Looking for a surrogate family to escape into? Here, Metacritic lists 10 of TV's most memorable families, ranked by the Metascore of the series on which they appear.
Television has a long history of famous families that taught viewers how to love and support those around them. Early sitcom families, such as the Cleavers from Leave It To Beaver and the Ricardos on I Love Lucy, were examples of nuclear families that dominated the mainstream. Viewers could also see themselves and their experiences in TV families that didn't fit the traditional mold, though, through the Taylors on The Andy Griffith Show and the blended family of The Brady Bunch.
TV families have continued to evolve and include a more well-rounded representation of what households look like today, with shows including Fresh Off the Boat giving a voice to the immigrant experience and Modern Family including a same-sex couple.
One of the most popular TV families of the past decade has been the Pearsons on This Is Us. After six seasons of time-hopping storylines that have included marriages, divorces, births, adoptions, death, and a few secret family members that are not as dead as they were presumed to be, the Pearsons have left few storylines uncovered. The Pearsons will go down as a TV family that many viewers wish they could be part of because of how loving the heads of household (Jack, played by Milo Ventimiglia, and Rebecca, played by Mandy Moore), were. But they aren't the only fictional family that will be remembered for delivering a weekly dose of warm fuzzies.
Here, Metacritic lists 10 of TV's most memorable families, ranked by the Metascore of the series on which they appear.
Modern Family (Metascore: 87)
Best for: Comedy fans who aren't scared to shed a few tears every now and then
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Modern Family doesn't just make viewers laugh out loud, which it does consistently, but it is also known to make them cry, thanks to the show's knack for sneaking in moments deep with emotional gravity. The series focuses on newly remarried patriarch Jay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill) and his much younger wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara), as well as Jay's adult children Claire (Julie Bowen) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and their respective families. Modern Family dabbles with the absurd, but it always returns to a dash of realism that makes the characters and storylines feel genuine. It would be easy to dismiss the character of Gloria as a gold digger or Claire's husband Phil (Ty Burrell) as an airhead, but each relationship and character is written with love and respect while still showing relatable struggles, like adapting to unexpected relationships within a family.
"This remains far and away the best prime-time sitcom: crisp and farcical, but very kind." — Tom Gliatto, People
The Simpsons (Metascore: 87)
Best for: Fans of animation and paying homage to pop culture
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For a show to earn the title of the longest-running scripted series in television history, it better be entertaining, right? The Simpsons and specifically the members of the Simpson family (Homer, Marge, and their three children Lisa, Bart, and Maggie) continue to keep audiences engaged with timely episodes, funny gags, trippy specials (we mean you, 'Treehouse of Horror' episodes), and A-list celebrity cameos. The Simpsons has managed to continue evolving past its basic identity, including a patriarch who is a buffoon and a stay-at-home mother with a blue perm, to be a series about a loving and supportive family…but Homer will always be a bit of a buffoon.
"What began in 1987 (as animated filler between sketches on The Tracey Ullman Show) has become one of the medium's most dependable entertainments, a cartoon that transcended cartoonishness a long time ago." — Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly
Black-ish (Metascore: 77)
Best for: Fans of sitcoms that can master comedy just as well as social and political topics
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For eight seasons, Black-ish bridged the gap between joke-heavy sitcoms and series that have something to say. The show never shies away from difficult topics including systemic racism and classism in America, instead using the close-knit Johnson family to present many viewpoints to events that families are dealing with daily. Black-ish has expertly gone where many sitcoms before it have been scared to go in the family story lines as well, including a separation between protagonists Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross); kids growing up, moving out of the house, and making decisions the parents don't always agree with; and the family's reaction to such local events as police shootings. For every heavy topic, the Johnson family is still able to bring the laughs, though, from recreating the iconic Good Times series, to paying homage to Prince.
"Black-ish is fun, cool, and hip. It just so happens to also have a lot going on upstairs." — LaToya Ferguson, AV Club
This Is Us (Metascore: 76)
Best for: Fans of romance, mystery, and dramas about family dynamics
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The Pearsons have a lot of love (and a lot of birthdays) but also a lot of loss to experience, and the audience of This Is Us is along for that ride through multiple decades of family drama. The series starts with parental figures Jack and Rebecca ready to welcome their children into the world, but it also includes the first twist (of many) that the show delivers over its sixth-season run by revealing one of their children is adopted. The next big twist, of course, is that Jack doesn't live to see his children grow into full adults. As the show flashes back and forth in time, it highlights Jack and Rebecca's enduring love, as well as their love for their three children — Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz), and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) — and those children's own relationships as they get older. The family tree grows new branches with each storyline introduced, but for a group that oozes love and support, each new addition is a reminder that family is not only someone from the same bloodline.
