#21 – Married… with Children: You Better Watch Out

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“You Better Watch Out” (1987)

When the Fox network initially launched it was pretty lackluster. Two shows would rise up and help give it a chance; The Tracey Ulman Show and Married… with Children. It may be forgotten by some, but if there was a first family for Fox it’s not The Simpsons, but rather the Bundys. The Bundys are the original dysfunctional sitcom family. While shows like All In The Family certainly showcased a flawed family none were as remorseless as The Bundys.

The Bundys consist of Al (Ed O’Neil), wife Peg (Katey Sagal), Kelly (Christina Applegate), and Bud (David Faustino) and basically everyone of them is a pretty bad person. Not only do they seem to not love each other they do not even seem to care about one another. They’re all selfish, stupid, lazy bores. Peg is a sex-starved housewife who would never lift a finger for anyone, least of all her husband, but will happily spend what little money they have. Bud is actually book smart, but too consumed with getting laid to apply himself at much of anything. Kelly is a typical dumb blond with her mom’s selfish tendencies. Meanwhile the patriarch, Al, is a women’s shoe salesman who basically hates his life. If any of the four have a redeeming quality about them, it’s Al who at least has some feeling of responsibility for his family’s well-being, though he treats it more like an inconvenience than a sense of duty.

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The Bundys and their neighbors gather around the TV to watch the Santa landing.

In the show’s first Christmas special, “You Better Watch Out,” Al finds his usually empty pockets more empty than usual when a new mall moves into town to syphon away business from the store he works at. It’s so bad that he has no money for Christmas presents for the family. Al adopts an “oh well” attitude about it while the rest of the family is more than a little irritated. When the new mall hosts Santa as part of some big Christmas Eve display, he is to parachute into the mall but his chute fails causing the Santa to plummet to his death right into the backyard of The Bundys.

Naturally, a crime scene is established by the local police and while everyone around the house is distraught over the death of Santa, The Bundys are delighted to get some free pizza out of the whole thing. Al does eventually step up and put on the deceased Claus’s costume to assure the children amassed outside that Santa is okay, but in typical Bundy fashion, this ends up biting him in the ass when the mall no longer needs to compensate the family to keep the death of Santa a secret.

In atypical Bundy fashion, the family actually does get something in the end but this is certainly not the way anyone watching would want to spend their holiday. Married… with Children was a pretty unique show at the time. While most sitcoms went the family friendly route this show decidedly did not and ended up lasting a long time as a result. The show still holds up really well, even if a lot of the humor is sophomoric at best, and “You Better Watch Out” is the show’s clear best Christmas episode.

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