During the early years of Fox, "Married...With Children" was an example of a perfectly cast series that was offensive and edgy, yet brilliantly so. It was also certainly one of the network's few early hits, continuing on for ten years. While tasteless, nearly every one of the show's lines of dialogue remains brutally funny, delivered to perfection by the cast, especially Ed O'Neill, whose Al Bundy is still a television icon. While "Family Guy" is more offensive these days, no live-action sitcom will ever be this sublimely nasty again, made even more evident in this timeless fifth season set. As irritable and sarcastic as the show's humor could be, there was still very much the occasional hint of genuine care between the characters.
The first season shows the development of the characters, including the intro of neighbors Marcy and Steve, who provided both the perfect enemy and, in Steve, an example of a guy who's on the border of becoming another Al. Of course, the show stars Ed O'Neill as Al Bundy, a former high school football "legend" who now finds himself with a wife he hates (Peggy Segal) and two children (David Faustino and Christina Applegate) who he can't stand. Although the following episodes began to work Kelly's brillant idiocy and Bud's unsuccessful chase of any nearby women in, these early shows focus more on the dysfunctional relationship between Al and Peg. Unfortunately, they also introduce Al's skirt-chasing and unfunny co-worker Luke, who I believe was dropped after the first season.
The second season continued the show's development, with Steve and Marcy becoming a greater presence and Marcy becoming a greater force against Al. There's also a little less focus on the kids, with Bud becoming more of a skirt-chaser and Kelly becoming more in-tune with her idiocy.The third season of the series isn't one of the show's strongest, but this run of the show does offer some perfectly fine episodes, and even a few classics. The fourth season saw the end of Marcy's husband, Steve (David Garrison) and a return for the show, with some of the funnier episodes so far in the run.
However, it was the fifth season where "Married...With Children" finally came together. This season is when the show truly reached the height of its trashy brilliance. As wonderful as the series was up until this point (and there are quite a few classic episodes in those seasons), it's the fifth season where the show reaches another level entirely, as nearly every episode is an absolute gem.
This season saw Al not throwing in the towel at the end of the episode as much - instead, the character battled back a bit more against his foes on several occasions (he still loses, unsurprisingly), making him a lot more funny and even a bit more sympathetic. The season starts with a prime example of this that's also one of the show's classics. "We'll Follow the Sun" has Al dragging the family on a trip for Labor Day weekend and getting stuck in a traffic jam on the expressway...with their house still visible in the distance. Al's speech to the other drivers to rise up and tear down the expressway is still one of the show's funniest moments. "All Night Security Dude" has Al finding himself as the security guard at Bud's school after the shoe store is forced to close. After he gets fired, he has to return one last time to face his old rival, who's stolen Al's old football trophy. The resulting battle is classic television, ending in the kind of sadly funny way that "Married" did best.
This season even lets Al win one, in "The Unnatural". The show has Al returning to save the day after the team (including the rest of the family) boots him off the baseball team in favor of a local jock. The final scene after Al "retires" from baseball is another example of how smart a lowbrow show this was.
Some of the other highlights from this season include: "Married...With Aliens" (Aliens visit Al in order to steal his used socks, which they use for fuel), "Wabbit Season" (Al resorts to increasingly desperate measures to rid his garden of a rabbit), "And Baby Makes Money" (Al and Peggy - well, mainly just Al - try to make another baby after a relative promises $500,000 to the first Bundy to give birth), "Married...With Who" (Marcy wakes up married to Jefferson D'Arcy, making her Marcy D'Arcy), "A Man's Castle" (Al is horrified when Peggy redecorates his bathroom), "Oldies but Young 'Uns" (Al nearly loses his mind trying to remember a song), "Weenie Tot Lovers & Other Strangers" (Al decides whether to spend $100 to send Bud to the White House or help Kelly win the title of "Miss Weenie Tot"), "Route 666" (The Bundys get stranded in the desert on the way to Al's shoe convention in L.A. and get the rights to a gold mine just as the D'Arcys come to save them - a 2-parter) and "You Better Shop Around" (a 2-parter that has the Bundys moving into the supermarket after they black out the entire neighborhood with their WWII-era air conditioner, then going up against the D'Arcy's in a supermarket sweep.)
Notes: The original theme song is once again not used here due to music rights issues, replaced with something resembling an elevator music version. These did not *appear* to be the syndicated versions. Additionally, "Top of the Heap" is the pilot for the quite forgotten "Married..." spin-off, "Top of the Heap", which starred a young Matt Leblanc.
81. - We'll Follow the Sun
82. - Al... with Kelly
83. - Sue Casa, His Casa
84. - The Unnatural
85. - The Dance Show
86. - Kelly Bounces Back
87. - Married... with Aliens
88. - Wabbit Season
89. - Do Ya Think I'm Sexy
90. - One Down, Two to Go
91. - And Baby Makes Money
92. - Married... with Who
93. - The Godfather
94. - Look Who's Barking
95. - A Man's Castle
96. - All Night Security Dude
97. - Oldies but Young 'Uns
98. - Weenie Tot Lovers & Other Strangers
99. - Kids! Wadaya Gonna Do?
100. - Top of the Heap
101. - You Better Shop Around, Part 1
102. - You Better Shop Around, Part 2
103. - Route 666, Part 1
104. - Route 666, Part 2
105. - Buck the Stud
VIDEO/AUDIO: "Married...With Children"'s fifth season is again presented in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio by Sony Pictures Home Video. Image quality actually seems improved over the prior season sets, with the image seeming consistently sharper and more well-defined throughout. The picture also shows less shimmering and noise, and colors appear slightly warmer.
The stereo soundtracks provide clear dialogue and a balanced mix between sound effects, laugh track and dialogue. Played back in Pro Logic II, some ambience is directed to the surrounds on occasion. Yes, once again, the original theme song has been replaced due to issues with music rights.
Final Thoughts: Not only does the fifth season of "Married..." hold up after all these years, it's the funniest thing I've seen in ages. As great as the prior seasons have been, this one takes it to another level completely. The DVD doesn't offer any supplements, but does offer fine audio/video quality. Highly recommended.