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.
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 TV. 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.
The series and the fledgling Fox network were little known until the third-season episode "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 "Married with Children" a major hit and put Fox Network on the map. The show's cast and crew sent Rakolta flowers every year that it was renewed.
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 Bundies 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.)
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 station wagon is clearly visible on the road.
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.
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 and would often argue over trivial matters.
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.
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 actually was in "Happy Days" as Roger Phillips and "The Love Boat" as Ashley Covington Evans.
Katey Sagal became pregnant three times during the ten-year span of the series. The first was during the beginning of Season 6 (mid-1991) where her pregnancy was worked into a story line, but was written out when Segal miscarried. The second time was in 1994 late in Season 8 and early in Season 9, and the third was in Season 10 from 1995-6 in which both of her pregnancies (which were successful) were hidden from the viewing audience.
Christina Applegate wore a long blond wig for most of the tenth season (1995-96) because she had actually dyed her hair red for a role in the film Nowhere (1997), which was shot during the 1995 summer between the ninth and tenth seasons.
Ed O'Neill assumes the real reason the show was canceled 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 $1 million per episode to carry the show.
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.")
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 but a street in West Los Angeles, Bundy Boulevard.
"I'll See You in Court", the eighth episode of the third season due to air on February 19 1989, was long known as the "lost episode", remaining unbroadcast in the US 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 1992-93 season, Seven's mysterious disappearance is alluded to often, such as in the "Touchdown Trivia" episode, when Al is filling Kelly's head with sports facts and she forgets about Buck and Seven, and in the "Carpool" episode, where Seven's face is shown as "Missing" on the Bundys' milk carton
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 mug-shot photo of himself (from the episode Married with Children: At the Zoo (1989) 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.
Makes references to Ed O'Neill's film, Dutch (1991). It's mentioned in the first part of "The England Show" 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.
After the show was an unexpected success among young adults in Germany, broadcasting network RTL produced a German version called "Hilfe, meine Familie spinnt". The scripts and every single joke of the original's 1987-88 season were translated and the family was called "Struck", but it was canceled after one season (1992).
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 prime-time series aired on the new Fox Broadcasting Company. It debuted on Sunday, April 5, 1987, at 7:00 pm Eastern Standard Time, and the first episode was repeated twice throughout the night.
Top of the Heap (1991), later re-titled Vinnie & Bobby (1992), was a "MWC" spinoff. There were also two other ideas for spinoffs, "Enemies" and "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 MWC seasons, but never made the final cut for more episodes.
The set used as Al Bundy's shoe store was previously used as the travel agency Barbara and Max worked in during the final season of One Day at a Time (1975). In a couple of episodes of "One Day", you can even see the "New Market Mall" sign outside the windows of the travel agency.
Al's friend, Bob Rooney 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!".
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 mispelled 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."
Katey Sagal, Ed O'Neill and Christina Applegate all admitted to doubting the show's potential for success at its start, but found the pilot script funny and signed on thinking it would be fun to act in.
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 1; Amber, the D'Arcys' niece, appears in Season 9; and Aaron, Al's first shoe-store sidekick, also appeared in Season 9.
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.
In Futurama: A Bicyclops Built for Two (2000), Leela finds a cyclops man called Alcazar. The episode ends up being a spoof of "Married with Children", where Leela marries Alcazar, calling him "Al". Leela's voice is provided by Katey Sagal, who played Peggy Bundy in "Married with Children".
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Buck "said" to Bud in the Season 5 episode Married with Children: Kids! Wadaya Gonna Do? (1991), the 99th episode of the series, the following quote: "And at least I have the decency to die at 13." when five years later Buck actually died in the age of 13.