Married... with Children

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search
Lua error: callParserFunction: function "SUBPAGES" was not found.
Married-with-children 9589.jpg
"I work in a shoe store, I make less than minimum wage, and yet I'm not happy to be home."
Al Bundy

Married... with Children is a Sitcom about consummate loser Al Bundy: Once a high school football hero dating the hottest girl in school, now a balding, starving, destitute shoe salesman -- married to the same girl who's now a useless, bickering TV junkie. He's still driving the same piece of junk car he bought in high school, and is cursed with a moronic daughter who Really Gets Around, a sane, yet perverted son, and a dog that might as well be a throw rug.

The show premiered on April 5, 1987 as the very first program ever shown by the brand new FOX Network, and along with Twenty One Jump Street and The Tracey Ullman Show was one of the network's few hits before the NFL and The Simpsons turned the network into a major player. It was a constant ratings success until it ended in June of 1997; it's still Fox's longest-running live-action sitcom. This is the show in which Christina Applegate and Katey Sagal got their starts.

Inspired and popularized a character type: the Jaded Washout, actually previously called the Al Bundy. Also Trope Namer for Whoa, Bundy!.

Tropes used in Married... with Children include:
  • A-Cup Angst: Al constantly mocks Marcy for being flat-chested. At some points, her flatness gets her mistaken for a boy, much to her consternation, anger, and disappointment...several times. In the Pirate episode, she has to show her breasts to the crew to prove she's a lass... twice. And they're still not sure of it afterwards. And then there was the episode where she was continually mistaken for Bruce Jenner.
  • Aborted Arc: The first half of Season 6 introduced several continuing plotlines. Most notably, Peg and Marcy both wound up pregnant, and Bud began impersonating a rapper in order to get girls. About halfway through the season, all these storylines were undone by having Al wake up at the end of an episode, thinking the whole episode had been a dream. He soon finds out that in fact, the entire last six months of his life had been a dream. This was because Katey Sagal was pregnant in real life at the time, but sadly lost her baby when it came time to give birth. Out of respect, the writers made the entire storyline a dream because, according to one of the creators, "it worked for Dallas".
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Bud was unlucky enough to attract a couple of these, both male and female. While certainly not ugly, especially after he made himself look like a total dork in a dating show (where the woman chooses a self-centered hunk as the prize over him), he... does the same thing when a nerdy girl ironically echoes what he had said earlier... and ignores her to go out with a self-centered chick. At least he gave her a kiss before he went with the bimbo.
  • Abusive Parents: Marcy has multiple stories about how growing up was less than pleasant. One such tale involving her mother selling her beloved dog, Chester, for fifty cents at a yard sale, and using said money to go on vacation and leave Marcy home alone, crying and begging for Chester to come back home.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: Kelly on occasion, such as the time she found Waldo. Al, too.
  • Actor Allusion: In one episode, Ted McGinley's Jefferson is mistaken for a character from The Love Boat. He also once mistakenly referred to Al as Fonzie.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Jefferson will occasionally laugh at Al's cracks at Marcy when she's not looking, though a quick Death Glare will shut him right up.
  • Adaptation Decay: In-universe, Kelly got her own Show Within a Show, and Executive Meddling completely gutted it to become more "family friendly".
  • The Alleged Car: Al's Dodge is quite literally one of a kind. All of the other types of its make and model have either been recalled, exploded, or simply dissolved in the rain. This is possibly due to the fact that Al's car is literally pieced together out of the parts of other broken-down, destroyed Dodges. That should give you an indication as to its actual performance. In one episode, it's revealed that its brown color is actually accumulated dirt. Underneath it's a shiny red Cool Car.
  • All Just a Dream:
    • Done on the Season 6 episode where Al is a detective (See Aborted Arc above)
    • Also done on the episode where The Grim Reaper (played by Katey Sagal without her big red wig) comes for Al's soul and the rest of the family poses as The Village People, but subverted when it turns out that both A-story and B-story were real.

Kelly: You weren't dreaming, Daddy, you were dying! You were breathing in the chemicals from my bug poison [1]. Here, smell it!

  • All Take and No Give: Bud, Kelly and especially Peggy are all like this towards Al. While the kids eventually get jobs and start paying their own way, it's unclear what-if anything-Peg contributes to the relationship, given that she won't get a job, cook or clean, and constantly spends Al's money with a ridiculous sense of entitlement.
  • All Women Are Prudes: Averted with a vengeance, especially with Marcy and with Peg (who is always the one trying to get Al to have sex).
  • Alpha Bitch: Peg and Kelly were both Alpha Bitches in high school.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Ike of NO MA'AM lapses into this sometimes...at least by the standards of stereotypes on this show.
  • Animal Motifs: Al has made countless jokes comparing Marcy to a chicken. Marcy, in turn, has compared him to a pig, a three-toed sloth, an ox, and a shaved ape.
  • Animal Nemesis:
    • Al's obsession with killing the rabbit that destroyed his vegetable garden. Hilarity Ensues.
    • And, earlier in the series, Al and Steve were trying to catch a mouse.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking

Al: Peg! My apple's gone! This neighborhood's going to hell... First a double homicide, and now this!

  • Artifact Title: The show's working title was Not The Cosbys, meant as a Take That to The Cosby Show. Calling the show that would have been a pretty bad move, especially since The Cosby Show ended right around the same time that Married... with Children started. The title would quickly have become irrelevant to people who started watching the show in later years.
  • Artistic License Geography: One episode had Kelly abandoned by her Jerkass date out in the woods. While walking back she noticed a sign that said it was 15 miles to Chicago, and later 14 miles (the drop in miles confused her greatly.) Of course 15 miles outside of Chicago is still fairly dense suburbia and nothing like what was shown.
  • Ashes to Crashes: Funeral ashes were accidentally used in a BBQ, played for laughs and drama.
  • Aside Glance:
    • Bud sometimes gave these to the audience on those very rare occasions when he was about to score with a girl.
    • Also done a lot in later episodes whenever Al is about to kick someone's butt or verbally smack down someone.
    • Sometimes done when something idiotic just happened, but rarely.
    • Marcy occasionally did these whenever some impending disaster was about to strike, accompanied with an "Uh oh."
  • Ass Shove: Jefferson ends up with Marcy's boot lodged up his rear.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Depending on the episode...
  • Aw, Look -- They Really Do Love Each Other: When it comes right down to it, the Bundys are a family and they stick together. Just don't expect any of them to admit it. Also apparent when they get a rare taste of luxury, or at least normal life with food and utilities, as in such circumstances they're much happier and civil towards each other.
  • Back to School: In the episode "Peggy Made a Little Lamb", Peg learns that she failed a required class in high school - home economics, appropriately enough - and goes back to re-take it. Kelly's in the same class and has to pass it in order to graduate high school. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Kelly often wore midriff-baring outfits, especially in the show's earlier years.
  • Basement Dweller: Probably because the writers didn't want to change the show's dynamic, Kelly and Bud live at home well into their 20's despite having decent jobs. Bud fits the stereotypes of the trope more than his sister, right down to actually moving into the basement of the house.
  • Beach Episode:
    • A tenth-season, two-part episode has Kelly and her friends tricking Bud and his friends out of their holiday passes to Spring Break. We're then treated to Kelly, her friends and a large cast of female extras in bikinis on the beach in Fort Lauderdale. Al, Griff and Jefferson get in on it as well when they go to Fort Lauderdale themselves.
    • Bundy Family Fun Day at the beach.
  • Berserk Button: While the entire family would frequently ridicule each other, if anyone else hurt them or took advantage of them, they'd make them pay.
  • Bested At Bowling: The Season 4 episode "Peggy Turns 300". To add insult to injury, this was right after Al had managed to break the alley record with just short of 300.
  • Big Eater:
    • Peg does nothing all day but sit on the couch stuffing herself full of Bon Bons, and yet she never seems to gain a pound.
    • Peg's mother eats at least nine square meals a day, uses a pitchfork as a utensil, it's implied that she has eaten a dog, Al once stated that he didn't like the way Peg's mom looked at him (like he was between two pieces of bread), and can eat an entire pig in under a minute.
  • Big No: Al lets one out when a scoreboard dedicated to him gets blown up.
  • Biting the Hand Humor:
    • Zings fired at all sorts of networks aplenty:

Marcy: (roleplaying as Peggy) Al, I want you to come upstairs, and try to last longer than a new FOX sitcom!
Kelly: Something really stinks in here.
Bud: Well we are watching FOX.
(Revealed that the living room is filled with garbage due to a strike)

    • Another episode sees Al and Jefferson watching TV:

Jefferson: This is the best show on FOX.
Al: Yeah, like that's saying much.

