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August 23, 2014

10 Dysfunctional TV Families We'd Like to Adopt

by Kim Potts, posted Feb 3rd 2010 2:00PM
That little smoocheroo between 'Big Love' mom Margie and her stepson, Ben, last Sunday? Whether or not you think the buss equals an incestuous act by the 'Big Love' duo -- she's sorta his stepmom, since she's married to his dad, Bill, though they're not legally married, since she's one of his polygamy wives -- eh, it makes out heads hurt, and our stomachs more than a little queasy, to contemplate the Ben/Margie, uh, affair much further.

Suffice it to say: The Hendricksons of 'Big Love' are more than a tweak or two away from being a healthy family.

And, thankfully for our quirky TV family-lovin' hearts, they're not alone. Sometimes the inner-family workings of TV kin lead to comedy, i.e. The Bluths of 'Arrested Development' and the Pritchett family on ABC's new hit 'Modern Family,' and sometimes it leads to dead wives in the bathtub or dead husbands in the shower, on dramas like 'Dexter' and 'Dallas.' That little smoocheroo between 'Big Love' mom Margie and her stepson, Ben, last Sunday?

Whether or not you think the buss equals an incestuous act by the 'Big Love' duo -- she's sorta his stepmom, since she's married to his dad, Bill, though they're not legally married, since she's one of his polygamy wives -- eh, it makes our heads hurt, and our stomachs more than a little queasy, to contemplate the Ben/Margie, uh, affair, much further.

Suffice it to say: The Hendricksons of 'Big Love' are more than a tweak or two away from being a healthy family.

And, thankfully for our quirky TV family-lovin' hearts, they're not alone. Sometimes the inner-family workings of TV kin lead to comedy, i.e. the Bluths of 'Arrested Development' and the Pritchett family on ABC's new hit 'Modern Family,' and sometimes it leads to dead wives in the bathtub or dead husbands in the shower, on dramas like 'Dexter' and 'Dallas.'

Here's our list of 10 TV families so delightfully dysfunctional that we'd happily adopt 'em as our own. Why? You have to admit, there'd never be another boring family reunion, boring Thanksgiving dinner or boring, well, anything, with these funky familial folks:

10. The Bluths
'Arrested Development'
Try as Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) might to run his family's business honorably, his eccentric relatives are just as committed to leading the extravagant lifestyles the company has afforded them ... legally or otherwise, hence Papa Bluth's (Jeffrey Tambor) prison stint. His dad isn't his only problem, of course; Michael also has to try to keep lush mom Lucille from blowing through the family fortune that the family no longer has, while brother GOB is obsessed with riding his Segway and playing magician, sister Lindsay will do anything to avoid getting a job and brother Buster, who's under Lucille's thumb, has fallen in love with his mom Lucille's enemy, also named Lucille (Liza Minnelli). And if things aren't stressful enough around the old banana stand, Michael's son, George Michael (Michael Cera), fears he's in love with his cousin, unaware that she's adopted and the two aren't biologically related. Not that that makes it any less weird.

9. The Reynolds
'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia'

Oh sure, Charlie and Mac have their own familial crosses to bear, what with Charlie's mom and the string of Santas she entertained each Christmas, and Mac and the convict father who wanted him to smuggle drugs into prison, but it's twins Dee and Dennis Reynolds who hit the dysfunctional daddy and mommy jackpot. Mother Barbara died after a botched plastic surgery procedure (and after years of tormenting Dee and Dennis), and, as adults, they're still being tormented by Frank (Danny DeVito), who has, among many other misdeeds, pimped Dennis out for sexual favors and pretended to be married to Dee during one of his many scams.

8. The Griffins
'Family Guy'

Dad Peter loves his TV and booze more than his fam, wife Lois ... well, you have to question the judgment of a woman who would choose to marry Peter, daughter Meg once dated a corpse, son Chris' most interesting personality trait is that he fears an evil monkey in his closet, dog Brian is pathologically self-obsessed and baby Stewie is the smartest Griffin of all, but his main goal for his intellect is to try to use it to off his family. The Griffin family's most redeeming quality? That they haven't actually killed each other. Yet.

7. The Pritchetts
'Modern Family'

Dad Jay (Ed O'Neill) tries to be accepting of his adult son Mitchell's gay lover Cameron and adopted Asian baby, Lily, while Mitchell and his sister Claire try to be accepting of divorced Jay's remarriage to the much younger, voluptuous Colombian Gloria, which came with Gloria's wise-behind-his-years pre-teen son Manny. Uptight Claire, who's an overprotective mom since living a rebellious lifestyle during her own teen years, is also stuck with having to play the bad cop parent much of the time, because her 'High School Musical' fan hubby Phil is frequently more concerned with being his kids' friend than having to discipline them. If we had to point out the most "normal" member of the Pritchett brood, or, at least, the one who puts the most fun in dysfunctional? Definitely Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), the flamboyant, flashy-attired boyfriend of Mitchell. He's a Midwestern farm boy who played college football, he collects antique pens, he's a whiz at Japanese flower arranging and he's a classically-trained clown, but the eccentric stay-at-home dad is often the sensitive voice of reason when stressed out Mitchell and his family members threaten to take all the fun out of their dysfunctional family gatherings.

