#10 - The Bundys
Show: Married with Children
Family members: Al (father and shoe salesman); Peggy (mother and waste of space); Kelly (daughter and airhead); and, Bud (son and pervert).
The Bundys are the original dysfunctional TV family. Father Al hates his life as a broke shoe salesman. He dreams of his high-school football glory days constantly. However, although he seems to hate his family, he always provides for his annoying wife and ungrateful children.
Lesson learned: Don’t bail on the responsibilities of fatherhood, no matter how far it takes you away from what you thought your life would be.
#9 - The Tanners
Show: Full House
Family members: Danny (father and widower); Uncle Jessie (rocker brother-in-law); Joey (comedian best friend); D.J. (oldest daughter); Stephanie (precocious middle daughter); and, Michelle (scene-stealing baby).
Danny’s wife dies before reaching 30 and now the young, OCD widower needs his rock 'n’ roll brother-in-law and standup comic best friend to move in and help raise his three young daughters. No three men could be more unsuited for the job, but they make it work without the daughters becoming strippers.
Lesson learned: Men can be caregivers as effectively as women.
#8 - The Harpers
Show: Two and a Half Men
Family members: Charlie (womanizing lifelong bachelor); Alan (sad younger brother); and, Jake (sad younger brother’s obese son).
Successful and hedonistic Charlie decides to do one unselfish thing in his life: take in his younger brother and his son, who are both down on their luck. While this arrangement is far from normal, they manage to care of each other and still be typical men, uncomfortable with emotion. In typical sitcom style, they all end up learning from each others' idiosyncrasies.
Lesson learned: Even the damaged can come together and make a family work.
#7 - The Gregsons
Show: United States of Tara
Family members: Tara (mother with dissociative identity disorder); Max (father with compulsive-understanding disorder);
Kate (typical teenage daughter); and, Marshall (gay teen son).
Tara’s multiple personalities often appear at the dinner table unannounced whenever mommy gets stressed. The other family members have to be super-humanly tolerant as their wife and mother turns into a trucker, teenage skank, OCD asshole, and animalistic freak.
Lesson learned: No matter how destructive, you must accept family members and try to help them deal with issues that they cannot control.
#6 - The Whites
Show: Breaking Bad
Family members: Walter (henpecked genius father and drug kingpin); Skyler (demanding, pregnant mother); and,
Walt Jr. (son with cerebral palsy).
Walter White deals with his terminal lung cancer by secretly becoming the best crystal meth cook in New Mexico. His intentions are good: trying to secure his family’s financial future. However, the lying and newfound adrenaline break apart Walter's family bonds.
Lesson learned: No matter how good your intentions, deceit will distance your loved ones.
#5 - The Bluths
Show: Arrested Development
Family members: Michael (patriarchal brother and son); George (corrupt father); Lucille (alcoholic mother); Lindsay (adopted twin daughter); Gob (idiot older brother); Buster (idiot younger brother); George Michael (awkward son); Maeby (assured niece); Tobias (closeted brother-in-law).
The only functional member of this family, adult-son and widower Michael does his best to keep the family business and his family from the brink of self-destruction as his parents and siblings are destructively self-obsessed. Unfortunately, his efforts on the big picture cause him to ignore the small things, like his son George Michael.
Lesson learned: No matter how dysfunctional, you still need your family throughout life.
#4 - The Henricksons
Show: Big Love
Family members: Bill (polygamous father); Barb (first wife); Nicki (second wife); Margene (third wife); Sarah (oldest daughter and anti-polygamist); and, Ben (oldest son and pro-polygamist).
A practicing polygamist and candidate for the Utah state senate, Bill does his best to keep his three wives and dozen children under wraps as he navigates the mainstream. While his lifestyle is illegal and considered immoral by many, the family’s life inside the home is often more loving and supportive than traditional families.
Lesson learned: No matter what the outside world thinks, you can make your beliefs work inside your home.
#3 - The Solomons
Show: 3rd Rock from the Sun
Family members: Dick (father and high commander); Tommy (son and information officer); Sally (aunt and lieutenant); and, Harry (uncle and communicator).
The Solomons aren’t really a family. They’re aliens sent down from outer space to study our world. They appear as a human family to blend in, but do anything but. While their intellect is superior, their wordly ignorance constantly upsets their dynamic.
Lesson learned: Just because your family is book smart, doesn’t mean you’re street smart. Try to take the outside world in slowly.
#2 - The Griffins
Show: Family Guy
Family members: Peter (father and idiot man-baby); Lois (mother and delightfully ignorant hottie); Chris (son walking in his father’s steps); Meg (daughter and butt of all jokes); Stewie (baby and sexually confused evil genius); and, Brian (dog and alcoholic rock of the family).
A family is insanely unconventional when the most rational member is a talking dog. Peter, a dumbed-down Homer Simpson, puts the family on the edge of ruin each episode, as Stewie tries to murder Lois, Chris battles the evil monkey in his closet, everyone hates on Meg, and Brian barely holds it together.
Lesson learned: Families can stay together no matter how horrible each member is.
#1 - The Sopranos
Show: The Sopranos
Family members: Tony (father and Jersey mob boss, prone to anxiety attacks); Carmela (mother and anxious housewife in their house of cards); Meadow (daughter and overachiever); and, AJ (son and depressed, “sissy” screw-up).
Tony tries to keep both his family and mafia family together as the world spins away from the traditions he knows. While audiences love him, his manic-depression, constant adultery, backstabbing, lying, and killing make it nearly impossible for his loved ones to ever really trust him. In the end, his wife is an anxious wreck, always waiting for the hammer to drop, his daughter’s good intentions are corrupted and his son is a suicide waiting to happen.
Lesson learned: Crime doesn’t pay, even when it does financially.