We knew it had to be TV related, but what specifically did we want to discuss?
Well-being that we’re all pop culture fans of a certain age range, sitcom families seemed like the right thing to do.
So…each of us (well, most of us, anyway) contributed lists of our favorite sitcom families. The families represented ran the gamut from the early days of TV to the present. We’re all pop culture nerds; you certainly can’t accuse us of not knowing our history. Here are the 20 families that got the most points. Hope your favorites made it, and if they didn’t, speak up!!!
20. The Seavers (“Growing Pains”)
Let’s face it, “Growing Pains” was obviously a “Cosby” ripoff. What wound up setting the Long Island-based sitcom apart from it’s Brooklyn predecessor? Well, there was the fact that leads Alan Thicke (as Dr. Jason Seaver) and Joanna Kerns (as his wife Maggie) had a wink-wink nudge-nudge chemistry that seemed to let viewers know they were in on the joke. There was also the fact that “Growing Pains” focused much more on the kids-particularly wiseacre turned Goody Two Shoes Mike (as played by the currently insufferable Kirk Cameron.) Over the course of a seven year run, the Seaver parents exchanged lusty glances (Alan & Joanna had quite possibly the best chemistry of any sitcom couple of the Eighties sans Cliff & Clair), while kids Mike, Carol (Tracey Gold), Ben (Jeremy Miller) and Chrissy (Ashley Johnson-shoehorned into the show after Miller turned into an awkward teenager) got into trouble and good-naturedly ribbed one another (well at least until the writers’ insistence on aiming fat jokes at Gold turned her anorexic). It was so typically Eighties, and so typically good that even Cameron’s crazypants post-show shenanigans and a couple of God-awful reunion films can’t ruin the memories.-Blerd
19. The Bradys (“The Brady Bunch”)
Most young people today who have seen an episode of “The Brady Bunch” might scoff at what they just saw. It’s corny, not complex, and is the type of show where everything falls together perfectly at the end of every episode. Even knowing this as I was growing up and watching it in syndication, I still loved it.
If you think about it, the concept of family is very unconventional. Mike Brady is a widowed father of three sons. Carol Brady has three daughters, all the same age as Mike’s sons. They marry each other and have a happy family. But where is Carol’s baby daddy? Is she divorced? Did she just hook up with random dudes? This is never explained. Still, the concept of a blended family on television hadn’t happened much before and I dig the attempt. My single favorite thing about the show is that even though it’s not great television, there are so many memorable episodes and even non-fans know the day when Marcia’s nose was hit by Peter’s errant throw of the football. That’s staying power.-GG
18. The Drummond/Jacksons (“Diff’rent Strokes”)
Family was such a strong theme to Diff’rent Strokes, you could even add Mrs. Garrett to the Drummonds/Jacksons. Diff’rent Strokes was my favorite show as a young kid (BC – Before Cosby). Who didn’t enjoy Gary Coleman as a young Arnold Jackson, one of the best comedic actors in the early 80s no matter his age? The story surrounded a rich widowed father of one who adopts the two poor kids from Harlem (Arnold and his older brother Willis). The dynamic of rich vs. poor and white vs. black was definitely on display visually, but the show didn’t hit you over the head with it constantly, save for some one-liners. It’s yet another show where the family dynamic wasn’t conventional, much like The Brady Bunch. But no matter what, even mixed, family mattered.-GG
17. The Ricardos (“I Love Lucy”)
Seinfeld‘s finale, one of the last “culturally unifying” sitcom moments in American history, boasted 21.27 million viewers, something less than a tenth of the country. When Lucy went to the hospital to deliver Little Ricky, I Love Lucy boasted a 71.7%. That’s not a share of the audience but a percentage of all households with televisions–including the ones where the TV was off.
Since according to the US Census; one can be of any race and still be Hispanic, many understandably question the idea that the Ricardos were “TV’s first interracial marriage.” Yet there was undoubtedly something shocking about the concept in 1950’s America; indeed CBS originally refused to air the show for precisely this reason:
“CBS wanted no part of this,” says Geoffrey Mark Fidelman, a Lucy historian and author of The Lucy Book: A Complete Guide to Her Five Decades on Television (Renaissance Books, 1999, $19.95.) “In the eyes of many, Lucille and Ricky were an interracial couple. That had never been shown. In the movies, César Romero flirted with Betty Grable, but they never got married or had sex or children. So this was a very big deal. CBS said, ‘Who would ever believe that an all-American girl like you would be married to a Cuban bongo beater?’ ”
But America did end up loving Lucy, and would come to accept accept everything from bandleader Ricky singing a full out “Babalú,” (pretty damned outrageous considering it was a hymn to the Yoruba god of illness) to Ricky’s mom, who spoke absolutely no English at all (“¿Felipe Morrison, señora? asked Lucy, offering her a cigarette), to Ricky’s outraged outbursts in Spanish.
VIDEO: Desi Arnaz singing Babalú, 1946:
VIDEO: A 74 year old Celia Cruz singing the same song on the PBS special, Celia Cruz and Friends. Hartford, Connecticut, 1999
16. The Munsters
With the prevalence of psychedelic drugs in the 60’s, maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise that The Munsters were born. On the surface it was a standard blue-collar working family comedy, infused with just a bit of the surf and hot rod culture of the time (who can forget the Dragula or the Munster Mobile, or the catchy-as-hell opening theme?). Normal enough, save the fact the entire family were pulled straight from the monster canon of Universal Studios.
