Today, we look at when (or if) you folks believe that Married…with Children “jumped the shark.”
This is “Just Can’t Jump It,” a feature where we examine shows and whether they “jumped the shark.” Jumped the shark (coined by Jon Hein) means that the show had a specific point in time where, in retrospect, you realize that show was going downhill from there (even if, in some rare occasions, the show later course-corrected). Not every show DOES jump the shark. Some shows just remain good all the way through. And some shows are terrible all the way through. What we’re looking for are moments where a show that you otherwise enjoyed hit a point where it took a noticeable nose dive after that time and if so, what moment was that?
Married…with Children was an extremely long-running sitcom about a dysfunctional family in the suburbs of Chicago. It was one of the first successful shows on Fox, and quickly became a hallmark of the channel, running for ELEVEN seasons. The cast is remarkable in that three of the four family members on the show have become highly acclaimed, award-winning actors, and yet the show itself was notable for just how DUMB it was. However, the fact of the matter is that when you’re setting out to do a dumb show, I wouldn’t call if jumping the shark to say that you achieved your goal. Married…with Children was not good television, but nor was it awful. It’s really amazing how long it stayed at a basically decent level of quality. Again, though, having three outstanding actors (Ed O’Neill as Al Bundy, the patriarch of the family, Katey Sagal as Peggy Bundy, Al’s wife and the mother of the two kids, Christina Applegate as Kelly Bundy, the airheaded oldest child and David Faustino as Bud Bundy, who was also on the show) helped a LOT.
So first…DID IT JUMP THE SHARK? I’d say so, yes.
WHEN DID IT JUMP THE SHARK Okay, there are a number of tricky things in this question. First off, again, I get it, the show was never particularly great, so if you wanted to say “Jumped at episode one,” then that’s an option. I’d disagree, but it’s an option. The show was originally a bit more true to life when it started, and the Bundy’s neighbors were Steve and Marcy Rhoades (David Garrison and Amanda Bearse). After four seasons, Garrison left the show and Marcy remarried to Jefferson Darcy (thus making her Marcy D’Arcy), played by Ted McGinley. Some people like to point to that as the shark jumping moment, because that’s about the time the show started getting sillier, but come on, it obviously was not the shark-jumping moment. The show was very well-equipped to become more cartoonish, as the characters all WERE cartoonish, even when they were more down to Earth. So it totally worked. Even if you preferred Garrison to Jefferson, Jefferson was fine (he and Al became best friends, opening up a new dynamic for the show, as Al and Steve tended to be more at odds with each other). A possibility is Season 7, when the Bundys sort of “adopt” Seven, a new cute kid. He was an AWFUL addition, but I think it is safe to say that the show KNEW that and quickly adjusted to the problem, dropping him midway through the seventh season, and the show went back to normal, so I think they averted a shark-jump there. Season 9 saw the addition of Al’s friend and co-worker, Griff (Harold Sylvester), who was an excellent addition to the show, giving Al TWO friends, each with very different personalities.
However, I think Season 10 finally did it, with the family dog, Buck, dying early in the season, Peggy’s mother inexplicably moves in with the Bundys after leaving Peg’s father, and, of course, Peggy missing half the season looking for her dad because of Sagal’s real life pregnancy. Things began to fall apart, and Season 11 was then likely the worst of the series. So I think Season 10 is the shark-jumping moment. Maybe Peggy’s quest to find her dad specifically? It’s honestly surprising how much I almost would say the show never jumped at all.
Let me know what you think in the comments or on social media!
Feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com for suggestions for shows to do in future installments!