Each week, Sports On TV looks at the 20 (or so) greatest sports-related moments from television shows that aren't always about sports. This week we tackle the low-brow 1987-97 FOX classic 'Married... With Children', and honestly, it's the closest we've come to saying f**k it and just writing about sports shows. MWC featured more sports moments and guest appearances than almost any other sitcom, and even featured a sports moments clip-show in the middle of its 10th season. Instead of just finding that on YouTube and posting it here, we've put together our own list.
The entire run of 'Married...' is currently streaming on Netflix, so if you read about Al Bundy punching a heavyset lady in the stomach or beating a bunch of old people at track and field and want to check it out, you can do so there. If our top 20 didn't feature your favorite moment, be sure to drop down into the comments section and let us know what we missed.
But for now, enjoy the 20 greatest sports moments from 'Married... With Children'. Let's get the greatest moment in television history out of the way first ...
More Sports On TV: Saved By The Bell | Full House | King Of The Hill | The Wire | The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air | Parks And Recreation | 30 Rock | The Brady Bunch | The Three Stooges | The Simpsons | Glee
Episode: "All Night Security Dude" (season 5, episode 16)
What Happens: In the best-ever episode of 'Married With Children', Al gets laid-off from the shoe store when an aerobics class crashes through his ceiling. He takes a job as Polk High School's night watchman, but is abruptly fired when Andrew Johnson High breaks in and steals Polk's (and Al's) City Championship football trophy. Al is determined to get it back, and finds that the only thing standing between him and the trophy is "Spare Tire" Dixon: the man who claims he dropped Bundy at the goal line "like third period French". He tells Al he'll give back the trophy if Al can get past him again, and what follows involves biting, lost teeth, Three Stooges attack reversals, confrontational wallet-sized pictures of shocking-ugly mothers-in-law and the undisputed king of sitcom fight scenes.
Key line: "Come on, Bundy. On the count of three. Three." "Let's rock."
Burnsy wrote a little about this scene in our video tribute to the late Bubba Smith, and I don't think we've ever written anything more true on this website.
Smith's turn as "Spare Tire" Dixon on Married With Children made for one of the greatest scenes in the show's - if not television - history. And I'm not typically one for hyperbole. That clip is 20 years old and it still makes me laugh hard. Smith was truly in a class of his own.
If Akira Kurosawa can get an Academy Honorary Award "for cinematic accomplishments that have inspired, delighted, enriched and entertained worldwide audiences and influenced filmmakers throughout the world", Ed O'Neill should say nuts to 'Modern Family' and just keep submitting this clip until they give him an Emmy.
Here's the scene in its entirety. Bless your heart, everyone involved in creating this.
(Guest contributor Bobby Big Wheel)
Episode: "Kelly Knows Something" (Season 8, Episode 26)
What Happens: After the family's TV breaks, Al tries to get on a local sports trivia show hosted by Travis James (guest star Todd Christiansen in a very mid-90s perm-mustache combo) to win $10,000 to help purchase a new one. While Al possesses the requisite knowledge for the show, he's not likable or attractive enough to make it on air. But when he finds out that Kelly can remember a finite amount of facts (if she learns a new fact it pushes an old one out) he fills her brain with sports trivia and puts his telegenic daughter on the show. However, when James tells her how to operate her buzzer it pushes out a crucial bit of information; the fact that her father scored four touchdowns in the city football championship. The $10,000 question happens to ask about this event, and she does not win. Thankfully, the consolation prize is a new TV and Al can go back to watching Psycho Dad, the quintessential "show within a show."
Key line: "You've got to squeeze the buzzer, honey, not jerk it."
I re-watched this episode and now I remember why I loved 'Married... With Children' so much; it's a show for 10-year-old boys. The production values are low (they were too cheap to buy the rights to Rock and Roll: Part II for the training montage so instead it's scored with a third-rate knockoff of Gary Glitter's masterpiece) and the sex jokes are broad. That said, I still chuckled when Kelly forgot "dinner, then sex."
