In the late eighties, the sitcom Christmas special was always a sappy, nostalgia-riddled stocking full of drivel. They made you feel all warm and fuzzy to the point of nausea. Nowadays, with American Dad and It’s Always Sunny and other such hilariously crass television shows, the Christmas special can contain graphic violence, manic depression, perverted sex and hardcore drug abuse.
But in the late eighties such a thing would be shocking.
That’s where Married … With Children came in.
They were already making waves on the renegade Fox network with their bitter take on married life, when in their second season they decided to air their first Christmas episode “You Better Watch Out”. The plot of the episode is so dark that to this very day they still run a cautionary disclaimer before airing it.
Married… With Children, with leading curmudgeon Al Bundy as the perfect antithesis of the spirit of Christmas, went on to do five more sinister Christmas specials during their eleven season arch, and every holiday season I revisit them and laugh just like it was the first time.
When Tom from Shit Movie Fest invited back for the third annual Shitmas Special, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: provide his good readers with a countdown list of the Married… With Children Christmas Specials, so you too could experience of Bundy funday. Seeing how you can now buy the entire series boxed set on DVD for around fifty bucks, this could be the gift that keeps on giving every year.
6. The Worst Noel – Season 8, episode 13
This is the least inspired of the six, leaning heavily on slapstick as the show tended to in its latter years, but that’s not to say it isn’t without its charm. In this episode, Al and Peg can’t agree what to watch on television. Hilariously enough, Al complains about all the sappy Christmas specials and even hates on It’s a Wonderful Life. Meanwhile, Bud and Kelly try to sneak a jukebox into the house as a gift, with blonde bimbo results, and the D’Arcy’s have a no Al’s allowed party next door.
5. God Help Ye Merry Bundymen – Season 11, episode 8
In the show’s final Christmas special, Al and his best work buddy Griff are both fired during the holidays and are forced to take even more demeaning jobs as part of the New Market Mall’s Christmas Village. Meanwhile, Bud and Kelly take The D’Arcy’s nativity statues as hostages for ransom – with blasphemous results. And, in what might be nothing short of a Christmas miracle, Peggy actually bakes something.
4. Christmas – Season 7, Episode 12
Ah, season seven, which both introduced and then quickly deleted the enormously unpopular character of Seven, the little bastard cousin of the Bundy family. In this one we get to watch poor Al suffer as a Mall Santa, and we get to laugh loudly at his disgruntled interactions with the kids in line, which even include a vindictive Marcy. We’re also treated to a hysterical flashback sequence where we get to see the Bundy family in the late 70’s, back when Al first devised his failed plan to cancel Christmas forever.
3. I Can’t Believe it’s Butter – Season 10, Episode 13
Not only is this one of the funniest Christmas episodes - it is easily my favorite episode of this whole season. In it, Al gets fed up feeding the monstrosity that is Peggy’s mother, who has moved in with them. He insists the she get a job and pitch in. meanwhile, all of Al’s buddies (the drunken hooligans of No Ma’am) become obsessed with a sultry-sounding phone sex operator named Butter. Griff falls head-over-heels for her just as Al makes the shocking discovery that Butter is his mother-in-law. Hilarity ensues.
2. You Better Watch Out – Season 2, Episode 13
In this dark and daring episode, a mall Santa gets blown off course while parachuting into the Mall parking lot. He lands in the Bundy’s yard: fatally. Marcy and Steve go into shock (Al: “Will you two quiet down, we’re trying to have a Christmas here!”) while The Bundy’s deal with coroners in their house. Worse still, the neighborhood kids drop by, asking to see Santa, causing Al to dress up and give us the original Bad Santa treatment. Viewer discretion is still advised!
It’s a Bundyful Life – Season 4, Episodes 11 & 12
While “You Better Watch Out” always gets me rollin’, I must give the Best Christmas Special Ever award to their magnum opus, two-part spectacular in which Al undergoes his very own It’s a Wonderful Life experience, finding out what life would have been like had he never been born, guided by his own personal angel, Sam Kinison.
This episode is so legendary that it even got released on VHS during the height of the show’s popularity, when Christina Applegate posters flooded the Kmarts and comic book shops carried the official Married With Children comic book. This episodes features Bundy cynicism at its prime, features Ted Mc Ginely in a pre-Jefferson role, and it lays dead center in what I consider the best of all their seasons.
Plus, it gave us this classic poem:
And now it is with Al’s words that I must leave you, to spread my own Christmas grumblings to one and all. But as a gift, I have comprised as complete best of list, seeing how I am a truly sick fanatic.
Kristopher Triana is an author and the head of Tavern of Terror, the horror webpage that reviews scary movies and suggests what brews go best with them. Follow him at kristophertriana.com and tavernofterror.com and you cool kids can stalk the subsequent facebook and instagrams.
Married With Children
Best Episodes Ever
A guide by a Fanatic
3. “But I Didn’t Shoot the Deputy”
6. “Sixteen Years and What Do You Get?”
10. “Al Loses His Cherry”
20. “For Whom the Bell Tolls”
24. “How Do You Spell Revenge?”
25. “Earth Angel”
26. “You Better Watch Out”
30. “Peggy Loves Al, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”
36. “He Thought He Could”
37. “I’m Going to Sweatland”
38. “Poke High”
39. “The Camping Show”
40. “A Dump of My Own”
41. “Her Cups Runneth Over”
42. The Bald and the Beautiful”
44. ‘Requiem for a Dead Barber”
49. “A Three Job, No Income Family”
56. “Life’s a Beach”
57. “Here’s Lookin’ at You, Kid”
SEASON FOUR: ALL
81. “We’ll Follow the Sun”
84. “The Unnatural”
85. “The Dance Show”
87. “Married with Aliens”
88. “Wabbit Season”
89. “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”
91. “And Baby Makes Money”
93. ‘The Godfather”
95. “A Man’s Castle”
96. “All Night Security Dude”
97. “Oldies but Young ‘Uns”
105. “Buck the Stud”
106. She’s Having My Baby”
107. ‘She’s Having My Baby II”
109. “Cheese, Cues and Blood”
112. “If I could See Me Now”
113. “Gods’ Shoes”
117. “So This is How Sinatra Felt”
118. “I Who Have Nothing”
126. “Teacher’s Pets”
128. “The Gas Station Show”
135. “Al on the Rocks”
136. “What I Did for Love”
138. “The Chicago Wine Party”
150. “Go for the Old”
157. “The Proposition”
166. “No Ma’am”
169. “A Little Off the Top”
172. “Honey, I Blew Up Myself”
179. “Ride Scare”
188. “Business Sucks”
189. “Business Sucks II”
207. “Pump Fiction”
225. “I Can’t Believe it’s Butter”
235. “Bud Hits the Books”
238. “The Joke’s on Al”
244. “A Bundy Thanksgiving”