So apparently, being a hormone-addled teenage geek who can’t get a date isn’t such a bad thing after all. Just ask David Faustino. It’s been 25 years since he played the socially stunted Bud Bundy on “Married…With Children,” and he’s still so beloved for playing the character that he’s even able to heckle presidents without punishment. For instance, just a few months ago, he was invited to sit on the dais with Barack Obama and other dignitaries at a National Italian-American Foundation event.
“He was up there in the middle of his speech, talking about Joe Dimaggio and going on about what great things Italian-Americans have done throughout history,” recalls the 38-year-old actor. “And I’m sitting next to (ex-baseball player) Mike Piazza. So as the president is speaking, you hear some jerk yell, ‘Mike Piazza!’ And that jerk, of course, was me. The president turns around toward me and goes, ‘Yeah, Mike Piazza!’ Secret Service comes over to me but instead of me being in trouble, it turns out they were big ‘Married…With Children’ fans.”
Considering the recent news about the Secret Service’s sexcapades in South America, it’s probably no surprise that the agents were fond of series that became famous for its raunchy, rowdy attitude. Which, not coincidentally, made it the first real breakout hit 25 years ago for a brand new network known as the Fox Broadcasting Company. Fox was eager to be seen as the loud, drunk uncle who kept everyone at Thanksgiving dinner entertained with his unpredictable attitude, and “Married” fit the bill perfectly.
Although the show and the network made their primetime debut in April 1987 with a minimum of interest and fanfare, things will be different this Sunday as Fox celebrates its anniversary with a primetime special at 8/7c featuring many familiar faces from the past, including David Duchovny, Calista Flockhart, Shannon Doherty and the Wayans Brothers. And at 7/6c, Fox will air the “Married…With Children” pilot.
Watch the “Married…With Children” Pilot Below:
It’s a show that changed Faustino’s life, and a show that he was originally not even a part of. He’d auditioned for the job, but wasn’t hired. Producers had gone with a different actor to play Bud but after the show was taped and picked up by Fox, it was clear that the character and his sister, Kelly, just weren’t working right. The actors playing the parts were let go, and an emergency call went out to find new people to step in. That was all the opening that and an actress named Christina Applegate needed.
“I went in maybe five times to read, including with Christina on the final call with the network,” Faustino explains. “It was crazy. We were hired, and they chopped those other actors out of their scenes and re-shot them with us. It all felt a little weird, but I’d been an actor since I was three months old so it was just a joy to be on a series that had sold.”
It wasn’t long before the thrill was gone, though. Faustino say he “assumed that being on a network show meant instant stardom. I had this ‘Married…With Children’ t-shirt I’d wear to the mall figuring that someone would surely recognize me. But meanwhile, nobody was watching the show. I was expecting a reaction when I went out but there was not a damn thing.”
It wasn’t for a lack of trying on Fox’ part, though. Faustino, Applegate and their TV parents, Ed O’Neil and Katey Sagal, spent their weekends in those days traveling to small town malls around America in order to promote their show. The actors would “sit there with people walking by us having no idea who we were, because Fox was on, like Channel 99 in those towns. You need rabbit ear antennas to find our show,” says Faustino. “It was bad in the beginning. It was kind of sad and pathetic.”
All that changed in 1989, though. A Michigan housewife who had been outraged by the sexual suggestiveness of the series organized a letter-writing campaign to get the show off the air. Skittish advertisers began pulling out because of the controversy. However, all the talk about the raunchy content was exactly what Fox needed to get people excited about the show.
“That was when you could really feel things change,” Faustino recalls. “Nobody was watching us…just a few people who thought the show was kind of funny. Then all of a sudden, people were starting to talk about us. It felt awkward going out because people were recognizing me. Tour buses were coming by our places every day. We did a mall visit in Los Angeles and the entire place was so packed, they had to shut it down. That shift was pretty crazy.”
He made the most of his opportunities during the show’s glory days, traveling around the world with his mom to promote the series and going to the Oval Office with his dad. The experience was nothing but great, and he still hangs out with his former co-stars on a regular basis (they’ll all appear together in the Fox 25th Anniversary Special). The visibility the series gave him has helped him launch multiple careers as a voiceover actor, the owner of an independent record label and the producer of an animated series.
He just has just one small gripe about the show. The network canceled “Married” in 1997, making the decision after that season’s last episode and depriving the cast of shooting a series finale. Faustino still burns a little bit about that because “it was pretty lousy…they robbed the fans of getting to have a finale and some closure for the characters.”
If another original Fox series, “21 Jump Street,” can be turned into a feature film, though, perhaps “Married…With Children” can get a similar revival.
“Fans talk about that happening all the time, but nobody has ever approached us about doing it,” Faustino says. It’s a cool idea, but they’d probably hire new actors to play our characters and we’d get to do some sort of walkthrough where we get a line to say something about our new selves.”