Ed O’Neill is one of the most recognizable and respected actors on the small screen, to say nothing of his theatrical successes, though the characters he portrays aren’t always cut from the same cloth. His Al Bundy, for instance, is the beloved patriarch fronting one of TV’s most offensive shows, but Married with Children fans apparently have a pretty specific way of wording their appreciation for the football-minded shoe salesman.
While speaking with his former Modern Family co-star Jesse Tyler Ferguson on the latter’s podcast Dinner’s On Me, O’Neill reflected on various career highs, with Married with Children understandably taking up a chunk of the convo. The actor pointed out that despite the series surviving eleven seasons (available with a Hulu subscription) while maintaining its fanbase in the 25 years since it ended, fans are still unwilling to see themselves in Al Bundy. Here’s how he put it:
It was also the kind of show that nobody liked to admit that they liked. For example, you do 260 shows, you run into a lot of people and they’ll tell you if they liked the show. If they didn’t, they usually don’t even come around. If they like it, they would say, ‘You know, you remind me of my brother.’ ‘You remind me of my uncle.’ ‘You remind me of my father.’ ‘My best friend.’ Never them. I never once heard, ‘You remind me of me.’ [Laughs.]
To be fair, almost any self-comparison to Al Bundy would require immediate contextualization and deflection. The character is known for engaging in patently abhorrent behavior, usually at the expense of feminism and good parenting, and people usually aren’t so quick to refer to themselves as crappy husbands and fathers, regardless of how fitting such descriptions may be.
And when meeting a major celebrity like Ed O’Neill, it probably isn’t an ideal time to confess how much one enjoys sticking their hand partway down their pants while watching TV, or how much they share in Al’s fascination with looking at other women’s naked bodies instead of their own wives. Not exactly the best first impression to make in such a situation.
For all that it was a ratings hit, Married with Children was the opposite of a critical darling, and that viewpoint was also present during awards season. Ed O'Neill certainly wasn't ignorant of that, and here's his rather pragmatic way of describing what feelings were about the show in those early years.
I mean, it was a success. But it wasn’t respected by my peers.
In listening to the podcast, it seems very much like Ed O'Neill is smiling through those words, as if to imply "wasn't respected by my peers" was the understatement of a lifetime. But maybe that's just me.
It’s unclear if we’ll ever get to see another series within the world of Married with Children, although plans for an animated spinoff are seemingly still alive even after co-star Christina Applegate’s struggles with MS that have forced her into semi-retirement. So keep those fingers crossed for more updates on that front in 2024.
Ed O’Neill, who spent as many seasons playing Al Bundy as he did portraying Modern Family’s Jay Pritchard alongside Jesse Tyler Ferguson and the Emmy-winning comedy’s ensemble cast. His next TV gig is FX’s The Sterling Affairs, for which he’ll play the notorious former L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling opposite Laurence Fishburne as Doc Rivers.
Head to our 2024 TV premiere schedule to see what other new and returning shows are on the way with characters nowhere near as lovingly reprehensible as the Bundy family.