The family sitcom is one of the most popular and cherished forms of comedy on television. The good ones make us feel like we're actually part of the family when tuning in each week — or binge watching over the weekend.
There have been plenty of good ones over the years, so it wasn't easy trying to narrow it down. But here we go with our list of the top television sitcom families of all time.
What actually began as a radio series, "Father Knows Best" and the Andersons were as wholesome as a family could get. But Robert Young portrayed patriarch Jim Anderson as more mild-mannered and generally thoughtful compared to the ruling-the-roost father figure from the radio show. Then again, family life in the 1950s was all warm and fuzzy.
This is the first of two times we'll see Patricia Heaton on this list. One of the more underrated comedies, "The Middle" lasted nine seasons thanks to the brilliance of Heaton as the overwhelmed and underappreciated matriarch, Frankie Heck. Daughter Sue (Eden Sher), oldest son, Axl (Charlie McDermott) and diminutive but always insightful youngest son, Brick (Atticus Shaffer), shined within a paycheck-to-paycheck family that was flawed but completely relatable.
Bill Cosby's legacy has justifiably been tarnished for drugging and sexually assaulting a young woman in the mid-2000s, and allegedly many others as well, and that should rightfully shadow his work on his titular sitcom. However, "The Cosby Show" was still groundbreaking in that it showed an African-American family of upper-middle class standing, something rarely seen on television at the time.
Herman (Fred Gwynne), Lily (Yvonne De Carlo), Grandpa (Al Lewis) and the kids were nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Television Series in 1965. The show's depiction of the monster-like group as a regular nuclear family amid normal suburban living was what made the show quite endearing and almost always entertaining for viewers during its brief two-season run before gaining popularity via syndication.
While the premise is somewhat similar to "The Munsters," "The Addams Family" had more of an edge, and its humor was a bit more dark. They were fashionably weird but devoted to having a safe and happy home. The show also gave us some of TV's most odd but memorable characters in Lurch, Cousin Itt and Uncle Fester.
Can this be considered the first reality family TV show? Maybe. The show started as a radio hit and enjoyed the same success during its 14-year run on television. According to those back in the day, viewers were almost like extended members of Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky Nelson's family. The unique format and the show's longevity led to its classic status.
If the Huxtables provided viewers a look at the life of a well-off African-American family, "Good Times" did just the opposite. The Evans family lived in the high-rise projects of Chicago, working to get by in a relatively poor and rough neighborhood. Oldest child J.J. (Jimmie Walker) was the star of the Evans household and the sitcom, which also featured a young Janet Jackson in later years.
Based on the real life family of creator Adam Goldberg, the laughs never seem to stop within the confines of this Philadelphia-area family. A stellar homage to the '80s, Goldberg's family has it all: the overbearing mom who will do anything for her kids, the lazy father who has a hard time expressing his love for anything other than his comfy chair, the smart but often misguided daughter and the overzealous and clueless brother and the wise but carefree grandfather.
Will Smith was the obvious star of the show, but the time he spent living with his extended family in ritzy Bel-Air was when the fun started. His aunt and uncle were straight-laced but could turn it up every now and then. But conceited and fashionista cousin Hilary (Karyn Parsons) and Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribeiro) often stole scenes from their more popular star. Of course, Banks gave us arguably the greatest TV dance of all time.
While Tim Allen is far more opinionated than patriarch Mike Baxter in his current sitcom, "Last Man Standing," he may be best-known for his character Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor on "Home Improvement," which still remains one of the most loved sitcoms ever. The Taylor kids were nothing special, though middle son Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) was good for some quality sarcasm. Yet it was the chemistry between Allen's Tim and his wife, Jill, played exceptionally by Patricia Richardson, that was comedy gold. He would dish it, and she would serve it right back.
One of the most beloved television families of all time was actually an extended one. Widow Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) and his three daughters had help with their misadventures and shenanigans from Uncle Jesse (John Stamos) and Danny's best friend, Joey (Dave Coulier). Of course, the Olsen twins' portrayal of youngest daughter, Michelle, usually stole the show.
The modern stone-age family was kind of like a tamer version of the Honeymooners. Husband Fred could be a bumbling and raging clown at times, but wife Wilma was always there to reel him in, calm him down and let her man know how much he meant to the family. Daughter Pebbles and pet dinosaur Dino rounded out the clan, while the neighboring Rubbles (Barney, Betty and Bamm-Bamm) were there to add to the fun and hijinks.
