Roseanne Barr Almost Starred in ‘Married… With Children’

And she would have had babies with screaming Sam Kinison
Roseanne Barr Almost Starred in ‘Married… With Children’

The producers of Married… With Children loved the idea of Roseanne Barr and Sam Kinison as the leads of their proposed sitcom. But the reality of casting them was something else altogether, according to Richard Gurman’s new book, Married… with Children Vs. The World

Gurman, who was a writer and producer on the series, remembers that when Fox was a fledgling network in the 1980s, it couldn’t offer the big bucks that ABC, NBC and CBS might dole out for a hit show. But Fox had one advantage — with an empty schedule, it could guarantee a time slot vs. the “we might pick it up” pilot situation for proposed sitcoms on the Big Three networks. So an actor might take fewer dollars for a guaranteed show at Fox over filming a pilot that might never see the light of day. 

When producers Ron Leavitt and Michael Moye dreamed up Married… With Children, they pitched it with the volatile Barr and Kinison as proposed leads to give a sense of the show’s outrageous attitude. Their studio Embassy liked the idea so much that it made actual series offers to the famous comics without the producers’ knowledge. The elevator pitch, “What if Roseanne married Sam Kinison and they had kids?” had gotten literal in a way Leavitt and Moye never intended. 

Moye didn’t like working with comedians, he told Gurman, because “they come in with their character already. What were we going to do, tell Roseanne how to do her ‘Domestic Goddess’ thing? We were going to tell Sam Kinison how to do his thing? There’d be fighting all the time.” (If you know anything about the history of Roseanne, that’s exactly what happened on that show.) 

The good news for Leavitt and Moye: Both Barr and Kinison passed on Married… With Children. The bad news: Fox had gotten used to the idea of those big comedy stars as the show’s leads. That meant casting had to be perfect to make Fox forget what they’d lost (but never actually had in the first place). 

Katey Sagal knocked it out of the park in her Peggy audition, but Al was harder to cast. Casting director Marc Hirschfeld saw several actors, including a future Seinfeld star. “Michael Richards came in to read,” says Hirschfeld. “He was just odd. It was a very odd read.” Most of the other actors did a Jackie Gleason/Honeymooners imitation. 

They finally found their man in Ed O’Neill, who’d impressed Hirschfeld in a stage production of Of Mice and Men. O’Neill based his version of Al Bundy on a world-weary uncle who always expected the worst. When O’Neill began his audition with an exhausted sigh, they knew he was the right guy for the part. “Only Al Bundy would know that no matter what day it was, when he opened the door there was going to be crap on the other side of that door,” says Moye.

Fox chief Barry Diller wasn’t sold on O’Neill but Embassy held firm, agreeing to shoot a pilot without a 13-episode commitment to prove they had the right guy. O’Neill passed the test, playing the part for an additional 259 episodes. 


Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?