MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN:
I said it before and I will absolutely say it again, MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN remains one of the funniest sitcoms to ever air on television. MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN is representative of lowbrow comedy at its best, which is why I love every crude, tasteless and politically incorrect moment of this now classic sitcom. As someone who has watched every episode of MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN more times than I can remember, I am still proud to say that I canít get enough of the show and continue to laugh hysterically at every punch line and sight gag- even though I have them all completely memorized.
The thing that brings me back to MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN time and again is its perfect cast- a troupe of gifted actors that have brought to life the most dysfunctional of all sitcom families. As always, I must heap the lionís share of credit onto the shoulders of Ed O'Neill- who makes that constant loser and otherwise all around everyman Al Bundy one of the most memorable husbands and fathers in the history of sitcoms. O'Neill never went out of his way for the laugh or defined the character in broad strokes; instead, he played Al Bundy as straight as one could, which succeeded in getting the really big laughs. Additionally, O'Neill always brought a level of sincerity to his performance, which made the absurdity of Al Bundy, not to mention the manís cartoon predicaments even more hilarious. Another thing that made MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN a standout sitcom, was the fact that the series was chock full of social commentary. MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN went to extremes to depict the way things really are, as opposed to the way people think they out to be. In fact, the more absurd and outrageous the situations became during the course of the series, the more they seemed to mirror real life.
The basic premise of MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN follows the hapless exploits of Al Bundy, whose dead-end job as a ladies shoes salesman is the neon sign in his life that flashes the message that Al's glory days of scoring four touchdowns in a single game of high school football are long behind him. Al's home life isn't too much better than his job, with his horny, couch potato of a wife Peggy (Katey Sagal) being the biggest millstone around our poor shoe salesmanís neck. Smaller millstones come in the form of Al's offspring. Al's daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate) is a blond airhead/bimbo, whose skirtís hemlines seemed to get higher, in direct correlation to her IQ getting lower. As for Al's romantically deprived son Bud (David Faustino), he seems to be the only member of the Bundy clan with enough brains to make something of himself, that is, if he doesn't allow his raging hormones and sexual frustration get the better of him. Adding insult to injury is Al's next-door neighbor Marcy D'Arcy (Amanda Bearse), who tries to be a burr in Al's side at every opportunity- the verbal exchanges between Al and Marcie are always good for a few laughs, if not outright hilarity. Finally, we come to Marcy's husband Jefferson D'Arcy (Ted McGinley), whose only jobs seem to be looking good and servicing Marcy in the bedroom.
MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN: THE COMPLETE NINTH SEASON ($40) comes in a three-disc set that features the following twenty-eight episodes: Shoeway To Heaven, Driving Mr. Boondy, Kelly Breaks Out, Naughty But Niece, Business Sucks, Business Still Sucks, Dial "B" For Virgin, Sleepless In Chicago, No Pot To Pease In, Dud Bowl, A Man For No Seasons, I Want My Psycho Dad Part 1, I Want My Psycho Dad Part 2, The Naked And The Dead, But Mostly The Naked, Kelly Takes A Shot, Get The Dodge Outta Hell, Best Of Bundy, 25 Years And What Do You Get?, Ship Happens Part 1, Ship Happens Part 2, Something Larry This Way Comes, And Bingo Was Her Game-O, User Friendly, Pump Fiction, My Favorite Married, Radio Free Trumaine, Shoeless Al and The Undergraduate. Highlights of season nine include Al loosing his driverís license. Bud starting a romance with Marcyís niece. NO MAíAM taking on Marcy on the subject of breastfeeding in public. NO MAíAM leadís the charge, when Alís favorite TV show is cancelled. The Dodge disappears at a car wash. The Bundys and D'Arcys go take a sea cruise. Al and Kelly make a film.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made all the episodes that comprise MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN: THE COMPLETE NINETH SEASON available on DVD in the proper full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts. Shot on NTSC video during the 1990s, the image quality of this collection is on par with what we have seen in previous seasons on DVD. Sure, the shows look better than they do over the air in syndicated reruns, but the DVD canít overcome the limitations of its videotape origins. There is a decent level of definition, but the picture can appear slightly fuzzy in anything beyond a close up. Colors generally look good for videotape, but highly saturated hues can become a little unstable. Blacks and whites are okay. The sitcom lighting is flat and the contrast displays the limitations of NTSC broadcast video. Digital compression artifacts remain under the radar, even with twenty-eight episodes shoehorned onto three dual layered discs.
MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN: THE COMPLETE NINTH SEASON arrives on DVD with Dolby Digital 2.0 channel surround stereo soundtracks. This is more of the sameÖ reasonably competent audio that gets the job doneÖ without bells or whistles. As expected, the sound remains pretty much front and center. Fidelity is decent for the generic music that continues to replace the series original theme song. Dialogue easy to understand and laugh at. No other language tracks are present, although English captions have been included. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard episode selection and set up features. Supplements include two abbreviated Minisodes, which I think may become the new syndication standard bearer- three-minute episodes with twenty-seven minutes of commercials.
No surprise hereÖ I love MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN- and love having the option to laugh at the Bundys without commercial distractions. The shows in this collection look as good as they possibly can. Of course, fans will want to add MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN: THE COMPLETE NINTH SEASON to their collections. Recommended.
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