Also, I'm one of those dorky friends who always comes in handy at trivia because I can remember any fact as long as it's not useful. I can tell you the capital of Namibia but I'm not a sure bet to wear matching shoes to work. So I did love the sports trivia aspect of it. Sixteen years after this episode aired I could still tell you that Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays all started and ended their careers in the same city but with different teams. And I love how the O.J. Simpson trivia question was not about him killing his wife and a waiter because this episode aired less than a month before that happened. If only we could go back in time and warn them.
Episode: "How Do You Spell Revenge?" (season 2, episode 11)
What Happens: Al is so obsessed with Peg being terrible at softball (including causing a loss to the 'Kiss Me Cosmetics' team) that he ignores Kelly's weird, controlling new relationship with a guy who kinda looks like Dame Maggie Smith. An old boyfriend of Peggy's shows up with her name tattooed on his arm, blaming her for not reciprocating and forcing him to marry the next-best Peggy he could find -- a horrible woman with no knees who "sleeps standing up". At last it's revealed that Kelly's new boyfriend is this guy's son, and by the time Al and Peggy find out he's trying to get his name tattooed on Kelly ("Somewhere it shows" "So ... anywhere."), she's already inadvertently solved the problem by abandoning the guy at the tattoo parlor and hooking up with a pizza delivery boy. Or something.
Key line: "It's only a game if you win. But if you lose, it's a stinking waste of time."
You'll notice that none of these moments come from season 1, as like a lot of great shows ('Parks And Recreation' for example), 'Married... With Children" didn't figure out what it was and come into its own until well into season 2. Al and Peggy love each other, Bud's tiny, Jefferson D'Arcy is a lot less funny and calling himself "Steve". In season 1, Kelly isn't the lovable, brain-dead girl we know, she's just a blonde teenager with a weird Cloud From Final Fantasy thing going on with her hair. She's still pretty smart at this point in season 2, but flighty enough to solve problems by sleeping with everyone she sees.
And in case anybody out there is a CafePress wizard (or whatever), I would pay cash money for a season 2 New Market Mallers jersey. Those things are great, they look like they just peeled them off of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling Ole Anderson and started filming.
Episode: "Guys And Dolls" (season 2, episode 14)
What Happens: Al gets Bud into collecting baseball cards, and by "gets Bud into collecting baseball cards" I mean "goes out and buys/trades for cards independently and pretends it's for Bud's benefit". You know, like every single other dad who's kid collected baseball cards in the late 80s. Al and neighbor Steve Rhodes end up selling Steve's wife's beloved vintage Barbie doll for 7 of the 9 all-time Chicago Cubs. When they find out she will literally murder folks to find it, they scour the city to get it back.
Key line: "Men's idea of intellectually stimulating is comparing todays Elmer Fudd with the original fatter Fudd."
Seriously, collecting baseball cards in the late-80s/early-90s was the worst. I remember going to a card show with my dad and trading somebody a Bret Saberhagen rookie for a worthless Eddie Murray card (because I liked Eddie Murray) and having him FLIP THE HELL OUT AT ME. I see a lot of that in Al here, collecting Cubs cards so he can keep Bud from touching them and spend all day talking to his friend about Ron Santo's hitting streak in 1966. Early MWC didn't have the "let's rock" punctuation of later seasons, but man, it still hit pretty close to home.
Also of note: When Marcy is too busy playing with a Barbie doll to take Steve to the dentist or a hospital to stop his internal bleeding, Peggy notes that she doesn't think Steve and Marcy should have children. Al's response: "I don't think anybody should." And here we go.
Episode: "Flight of the Bumblebee" (season 10, episode 7)
What Happens: Bud's initiation into NO MA'AM (the "National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood", if you want to win an easy trivia question) is to get a picture with the group's idol, pro wrestler King Kong Bundy. Bud sneaks into the event in a bumblebee Halloween costume and convinces security (late actor and pro wrestling fan Michael Clarke Duncan) that he's a "replacement wrestler". King Kong walks by, upset that "Captain Ecology" has backed out of their match (his solar-powered car won't start because it's cloudy), and Bud gets his mark photo ... but before he can leave, Kelly suggests that "replacement wrestler The Bumblebee" should fill in.
Key line: "Um, excuse me sir? I was wondering if I could get a picture with you? It would mean a lot to my brain-dead father." "Sure, kid. I do a lot of work on behalf of the stupid."
