ABOUT THE SHOW
Married... with Children is an American sitcom that aired for 11 seasons. It featured a dysfunctional family living in a fictional Chicago suburb. The show, notable for being the first prime-time television series to air on Fox, ran from April 5, 1987, to June 9, 1997.
The show follows the lives of Al Bundy, a once glorious high school football player turned hard-luck women's shoe salesman; his obnoxious wife, Peggy; their attractive, promiscuous, and dim daughter, Kelly; and their girl-crazy, wisecracking son, Bud. Their neighbors are the upwardly-mobile Steve Rhoades and his wife Marcy, who later gets remarried to Jefferson D'Arcy, a white-collar criminal who becomes her "trophy husband" and Al's sidekick. Most storylines involve Al's schemes being foiled by his own cartoonish dim wit and bad luck. His rivalry with and loathing for Marcy play a significant role in most episodes.
ABOUT THE CHARACTERS
The head of the Bundy family, Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill) is doomed to fail in all aspirations because of the "Bundy curse." Once a promising fullback for fictional Polk High School (his proudest moment in life was scoring four touchdowns in a single game), he was on his way to college on a scholarship until he impregnated his girlfriend, married her, broke his leg, and ended up a shoe salesman at "Gary's Shoes" in the "New Market Mall", located in an incorporated area of suburban Chicago. Al often spends time attempting to recapture his glory days, but is usually undermined in spectacular fashion by frequent bad luck and poor judgment. He considers his family to be the cause of his failures, and his resentment of them (and fear of having sex with his wife) provides much of the show's humor. However, Al is still devoted to them, given that he protectively beats up Kelly's boyfriends, once threatened a male stripper that "if my wife loses anything in your pants, so will you," once gave his entire paycheck to Bud to enjoy his 18th birthday at the "nudie bar," and holds down a lousy job to put food on the table (which, ironically, there is not much of in the Bundy household). Despite his yearning for "the touch of a beautiful woman," he always passes on those rare temptations, once explaining, "I actually kinda like my family."
He frequents "nudie bars" and strip clubs with his friends. The most prominent nudie bar was a place called "The Jiggly Room" which was featured during the series final four seasons. The only thing that seems to consistently put him in the mood for sex with his wife is watching her do manual labor, which very rarely happens. It is mentioned in a Season 5 episode, aired in 1990, that Al is 43. Al has extremely severe foot odor, prefers the escapism of television and bowling over his dysfunctional family, and life of drudgery and starvation (as Peggy refuses to cook, she claims that she is allergic to fire, despite the fact that she smokes) and is often seen in his trademark couch potato pose—seated on the sofa with one hand stuck under the waistband of his pants.
The foot perspiration is not his only health issue; once in 1993, he had a bad case of dandruff. He also has terrible teeth, as noted in the episode "Tooth or Consequences," where his extremely poor dental hygiene (green, black, bleeding, and fizzing teeth amongst them) leads to a trip to the dentist with typical bad luck results. A running gag in the series is Al's apparent habit of overflowing the toilet when using the bathroom.
Another running joke used throughout the series is that being a shoe salesman of ladies shoes, Al makes minimal wage and that even homeless bums living in the streets make more money in one day by begging than him. In the episode "How Bleen Was My Kelly", Al uses a desktop computer to find how much money he makes on a daily basis and learns that he makes less than a local paperboy. By using the computer's search engine, Al learns that everyone around the world, from a dirt vendor in Pakistan to an Eskimo blubber chewer in Nome, Alaska, makes more money in one day then Al does by selling women's shoes, except for one person, Peggy.
Al's favorite television series, the fictional Western show Psycho Dad, was a source of joy and entertainment that Al seemingly, at times, wanted to emulate. He would hum the words to the theme song, and pretend to "shoot" his fictional gun while watching the show. Much like Al, the character of "Psycho Dad" was tormented by his family, and was stated to kill his wife and get revenge on his children in the opening credits and during various fictional "airings" of the episode, though no video was ever shown. His other joys were Westerns, often John Wayne films, most notably "Hondo", until Peggy's family ruined his recording of the movie by taping over it with a song dedicated to her. He has also referenced "Shane" when the clan ruined his enjoyment of that movie.
Al also owns a "faithful" 1974 Dodge that invariably had failed brakes, constant breakdowns and numerous other problems associated with its age and mileage. At the time of the fourth season at least, Al was still paying it off, despite it being well over 20 years old. By the eighth season, the Dodge had passed one million miles. Al's Dodge actually appears to be a 1972 Plymouth Duster in one early episode, however it is only referred to as "The Dodge" and is supposedly constructed of the various parts of other wrecked and mangled Dodges. After winning a game show, the Bundys added a Ford Mustang to their fleet.
