Host: George Plimpton.
Unbelievably, implausibly, the most anti-institutional sitcom ever devised has become an institution itself — the longest-running such show on the air. And “Married … With Children” hasn’t lost an iota of its wickedly irreverent edge; everyone was in rare form for its 200th episode.
The seg offered hilarious proof that this cast and production team are still on their toes, and can deliver fresh variations on their characters’ quirks and frustrations at will.
Writer Larry Jacobson sets up a delicious chain-reaction of buck-passing as Al (Ed O’Neill), Bud (David Faustino), Kelly (Christina Applegate) and even Buck the Dog try to get out of Peg’s (Katey Sagal) planned field trip to infamous Wanker County.
Naturally they fail and victorious Peg leads them to a car wash, where the attendants somehow lose Al’s vintage Dodge clunker.
Steve (former regular David Garrison, in a rare, welcome guest spot) turns up at the car wash, where ex-wife Marcy (Amanda Bearse) has forced her kept husband Jefferson (Ted McGinley) to take a job.
The back-and-forth barbs create twinges of pain, but Jacobson masterfully keeps on provoking laughs without letting the tension boil over.
The cast’s timing, particularly the chemistry between O’Neill and Sagal and the great zingers from Faustino, is on a high level.
With the possible slight exception of Bud, the characters haven’t exhibited a whit of emotional or intellectual growth in eight years and that’s as it should be; it helps to keep this endless inquest on the possibilities of Murphy’s Law in biting form.
Only for a fleeting second does a hint of sentimentality creep in when the thing that Al treasures the most about his car turns out to be an idealized photo of his family in the trunk.
Thankfully, the writer and producers quickly deflate that image by superimposing the legend, “For Your Emmy Consideration: Thank You Very Much.”
Prior to the much-hyped 200th episode, Fox offered a succinct half-hour teaser of sound bites from the show’s beginnings in 1987 until the present, hosted in a mock-pompous manner by author George Plimpton.
Of course it wasn’t enough, but it would give newcomers and those with short memories a taste of the show’s amazing consistency over the years.