You may remember King Kong Bundy from his high profile stint in the WWF in the 80s, where his resume reads 1) main-evented WrestleMania 2 against Hulk Hogan, 2) hilariously dropped an elbow on a midget once. Of all the people who could've accurately summarized Bundy, I think the Insane Clown Posse said it best when they described him as a “giant penis in a broken black condom”.
King Kong is actually the namesake of MWC's "Bundy" family (their neighbors have wrestling names, too ... Steve and Marcy Rhodes, were named after "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes), and his match with Bud is the second time he appears on the show. His first appearance was as Peg's Uncle Irwin 8 seasons earlier.
The match itself goes like you might expect -- Bud is terrified, but he's doing King Kong a favor so the big man promises to go easy on him. A few seconds in Bud accidentally springs off the ropes Bumblebee-stinger first into King Kong's ass, and it's on. The finish is the only finish 'Married... With Children' can have for a wrestling match: the fat guy climbs up to the top rope, and the victim (a Bundy) is too broken to get out of the way. Slow-motion roaring!
Episode: "Just Shoe It" (season 6, episode 15)
What Happens: Everyone laughs at Al when he tries out for a Superbowl commercial for 'Zeus' shoes alongside sports legends like Hall Of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and Superbowl champion Ed 'Too Tall' Jones, but he gets the part. It goes to his head, and he doesn't realize until far too late that his role in the commercial is to get the living goddamn beaten out of himself by everyone else. Also, they never show his face. As an added kick in the crotch, Al ends up never seeing the commercial because he's too injured to stop the family dog from changing the Superbowl over to Steel Magnolias. Buck: "I love this movie. Julia Roberts. So ill. So brave."
Key line: "Zeus: the shoes that will outlive you."
More companies should make commercials like Zeus. For their big Superbowl ad, they paid 'Too Tall' Jones to literally punch a shoe salesman in the face. Steve Carlton rags on him for being an active softball player ("your heart's as big as the ball you play with") then purposefully throws a ball at his face, and Sugar Ray Leonard gets legitimate joy from hurting Al. According to him, it's every pro's dream to see how much they could hurt a non-pro. I knew that was true. At least it explains Albert Belle.
After all that, how does Zeus end the commercial? With a TOMBSTONE. Their slogan is funny, but I also would've accepted, "buy these shoes or famous people will show up and murder you".
Episode: "A Man For No Seasons" (season 9, episode 11)
What Happens: Major League Baseball goes on strike, so the members of NO MA'AM start up their own league, sponsored by local "nudie bars". With stars like Mike Piazza and Dave Winfield relegated to cameraman work (and Frank Thomas given the hilarious job of "newspaper turner"), a television interview with the surprisingly not-fired Joe Morgan turns the league into a national success. Al says he plays for the love of the game, at least until he finds out the nudie bar owners sold television rights to the championship game for $3 million. That leads to a season-ending walk-out, and we're back where we started.
Key line: "That's not Dad, that's Dave Winfield." "Mind your business."
I don't even know how to explain how great the Frank Thomas gag is. They have a bunch of spinning newspaper headlines about Al and the nudie bar league becoming a big deal, and the last one is about Frank Thomas taking a job as a newspaper spinner. That pans back to Frank Thomas literally spinning newspapers, then turning to someone off-camera and whining about how he needs a break. They tell him to get back to work, so he picks up a baseball bat and asks them again. It's the laziest writing ever but it works, which could be printed out onto a banner and hung over every single 'Married... With Children' episode.
I really think that if the early 1990s had had an Internet, Frank Thomas would be one of the most beloved and revered players ever. The guy was just so damn likable. He was like the lovechild of Ken Griffey Jr. and Jim Thome. As for the other guest stars in the episode, Dave Winfield probably could've eased into a role as the new, non-murdering-people O.J. Simpson with his comedic timing and Mike Piazza had the perfect mustache to be a believable skeevy cameraman.
The best part of Joe Morgan showing up is that he gets Al's name wrong and never bothers to correct it, because he's Joe Morgan.
(Guest contributor David D.)
