During the show's heyday, Ed O'Neill would fulfill requests to make birthday and holiday telephone calls to fans, as Al Bundy, on the condition that he could call them collect (in character with Al's cheapskate nature).
The last episode aired on May 6, 1997, on FOX. After that episode aired, FOX was trying to decide whether to renew the show. When they decided to cancel it, they didn't notify the cast. Ed O'Neill said he was on vacation, and a couple staying near him read about the cancellation in the newspaper and told him about it. He bought them a meal in appreciation. In a similar vein, Christina Applegate learned of the show's cancellation from two friends of hers.
One of the show's creators said the reason Ed O'Neill was cast was that when he was auditioning for the pilot, he was required to simply walk through the front door into the Bundy home. Right before he opened the door, O'Neill let out a deep breath and slumped his shoulders, as if going home was a defeat. Producers said when they saw that, they knew O'Neill understood the show.
This series, and the fledgling FOX Network were little known until the season three, episode six, "Her Cups Runneth Over", which Michigan housewife, and "family values" activist Terry Rakolta, found so offensive, that she began a letter writing campaign to the show's sponsors to try to get them to withdraw their sponsorship, and for FOX to drop the show. A few sponsors did cancel their commercials, but her efforts had exactly the opposite effect she wanted, the story spread like wildfire and resulted in a huge jump in the ratings for the show. It made this show a major hit, and put FOX on the map. The show's cast and crew sent Rakolta flowers every year that it was renewed, while the whole controversy was spoofed in season nine, episode nine, "No Pot to Pease In", the Bundy family learns that there is a show based on their lives, which subsequently gets cancelled because "a housewife in Michigan didn't like it."
Ed O'Neill said in a recent interview that when he knew about the cancellation, he talked to a FOX executive about making an episode to finish the show, where the Bundys won the lottery and were demolished by a tornado during their celebration.
Katey Sagal came up with the idea for her character Peggy Bundy to dress in 1960s-inspired clothing. Sagal's reason for the look was because she wanted to parody the 1960s housewife. For her audition, Sagal had brought her own red bouffant wig, and when she won the role, producers approved the image into the show. (Peggy's '60s wear included the bouffant hair, tight capris-styled leggings paired with a large belt, and slip on heels.)
Initially the producers were not sure about Ed O'Neill as the choice for Al Bundy. His background was mostly in dramatic roles (most recently as Lenny in a production of "Of Mice and Men"), and they weren't sure he would be able to do comedy effectively. They changed their minds once they saw O'Neill audition. Ironically, O'Neill became so identified as his Al Bundy character, that he had difficulties finding dramatic roles after his stint on this show.
In the opening sequence, the shot of the cars on the interstate interchange is part of a scene from National Lampoon's Vacation (1983). The Griswolds' green and brown Ford Crown Victoria (Wagon Queen Family Truckster) station wagon is clearly visible on the road.
In a 2013 interview, Ed O'Neill revealed that Amanda Bearse was the only regular cast member with whom he didn't get along, and no longer kept in touch; saying that, although they generally liked and respected one another during the show's production, they grew apart after the third season. O'Neill felt that after that time, she was getting "more masculine" and "snarky", and they would often argue over trivial matters. Even though O'Neill had been supportive of Bearse's decision to come out as a lesbian in 1993, he and David Faustino were the only cast members not to be invited to Bearse's wedding in 2010, reportedly because Bearse was afraid they would laugh at the sight of "two women in tuxedos" (which, O'Neill admitted, he would).
Buck the Dog was on the show from the day it began until the tenth season, when he was given a "retirement" by the producers. Buck died on May 25, 1996, at age thirteen, as predicted in season five, episode nineteen, "Kids! Wadaya Gonna Do?"
According to Ed O'Neill and David Faustino, much of their life was parodied on the show. O'Neill (Al Bundy) did play college football. Faustino (Bud Bundy) wanted to be a rapper, hence his character Grandmaster B.
