The family unit has been a lifelong staple on TV screens. We see them struggle, thrive, and win their happy endings. But there's one type of family who always ends up at odds with each other. Gone are the days of the ideal family—bring in the dysfunctional TV family!
It's truly surreal to root for a dysfunctional TV family, since they often feature some vile characters and motivations. But we somehow relate to them anyway... and obsessively follow their exploits.
There are many dysfunctional families out there (beloved or not), so here are our picks for the best dysfunctional families on TV and what make them so great to watch.
10. The Roys (Succession)
Succession follows the powerful Roy family who owns a giant media conglomerate. When corporate and personal issues affect their company, the Roys scramble for the coveted position of CEO. And that pits the Roy siblings—and their confidants—against each other in a war of words.
Creator Jesse Armstrong based the Roy family on powerful media families like the Murdochs and Trumps. In this show about power grabs, you see backstabbing in all its forms by the distressed Kendall, the spiteful Roman, the aggressive Shiv, the needy Connor, the menacing Logan Roy and, unluckily, Cousin Greg.
9. The Drapers (Mad Men)
Don Draper sees himself as a family man. He longs pride for his family: his wife Betty and his children Sally, Bobby, and Gene.
But his actions never reflect his words. He cheats on Betty with several women. He's neglectful toward her and their children. And even with a second wife, Draper cheats on her with other women.
Clearly, Don Draper's alcoholism, lasciviousness, neglect, and smoking take a toll on his family. One can't help but understand that Don was a victim of an abusive household, but it's still a bleak picture.
8. The Gallaghers (Shameless)
Shameless centers on the messy slice-of-life exploits of the poor Gallagher family
They are anything but fortunate to live and thrive on the streets of Chicago as patriarch Frank spends his days drinking and going with the flow. As a result, the Gallagher children try to make ends meet.
The show never shies away from the poverty experienced by the Gallaghers. And that provides ample opportunity for the Gallaghers to throw shade at each other.
It may feel pitiful to watch, but their bond can give out a laugh of relief. Just keep a close eye on Frank and Fiona's banter.
7. The Bundys (Married... With Children)
We mentioned the "ideal American family" as commonplace in old TV sitcoms, but one of the first TV shows to dump that formula was Married... With Children.
In this show, we have the Bundys: the hapless father Al, the sluggish mother Peggy, the clueless daughter Kelly, and the awkward son Bud. They're all unfortunate parts of this family unit.
Many of the show's storylines involve Al's devious schemes failing and his family reacting listlessly. It makes for comical humiliation for Al, yet it's so hard to keep away or feel pity for him. No wonder this show became one of the longest running TV sitcoms!
6. The Lannisters (Game of Thrones)
In Westeros, no family is safe from dysfunction—but one family exhibits more disarray than most, and that's House Lannister.
Despite the power and influence they wield, they're prone to turning against each other. You can pin that on the ruthless Lord Tywin, who's especially cruel to Tyrion, but he's not entirely to blame.
Among the family's most heinous deeds: the forbidden incestual connection between Jaime and Cersei; the attempted murder of Bran Stark by Jaime; the psychopathic cruelty of Joffrey. We can thank Tyrion for being the only moral compass.
5. Malcolm's Family (Malcolm in the Middle)
The misadventures of middle child Malcolm would not be possible without his chaotic family.
His mother Lois is hotheaded. His father Hal is idle. His oldest brother Francis is a troublemaker. His older brother Reese is annoying. His younger brother Dewey is eccentric. And his youngest brother Jamie is innocent.
Malcolm is gifted, but that prevents him from living a normal high school life. Worse, he's always using his smarts to outwit his brothers and his mother. They have a hard time keeping up, but that's the price to pay for a dysfunctional family.
4. The Sopranos (The Sopranos)
In the mafia, family is first—even for a dysfunctional one.
The Sopranos consist of mobster Tony, his wife Carmela, his daughter Meadow, and his son A.J. His closest confidants include his cousin Christopher, right-hand man Silvio, and soldier-turned-capo Paulie Walnuts. Needless to say, they bear grudges against each other.
Family dysfunction in The Sopranos is a generational one. Since Tony faced abuse from his mother, he passes it down to his wife, his children, and his friends. And pressure on Tony's position makes it worse. But amidst all the vices, he does it all for loyalty to his family.
3. The Bunkers (All in the Family)
All in the Family was a groundbreaking TV sitcom at its time. It's one of the first to openly tackle topics like racism, infidelity, gender rights, religion, and cancer in mainstream television.
And it's thanks to the highly-opinionated Archie Bunker, his wife Edith, his daughter Gloria, and her husband Michael Stivic.
Every episode mostly involves the sentiments of Archie about America at that time, his attempts to understand those sentiments, and his family appeasing him.
It's a classic clash of generations that many TV shows would learn to copy in later years, but nothing beats the Bunkers on their couch-surfing and opening up to changes.
2. The Bluths (Arrested Development)
Nobody wants to see a family failing from one plan to the next, but that's exactly what the Bluths are—and they are so much fun to follow.
After George (the head of the family) is sent to prison, his son Michael tries his best to keep the family together and their business financially afloat. But Michael keeping his family guided is never easy since he has to deal with their quirks.
Gob is a failed magician. Lindsay has total disregard for spending money. Tobias is fruitless and awkward. Buster has issues with their offhand mother. Still, they make for endless shenanigans.
1. The Simpsons (The Simpsons)
Is there an dysfunctional American TV family more dysfunctional than the Simpsons? The Simpsons faced many moments of disarray and chaos, but they remain the same:
Homer is the clueless father. Marge is the concerned mother. Bart is the troublemaking son. Lisa is the gifted daughter. Maggie is the innocent toddler with unnoticed misadventures.
Despite their familial differences and one-note traits, they go through thick and thin as a cohesive unit. Even their relatives like Grandpa Abe, Patty, and Selma stick by their side (when convenient). It just shows the staying power of the Simpsons for 30+ seasons.