Married with Children was a huge hit and iconic sitcom for FOX, but the network’s three attempts to launch a spinoff all fell flat. Centered around the misadventures of the Bundy family, led by patriarch Al (Ed O’Neill), Married with Children set out to serve as a counterpoint to more heartwarming sitcom fare like The Cosby Show or Family Ties. The Bundys had money problems, often didn’t get along and weren’t exactly winners in life; they also generally weren’t very smart either. Yet, despite the over-the-top nature of much of their antics, they still proved relatable to millions.
One of FOX’s first big success stories, Married with Children was also a controversial sitcom, due to the nature of the raunchy humor and sexually charged situations often featured on the show. Controversy aside, Married with Children ran for 11 seasons, and it’s no wonder FOX wanted to try and use it to launch another big-time show. After all, there have been many comedy spinoffs that went on to become classics in their own right.
Unfortunately, despite giving the idea three different shots over the years, none of FOX’s spinoffs ever managed to stick the landing. One did at least get a few episodes, but the other two flopped right out of the gate. In some ways, that feels appropriate, considering the Bundy’s tendency to fail at any new business venture they attempt.
Married With Children’s Failed Spinoffs: Top Of The Heap, Radio Free Trumaine & Enemies
The first attempted spinoff was Top of the Heap, which starred Joseph Bologna as Charlie Verducci and future Friends star Matt LeBlanc as his dimwitted son Vinnie. Charlie and Vinnie were introduced in season 5’s “Oldies But Young ‘Uns,” with Charlie said to be an old friend of Al, while Vinnie started dating Kelly. A few episodes later, Top of the Heap’s pilot aired as an episode of Married with Children and established the Verduccis’ desire to escape their poor existence by having Vinnie marry into money.
Top of the Heap was received well enough to get a first season order, but was abruptly canceled after six episodes. Oddly, FOX then attempted to give LeBlanc his own show called Vinnie & Bobby, seemingly seeing the star he would become, but that was canceled after seven episodes. The two other spinoffs also aired as backdoor pilots on Married with Children but didn’t get picked up. The first was season 9’s Radio Free Trumaine, which was planned to include Bud and former neighbor Steve Rhoades if the spinoff had gotten a series order.
Radio Free Trumaine was to focus on Trumaine University, where Bud was a student. Bud wasn’t intended to be the lead though, as that was a trio of new characters, college radio D.J.s Oliver and Mark and Bud’s brief love interest April (played by future Emmy-nominee Keri Russell). Steve was set to be a regular antagonist as the new dean of Trumaine. The backdoor pilot ended up marking Steve’s last appearance on Married with Children. Finally, season 10 played host to Enemies, a riff on Friends about four young people living in the same apartment who often don’t get along. No existing Married with Children characters were planned to be regulars on Enemies, but it didn’t matter, as the spinoff went nowhere.