The producers originally wanted to cast comedian Sam Kinison as Al Bundy. However, they ultimately chose not to, due to the profaneness of Kinison's comedy routines. Kinison would later play Al's guardian angel in the episode "It's a Bundyful Life", spoofing Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. The producers also considered Michael Richards for the role. The producers stated in interviews that they were also attempting to determine what a good "mission statement" would be for the show, and ultimately went with the first sound heard on the first episode; that of Al flushing a toilet.
Margaret "Peggy" Wanker Bundy (Katey Sagal) is Al's lazy, self-indulgent wife. She refuses to cook or clean the house, and prefers buying new clothes to washing the old ones. She refuses to consider taking a job. She cites her laziness as family tradition, getting upset with Kelly when she gets a job. She claims that Wanker women never work, and in old pioneer days, "Wanker women were getting their hair done while Wanker men got theirs scalped." During the day, she likes to watch all the daytime talk shows, sitting on the living room couch, and eating copious amounts of bonbons (without ever gaining weight). Her favorite TV shows are Oprah and Donahue, but she also enjoys watching the Shop at Home Network. Peggy is a redhead with a bouffant hairdo and she usually wears combinations of outdated 1980s and 1960s-styled fashion with skintight Spandex pants and shirts, and (usually open-toed) stiletto heels, which make her walk in a unique way. Peggy smoked cigarettes in early episodes but then quit. Late in the first season she says she married Al on a dare although this may have been just a sarcastic comment. In the fourth season it was revealed that she didn't actually graduate from high school, failing to meet a half-credit in home economics. She got her diploma, but only by stealing Kelly's final exam, and tricking Kelly into going to summer school. Peggy continually spends what little money Al makes on everything from expensive clothes to useless trinkets, even stealing from her children to get extra cash.
Her family, the Wankers, hail from the fictitious rural Wanker County, Wisconsin, where "As Einstein put it, everyone's relative." At Peggy and Al's high school reunion, her rival greeted her with "Peg...Peggy Wanker...don't bother to thank her." What is never made clear is how she managed to go to high school in Chicago with Al when her parents apparently never left Wanker County.
Despite her inappropriate behavior, she generally appeals to men, including Al. Like Al, she would never cheat on her partner but unlike Al, she enjoys marital sex despite constantly complaining about Al's lack of endurance. She does not seem to mind her husband ogling other women, reading pornographic magazines, or going to strip joints. Her enthusiasm has caused some of the male strip joints she visits to establish the "Bundy rule," where women can no longer go into the back rooms to meet the dancers. During Season 6, Sagal became pregnant in real life and her pregnancy was written into the show. However, Sagal suffered a miscarriage, so the writers made the whole storyline into one of Al's nightmares. Sagal was pregnant again twice during the series' run, but instead of writing her pregnancies into the show, the producers either used camera shots from above the stomach or wrote episodes without the character of Peggy, explaining her absence by having her set out in search of her missing father (who appeared in a few episodes, played by Tim Conway), and only occasionally calling home. Despite her continuous put-downs of Al and general indifference towards their family, she demonstrated genuine feelings towards him on at least one occasion when a successful childhood classmate (Vanna White) comes back to town and reveals she's long harbored feelings for Al, offering $500,000 for one night with him. Though they initially agreed to the offer, as this would have lifted them out of their constant financial problems, Peggy ultimately refused, as she couldn't bear of the thought of Al being with another woman. During a televised cast reunion, Katey Sagal said that she believed Peggy "thought [Al] was hot" due to her inability to keep her hands off him.
The producers cast Sagal, who came up with Peggy's appearance, wanting to satirize the TV housewives of the 1960s. Entertainment Weekly listed Sagal's role as Peggy for the "Biggest Emmy Snub." In 2009, Peggy was included in Yahoo!'s Top 10 TV Moms from Six Decades of Television for the decade 1987-1997. In May 2012, she was one of the 12 moms chosen by users of iVillage on their list of "Mommy Dearest: The TV Moms You Love".
Kelly Bundy (Christina Applegate) is the older child in the Bundy family, born November 27, 1972 or sometime before February 19. "Pumpkin," as Al often calls her, is promiscuous, tends to hang out with "slacker" guys, and exemplifies the stereotypical "dumb blonde." She may have inherited her behavior from her mother, known as "The Big Easy" in high school. Al is dismayed by Kelly's promiscuity. He tends to treat her various questionable love interests with a combination of derision and violence; in numerous episodes, he leads them to the front door, feigning friendliness, only to walk them head-first into the wall before tossing them out the door.
