Married... with Children was created by Ron Leavitt and Michael G. Moye, both veteran television writers and producers. Both of whom worked on The Jeffersons.
Leavitt said the show was his and Moye's "adolescent rebellion against all those shows where everyone sat together at the dinner table and got along and talked and hugged and solved the world's problems in 22 minutes. I would go nuts seeing that. That wasn't my memory of what it was like to eat with my family."
Who's that ridin' in the sun? Who's the man with the itchy gun? Who's the man who kills for fun? Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad! He's quick with a gun! But he loves his son! Killed his wife 'cause she weighed a ton! Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad!
A little touched, or so we're told! Killed his wife 'cause she had a cold! Might as well, she was gettin' old! Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad! He's quick with a gun! But his job ain't done! Killed three wives by 21! Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad!
Who's that ridin' in the sleigh? Who's that firin' along the way? Who's roughin' up bums on Christmas Day? Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad!
Fourth appearance — "The New Adventures of Psycho Dad" On Fox!:
Who's that tall dark stranger there? The one with the gun and the icy stare? The one with the scalp of his ex-wife's hair? Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad! He's a darn good pa! But he hates the law! Chopped up Reno to eat it raw! Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad!
Fifth appearance of lyrics (second to last appearance of the show itself):
Who's that ridin' across the plain? Who's lost count of the wives he's slain? Who's the man who is plum insane? Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad! Psycho Dad!
When 'Psycho Dad' got cancelled and Al asked who'd do that, Marcy showed up at his house to mock him with the following lyrics:
Who's the man whose show is gone? Whose TV hero is on the run? Who'll be watching VH1? Loser Al! Loser Al! Loser Al!
And its spinoff, Psycho Mom.
Who's the gal who needs no man? Killed him dead with a frying pan! Did it 'cause he missed the can! Psycho Mom! Psycho Mom! She's Psycho Mom!
Accidentally Accurate: The Board Game "Bottoms Up" shown in "Blonde and Blonder" actually does exist. However, it is not the Twister Expy that the Bundys and the D'arcys play.
In one episode, Jefferson is followed around by kids who think he was on Happy Days and The Love Boat. Ted McGinley was indeed on both of those shows (and is considered notorious for making those shows jump the shark).
As the show became more popular, this happened with guest stars, too, most notably during Gary Coleman's multiple appearances on the show. ("Watchu talkin bout, Bundy?")
In the episode in which Peg and Al get involved with a gay couple, the gay couple was played by Sam McMurray and Dan Castellaneta, who also portrayed a gay couple in a sketch on The Tracey Ullman Show.
During a flight, after Al is asked to put his shoes back on. Al answers back with "They show Dutch, and they say I stink?!" Ed O'Neil, who plays Al, starred in Dutch.
Al as a detective who wears a porkpie hat. Ed O'Neil appeared in the TV movie Popeye Doyle playing the titular, porkpie hat-wearing detective.
Banned Episode: The episode "I'll See You in Court" was banned by FOX in the light of moral guardians complaining about the show's content (it was about the Bundys and the Rhoades having sex in a hotel room where they're being videotaped). It finally premiered on FX in June 2002.
Creator Breakdown: After FOX executive Garth Ancier left, showrunners Michael G. Moye and Ron Levitt were left without an ally against the network censorship that increased in the wake of the Rakolta incident. As result, Moye who stated the fight during and afterwards had stressed him and Levitt to the point of health problems, took a leave of absence during the seventh season. When he returned for season 8, Ron Levitt had enough and found an out developing Unhappily Ever After for The WB. Moye eventually left the show and television altogether after season 10.
The Danza: Dan Tullis, Jr. played Officer Dan. Jerry Hall played Jerry Cherry, a stewardess, in Season 1.
Dueling Shows: Although rarely observed at the time, many fans have noticed the similarities between this show and Roseanne, which also featured a blue-collared, wisecracking, dysfunctional family set in the state of Illinois and also ended production in the same year, 1997. Although Roseanne earned more Emmys (usually at the expense of MWC), this show lasted longer and tends to be remembered more fondly.