  • Black Best Friend: Al's buddy and fellow NO MA'AMer Griff became his co-worker at the shoe store in later seasons.
    • Oddly enough, after Luke, the original shoestore sidekick left, almost all of Al's subsequent shoe store employees were black. The sole exception was Mr. Zippy, a chimp who began working at the shoe store in the very last episode aired, and dressed exactly like Al.
  • Black Comedy Rape:
    • Sometimes Peg just wouldn't take no for an answer. At least Al was nailed by a hot redhead - Bud unwillingly did the deed with a couple of very large, very fat, and very creepy looking women. After one such misadventure, Bud noted that now he knew how Tom Arnold must have felt whenever he did the deed with Roseanne.
    • It was generally subverted when it was Gender Flipped, though. On the rare occasions when Al was the one who either ripped up Peggy's magazine, pointed at her and then their bedroom, or simply flung her over his shoulder and carried her upstairs, she was almost always happy to comply. One time when it was played straight was when Peggy brought up a bunch of benches for the annual Labor Day family barbecue, she was totally exhausted and didn't want to do anything. Unfortunately, seeing her do housework and manual labor just happened to be Al's major fetish...
  • Black Dude Dies First: He doesn't actually die, but Griff invokes this trope when he refuses to take point for Al and Jefferson during a garbage strike:

Griff: Haven't you ever seen a war movie? The black man always get it first!
Al: What do you mean?
Griff: Jim Brown in The Dirty Dozen? Laurence Fishburne in Apocalypse Now? Bubba in Forrest Gump? Any black man on Star Trek? We go in, test the waters, get killed, and you white guys go home to your families.
Al: See? We both lose!

  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Peggy, Kelly, and Marcy. Kelly was the blonde, Peggy was the redhead, and Marcy was the brunette for the first two seasons, until subsequent season showed her hair gettting lighter and lighter.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The Bundys can pretty much cheat, lie, steal, mock anything and anyone, but marriage is forever.
  • Bottle Episode: A handful of episodes took place in one scene with limited actors and actresses. Some examples: the last episode of Season 1 (in which Al and Peg try to go to the closing night of their favorite burger joint, but are stuck at home trying to help their kids solve their social problems), the first episode of Season 5 (in which the Bundys get stuck in a traffic jam during their Labor Day vacation), and part one of the series finale.
  • Bottomless Bladder: Al at one point ponders out loud why heroes in westerns never go to the bathroom - then contemplates what kind of toilet paper they might have used back then.
  • The Brainless Beauty: Kelly didn't invent the Dumb Slutty Blonde stereotype, but she sure as hell added to its fame. In fact, Christina Applegate has been spending the rest of her career trying to get away from that image.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Marcy.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Kelly.
  • British Royal Guards: Peggy knows the best way to get a guard to smile is to take one of Al's shoes and let the guard get a good whiff of the odor. Of course, he doesn't smile until she takes the shoe away. He then passes out.
  • Bumbling Dad: Al
  • The Bus Came Back: Whenever Peggy was written out of the show during one of Katey Sagal's pregancies (see Put on a Bus below), she would always return once Sagal was ready to return to work.
  • Butt Monkey: Al and Bud are the most common examples, although all the main characters end up suffering from this to one degree or another.
  • Can't Stand Them Can't Live Without Them: As Al puts it: "Women... can't live with them...The End"
  • Captivity Harmonica: When Buck runs away and ends up in the pound, it's very prison-ish, complete with harmonica-playing pooch.
  • The Cast Showoff: Most of the main actors got to demonstrate this at one point or another. Katey Segal got a few singing numbers, Ed O'Neill was able to show off his football skills, David Faustino did some rapping, and Christina Applegate and David Garrison both got to use their dance training.
  • Catch Phrase: "Four touchdowns in a single game", "Let's rock", Al's "A fat woman came into the shoe store today" speeches, as well as variations on the "Whoa, Bundy!!" rally cry.
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Poor Bud...
  • Channel Hop: In-universe -- Psycho Dad going from PBS to The New Adventures of Psycho Dad on Fox finally gave him a reason to watch the network.
  • Characterization Marches On: Early episodes show Peggy doing housework (even though it was established that she does a lousy job at it -- especially the cooking part), Al initiating sex, and Kelly being of average intelligence (yet still getting poor grades in school).
  • The Chew Toy: Al, of course.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: In the first season Al's co-worker at the shoe store was Luke, a smooth-talking womanizer who stole Al's sales. He vanished after the first season, but gets a Hand Wave Shout-Out in Season 9.
  • Children Are a Waste: The show is based entirely on this trope; as Al's motto says, "a man's home is his coffin."
  • Classically-Trained Extra: Ed O'Neill and David Garrison were both trained as dramatic actors.
  • Class Reunion: Al and Peg go to their high school reunion in the finale for the third season. Particularly memorable in that they both get Crowning Moments of Awesome for doing so.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Peg, to ridiculous ends.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Ike of No MA'AM lapsed into this frequently.
  • If a Bundy anywhere becomes even vaguely successful, you can bet the rest of the family will turn up and try to exploit them. Peggy's Wanker County family occasionally treat the Bundys similarly, since even Al's miserable home and salary are a step up from their usual digs.
  • Combat Pragmatist: While Bud was perfectly capable of handling himself in a straight fight, he continued the proud Bundy tradition of cheating by smashing larger opponents over the head with bottles or chairs, or by hitting them below the belt. Needless to say, this made Al especially proud of his boy.
  • Comic Book Adaptation: Two years of ongoing issues plus a few specials, published by NOW Comics.
  • Continuity Nod: Bud has all his past costumes hanging up in the basement, including his "Grandmaster B" persona.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Marcy frequently suffered these whenever the Bundys got her into trouble with her bank:
    • After she loses $50,000 on a bad loan Al was unable to pay back, she's demoted to drive-up window teller. She later gets her job back by dancing on her boss's desk in a slip for 20 minutes while the other bank employees threw change at her.
    • When she gives Kelly a job as a window model at the bank, Kelly later gets her to sic the security guards on the son of the bank's biggest depositor, who Kelly thinks is a bank robber. Marcy is forced to act as the display model herself while wearing a chicken suit and holding a sign that says Let Us Sit On Your Nest Egg.
    • When Al forces her to dance at the nudie bar as part of a business deal she tries to broker for her boss to buy Al's Dodge, her boss compliments her on her ability to "shake it." A disgusted Marcy punches him out, which causes a bar fight that leads to her boss's arrest. She's later punished by being forced to become the ATM "beeper", in the sense that she has to make the beeping sounds for the bank's ATMs.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Again, Al.
  • Costumer
  • Commuting on a Bus: David Garrison returned to play Steve several times in one-shot episodes. One notable example had the studio audience applauding him for almost a full minute when he appeared onscreen, during which Garrison humorously checked his watch while standing in silence.
  • The Couch: Something Peg and Al can agree on - their favorite thing in the world. Well, second favorite.
  • Cousin Oliver: Seven, who became The Scrappy, and was later Brother Chucked out of existence.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Al didn't take kindly to other men hitting on Peg, and he usually "hit on" them in retaliation.
  • Crapsack World: The world of Married is one step from Hell, full of brainless beauties, snickering smug winners, despondent and pathetic losers, corrupt authority, dirty criminals, money-gouging women, and many general Jerkasses, including as described below, God himself.
  • Crazy Prepared: The leader of the Neighborhood Watch in the first season episode where Al accidentally shoots Steve and Marcie's dog.

NW Leader: Not gonna happen in my house. I'm ready for them. I got 50,000 volts of electricity running through my window bars. I got a bucket of battery acid hanging over the back door and I got a .30-aught-6 rigged to the front doorknob.
Steve: Then how do you get into your house?
NW Leader: Wouldn't you like to know!

