On This Day: ‘Married With Children’ Debuts on TV in 1987

Thirty-four years ago the Bundys made their debut in the first episode of Married With Children.

Married With Children followed high-school football start turned women’s shoe salesman, Al Bundy and his wife Peggy. They also followed the couple’s popular but dumb daughter Kelly and their smart but unpopular son Bud. The show was one of Fox’s first sitcoms. Additionally, with 259 episodes and 11 seasons, Married With Children became the network’s longest-lasting live-action sitcom.

How Did Ed O’Neil Land the Role of Al Bundy on Married With Children?

Most actors don’t receive calls from directors about casting opportunities until they’ve made a name for themselves in show business. But that wasn’t the case for Ed O’Neil. He actually received a call from the casting director of Married With Children a year after performing a play in New York. During an interview in 2016, O’Neil revealed the details behind how he landed the role of Al Bundy on Married With Children.

“A casting director from L.A. was visiting his aunt and went to the show. He liked the play, he liked me. A year later, they were casting for Married With Children and they couldn’t find a guy for Al Bundy,” said O’Neil.

So, the casting director pitched the idea of calling an actor he had seen in a play over a year ago in New York. Just a reminder: Ed O’Neil was a no-name actor at the time and the play he had acted in was a drama, not a comedy. So, the casting director’s co-workers thought he was crazy.

“They almost fired him,” said O’Neil. “And I happened to be out there at the time for a failed pilot. And they called me in. I was playing handball at the Hollywood Y. I showed up with my bag with the gloves hanging off of it.”

Ed O’Neil Based His Portrayal of Al Bundy on His Uncle Joe

O’Neil said that the key to him snagging the role in Married With Children came from his interpretation of Al Bundy’s emotions. O’Neil said that most actors had read Al as a loud, angry man. But O’Neil went in a different direction.

“I saw the guy as one of my uncles…My uncle Joe was like, resigned, life was going to be bad. My aunt, his wife would say, ‘Joe, I ran over the dog today in the driveway.’ And Joe would say, ‘What’s for dinner?’ So it was sort of like that. That was how I read it and they had not heard that interpretation. So, long story short, they thought that was funny,” said O’Neil.

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