Farewell To Fox's Crudest

Television: `Married ... With Children' Leaves The Air Next Month, After A 10-year Run As The Most Tasteless Thing In Prime Time.

April 22, 1997|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Critics are going to have to find a new poster program for crude taste, because Fox is finally canceling "Married With Children," the longest-running sitcom on network television.

The blue-collar sitcom that mocked working-class folk just celebrated its 10th anniversary this month as the series that launched prime-time programming on Fox.

The Bundys -- husband Al (Ed O'Neill), wife Peg (Katey Sagal) and teen-age kids Bud (David Faustino) and Kelly (Christina Applegate) -- were conceived as an anti-family in 1986 for the network that thought of itself as the counter-network.

"We'd always hated the typical family on television," series creators Ron Leavitt and Michael Moye said. "It just makes us sick, basically, which is how we came up with `Married.' "

The series, which had been the highest rated on Fox for several years in the late 1980s and early '90s, will most likely be remembered for the ways in which it challenged accepted standards of television taste.

Fox initially refused to air the fall premiere episode in 1988, titled "A Period Piece," in which the Bundys go camping with neighbors and three of the women start their menstrual periods. After some editing, the episode was aired later that season.

Another episode from that same season has never aired. It involved Peg and Al having sex at a sleazy motel.

The most infamous episode, though, was one in 1988 that suggested frontal nudity and so outraged a woman watching with her children during what was then known as "the family hour" that she started a boycott of "Married" advertisers.

Fox temporarily moved the series to a time period later in the evening, but ultimately came out the winner in its battle with Michigan housewife Terry Rakolta, as ratings for "Married" skyrocketed thanks to the publicity whirlwind it reaped from the controversy.

"Terry Rakolta has no idea how much she did to help establish the Fox network," Jamie Kellner, the first president of Fox, said recently in an interview in connection with the 10-year anniversary.

"Married" was the shovel Fox used to bury the family hour and any notion that there should be a safe harbor when parents and children can watch television together with the expectation that excessively violent and sexual content won't intrude.

Viewers will have their last chance to visit the Bundy's Chicago household on May 5, when Fox presents a one-hour episode in which the family is taken hostage by one of the prison pen pals of Bud Bundy. Kelly, meanwhile, falls in love with one of her captors and decides to marry.

Pub Date: 4/22/97

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