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Don’t Be Al Bundy

Posted on January 23, 2011 | By Patty Pino | No Comments

Way back in the 80’s, television metamorphosized from 12 free broadcast stations plus that weird UHF band into pay television, lovingly known as Cable.  Along with more TV options came the bid for another major network, and the badboy of television, the FOX network, was born.  FOX was like an unbridled teenager, free to experiment with their programming without being burdened by the trappings, traditions, and history of previous major three networks.  In the sitcome space, they lauched “Married…with Children,” one of the most culturally defining television programs of that era.

That was then...

At that time, Al Bundy and his misfit, unmotivated family ruled the airwaves and, I suppose , there was something empowering about this klan.  They were sarcastic, selfish, and non-trendy – a huge counterpoint to the buttoned-up, Izod clad yuppies that were so prevalent in those post-Disco, Regan “Just Say No” days.  Al, Peg, Kelly, and Bud, in their slovenly simplicity, were harbingers and ambassadors for the soon-to-come Seattle grunge and slacker movement of the early 90’s.  They were the original couch potatoes.

But, as ground-breaking as they were in the late 80’s, I’m here to tell you don’t be like Al Bundy.  As fresh as “Married…With Children” may have felt back-in-the-day, Al Bundy was stale.  He was the embodiment of living life for yesterday and not for today.  A hostage to the past glory of his high school football successes, Al didn’t and couldn’t enjoy his life.  He hated his job, wasn’t attracted to his sexually-willing wife, and, so, he resigned himself to apathy.  Maybe he wasn’t the brightest man on the block, but, he didn’t have to live as a sad-sack, either.  Sure, he loved his family and had his Bundy pride, but fat, drunk, and bored is no way to go through life.

...this is Now.

Fortunately for us, the actor Ed O’Neill and the people who write his characters are genius, and they’ve given us a new, reworked, better version of the every-day-dad that is more reasonable and forward looking – Jay Pritchard, the patriarch on ABC’s sitcom “Modern Family”.  Jay, like Al, is not a perfect father.  He also has a sarcastic attitude and may embrace values and ideas that feel a little dated, but he is a forward-looking character.  He isn’t hung up on what happened in his life when he was a teenager; he is, instead, learning to do right for his family.  And, unlike Al, Jay is way into his beautiful wife and looks to make her happy, even when he disagrees with her perspective.  His approach is a modern one of learning and growing into acceptance, instead of shrugging his shoulders and living in the past.

So, thank you, Ed O’Neill, for giving us two fathers for two different eras of our lives.  And, thank you, Jay Pritchard and all of you other men out there, for not being Al Bundy.

< Listen to this meandering rant, and more, on the Tasty Televisionary podcast TSF18 here or on iTunes >



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