Episode: "A Tisket, a Tasket, Can Peg Make a Basket?" (season 8, episode 1)
What Happens: What Happens: By season 8 of Married With Children, the show had become a parody of itself (think: the way that Family Guy has been for the last four years or so). Bud from the darkest timeline is all "I'm going to the strip club" because boobs. Al is all "my wife sucks" all the time. Peg is all "sex with Al is horrible but whatevs" and Christina Applegate is just put in different scenes where she's dressed in every Married With Children fan fiction scenario possible. For this episode, Al gets tickets to the Bizarro NBA All-Star game where people like Xavier McDaniel and Vlade Divac are allowed in the building and only 100 people are allowed to attend. Peggy earns a chance to win $10,000 with a free throw. She misses. Much like the rest of the episodes by this point, there really isn't a plot besides that. MWC was like porn where there's minimal story build-up that's just a buffer for sex. In this case, the sex is Kelly's slut outfits and more excuses for Al to demean his wife.
Key line: "And now it's time to meet YOUR NBA All-Stars!! And Danny Ainge."
It's always great when you basically feel the "hey, we've stopped trying" ooze from your television. Want to know how this episode shows it? This guy at the end of the bench that looks like Screech and El Generico's lovechild. That's the best extra they could get to play an NBA All-Star?!
Of course, there's the fact that they also employed the services of Vlade Divac and Xavier McDaniel; two men whose English is as good as their chances were of making an actual All-Star team. Did they have the same agent or something? How did the process of picking them? I wonder if the previews for this show just had split-second shots of the X-Man and his bald head with a caption that read "this isn't" in small font and "MICHAEL JORDAN" as big as your f*cking television set.
Actually, when you notice that Clyde Drexler is also in the episode, it becomes a little more than a coincidence.
In case you thought I was joking about Kelly's slut outfit scenarios, check her get-ups here: 1) NBA groupie not named Tyra Banks 2) Tina Turner 3) cheerleader. Tune in next week when she accidentally gets stuck in a freezer in her teddy and has to eat suck on popsicles to survive.
Episode: "You Gotta Know When to Hold Them (Part 2)" (season 4, episode 17)
What Happens: Stranded in Las Vegas with no way to get home, Peg spots a promotional sign announcing that anyone who can survive 3 minutes in the ring with a G.L.O.W. girl will win $10,000. Al agrees assuming he'll wrestle one of the cheesecake model types like "Hollywood" or "Babe, The Farmer's Daughter", but ends up squaring off against the massive "Voodoo Queen" Big Bad Mama. He tries punching her in the stomach (!), but she eventually Boston crabs him, airplane spins him, bites him in the dick (seriously) and splashes him from the top rope. Al survives the three minutes and wins the money, so Peg and Marcy go gamble it away and leave Al alone to roll down a flight of steps in a wheelchair.
Key line: "Why isn't he fighting back?" "Oh, it's not his fault. He's just so used to losing."
If you enjoyed watching King Kong Bundy leap off the top rope and roar in slow motion, you'll love watching Big Bad Mama do it first:
The Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling have a special place in my heart, especially after the 3-hour bonding session of G.L.O.W. tapes I shared with actual, non-cheesecake pro wrestler Veda Scott earlier this Summer. I love professional wrestling so I love it when it's great, but I might love it even more when it's terrible. If you've never seen an episode of G.L.O.W. before, imagine the worst pro wrestling thing you've ever seen, replace the performers with 80s models and cram it into the middle of an episode of 'Hee Haw'. Best show ever.
I wonder how Big Bad Mama would do if she squared off with Spare Tire Dixon? Dixon fell to Al, but Big Bad Mama made him a vegetable. I guess it's not a fair comparison ... all Al had to fight for against Big Bad Mama was $10,000 and the welfare of his family. That's not nearly as important as a high school football trophy.
(Guest contributor Josh Kurp)
Episode: "Damn Bundys" (season 11, episode 22)
What Happens: In the only episode of Married...with Children to feature CGI, Al sells his soul to the Devil (played by Robert Englund) to be the star running back for his favorite team, the Chicago Bears. Also, James “JB” Brown shows up. HELL.
Key line: "There's no Hell like home."
