It was the antisitcom. The foul-mouthed, mean-spirited members of the blue-collar suburban-Chicago Bundy family put the fun in dysfunctional and the fledgling FOX network on the map. “It definitely had a different point of view,” says Married’s Katey Sagal. In 1989 an enraged Michigan housewife launched a national boycott campaign against the show. The result? Ratings soared.
Katey Sagal would like to set the record straight about her oafish TV husband, Ed O’Neill, with whom she traded barbs for 10 years on Married…with Children: “He’s charming with women. He’s extremely bright and well-read. He’s macho but not rude and obnoxious.” Since the sitcom ended, O’Neill, 54, who lives in L.A. with his actress wife, Cathy Rusoff, 45, has played a detective in The Bone Collector, the Troll King in NBC’s The 10th Kingdom miniseries and a TV station manager in an upcoming Nora Ephron comedy. Until recently he was also a pitchman for MCI WorldCom, which might be why, as Sagal says, “He’s a really good check-in kind of guy. He calls all the time.”
While vacationing in Hawaii last year with her boyfriend of two years, actor Jonathon Schaech, 30, Christina Applegate had an unpleasant encounter with a waiter. “Does anyone ever tell you that you look like Christina Applegate?” he asked. “I get that all the time,” Applegate replied. “Yeah,” said the waiter, “but she’s gotten kind of fat.” Applegate, 28, who has lost 15 lbs. since ending her run as tube-topped, miniskirted high school floozy Kelly Bundy, was offended, of course. “But that’s what happens when you have to wear those tacky clothes,” she says. “People feel that they can judge you.” She certainly passes muster with her former castmates, with whom she remains friends. “Christina’s an old soul,” says Katey Sagal. “There’s a certain maturity about her.” Applegate made a neat transition from Married to her own sitcom, Jesse, which was canceled last month after two seasons. “I was disappointed for a couple of days, then I made peace with it,” she says. “I have this huge life ahead of me.” She and Schaech, whom she calls “the most grounded, glorious human being I’ve ever laid my eyes upon,” spend much of their time at home in L.A., doing crossword puzzles and playing Scrabble. “We’re like two 80-year-olds,” she says. “If we go out to dinner more than twice, we’re both like, ‘Whooo, boy, have we had quite a socializing week.’ ”
It was, well, hair-raising. For the first three years of Married…with Children, mom Peg Bundy’s enormous red bouffant “was my real hair,” says Katey Sagal. “It took over an hour and a lot of hair spray. Then they bought me a wig.” Unlike Peg, who accessorized with leopard print and spandex, Sagal, now 46, “was young and hip and cool and fabulous,” raves her TV daughter Christina Apple-gate. “And one of the classiest people I’ve ever known.” During the fourth season, Sagal faced a personal tragedy when her pregnancy, which had been written into the show, ended in a stillbirth. “It was a horrible thing,” says Sagal, whose character’s pregnancy was recast as a dream. But the producers “were so loving and cautious with me,” she says. “I subsequently had two pregnancies and they said, ‘Just go home and be pregnant. Don’t worry about the job.’ They prerecorded me so I would be in the shows anyway.” Sagal’s life now revolves around Sarah, 5, Jackson, 4, and her husband of six years, musician Jack White, 46. She’ll return to TV in the fall, playing a housewife again, in the sitcom Tucker, which films just 20 minutes from her L.A. home. “My thing with the kids is, ‘Don’t leave town,’ ” she says. “I want to be a classroom mom next year.”
He has grown past the awkward stage that never seemed to end for Bud Bundy. “It was my whole puberty, teenage years, my early 20s,” says David Faustino, 26, who joined Married…with Children at age 13. Today, he says, “I’ve got a nice house in the Hollywood Hills, I’m building a little cabin in New Mexico, and I’m happier now than when I was doing the show.” When Married signed off, though, Faustino found himself at a crossroads. “There was that fear of, ‘Oh, God, what now?’ ” he says.” ‘Where do I go from here?’ ” He found answers at L.A.’s New Age Agape Church, which he joined at the suggestion of his Married sister Christina Applegate. “It’s a center of truth,” says Faustino, who met his girlfriend, actress Andrea Elmer, 24, there. He calls his relationship “amazing. Bud Bundy would have killed for a girl like her.” Another influential woman in his life is Applegate. “We always kept each other in check,” she says. “We still do. We go have coffee and talk.” Faustino is intent on staying grounded. “When you’re a child actor, part of you grows up really fast and part of you doesn’t grow up at all,” he says. “I have to stop myself sometimes and look at where my life is and pat myself on the back because I’m beating the odds.”