Spike gets "Married" (and mysteries, too)

More cable news: Male-oriented cable network Spike has acquired the rights to air all 259 episodes of the former Fox comedy Married… With Children beginning in September in a deal worth $12 million.

Married… was Fox’s first-ever prime time series (premiering on April 5, 1987), and was the first Fox sitcom to be sold in syndication.

The deal with Sony Pictures Television is for five years with the Viacom-owned cable network paying around $50,000 per episode. Spike plans to run the show in daytime, early fringe, and late fringe time periods.

The program currently airs on FX, but also had a few local broadcast deals, including Fox’s duopoly in Los Angeles (where it ran as much as four times a day at one point) and WCIU-TV here in Chicago.

Spike receives streaming rights on Spike.com and 40 six-minute “webisodes”.

Spike also acquired the rights to Unsolved Mysteries, the former NBC and CBS series once hosted by Robert Stack. Chicagoan Dennis Farina will host the new wraparound segments, which will update the stories. Mysteries moved to Lifetime in 2000, where it ran repeat and first-run episodes.

Trivia: Married… With Children (1987-97) was a raunchy family comedy you can pretty much call the “Family Guy” of its day – hated by TV critics, parents (namely a Michigan housewife), and many others – but loved by fans.

When the program was sold into syndication in 1990, NBC-owned WMAQ-TV became the first network affiliate in a major market to purchase a off-network sitcom for airing in “prime access” (6:30 p.m.) since the Prime Time Access Rule (PTAR) went into effect in 1971, which barred network affiliates in the 50 largest markets from airing off-network fare in the hour before prime-time (PTAR was repealed in 1996.) Fox was not considered a network at the time by the FCC, because it did not program more than fifteen hours a week in prime per the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules (fin-syn), which barred the Big 3 networks from the syndication business from 1970 until the rules’ demise in 1995.

Married… entered syndication in 1991 and was a huge hit for WMAQ, but was dropped from the station in March 1995 due to a cost-cutting move, which sent the program packing to WGN-TV. The program airs on WCIU today.

The dysfunctional family influence of Married… has lived on in comedies ranging from Everybody Loves Raymond to Family Guy, from That ’70’s Show to The Bernie Mac Show. For better or for worse, the Bundys changed the way we looked at family comedies forever.