A sitcom about a frustrated shoe salesman, his sex-starved wife and their two underachieving kids: The working title for Married … with Children was Not the Cosbys. “We didn’t think we’d last past a few episodes,” says co-creator Ron Leavitt. But the series, which helped launch FOX’s first-ever prime-time schedule in 1987, soon became the network’s No. 1 show and lasted 11 seasons—thanks in part to an uproar over the series’ salty language, skimpy outfits and steamy plotlines.
CATCHING UP WITH THE CAST
After playing Al’s easy teenage daughter since she was 15, the actress, 35, went on to star in her own sitcom (Jesse) and such movies as The Sweetest Thing and Anchorman. Divorced from actor Johnathon Schaech since last year, she will return to TV this fall with a new comedy on ABC called Sam I Am.
“There were huge belly laughs every day,” says Sagal, 53, who lives in L.A. with her husband, The Shield executive producer Kurt Sutter, and her three kids, and still keeps in touch with most of the cast. Since Married ended, she’s done voice work on Futurama (she plays Leela) and starred in 8 Simple Rules.
His mark on the set? “There’s some interesting graffiti on the wall at the top of the Bundy stairs,” says Faustino, 33. Split from actress Andrea Elmer Faustino since 2006, he coproduced an indie comedy called RoboDoc, due later this year. Meanwhile, he’s pleaded not guilty to a marijuana possession charge after a May arrest.
“We didn’t set out to make a social statement; it was just meant to be funny,” says Bearse, 48, who made her own statement in ’93, when she came out as one of TV’s few openly gay stars. She now directs the Logo network’s Big Gay Sketch Show and lives in Atlanta with daughter Zoë, 14.
He’d never done comedy before, but O’Neill, 61, who has said the character reminded him of his own uncle Joe, “was so hilarious,” says Faustino. O’Neill, who has two young daughters with his wife, actress Catherine Rusoff, lives in L.A. and is now costarring on the HBO drama John from Cincinnati.
SECRETS OF TV’S MOST DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY
BEFORE HE WAS FAMOUS
“IT WAS LIKE THE ANTICHRIST SHOW AFTER HAPPY DAYS!” says Days alum Ted McGinley (left), who played neighbor Marcy’s second husband, Jefferson D’Arcy, after David Garrison (Steve) quit in ’89 to return to Broadway. McGinley says he “hated that they made Jefferson such a wuss,” so the writers made him into a secret agent.
A HOUSEWIFE’S BOYCOTT PUT THE SHOW ON THE MAP “We sent her flowers every year,” says Sagal of Terry Rakolta, whose protests of Married‘s “antifamily attitudes” got her on Nightline and the front page of The New York Times in ’89. The show lost sponsors, but ratings soared.
BUDGETS WERE SO LOW that in an episode in which Buck the dog (who died in 1996) got a credit card, all the big-ticket items bought on the family’s spending spree came from the cast’s and crew’s homes. By season 3 “I finally got to wear a wig, so I knew things were better,” says Sagal, who keeps Peg’s bouffant do in a box in her garage.
WHO’S THE BOSS? SHOT ON THE STAGE NEXT DOOR “I had a huge crush on Alyssa Milano,” says Faustino. “But I don’t think it was reciprocated.”