David Garrison left the series because he missed performing in live theater. A story arc was worked out where Steve and Marcy grew apart, to explain his departure. Garrison left with an enlarged mugshot photo of himself (from season four, episode ten, "At the Zoo", captioned "Gotta sing, gotta dance, gotta fucking starve to death!", as a gift from the producers. He returned once per season for the next several years; each time, Steve was in a completely different line of work from before.
Katey Sagal became pregnant three times during the ten-year span of the series. The first was during the beginning of season six (mid 1991) where her pregnancy was worked into a storyline, but was written out when Segal miscarried. The second time was in 1994, late in season eight, and early in season nine, and the third was in season ten from 1995-1996, in which both of her pregnancies (which were successful) were hidden from the viewing audience.
Ed O'Neill assumes the real reason the show was cancelled, was because the local stations, who carried reruns of the series, begged Sony, the show's producer, not to produce any more episodes, because the rights were so expensive. Reportedly, stations paid Sony one million dollars per episode to carry the show.
In one episode, where Kelly works at TVLand, a bunch of kids come up to Jefferson D'Arcy (Ted McGinley) and ask him for his autograph and he makes a reference to Happy Days (1974), and the kids ask him if he was also in The Love Boat (1977), which he denies. McGinley was on Happy Days (1974) as Roger Phillips and The Love Boat (1977) as Ashley Covington Evans.
Christina Applegate wore a long blond wig for most of the tenth season, because she had dyed her hair red for a role in Nowhere (1997), which was shot during summer 1995, between the ninth and tenth seasons.
Season three, episode eight, "I'll See You in Court", which was due to air on February 19 1989, was long known as the "lost episode", remaining unbroadcast in the U.S. until 2002 (though it had been seen in other countries) when an edited version aired on FX. It was held over, due to its content, about the Bundys and Rhoades being recorded on a motel sex tape.
After the seventh season, Seven's mysterious disappearance is alluded to often, such as in season eight, episode twenty-six, "Kelly Knows Something", when Al is filling Kelly's head with sports facts, and she forgets about Buck and Seven, and in season eight, episode twenty-two, "Ride Scare", where Seven's face is shown as "Missing" on the Bundys' milk carton.
The Bundy and Rhodes families were named after pro wrestlers King Kong Bundy (who guest-starred in two episodes, one as himself, and the other as Peggy's Uncle Irwin) and Dusty Rhodes, respectively. Contrary to popular lore, the Bundys were not named after serial killer Ted Bundy
Al's favorite reading material is a Playboy-type magazine called "Big 'Uns". At different points in the series, Griff, Al's African-American sidekick at the store, can be seen reading a similar magazine in the series called "Black Big 'Uns", and during a scene in Cuba, "Fidel Castro" can be seen reading another similar magazine called "Cub 'Uns" (a play on the word "Cubans").
Makes references to Ed O'Neill's film, Dutch (1991). It's mentioned in season six, episode twenty-four, "England Show I", when Al is on the plane. In the episode where Al and Peggy go to the video store to rent a movie, a poster for the film is covering Ed's eyes.
Many of the original producers later collaborated on the WB series Unhappily Ever After (1995) which, according to "Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise and Fall of The WB and UPN" by Suzanne Daniels and Cynthia Littleton, was deliberate on the part of WB executives who hired "Married With Children" Creator Ron Leavitt to create "Unhappily Ever After" as a "Married With Children" knockoff, hoping that it would be the breakout hit for The WB that "Married With Children" was for FOX. WB executives even jokingly called it "Divorced With Children".
The first primetime series aired on the new FOX Broadcasting Company. It debuted on Sunday, April 5, 1987, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, and the first episode was repeated twice throughout the night.