“I would sell my soul to play for the Bears,” Al says while watching the NFL Draft. (This episode first aired in April 1997, meaning the Bears had just selected...no one. They didn’t have a first round pick that year, but they did grab TE John Allred in the second round.) Like any good TV show, that’s exactly what happens. Al scores four touchdowns in his first game, wins Time’s Man of the Year award, and then goes to Hell after dying in the Super Bowl because the Devil’s a total dick. Y’know, the usual. To be fair to the Devil, though, having to play alongside Erik Kramer, Curtis Conway, and Raymont Harris, who all appear in the episode, seems worse than being stabbed by a thousand pitchforks in million degree weather. But I digress.
Al’s semi-ironic punishment for selling his soul: having to spend eternity in Hell...with his family and the D’Arcys. It’s funny because he hates his family and is a miserable, miserable person. Bud now has lobster claws for hands, Peg horse hooves, Kelly still looks ridiculously hot even with her new gargoyle face, and Al wants out, so he challenges the Devil to a game of football. The Devil’s team: Erik the Red, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Brutus, and the Liar. Al’s team: Al and his family. Al’s team wins and everything goes back to normal because, after all, “There’s no Hell like home.”
But seriously, hahaha, Erik Kramer.
(Guest contributor Bill Hanstock)
Episode: "Go For The Old" (season 7, episode 19)
What Happens: Peg makes Al get the senior discount to get into the movie theater. Al's humiliation at being seen as old is quickly overtaken by his general cheapness and he starts applying to things as a senior citizen. This ruse culminates in Al being invited to the Chicago-area Senior Games and Al is determined to go for glory and win it all.
Key line: "Oh no, Al. Are you reliving when you slapped the coach and took over the team?"
Full disclosure here: This episode was the first real moment I was cognizant of the show jumping the shark (if such a thing can be said about 'Married... With Children'). Well, besides that god-awful two-parter in England. But something about the final scene always struck me as odd. In the last event of the senior decathlon, Al has decided to throw the race so one of the real seniors can live out his dream of winning, but catches a glimpse of the trophy and sprints to win (set to "Chariots of Fire," of course). As Al stands at the top of the winner's podium, clutching his trophy and waving a miniature American flag while the old man weeps, a text crawl appears over the image, reading, "BET YOU THOUGHT AL WAS GOING TO LET THE OLD GUY WIN, DIDN'T YOU? WELL THEN, YOU HAVEN'T BEEN PAYING ATTENTION FOR THE PAST SEVEN YEARS!" Al then addresses the camera, reminding the audience that "It's only cheating if you get caught," which of course is met with wolf-whistles. Something about all of that has always struck me as the laziest writing possible and a coda that is completely unnecessary, even by MWC standards.
But anyway, this is what it is. Which is to say that it's a fairly weird episode. Al is completely unable to hang with the seniors in the first day of events, then suddenly gets inspired by high school football memories (and bad sex, of course) and is a complete ringer on Day 2. I would argue that getting totally smoked on Day 1 doesn't really make his crime of winning all that unforgivable, but it does raise questions of why there was just a gap between his performances on the two days of competition. Also, Al kills three cats during the senior games. Where are all those cats coming from? Why do they keep hanging out where there are javelins?
Also, I don't think that they would really have vendors selling Maalox at a Senior Games.
Episode: "Poke High" (season 3, episode 4)
What Happens: Kelly has the hots for high school football star Matt. It turns out he's one game away from leading James K. Polk to their second-ever undefeated season, and one touchdown away from breaking Al's single-season touchdown record. Al watches in disgrace from the stands as his records are about to fall, but Kelly (who has spent the entire episode failing to get Matt's attention) intercepts by throwing herself onto the field, clipping Matt. Polk High loses and the Bundy's become the shame of the town -- no longer allowed in church or on the freeway -- but Al's records stand, and Kelly gets a "good girl" to close the episode.
Key line: "Give me a 'P'. Give me an 'O'. Give me a 'K'. Give me an 'E'. Poke High! Yeah!"
Another great episode where clinging to glory, desperately needing someone's attention and doing the wrong thing to ruin everything collide in a small moment of Bundy triumph.
It's weird how important Al's four touchdowns in a single game (and subsequent season touchdown record) stat seems. It's one of the most hyped up and "protected" accomplishments in the sitcom world. Most shows would introduce a fact like "Charlie Sheen scored 100 points in a basketball game" or whatever to use it for a basketball episode, then abandon it forever because it stops being immediately important. Al's entire life arc happened because of those four touchdowns, and his massive downhill slide is not only entertaining television, but justification for the show going from "normal family sitcom" to "Al having CGI bug-eyes and selling his soul to the devil". It's just one big illustrated failure.
