For better or worse, the television sitcom family represents a caricature of our own upbringings, whether through satirically playing up the most outrageous qualities in the average household or blowing up the concept of normalcy entirely with a cast absolutely nobody wants to relate to. It can be argued that the sitcom is a measuring stick of modern society, which would only make sense, given that the most popular programs by far are ones that feature dysfunctional families.
To celebrate the hilarious new Fox family series "Sons of Tucson" (premieres March 14 at 9:30pst), we’ve collected the most outrageous of them all for The Most Dysfunctional Families In Sitcoms. It may be hilarious, but is it any wonder that these shows are some of the best television has ever offered?
“Family Guy” – The Griffins
What do you get when you mix an idiotic father, a semi-normal mother, a self-hating teenage girl, a horribly awkward teenage boy, a gay evil mastermind baby and a talking dog? Magic, that’s what. Sweet, horribly dysfunctional magic. Peter and Lois are a bit like a more realistic Homer and Marge, except their daughter once dated a corpse, their son fears an evil monkey in his closet and their baby happens to aspire to villainhood, endlessly plotting the murder of his relatives. The voices are awesome, the writing is brilliant and the Griffins represent everything the nuclear American family would be if seen through the eyes of sarcasm personified.
“Arrested Development” – The Bluths
If there’s one hilariously accurate modern satirical depiction of affluent Southern California living on television today, it’s "Arrested Development". Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) is the only member of the Bluth family with even the slightest semblance of normalcy, attempting to run his family’s failing business honorably as his outrageously eccentric and self-absorbed relatives pillage the family fortune to support the extravagant lifestyles they’ve grown accustomed to. Quite possibly the most hilarious television show this side of the 21st century, "Arrested Development" was a star-studded study of modern dysfunction and gleeful, ignorant indulgence in the face of certain peril. Rings truer than ever these days, no?
“The Addams Family” – The Addams’
They’re creepy and they’re kooky…mysterious and spooky…
Clever spins on standard life predicaments made the frightful bunch in "The Addams Family" seem almost normal. The devilish misadventures of a blissfully macabre family was the center of this classic show from the ’60s, with each possessing an unexplained supernatural ability and bizarre set of quirks to accompany. The very wealthy and relentlessly enthusiastic Gomez Addams is madly in love with his distinguished vampress wife Morticia, and along with their two children, Wednesday and Pugsley, as well as Uncle Fester and Grandmama, they reside in a gloomy mansion that outsiders are terrified of. Until they meet the family inside, that is…
“Malcolm in the Middle” – The Wilkersons
On paper, you’d swear this show was an animated series. No other family on TV has the ability to get themselves into such complicated, perilous situations as the Wilkersons, not to mention consistently find a clever way out that makes the parents look like bumbling, spastic fools and the kids look like hapless heroes. From the mean-spirited Reese to simple-minded Francis to Dewey’s savant-like talents and Malcom’s propensity for good-willed blunders, Hal and Lois can barely keep their heads above water when trying to corral their kids and set a good example. It’s especially hard when each of the parents is afflicted with their own relentless dysfunction; Hal’s an utter buffoon just trying to keep life from killing him, while Lois is the ultra-frazzled mom in desperate need of parenting classes, yelling and threatening her kids into submission. We see our parents in them, and that’s why we keep coming back.
“The Simpsons” – The Simpsons
If the patriarch in your family comedy makes it a laughable offense to choke your kid half to death in virtually every episode, you belong on this list. Homer’s the idiot with a heart of gold, Lisa’s the wise young academic conflicted by her intellect, Bart’s the ultimate one-liner-spewing brat delinquent, Maggie’s the trouble-making baby (she’s still not talking, and how many decades in are we?) and Marge keeps it all together with the diligence of a mother hen and, usually, the good nature of a Stepford wife. No animated family in television history has ever had such a long run as a series, or made such an impact on the fabric of American culture.
“Married with Children” – The Bundys
Dripping with sexist themes and led by a lovable but misogynistic blue-collar "average Joe," the Bundys depicted the lives of the freaks down the street you knew as a kid in the most awesomely colorful – and often controversial – ways. The show celebrated sloppiness and idiocy like no other, with a family consisting of a lazy, shallow wife, a slutty, simpleton daughter Kelly and geeky pervert son Bud, all supported by Al Bundy, the thankless, luckless shoe salesman. They treated each other like crap, made cruel fun of every soul who ever set foot in their house and, somehow, won America’s hearts in the process.
“Roseanne” – The Conners
If you were a middle-class suburban American family in the late ’80s and early ’90s, chances are that "Roseanne" wasn’t too far a cry from your own life. Real, gritty and ungraceful characters from top to bottom comprised the Connor family, as the family of five dealt with the trials and tribulations of reality-mirroring situations and problems in a pre-internet America. Whether through goody-two-shoes Becky (so what if there were nine of her?), black sheep Darlene, bratty kid brother DJ, good-natured meathead Dan or Roseanne herself, every one of us could relate to the Connor family in some way, making us feel a little better about our own dysfunctional lives.
"All in the Family" – The Bunkers
For those old enough to remember, "All In the Family" was the pioneering dysfunctional-family show that set the precedent for all the Al Bundys and Homer Simpsons out there and forced the evolution of the sitcom from tame, ultra-conservative programming to something a little more realistic. Archie Bunker represented everything "Father Knows Best" covered up so spotlessly: misogyny, racism, relentless irritability and the crucifier of anything politically correct, and while his caricaturesque family wasn’t anywhere near Archie’s level of bastardly meanness, their willingness to center their lives around such a dysfunctional patriarch made them guilty by association.