Monday, December 13, 2010

Essential TV Box Sets: Married...With Children: The Complete Series

As a child of the 1980's, I remember looking forward to the new episode of "Married...With Children" every Sunday night, both because I loved the show and because I was allowed to stay up past 9 pm, which was a big thing for me at the time. The show was an endless parade of dumb characters, goofy situations, toilet humor and negative stereotypes, which is to say that it was (and still is) right up my alley. Fans of the series have reason to rejoice because the entire series is now available in one convenient box set for a modest price, so if you've been on the fence about collecting this iconic 80's sitcom, there has never been a better time.

The show follows the life of the Bundy family, led by the misanthropic "man's man" Al Bundy, a shoe salesman who's life peaked in high school as a star football player and he's been stuck in a rut ever since, through he frequently recounts his ultimate glory of scoring four a single game! The running jokes on his character is that he earns less than minimum wage, drives a 1972 Dodge that's one foot in the scrap heap, and he has a little problem with foot odor. He's married to his high school sweetheard, Peggy, who has tunrned into the ultimate layabout, a housewife who doesn't cook or clear. Here time is spent on the couch, with the butt of jokes being her penchant for Oprah and bon-bons. As the title of the series implies, they have children and they are equally colorful. Their oldest daughter, Kelly, is the archetypal "dumb blonde" who gets by purely on her looks, but is loveably dim and generally well-meaning. The younger son is Bud, who is shown to be socially unpopular with woman and often finds solace in porn magazines and blow-up dolls. Pretty edgy stuff for a sitcom, especially in the era of wholsesome family entertainment like "The Cosby Show" and "Full House".

Rounding out the characters is Marcy, the Bundy's neighbor and frequently a target of Al's maliciousness because of her short hair and, shall we say, diminutive breast size. She has two husbands throughout the series, the yuppie Steve and the pretty-boy Jefferson. Both of these characters provide their own level of comic relief. In latter seasons, Al's circle of friends consists of fellow blue-collar men who form an organization called "No Ma'am", a men's pride club of sorts that is basically an excuse for them to get together, drink beer and basically do "guy things". The comedy shifts from more of a "class clash" in earlier seasons to more slapstick and absurd situation comedy in latter seasons. It's the reason why boys my age always used works like "hooters" and "nudie bar". Both eras have their highs and lows, however the series was consistently well written over it's 10 year run and it's incorporation of sexist and often risque humor was definitely something new. Critics have considered it to be the opposite of the Cosby show (the title was originally "Definitely Not The Cosby's"), but I would liken it to a lighter version of "All In The Family".

Not every episode was a winner, but the series is more than the sum of it's parts. It's a slice of nostalgia for anyone who grew up enjoying it and it stands as one of the edgiest and most enduring comedies of the 80's and 90's. Unfortunately, the DVD treatment has not been as kind to this series as it has been to others. Outside of the "Reunion Special" in the first season, previews for other shows and a few token easter eggs, there is a dearth of special features in a series that is screaming for them. Subsequent DVD releases might add something, but this set and the single season sets that came before are as bare-bones as they come. Still, for anyone considering getting the series on DVD, the entire series for $100 is difficult to pass up and easy to recommend.

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