Weekend Viewing: Married With the Wrong Children

Here’s another unaired pilot for a series that was considerably improved by casting changes. Married… With Children was already pretty much what it was going to be: Katey Sagal and especially Ed O’Neill had their characters more or less nailed, the neighbours were there. And the writers, Michael Moye and Ron Leavitt, had already established their scorched-earth policy against all the family-friendly, pro-social TV conventions that they’d been working in for the last 15 years;they were trying to create characters whose only redeeming quality was their honesty. (TV characters had been insulting each other and making each other miserable since the medium began; the Bundys simply admitted what was underneath the surface of a lot of “heartwarming” comedies and dramas.) They even had the scene in the opening where Al hands money to all the family members. But the Bundy kids were played by Tina Caspary (Kelly) and Hunter Carson (Bud). The show was picked up basically intact but with the kids re-cast, and that was a good decision. Not just the re-casting, but the way the kids — because of the replacement actors and the writing — became funnier characters.

(The character of Luke, Al’s swingin’ co-worker, actually survived into the series, but not for long. It was another example of how, when a show starts by balancing the protagonist’s home and work life, it will usally drop whichever part of his life is less interesting. Al’s life outside his family was only important when they needed him to insult one of his customers.)

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