‘Married With Children’ Pilot Featured Different Actors Playing Kelly and Bud Bundy

Nostalgic television is definitely having a moment. With the many streaming options available to entertainment consumers, there is plenty of space on the airwaves to fill. At the same time, people who grew up with sitcoms from the 1980s and 1990s are hitting an age where these connections to childhood offer a particular kind of escapism and joy, so there’s a huge push for this kind of throwback.

We see it in reboots of classics like Fuller House as well as new shows that have a veneer from the era like Stranger Things. One of these throwback series is Married with Children.

The sitcom pushed the envelope with its crass portrayal of an everyday family without any pretense of the perfect home life. Fans of the show might be surprised to know that two of the characters were originally portrayed by different actors. 

‘Married with Children’ premiered in 1987

Married with Children premiered in 1987 and was immediately notable for its irreverence. The series revolved around Al Bundy, a middle-aged shoe salesman who is perpetually unhappy about the state of his life and his failed attempts to better it.

He is married to Peggy, who is portrayed as stunningly attractive but incredibly lazy and selfish. The pair have two teenage children: Kelly and Bud.

Kelly is portrayed to be fashionable but not particularly smart. She makes up for her lack of wits with a thriving social life. Meanwhile, Bud is a dysfunctional teen who thinks of himself as a ladies’ man but can’t quite get it together. 

Much like Roseanne, which premiered around the same time, the show threw out the typical picture perfect family that was traditionally portrayed in sitcoms and instead leaned into the irreverence of a dysfunctional home life. The family bickers and schemes, and viewers would be hard-pressed to find a heartwarming life lesson to take away at the end of the episode.

While plenty of viewers were pleased with the change in direction, others were shocked by the show’s profanity and sexual innuendo. 

Controversy surrounded ‘Married with Children’

Some viewers were so offended by the show’s treatment of family life that they called for a boycott. Terry Rakolta led the charge against the series in the late 1980s and told The New York Times that she was aiming her frustration at the advertisers who were ultimately bolstering the show: “They’re taking my dollars and putting them into soft-core pornography.” 

Al and Peggy were certainly the central draw of the show as a whole. Al was portrayed by Ed O’Neill, and Peggy was played by Katey Sagal. Both actors remained in their roles for the show’s entire 11-season run.

Once the show went off the air in 1997, O’Neill went on to other roles and tried to make it in film, but he struggled to shake the association with Al Bundy. Sagal primarily remained in television and had successful appearances in shows like Lost, Sons of Anarchy, and Shameless

‘Married with Children’ started out with a different cast

Actors David Faustino and Christina Applegate attend a premiere.
Actors David Faustino and Christina Applegate co-starred on Married With Children. | Jason Kempin/Getty Images

O’Neill and Sagal were largely defined by their iconic roles as Al and Peggy on Married with Children, but the actors who played their children became equally recognizable over the show’s long run.

Kelly was portrayed by Christina Applegate, who would go on to have a successful career in film and television. Bud was played by David Faustino, who has primarily done voice work since leaving the show.

As Mental Floss explains, however, these two actors were not cast in the original pilot for the series. Kelly was originally portrayed by Tina Caspary. Bud was initially played by Hunter Carson.

The pilot was unaired, so fans were none the wiser about the switch in casting. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine how the series might have gone if they hadn’t changed it up at the last minute.

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