Whereas their television horror contemporaries, The Addams, were wealthy eccentrics, The Munsters were in almost every aspect down-to-earth, everyday people. Breadwinner Herman worked a factory job while his lovely wife Lily made all the smart decisions. Their young son Eddie was cut from the same cloth as “Leave it to Beaver”, and Grandpa, the resident retiree, was always hatching hair brained schemes to get rich quick (and more often than not get the family in trouble). And Marilyn apparently benefited from some recessive gene that made her a perfectly normal, saucy blonde who seems perfectly content living with her family of monsters at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.
Ultimately, however, the show worked because of the characters, not just the horror shtick. Fred Gwyne (who played Herman) was a master of physical comedy, and his body language alone made the show. The rest of the cast filled their roles perfectly, especially the meddling Grandpa Munster with his disheveled, borderline senile Dracula style, and the show soon became more about a family trying to live the American dream in spite of differences with society. And that solid premise and chemistry what any good sitcom needs, because a hook can only get you so far. Plus, call me crazy, but I still see a lot of The Munsters in shows today (especially in cartoon juggernaut The Simpsons).
And man, those cars are still awesome.-Stephen
15. The Addams (“The Addams Family”)
I was a classic latchkey kid. Both my parents worked, so I’d get home from school as a 7-year-old second grader, make myself something to eat and watch a metric shit-ton of TV. (Hey, I did my homework and played outside a lot, too.) I used to watch a lot of reruns of older shows and The Addams Family certainly fit the bill, having originally aired from 1964-66. I started watching it about 10 years later, and having been shot in black and white, it definitely looked older. But from the awesomely catchy theme song (still played at countless sporting events) to the hilariously creepy Addams family itself, I was hooked right from the first time I watched the show. Sure, I also enjoyed The Munsters, a similarly B&W show about eccentric monster types but I liked the Addamses more. From Gomez and Morticia, the happily married couple that led the family to behemoth butler Lurch, Uncle Fester, Cousin Itt and Thing, a disembodied hand, the show had plenty of great characters to work with. The Addams Family wasn’t particularly spooky, or even that ooky, but it was a lot of fun. There was an Addams resurgence in the ‘90s, but by that time, I had moved on.-Jay
14. The Flintstones
In 2011 a very small percentage of people remember The Honeymooners or any of the striking similarities between that series and The Flintstones. But, call someone “Fred Flintstone” they immediately know to stop acting like a caveman. The Prehistoric family from Bedrock remains in syndication over 50 years since its premiere inspiring Halloween costumes, movies, and now its been reported the show will be rebooted by once funny man Seth MacFarlane. Can the behemoth of a show survive the Macfarlane treatment? They survived threatened legal action from Jackie Gleason and a B-52s song; they’ll be fine.-Tom
13. The Conners (“Roseanne”)
When Roseanne premiered in 1988, the show made a splash for the Conners’ crass behavior. In contrast to the squeaky clean family units prevalent for decades (The Bradys, The Cleavers, The Seavers, etc.), The Conners could be crude, they didn’t always get along, and parents Dan and Roseanne didn’t always have easy solutions to the family’s problems. More historically important however, is the fact that Roseanne was one of the few instances of tv sitcoms portraying a working class (as opposed to middle class) family. The Sanfords (Sanford and Son) and The Evans family (Good Times) both represented lower class families, but both were black – arguably reinforcing stereotypes about the relationship between class and race. Roseanne on the other hand gave us a midwestern white family, struggling to make ends meet, both parents working, occasionally moving between jobs. The comedy is what drew us into the Conner home, but Roseanne’s representation of class is the show’s significance at the cultural moment that Bush extended Reagan’s America for another four years.-Dr. Gonzo
12. The Costanzas (“Seinfeld”)
If you’ve ever watched “Seinfeld” and found yourself thinking, “What the hell is wrong with George Costanza?”, you’re
not alone. It’s a valid question, the man is an idiot, an imbecile… a total moron. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and that’s the truth with the Costanza family tree and the crazy apples it produces. We’re talkingabout a family that brought us Festivus, (you know, the holiday for the rest of us!), highlighted of course by the annual Feats of Strength, Airing of Grievances and the undecorated aluminum pole. They taught us that serenity now leads to insanity later, and that there should be a brassiere for men, (‘mansierre’ that is, or if you prefer… a ‘bro’). The Costanzas steal every scene they are in, which is saying a lot on a powerhouse show like Seinfeld. They were must see TV to say the least!-Chuck
11. The Evans (“Good Times”)
If the Evans’, the fictitious family on Good Times, did anything, they persevered. Whether it was James losing his job, JJ going to jail, or Florida screaming, “Damn! Damn! Damn!” the family stuck together. What’s interesting to me about Good Times is that John Amos and Esther Rolle who played James and Florida Evans, were very unhappy with the show after the first season. They allegedly wanted to portray their family as lead by a strong, black father. But even when James’ character died after the first season, the reason the show was interesting was because of their family values. Late in the run, it became more about JJ and his “Dynomite!” antics, but it was still centered around JJ, Thelma, and Michael as a family unit. And even “Aunt” Wilona, played by the fantastic Ja’net Du Bois was a huge part of the family. Bookman wasn’t though.
This always gets me.-GG
Which families placed in our top ten? Find out tomorrow!
Incoming search terms:
- what every sitcom needs