Hide Your Pregnancy: Katey Sagal's first pregnancy was written into Season Six but had to be retconned as a dream after she miscarried. When Sagal subsequently became pregnant again, the writers had Peggy sitting down behind tables before eventually sending her off on trips and only make voice appearances or in brief inserts so that Sagal wouldn't be placed under undue stress.
Life Imitates Art: In one episode where Al is calling about a part for his Dodge, he gives so many responses to an interactive phone response system that the automated voice automatically knows who he is and addresses him by name. Nowadays, phone operators can easily know the name of the person who's calling without being prompted, based on the phone number they're calling from, or responses they've given to the automated response system.
Missing Episode: Season 3's episode "I'll See You in Court", where the Bundys and the Rhoades sue a motel for videotaping them during sex and using the surveillance footage as pornographic movies for other motel guests. It was pulled because of the backlash involving Terry Rakolta (a Michigan housewife who protested against the show because of the episode "Her Cups Runneth Over" because its bawdy jokes centered around a lingerie-cum-marital aid store), but premiered on the cable channel FX and was released on DVD twice — once on a collection of the show's "Most Outrageous" episodes, and again when the complete third season was released. On both occasions, "I'll See You in Court" was branded as a "Lost Episode."
The role of Pa Wanker was originally going to be played by Divine (as was Mrs. Wanker), but after Divine's tragic death, Tim Conway was cast.
Zigzagged with the family dog, Buck. On some episodes (such as the one where he brings home a white dog while Al tries to find the chef who created his favorite cheesecake), his thoughts are voiced by Cheech Marin. Other episodes have Buck's thoughts voiced by Kevin Curran (one of the writers on the show. Curran would later write for The Simpsons and be married to Helen Fielding, the writer of the book Bridget Jones' Diary). The season six episode in which The Bundys and Jefferson start a psychic hotline had Kevin Curran as a human version of Buck.
The Other Marty: The original pilot had different actors playing Bud and Kelly.
The writers had to quickly turn Peggy and Marcy's pregnancy arc into an extended dream sequence after Katey Sagal suffered a miscarriage. Peggy going off on extended trips in later seasons and only appearing in brief inserts was done because Sagal subsequently became pregnant two more times and the production team wanted to do everything they could to make sure she wasn't placed under any undue stress.
Buck the dog had to be killed off and replaced with Lucky because the Briard playing Buck had gotten so old and arthritic that simply climbing the set's stairs was too painful for him.
One episode in the final season guest starred Marcy's identical gay cousin "Mandy". The actress who played both characters (Amanda Bearse) is a lesbian in real life.
Buck dying and being reincarnated as Lucky had to be done because the Briard playing Buck was getting too old. Many of Buck's later appearances simply has him laying on the stairs because the dog was so arthritic that simply moving was painful.
Recycled Script: Season 5 episode "Weenie Tots and Other Lovers" is the exact same plot as the episode "The Godfather", which aired less than two months prior in the same season. Kelly and Bud both experience a good opportunity/good fortune (Kelly is a spokesmodel for a nationwide product and begins dating an alderman and Bud has an opportunity to go into space and meet the president, respectively). The Bundys decide Kelly's good luck is more interesting/profitable than Bud's and in essence, they screw him out of both chances. Everything is going their way until Kelly's own stupidity as well as Bud's sweeter-than-sweet and well-timed revenge ruins everything for her and Al and Peg.
First, there was the censors wanting to retitle an episode called "A Period Piece" (which focused on Peg, Kelly, and Marcy getting their periods simultaneously while Al, Bud, and Steve go fishing) into "The Camping Show", even though the show titles for "Married...With Children" were not shown onscreen (and not known at all until "Married...With Children" fan websites and cable guide summaries sprung up in the 1990s).
Then, there was the whole Terry Rakolta incident, which caused an episode that wasn't even that raunchy, but still had heavy sexual references ("I'll See You in Court") to be barred from viewing until FX aired the episode a decade later and the episode was released on DVD.