  • Credit Card Plot: The Season 3 episode "Master the Possibilities", where Bud, Al, and Peg use Buck the dog's name to get a credit card. Coincidentally, another FOX sitcom about a dysfunctional family used this plot for a Season 8 episode.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: Done by Ray-Ray and his boys to Al in an Season 8 episode. This was more due to the fact that they outnumbered Al by six to one or more, and the fact that Ray-Ray was too much of a friggin' Dirty Coward to face up to Al one-on-one. If he had, he would have been the one on the receiving end of this trope.
  • The Danza: Dan Tullis, Jr. played Officer Dan.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Just another Friday night for Bud Bundy. The episode "Bud Hits the Books" centered around him getting caught doing this in the library. Al is initially proud of Bud, thinking he got caught having sex:

Al: Way to go, Bud! (shakes his hand) Who's the lucky girl?
Bud: You're shaking her.
(Al lets go in disgust)

    • And right before Bud finally gets laid, Amber notes his right hand is... strong.
    • In one episode, Bud started making sculptures with wooden sticks to spend the extra time granted by his lack of social life. When he got a date (with a girl who caught chicken pox), he said there'd be no more sticky fingers. Realizing how that comment could be interpreted, Bud stated it was from the glue.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Several.
    • The episode "Look Who's Barking" centers around Buck the dog. Some episodes have him at the semi-forefront, too.
    • The three Poorly Disguised Pilots (one centered on Al's high school friend and his dim-witted son, one centered on Bud's life in college [including Steve becoming the dean and Marcy starting a protest group against the college radio station], and one about Kelly and her latest boyfriend's petty, sarcastic friends) also count.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most (if not all) of the people on this show are Deadpan Snarkers, though Al and Peg are the biggest ones.
    • Buck trumps everybody in this department, even if the humans can't hear him.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Of every single sitcom of the time.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "Name the Presidents" and the "Daddy" song.
  • Determinator: Despite all the misery he's been through, Al still keeps on going and refuses to take the easy way out by killing himself. Al notes this on the Season 3 premiere "He Thought He Could" (where Al finds an overdue library book and confronts the evil librarian who constantly put him down as a child) that this is what makes him a winner, rather than a loser.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: There are several examples.

Marcy: Jefferson, go down and talk to the boy.
Jefferson: But Marcy, he's nuts! You go down, you're the one with the million-dollar life insurance policy.
Marcy: ...what million-dollar life insurance policy?
Jefferson: Can't talk now, I've got to go help out the boy.

    • Also played out with Kelly. She can't remember the difference between thinking something and saying it out loud, she later gets reprimanded by her mother for it.
    • In another episode Al dreams that he is a Private Detective, complete with Private Eye Monologue. At one point he says his narration out loud just as he is afflicted with Male Gaze.
  • Directed by Cast Member: Amanda Bearse (Marcy) directed over 30 episodes. The episode T*R*A*S*H was Written by Cast Member, being co-authored by David Faustino.
  • Dirty Coward: For all his tough-guy posturing, Ray-Ray (see Older Hero vs. Younger Villain and Take a Third Option, below) hides behind the rest of his thugs and has them beat Al up with sheer numbers because he arguably knows he's not man enough to face up to Al in a real fight.
  • Dirty Old Man: Al, Jefferson and the rest of the NO MA'AM guys all enjoy drooling over women young enough to be their daughters.
  • Dirty Old Woman: The reason Peggy doesn't seem to mind Al ogling other women, reading nudie magazines or going to strip clubs is probably because she does the same things herself with other men. Marcy also occasionally demonstrates this trope.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The revenge on Heather McCoy (Tiffany-Amber Theissen) went perhaps a bit too far.
  • Distaff Counterpart: An in-universe example occurred with Kelly when she got a job as an amusement park gate attendant, which turned her into a female version of Al, complete with the bitter outlook on life and horror stories involving fat women (she even took on Al's signature slouching-with-hand-in-pants sitting position, which Peg didn't recognize, despite seeing it a million times before). Another example was the show "Psycho Mom", created by FOX as an alternative to "Psycho Dad", Al's favorite TV show.
  • The Ditz: Kelly, though in the earlier episodes, she wasn't that dumb (despite getting bad grades in school), and was only made fun of for having bleached-blond hair, being a slut, dating sleazy guys, and committing petty crimes like speeding, sneaking out of the house, stealing money from Al, and vandalizing public property.
    • Lampshaded in an episode which showed that Kelly used to be very intelligent as a child, until she hit her head during a car accident.
  • Does This Make Me Look Fat?: "Ladies, it's not the dress that makes you look fat, it's the fat that makes you look fat!"
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Quite literally applied in an episode where the Bundys harbor a fugitive Steve, who has a substantial reward on his head. Peg, Bud and Kelly are tempted to turn Steve in, but Al refuses. The police are tipped off anyway, and after arresting Steve they also arrest the Bundys for harboring him. The Bundys wonder which of them ratted Steve out, but they all deny it. The final scene features Buck dressed in a fedora and holding a large bag of reward money in his mouth.
  • Doom It Yourself: Al's adventures fixing a leaky rooftop, him hunting a Killer Rabbit, etc.
    • By Al's own admission, the driveway in front of his house is nowhere near code. This probably has to do with the fact that he built it himself out of ground-up womens' shoes.
    • The fence the Bundys share with the D'Arcys is also pretty shoddy, given that Peggy did such a half-assed job putting it together.
  • Downer Ending: Due to the Bundy Curse, most of the characters' schemes end in failure.
  • Driven to Suicide: Played for Laughs in this case: Several ship crew members do this during the Pirate episode for having to hear Ruvio the Cruel sing.
  • Driving Test: Bud (who worked for the DMV) was Al's driving inspector for one episode when he lost his license.
  • Drop-In Character: Steve Rhoades for the first four seasons, until David Garrison left the show and his character was replaced by Jefferson D'Arcy (played by Ted McGinley, he of many shark jumps; surprisingly, the show lasted longer after McGinley came on board).
  • Dumb Blonde: Kelly.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: If any character figured out something that eluded the rest of the cast, it was usually Kelly.
  • Dysfunctional Family
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Ted McGinley appeared as Peg's husband on the two-part It's A Wonderful Life parody a season before he played Marcy's free-loading ex-con second husband.
    • Dan Tullis appeared off-and-on as a generic cop character, who was later established to be Officer Dan.
  • Eighties Hair: Peg and Kelly in earlier seasons.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: More of an embarrassing last name, as Marcy D'Arcy would attest. Bud's not too thrilled about his middle name being 'Franklin', either.
  • Entitled Bitch: Good grief, Peg. She constantly whines and moans about how miserable her life is, and has the gall to claim that Al somehow "owes" her, despite the fact that she refuses to get a job, cook or clean the house, or basically do anything at all to contribute to the relationship.
    • As Al put it in Season 2, Peg thinks a 2-income household is a house with 2 husbands.
  • Epic Fail: Al's entire life can be summed up by this trope. Particular examples of Epic Failure occur with his failed businesses, such as when he lost $100,000 on a shoe information hotline in the episode 976-SHOE, and when he bankrupted Marcy with his attempt to market a line of shoes he received the idea for after he suffered a head injury in God's Shoes.
  • Erotic Eating: on a two-part episode where Al and Bud go to Fort Lauderdale for spring break, one of the contestants in the bikini contest uses eating a banana as a talent. There was also a Offscreen Moment of Awesome when Marcy's niece Amber is hanging out with Bud, who notes that Amber has showered, changed and eaten a banana in front of him. Unfortunately, we don't get to see it.
  • Escalating War: The episode How Green Was My Apple starts out with Al and Jefferson arguing over an apple that's growing on a tree near their shared fence. It grows into an increasingly crazed dispute over their mutual property line.
  • Even the Dog Is Ashamed: Or just senile.
  • Everything's Worse with Bears: In "Bearly Men", Al and Bud go hunting with Peggy's father to prove their manliness. Al and Bud run into a bear (literally; they hit it with a car). Thinking it dead, they take the bear home... only for it to wake up and escape into Chicago. Al, Bud and Peggy's father then have to go after it.
  • Exact Words: In one episode, Al and some of his friends tried a hair tonic that had the unfortunate (for them) side effect of making them want to have sex with their wives (or ex-wife in Griff's case). Al promised to develop an antidote, stating that a Bundy got them in that trouble and a Bundy will get them out. Cuts to a scene with Bud being forced to serve as a test subject.
  • Fag Hag: Gender Flipped by Al and Marcy's cousin Mandy (see Reality Subtext below). Al initially thinks Mandy is hot, but when he learns she's gay that doesn't prevent them from being good friends and going to baseball games or playing foosball.
    • Played straight and subverted in the same episode when Peg has a close friendship with a gay man, to the point where they actually begin dancing together at an upscale nightclub. The subversion comes when the gay man's husband (played by Simpsons voice actor Dan Castellaneta) thinks that his mate and Peg are having an affair, and tries to tell Al about it. When Al learns that the husband has a job, likes to cook and enjoys watching sports on TV (except for soccer, which he doesn't think is really a "man's game"), Al briefly falls head-over-heels in love.
  • Fan Service: Besides the fanservice you get from Kelly, Peg, and, to a lesser extent, Marcy, the show regularly featured Playboy Playmates and Penthouse Pets as guest stars.
  • Fat Bastard: Bob Rooney is a textbook example. Al once used his exposed gut to scare a bunch of little kids out of their Halloween candy.
  • Faux Horrific: Peg redecorating the bathroom.
  • Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: Al and NO MA'AM often speak this way about their wives or women in general; in turn, Marcy sometimes says the same about men. In the end of a given episode, both sides are typically undermined by Hypocritical Humor.
  • 555: Al got a shoddy product he ordered and called to demand to know the number of their business' supervisor. The response? "1-800-BITE-ME". When Bud got assigned to volunteer a virgin hot-line, the number was "1-800-ZIPP UP".
    • Also, 555-SHOE, 555-RIND, 555-PINF, 555-RGNE, on the episode Al opened a shoe-hotline.
  • Flanderization: Nearly all the characters eventually, though this actually increased the show's quality.
  • Flat Uh Oh: Marcy occasionally gave these to the audience whenever some disaster was about to strike.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted
  • Forbidden Fruit: In the episode "A Little of the Top" Al is accidentally circumcised and has to abstain from sex for a month. For most of their marriage, Al put great effort into avoiding sex with Peg. But now that it was forbidden, she suddenly became some sort of irresistible sex goddess whose every casual action seemed to turn him on.
  • Foreign Remake:
    • Lots. The Russian remake Happy Together is doing really well and is still in production with brand new episodes.
    • "Hilfe meine Familie spinnt" is a german example from The Nineties. It was aired at the same time the American original was aired and, not very surprisingly, didn't go over well.
    • There's also a Brazilian version named "A Guerra dos Pintos" (Pinto being the surname of the Bundys' Brazilian counterparts) but it didn't go very well either. The first episode was an adaptation of the original series' first episode.
  • For Inconvenience Press One: Al calls a junkyard in Rhode Island looking for an alternator for his Dodge. He spends 90% of the episode on their automated response system. Once he finally got to talk with some real person, Kelly ruined it all. Depressed, Al decided to spend the rest of his life in the basement, where he was treated to the same Arc Words Bud was earlier in the episode: "If you build it, he'll come." (Does it sound familiar?) But then the mysterious voice added: "If you want him to build it for you, press one."
  • Former Child Star: In the episode, "You Better Shop Around" Jerry Mathers (known for Leave It to Beaver) guest stars, playing himself as a washed-up former child star, who has resorted to judging shopping contests in supermarkets. Bud and Kelly mercilessly mock him for this.
  • Freudian Excuse: It's implied in several episodes that Kelly's promiscuity stems from being starved for attention and treated as the Butt Monkey in her own family (the episode where Al invents shoe-lights lampshaded this with Kelly's (who is being used as the guinea pig for shoe-lights) line: "'Kelly, this meat is green. Taste it to see if it's good.' 'Kelly, there's a noise downstairs. Go see if it's a burglar.' No wonder I run into the arms of strange men").
  • Friends Rent Control: the place might not look like much, but when you consider that it's a multilevel home and that the sole breadwinner most episodes is a shoe salesman who makes less money than an Eskimo blubber-chewer, a French deodorant salesman or a Pakistani dirt vendor, and whose failure at almost everything is a Running Gag...
  • Full-Name Basis: Bob Rooney is never called anything but Bob Rooney, even by his wife.
  • Fun with Acronyms: NO MA'AM: The National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood.
    • Also Marcy's counter-organization FANG: Feminists Against Neanderthal Guys.
      • And at another point, Marcy and Peg started WOMB: Women Owe Men Bupkis.
  • Game Between Heirs: There's an episode in which Al Bundy's Uncle Stymie, the only male Bundy to be a success in life (Al credits this to the fact Stymie was the only one who never married), left his $500,000 estate to the first male Bundy to have a legitimate son named after him. Considering that the lawyer who read the will would later marry a male Bundy and give birth to Stymie Junior to get the money, Al and the other Bundys who didn't get the money even though could have challenged the will under claims of undue influence.
  • Gargle Blaster: Peggy tries serving Al a glass of orange...something that spews smoke everywhere.

