A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this show -- which was purposely designed to test the boundaries of network primetime TV -- mines adult themes for laughs; caution is recommended when allowing tweens and young teens to watch. References to sexual behavior (including masturbation) fly fast and furiously, there are crude references to body parts and homosexuality, and characters constantly insult and belittle each other. All of that said, hidden under the insults and tight clothes is a nuclear family that cares about each other.
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What's the story?
MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN -- which has the distinction of being the very first original primetime show to air on the Fox network -- is a sitcom that puts a unique twist on the idea of "family values" by celebrating the Bundys, a significantly flawed working-class nuclear family from Chicago. Lazy, unlucky shoe salesman Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill) heads up the family; his college football career was cut short when he was forced to marry tacky, undereducated girlfriend Peggy (Katey Sagal) after knocking her up. Their sexed-up teenage daughter, Kelly (Christina Applegate), personifies the "blonde bimbo" stereotype; younger brother Bud (David Faustino) is an intelligent young man who repels girls. Peggy, Kelly, and Bud often get roped into Al's efforts to achieve fame and fortune by participating in half-witted schemes that usually fail -- and they're always the first to tell him "I told you so." Rounding out the crew are Yuppie neighbor Marcy and Steve Rhoades (Amanda Bearse and David Garrison, who was later replaced by Ted McGinley as Marcy's second husband, Jefferson).
Is it any good?
Meant to serve as a critique of the perfect, unrealistic families often seen on network TV, Married... With Children constantly pushes the envelope with its bathroom humor and over-the-top sexual innuendo. Al's sexist references to "hooters," demeaning homosexual stereotypes, and allusions to masturbation are comedic staples throughout the series -- as is Peggy's non-stop whining about never getting any sex from Al. The Bundys are also are constant schemers and don't hesitate to take advantage of each other if it helps them get ahead.
But even though the show comes across as being anti-"family values" on the surface, it actually supports the idea of a family that, while seriously flawed, cares deeply about each other. Al is vocal about "liking his family," while Peggy is very clear about the love she feels for her husband. The kids, while often embarrassed by their father, are always there to support him when it counts, and both siblings defend each other against others despite their constant rivalry. As a result, while the Bundys may not be perfect, the importance and strength of family is a strong theme throughout the series.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about their own flaws and strengths. While no family is perfect, what are the great things about your family? What are some of the talents your family members have? Families can also talk about the inappropriateness of stereotypes and sexist references. What are people really saying when they use stereotypes to describe a person? Parents and teens can also talk about the Bundys' relationships. Why do they resort to name-calling and insults so often? How can you tell that they really do care about each other?