Loving and funny, groundbreaking and heartwarming, often dysfunctional and always relatable. For better or for worse, television families are just like us.
On television screens and tablets, we invite TV families of all shapes and sizes into our homes to laugh and cry with every day. Some help us forget our daily lives, while others tackle important issues and teach valuable lessons. Whether it’s the Pritchetts in Modern Family or the Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie, television families provide the backbone of so many of our favorite shows.
But not all TV broods are created equal. It’s a select few that can stand the test of time and stay with us forever. So get comfy and scroll down for our list of the 10 most-loved television families of all time.
From the Dowager Countess’ searing one liners to the ever-strained relationship between sisters Lady Mary and Lady Edith Crawley, PBS’s Downton Abbey has no shortage of family drama. Yet despite one historical upheaval after another, the Crawleys and their servants never forget the ties that bind them, and always find their way home.
Never before — and never again — have political, cultural, and family issues been so brilliantly addressed in such a charming package. The hit NBC sitcom, which aired from 1982 to 1989, follows young Republican Alex P. Keaton and his sisters as they navigate life in a society that their liberal, free-spirited parents just totally don’t get. But no matter how big their political divides seem at times, love always conquers all in the Keaton house.
The Brady Bunch
Few shows (and their theme songs) have burrowed themselves as deeply into the social consciousness as The Brady Bunch. The story of lovely lady and a man named Brady has touched the hearts of viewers for generations. With one of television’s original blended families at its heart, the 70s sitcom focuses on the dynamics that result when a man with three young boys married a woman with three young girls. Together, they navigate the awkwardness of adolescence and the challenges of sibling relationships and never fail to make viewers smile along the way.
Modern Family serves up a helping of reality with a serious side of hilarity. The ABC sitcom, which is currently in its eighth season, follows the life of Jay Pritchett and his zany modern family. Pritchett’s sprawling family, which includes his vicacious Colombian wife and two quirky sons-in-law, makes for endless entertainment. Beneath the over-the-top slapstick humor, issues of diversity, sexuality, gender, and adoption (to name a few) provide plenty of opportunities for important real-life lessons.
Any family that ends each day by wishing each other goodnight as they drift off to sleep is a family we can get behind. What we love even more about the Walton family is that even though they have very little, the family of eight never shies away from helping those in need. The Waltons, which is based in a fictitious Virginia mountain town, takes place during two of the darkest times in American history — the Great Depression and World War II — and was inspired by creator Earl Hammer’s own childhood.
Little House on the Prairie
When it comes to American families, the Ingalls are about as iconic as they come. Little House on the Prairie, the television series based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiographical Little House books, tells the story of a salt-of-the-earth family of seven who live and work on their tiny Minnesota farm during the 1870s and 1880s. As the main character, Laura, comes of age, she and her family deal with hardship and pain, but never lose sight of their faith, or each other.
Gilmore Girls flips the notion of a “perfect family” right on its head, and we love it for that. Nothing warms our hearts quite like a healthy mother-daughter relationship—no matter how quirky it way seem—and Gilmore Girls gives us just that, and some. Although Lorelai doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with her own parents, she raised a strong independent daughter, and she will always have her back. Even when they go 5 months, 3 weeks, and 16 days without speaking, the Gilmore girls will always be each other’s best friends.
The second show on this list to have recently been given a second shot at life on Netflix (after Gilmore Girls, or course) Full House is another classic family show with an impossibly catchy theme song. The long-running ABC sitcom chronicles the struggles of a father (Bob Saget) who enlists his best friend and brother-in-law to help him raise his three young girls after his wife is tragically killed in a car accident. The three men are incredibly endearing as they blunder through the struggles of parenting together. It’s often hilarious and, at times, awkward, but it’s always sweet.
Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights follows high school football players as they come of age in the fictional small town of Dillon, Texas. At the center of the heartwarming and totally binge-worthy series is Coach Taylor, the quintessential father figure played by Kyle Chandler. Friday Night Lights addresses an array of modern day issues, from family values to race relations and drug abuse. Despite his demanding job and pressures from the community, Coach’s commitment to his wife Tami and their daughters never falters. Swoon. And don’t even get us started on how incredibly well he and Tami handle every parenting obstacle they come across. Seriously, #couplegoals.
The Wonder Years
Very few shows have captured the angst of suburban adolescence as successfully as The Wonder Years. Set in Anytown U.S.A, Kevin Arnold’s coming-of-age story could have taken place quite literally, anywhere—it’s that universal. From problems with schoolwork and friends, to his tortured romance with Winnie Cooper, like Kevin, viewers could always rely on his parents (and maybe his older siblings) for guidance, understanding and a square meal at the dinner table.