit. If the Internet was a huge thing back in 1987, the sitcom would have been an overnight viral sensation.
In fact, the very first episode, which aired on April 15, 1987, had so many viewers that Fox played it over and over again that same night. But there would be something unexpected that would propel this show about the dysfunctional Bundy family to even more success than was anticipated.
3. A Different Title
Married… with Children was revolutionary at the time for portraying a family that isn’t perfect. The show’s family patriarch seems to constantly hate his life for having a wife that doesn’t do anything around the house while using the little money he makes, as well as an overly promiscuous daughter and a socially inept son.
In other words, Married… with Children provided television viewers with the antithesis of what The Cosby Show was all about. In fact, Married… with Children initially had a working title that reflected the contrast perfectly when it was first in production, namely: Not the Cosbys.
4. Birthday Calls To Fans
When Married… with Children was at its peak, Ed O’Neill would fulfill requests to make birthday and holiday telephone calls to fans – or, really, Al Bundy was making the calls. O’Neill was as convincing as he was on the show, too.
But when O’Neill would call his fans, it came at a cost. In Al Bundy’s typical cheapskate nature, O’Neill would only call them collect, which is otherwise known as a reverse charge call. Speaking of iconic ’90s sitcom characters, you’ll never believe who once auditioned for the role of Al Bundy. Read on to find out.
5. Ed O’Neill’s Simple Audition
Actor Ed O’Neill is best known today for playing Al Bundy on the Fox Network’s Married… with Children. But what he did to land the role of the head of the Bundy family is truly spectacular and somewhat humorous.
During O’Neill’s audition for the role, all he had to do was walk through the front door of the Bundy home. Knowing he was auditioning for the role of a man who is a struggling women’s shoe salesmen with an emotionally draining family, O’Neill simply slumped his shoulders and sighed in defeat before he walked into the house. Those two actions won him the role.
6. A Brazilian Jiujitsu Black Belt
Married… with Children‘s star Ed O’Neill is apparently a jack of all trades. When he isn’t acting, O’Neill spends his time training in Brazilian Jiujitsu. That’s right, Al Bundy can most likely kick your butt in a fist fight!
O’Neill was introduced to the sport by his friend, writer and director John Milius. He has trained in the martial art for more than 20 years, and received his black belt in 2007. He considers the black belt the greatest achievement of his life, apart from his children.
7. Cars in the Opening Credits
If you’ve watched Married… with Children, you’ve seen the shot of cars driving through the interstate interchange in the opening credits. But the shot isn’t an original one. In fact, it comes from a tremendously famous movie from a few years earlier.
The shot from the show’s opening sequence was pulled from 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation. If you look closely, you can’t miss the Griswold family’s iconic green and brown Ford Crown Victoria (Wagon Queen Family Truckster) station wagon.
8. Cosmo Kramer Could Have Been Al Bundy
Ed O’Neill’s character in Married… with Children is more than just notoriously cheap – he has become a sitcom legend. But there’s another ’90s sitcom star who could have played Al Bundy. That man is Michael Richards.
Richards, who played the iconic Cosmo Kramer in Seinfeld, auditioned for the role of Al Bundy during casting for the show in 1986. Casting director Marc Hirschfeld said Richards just “wasn’t right for Al Bundy.” When Hirschfeld was casting for Seinfeld, though, he remembered Richards. That’s how he became Kramer.
9. Bud & Kelly Were Recast
The Bundy family kids, Kelly and Bud, who everyone grew to love, were originally played by totally different actors in the show’s pilot episode. Tina Caspary was initially chosen for the role of Kelly and Hunter Carson was meant to play bud.
The producers made a big switch before the series aired publicly at Ed O’Neill’s behest. O’Neill felt a lack of chemistry with the original kids and requested a recast, and the producers accepted his complaint. All of the scenes with the Bundy kids had to be shot again so the pilot episode could air. As you’ll soon learn, the original Bundy kids weren’t the only actors O’Neill took issue with.
10. Katey Sagal’s Trick
When Katey Sagal auditioned to play Peggy Bundy, she really, really wanted the role. Sagal wanted to go above and beyond killing the audition. She intended to get into character and prove she even looked the way Peggy was meant to look.
Sagal had a pre-notion of what exactly that look was: an attractive woman with fair skin and huge, red hair. So she showed up to the audition wearing a poofy wig and captivated the casting directors.
11. Bad Neighbors
It’s not always easy to get along with your coworkers, and actors aren’t always immune from the struggles people face. Although Al and Marcy were neighbors in Married… with Children, it has been reported that Ed O’Neill and Amanda Bearse, who played Marcy, didn’t always get along on set.