During the series' run, Kelly became progressively stupider. In the first season, Kelly was a rather average and normal teenage girl who was very sarcastic and rebellious with bleached blonde (white) hair and dressed in grungy t-shirts and stylish jeans. After the first season, she evolved into an underachiever and delinquent, dressing in leather jackets and short, form-fitting spandex dresses, with long blonde hair and finally into the dumb blonde bimbo. In one episode, a flashback to Kelly's childhood reveals her to have been a prodigious reader until she banged her head during a road trip, instantly changing her personality to prefer focusing on her "shiny, shiny shoes". The show hints at her amazing intrinsic intellectual ability, which only exhibits itself on those rare occasions when she is not preoccupied with her social status or men. For instance, she can predict the next number drawn on a roulette wheel, but only after letting her mind go blank. When properly motivated, she is able to solve complex mathematical equations, such as her calculation of the trajectory to shoot garbage bags into the D'Arcys' yard from a homemade catapult. It has been demonstrated that she can absorb a limited amount of information very well, but will forget something that she learned in the past once her limit is reached. Kelly is also known to display excellent hand-eye coordination when playing pool or performing archery.
Kelly's comedic function tends to include blatant displays of naïvete and ignorance, with the typical response by the family of willfully allowing her to remain ignorant. Bud, in particular, likes to sow misconceptions in her mind. For example, she asks Bud to help her with her book report on Robinson Crusoe, but ends up reviewing Gilligan's Island instead. It is said that Kelly is prone to being held back in school. Her family is surprised to learn that she earned her high school diploma in 1990—but when she receives her diploma through the mail after finishing summer school, she asks her mother to read it to her (although she graduated on time, it has been said on numerous occasions that she had been held back more than once, but this may just be a joke). She then worked as a model and waitress. She had become a bottle-blonde at an early age at her mother's encouragement after a boy at school liked a natural blonde more than Kelly. By the final seasons Kelly appeared to have matured into an independent woman with a more enhanced insight and street smarts.
Though she often pokes fun at her younger brother Bud for being underdeveloped, pubescent, and constantly obsessed with girls, she usually seems to be proud of him whenever he manages to get an attractive date. On at least one occasion, she has also avenged Bud by humiliating a girl who humiliated him. Kelly is very fond of her pets, even when unable to sufficiently care for them. Buck, the family dog, was generally considered to be Bud's but Kelly was the most upset when he died.
Her favorite comic strip is Garfield. Her less-than-stellar reading skills led to many comedic situations in which she would read the Garfield comic aloud, mispronouncing lasagna as "luh-SAG-nee." She also watches cartoons, such as Looney Tunes, under the impression that it is a nature show. In one episode she referred to Yogi Bear as a documentary.
Tina Caspary was originally cast as Kelly, but after the original pilot was filmed, the show's producers felt that she did not quite fit the part, and so she was replaced by Applegate. Applegate wrote on Twitter that she based her character on a girl in the documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years.
Budrick Franklin Bundy (David Faustino) is the second child, born on January 22, 1975. In the original pilot his name was going to be Ben. In the first season, Bud is revealed to be in fifth grade, making him 10 or 11, but in subsequent seasons, he was aged to be within one year of Kelly, graduating high school in 1991.
He was named after Al's favorite beer, Budweiser. Bud, like Kelly, was originally a fairly average teenager in the first season; he was generally a troublemaker who especially enjoyed annoying his sister to the point of her extreme frustration. Starting in the second season, however, he morphed into an unpopular, socially inept nerd obsessed with get-rich-quick schemes and (mostly unsuccessfully) attempts to impress girls. Though incompetent at both, he excelled in school as opposed to Kelly who morphed into an underachiever and eventually a stereotypically dumb blonde bimbo. Bud believes himself to be attractive, sexy, and smooth, but is frequently caught in sexually humiliating scenarios. It is unclear when Bud lost his virginity (it's depicted that he may have bedded women as far back as age 14), but in the fourth season, it is mentioned that he is still a virgin. Later in the series, he manages to have one-night stands, including one with his cousin's fiancee, played by Joey Lauren Adams. Bud has a thing for neighbor Marcy in earlier episodes, but she is blatantly repulsed by his advances and he appears to have outgrown the adolescent attraction by his college years, instead having a typically unsuccessful flirtation with Marcy's nubile niece. He had a May–December fling with Al's (female) boss Gary, where Gary treated Bud like wealthy men tend to treat their young, nubile, and unintelligent gold-digging dates. To the surprise of both Gary and his family, Bud wasn't interested in being a "kept man" and broke up with Gary over her disrespect for him.
He tries to attract girls with the help of various alter egos, including street rapper "Grandmaster B"—a persona often ridiculed by his family, who call him everything from "Bell-Ringer B" to "Bed-Wetter B." Another alter-ego is "Cool Bud," Bud's sexual, suave side with whom he eventually "merges," prompting him to become more "cool." Bud (like his parents and sister) is a surprisingly adept fighter, exhibiting a talent for putting down any attacker(s) no matter what their size. When threatened by bigger and stronger adversaries, Bud has no qualms about using chairs or tables to even the odds.
