March 16th, 2017 – Married… with Children was a long-running, smash hit for the young Fox network back in the 80s but that doesn’t mean it didn’t give them a headache from time to time. With a working title of Not the Cosbys, creators Michael Moye and Ron Leavitt were pretty clear about the show being a definitive rejection of the deluge of family-friendly shows that end with a big group bear hug right before the credits roll. But in 1989, an episode titled “I’ll See You In Court” never even got the chance to offend anybody. The censors at Fox deemed some of the lines too sexually crude, and with the writers and producers refusing to change or remove them, the episode didn’t air until 13 years later with four lines cut from the script.
“I’ll See You In Court” found Al and Peggy Bundy going to a cheap motel to have sex but while spicing things up they find a homemade porno starring their neighbors, Marcy and Steve. Both couples decide to sue the motel after realizing both of their escapades were filmed without their knowledge or permission. Al and Peggy end up losing their case after their tape was only a few seconds long and maybe not even technically considered to be sex. They end their litigious woes by having sex in the courtroom only to be filmed again.
FX aired the revised banned episode on June 18th, 2002 and the original episode (with the original lines included) is now included with the Season 3 DVD set.
A 1989 LA Timesarticle describes the series by saying:
“Al and Peg Bundy are no Ward and June Cleaver, no Cliff and Clair Huxtable. Sniping, bickering, belching anti-heroes, Al constantly grumbles that his wife of 16 years is the worst cook/maid/mother/lover ever to call herself a housewife, while Peg makes no secret that she considers her husband woefully inadequate as a provider, as a companion, as a man.”
Former show writer Jeanne Romano talked to Forbes about the events leading up to the banned episode. According to Romano, a Michigan woman (Terry Rakolta, who happens to be Mitt Romney’s former sister-in-law) began a letter-writing campaign to advertisers who air during offensive, indecent TV shows. She watched “The Period Piece” with her children and focused her crusade on Married… with Children.
“The Bundys and their friends Marcy and Steve going camping. Peg, Marcy, and Kelly were in the cabin, and were all menstruating at the same time. So, animals were circling the cabin. Al, Bud, and Steve had to fight their way through the animals,” Romano told the interviewer. “Ms. Rakolta thought this was the most hideous thing she’d ever heard, and started a letter-writing campaign to have Married taken off the air.
While the show soldiered on for 11 seasons, Fox did have to handle some fallout from advertisers who pulled commercials or would only consider buys on an episode-by-episode basis. Rakolta wrote to 45 companies saying they were ”helping to feed our kids a steady diet of gratuitous sex and violence.” She also added “I care that there are advertisers out there paying the freight for this. They’re taking my dollars and putting them into soft-core pornography.”
With 259 episodes, the show is Fox’s longest-running live action show in history. So while Rakolta won the battle over banning one episode, artistic freedom of speech seemed to win the war.
Do you think the episode should have been banned? If it were to air in 2017, how do you think it would be received? Give us your thoughts!