The two actors’ personality clash was rumored to be caused by O’Neill’s lack of support for Bearse being a lesbian in real life. Ironically enough, some would say, O’Neill currently plays the father of a gay man on the sitcom Modern Family.
12. Wigs, Wigs, Wigs!
It’s pretty standard for actors and actresses to play different roles and work on different projects at the same time, and different roles require different looks. That especially applies to sitcoms, which often run for years.
During the tenth season of Married… With Children, Christina Applegate, who played Al and Peggy’s ditzy daughter Kelly Bundy, had to put on a blonde wig because she went brunette for a movie she was working in.
13. Do Vista Cards Exist?
The answer is no. Visa cards exist, yes, but good luck trying to pay for your groceries with a Vista card. Vista cards do exist in Married… with Children, though, and the famous sign displayed in Al Bundy’s shoe shop actually reads “VISTA” cards.
Could Bundy have simply misspelled Visa by accident as further indication to viewers that his store is going down in flames? Did the producers want to steer clear from a lawsuit? The world will never know. What the world does know is that if you didn’t pay close enough attention, it could easily read Visa.
14. Al Bundy’s Dirty Magazines
Al Bundy may have seemed like a conservative grouch to some, but not even conservative grouches are always immune to the appeal of X-rated material. In addition to sitting on the couch and watching TV, Bundy had another hobby.
The grumpy family man had a special place in his heart for his adult magazine called Big ‘Uns. Bundy’s love for the magazine only added complexity to his character, ultimately making him more hilarious. That’s not what his wife would think, but you’ll soon learn she has a deep, dark secret of her own.
15. There Was A Banned Episode
Unbeknown to many, there was an episode of Married… with Children that Fox refused to air due to its mildly suggestive content. It was an episode during season 3 called “I’ll See You In Court,” and it was under attack by Terry Rakolta, who has family ties to Mitt Romney.
Rakolta, a Michigan housewife and anti-obscenity activist, had advertisements pulled from backing the show. But the producers fought back, and the episode was eventually released in 2002. In case you’re wondering, the episode in question featured Al Bundy ogling a model.
16. The Dodge Wasn’t A Dodge
Art often introduces more questions than it can answer, and we often forget television series are a serious form of art – although you could argue it depends on the show. In any case, the Bundy family vehicle poses a serious question.
The Bundys beloved “mighty Dodge” was, in fact, not a Dodge at all. It was a 1972 Plymouth Duster. For some reason, though, the show’s writers had Al constantly refer to it as a Dodge. Yes, the two cars are owned by the same company. But… why?
17. Peggy’s Racy Maiden Name
A lot of people have embarrassing names, and some people go to great lengths to make sure no one ever discovers them by changing their name. In Peggy Bundy’s case, she was able to lose hers by marrying Al.
So what is this embarrassing maiden name of Peggy’s? Well, Peggy was named Peggy Wanker before she and Al married. Now, what is known today as a British swear word wasn’t used in that manner in 1987 when the show was first aired, but it’s still pretty spectacular looking back at it.
18. Peggy Adored Oprah
Al wasn’t the only Bundy to enjoy the black box, and considering television dominated the ’80s and ’90s, that won’t come as a surprise to many. Al’s wife, Peggy was a huge fan. But instead of football, she preferred shows like Psycho Mom and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Oprah, in particular, had a special place in Peggy’s heart. There’s no doubt the talk show icon was an inspiration for the Bundy mom and influenced her dealings with the family. In one episode, Peggy even got a part-time job so she could afford a VCR to tape the Oprah Show. She didn’t last long, though, as she decided being a lazy housewife was more to her liking.
19. Al Bundy’s Anti-Feminist Club
There are a great many aspects of Married… with Children that probably wouldn’t have been included if the show were created today. One of those is Al Bundy’s all-men’s group, aptly titled “No Ma’am.” You can probably tell where this is going.
If the club’s name didn’t give it away, Bundy’s No Ma’am actually stands for “National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood.” The organization founded by Bundy and his buddies aimed to prevent feminist domination. This aspect of the show could have perhaps been even more interesting if the man originally intended to play Al Bundy were to get the role. Soon, you’ll learn his identity.
20. The Bundys And Hip Hop
Hip hop music isn’t something that’s always associated with the disastrous Bundy family, but a common theme throughout the show is the Bundy’s younger boy, Bud, expressing his dream to join the rap industry one day.
David Faustino, who plays Bud, made clear the goal wasn’t just a character dream when he became a rapper in real life. Going by the name of D’ Lil, Faustino joined the hip hop industry during the show, releasing an album in 1992.