Of the Bundys, Bud seems to be the most ashamed of the family; he often pretends not to know them, even scheming against them on occasion. He is especially cruel to Kelly, ridiculing her as a promiscuous dimwit, and, earlier in the series, even going so far as to blackmail her for having fake ID's. Although he quite frequently uses her ignorance to his benefit, he seems obliged to defend her when others exploit her foolishness. Toward the end of the series, Bud is Kelly's agent, but he is more motivated by selfish ambitions than his sister's career, and she fires (and rehires) him multiple times.
Bud seems to have inherited his father's proficiencies in fistfighting and endurance. He has been shown numerous times beating opponents much larger and stronger than himself (usually through quick thinking and mimicking his father). However, unlike his father, he will rarely, if ever, start a fight, and has been sent flying by other people (usually the boyfriends and husbands of women he blindly hits on); still, he will not hesitate to join a fight started by his father and has a harder time backing down than Al when the fight is over.
Bud is the most academically able member of his family as he maintains a high grade point average throughout high school, consistently making the honor roll, then attends college later in the series. He earns a scholarship, which the family accidentally spends when his deposited scholarship check turns up in Al's bank account instead. Bud is then forced to support himself through a difficult science degree by being a DMV tester.
In an earlier episode, Bud is portrayed as the leader of his social circle of stereotypical losers, but they move on when they experience better luck finding dates. Bud remains a loner until college, where he joins a fraternity ("Gamma Gamma Sigma Pi, gonna gonna get some thigh!").
Hunter Carson was originally cast as Bud, but after the original pilot was filmed, the show's producers felt that he did not quite fit the part, and so he was replaced by Faustino.
Marcy D'Arcy (played by Amanda Bearse), Marcy Rhoades from episodes 0101–0512, is Peggy's best friend, Al's nemesis, and the family's next door neighbor. Though she considers herself to be better than the Bundy family, Marcy often sinks to their level. She originally worked as a loan officer at the city bank (in a higher position than her husband, Steve) and then as the manager of the Kyoto National Bank since the second season. But for a brief time, she was demoted to drive-up window teller as punishment for approving a loan Al could not repay (in fact the purpose was to make Al able to repay a previous loan approved by Steve, but Al instead turned this loan into his "shoe hotline" project as well, and lost it too). She wins back her old job after "frugging" on her boss's desk for 20 minutes, clad only in a slip, while the other drive-up window tellers tossed quarters at her. Marcy has stated that she holds a Bachelor's degree double majoring in business and economics.
Initially during the first few seasons, Marcy was a sweet, wholesome newlywed, but years of living next to the Bundys apparently transformed her into a warped character almost as outrageous and vicious as them. She contemptuously bickered with Al, and reveled in his misery. One of the main reasons for her hatred of Al is his chauvinistic and misogynistic view of women. However, Marcy, in fact, unbeknownst to herself, is a lot like Al: she is also chauvinistic towards men and is the founder and leader of an anti-man support group called "F.A.N.G." (Feminists Against Neanderthal Guys). Marcy seemed to have a dark side, and enjoys sharing her past memories with Peggy, but often tends to get lost in them. At various points in the series, she is identified as a Republican who looks down on the lower-class Bundy clan, she is also a feminist and environmentalist. Al's most frequent targets are Marcy's tiny chest and her chicken-like stance when she gets annoyed. In season 6 Marcy claimed she was pregnant, though this was later written out of the show as part of Al's dream. Marcy had a loud, piercing laugh, which she usually displayed whenever Al suffered some misfortune. Though she would often make disparaging remarks about Kelly (for her stupidity) and Bud (for his lack of chances to get a date) she did not seem to hold the contempt for them that she did for Al, possibly because she realized that the Bundy children could not help their behavior due to their upbringing.
One of the running gags in the entire series has Marcy often mistaken for a young boy, on one occasion even being mistaken for Bruce Jenner, and on another occasion for "the kid from Home Improvement"; when she reminisces about her first training bra, Al disparagingly asks "How old were you then—twenty five?!" Despite wanting to appear prudish, Marcy is shown to be a very sexual person, and is revealed to have a rather sordid sexual history, such as the "Little Bo Peep and the Cop" game. At one point late in the series, Al runs into a poorly disguised Marcy in the adult section of the local video rental store, who claims she's renting movies only to erase them.
Marcy often relives past moments in her life as well as routine experiences (such as going to the dentist) by telling stories and describing them in a sexual manner.
Although Marcy and Al are usually adversaries, they often unite in common causes, such as later when Jefferson comes into the series. Their teamwork is attributable to the fact that they are both "bread-winners," giving them occasional moments of mutual understanding.
Steven "Steve" Bartholomew Rhoades (David Garrison) is Marcy's first husband. Much like the name "Bundy" the creators chose the surname "Rhoades" after professional wrestler Dusty Rhodes. He is a banker who seems unfazed by his lower position than Marcy at the city bank. (When Marcy moves up to a high position at another bank, he gets her former job.) Steve initially condescends to the Bundys, but eventually becomes more like them, and generally turns to Al for male-bonding. Marcy was initially attracted to him because of his self-centered materialism.