Episode: "Al Goes Deep" (season 8, episode 25)
What Happens: In the spiritual sister episode to "Poke High", Al convinces Jefferson to bet big money on Trumaine College on an inside tip. The bet is threatened when Kelly starts dating Trumaine's quarterback, then seems impossible when Kelly accidentally hands him an evil stuffed animal (seriously), sends him falling backwards down the Bundys' steps and breaks his arm. With nothing left to do, Al poses as the kid and breaks a bunch of collegiate passing and rushing records in his name.
Key line: "Wait ... the PIG is my good luck charm. That's my evil giraffe, Gonzar!"
First of all, Kelly having an entire collection of enchanted animals that do various things (including evil) is hilarious. Twice as hilarious is an evil giraffe named f**king Gonzar being able to will a kid backwards down a flight of steps.
Second of all, Al going into a college football game without anyone knowing (even when he removes his helmet for a post-game interview) and being THE BEST EVER COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYER STILL is almost as unbelievable as Gonzar, but no less funny. I've always loved Al's ability to conjure up unstoppable football prowess when the going gets tough, like when he has to win money on an insider bet or literally escape the bowels of Hell. I'm going forward assuming all those Broncos games Tim Tebow won last season were really just Al Bundy subbing in for the fourth quarter.
Episode: "Dud Bowl II" (season 10, episode 10)
What Happens: Marcy's bank sponsors a new scoreboard for Polk High's football field and wants to name it after the greatest football star in school history. That is obviously Mr. Al "Four Touchdowns In A Single Game" Bundy, but Marcy hates his guts and does everything she can to find someone better. It turns out former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and 4-time Super Bowl Champion Terry Bradshaw attended Polk High for two weeks (and never played football), and when Marcy's able to convince the bank to honor Bradshaw instead of Bundy, Al hatches a plan to literally blow up the scoreboard with dynamite.
Key line: "The man's won more Super Bowls than I've had good days."
"Dud Bowl II" is one of the great examples of luck going Al's way and his absolute refusal to let that happen. The rub here is that Kelly convinced Bradshaw that her father deserved the scoreboard honor more, but when the sheet comes off and reads "AL BUNDY FIELD", the plan is already set into motion and can't be stopped. Al tries, of course, realizing what's about to happen at the last moment and trying to prevent a cymbal crash (the signal for Bud and Jefferson to blow the scoreboard) by plowing though an entire marching band and throwing his head between the cymbals. But, you know, cymbals still make that noise no matter what they hit.
And in a fitting moment of absolute agony, Terry Bradshaw visits the Bundy home to tell Al he could've been a big star in the NFL ... but Al's injuries prevent him from seeing or hearing. And just like that, Terry was off to be the average man's James Carville and film Failure To Launch, or whatever.
Episode: "The Unnatural" (season 5, episode 4)
What Happens: The Bundys are all members of the mall's softball team (the "New Market Mallers"). They make it to the championship game, but Al's in a slump ... so the rest of the team bribes Peg, Kelly and Bud into going along with their plan to replace him with "Sven Hunkstrom", a much better player and easily the most by-the-numbers early-90s "hunk" ever. If you want to be a 90s hunk, you need three things: muscles, an impossibly loose-fitting tank top and long blonde hair that makes you look like an American Gladiator. An overly-enthusiastic umpire Marcy accidentally punches Sven out at the end of the game, and it's up to Al to sub in and win the day.
Key line: "Look closely, kids ... something you may never see again. Behold: a shoe salesman in triumph."
Most 'Married... With Children' episodes end with Al assuming he's won, then losing horribly. Sometimes they don't, and Al's walk-off homer for the New Market Mallers may be his finest moment of public superiority in the show's run. Not only does he hit the homer, he does so with the crowd booing him, calls his shot and stops before crossing home plate to deliver an incredible f**k-you announcement.