Top of the Heap (1991), later re-titled Vinnie & Bobby (1992), was a spin-off of this show.. There were also two other ideas for spin-offs, season ten, episode twenty-three, "Enemies", and season nine, episode twenty-six, "Radio Free Trumaine". "Enemies" dealt with Kelly's friends fighting and falling in love again, while "Radio Free Trumaine" was about two unconventional disc jockeys at Bud's college. They remained as episodes for the Married with Children seasons, but never made the final cut for more episodes.
After the show was an unexpected success among young adults in Germany, broadcasting network RTL produced a German version, called Hilfe, meine Familie spinnt (1993). The scripts and every single joke of this show's 1987-88 season were translated, and the family was called "Strunk", but it was cancelled after one season.
The set used as Al Bundy's shoe store was previously used as the travel agency, in which Barbara and Max worked, during the final season of One Day at a Time (1975). In a couple of episodes of One Day at a Time (1975), you can even see the "New Market Mall" sign outside the windows of the travel agency.
A running gag throughout the run of the series was that since Al Bundy was a lowly shoe salesman, others paid him little mind. Particularly when it came to spelling his name, as it was often misspelled in newspapers, on parking spaces, letters in the mail, and even his own paycheck. Misspellings of Al's name included "Al Bindy", "Al Budny", "Al Birdy", "Al Bumby", "Al Boondy", and "Alf Bundy".
Al's friend, Bob Rooney (E.E. Bell) is always referred to by both his first and last name. Never simply Bob or Rooney. Even his own wife refers to him as such, at one point, even during sex, when she moaned, "Ohhh, Bob Rooney!"
In Futurama (1999) season two, episode thirteen, "A Bicyclops Built for Two", Leela finds a cyclops man called Alcazar. The episode ends up being a spoof of this show, where Leela marries Alcazar, calling him "Al". Leela's voice was provided by Katey Sagal, who played Peggy Bundy on this show.
When there was food (a rarity) in the Bundy household, the brand names were masked, but the packaging was often recognizable. House brand items from Safeway and Alpha Beta supermarkets appeared, and Al sometimes drank Budweiser beer.
Like Seven, many of the show's extra characters lasted for one season. Al's colleague in the shoe store, Luke Ventura, appeared in season one; Amber, the D'Arcys' niece, appeared in season nine; and Aaron, Al's first shoe store sidekick, also appeared in season nine.
Initially, writers struggled to come up with a mission statement or manifesto for the show before episodes began airing, in order to best explain the show's essence. In the end, they decided that instead of any sort of dialogue, they'd use a sound, which is why the first thing heard in the opening scene of the first episode aired on FOX, is that of Al Bundy flushing a toilet, since so much of the show's dialogue and themes involved blue collar and lowbrow humor, which the sound perfectly encapsulated and gave the audience the perfect explanation as to the show's overarching theme.
Katey Sagal had constant issues with Buck the dog trying to hump her leg on and off the set. The producers were going to "fire" Buck if his owner and handler could not get him under control, doing away with a family pet altogether.
John Derbyshire of the conservative political magazine "National Review" described it as "one of the most conservative shows on TV." However, Ed O'Neill is a staunch Democrat, and one year prior to his reemergence on Modern Family (2009), made a campaign video in support of Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential campaign as "Al, the shoe salesman." Similarly, Katey Sagal balked at the notion that the show was at all political, saying, "people would try to put political overtones, and you know, 'This isn't politically correct', and they tried to do all this stuff to it. But it's really just supposed to be twenty minutes of fun."
Almost every time Al watches his favorite show "Psycho Dad", the theme song lyrics are different. Because of this, a group named "The Bones" utilized all of these different verses to record an actual almost three minute song. They, however, discluded certain ones. Like the Christmas episode, when Peg watches "Psycho Mom", or when Marcy sings "Loser Al" to the tune.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Buck "said" to Bud in season five, episode nineteen, "Kids! Wadaya Gonna Do?", the ninety-ninth episode of the series, the following quote: "And at least I have the decency to die at thirteen." Five years later, Buck actually died at the age of thirteen.