"These characters feel real. Relatable. Sympathetic. Their stories are compelling. They interact in unexpected ways." — Scott D. Pierce, The Salt Lake Tribune
Fresh Off the Boat (Metascore: 75)
Best for: Comedy fans and anyone who can relate to the immigrant experience
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Based on chef Eddie Huang's autobiography, Fresh Off The Boat centers on the Huang family, which is made up of parents Louis (Randall Park) and Jessica (Constance Wu) and their three sons Eddie (Hudson Yang), Emery (Forrest Wheeler), and Evan (Ian Chen). The series opens with the Asian-American family relocating from their diverse neighborhood in Washington, D.C. to an all-white area of Orlando, Fla. The immigrant experience, including Eddie's embarrassment over his homemade lunches and Jessica's loving but intense pressure on her children to succeed, hits home for many viewers, regardless of their background. However, the show is not out to preach to its audience. Featuring a time capsule of 1990s music, fashion, and pop culture references, the series depicts the struggles and triumphs of a family working together to fit in while still honoring their culture.
"Fresh Off the Boat finds jokes in plenty of other, non-racial issues, and that's often the bonus that gives you confidence this is a show with legs." — Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter
Roseanne (Metascore: 73) and The Conners (Metascore: 75)
Best for: Sitcom fans who like to see current events depicted in fictional settings
Where to watch: Roseanne:
Viewers were first introduced to the Conners, a working-class family in the fictional blue-collar town of Lanford, Ill., back when Roseanne premiered in 1988. That series ran successfully for nine seasons, offering a glimpse into the everyday life of family that is often struggling to make ends meet and can also get quite snarky with each other. It was eventually revived to critical acclaim in 2017. Show creator and star Roseanne Barr was fired from the revival after tweeting racial slurs, and the show was revamped as The Conners, a more fitting title since the series had always been about the entire family unit, not just Barr's on-screen alter ego, anyway. The Conners continues to walk the tightrope between safe sitcom humor and biting political discourse, melding current events, including the Trump presidency and COVID-19, with shifting family dynamics and a lot of heart.
"It's Metcalf and Gilbert who are the irreplaceable stars now, which seems only right. This was always a show built around strong, albeit flawed, female characters." — Lorraine Ali, The Los Angeles Times
Schitt's Creek (Metascore: 73)
Best for: Fans of feel-good, inclusive comedies
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The Roses may not be as expressive with their love for each other as the Pearsons (or perhaps most of the families that made this list), but they are loyal, caring, and always impeccably dressed, even post-bankruptcy. Schitt's Creek began as a sleeper hit about a rich, out-of-touch family that loses everything and is forced to move to a small town previously bought by patriarch Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) for his son David (series creator Dan Levy). The humbling experience does little to deter the Roses' affinity for the finer things, but their new digs provide the close quarters they need to reconnect, and the town's colorful residents teach the family about what it means to be a friend. The Canadian series made history in its sixth and final season by sweeping all four major acting categories at the Emmys, taking home nine awards in total in 2020.
"The striking thing about Schitt's Creek is in how writing this quick and smart and performances as finely calibrated as these exist on a show without cynicism, crudeness, glibness, or the kind of tortured darkness that has come to define what we consider 'great' comedy." — Kevin Fallon, The Daily Beast
Parenthood (Metascore: 64)
Best for: Those interested in multi-generational dramas about family dynamics
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Based on the 1989 film starring Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen, director Ron Howard returns to his examination of an extended family and their relatable dynamics in the 2010 series of the same title. This time, it's the Braverman family, not the Buckmans, who take center stage, although the setup is largely the same. Four adult siblings (played by Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Erika Christensen, Dax Shepard) dealing with addiction, divorce, marital strife, parenting woes, and career pressures anchor the dramedy, which also heavily features their children and parents (the latter played by Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia). Much like its namesake, Parenthood features an impressive ensemble cast that helps create fully fleshed-out characters and keep each episode juggling a lot.
"Having too many compelling directions to take a series in is far better than having too few, even if the writers make a wrong turn every once in a while." — Phillip Maciak, Slant Magazine
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Metascore: 59)
Best for: Fans of comedy with a lot of heart and some classic 1990s fashion
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Thanks to its portrayal of an upper-class Black family living in California, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air gave audiences a welcome alternative to the limited and largely negative depictions of Black characters on TV in the 1990s. Audiences from all backgrounds can fall in love with the Banks family, who take in their fish-out-of-water nephew Will (Will Smith). Will's upbringing in a rough area of Philadelphia provides six seasons of hilarious interactions with his affluent extended family, with the series delivering no shortage of laughs and a lot of heart. Just thinking of this iconic scene between Smith and the late James Avery always makes us well up.
"For all of its frolic and delight, its social observations and conflict make it the television progeny of such substantive sitcoms as All in the Family." — Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune