MARRIED . . . WITH CHILDREN [TV SERIES] – DVD review

Season Seven started with Seven–a five-year-old son of Peg’s Georgia trailer-park relations who’s abandoned at the Bundy’s. But then there were four. As quickly as Seven (Shane Sweet) came, he went, with no real explanation. Call it a blip on the Bundy radar screen, because the rest of this season is as irreverent and typical as all the rest. In fact, following several seasons where the writers seemed to be searching for new ideas (as they seemed to be in the first few episodes, when they brought in a kid), Season 7 of “Married with Children” actually comes up with some fun premises and some funny lines.

Oh, you’ll have to wade through the usual over-the-top nonsense and the wasted time spent listening to the audience hoot and holler and applaud every time a favorite character makes an entrance,

The biggest cheers come for the patriarch of this dysfunctional family: Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill), shoe salesman by day, dispenser of cash by night, and lover of women other than his wife . . . in his dreams. But every family member apparently has a following-people who can identify with them in some perverse way. With Peggy Bundy (Katey Sagal), is it the never-cook, hardly-clean housewife who lives to shop that’s an inspiration or alter-ego? And with teenaged son Bud (David Faustino), who knows he’s a nerd but just isn’t ready to admit it, does the character appeal to the taped-glasses set? Then, what about Kelly? Some of the biggest cheers are reserved for this classic “dumb blonde” (Christina Applegate) who, despite all her apparent sluttyness, is still a sweet girl somewhereunderneath that trashy façade.

Together, they’re the Bundys, a Chicago family that launched the Fox network with their anti-“Cosby Show” escapades. They were a shock to the TV-viewer’s system, when they first debuted. Years later, though, some of that shock had turned to schlock, with the same old tired gags recycled week after week. You still get some of that in Season 7, but thankfully there are truly funny moments as well.

Here’s the rundown on the 26 episodes, which are housed on three single-sided discs on a fold-out case that fits into a slipcase:

1) “Magnificent Seven”-Peg’s hillbilly relatives abandon their five-year-old son at the Bundy’s, leaving Al to try to find them . . . or else they have a new son. Despite the annoyance of the new kid, there are some funny bits.

2) “T R A Something Something Spells Tramp”-Kelly refuses to put out on a date and gets stranded 15 miles from Chicago, while Peg tries to “revive” Al for some Saturday night shenanigans. Some very funny moments.

3) “Every Bundy Has a Birthday”-New son Seven (yep, named for his birth order-sixth, daddy can’t count) doesn’t know his birthday, so Peg makes one up: Al’s. At a town park, the family’s celebration is ruined (and vice versa) by a snobbish family.

4) “Al on the Rocks”-Seven’s medical bills force Al to take on a second job: topless bartender.

5) “What I Did for Love”-Peg still tries to revive Al’s romantic interest, even using home-cooked meals as an incentive.

6) “Frat Chance”-In one of the funnier episodes, Bud starts his own community college fraternity in his garage so he can meet girls.

7) “The Chicago Wine Party”-Al talks the family into registering to vote so they can try to stop a new proposed tax on beer, and then becomes an activist when the bill passes.

8) “Kelly Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”-Al convinces Kelly to get a job, and she finds work waitressing at a burger joint.

9) “Rock of Ages”-Al wins a trip to Hawaii and poses as a has-been rock star to finagle first-class seating. Real Rockers Spencer Davis, Richie Havens, Robby Krieger, Mark Lindsay, Peter Noone, and John Sebastian appear, and convince Al to perform with them at a benefit. Funny episode.

10) “Death of a Shoe Salesman”-To save money, Al and Peg decide they’re going to be buried in the same casket.

11) “The Old College Try”-After his parents swipe his scholarship money, Bud is forced to forego the dorm and stay in the Bundy household.

12) “Christmas”-Al can’t find enough to fault his family, and feels obligated to buy them a present. That means taking on another job: as a department store Santa. Bad Santa!

13) “Wedding Show”-Cousin Jimmy’s wedding is the occasion for more Bundy mishaps. Everyone but Bud has a bummer of a time.

14) “It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This”-Al’s fishing trip is spoiled when Peg and Marcy show up.

15) “Heels on Wheels”-When Kelly buys a motorcycle, it’s Al who ends up in trouble after “borrowing” it.

16) “Mr. Empty Pants”-Peggy draws a cartoon that makes Al infamous.

17) “You Can’t Miss”-Funny episode has Bud appearing on a dating show for nerds.

18) “Peggy and the Pirates”-Dumb episode about Peg fantasizing after reading a romance novel.

19) “Go for the Old”-When a theatre cashier gives him the senior discount, Al starts to feel old.

20) “Unalful Entry”-Al confronts a burglar and becomes a local hero.

21) “Movie Show”-Things don’t go as planned when the Bundys take Kelly to a movie for her birthday. Oops.

22) “Til Death Do Us Part”-Peg’s jokes about Al’s lack of sexual prowess spills over to the beauty parlor, and Al becomes the neighborhood joke.

23) “Tis Time to Smell the Roses”-Peg spends Al’s early retirement money, forcing him to go back to work.

24) “The Old Insurance Dodge”-Al’s Dodge is stolen, and the Blue Book isn’t enough for him, so he “adds” a few items to the list of thinks missing.

25) “The Wedding Repercussions”-Jimmy learns that someone slept with his bride the day of the wedding, and Bud goes into hiding.

26) “The Proposition”-Al’s former girlfriend offers Peg half-a-mil to sleep with Al for one night. Will she do it?

Video:
The video quality is no great shakes, with a rough, slightly blurry picture that’s full of grain. You get used to it, but especially after HD you really notice a transfer like this. You have to watch two episodes before your eyes get used to it.

Audio:
The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0, but it doesn’t sound that much different from a vibrant Dolby Digital Mono. Again, nothing special here.

Extras:
There are no extras, unless you count “bonus previews.” Not!

Bottom Line:
“Married with Children” is like golf. There are just enough funny moments every season, crammed in among the not-so-funny and just-plain-dumb, to make you stick with it. Amid the clichés, the caricatures, and the running gags you’ve heard dozens of times before, there’s that occasional funny line or situation which, deep down, you wouldn’t want to miss . . . if, that is, this show is one of your guilty pleasures. For the rest, this show isn’t even going to be on the radar.

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