Al: ...
Peggy: Al...we thought you might be thirsty...so I made you some Tang.
Al: ...Tang don't smoke.
Kelly: Oh! This is new and improved "Smoking Tang!"

  • Gay Moment
  • Get Rich Quick Scheme: Al was continually hatching these. Given that he was, well, Al Bundy, they usually tended to blow up in his face.
  • Gilligan Cut: Many times.
  • Glory Days: Al's many stories about how he "scored four touchdowns in one game".
  • Gold Digger: Peg, despite the fact that her husband has a crappy job. Gender Flipped by Jefferson, whose marriage to banker Marcy is based on this trope. One of the more subtle jokes in the series was that mortal enemies Al and Marcy are essentially in exactly the same situation when it comes spouses and that Al's best friend had all the flaws he complains about in his own wife.
    • It was acknowledged as well: one episode opens with Al coming home, and delivering a speech ostensibly to Peg about how he's been working all day while she just sits on the couch watching TV and munching bonbons. The camera then pans out to reveal that he's talking to Jefferson.
    • Also in an episode (one of Steve's last on the show) where Marcy was among those commiserating with Al and his bar buddies over working to pay for unappreciative families.
    • One episode had Marcy wanting to leave her husband because he didn't make as much money as he used to when he wanted to pursue his dream job, making her seem like this as well.
    • One of the episodes where Marcy got him a job, she told him she was tired of having him commenting about Oprah every time she gets home and that it was like being married to Peggy.
  • Go Mad From the Revelation: This happened to Al after he made the mistake of looking up when he had a fat woman in the chair at the shoe store and ended up seeing her underwear, which she hadn't changed in five days.
  • Gonk: This was the type of woman Bud usually ended up attracting, much to his chagrin. Peg's mother was also implied to be one of this, although we were spared the horror of actually seeing what she looked like.
  • Gypsy Curse: The Bundy family has multiple ones upon them. The eternal darkness in Lower Uncton is one of them, Al's smelly feet are another one, and the general successlessness of every Bundy in history is said to be yet another one.
    • Al's Uncle Stymie avoided the successlessness, which Al attributes to the fact Stymie never got married.
    • And how about being turned into chimpanzees by a Gypsy's curse.
  • Heel Face Turn: During the seasons where Al started "NO MA'AM", Officer Dan went from being the cop who always arrested Al to being his best friend.
  • Henpecked Husband: Steve is flanderized into this. Jefferson is also this. Al thinks he is this, but it's a subversion on Al's part. Although his wife disrespects him, he's still the clear head of household.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Well, Al is a hero to many people in real life. In one episode, Al ruefully admits that, however much he might ogle other women, at the end of the day Peg is still the one he wants.
  • Heroic BSOD: Al suffered a couple of these over the course of the series after particularly traumatic or horrifying experiences (being beaten at bowling, accidentally looking up a fat woman's dress and seeing her filthy underwear, being forced to have sex with his wife, etc.)
  • Heroic Sociopath/Villain Protagonist: Al's favorite tv character "Psycho Dad" straddles the line between this.
  • High School: Al frequently reminisces on how he "scored four touchdowns in one game".
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Many jokes about what a lousy mother Peg was to Bud and Kelly.
    • As bad as Bud and Kelly's childhoods were, several episodes imply that Al's was even worse. His mother was an alcoholic, and his father abandoned the family for a hooker.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Terry Rakolta's attempts to have the show cancelled only increased its success. Crowning Moment of Awesome, anyone?
  • Hollywood Dateless + Casanova Wannabe: Bud. It's possible that his poor performance when he actually manages to have sex is part of the problem-Ariel, Tina Yothers, and Cousin Jimmy's fiance all imply that Bud didn't exactly wow them in bed.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Kelly, the Trope Codifier if not the outright Ur Example. Bud also counts as the male equivalent. See A Date with Rosie Palms.
  • Housewife: Definitely not Peg, though Al wants her to be one. Peg was brainwashed to be a competent housewife on a later season episode where Peg bumps her head on the coffee table and immediately loses her memory.
  • I Am Not Spock: All the main actors are usually identified by their respective roles in Married... with Children, especially Ed O'Neill.
    • This is slowly being overturned by Modern Family, however. Very slowly.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender: Who do you think?
  • Idiot Ball: The entire cast (Rhoadeses/D'Arcys inclusive). They're not passing it around. They're not playing a hot potato with a couple of those. They're frantically juggling a dozen or more in the wildest game of Dysfunctional Family And Neighbourhood Circus you've ever seen in your current or any of your past or future lives.
  • If I Do Not Return: This trope had been played with in T*R*A*S*H

