TV’s 20 Best Shows About The American Family



It looks like ABC might have found a new hit by focusing on an old but favorite topic – the American family.

Last night, the network premiered ‘Modern Family,” a show that spotlights three households: a traditional nuclear unit, a gay couple who have adopted a daughter from Vietnam, and the middle aged scion who has bagged a much younger bride.

The twist? They’re all part of one family.

The second twist? A Danish documentary crew is filming the extended bunch for a reality TV series airing in the Netherlands.

Watch the season premiere here.

And the biggest twist of all? 12.7 million people watched the debut episode. It was also number one in its time slot among 18 to 49 year olds.

Could this mean a rebirth of TV’s interest in the American family? “I think the market is being under-served,” says Melissa Henson, Director of Communications for the Parents Television Council. “The public has shown they like shows about families, shows they can relate to. The problem is the networks haven’t been that interested in producing such shows.”

Indeed, sitcoms have been few and far between since shows like ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ and ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ went off the air. Except for ABC’s ‘Brothers & Sisters,” dramas like ‘7th Heaven’ have generally been scarce, too.

Reality is another story, of course. TLC’s ‘Jon & Kate Plus 8’ has gone from cuddly hit to a portrait of a family in crisis. In a way, the Gosselin’s struggle recalls PBS’ breakthrough 1973 series ‘An American Family,’ a documentary that followed the Loud family of Santa Barbara in all their intimate moments and shocked the public when Bill and Pat Loud filed for divorce and their son Lance revealed that he was gay.



Bottom line, as ‘Modern Family’ aired, it prompted a debate on whether it might one day join the elite list of TV’s best shows about the American family. Of course, that led to an even bigger, more heated debate about which shows should be included on that list. What do you think?

You can watch the debut of ‘Modern Family’ here and then compare it to the following list of TV’s 20 Best Shows About The American Family.

  1. The Cosby Show: Taught us more about family than any other show.
  2. Roseanne: Showed love and laughter get families through hard times.
  3. The Brady Bunch: Though simple, it’s survived for a reason.
  4. The Simpsons: TV’s greatest family epic – love in the time of Homer & Marge
  5. The Wonder Years: Growing pains and family dramas were instantly relateable
  6. An American Family: The first reality show (and on PBS), it shattered the mythic ideal.
  7. Little House On The Prairie: A classic show with drama, lessons and cute kids.
  8. All In The Family: Archie’s chair is in the Smithsonian – and forever in our hearts.
  9. The Addams Family: Nobody loved his wife like Gomez Addams.
  10. Leave It To Beaver: The 1950s paradigm that still has much merit.
  11. 7th Heaven: Families across the heartland related to the Camdens – or wanted to be them.
  12. The Osbournes: More like the Cleavers than we knew and, per Ozzy, all f***ing mad.
  13. Malcolm in the Middle: A kids-eye-view of a functioning dysfunctional family.
  14. The Sopranos: A word where family meant everything – and more.
  15. Married… With Children: Children as visitors who never leave.
  16. Life Goes On: A brave and warm show about a family raising a child with Down Syndrome.
  17. One Day At A Time: Yes, some moms were single and they could pull it together.
  18. Family Guy: Brilliantly clever, funny and surprising.
  19. Jon & Kate Plus 8: With more reality off-screen than on, it opened eyes to marriage.
  20. Good Times: Esther Rolle insisted producers not make her a single mother, but married.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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