FOX’s first major success story Married with Children ran for 11 seasons, only to not even receive a true series finale. Rude, crude, and proud of it , Married with Children stood in stark contrast to the other family sitcoms that filled the TV landscape of the 1980s, usually espousing wholesome and heartwarming morals. This rebellious spirit perfectly fit the newly created FOX network, which is now firmly entrenched in the TV establishment but upon its 1987 debut, was seen as an upstart entrant into the broadcast TV game.
Married with Children would go on to become an iconic entry in sitcom history, turning its central Bundy family into legends, especially patriarch Al, played by Modern Family star Ed O’Neill. Al was, to put it nicely, a total loser, working a job he despised, trapped in a marriage he constantly complained about, and burdened with two children that often seemed to only see him as a living ATM – on the few occasions Ed O’Neill’s Al actually had extra money. While this was certainly an exaggerated and pessimistic portrayal of the average American life, it still resonated with millions.
As big a hit as Married with Children was and as much as it did to establish FOX as a network, one might think it would’ve deserved the royal treatment on its way out. Yet, that’s actually not the case, as after eleven years Married with Children ended with a whimper, not even receiving a proper series finale.
Why Married With Children Ended Without A Real Final Episode
By the time season 11 rolled around, Married with Children was a true elder statesman of TV comedy, and one of the longest-running shows on FOX, alongside The Simpsons. As one might imagine the thought of winding down the show had been discussed, including the idea that season 12 would happen and become the official final season. Married with Children’s ratings had also been slipping steadily since its season 6 peak, although they were still respectable enough. The problem is most long-running shows tend to give the main cast and producers hefty raises as they go on, making continuing further an expensive proposition.
Still, as far as anyone involved with Married with Children knew, a season 12 was all but assured. Thus, there was no attempt made to write an episode worthy of closing out the Bundy family saga and the final episode to air, “Chicago Shoe Exchange,” was a standard installment. The previously aired two-parter, “The Desperate Half-Hour”/”How to Marry a Moron,” was the intended season finale and saw Kelly (Christina Applegate) almost wed, but still wasn’t written to end the show.
In a sad turn of events, FOX waited until nearly the last possible minute to cancel Married with Children, absolutely blindsiding the cast and crew, many of whom learned about the decision from friends and fans who saw it reported in the news. Star Ed O’Neill later pitched the idea to FOX executives of a finale special in which the Bundys win the lottery, only for their house to be demolished by a tornado, but nothing came of it. It’s highly likely that had Married with Children’s cancellation occurred in the social media age, the deafening levels of viewer backlash would’ve gotten FOX to at least greenlight a finale. Sadly, nearly 25 years later, it looks the Bundys won’t ever get a last hurrah.