From the brilliantly warped mind of Seth MacFarlane, the Griffins are not everybody's cup of tea. Seen through the eyes of diabolical baby Stewie, this Quahog, Rhode Island, family is crass, crude, dysfunctional and awfully entertaining thanks to the popular intermixing with pop culture references and time-and-place scenarios. Oh yeah, their dog, Brian, can talk and is a drunk. Perfect.
Through the series' run of seven successful seasons, we are never to be told the last name of Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) and his family members, though early on it's believed to be Wilkerson. It didn't really matter; we were too busy laughing at Malcolm and his brothers' antics and relatively dysfunctional parents (Bryan Cranston and Jane Kaczmarek). The show also won an impressive seven Emmy Awards during its run.
There was a certain, consistent dynamic to the 1950s family, but the Cunninghams did not always stick to it. Sure, they ate dinner together, but dad Howard (Tom Bosley) could be crotchety at times, yet usually supportive, while mom Marion (Marion Ross) was ever-loving and welcoming. Richie (Ron Howard) was the all-American boy and Joanie (Erin Moran), the sweet little sister. But what about the Cunningham's oldest son, Chuck? He went upstairs with his basketball and never came back down.
Ex-hippies turned parents Steven (Michael Gross) and Elyse (Meredith Baxter-Birney) are parents to four children, two of whom prove to be the driving forces of this popular NBC vehicle of the 1980s. Michael J. Fox rose to fame as the conservative-spewing Alex P. Keaton, while his somewhat dim but popular sister Mallory (Justine Bateman) was often the butt of her older brother's insults. Yet together they were a loving family that was fun to spend time with for seven entertaining seasons.
New rich was never so funny. A hillbilly family strikes gold and moves to Beverly Hills. Even in their lavish home, complete with the "cement pond," the Clampetts stuck out like a junk trunk on Rodeo Drive, but they stick to their guns and values to make a new life. Having a feisty, wise-cracking Granny (Irene Ryan) also didn't hurt.
For nine seasons we put up with the antics of Ray Barone (Ray Romano) and his family. As usually is the case, wife Debra (Patricia Heaton) was the rock, but her tension with Ray's mother (Doris Roberts) was priceless and made for great comedy. Ray's brother, Robert (Brad Garrett), was a cop, but his real job was being jealous — in an ingenious way — of his younger sibling.
The Bluths should really be a cartoon family, considering their antics — especially from sons Gob (Will Arnett) and Buster (Tony Hale). From the top on down, the Bluths are corrupt, selfish and downright insensitive to most everything, with the exception of son Michael (Jason Bateman), who is perhaps the lone, consistent voice of reason amid the dysfunction and hilarity.
While Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) is one of the more offensive fathers, and characters, in television history, he genuinely loves his family, even meathead son-in-law Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner). Wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) is truly the rock of the Bunker family and the only one who could really bring Archie to his knees, just with her overall presence.
Even in the recent reboot, minus Roseanne Barr, the Connors were still able to keep us laughing. This barely middle-class family got by with love and poking fun at each other and their lot in life. They made do, weren't always PC and had no trouble showing their vulnerability, which made the show work on all levels.
While the show revolved around young Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver (Jerry Mathers), his family is one of American television's favorites. Father Ward (Hugh Beaumont) can be stern, but his advice always made sense, while mom June (Barbara Billingsley) can clean the house, run errands and cook three meals a day without wrinkling her dress. Brother Wally (Tony Dow) was cool and calm and pals around with one of the most conniving best pals of all time in Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond).
The Simpsons are not just American's most beloved cartoon family but also for all of television history. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie have done just about everything. They know everybody and have gotten into so many predicaments and goofy situations over the past 30 years, yet we still can't get enough. They are certainly a little wacky but as close-knit as they come.
When we were first introduced to the Bundys in 1987, we were taken aback. Some were even appalled that Al (Ed O'Neill) would treat wife Peg (Katey Sagal) as he did but loved when she shoved it right back to him. Along with their kids, the ditzy but popular Kelly (Christina Applegate) and misguided son Bud (David Faustino), the Bundys were rude, crude and even disturbing...but oh, so funny.
Sure, the Bradys lived in a complete fantasy world — the one where every problem is solved in roughly 22 minutes, unless it was a two- or three-part episode. Mike, with his three boys in tow, marries Carol, the mother of three daughters, and they manage to live in harmony. So wholesome it's sickening, but it worked in the late 1960s and into the '70s. "The Brady Bunch" was escape viewing and should be the first to come to mind when talking TV families.
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.
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