Griff: If I don't make it, would you look up my ex-wife and...
Al: And tell her that you love her?
Griff: No, tell her that she's a bitch!

  • Indecisive Parody: The "Ship of Passion" episode.
  • Indian Burial Ground: While it would explain a lot if the Bundys lived on an Indian burial ground, they actually live on an Indian garbage dump. The Bundy property was originally a landfill where the First Nations people threw their rotting moccasins.
  • Innocent Innuendo: In one episode, Jefferson, Marcy, Kelly and Bud hear what sounds like Peg is playing with Al's you-know-what, while in fact she was just fixing Al's neck tie.
  • Insatiable Newlyweds: Marcy and Steve. At one point she describes one of their quickies as "A little three-hour love-fest."
  • Invisible Holes
  • Jaded Washout: (Former Trope Namer)
  • Jerkass Gods: Al believes that God has it in for him, and it's strongly implied that this is true. When God comes up with a particularly cruel twist of fate, or an especially vicious insult apparently directed at Al, Al will occasionally sarcastically compliment God, or simply ask Him if He doesn't have anything else to do.

Al: Death can't possibly be this busy!

    • A particularly noteworthy episode that could be taken as proof of divine beings toying with him -- Kelly has a good-paying new job as the Verminator, Bud has moved into a fraternity, and Al has all attractive customers at the shoe store. To culminate, he has a very lucky night of poker and cleans out Jefferson's friends before they bet all their cars against his winnings, and Al gets four Aces and wins. Then the cops bust in, the cars are stolen, they arrest Al and take his winnings. Al, who has been Genre Savvy enough to recognize his fall was inevitable, asks one of them to turn on the TV. The news report says the Verminator crashed her motorcycle during a stunt when a red-haired woman took her picture, and crashed into and destroyed a fraternity home.

Reporter: At this time, no one is yet sure which fraternity was destroyed.
Al: Oh, I'm sure.

    • And then just to Kick the Dog, as the police haul him out Al gets struck by lightning, and the news reporter says that the weather is sunny and clear except over one single house.
      • Jefferson points out dark clouds are ALWAYS over Al's house. Go figure.
  • Jerk Jock: It's implied in several episodes that Al was one of these in high school before he married Peg.
  • Just Divorce Peg: Many viewers wondered why Al didn't just kick Peg out, raise the kids without her poisonous influence, and have all the blonde floozies he wants. This is answered in a three-parter where they really do separate, but are shown to be in love with each other in their own twisted way.
  • The Jimmy Hart Version: In syndication, and in later episodes, Queen's "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions" were replaced with these.
    • the theme song is replaced with this in the Hulu broadcasts.
  • Karma Houdini: Peg. So, so much. Let us count the ways: she steals from Al, shops as if it's compulsive, was complicit in killing a fitness guru, engages in petty rivalries, lets her kids starve, and is just as mean spirited as the rest of the family, and yet she rarely sees any punishment.
  • Kent Brockman News: often used in the early episodes and when Miranda Veracruz de la Hoya Cardinal (the Latina news anchor) was introduced in the later episodes.
  • The Ladette: Marcy's sister Mandy.
  • Lethal Chef: Peg in the early episodes. In the later episodes, she didn't cook at all (except when Al used the money from the "No Chicken, No Check" insurance company to force Peg to buy meat, when Peg's insanely obese mom started making money as a phone sex operator, and when Peg suffered amnesia and Al brainwashed her into being a competent housewife).
    • However, this habit of Peg's also resulted in a bit of good luck for the kids when her leftover Mystery Meal results in the band Anthrax being quarantined to the Bundy house for an entire month.
  • Let's Get Dangerous:

Al: Let's rock.

    • And whenever Bad To The Bone started playing.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Rumors abounded that David Faustino and Christina Applegate were an item. Faustino denied this, saying that Applegate was more like a sister to him.
  • Long Runners: 10 years (11 seasons) on the air made this FOX's longest-running live-action scripted program, and their fifth-longest running show overall (behind some other very well-known shows).
  • Lovely Assistant: In an episode, where Al and Peggy compete in a game show:

Host: Hello there, and welcome to How Do I Love Thee?! The game show that dares to ask; "How do I love thee?". For those of you who're totally ignorant of today's superstars, I'm Bink Winkleman. [one person applauds] Thank you! And here's our own little piece of fluff that the network thrust upon me, The Lovely Zelda. [great applause]

  • A Man Is Always Eager: Inverted with Al and Peg; she's the one who always wants sex, while he's usually sickened by the very thought.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Now you know why Bud goes to such absurd lengths to get some action.
  • Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: A driving force for both plot, dialogue and characterization.
  • The Millstone: PEG.
  • Missing Episode: Season 3's episode "I'll See You in Court", where The Bundys and the Rhoades sue a motel for videotaping them during sex and using the surveillance footage as pornographic movies for other motel guests. It was pulled because of the backlash involving Terry Rakolta (a Michigan housewife who protested against the show because of the episode "Her Cups Runneth Over" because its bawdy jokes centered around a lingerie-cum-marital aid store), but premiered on the cable channel FX and was released on DVD twice -- once on a collection of the show's "Most Outrageous" episodes, and again when the compete third season was released. On both occasions, "I'll See You in Court" was branded as a "Lost Episode".
  • Ms. Fanservice: If you don't understand why Kelly Bundy is this trope, you've obviously never seen the show.
  • My Friends and Zoidberg

Al: Ladies and Gentlemen... (nods) Marcy... I got my pie!

    • Would occasionally happen to Peg:

Al: Hi Bud...hi Kelly...hi Couch Monster...