21. Roseanne Barr for Peggy
The hilarious role of Peggy Bundy was filled by talented actress Katey Sagal, who was in the Hollywood loop even before she was cast, as her father had been in show business for years. But she wasn’t the producers’ first choice for the role.
The hysterical housewife could have been played by the big-time comedian and television producer Roseanne Barr. In fact, the role was first intended for Barr until Sagal so brilliantly won over the casting directors with her audition.
22. The Man Who Almost Played Al Bundy
If you’ve watched Married… with Children, it’s easy to forget that anyone else was ever even considered for the legendary role of Al Bundy. Looking back, Ed O’Neill was just so perfect for the role. Why even bother with anyone else?
But it’s always critical to weigh your options before you cast anyone for any television show, movie or play, and Married… with Children is no exception. Even before Ed O’Neill auditioned for the role of Al Bundy, it was offered to brash comedian Sam Kinison.
23. James Bond Was A Huge Fan
That’s right, it turns out the Bundy family had a secret admirer all these years – a very kickass secret admirer. The British actor best known for his role as the iconic secret agent James Bond confessed that he was a huge fan of Married… with Children.
The actor, Sir Roger Moore, apparently was close with the father of Katey Sagal (Peggy Bundy), Boris Sagal. The two worked together in the 1976 detective film Sherlock Holmes in New York with Moore starring in the film and Sagal directing it.
24. Frank Sinatra Theme Song
Not every television show has a theme song by a famous musician. But the man who sings the theme song for Married… with Children, happens to be one of the most iconic singers in music history. That man is Frank Sinatra himself.
He originally performed the song, titled “Love and Marriage,” for a television production in 1955, and Married… with Children snagged it for its big debut. Sinatra’s song wasn’t the only thing hidden beneath the surface… just wait until you find out who you probably missed on the show.
25. Guest Stars You Didn’t Notice
During Married… with Children‘s long run, guest appearances were made by the cast’s family members and others. Ed O’Neill’s wife appeared twice. Katey Sagal’s brother popped up here and there, and even Christina Applegate’s mom made an appearance.
Perhaps most ironic, though, are the guest appearances related to David Faustino. The actor’s character on the show, the Bundy boy, Bud, was known to think of himself as more of a ladies man than he really was. But in real life, it appears, he knew what he was doing with the opposite gender. Two of his former girlfriends made guest appearances on the show.
26. Ed’s Walk Of Fame
While many Hollywood actors can claim to have a star on the Hollywood walk of fame, few can claim a star located in a place as fitting as Ed O’Neill’s. In a nod to his character’s dead-end job selling women’s shoes, his star was placed directly in front of a local shoe store.
On the day O’Neill received his star – a glamorous Hollywood honor – fans showed up to snag autographs from the iconic grouch. Some even had him sign their pairs of shoes. Clever, Married… with Children fans. Very clever.
27. The Bundy Dog’s Retirement Party
It would be negligent to prepare a list of the Bundys juiciest secrets without mentioning the family’s beloved family dog, Buck. And what a cute one he was. Buck was on set from day one of filming and lasted ten seasons.
That’s right – he only missed one season! By the time season 10 was over, Buck was a little too old to continue acting and went into retirement. Just like any other member of the set, the adorable dog was given a retirement party by the producers.
28. Al Bundy’s Favorite Show
We all know Al Bundy enjoyed sitting on his couch watching television – maybe even a little too much, some would say. It was the character’s favorite thing to do. The question then follows: What is his favorite thing to watch?
Al Bundy’s favorite show was Psycho Dad. It may have been a hint the producers were giving the audience. They weren’t going to outright call Bundy a crazy father, but, you know. Art is all about subtlety.
29. A Bud Bundy Spinoff?
Married… with Children ended on June 9, 1997. It was a sad day for fans of the Bundy family. But the good news is that a spinoff surrounding Bud Bundy is reportedly in the works. Due to a legal issue, the spinoff has temporarily been put on hold.
David Faustino seems to be confident the legal issue will be resolved eventually, and that the show will be fabulous. What’s more, each member of the original cast has agreed to co-star or at least make an appearance. So, fans, there may be hope for you still.
30. Controversial Debut
They say all publicity is good publicity, and in the case of Married… with Children, that certainly turned out to be the case. The show received a boost in popularity shortly after it first came out in 1987, but from an unexpected source.
That boost largely came from a family values activist who started a letter campaign complaining about the show’s subject matter, arguing that it was promoting an anti-family narrative. The story caught the media’s attention and shined a spotlight on the show, putting Fox on the map once and for all.
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