When you’ve been on TV as long as Married…With Children was, and still is thanks to syndication, you’re bound to have a slew of fans and even some detractors. After all, this show was definitely not for everyone when it first came out in 1987. It’s a show with a brand of humor that would never have gotten past a script stage today. In total, 259 episodes were produced – more than Friends, certainly more than Seinfeld. Only recently was this staggering record broken with Two And Half Men and The Big Bang Theory.
The series was known for its inherent silliness right from some of its earliest episodes (Al does have a dream where he’s talking to his anthropomorphized dog after all), but whether the episodes were grounded in reality, in sitcomland, or in complete levels of absurdity, the show is still one of the most beloved of the past forty years. For a lot of people, Al Bundy is almost a folk hero. The show’s final season was full of duds and very little winners, it was clear the series was on its last legs. So, excluding all of those clunkers, here are The 5 Best Episodes (And 5 Worst) of Married…With Children.
10 Best – “You Better Shop Around, Parts 1 & 2”
In the dog days of summer, what would you and your family do if you’re air conditioner broke? Right – you’d go haul up in the frozen section of the supermarket. At least that’s what the Bundys did in the two-parter, “You Better Shop Around.” The episodes pretty much check off every box for what made a great Married. Al being defiant to even get an AC, the Bundys being as crass as they can be in the supermarket, and then a hilarious “supermarket sweep” kind of showdown between the Bundys and D’Arcys – “viva la cart of death!”
9 Worst – “Turning Japanese”
Even Mr. Miyagi couldn’t save this dreck. The incomparable Pat Morita guest stars as Marcy’s boss at the bank. She’s up for a promotion, so naturally she and Jefferson go full-on Karaoke and Kimonos, because cultural appropriation will really impress the guy.
She even pays off the Bundys to leave and hires a Japanese family to play her neighbors. What actually impresses him of all things is the rusted hunk of Al’s Dodge next door. The episode was in poor taste, even for this show.
8 Best – “You Better Watch Out”
The idea of a “heel Santa Clause” has rarely been done on TV before. In the first season Christmas episode, “You Better Watch Out,” Jolly Ol’ St. Nick was supposed to parachute into the new mall. Instead his chute didn’t open and he crash landed right into Bundys’ backyard. This leaves Al of all people the guy to slip into Santa’s suit and try to convince the neighborhood kids that Santa’s ok and Christmas will be going on as scheduled. “Santa’s ‘chute doesn’t seem to be opening,” and watching the cast do their best not to crack up is still one of the funniest moments on the series.
7 Worst – “Rock Of Ages”
18 million celebrity cameos can’t save this episode, although it was fun to see Al interact with “the geezers of rock.” Al wins a shoe selling contest and gets a first-class trip to Hawaii. But instead of letting him have his fun, the family trades in his ticket for four stand-bys. Al is still able to finagle his way into the First-Class Lounge dressed as Axel Bundy from the band Shoes And Socks. It’s all just an excuse to get Al hobnobbing it up with some rock legends.
6 Best – “Just Married…With Children”
After committing mail fraud, the Bundys enter themselves into a Newlywed game show, “How Do I Love Thee,” but as Steve and March Rhoades. The game show is about how much physical torture Newlyweds can put each other through for cash and prizes – so, it’s easy to see how Peggy and Al would have a leg up on the competition. Things get a little dicey when Steve and Marcy show up as an “old married couple,” posing as Al and Peg and try to beat the Bundys at their own game. Little did anyone know the finale is how long the hubbys can tolerate electric chairs. You’ll seldom see a funnier sight than Al stomping towards his chair, strapping himself in and proclaiming, “I welcome death.”
5 Worst – “Al Bundy, Shoe Dick”
To be fair, the show had no choice but to write themselves out of Peg and Marcy’s pregnancies. Katey Sagal’s real life unfortunate miscarriage caused a big change back to the series’ status quo.
Making the whole season a dream was the easiest way to do so. “Al Bundy, Shoe Dick” featured Al as a detective to find out who stole the Pharaoh’s Eye. He eventually wakes up and learned that the past six months or so were just a dream. It’s as bad as it sounds.
4 Best – “Married With Aliens”
Even Al Bundy got visited by aliens. “Married With Aliens” is exactly as ridiculous as it sounds, but the entire cast went all in on the concept and their roles in it. Alien ransack the house for Al’s socks. Not only does no one believe him, they rip into him as well. The site of Al blowing into a kid’s kazoo ring to signal for help is still priceless. The little aliens that Al finally meet are willing to help him get rich by taking all kinds of crazy poses, including with a sleeping Peggy.
3 Worst – “Magnificent Seven”
For whatever reason, the creators of Married…With Children were desperate to try and shoehorn in another Bundy kid for Al to be perpetually annoyed by. Clearly no one remembered Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch. Everything involving the kid felt forced, right from the very beginning in this episode, where his parents (Bobcat Goldthwait and Linda Blair) leave him on the Bundy’s doorstep.
2 Best – “Look Who’s Barking”
The Bundy’s dog Buck had been the center of several episodes over the years, but “Look Who’s Barking” is Lady And The Tramp, Married-style.
Buck, feeling slightly neglected (and who could blame the Briard?), heads out on the prowl looking for food and female dogs, he finds both, but even four-legged Bundy males strike out when it comes to love. At least his story is accompanied by sounds of B.B. King.
1 Worst – “The Legend Of Ironhead Haynes”
When the show introduced a bunch of Al’s friends and they created the organization, NO MA’AM, it opened up to door to all kinds of new shenanigans for the series. The boys seek out a folklore macho man, Ironhead Haynes (Waylon Jennings) to help them devise rules and wisdom for other members of their club. Meanwhile the rest of the Bundys are doing their best to keep a fridge full of food hidden from Al.
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