© MPTV, Photo by Al Levine
The Huxtables, The Cosby Show
Life always seems more exciting in their living rooms than in ours. These onscreen clans had us wishing we could become one of them or wondering how to avoid turning out like them. But they always had us laughing.
From the pilot's very first father-son chat—"I am your father. I brought you in this world, and I'll take you out!"—to Cliff and Clair's final waltz off the set, The Huxtables
stole the hearts of every TV watcher in America. We wanted to be one of them—to sit around the dinner table with Sondra, Denise, Vanessa, Theo and Rudy; to bring our friends over to play bucking horse or turn our house into the "real world." Dr. and Mrs. Huxtable, a doctor and lawyer respectively, were the first upper-class, African-American, happily married couple we saw on TV. They showed us what a real family—no matter what color—should strive to be.
There's something about the yellow cartoon characters that have serious staying power. Their family may not exactly be oozing with kindness, but they've captured a real-life relationship that speaks to modern America. After all, they're in their 20th season in prime time. The show has won a slew of awards and broken plenty of television records. Not that that's why we tune in. You'll find us in front of the tube Sunday nights because though they're cartoons, The Simpsons are as real as a family can get—they argue, slam doors and sometimes hate each other, but ultimately, they stick together.
The Keatons, Family Ties
Hippie parents bringing up a staunch conservative son—who knew the concept could give rise to such an entertaining clan? Baby boomers saw themselves in Steven and Elyse Keaton's liberal leanings. Young Reagan Republicans embraced Alex's hilarious antics. Boy-crazy teens wanted to be like Mallory. The rest of us just laughed along with tomboy Jennifer's how-did-I-get-here attitude. They're the classic sitcom family, and we love 'em for it.
The Bankses, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Before he was headlining Big Willie Weekends, Will Smith
was just The Fresh Prince to us. He was the coolest cousin around, though it was sometimes lost on stuck-up Carlton, princess Hilary and tough-guy Uncle Phil. From West Philadelphia, born and raised, Will was shipped off to ritzy Bel-Air to live with his aunt and uncle in safer pastures. He still got himself into plenty of trouble, but his family always came through for him—despite so often being the butt of his jokes.
What's not to love about a mob family? A lot usually, but Tony Soprano and his New Jersey relations are so intriguing it's hard to hold their murderous tendencies against them. Yes, they are flawed—in fact, flawed may be an understatement—but if nothing else, Tony loves his kids. In the series finale's controversial closing scene, that's the reminder we're left with: Tony, in his own way, is a family man.
They're the family from the future! Although, these days, the future doesn't seem so far off. How long will it be, really, until we can have our own Rosie the Housekeeper and flying car? Regardless, George, his boy Elroy, daughter Judy and Jane, his wife, brought to life everything we imagined the space age would be—the workday will only be three hours! We can watch TV on our watch! We can talk to people over computers....oh, wait.
The Addamses, The Addams Family
They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky and still, somehow, incredibly lovable. Morticia and Gomez Addams may be ghoulish, but they are really in love. Who doesn't wish she could send her husband into a fit of lust at the sound of a few French utterances? They're unfailingly supportive of children Wednesday and Pugsley and accepting of any visitors who can look past their lifestyle. Plus, they happily embrace extended family—Uncle Fester, Cousin Itt, Grandmama—into their home. How many of us can say that?
© 2003-2004 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
The Bluths, Arrested Development
Some TV families we love because we wish we could be a part of them. Others we adore because we're so grateful that we aren't. The Bluths fall into the latter category. We could gawk at the bizarre antics of Lucille, George Sr., Gob, Buster and Lindsay all day long, but to have to walk in Michael's shoes? No thank you. That said, when it comes to sheer hilarity, there's no family more entertaining than the Bluths. George Sr. is in jail (or hiding, depending on the season), Lindsay is a self-absorbed pseudo-philanthropist married to a never-nude, George Michael is in love with his cousin...the dysfunctions go on. We could list them, but wouldn't you rather just see for yourself?
The Petries, The Dick Van Dyke Show
Mom and Dad were played by Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore—every baby boomer's dream parents. Though family time didn't take center stage (more screen time focused on Rob's office life), the Petries embodied the picture of contentment in what seemed like much simpler times. Though they slept in separate beds, Rob and Laura's relationship did push some cultural '60s boundaries: real chemistry for an onscreen couple! A mother in—gasp!—capri pants! We didn't see too much of their son, Ritchie, but when we did, we dreamed of trading places.
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