20 Things You Probably Never Knew About Married… With Children
Married… With Children was a classic American sitcom about Al Bundy, a successful high school footballer who ends up as a slightly down-on-his luck women’s shoe salesman. Originally broadcast between April 1987 and June 1997, the show remains the longest-lasting live-action sitcom on Fox and was the first to be broadcast in the network’s primetime slot. Plus, a bonus episode aired on FX in June 2002, five years after the original series ended.
It’s no surprise that Married… With Children remains a fan favourite to this day. With memorable characters and hilarious episodes, this iconic sitcom has certainly stood the test of time. Here are 20 facts you probably didn’t know about this classic show.
20. Ed O’Neill would call up fans in character as Al on their birthday
Ed O’Neill would often oblige fan requests for him to call them on their birthday in character as Al Bundy. However, there was one proviso, which was very in keeping with Bundy’s classic cheapskate persona. The fan had to receive the call reverse-charge – meaning they’d end up paying for the call instead of O’Neill!
Although this is pretty cheeky behaviour from O’Neill, it certainly is something Al Bundy would do. Throughout the series, Bundy is consistently in massive debt – largely due to his wife Peggy’s profligate spending. Bundy famously gets into many scrapes and close shaves as he comes up with absurd schemes to save or make money.
19. Producers forgot to tell the stars when they cancelled the show
When the show was cancelled, the producers neglected to tell the stars of the show before the news became public. Ed O’Neill was on holiday at the time and was told by a couple who were reading their newspaper. Christina Applegate likewise did not know that the show was cancelled until she heard it on the radio. “I actually learned that we were canceled from the radio, but not firsthand. Someone was listening to Kevin & Bean… Kevin & Bean knew before me,” she revealed on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2019.
“They said something and then someone I knew had heard it on Kevin & Bean and then called me to tell me that the show was canceled,” she said. Kimmel went on to ask Applegate – who starred in the show as the Bundys’ ditzy daughter Kelly – if it was “too late” for the cast to come back together and make a finale. “It is, I think so,” she replied.
18. O’Neill bought two newlywed fans a bottle of champagne as thanks for informing him of the cancellation
Most people would probably be pretty angry or upset after finding out that they’d lost their job. You’d probably be especially annoyed if you didn’t even find out from your employer and had two strangers break the news to you. That’s exactly what happened to Ed O’Neill when he found out that Married… With Children had been cancelled. But instead of freaking out, O’Neill thanked the two newlywed fans who’d informed him of the news and bought them a bottle of champagne as a gesture of appreciation.
O’Neill recalled the incident on the Ellen Show in 2020, explaining how he bumped into a pair of newlyweds in his hometown just after the news broke. “I took them in, got them a bottle of champagne, and that’s how that went down,” he said.
17. O’Neill struggled to land any dramatic roles after the show
Before his audition, producers had reservations about Ed O’Neill as Al Bundy due to his background as a dramatic actor. One producer had seen O’Neill in a performance of Of Mice and Men and was convinced he would be a good fit for Bundy – but others weren’t so sure. But, of course, O’Neill’s audition went perfectly, and he went on to bag the role of Al Bundy. Funnily enough, the tables turned completely for O’Neill after his appearance in Married… With Children.
Having gone into his audition for the role of Bundy with producers thinking he wouldn’t be funny enough for the role, O’Neill subsequently found it impossible to land more serious roles after moving on from the show. He even turned down the role of Sam Malone on Cheers! because he wanted to avoid being typecast in comedic parts.
16. Ed O’Neill and Amanda Bearse feuded on set
Back in 2013, Ed O’Neill revealed that the only cast member he ever feuded with on set was Amanda Bearse. He stated that although the two got along well enough in the show’s early days, by the third season, they’d grown apart. In the interview with the Television Academy’s archives, O’Neill said of Bearse: “as she became more masculine, she became a little more snarky.”
Bearse also neglected to invite O’Neill and David Faustino to her wedding in 2010 – albeit for good reason. Bearse came out as a lesbian in 1993, and told O’Neill that she didn’t invite him because she thought he’d laugh during the ceremony. O’Neill went on to admit that Bearse was right and he would have found the sight of “two women in tuxedos” funny.
15. Ed O’Neill’s idea for an explosive finale was rejected
Married… With Children was cancelled so suddenly that there was little time to create a suitable finale. The show’s final episode, Chicago Shoe Exchange, saw Al and Griff try and barter for an expensive massage chair. The episode also sees Kelly get a masseuse license and put her new skills to the test on Bud.
All in all, it’s a pretty standard episode for the series. But O’Neill a had completely different vision for how he wanted the show to end. When he heard the series was going to be cancelled, O’Neill pitched an idea to producers for a potential grand finale. He wanted the series to end with the Bundys winning the lottery – only for a tornado to come along and destroy all their possessions afterwards. Sadly, this idea never got the green light.
