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Modern Family Follows Dysfunctional TV Family Path

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It looks like the breakout hit comedy of the fall has been ABC's Modern Family. A month ago, a Salon reviewer said, "[T]his dysfunctional family comedy really is its own unique, brilliant gem, shining among an otherwise uncomfortably mediocre haul of cheap comedic rhinestones." The show's writing and originality has unquestionably been stellar. The first couple of episodes have reinforced the message behind the show's title, that this family will push the limits and standards of normal family behavior.

Yet there's a longstanding precedent already in place for TV shows that carry the term "Family" in their headers. Television writers have long played up the hostile, bitter and even violent side to families as a way to offset expectations viewers may have to see expressions of love, devotion and unity. Take a look back at how TV shows have presented other families and their odd groupings of characters:

The Proud Family - TV.com: "How embarrassing must it be to have a crazy family? Only 14-year-old Penny Proud knows what that's like, with her over-protective Dad Oscar, her over-loving but wacky Mom Trudy, her funny Grandma Suga Mama, and twin siblings Bee Bee and Cee Cee."

Family Guy - TV.com: "Sick, twisted, politically incorrect and freakin' sweet. The animated series features the adventures of the Griffin family. Peter and Lois have three kids -- the youngest is a brilliant, sadistic baby bent on killing his mother and world domination. Chris, like his father, is obese, has a low IQ and no common sense. Meg desperately tries to be part of the popular crowd, and is coldly rebuffed. Their talking dog Brian keeps baby Stewie in check while sipping martinis and sorting out his own life issues."

Family Double Dare - Nick.com: "Family Double Dare gets the whole family into the mess! Families team up to answer trivia questions (or dare the other team to tackle them first). If the "dared" team "double-dares" right back, then the other team faces a mega-messy "physical challenge." The winning family goes on to the famously gooey and slippery Double Dare Slopstacle Course. "

Family Matters - TV.com: "Family Matters focused on Harriet Winslow and her family of sorts. Carl Winslow, her husband, was a dutiful cop, and a gruff and lovable father to three kids: Eddie Winslow, the rebel son; Laura Winslow, the smart-aleck daughter; and cute little Judy Winslow. They had opened their home to Harriet's sister, Rachel Crawford and her little baby son Richie, and in the very first episode, Carl had to open his home to his cool and streetwise mother, Estelle Winslow, whether he wanted to or not. Everything was going along just fine until one day, Steve Urkel, the inventive nerd, barged into their home and eventually, into their hearts."

Mama's Family - TV.com: "Mama's Family mined humor from a squabbling family in the Midwestern blue collar suburb of Raytown. The noisy clan was headed by Mama, a buxom, gray-haired widow with sharp opinions and a sharper tongue who shared her small house with her high-strung sister Fran, a journalist for a local paper. Mama's lazy, dimwitted son, Vint, a locksmith by trade, moved in at the start of the series with his troublesome teenage children, Buzz and Sonja, after his wife run off to become a Las Vegas show-girl."

All in the Family - TV.com: "Archie Bunker was the main character, and what a character he was. He was televison's most famous bigot, crass and down right rude. Yet he was lovable, with a soft side just beneath the surface. Edith Bunker was his somewhat dizzy wife whom he called "Dingbat." Edith put up with Archie and had qualities about her that made her one of television's most unforgettable characters. Also living in the Bunker household were Archie and Edith's daughter, Gloria, and her husband Mike, or "Meathead" as Archie called him."

Family Affair - TV.com: "Bill Davis' carefree existence as a swinging bachelor was just about perfect. A highly paid consulting engineer, he maintained an elegant apartment off Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and had his domestic needs cared for by a very English gentleman's gentleman, Mr. French. Into this life of independence came three young orphans, the 6-year old twins Buffy and Jody and 15-year-old Cissy. Their parents, Bill's brother and sister-in-law, had died in an accident, and other relatives felt that Bill could best provide for them."

The Addams Family - TV.com: The Addams Family consisted of Gomez and Morticia Addams and their two children, Pugsley and Wednesday. Also included are Uncle Fester, Grandmama, the hairy Cousin Itt, the butler Lurch and Thing!"

While time changes what's considered wacky, television families have always fit the category.