Steve seemed to be a fairly demure and buttoned-down character, compared to his wife and the Bundys, although he did show a dark side. As a banker, Steve took sadistic pleasure in humiliating people who bullied him in high school by making his former tormentors (many of whom were stuck in poor, dead end jobs similar to Al's) grovel for bank loans, which he flatly refused. Steve eventually gets a job as Dean of Bud's college by blackmailing the man who employed him[clarification needed] as a chauffeur.
Steve was written out of the show in the middle of the fourth season; Garrison had decided he no longer wanted to be tied down to a weekly television series, preferring to avoid being typecast in one role, and devote more time to his first love: stage acting. He reached an agreement with Fox to buy out the remainder of his contract. In the final episode shot (though, confusingly, not the final episode aired) in which he was a regular character, Steve is disenchanted with his and Marcy's yuppie lifestyle, and is increasingly interested in becoming an outdoorsman (a real-life interest of Garrison's). He then disappears, with the explanation that he left Marcy to become a forest ranger at Yosemite National Park. Prior to disappearing he loses his job at the bank, after - in an effort to win a free trip to Hawaii - he approves a loan for Al's "shoe hotline" project which fails. His last job was as a "pooper scooper" at an exotic pet shop. In later seasons, Garrison would reprise the Steve Rhoades character on four occasions, returning to guest star in individual episodes (with Steve having pursued other careers in the meantime), as he eventually returns to professional life to become the dean of Bud's college. This episode was to be the pilot of a spin-off series that never happened.
In the season 6 episode "The Egg and I", Steve returns to Chicago in attempts to reclaim his old life and settle back into his yuppie lifestyle with Marcy. However after learning that she remarried to Jefferson, he confronts the Bundys for not telling him about it. Soon the FBI is on to Steve as he stole a rare egg that belongs to Yosemite and the Bundy family harbors him.
In the eighth season episode "Banking on Marcy", Marcy shouts out Steve's name.
Steve returned in the ninth season episode "Get the Dodge out of Hell", Steve returns as a rich career man.
Jefferson Milhouse D'Arcy (Ted McGinley) is Marcy's second husband (original age unknown, but younger than Marcy; one episode mentioned that he celebrated his 40th birthday), a "pretty boy" who marries her for her money. Self-centered and lazy, he is a male equivalent of Peggy. Marcy met Jefferson after a bankers' convention when she got drunk, and found herself married to him the next morning; she was horrified to find out that her name was now Marcy D'Arcy (Episode 92, "Married...With Who?"). He is Al's closest friend, and often angers Marcy when he is bonding with him; unlike Steve who was more of a foil, or straight man, to Al, Jefferson tends to be very encouraging and attuned to Al's behavior. Marcy constantly bosses Jefferson around to keep him in check. However, behind her back Jefferson often insults Marcy and ignores her orders. When Marcy's favorite squirrel Zippy dies, Jefferson tells her that he will give it a proper burial, only to punt it out of his sight when Marcy turns around.
Jefferson is a member of "NO MA'AM" along with Al, wearing the trademark t-shirt, but he always keeps a clean "YES MA'AM" t-shirt on underneath, which he quickly reveals if Marcy is about to bust one of "NO MA'AM"'s activities. He seems very afraid of provoking his wife's anger, and his fear is justified—in one episode, after he angered Marcy, she kicked him in the behind so hard he had to go to the hospital to get her boot removed from his rectum. But in spite of his fear of her wrath, he constantly engages in activities that he surely knows she would not approve of.
Marcy constantly hounds Jefferson to get a job. However, on the rare occasions when he actually gets one (working at the shoe store, being cast as an actor in a commercial, working as a bartender, working as an aerobics instructor, working at an auto repair shop in some menial position, etc.), he usually ends up working with beautiful women, which prompts a jealous Marcy to make him quit and return to his de facto job as her gigolo. This tendency runs in the D'Arcy family, as Jefferson's father also worked as a gigolo, and his mother worked as an exotic dancer before she was eaten by her snake at an airport. Jefferson and Steve don't like each other for personal reasons, stemming from "The Egg & I".
He is easily the most financially scheming character of the show—even more than the Bundys. Often, when Al stumbles into a unique lucrative opportunity, Jefferson typically persuades Al to take advantage of it. When Al was robbed in his shoe store, Jefferson convinced him to sue the mall while feigning psychological trauma. When Al discovered hidden shoes that he stocked away in the 1970s, Jefferson convinced him to use the shoes as a new gimmick for the store by taking advantage of the old shoes' popularity. When discovering Al's boss, Gary, was using illegal sweatshops to manufacture the shoes, Jefferson assists Al in a search for incriminating evidence. When Bud was involved in a romantic relationship with the (surprising to the characters) female Gary (played by Janet Carroll), Jefferson convinced Al to permit the relationship, so Al can milk Gary out of her money through his son. After discovering that they were in possession of private pictures of Shannon Tweed in sexually provocative manners, Jefferson convinced Al to sell it to the media. During a rare time in which Al is struck with good luck, Jefferson persuades him into a high stakes poker game with a group of ex-criminals. Jefferson also convinced Al to go home to have sex with his wife, so Al could win a radio contest.