14. The show’s working title was Not the Cosbys
Married… with Children was ahead of the game for portraying a family on TV that was about as far from nuclear as you could get. Al Bundy was hardly an inspiring family patriarch – he openly hated his job and resented his wife’s spending habits and laziness. The Bundy children were also slightly unorthodox, with ditsy, promiscuous Kelly and sex-obsessed, socially inept Bud.
You could say that Married… With Children was essentially a polar opposite to The Cosby Show. Interestingly, Married… With Children’s working title actually reflected the difference between the two shows, as it was ‘Not The Cosbys.’ Arguably it’s a good thing that the show’s creators went for the more unique title Married… With Children, especially in light of Cosby’s reputation today.
13. Sir Roger Moore was a big fan of the show
Somewhat surprisingly, a certain British Double-O agent was a huge fan of Married… With Children. Sir Roger Moore – the third incarnation of James Bond – was a big fan of the show and admitted it was one of his guilty pleasures. Moore was also good friends with Boris Sagal, whose daughter Katey played Peggy Bundy in the show. Boris Sagal had directed Moore back in 1976 in the made-for-television film Sherlock Holmes in New York.
Moore stars in the film as Holmes himself, while Patrick Macnee features as Dr Watson. It seems the director and the actor hit it off and remained staunch friends even after production wrapped on the film.
12. There were two failed spinoffs of the show
The season nine finale Radio Free Trumaine was initially supposed to pilot a new TV series. In the pilot, Steve Rhoades becomes a college dean who makes the mistake of attempting to expel DJs Oliver Cole and Mark Campbell. Upon hearing the news, Marcy arrives at Trumaine and tries to get revenge on her ex by protesting against the expulsion. Fox never picked up the series.
The season 10 episode Enemies was also a pilot for another Married… with Children spinoff. The idea for the series was essentially a low-brow version of Friends and was ultimately declined again by Fox. Only one spinoff got the green light: Top of the Heap, which starred Matt LeBlanc as Vinnie Verducci, lasted for seven episodes on Fox.
11. Ed O’ Neill’s star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame is outside a shoe shop
It was only a matter of time before iconic actor Ed O’ Neill was honoured with a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame. O’Neill was awarded a star on August 30 2011 – and something unique about the star’s position acted as a nod to his most famous role. O’Neill’s star is positioned in front of the DSW shoe store on Hollywood Boulevard as a tongue-in-cheek reference to Al Bundy’s job as a shoe salesman.
Both of O’Neill’s on-screen wives, Katey Sagal and Sofia Vergara (from Modern Family), were with him during the ceremony. O’Neill took the chance to say a few characteristically comic words: “You know, I can’t help but think right now that as I’m standing here, it’s a bit emotional, that somewhere in the world at this moment, in a hospital, a beautiful little baby girl is being born,” he began. “And when she grows up she’s going to be my next wife on TV and I’m looking forward to that day,” he said, joking about his ever-younger on-screen wives.
10. Michael Richards auditioned to play Al Bundy
Michael Richards is arguably best known for his memorable portrayal of Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld. But two years before he landed the career-defining role of Kramer, Richards auditioned for the role of Al Bundy. According to creator Michael Moye, 80% played Al like Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden and five percent modeled him on Jack Nicholson in The Shining. These manic portrayals were potentially due to actors assuming that the surname ‘Bundy’ meant the character was inspired by Ted Bundy.
It’s unclear as to whether Richards went down the Gleason or Nicholson route – or offered up a more unique interpretation of the character – but, obviously, he did not get the part. Suffice to say, things did still work out for Richards, and in 1989 he made his successful debut as Kramer in Seinfeld.
9. One episode led to advertisers boycotting the show
In 1989 a woman named Terry Rakolta from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, began a boycott of the show. She had been offended by the episode Her Cups Runneth Over, which featured images of an old man in women’s lingerie. The episode also saw a half-naked woman take her bra off in front of Al, with nothing but her arms covering her bare chest.
Rakolta was so disgusted by the episode that she began a campaign encouraging advertisers to boycott the show. The boycott was partly successful, and many advertisers did pull their ads from the program. Ironically, however, the boycott resulted in a dramatic ratings boost for the show as all the media attention generated significant intrigue and prompted viewers to tune in.
8. Al was named after wrestler King Kong Bundy, not Ted Bundy
As aforementioned, many of those who auditioned for Al Bundy came in playing the part like an unhinged madman. This was largely because a lot of actors assumed that Bundy was named after serial killer Ted Bundy. This wasn’t the case – but Al was named after another famous Bundy: King Kong Bundy.
The show’s creators Michael Moye and Ron Leavitt were huge wrestling fans and so named the character after one of their favourite wrestlers. King Kong Bundy actually makes a cameo appearance in the episode All In The Family. He features as one of Peggy Bundy’s uncles. Bundy sadly passed away in 2019 from complications from diabetes.
