Married with Children was a controversial show from the beginning, but one particular “lost episode” was too much even for FOX, and here’s why. Due to changing societal views on what is or isn’t appropriate to do onscreen, many classic TV shows just couldn’t be made today. Their existence, at least in a form akin to their original one, would lead to lots of backlash, and possibly calls for cancellation. Premiering back in 1987 on the then-new FOX network, Married with Children is definitely one of those shows.
That’s not to say Married with Children has suddenly stopped being funny, or that the characters are any less memorable or sometimes relatable. It’s just that, like with many classic sitcoms, there were lots of jokes aimed at targets considered acceptable back then that are more evidently inappropriate now. In the case of Married with Children though, the adventures of patriarch Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill) and clan already drew plenty of backlash and offended many while it was still on the air.
With that in mind, it’s really not surprising that at some point Married with Children would push the envelope too far even for FOX, and produce an episode they didn’t want to air. That happened during season 3, but the decision was also influenced by several ancillary factors.
Why Married With Children’s “I’ll See You In Court” Didn’t Air On FOX
“I’ll See You in Court” was supposed to air as episode 10 of Married with Children season 3, with a planned air date of February 19, 1989. The episode’s plot saw Al and Peggy try to spice up their marriage by having sex in a new location, in this case a hotel called the Hop-On Inn. Despite the inviting name, the hotel isn’t trustworthy, as the Bundys discover a tape which turns out to be of their neighbors Steve and Marcy having sex, who had secretly been recorded when they were at the hotel. Al and Peggy find this funny until it turns out they were also recorded while in flagrante delicto. The two couples then take the hotel to court, looking to win a large monetary settlement.
As is clear from the plot outline, “I’ll See You in Court” has even more sexual jokes than the average episode of Married with Children, and while that might not have been enough to bother FOX normally, the “lost episode” came at an inopportune time. An activist named Terry Rakolta had very recently led an attempted sponsor boycott of the show due to the episode “Her Cups Runneth Over,” and while things would eventually settle down, at that point there were some sponsors that either left or lessened their participation. Leery of further backlash against the racy content of “I’ll See You in Court,” FOX demanded a host of changes to the dialogue, to the point where producers thought the episode had been hurt creatively. Even after that though, FOX decided not to air it at all.
Adding to the strain was another recent spat with FOX over the episode “The Camping Show,” formerly known as “A Period Piece,” which centered on Peggy, Kelly, and Marcy all getting their periods at the same time to the collective horror of Al, Steve, and Bud. “I’ll See You in Court” didn’t finally air on U.S. TV until 2002, in reruns on the FX cable channel. The full episode has also been included on various Married with Children DVD sets.