MARRIED WITH CHILDREN – 10 Unforgettable Characters
“What’s the legacy of Married...With Children?” co-creator Michael Moye was asked in a 2012 interview with the Television Academy Foundation.
“It’s funny,” said Moye, who also wrote for TV classics like Good Times and The Jeffersons. “At least that’s what I hope.”
It’s safe to say that his wish came true. For 11 seasons, he, co-creator Ron Leavitt, and a staff of talented writers fearlessly courted controversy with one mission in mind: to make us laugh. Married...With Children was sometimes crude, often rude, but always funny.
Even the funniest scripts need a talented group of performers to bring the comedy to life, and the 1987–1997 series had that in abundance. From core cast members to supporting players to one-joke walk-ons, Married...With Children was filled with unforgettable characters.
You can see what we mean each weeknight as getTV brings the TV classic back to primetime with four episodes starting at 8p ET.
Here’s a guide to the Married...With Children characters major and minor, and the first episodes in which they appear. (Spoiler Alert: There are more than 260 episodes! If we missed your favorite character, we’ll get to them in a future post. Don’t put the Bundy Curse on us!)
1. Al, Peg, Kelly, Bud Bundy — Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1 — Original Airdate April 5, 1987)
Like most pilots, the first episode of Married With Children introduces characters who will become iconic but are not yet fully formed. In this episode — which was actually the second pilot — Ed O’Neill’s Al is angrier and more hostile than the loveable loser we’d come to know and love. Peg (Katey Sagal) is more fully realized as the lazy love of his life, though she lacks the 1960s throwback bouffant that would become her trademark. Fifteen-year-old Kelly (Christina Applegate) and 13-year-old Bud (David Faustino) barely register in this first show. But it’s worth noting that they both got better as their characters aged, unlike many child actors.
2. Marcy and Steve Rhoades — Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1 — April 5, 1987)
Marcy (Amanda Bearse) and Steve (David Garrison) are gushing newlyweds when they’re introduced in the pilot, having moved in next door only two months earlier. Of all the principal cast members, Bearse’s Marcy is the character who changes the most, from mousy young married to Al’s most vocal and vicious opponent. Her shift reflects the increasingly absurdist tone the writers adopted as the series progressed, and Bearse gives the show some of its funniest moments. Steve left Marcy in season four to become a forest ranger, but he would return in a handful of episodes, often with a new job (including dean of Bud’s college).
3. Jefferson D’Arcy — Married…With Who? (Season 5, Episode 12 — January 6, 1991)
Marcy goes to a banking convention and ends up married to the himbo bartender (Ted McGinley). But Jefferson D’Arcy — which is not his real name, by the way — is more than what he seems. A former CIA agent and ex-convict with a past never fully explained, Jefferson becomes Al’s partner in crime and the female equivalent of Peg: lazy, demanding, and a pro at avoiding work. McGinley had guest starred a year before this episode in a different role. He’s excellent as Jefferson, and the show also makes hilariously meta references to his past roles on Happy Days and The Love Boat. Much as we love Steve, Jefferson was an upgrade.
4. Griff — Naughty But Niece (Season 9, Episode 4 — September 25, 1994)
Griff (Harold Sylvester) shows up late in the show’s run but ends up being the supporting character with the most appearances. Like Al, he’s a salesman at Gary’s Shoes & Accessories For Today’s Woman. Unlike Al, he’s a divorcee, as we learn in this episode. Bud mentions that he never knew his father had a co-worker. Griff mentions that he never knew his co-worker had a son. The writers relied on supporting players like Sylvester during Katey Sagal’s hiatuses for pregnancies late in the series. (She gave birth to a daughter in 1994 and a son in 1996.). Another of Al’s co-workers is ladies’ man Luke Ventura (Ritch Shydner), who appears in season one.