7. Katey Sagal got pregnant three times while filming the show
Katey Sagal’s portrayal of Peggy Bundy – Al’s lazy, profligate, but loveable wife – is nothing short of iconic. But did you know that Sagal was pregnant on three separate occasions while shooting the show? The first time was during the beginning of season six in the middle of 1991.
Sagal’s pregnancy was written into the storyline, but was then written out after Sagal tragically suffered a miscarriage. Sagal fell pregnant again in 1994 while filming seasons eight and nine – but this time, it was not written into the story. Sagal’s final pregnancy occurred while shooting season ten between 1995 and 1996. Again, this was not factored into the plot, and Sagal’s pregnancy was kept hidden from the audience.
6. There are a lot of cameos from soon-to-be famous people
Many soon-to-be famous people featured on Married… With Children right before they got their big breaks. Notably, Friends star Matt LeBlanc appeared in several episodes as Kelly’s boyfriend Vinnie Verducci. Just a few years later in 1994 he went on to charm audiences in the career-defining role of Joey Tribbiani in classic sitcom Friends.
Pamela Anderson also featured on Married… With Children in the early 90s before she appeared in Baywatch. She appeared in one episode in 1990 as a character named Yvette, and another in 1991 as Cashew. Other people who starred in the show before they hit the big time include Pauly Shore, Jerry Springer, Vanna White, and Jon Lovitz.
5. O’Neill nailed the character in his very first audition
Right from the start, the producers knew O’Neill understood the show, as when he auditioned, he had to walk down a path and into the home. As he did this, he stood for a second outside the door, letting out a big sigh and dropping his shoulders like going home was a chore. The producers knew straight away this was the man for the job and that O’Neill perfectly understood the character.
Speaking on the Rich Eisen show in 2016, O’Neill revealed that he also drew inspiration from his uncle when it came to portraying Bundy. “I saw the guy as my uncle […] apparently most of the guys that read for it were doing it like Jackie Gleason,” he revealed. “My uncle was, like, resigned […] that’s how I read it, and they had not heard that tact, and they went, ‘that’s kind of funny.'”
4. Peggy Bundy’s 1960s-style dress sense was Katey Sagal’s idea
Peggy Bundy’s style is nothing short of iconic. Her combination of 1980s and 1960s fashion made her looks truly unique. While Peggy’s unique dress sense is a huge part of her character, this was actually only factored into the show after a suggestion from actress Katey Sagal. It was Sagal’s idea to take inspiration from 1960s housewives when it came to Peggy’s wardrobe.
Speaking to CBS in 2013, Sagal explained that part of the reason she wanted such an over-the-top costume was so there was a clear distinction between the character and herself. “So I sort of had this idea that I would disguise myself. So that nobody will recognize me when I take this off,” she said. She continued: “She’s really in drag. She just was all dolled up. And I didn’t really look like that. So I could go about my normal life.”
3. One of the show’s opening shots was borrowed from National Lampoon’s Vacation
The opening credits to the show mainly comprise of aerial shots of downtown Chicago, the setting of Married… With Children. Many of these shots actually feature the Lake Shore Drive section north of the Loop. Interestingly, the shot of the cars on the interstate in the opening sequence was lifted from National Lampoon’s Vacation.
If you look closely, you can even make out the Griswalds’ iconic green and brown car. Like the Bundys in Married… With Children, the Griswalds in National Lampoon’s Vacation hailed from the Chicago suburbs. The reused shot is nothing more than a little Easter egg, but it’s still a cool spot nonetheless.
2. Ed O’Neill was NOT in Deliverance
Married… With Children makes many, many small references to the 1972 American thriller film, Deliverance. For example, the episode The Juggs Have Left The Building sees the Bundys get a room at the ‘Deliverance Inn.’ Or in The Camping Show, Al and Steve hum and mime along to the Deliverance song Dueling Banjos.
Deliverance is referenced so often in the show that people started to believe Ed O’Neill had made his acting debut in the film. O’Neill has confirmed multiple times that he does not appear in Deliverance. His first movie appearance was in Cruising in 1980. Still – this hasn’t stopped fans speculating and suggesting that O’Neill really does feature in the film as an extra.
1. Al Bundy’s name is constantly misspelled throughout the show
Because of his job as a “lowly women’s shoe salesman”, Al Bundy feels that people won’t “pay him no never no mind.” Given how many times his name is misspelled throughout the series, it seems that Bundy is right to assume nobody pays attention to him. One of the show’s running gags was the way that Bundy’s name was frequently misspelled on official documents
His name is often misspelled on paychecks, in newspapers, on his mail and on reserved parking spots. In the series, his name is seen spelled as Al Bumby, Al Bindy, or Al Boondy and countless other variations. Other misspellings include: Al Budny, Al Birdy, and Alf Bundy. His name is first misspelled (as Al Bumby) in the series’ ninth episode.