Ah yes, Married with Children, that flagship and signature series of the young Fox network. The series that branded the young network as the one that will, indeed, air anything as long as it's cheap, obvious, and vulgar enough to elicit peals of laughter from only the simplest people in the world.
Now, before you get all huffy and smite me a snob for getting all elitist and branding MWC as a "white trash TV show," consider this:
Married with Children is a sitcom that used to get HUGE rolls of laughter from the studio audience -- every time they heard a toilet flush. The sound of a flushing toilet became MWC's signature running gag. I don't really think one has to elaborate on that in order to indicate the level of humor we're dealing with here. Married with Children is gross, stupid, and entirely obvious in every conceivable way that a sitcom can be those things, only toss in an extra-large portion of smug, sniggering raunchiness and the stew's nearly complete. This is a pretty terrible TV show.
Which means that, obviously, I really loved the thing. For at least the first season and some of the second, anyway. But once I realized that the producers were never planning to forge any new ground, aside from perhaps a few creative new fart jokes or crotch references, I had to forsake my admiration for leading dad Ed O'Neill and shut the door on Married with Children. Not even the gradually more alluring presence of Christina Applegate could wash the nasty taste out of my mouth when the Bundy clan showed up on my TV screen.
Not even remotely surprisingly, Married with Children was a huge success for Fox ... and to this day one suspects they're still trying to erase the stink of the series from their hallways. If Fox presently has the reputation as a low-class outfit, and they really did for the longest time, it's because THIS was the main course they offered for so long. (How MWC and The Simpsons co-habitated for so long I have no idea. It's like putting a McDonald's right next to the Four Seasons.)
But save your emails, Bundyfans, because I'd certainly never begrudge you your guilty little pleasures. At the very least, MWC's fourth season represents a collection of episodes that were somewhat grounded in reality. (Watch a marathon of eighth or ninth season episodes and you'll get a glimpse of my own personal hell.) The show's strongest asset (by about 14,000 kilometers) was Ed O'Neill as the hapless patriarch Al Bundy, and he gets to do some solid work here, albeit on a fairly intermittent basis.
Married With Children's fourth season comes home on DVD in fairly standard (and inexpensive) style, which should be more than adequate for the hardcore fans. You'll get all 23 of season four's episodes, in their original broadcast form, albeit with no sort of bells and whistles to speak of. Plus, I'm told that several of the episodes included are the syndication versions, and that's pretty lame.
Hot Off the Grill
Video: Full frame. Fairly tacky-looking. So it fits the material perfectly.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0, with optional English captions.
I've certainly got no problem with well-delivered raunch-humor, but Married with Children was seemingly more than content to repeat the same 12 jokes over and over, when they weren't all that hot the first time around. It's grown-up stupidity delivered on a 4th grade level ... and that's just kinda creepy.