6. The Wilkersons
'Malcolm in the Middle'

Yes, that was the last name of Hal, Lois, Francis, Reese, Malcolm, Dewey and Jamie, the quirky comedy family that originally revolved around genius son Malcolm (Frankie Muniz). As 'Malcolm' progressed, though, we came to see that each of the other Wilkerson sons had their own gifts, from Francis' charm and Reese's cooking and baking talents to Dewey's musical abilities and Hal's (Bryan Cranston) ability to have fun in even the most stressful circumstance (invaluable in the Wilkerson household). It was mom Lois (Jane Kaczmarek) who kept the household running (and physically together, for the most part, in a family full of destructive males), as her strict, pushy manner and sometimes bizarre punishments (blackmailing the boys by destroying their favorite toys and threatening to sledgehammer their beloved TV set) was key to helping her boys -- the kids and Hal -- live up to their potential.

5. The Morgans
'Dexter'

Never mind that most viewers genuinely like Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) and maybe even cheer on, or at the very least, understand, his vengeance-themed serial murderer lifestyle. No matter how charming and funny Dexter is, no matter how many doughnuts he brings to his co-workers or how thoughtful he is with his stepchildren, the dude is still a big old killer. And as for the rest of his family ... his biological brother, like Dexter, witnessed the vicious murder of their mother and, like Dexter, also became a serial killer. Meanwhile, his adopted sister, cop Deb, lives her life in a way that makes it clear she's still seeking the approval she never got from her father, which has led her into ill-fated relationships, including one with the guy who, unbeknownst to her, was Dexter's serial killer brother. And then there's Dexter's wife, Rita, who wasn't even aware just how bad her taste in men ran. Again, we all love Dexter, but Rita went from an abusive ex-husband to a husband whose secret life led to her demise in the bathtub.

4. The Conners
'Roseanne'

Blue collar mom Roseanne (Roseanne) ruled her roost with an iron spatula and the Conner clan was always barely scraping by from paycheck to paycheck, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a primetime family with more genuine affection for each other than Roseanne and Dan's (John Goodman) brood. Letting their teen daughter's boyfriend live in their house, Roseanne's bossy relationship with flighty sister Jackie, Dan's prickly relationship with the dad he thought abandoned him and his mentally-challenged mother, and Roseanne and Jackie's unresolved feelings from the years of abuse they suffered from their father, were serious issues the Conners didn't always deal with in the healthiest of ways, but they always managed to wring special moments out of simple things like a backyard barbecue, son DJ's spelling bee win and even daughter Becky's embarrassing fart during a school assembly.

3. The Bundys
'Married ... With Children'

Scoring four touchdowns in a single football game -- a high school game -- really did seem to be the high point for Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill), whose post-TD life consisted of marrying lazy, money-hungry, bon bon-chugging wife Peg and producing slutty, simpleton daughter Kelly and geek-boy son Bud, all of whom he supported by working a thankless job as a shoe salesman. Speaking of feet, Al was known to have the smelliest pair in the world, just one of the many indignities he, and the other Bundys, suffered on a daily basis. Still, in one episode where another woman flirted with Al, he rejected her while admitting that he actually liked his family.

2. The Botwins
'Weeds'

Widowed mom Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) starts selling weed to keep her family afloat after her hubby has a heart attack while jogging with her youngest son, Shane. Ya want more dysfunction? Shane and Nancy's oldest son Silas eventually join the new family business, which leads them to life-threatening danger on more than one occasion. Meanwhile, Silas intentionally impregnates his girlfriend in an effort to keep her from going away to college and later has an affair with a much-older woman, while increasingly rebellious 13-year-old Shane loses his virginity in a threesome with two of his classmates and, in the show's fifth-season finale, may have committed murder. Nancy Botwin, mother of the year? Hardly. And then there's Uncle Andy, Nancy's brother-in-law, who may be in love with her, who's also in the weed biz and who faked wanting to become a rabbi to get out of being shipped off to military duty in Iraq.

1. The Ewings
'Dallas'

A Romeo and Juliet-ish romance between Bobby Ewing and Pamela Barnes, whose families had long been at war with each other over Texas oil, was at the center of this dysfunctional family saga. Their families' animosity towards each other and towards their relationship would split Bobby and Pam up again and again (and lead to one of the most infamous scenes in primetime history when Bobby "returned from the dead" and into Pam's shower), though most of the, ahem, credit, has to go to dastardly oil baron J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), Bobby's big bro and a cheating, lying scoundrel who was willing to sell out his brother, his wife, even his beloved mother and father if it helped keep him in charge at Ewing Oil. J.R. was so hated by the show's second season that there were more than half a dozen suspects, several of them related to him, when he was shot and left for dead. Oh, and the cherry on the topping of this Texas-sized sundae of family dysfunction: Later in the series, it would turn out that South Fork ranch hand Ray was actually Jock Ewing's son, meaning Ray's season 1 fling with Jock's granddaughter Lucy -- Ray's niece! -- was quite icky.

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Sharon

I'm tired of seeing Malcolm in the Middle on a dysfunctional family list.

They aren't rich, and don't fit the Huxtable Model, but this is a family that supports each other, works hard, cares about their children, parents love each other.

I wonder why The Sopranos didn't make the cut..... :)

May 15 2010 at 11:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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