During the course of the series, it is revealed that Jefferson spent time in prison for selling contaminated land as a vacation spot to several people, including Al. He also used to be in the CIA and still has connections there. For example, he was able to go to Cuba and meet Fidel Castro to get a part for Al's Dodge and got NO MA'AM a meeting in front of Congress about the cancellation of "Psycho Dad". In one episode that aired in 1994 ("The D'Arcy Files") a man approaches Al in his shoe shop to inform him that Jefferson was in fact an ex-spy, and offers Al a hefty reward for turning him in (which he doesn't take). After Jefferson tells Al it was all a practical joke, he says: "If I were really a spy, I wouldn't have to worry about you turning me in; I could just have the guy whacked." Moments later, an announcer on a baseball game in the background screams that the man in question just fell out of his booster box. Jefferson looks menacingly at the camera just before the credits roll.
Occasionally, people claim to have seen him on The Love Boat and Happy Days (a reference to McGinley having starred in both shows towards the end of their original broadcast runs), but Jefferson always denies this.
Ted McGinley had appeared previously as Peggy's husband, Mr. Norman Jablonski, in the second part of It's a Bundyful Life, where Al's guardian angel (Sam Kinison) shows Al what his family would have become if he was never born. The episode lightly parodies Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.
Buck (played by Michael, trained by Steven Ritt) was the first family dog, a Briard. Voice-over by writer/producer Kevin Curran, who appeared briefly onscreen during the end sequence of the sixth season episode "Psychic Avengers" where Buck is turned into a human. In some episodes, Buck is voiced by Cheech Marin. From season eight on, Buck's voice was provided by staff member Kim Weiskopf. He is often "heard" by the audience through voice-overs that tell what is on his mind. Like the human Bundys, he is just as lazy, insulting and sarcastic to the rest of the family, making snide remarks about Kelly's intelligence and Bud's inability to find a date. In spite of this, Peggy dotes on him, sometimes even cooking for him. Though extremely lazy, Buck has a huge, insatiable sexual appetite, having at one point impregnated all the female dogs in the neighborhood.
Buck died at one point in the series to allow Michael, the dog that portrayed him, to retire.Buck went to animal heaven, and was reincarnated as Lucky, an American Cocker Spaniel. In later seasons, Buck/Lucky would occasionally serve as the narrator in the second half of a two-part episode, recapping the events of the first part.
Buck's last episode, No. 10/03 "Requiem for a Dead Briard" ends with the following message on the screen: "Dedicated to Buck the Dog who with this episode begins a well earned retirement and hopefully a nice gig at stud. We'll miss you, Buddy, lift a leg. - The Producers."
Retired at the age of twelve-and-a-half, Michael died at the age of 13 later on May 28, 1996 right after he retired.
A character whose voice-overs were performed by staff member Kim Weiskopf, Lucky is the reincarnation of Buck, who was punished in the afterlife for being a bad dog his entire life by being forced to spend another lifetime as the Bundy's family dog. Miraculously appearing out of thin air in the Bundy's living room shortly after Buck's death, the family is happy to have a new family pet, although Lucky is horrified that he has to spend yet another lifetime with the terrible family. Lucky is a Cocker Spaniel.
Unlike his last incarnation Buck who was heterosexual, Lucky himself is gay having on two occasions been attracted to males once to a dog that wore a leather jacket and spikes that he met at a park and other to Jefferson when he was in a wool sheep costume. Lucky also dismissed a female dog when he was set up on a date with her.
- Peggy's mother, heard only in voice-overs by Kathleen Freeman and ground-shaking gags (making her an unseen character), she lives with the Bundys in Season 10, when she separates from Peggy's father. There are vague and comical references to her gigantic weight, which is alleged to be more than 1,000 pounds. This woman is mostly the victim of Al's abrasive, behind-the-back insults.
- Ephraim Wanker, Peggy's father, was played by Tim Conway, appearing occasionally in the last three seasons. He calls Peggy by her full name, "Margaret". Unlike many other sitcoms with the father-in-law usually disapproving of the husband who married his daughter, Peggy's father approves of Al so much that he held a gun to Al's head to force him to follow through on the marriage. Al had drunkenly proposed to Peggy, although Ephraim implied in "The Joke's on Al" that the gun was not loaded at the time. Ephraim, like his wife, was set to be played by Divine, who died before production.
