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Complicated TV Families

Noah Camarena |
March 26, 2015 | 4:33 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Arrested Development (Twitter/ @hitfix)
Arrested Development (Twitter/ @hitfix)
There are plenty of shows on television that portray an ideal family, but there are even more that show a family with complicated problems in turmoil. Here are some of the most complicated families from some of your favorite television shows.

"Arrested Development"

This comedy follows the adventures of the Bluth family, who have plenty of problems of their own. The Bluths run the Bluth company which builds mini-mansions and is run by George Bluth, Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor). That is of course until he is sent to prison for what he labeled as “creative accounting” practices. With Senior in prison, his son Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) is the acting CEO of the company. He is not the oldest member of the family, but he is the most responsible and easily the most straight-edge member, constantly forcing him to keep his dysfunctional family in one piece.

The problems exist outside of these two main characters, as Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter), Senior’s wife, uses her riches to treat herself. She also constantly abuses herself with alcohol and prescription drugs and even has an affair with her husband’s identical twin brother; sometimes she can’t even tell which one is which.

The oldest sibling in the family, Gob (Will Arnett), is a magician by trade and deals with a multitude of self-consciousness issues having never fully impressed his father. The youngest brother, Buster (Tony Hale), always sticks to his mother’s side. Buster also becomes recognizable by his hook for a hand, having lost his real hand to a seal when he was attacked in the ocean. There is also a sister in the family, Lindsay Bluth (Portia de Rossi), who is very self-absorbed and is unhappily married to her husband Tobias Funke (David Cross).

And while the older generations of the Bluths are dysfunctional in their own regards, the children have their own set of problems. George Michael (Michael Cera), who is the son of Michael, is a very awkward kid who falls in love with his cousin Maeby Funke (Alia Shawkat). George Michael is very close with his father and works at the family’s banana stand and Maeby is a rebellious teen who ends up becoming a movie executive through a huge lie.

It is easy to see why the Bluths are one of the most complicated families on T.V.


The Pfeffermans are a family living in Los Angeles that have to deal with the fact that their father-figure is transitioning to becoming a woman.

Born as Mort Pfefferman, the main character of the series Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor) reveals to her family that she always identified as a woman and is transgender. This sets the show in motion as the big reveal is a hard pill to swallow for the three kids in the family, all of who have their own issues to deal with.

Sarah (Amy Landecker) is the oldest sibling who is married with two kids. Sarah is the most supportive of her father’s decision but she also has to explain the process to her two children. Aside from these problems, Sarah also cheats on her husband with Tammy Cashman (Melora Hardin). Their children have become good friends, always putting the two in scenarios where they can reconnect their romantic fling from college.

Josh (Jay Duplass) is the middle sibling and is the most successful in his career decisions, although he has never really found happiness on a romantic level. He also struggles with his father’s true identity and tends to focus on that rather than worrying about himself.

Ali (Gaby Hoffmann) is the youngest sibling and she is without a job, making her life hard enough without all of the family issues. She has trouble grounding herself and instead works on following her many different interests which causes her to lose touch with the people that care for her.

And nothing completes a broken family like a divorce. Maura’s ex-wife Shelly (Judith Light) has trouble accepting the fact that her husband truly identifies as a man and of course her motherly instincts force her to worry about the wellbeing of her three children.

READ MORE: "Most Memorable TV Scenes"

"Modern Family"

This family is easily the most functional and loving of those included on this list. Their complications lie more in their makeup rather than their function.

Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) is married to Claire (Julie Bowen) and the couple has three kids. Phil is the goofy dad that always embarrasses his kids but means well along the way. Claire is rather high strung and very controlling, but she just does not want to see her children make the same mistakes as she. Their oldest child Haley (Sarah Hyland) is the rebellious one who dates the boys she shouldn’t and can’t seem to do right in school. On the complete opposite side of the spectrum we have Alex (Ariel Winter) who is the overachiever in all aspects of life that don’t have to do with social activities. Then there is Luke (Nolan Gould) who is his dad’s best friend although not the brightest of the bunch. Phil’s immediate family is the most conventional on the show although maybe the craziest.

Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) is married to Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) and the two have an adopted little girl named Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons). The couple constantly bicker with one another, usually over very petty issues, but they always make up in the end for the good of the family. 

Finally we also have Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill) who is married to the much younger Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and have two sons Manny (Rico Rodriguez) and Joe. Jay is the leader of this large family, and when all else fails, he is the one to solve their issues. 

This large family has a lot going on, and while plenty could go wrong on a regular basis, their love and familial bond always brings them together to see eye-to-eye.

"Breaking Bad"

When your dad is a secret meth dealer, there is a lot wrong with the family. To help raise money to take care of his ill son, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) starts selling meth. He knows he is dying of cancer and he wants to make sure that his family is taken care of when he is gone.

The problem is, well besides illegally selling drugs, that he does not tell anyone in his family that he is doing this. He constantly runs off into the night and disappears from his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn), and she ends up cheating on her distant husband. 

To make matters worse for the criminal that Walter becomes, his brother in law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) is an agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency and he is tasked with finding out who is selling this blue crystal meth on the streets of New Mexico. Walter has to keep a friendly relationship with Hank even though it would be much easier to get of him and never have to worry about being exposed. Not only does Hank have to deal with criminals, his wife is a kleptomaniac and the two grow distant as Hank becomes obsessed with his job.

This all gets worse when Hank does find out that Walter is the man behind the crime and he has to go after him. The family all falls apart because of Walter’s obsession with his power, ultimately leading to deaths in the family and heartbreak for all. 

READ MORE: "7 Best TV Boyfriends"


Music is supposed to bring people together, but in this case, the music is what drives everyone apart. 

Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) is the head of a music company after being a successful rap artist earlier in his career. Lucious discovers that he is diagnosed with ALS and he has to find someone to take over his company before he dies. He decides that one of his three sons will eventually be the head of the company but he cannot decide which one it will be.

His oldest son, Andre (Trai Byers) is his father’s right hand man but he lacks any musical talent, not putting him at the top of his father’s pedestal. Andre also deals with bipolar disorder and his father has never accepted that his son has a disease. 

Next we have Jamal (Jussie Smollett) who is a talented singer but is also gay, a trait his father has resented from day one. Jamal and his father have never been able to get along because Lucious cannot accept that his son is gay. He does not believe that Jamal can be popular in a hip hop world because he is gay, even though he is supremely talented. 

The youngest son Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) is Lucious’s favorite son because he is a talented rapper and heterosexual. Hakeem is a great performer and musician but he struggle with alcohol abuse and his youth shines when he is in the spotlight, constantly doing stupid things that get him in trouble.

And if that wasn’t enough, Lucious’ former wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) gets out of jail and attempts to have some control in the company that she helped create before she went to jail. She ends up managing Jamal’s career and pitting him against Hakeem for the title of successor to their father’s empire and legacy. 

Reach Staff Reporter Noah Camarena here and follow him on Twitter here.



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