Back in the early '90s, it wasn't uncommon for publishers to announce that they had acquired the license to make a video game based on a popular TV property before work on it had even begun (we're looking at you Hi-Tech Expressions!).
This led to some notable instances during the decade where film and TV tie-ins were announced on the pages of gaming magazines, before quickly vanishing without a trace, leaving players to wonder "what happened?".
For years, many had simply assumed that this was also the case for ShareData's Married... with Children adaptation, a point-and-click adventure game based on the popular sitcom starring Katey Sagal, Ed O'Neill, and Christina Applegate as members of the Bundy family. However, now thanks to the work of Frank Cifaldi at the Video Game History Foundation, we finally have proof that some work was actually done on the game.
In a tweet, Cifaldi posted a snap of an old PCGames issue featuring an image of Peggy in the Bundy family's living room. The image shows off the "outstanding VGA graphics" documented at the time and a set of verbs including the curiously labeled "invent". As one commenter Retromeo mentioned after we initially published, this could potentially be short for the term "inventory".
Cifaldi then later replied to this tweet, saying:
"I want you all to know that I have done nothing these past five hours but try to figure out who made this game and I think I'm close. If you are a @GameHistoryOrg donor I hope this is exactly what you want me doing with my time.
"So I found the producer's name in a magazine, realized they misspelled it, found the real name on MobyGames, found his Wikipedia entry, and found out he, unfortunately, died 10 years ago. And the reference for his death was an obituary...written by me. The world is small."
We were able to do some digging of our own and we found four separate articles covering the game from 1990, though none of these included any screenshots.
From what we were able to gather, the game was announced at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show in January 1990 for ShareData's premium line of Monarch video games and was originally PC-only. At the time, it was compared to Sierra's Leisure Suit Larry series and Lucasfilm Games' adventure games, with its producer Christopher Erhardt (the same producer Cifaldi referenced above) describing its interface in Computer Gaming World with the following:
“As simple as Lucasfilm’s Maniac Mansion, so the player can direct the characters as easily as Peg manipulates Al’s Wallet”
According to a January edition of the video game newsletter Computer Entertainer, it was slated for a June 1990 release date for personal computers, but that same year ShareData switched to developing NES games instead, signing a 10-year licensing agreement with a California-based tech company called Color Dreams.
This left most of its computer titles "on the backburner" according to an article published in a May copy of the Arizona Republic, despite the company still seeming interested in releasing the tie-in. In March 1990, Game Player's Magazine announced that the game was coming to NES, but again no game actually materialized.