"Before I cross home plate, and bring home the first ever championship to the Mallers, I would just like to say that today today today ... I consider you you you ... the luckiest team on the face of the Earth Earth Earth. And in closing I'd like to say, I hate you all, I thank no-one but myself ... as of today I, Al Bundy will be finished with baseball. M ... V ... P!"
If that wasn't enough, the episode ends with a parody of Eight Men Out, as a young Ian Ziering watches Al roam the outfield under an assumed name. The scene is filmed without a studio audience and ends on a silent shot of Al with his hat in the air, having just made a Willie Mays-style catch. It's weirdly affecting, especially for a show that doesn't give Al a moment of peace without making him climb over someone's dead body.
Episode: "Peggy Turns 300" (season 4, episode 19)
What Happens: Al has plans for Peggy's birthday: taking her to the bowling alley so she can see him break Puggy Weaver's alley record of 258. He succeeds, but as he's basking in his own demanded glory, Peggy starts granny bowling strikes and ends up rolling a perfect 300 game. So not only is Al's record instantly forgotten, he can never bowl any better.
Key line: "Behind every successful man, is a woman that didn't marry me."
If "The Unnatural's" ending was unexpectedly celebratory, "Peggy Turns 300's" is the exact opposite and one of the darkest endings in the show's 11-year run.
Crushed by his life-long career success being instantaneously trumped by a wife he hates who couldn't give a shit, Al sits on his couch holding a pretend remote control and watching a blank TV. First he imagines watching a news report where he's just raced into a burning building to save a family of ten (and the family dog, Winky) and is being considered for a mayoral run. Peg walks in with her giant bowling trophy, but Al doesn't notice because he's watching himself being interviewed by Roy Firestone on 'SportsLook'. He's Al "Icky" Bundy, a man who rewrote the book on offense and defense who wears his uniform year-round and isn't affected by his wife's perfect game, because he's got so much going on in his life. The show goes to commercial, and we cut back to Al, smiling at nothing with an absolutely inhuman look on his face.
Sad, kinda scary, and unfortunately hilarious.
Episode: "Torch Song Duet" (season 10, episode 25)
What Happens: Al helps Griff win a radio contest for two tickets to the Olympic Games in Atlanta (the ones where Kurt Angle won a gold medal in wrestling with a broken freakin' neck), then feels betrayed when Griff takes back his promise to let Al run the Olympic Torch through the mall. His response is totally reasonable: he chases down Griff, throws the torch into a mall fountain and extinguishes the flame for the first time in 3,000 years. The games are postponed indefinitely.
Key line: "Dad, I thought you said your whole life was leading up to you leaving Mom." "Well, it was, but -- it was, but I wanted to combine the two. Once I had that torch in my hand, I would've just ... kept on running."
This episode is more or less the opposite of 'King Of The Hill's' Olympic Torch episode. That was about honesty and doing the right thing. This is about tackling your friend in a mall because you're shitty shoe salesmen who would slit each others' throats to rise one rung on the social ladder. To Al's credit, he DID help Griff win the contest, and Griff totally f**ked him over.
Another sports highlight of the episode is an appearance from Roy Jones Jr., legendary boxer, "Fighter of the Decade" for the 1990s and a man who knows a thing or two about being f**ked over at the Olympics. He is the perfect 1990s sports guest star: he reads his lines like he's asleep, spends 80% of his on-screen time complimenting himself and wears one of those billowing button-up shirts from the Theo Huxtable collection.
Episode: "The Mystery of Skull Island" (season 6, episode 14)
What Happens: Bud, aka Grandmaster B, gets into a one-sided relationship with Kara, an action sports junkie who will (we assume) sleep with Bud if he does all the crazy shit she wants him to do. Bud eventually goes skydiving to please her, but as he's plummeting to the Earth he overhears Kara flirting with the skydiving instructor (aka American Gladiator Nitro) and ends up having sex with him on the airplane. With no instructions on how to properly save his own life, Bud crashes into Lake Michigan, where he watches a pelican eat poop and gets mouth-to-mouth from a crusty old sea captain. Most of that happens off-screen.
Key line: "I booked us on a rafting trip, down a river the Indians used to call 'Kiss Your White Ass Goodbye'."