  • National Stereotypes: To get a promotion at her banking job, Marcy once tried to suck up to her Japanese boss by playing up all kinds of absurd Japanese stereotypes. We hear the thoughts of the boss (played by Pat Morita, AKA Mr. Myagi), and he's not impressed.
  • Nausea Dissonance: In "Hot off the Grill", everyone at Al's cookout reacts with disgust when they learn that Kelly added the ashes of Marcy's dead aunt to Al's grill. Everyone, that is, except Steve, who hated said aunt...and starts grinning as he eats his "Bundy-burger" with even more enthusiasm.
  • Necktie Leash: Marcy once did this to Jefferson when they were role-playing as Al and Peggy.
  • Negative Continuity: The many stories of how Peg and Al got married? Was it a shotgun wedding orchestrated by Peg's redneck family or did Al get drunk one night and marry Peg at a wedding chapel (I ask because there was an episode where one of Al's words of advice to Bud was "Never do tequila shooters within a country mile of a wedding chapel", while other episodes imply that Peg's family forced Al to marry her [possibly because he got her pregnant]).
    • The general consensus is that Al had too much to drink one night and proposed to Peg while under the influence. When he sobered up, he had a My God, What Have I Done? moment and tried to get out of it, but Peg's father forced him at gunpoint to follow through (or, according to one episode, drugged Al [Al tells Peg that if her father didn't lace his lemonade with vermouth, he'd still be single]). This timetable offers a fairly accurate picture of how it turned out.
  • Never Learned to Read: Kelly is barely literate.
  • Never Trust a Hair Tonic: In an early episode, Al and Steve freak out about their baldness and try an experimental "tonic" to reverse it. Not only does it not work, but Al's dog Buck takes to the stuff better than their hair did (they were actually using some kind of dog food in their hair, and the doctor who sold it to them was a quack).
    • In another episode, Kelly accidentally created a hair tonic named "Bleen", which worked but had the side-effect of having the male users want to have sex with their wives. The divorced Griff complained that the tonic made him pay the overdue alimony.
  • No Accounting for Taste, on both ends of the main couple. She's a lazy, Bon-Bon eating money sponge, he's a misanthrope with a dead-end job. Together, they raise kids!
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: About the only thing the Bundys do well is fight. Whenever they get into a scuffle with another family, it's always a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Noodle Incident: On a Season 3 episode where Kelly has a slumber party and The Rhoades lose their house, Al forbids Kelly to have a slumber party because the last time she had it, she was tried as an adult at the age of eight and someone shaved Al's head in his sleep. There was no further information.
    • However, when Al and the others later go to Washington to prevent the cancellation of Psycho Dad, Kelly and Bud have another party. Through radio reports we learn that the party engulfs most of the upper Midwest by the end of the episode, with the National Guard setting up "back-parties" to contain it.
    • After briefly dating Bud, Marcy's niece Amber breaks it off with him after he performs his "movie theater popcorn trick", no further details provided.
      • Nor are any needed; as sleazy jokes go this is fairly well-known.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Cheating to win is a proud Bundy tradition. Al won a senior citizens' athletic contest by lying about his age to compete, Peg fixed the vote to win Reunion Queen at her high school reunion, Bud has won fights against bigger men by smashing them over the head with chairs or bottles, and Kelly won a boxing match for a movie role by stepping on her opponent's foot so she couldn't dodge and then punching her out.
  • Not So Different: In order to escape being held hostage by fat women, Al cooks up a false traumatic childhood memory in which he, too, was overweight and knew the pain of being bullied for it (by his own parents, no less). This realization moves the women to let him go free.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Jefferson is a retired CIA agent. When Al initially finds this out, he's offered a large cash reward for information leading to Jefferson's capture... however, due to their being in the middle of a prank war, Al wasn't sure if was legit or not. At the end of the episode, Jefferson scares Al before playing it off as a large-scale hoax... until we hear on the still-playing television that the man who'd offered the reward had just died while watching a baseball game. Never has someone blowing a noise-maker been so creepily funny.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: When the noise Al makes building Lucky's doghouse bothers Marcy, she bribes a city building inspector to harass Al and make him jump through a bunch of hoops to finally get the doghouse approved, including having plumbing and handicap access installed. Hilarity Ensues.
    • On the other hand, Al got the last laugh when he used all the leftover cement he'd had to buy for the doghouse foundation and dumps it all over Marcy's Mercedes.
  • Oh, Mr. Grant!
  • Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: One Season 8 episode features Al coming to the defense of an old classmate of his against Ray-Ray, a young gang leader who's making her life miserable.
  • Old Maid: Miss Hathaway.
  • Only Sane Man: Compared to the rest of the cast Griff seems to be the only character who is at least relatively grounded in reality.
    • Steve was this, at least when he was a regular character.
  • On One Condition: Stymie Bundy, the only male Bundy to be a success, left five hundred thousand dollars to the first male Bundy to have a child born in wedlock named after him.
  • Emmy Bait: One episode had Al Bundy panicking because he left something important in the trunk of his car, but he won't tell anyone exactly what. Peg laughs it off by saying it's his Porn Stash, but at the end of the episode it's revealed it was a porn magazine... but more importantly, a picture of his family looking happy hidden in there. Cue subtitles that read: "For your Emmy considerations."
  • Overdrawn At the Blood Bank: On the episode where Kelly and Jefferson raise money by pool-hustling, Al sells his blood to get in on the action. He later does it again to pay the water bill.
  • Overprotective Dad: Al regularly pummels Kelly's boyfriends (and one time, Bud, since Al is used to seeing Kelly bring home sleazy dates and didn't know Bud brought an actual girl home). Subverted by the fact that most of the guys she dates are scum that no sane father would allow his daughter to date.
    • Another episode had the underage Kelly about to drink a beer, but she immediately put it down at the look of genuine anger and disapproval on Al's face.
    • Al telling off the older woman he thinks the underage Bud is having an affair with. It's the wrong woman, but it's the right reaction.
    • Throughout the show, especially in the early seasons, both parents basically had "oh, hell no" reactions to the kids doing something wrong.
  • Out-Gambitted: Walter Trogget, one of Jefferson's old enemies from his days in the CIA, tries to get revenge on him through Al. Jefferson outmaneuvers Trogget by tricking Al into thinking that the whole thing is an April Fool's prank, after which he has Troggett killed.
  • Parallel Porn Titles: A good half-dozen in the subplot to the episode "Dial 'B' for Virgin" where Al and Peg go to a video store. Al's favorite is "Forrest Hump".
  • Performance Anxiety: Played with in one episode when Marcy is anxious about having to deliver bad news at a presentation to her bank executives. She sees a psychotherapist who conditions her to associate public speaking with sex. This not only relieves her performance anxiety, but causes her to have an orgasm during the presentation. She's soon in demand throughout Chicago as a speaker delivering bad news.
  • Perpetual Poverty
  • Pet the Dog: Titular character of Show Within a Show Psycho Dad murdered at least three wives, but he's described as a good father to his son.
    • In one of his few moments of being a kind father to his son, Al rescued Bud from an absolutely pathetic party planned by his mother by taking him to the fabled nudie bar on his 18th birthday.
  • The Pete Best: The original pilot had different actors playing Bud and Kelly.
  • Pick on Someone Your Own Size: A young Al Bundy becomes the enemy of a middle-aged librarian. Thirty years later, the now elderly librarian still has a grudge against the now middle-aged Al.
  • Plague of Good Fortune: The dreaded "Bundy Curse" brings bad luck to any Bundys who ever get lucky in anything.
    • Except Bud, who gets laid.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: The episodes "Top of the Heap" (where Al's high school friend and his dimwitted son try to fit in at a high-class party), "Radio Free Trumaine" (where Marcy protests against two obnoxious college radio DJs from Bud's school), and "Enemies" (where Kelly dates a delivery man with a bunch of petty, sarcastic friends). What's really sad is that "Top of the Heap" is the 100th episodes and a lot of fans got mad that the 100th episode didn't focus on the Bundys (it had Al in it, but only at the beginning where he's trying to welsh out of his best friend's bet and at the end where Al breaks in to his friend's apartment and steals back his television).
  • Porn Stash: Al sure loves his Big 'Uns magazines. At one time, he even had a collection of Playboys dating back before the '70s...which Peg sold.
    • Bud loved Al's nudie magazines, too, plus his own collection.
  • Pose of Silence
  • Pottery Barn Poor: For as often as money troubles popped up for the Bundys, their house was certainly outfitted well.
  • Pretty Freeloaders: The rest of the family sponges off Al; rare male examples occur with Bud and Jefferson, who's married to Marcy.
  • Pro Wrestling Episode: "Flight of the Bumblebee"
  • Property Line: "How Green Was My Apple", where The Bundys and the D'Arcys wage war over an apple tree.
  • Put on a Bus: The second and third times Katey Sagal became pregnant, her character was written out of the show until she was ready to return to work (to avoid a repeat of the sad Real Life Writes the Plot incident). This trope also applied to Steve (who was written off as leaving Marcy so he can be a park ranger) when David Garrison left the show to return to theater.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Frank Sinatra's "Love and Marriage".
    • Sadly, on Hulu and on the DVD box sets from Season 3 onwards, the theme song was replaced by generic orchestra music because the rights-holder for the song's (which is not the Sinatra family) royalty demands are too high.
    • On one episode of Jeopardy!, the Final Jeopardy catagory was Sitcom Theme Songs. The answer "Current Sitcom whose theme is sung by Frank Sinatra" stumped all three contestants.
  • Reality Subtext: One episode in the final season guest starred Marcy's identical gay cousin "Mandy". The actress who played both characters (Amanda Bearse) is a lesbian in real life.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: In Season 6, Katey Sagal got pregnant, resulting in Peggy doing the same. After Katey Sagal's miscarriage, it was made All Just a Dream out of sensitivity to the tragedy. Then when Katey Sagal got pregnant again, the pregnancy was covered up by having Peg either sitting at the kitchen table or off the show on her own storyline where she's living with her redneck parents in Wisconsin and ends up traveling the world to get her father back.
    • Also, Bud's "Grandmaster B" persona was created in response to a rapper phase David Faustino actually went through during the previous season. The writers found it so annoying that they paid him back by having him doing it on the show.
  • Really Gets Around: Kelly.
  • Retcon: In an early episode, Al mentions his boss Gary (who he never met before) was in a plane crash and presumed dead, but he survived. In a later season. Gary was a woman.
  • Retired Badass: Jefferson, of all people. One episode involved him rappelling down into Fidel Castro's office and holding him at knifepoint - only it turned out he and Fidel were old friends from Jefferson's CIA days.
  • Risky Business Dance: In "Breaking up is Easy to Do, Part 2".
  • Sadist Show: Before such shows as The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park, this show made fun of (at-the-time) taboo subject matter (particularly sex, feminism, homosexuality, juvenile delinquency, and political correctness), had extraordinarily raunchy jokes and Double Entendres, and showed viewers that not all family sitcoms can be like Full House or The Brady Bunch (though this becomes a case of Seinfeld Is Unfunny when you realize that even though Married...With Children was the first successful FOX sitcom and the one that ushered in the era of dysfunctional family comedies, it's The Simpsons that seems to be getting all the credit). Heck, even the original title of the show was supposed to be Not the Cosbys (since, at the time, The Cosby Show was popular for bringing family values back to TV -- something that the show creators didn't like).
  • Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: Al, of course. How the mighty have fallen...
  • Screwed by the Network: Where to start?
    • First, there was the censors wanting to retitle an episode called "A Period Piece" (which focused on Peg, Kelly, and Marcy getting their periods simultaneously while Al, Bud, and Steve go fishing) into "The Camping Show", even though the show titles for "Married...With Children" were not shown onscreen (and not known at all until "Married...With Children" fan websites and cable guide summaries sprung up in the 1990s).
    • Then, there was the whole Terry Rakolta incident, which caused an episode that wasn't even that raunchy, but still had heavy sexual references ("I'll See You in Court") to be barred from viewing until FX aired the episode a decade later and the episode was released on DVD.
    • Perhaps the most egregious of all was how the series ended. You know that last episode where Kelly almost gets married to the man who held her family hostage? Well, despite looking like the perfect plot for the final episode of a dysfunctional family sitcom, it wasn't scheduled to be that way. After FOX spent all of Season 10 moving "Married...With Children" to different timeslots (and made worse by the fact that The Simpsons and In Living Color were gaining in popularity), the show suffered in the ratings so much that FOX decided to shut the show down after its 11th season. According to the "E! True Hollywood Story" about "Married...With Children", the actors had a lot of different ideas for what the last episode should have been. Ed O'Neill thought that the Bundys should win the lottery right before a tornado ripped through the neighborhood and killed them. Christina Applegate built on this, saying that the Bundy house should have then landed on Marcy, a la The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Ted McGinley suggested the Bundys and Marcy dying or getting hurt in some horrible fashion and Jefferson ending up relaxing on the beach with bikini-clad babes all around him.
  • Self-Made Man: Stymie Bundy. Al credits Stymie's success to the fact Stymie never got married.
  • Sex as Rite-Of-Passage: Bud Bundy.
  • Shotgun Wedding: The circumstances under which Al and Peggy tied the knot, as Peggy was pregnant with Kelly at the time. Peggy's father brings the shotgun to the couple's ceremony to renew their wedding vows to make sure Al doesn't back out of that as well.
  • Shot in the Ass: Al suffered from this when Kelly was practicing archery.
  • Shout-Out: A toilet gag, to All in The Family.
    • Also numerous references to other TV shows that were on at the time. In one episode, Al criticizes Friends, only for Bud to find him watching it later; Al's excuse is that if you turn the sound off and watch with binoculars, you can tell that Rachel isn't wearing a bra.
    • The creators of the show were all fans of Professional Wrestling, and chose the surname "Bundy" as an homage to legendary Heel King Kong Bundy (who appeared on the show as one of Peggy's relatives).
      • He also appeared in the episode where Bud needs a picture of himself w/ King Kong to get into NO MA'AM.
      • The Rhodes were named after "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes.
      • Unfortunately, many people who weren't wrestling fans misinterpreted the Shout-Out and thought the creators named the family after Ted Bundy. Lampshaded when the kids are thinking about changing their last name, and candidates include Manson and Berkowitz. And Berkowitz would be a character portrayed by the actor known as "Psycho Dad".
    • Stymie Bundy was named after a Little Rascal. Matthew "Stymie" Beard, to be exact. Al once called him "Uncle Buckwheat" (Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas) and Kelly once called him "Uncle Spanky" (George "Spanky" Mc Farland). The three of them were from the Roach talkie period.
    • An episode of Futurama has Katey Sagal's character Leela devolve into a one eyed Peggy Expy about to be married to an alien named Alkezar (Who insists she call him "Al").
  • The Show Goes Hollywood: The multi-part episode "Kelly Does Hollywood".
  • Show Within a Show: Al's favorite was "Psycho Dad", a Western series about a father who went insane and visited horrible, violent retribution on everyone around him.
    • For some reason, the lyrics to the Psycho Dad theme song changed every time it was viewed.
  • Sitcom Arch Nemesis: Marcy
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: Occasionally done to all three female main characters. Peg's had both Al and a fat woman fall and land on top of her, Kelly's been bitten by poisonous insects, electrocuted and hit with a frisbee, Marcy's been electrocuted and run over with a shopping cart, and all three of them have fallen down the basement stairs.
  • The Smart Guy: Bud... usually.
  • Smelly Feet: A running joke for Al, as well as for several of the fat women he must deal with at his store.
  • Something Completely Different: the three pilot episodes that had The Bundys in supporting roles; the dream episode where the Grim Reaper (who appears as Peg) haunts Al on Halloween after Al wishes he was dead; the fantasy episode where The Devil (played by Robert "Freddy Kreuger" Englund) buys Al's soul after Al wishes he could play professional football; the 3D episode where Al is locked in a store; the war movie parody episode "T*R*A*S*H" where Al and Griff [Al's coworker in the later seasons] enlist in the National Guard and help quell a garbage strike.
  • So Proud of You: Al and Peg have both expressed this to the kids whenever they do something particularly underhanded. Al has expressed his pride in Bud when Bud beat up bigger guys in a bar fight by hitting them with weapons or trapped and tortured him in the basement because he got mad at Al for refusing to repair Bud's room. When Peg was blackmailed by Bud and Kelly into sharing the money she would have gotten by selling the engine of Al's Dodge, she's shocked that they'd resort to doing something like that...and then gushes at how proud she is of them for doing so.
  • Spanner in the Works: For rather obvious reasons, Kelly had a tendency to screw up whatever scheme she became involved in. It's even Lampshaded by Peggy at one point as the Bundys and the D'Arcys are being arrested by the police, when she notes that it probably wasn't a good idea to let Kelly in on the plan.
  • Speed Sex: Al is constantly mocked for his performance in bed. On of Peg's many insults: "I used to call you The Minute Man. Now I long for those days."
  • Spinning Paper
  • Spin-Off: Season 5 had a few episodes created specifically to set up the short-lived spinoff Top of the Heap, whose cast included Matt LeBlanc and Joey Lauren Adams.
  • Spiritual Successor: In many ways, Married... was one of these to It's Your Move, a Too Good to Last NBC sitcom from 1984 which had the same creators (Ron Leavitt and Michael G. Moye) and a similarly cynical brand of humor, and starred future Married... cast member David Garrison along with a then-unknown Jason Bateman.
    • Unhappily Ever After, in turn, can be seen as somewhat of a Spiritual Successor (with a fair amount of Follow the Leader thrown in) to Married... itself. It, too, was co-created by Ron Leavitt.
  • Studio Audience: And how! But this was taken to obnoxious levels in later seasons when a character would enter and be followed by several seconds of cheering. Multiply that by six human characters and Buck, and later season episodes had probably over a minute of characters entering, than waiting for the audience adulation to die down.
  • Straw Feminist: Marcy.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Jefferson for Steve, and Lucky the dog for Buck.
    • Lucky is actually The Nth Doctor. When Buck died he went to dog heaven but was screwed by the Hanging Judge who happened to be a cat. He was punished by being reincarnated as the Bundy family's next dog.
  • Take Our Word for It: Peg's mother is incredibly fat. Just don't expect to see her.
    • We actually get to see Peg's mother in some of the comics based on the series. This troper was disappointed, to say the least.
  • Take That: "Oh, they're doing Full House in 3D." "Is the third dimension the funny one?"
    • "...And if the Bears lose to the Rams, they get thrown out of the league."
      • In 1995, the show's taping locale moved from the Fox set to the Sony Pictures set on which Full House taped. Prior to taping the first episode in the new set, the cast and crew held an exorcism to rid it of the spirits of Full House.
    • A lot of the early episodes make a lot of mentions of Joe Piscopo (started out on SNL's 1980-1981 season, but became popular when paired with Eddie Murphy -- until Eddie Murphy left after Season 9 {1983-1984})
    • In part 1 of the 3-part "The England Show", Al takes his shoes off on the plane to England, making the passengers and Peg complain about the smell, prompting Al to say, "Hey, they show Dutch, and they think I stink?". Ed O'Neill was in that movie, thus making this Take That to double as an Actor Allusion.
  • Take a Third Option: When one of Al's classmates from high school asks him to deal with a young street punk named Ray-Ray who's been causing trouble for her restaurant, Al offers to "settle" things with the kid either in the restaurant, or out on the street. Ray-Ray replies by invoking this trope, giving a whistle to summon his gang to back him up. Cue the Curb Stomp Battle.
  • Technology Marches On: "Fox Viewing Positions", poking fun at the various weird things you used to have to do to pick up some broadcast TV stations using rabbit ear antennas.
    • Played with in the episode The Computer Show; the top-of-the-line computer the Bundys get has the following specs: "a 3600 bod modem, a VGA high-resolution color monitor, a 40 megabyte harddisk, and 7 megabytes of RAM". Marcy calls it the Steve Rhodes of computers, a week later Marcy calls it outdated, slow, and laughably obsolete; the Al Bundy of computers... 2012 audiences would especially agree with that one!
  • Teens Are Short: Unintentionally played straight: David Faustino was 13 when the show started, and 23 when the show ended. However, he never got taller than a head shorter than Ed O'Neill.
  • Temporary Blindness: Al, from the shock of seeing Marcy naked.
  • This Is My Side
  • This Loser Is You: It's "You Stink!" on the show, but the sentiment is still there.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: On a few very rare occasions, things worked out for Al, usually at some other character's expense.
  • Title Drop: Al does this in one episode while reflecting on a string of odd recent success, as well as in a poem in one of the Christmas episodes.
    • Also in the episode where he goes to Luke's apartment, and a beautiful stewardess offers Al sex.
  • Took a Level In Dumbass: Kelly had perhaps the most extreme version of this trope ever. It is actually possible to pinpoint the exact moment she went from merely Book Dumb to an outright idiot.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: When the family's new air conditioner shorts out the neighborhood power grid, Al expresses relief that at least no one knows that it's the Bundys' fault. Unfortunately, the neighbors all correctly guess that the Bundys are responsible and form an angry mob that tries to storm the Bundy house. Kelly even lampshades it when she wonders where the neighbors got the torches and pitchforks so quickly, implying that they've been waiting for an excuse to go after the Bundys anyway.
  • The Ugly Chicken's Hot Niece: Marcy's niece Amber comes to stay with the D'Arcys for a few weeks, and Bud suffers a Freak-Out when he sees a photo of her when she was 13. When Bud meets her in person, it turns out that she's now 19 and puberty has been very kind to her.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Al and Peggy (though he'd disagree). Also Gender Flipped by Jefferson and Marcy.
  • Ultimate Job Security: The way Al insults the fat women who come into the shoe store would have gotten him fired many times over in Real Life, but he manages to keep his job anyway. This troper figures it's because Gary (the store's owner) can't find anyone else desperate enough to work there...besides Griff, anyway.
    • Actually Gary says the reason she won't fire him is because he would "make more money on unemployment".
    • Subverted in another episode when Kelly is unhappy that the company she works for is making her wear a bikini in the next "Verminator" ad campaign. Jefferson advises her to refuse to do it and demand better treatment, since as the "Verminator" she holds all the cards. Kelly follows Jefferson's advice and is immediately fired. It's even Lampshaded by Marcy:

Marcy: You dispensed job advice to her? You, who thinks a W-2 is a bingo number?
Jefferson: I know it's not a bingo number! It's... that stuff you spray on squeaky hinges, right?

  • Unfortunate Names: "I'm now Marcy D'ARCY?!"
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Al's whole family, though Peg is the truly big one.
  • Unpopular Popular Character: Al is probably the biggest loser ever in-universe, but try telling that to the studio audience. Each of the main characters were typically greeted with applause upon entering as the seasons wore on, but Al was first.
  • Unsatisfiable Customer: Al might not necessarily mind the fat women that he deals with at the shoe store, if they didn't always insist their feet were six sizes smaller than they really were, treated him like garbage, and were generally rude and obnoxious.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Jefferson and Walter Troggett each try to use Al as a pawn in their attempts to do each other in. Jefferson wins.
  • Upper Class Twit: Jefferson.
  • Vacation Episode
  • The Voice: Peg's mother.
  • Wacky Fratboy Hijinks: Bud gets into the fraternity Gamma Gamma Sigma Pi.
  • What Could Have Been: The creators originally envisioned Sam Kinison in the role of Al Bundy, but was deemed too much of a risky move, given Kinison's incredibly vulgar stand-up routine.
    • This was lampshaded by having Kinison play Al's guardian angel. This is another case of What Could Have Been: the character was supposed to be a recurring role, but Kinison was killed in a car crash shortly after the episode aired.
    • Other than Ed O'Neill, the actor most strongly considered for the role was Michael Richards. (His audition ultimately helped him land Kramer, as the same casting director remembered him.)
    • Divine was originally going to play Peggy's mother, but died in his sleep the night before shooting on the episode began. It's because of that that Peggy's mother is never seen, out of respect.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: As Al is fond of pointing out, he once scored four touchdowns in a single game. And it was the championship game too.
  • Where Da White Women At?: Briefly invoked when Al sits down and opens up a Big 'Uns magazine, and Griff sits down next to him and opens a Black Big 'Uns. After reading for a moment, they trade magazines.
  • Whoa, Bundy!: The Trope Namer.

Al: Can I get a "Whoa, Bundy!"?
(the other Bundys put their hands in a circle)
Everyone: Whoooooaa, BUNDY!

Al: So you think I'm a loser? Just because I have a stinking job that I hate, a family that doesn't respect me? A whole city that curses the day I was born? Well that may mean loser to you, but let me tell you somethin'. Every morning when I wake up, I know it's not going to get any better until I go back to sleep again. So I get up, have my watered-down Tang and still-frozen Pop-Tart, get in my car with no upholstery, no gas, and six more payments to fight traffic just for the privilege of putting cheap shoes on the cloven hooves of people like you. I'll never play football like I thought I would. I'll never know the touch of a beautiful woman. And I'll never again know the joy of driving without a bag on my head! But I'm not a loser. Because despite it all, me and every other guy who will never be what he wanted to be are still out there, being what we don't want to be 40 hours a week for life. And the fact that I haven't put a gun in my mouth you pudding of a woman, makes me a winner!

  • World of Snark: Even Kelly has her moments, despite not seeming to be smart enough for making up snappy insults.
  • Written in Infirmity: Katey Sagal's pregnancies.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Al and Marcy seem to have it going on. Throughout the series there are moments where they seem to genuinely get along despite the number of insults they trade back and forth. They know what it's like to have deadbeat spouses while at the same time working to earn a living for ungrateful money pits of individuals who demand everything and do nothing.
  • You Are Number Six: Seven.
    • He is number six, actually. His parents just couldn't count.
  • Your Television Hates You

Notes

  1. (she had a job as an exterminator at the time)