MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN:
where the beer gives you gas
To this day it still irks me how the Fox Network treated MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN in its final year. Faithfully serving the network for eleven seasons, MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN left the airwaves with a whimper, instead of the fanfare it deserved. As MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN was the longest running live action sitcom to ever air on the Fox Network, that distinction was worthy of a little respect and the series wasnít given its due.
Although MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN became more outlandish and cartoonish its later years, the series never lost its ability to offer a hilarious social commentary on the dysfunctional way things really are in life, as opposed to the way people think they should be. Sure, MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN pandered to the lowest common denominator, but for eleven seasons, the show did thing in the indomitable Bundy wayÖ offering lowbrow comedy at its absolute best, and never offering an apology. More than a decade after its cancellation, I still love every crude, tasteless and politically incorrect moment of MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN. Sure, I have seen each and every episode of this now classic sitcom more times than I can remember, but I continue to laugh hysterically at each and every punch line and sight gag.
The reason MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN remains a constant source of laughter goes back the talents of its perfect cast. Once again, I tip my hat to Ed O'Neill, who made that constant loser and otherwise all around everyman Al Bundy one of the most memorable characters in the history of sitcoms. O'Neill never went out of his way for the laugh or defined the character in overly broad strokes; instead, he played Al Bundy as straight as one could, which succeeded in getting the really big laughs. Additionally, O'Neill always brought a level of sincerity to his performance, which made the absurdity of Al Bundy, not to mention the manís cartoon predicaments, even more hilarious.
The basic premise of MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN follows the hapless exploits of Al Bundy, whose dead-end job as a ladies shoes salesman is the neon sign in his life that flashes the message that Al's glory days of scoring four touchdowns in a single game of high school football are long behind him. Al's home life isn't too much better than his job, with his horny, couch potato of a wife Peggy (Katey Sagal) being the biggest millstone around our poor shoe salesmanís neck. Smaller millstones come in the form of Al's offspring. Al's daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate) is a blond airhead/bimbo, whose skirtís hemlines seemed to get higher, in direct correlation to her IQ getting lower. As for Al's romantically deprived son Bud (David Faustino), he seems to be the only member of the Bundy clan with enough brains to make something of himself, that is, if he doesn't allow his raging hormones and sexual frustration get the better of him. Adding insult to injury is Al's next-door neighbor Marcy D'Arcy (Amanda Bearse), who tries to be a burr in Al's side at every opportunity- the verbal exchanges between Al and Marcie are always good for a few laughs, if not outright hilarity. Finally, we come to Marcy's scheming husband Jefferson D'Arcy (Ted McGinley), whose only jobs seem to be looking good and servicing Marcy in the bedroom.
MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN: THE COMPLETE ELEVENTH SEASON ($40) comes in a three-disc set that features the following twenty-four episodes: Twisted, Children Of The Corns, Kelly's Gotta Habit, Requiem For A Chevyweight Part 1, Requiem For A Chevyweight Part 2, A Bundy Thanksgiving, The Juggs Have Left The Building, God Help Ye Merry Bundymen, Crimes Against Obesity, The Stepford Peg, Bud On The Side, Grime And Punishment, T*R*A*S*H, Breaking Up Is Easy To Do Part 1, Breaking Up Is Easy To Do Part 2, Breaking Up Is Easy To Do Part 3, Live Nude Peg, A Babe In Toyland, Birthday Boy Toy, Damn Bundys, Lez Be Friends, The Desperate Half-Hour, How To Marry A Moron and Chicago Shoe Exchange. Highlights of season eleven include the death and resurrection of the Dodge; the Bundy version of a turkey dinner; Peg gets amnesia and Al convinces her she is the perfect wife; Al is forced to live in his basement; Al and Peg separate; Al makes a pact with the Devil and Kelly is heading for the alter.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made all the episodes that comprise MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN: THE COMPLETE ELEVENTH SEASON available on DVD in the proper full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts. Quality is similar to what was seen in earlier sets, although the picture looks a bit tighter in this final season. Still, there is no denying that MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN was shot on NTSC video during the 1990s, so the look of the episodes isnít exactly high definition. Sure, the episodes look better here than they do in syndicated reruns, and depending on your cable company, that can be a nice improvement. Image detail is fine for a videotape source, but the picture can appear slightly fuzzy in any shot beyond the level a close up. Colors are respectable, but strongly saturated hues can be a bit unstable. Blacks and whites are just fine this type of production. The sitcom lighting remains flat and the contrast displays the limitations of NTSC broadcast video. Digital compression artifacts remain below the radar.
All the episodes featured in MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN: THE COMPLETE ELEVENTH SEASON are presented on DVD with Dolby Digital 2.0 channel surround stereo soundtracks. Canít say the sound is any different from the previous set. This is simplistic sitcom sound that gets the job done without bells or whistles. As expected, the sound is localized front and center. Fidelity is merely adequate for the generic music that replaces the series original theme song, as well as the incidental music that pops up. Dialogue is easy to understand. No other language tracks are present, although English captions have been included. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard episode selection and set up features. No supplements are included.
MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN may have departed the airwaves without the kind of fanfare it deserved, but the Bundyís continue to live on in syndication and on DVD. The episodes in this collection look and sound fine. MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN: THE COMPLETE ELEVENTH SEASON is another must have for fans. Recommended.
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