- The Wankers – Peggy's family, living in Wanker County ("The home of the big gassy possum"), a fictional Wisconsin county. They are more often mentioned than seen on camera. Other extended family members who have appeared on the show include Uncle Otto (James "Gypsy" Haake), Uncle Irwin (King Kong Bundy), the Wanker Triplets (Milly de Rubio, Elena de Rubio, Eadie de Rubio), Cousin Possum Boy (John Gerard), Cousin Effie (Joey Lauren Adams), Cousin Eb (William Sanderson), Cousin Zemus (Bobcat Goldthwait) and his wife Cousin Ida Mae (Linda Blair), along with their six-and-a-half-year-old son, Seven (Shane Sweet). When Peggy hears Al encouraging Kelly to get a job, she mentions a tradition of the female Wankers of having men being buried earlier for having to keep them.
Members of NO MA'AM/Al's friends
- Griff (Harold Sylvester) – First appears early in Season 9, and is a friend and coworker of Al at the shoe store. He is also a member of Al's "NO MA'AM" organization. A divorcee, he shares many of Al's characteristics as far as work ethic and views on women go. However, Griff is not quite as impolite and outspoken to their customers, or to their boss, Gary. He is also less callous; occasionally he feels uneasy when going along with one of Al or Jefferson's many schemes. Griff drives a GEO Metro with vanity plates reading 'PO BOY', and is often mocked for this. However, Griff is happy because it is still more reliable than Al's 1970s Dodge (and is easier to push uphill), though Griff did mention a fond memory of being a passenger in the Dodge, while he and Al tried to run over Griff's ex-wife (she was able to outrun the Dodge). Griff's first appearance was in the episode "Naughty But Niece" when Bud goes to the shoe store to study for a college scholarship, he first meets Griff who introduces himself claiming that Al recently hired him, and Bud says Al never mentioned having a co-worker, and Griff says that Al never mentioned having a son, a daughter, or a living wife, but had already annoyed him with all the times he mentioned scoring four touchdowns in one football game for Polk High.
- Bob Rooney (E. E. Bell) – One of Al's friends from the neighborhood, and treasurer of "NO MA'AM." He works as a butcher, has a wife named Louise (who is a friend of Peggy), and played on the same football team as Al at Polk High. He is always called by both his first and last name, even by his wife, and it is spelled as one word on his bowling shirt.
- Officer Dan (Dan Tullis, Jr.) – A friend of Al's who is also in "NO MA'AM" and works full-time as a Chicago uniformed police officer. Surprisingly, though he is part of "NO MA'AM," he often arrests them for their illegal antics. However, he does admit to his friends that he is a corrupt officer, which indicates he does help out the group now and then. In one of the times he was about to arrest them, he changes his mind and joins them when he learns they're trying to bring back "Psycho Dad". Though he was usually a cop, in season 6 Officer Dan arrives at the Bundy front door as an FBI agent looking for Steve Rhoades.
- Ike (Tom McCleister) – Another member of "NO MA'AM" and another friend of Al's. He is the Sergeant at Arms of the organization. He works as an auto mechanic and has a wife named Frannie (also a friend of Peggy's). Somewhat insecure, he believes Elvis is still alive. The character was named after producer Kim Weiskopf's best friends's son.
- Barney (Steve Susskind) – A friend of Al's who appeared as early as Episode 8 ("The Poker Game") and occasionally thereafter, up until the foundation of "NO MA'AM." Steve Susskind made one subsequent appearance in the 8th season (as Stan) in "The Legend of Ironhead Haynes."
Al's co-workers at Gary's Shoes
- Gary Paterson (Geoffrey Scott) First and only appearance of the character of Gary portrayed as a male. He appeared on the episode Where's the Boss? 06/21/87. However, at the end of the episode, it is shown he is not really the owner of the shoe store, but rather a friend of Al's bribed to pretend to be him. Although mentioned throughout the series, it was not until Season 9 that the character Gary returned as a woman (Janet Carroll).
- Gary (Janet Carroll) is the owner of Gary's Shoes and employer of Al. Gary's first appearance in the series came in Season 9 after Al turned her women's shoe store into a men's, assuming Gary was male and therefore would not notice (Al never saw Gary in the first twenty years he worked in the store, leading him once to doubt that Gary really existed). Gary is incredibly wealthy (she would have been in the Forbes 400, but only reached #401 because of the shoe store—her only failing business venture). In the first appearance she said she owns, among other things, men, prompting Al to offer himself; she then points out that she said "men." Over the course of the series she makes several more appearances, always to the chagrin of Al. In one episode, Al discovers that Gary gets her shoes manufactured through a sweatshop within the city. Al tries to expose Gary but was unsuccessful. In another episode, Gary briefly dated Bud.