For being such a wormy little guy (and a Bundy), Bud really pulled an epic string of tail during MWC's run. At one point or another he hooks up with Tiffani "Kelly Kapowski" Thiessen, awesome 20-year old Joey Lauren Adams, an endless string of big-boobed models who almost sleep with him and Kara, played by Bobbie Phillips, who you may remember from such roles as "naked lady in the background" in Showgirls.
Man, there's got to be no sitcom moment more "1990s" than a busty model making a guy do extreme sports before abandoning him for a shoot American Gladiator. Maybe that time Larry Johnson shows up to play basketball as Grandmama on 'Family Matters', but it's close. In a related note, that American Gladiator's filmography is seriously 90% Gladiator shows, but he made appearances on MWC, 'Who's The Boss?', 'Saved By The Bell: The College Years' and 'California Dreams' as some version of Nitro. That's a pretty good run.
Episode: "Shoeless Al" (season 9, episode 25)
What Happens: Al gets held up at the shoe store and tied up in the back, with all the shoes. This gives him a pretend "fear of shoes", a fear he uses to sue the mall ... and he can get away with it if he just stays away from shoes for a week. Unfortunately the title game for the PUGGY CUP~ at the bowling alley gets rescheduled, and Al must choose between his four-million dollar lawsuit or suffering the indignity of letting Bud bowl in his place. If you know anything about this show, you won't be surprised to learn that he throws on a pair of shoes, forfeits four million dollars and wins the tiniest f**king cup ever.
Key line: "Daddy's got a new pair of shoes."
Nothing emphasizes a moment quite like 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra'. It's right behind the Chariots Of Fire music on the list of awesome 'Married... With Children' musical cues. It happens here when Al would rather pick up a split to humiliate some condescending funeral home workers than be rich and happy for the rest of his life.
One of the interesting things about this episode is that it brings back Puggy, the guy who had the 258 alley record in "Peggy Turns 300". It's revealed that Puggy died trying to set a waffle-swallowing record (of 8 ... at once). Death has turned him from a rival into a figure of reverence, and if MWC hadn't set 300 years of its continuity in literal Christian Hell it might've said something important about Al's moral compass.
For the record, Al was held up at gunpoint, but not robbed. He hadn't opened his cash register in so long, he'd forgotten how.
(Guest contributor Ashley Burns)
Episode: "Dud Bowl" season 9, episode 10)
What Happens: One thing that Married with Children was never short on was guest appearances by athletes. And even if you didn’t know who those athletes were upon first glance, you’d know within seconds because the trademark audience would hoot and holler and then one of the characters would bluntly state, “Oh my God, that’s Kenny Stabler!” I won’t say this episode was a perfect example of that trend, because that describes 97% of the show’s 259 episodes, but it was certainly one of the best.
When one of Al’s former Polk High teammates passes away, he mourns the loss the Bundy way – by drinking at a sports bar. (According to this show, Chicago sports bars were the preferred hangout of every famous athlete of the 80s and 90s, too.) Eventually, Al’s high school football nemesis, Jack Franklin (Stan Ivar), shows up and challenges him to a grudge match – his old teammates against Al’s old teammates. Of course, Jack cheats and brings in Lawrence Taylor, Bubba Smith, Ken Stabler and John Reynolds, because nothing is ever fair for a Bundy man.
Key line: This exchange:
Al: “Hey number 56, you don’t look like Morty Fishbine!”
Lawrence Taylor: “Well I am, you schmuck!”
Al Bundy: “Who would think little Morty Fishbine would grow up to look like Lawrence Taylor?”
Speedy: “And if that's something, Eddie Yim grew up to look like Bubba Smith.”
Bubba Smith: “Shut up! Don't call me that!”
Al Bundy: “Same old Eddie, except now he appears to be a giant black man now.”
Even more than the classic theme of “Woe is Al”, this episode showed the cutting edge humor that Married with Children displayed in a time that it was almost unthinkable. I won’t go as far as to say that it rivaled All in the Family’s groundbreaking racial humor, but Married with Children was in a league of its own with the aforementioned racial jokes and cracks about Al’s former teammate Thad getting a sex change (Al: “We get tired of our old cars too, but we don't do things like rip the doors off.”) not because they were so edgy - they were - but because they also created discussion.
A lot of today’s shows really owe their existence to the wit of Married with Children. It may have been offensive, but it had people talking.