5. Seven Wanker — Magnificent Seven (Season 7, Episode 1 – September 13, 1992)
Seven (Shane Sweet) is perhaps the most infamous character in the series’ run. The tow-haired six-year-old is introduced in the season seven premiere as the child of Peggy’s cousins Zemus (Bobcat Goldthwait) and Ida Mae (Linda Blair). He ends up briefly getting adopted by the Bundys when his parents go out to buy cigarettes and never come back. Seven is a prime example of what’s known as “Cousin Oliver Syndrome (Google it) and the audience didn’t buy it. Neither did the writers, and Seven soon disappeared with no explanation. He later appeared on a milk carton on the Bundy kitchen table.
6. Bob Rooney — No Ma’am (Season 8, Episode 9 — November 14, 1993)
Bob (E.E. Bell) is a butcher, a high school friend of Al’s who’s married to Peggy’s friend Louise (Alix Elias). He’s introduced in this episode as a member of Al’s bowling team, which gets displaced when the local alley starts a ladies night. After the boys discover that their favorite strip club has been transformed into a feminist coffee house, Al and the boys form NO MA’AM (the National Organization Of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood). Bell appears in 23 episodes and has been a busy character actor ever since.
7. Gary — Business Still Sucks Part 2 (Season 9, Episode 6 — October 9, 1994)
For the first eight seasons, we see Al at work at Gary’s Shoes. In season nine, we see Gary (Janet Carroll) — and, it turns out that Gary is a woman. Al is just as surprised as we are, having worked there for 20 years and never met his boss. Gary visits when Al has made headlines for banishing a nursing mother, which inspires a protest by Marcy and her woman’s advocacy group F.A.N.G. (Feminists Against Neanderthal Guys). Gary appears in six more episodes over the next two seasons. Other than this role, Carroll is best known for playing Tom Cruise’s mom in Risky Business (1983).
8. Miranda Veracruz de la Jolla Cardinal — Business Sucks (Season 9, Episode 5 — October 9, 1994)
Miranda (Teresa Parente) is the lovely but cynical reporter for fictional WBHZ Channel 83 who covers news events that involve the Bundys. She files her first report in this two-parter and appears in 8 more episodes. Highlights include: going undercover to investigate NO MA’AM, covering Bud’s unfortunate “self-abuse” scandal at college, and exposing Gary’s Shoes for unfair labor practices. Her trademarks include announcing her full name on air and complaining about her disappointing career prospects.
9. Ephraim Wanker — Guess Who’s Coming to Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner (Season 10, Episode 1 — September 17, 1995)
Wisconsin pig farmer Ephraim Wanker (Tim Conway) is Peggy’s dad, and the man who held the shotgun when Al married Peggy. This episode finds Peggy’s parents divorcing and Al visiting the Wanker farm to give his father-in-law relationship advice. In later episodes Ephraim takes Al and Bud on a hunting trip, goes on a marriage retreat, and helps Al and Peg renew their vows (again, with a shotgun). Comic legend Conway is best known for The Carol Burnett Show, and his broad, hillbilly portrayal may remind viewers of a certain vintage of sketches on that show.
10. Buck Bundy — Peggy Made A Little Lamb (Season 4, Episode 20 — April 15, 1990)
The Bundy family dog first appears way back in the pilot episode, but in this season four show he talks for the first time (voice of Kevin Curran). Curran, a writer and producer on the series, voiced Buck until the pooch passed away (and the real dog playing him retired) in 1995. Curran even appeared as Buck in human form in a hilarious season six episode where the Bundys are cursed and turned into monkeys. Buck, who was a Briard, also occasionally spoke in the voice of comedy legend Cheech Marin. Buck was replaced by Lucky, a spaniel who was actually his reincarnation. Lucky was also voiced by a Married…With Children writer/producer: Kim Weiskopf.
Watch four episodes of Married…With Children weekdays starting at 8p ET with two additional shows starting at 9a ET and another two at 1a ET. For more, visit the get TV schedule.