- Luke Ventura (Ritch Shydner) – A coworker at the shoe store early in the series in Season 1. He was a sly womanizer who was always seducing beautiful women and stealing Al's sales. Peggy hated him while Al tolerated him. He disappears from the show after the first season, but is mentioned again in the ninth season episode "Pump Fiction," when Al learns from the shoe industry publication "Shoe News" that Luke is being given an award. Though he was portrayed to be a friend of Al's in the beginning of the series, after his disappearance, he had been spoken of as if he had since become Al's rival.
- Aaron Mitchell (Hill Harper) – The second coworker of Al's at the shoe store. A young football star at Polk High, he is on the verge of marrying a wonderful woman and going to college, achieving everything that Al ever wanted. Al chooses to live his life vicariously through Aaron, until his misguided advice accidentally drives the boy to a shrewish woman named "Meg" (a young copy of Peg) and the same dismal fate which had befallen Al. Aaron appeared only in the eighth season (5 episodes).
- Dexter (Chi McBride) – He was the third coworker with Al in Gary's Shoes who appeared in one episode. He was injured and almost killed when a fat woman fell on him during a shoe fitting.
Other recurring characters
- Miranda Veracruz de la Jolla Cardenal (Teresa Parente) – Latina local news reporter originally from Ecuador who is typically assigned to cover the pathetic news stories in which the Bundys inevitably involve themselves. She often laments the sad state of her career on air.
- Vinnie Verducci (Matt LeBlanc) – One of Kelly's boyfriends and the son of one of Al's buddies, Vinnie costs Al his prized television set in a fight, but makes it up to him by consenting to his father's scheme to crash high society and bag a rich wife. He also invests in and briefly appears on Kelly's public-access talk show. The character appears in the short-lived Married... spinoffs titled Top of the Heap and Vinnie & Bobby.
- Ariel (Jennifer Lyons) – One of Bud's love interests who appeared in Seasons 9 and 10. She is the quintessential dumb blonde, sporting blonde hair, large breasts, skimpy outfits and a high-pitched voice. She is not very smart and Bud is constantly thinking of new ways to con her into having sex with him.
- Psycho Dad (Andrew Prine) – A fictitious character and television show on Fox, that Al and the members of "NO MA'AM" (except for Griff) idolize. The show was abruptly cancelled after complaints from women's group due to its high content of violence. "NO MA'AM" went to Washington D.C. to have Psycho Dad put back on the air but were unsuccessful.
- Shoe Woman (Mary-Pat Green): A recurring character who has a masculine appearance. Though only in a handful of episodes, this character is well known for her phrase, "I need shoes!". In season nine we find out that she works at the bowling alley Al and his friends go to on a Thursday, making a humorous variation of her catchphrase, "You need shoes!", to a barefoot Al. The catchphase is said in a fast-paced, masculine voice. The same actress appears in the episode "Kelly Knows Something" as "Max", another game show contestant.
- Miss Hardaway (Beverly Archer) is a counselor at Bud's college who has a rather creepy infatuation with him. She first appears as the founder of a virgin hotline (1-800-ZIPP-UP) who hires Bud as a counselor. Later she is the school librarian, who spies on Bud and catches him masturbating in a private study room.
- Amber (Juliet Tablak) is Marcy's niece who appeared in Season 9. Amber's mother sent her to live with Marcy to get her out of her bad Los Angeles neighborhood. Bud managed to bed her on their first encounter (and presumably more so in the following week) and tries relentlessly to bed her again, but to no avail. After Season 9, Amber disappears without explanation. However, she does appear to demonstrate an attraction to Bud (remarking to Kelly in private that she thinks he is cute). Bud may have simply lost his attraction towards her when she destroyed his cyber sex simulators of her in the episode, "User Friendly". Only appears in 4 episodes.
- Seven (Shane Sweet) Peggy's cousins (played by Bobcat Goldthwait and Linda Blair) drop off their six-year-old son and leave him behind for the Bundys to take care of. His parents explain that his name comes from the fact that they had "one, two, three, four, five, seven kids." He appeared on the seventh season of Married... with Children in a handful of episodes, then disappeared without any explanation other than a quick mention by the D'Arcys, who claim that he has turned up in their house and will not leave. They consider renaming him, and possibly begin taking care of him, but that's the last time he is mentioned by another character. He was an extremely unpopular character with the fans. The only other allusions to Seven in the series include a Season 8 episode where Kelly, cramming for a quiz-show appearance, forgets about Seven (among other things) once her brain is full. The final reference is a scene where a carton of milk is held up at the Bundys' breakfast table and a picture of Seven is shown on the carton under the heading "Missing," but the Bundys do not seem to notice, or care. This moment was ranked 73rd in TV Guide and TV Land's The 100 Most Unexpected TV Moments.
- Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) appears in just one episode ("Requiem for a Dead Briard," Season 10) to conduct a seance for the Bundys' "dear" departed pet Buck.