The Bunkers Were One of the First TV Families To Experience a Divorce
Divorce, which is the fate of fifty percent of all marriages, was once a taboo subject. Only in whispers could one discuss the word, even as late as the Sixties and Seventies.
Even in the number one hit from 1967 with that very word as its title, country legend Tammy Wynette had to spell each letter rather than pronounce the its two short syllables. You could conclude that, ironically enough, separating the seven letters was preferable to saying them together.
Not only was the word forbid in music, but in television as well. Sixties TV has numerous characters who scripted as single parents, such as on The Andy Griffith Show, The Courtship of Eddie's Father and My Three Sons, yet none of them were cast as divorced.
Rather, each of those fathers was a widower. It was almost as if the D-word was so offensive, the Hollywood writers far preferred to have the marriage partner killed off instead of legally ending the marriage.
Actually, the first TV references to divorce appeared in the Seventies, and it was not long before it became accepted as a subject of humor. Allow me to offer these ten classic sitcoms with episodes in which a regular gets a divorce.
1. All in the Family, Mike and Gloria Stivic
Archie Bunker (portrayed by Carroll O'Connor) was quick to blame Meathead (Rob Reiner) when he got news of the divorce, only to find out that it was his daughter (Sally Struthers) who was unfaithful.
2. Married with Children, Steve and Marcie Rhodes
Bundy neighbor Steve takes off to become a wildlife scientist, after which his ex-wife (portrayed by Amanda Bearce) quickly takes up with they mysterious Jefferson Dacrcy (portrayed by Ted McGinley).
3. The Simpsons, Kirk and Luann Van Houten
“A Milhouse Divided” centers on the split between neighbors of Homer, who then begins to re-examine his own marriage.
4. Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry and Cheryl David
Seinfeld's creator and star of this similar series spends several seasons apart from his wife, which he spends mostly in an interracial relationship.
5. One Day at a Time, Ed Cooper and Ann Romano
Already divorced before the series began, frequent appearances by Barbara and Julie's dad provided insight into why he and Bonnie Franklin's character might have been incompatible.
6. M*A*S*H, Donald Penobscot and Margaret Hot Lips Houlihan
Hot Lips was involved with Frank Burns until she met Penobscot, to whom she was married until word of her divorce came during the historical finale.
7. Rhoda, Joe Gerard and Rhoda Morgenstern
They seemed a good fit on the spin-off, even though we had learned about the divorce from the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
8. Frasier, Frasier and Lilith Crane
The couple actually divorced on Cheers, but on this sequel viewers get more insight into the relationship and its demise.
9. Friends, Ross Geller and Rachel Green
During a trip to Las Vegas the two pals, portrayed by David Schwirmer and Jennifer Aniston, get hitched then quickly unhitched.
10. American Dad, Stan and Francine Smith
In “When Stan Loves a Woman”, Seth McFarlane's title character is given a temporary divorce so that he can have a fling without breaking his marriage vows.