Perhaps the most egregious of all was how the series ended. You know that last episode where Kelly almost gets married to the man who held her family hostage? Well, despite looking like the perfect plot for the final episode of a dysfunctional family sitcom, it wasn't scheduled to be that way. After FOX spent all of Season 10 moving Married... with Children to different timeslots (and made worse by the fact that The Simpsons and In Living Color!, amongst other Fox shows, were gaining in popularity), the show suffered in the ratings so much that FOX decided to shut the show down after its 11th season. According to the E! True Hollywood Story about Married... with Children, the actors had a lot of different ideas for what the last episode should have been. Ed O'Neill thought that the Bundys should win the lottery right before a tornado ripped through the neighborhood and killed them. Christina Applegate built on this, saying that the Bundy house should have then landed on Marcy, a la The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Ted McGinley suggested the Bundys and Marcy dying or getting hurt in some horrible fashion and Jefferson ending up relaxing on the beach with bikini-clad babes all around him. The kicker to that is the fact that some of the actors didn't know the show was cancelled until they heard the news on a radio broadcast! In fact, Ed O'Neil only found out when he was on vacation and a couple staying in the same hotel expressed their sadness at hearing about the show's demise. He promptly bought them a bottle of champagne and has said that it was good that he learned of the show's end that way rather than from a studio exec.
Star-Making Role: Christina Applegate was able to build on her role as Kelly and make a successful career in Hollywood films. Even more so for Ed O'Neill, as anybody who knows his name knows him as Al Bundy.
Technology Marches On: The show is a product of the late 1980s into the 1990s, and it shows. Such as the episode where the family tries getting Al to upgrade from Betamax to VHS... and the one where the Bundys buy a computer with features that, these days, would be considered outdated and has Al dismissing computers as a useless fad (when these days, they're used for anything and everything and have vastly improved). There's also "Fox Viewing Positions", poking fun at the various weird things you used to have to do to pick up some broadcast TV stations using rabbit ear antennas, especially many early Fox affiliates, which tended to be placed higher up the dial in many markets; that ended with the Fox-New World deal of 1994; see Disaster Dominoes for more on that deal and its' wide-ranging effects. Ironically, in Chicago, where the series was set, Fox owned the station there, WFLD-32, which has been a long-time challenger to the legendary WGN.
Wag the Director: Towards the end of the show's run, Ed O'Neil had become the unofficial showrunner with everyone deferring to him when it came to story ideas. He was extremely protective and made sure that everyone in the cast had ample screen time.
The creators originally envisioned Sam Kinison in the role of Al Bundy, but was deemed too much of a risky move, given Kinison's incredibly vulgar stand-up routine. This was lampshaded by having Kinison play Al's guardian angel. This is another case of What Could Have Been: the character was supposed to be a recurring role, but Kinison was killed in a car crash five years into the series' run.
Roseanne Barr was also considered for the role of Peg Bundy. Roseanne did end up playing a sarcastic anti-housewife with a loser husband, but it would be her own show on a different channel.
Other than Ed O'Neill, the actor most strongly considered for the role was Michael Richards. His audition ultimately helped him land Kramer, as the same casting director remembered him.
Divine, best known for his drag work in the films of John Waters, was originally going to play Peggy's mother, but died in his sleep the night before shooting on the episode began. Out of respect (and because Peg's mom is said to be inhumanly obese), the writers rewrote Peg's mom's role so that way she's only heard and not seen.
The original title for the series was Not the Cosbys, as, at the time, The Cosby Show was popular for showing functional, loving families (and, most importantly, African-American families that were functional, loving, and middle-class) and Married...With Children was set up as the antithesis of this.
Ed O'Neill starred as Popeye Doyle, a Pilot Movie that was not picked up. Had it been picked up, the Al Bundy we know and love may never have come to be.
Ed O'Neill has stated that he had Michael Moye and Ron Leavitt lined up to return for season 12, and the show would have ended with a proper Grand Finale.