Memorable Dysfunctional Television Families Since 2011: 5 of Your Favorite and Most Watched

The entire purpose of television is to entertain. No one would watch it if everyone was clean cut and wholesome. Those characters would be boring to watch. That’s why most television shows feature dysfunctional families. Think about your favorite television show. 

Who are the characters? Are they flat, or do they have a personality that makes you laugh, gasp, and cry? They’re likely dysfunctional on some level. Even if that dysfunction does not match your own upbringing, you can relate to the family’s issues and day-to-day exploits, and that’s what makes them entertaining. 

Despite how troubled they are and how much you may shake your head at their antics, you root for these dysfunctional television families who rise to the occasion and come together when needed. Perhaps you secretly put yourself in their position and hope your own family will draw together during hard times and just be present for one another when it matters the most. 

Television shows over the years have explored the dysfunctional family dynamic, and some have done it better than others. 

Here are 5 of the most dysfunctional television families of all time.

# 1 The Lannisters: Game of Thrones (HBO, 2011-‘19)

Twin brother Jaime and sister Cersei have an incestuous relationship which produces a child. There’s the very toxic relationship between Tyrion and his father Tywin, who outwardly despises his son. The Lannisters’ dysfunction goes way back. Game of Thrones is probably the most dysfunctional of all the shows listed here. The Lannisters are out there, and their extended family, allies, and enemies do not disappoint.

# 2 The Gallaghers: Shameless (Showtime, 2011-‘21)

Father of six, Frank Gallagher, is a drug addict and an alcoholic. His eldest daughter Fiona raises her siblings. The Gallagher children have inherited their dysfunction. Ian suffers from bipolar disorder and Carl has an identity crisis after being jailed. Lip over drinks, and Debbie steals. Shameless really shows how devastating a parent’s addiction is to his family.

# 3 The St. Patricks: Power (Starz, 2014-’20)

James “Ghost” St. Patrick is a high-ranking drug dealer who owns a nightclub. He’s cheating on his wife Tasha, his partner in crime who’s also cheating, who helped him build his empire. Their son Tariq enters the criminal life to spite his father. That’s just the St. Patrick family. Power has so many dysfunctional family elements in the other characters, you could conduct a research study about them.

# 4 The Lyons: Empire (FOX, 2015-‘20)

Your family might be dysfunctional if your mother Cookie Lyon and your father Lucious Lyon both have a shady, criminal past. Cookie spent 17 years in prison for Lucious, who sold drugs to finance his music career. Add to that a son who suffers from bipolar disorder, another who is spoiled and ego tripping, and a third who is confused about where his loyalty lies. All of that chaos makes for some interesting storylines. Top that off with many dramatic moments and lots of delightful music and Empire will certainly entertain you.

# 5 The Roys: Succession (Starz, 2018-present)

Just when you thought money buys happiness, you meet the depraved Roy family. The patriarch Logan Roy manipulates hi children, creating nasty sibling rivalries. His children fight for his approval and succession of the company. Maybe. It seems the father really wants to see how low his children will go. Succession promises to mystery, dysfunctional relationships, and scandal for those who prefer that on your television rather than real life.

Dysfunctional Television Families Honorable Mention

These two television shows are some of the most loved and were in production after 2011. Mad Men ran for seven seasons. Family Guy is still running after 20 seasons!

# 6 The Griffins: Family Guy (FOX, 1999-present)

Stewie Griffin spends every moment plotting to destroy the world, and he is obsessed with taking his emotionally detached mother Lois out. Stewie is a toddler. The two teenagers, Chris and Meg, are both outcasts. But  Meg is the scapegoat who everyone seems to dislike. The father Peter Griffin is always drinking and engaging in very inappropriate behavior. And the dog… We’ll leave it there.

Family Guy is a dark comedy that displays what extreme dysfunction would look like.

#7 The Drapers: Mad Men (AMC, 2007-’15)

The father Don Draper grew up in a brothel and assumed a whole new identity during the Korean War and hid it from his wife and children. Don is a workaholic and an alcoholic who constantly cheats on his frigid, oppressed wife Betty. And their poor kids! The Drapers looked like a stable family to the outside world but eventually divorced during the series. Their family life left much to be desired and explains why they’re so many Mad Men, women, and children in the show.

As dysfunctional as these television families are, they are still likeable enough for viewers to root for them and tune in week after week, season after season. Just like in real life, there is always hope that the adults in the family will feel inspired eventually to do what is right and mend the hurt they created or tolerated. But you have to watch to find out.

To learn more about breaking dysfunctional generational patterns in your life, pick up a copy of my book Choosing to Stop the Madness: Overcoming Toxic Family Patterns. I describe how I ended cycles of abuse and unhealthy parenting in my life. I can show you how to do the same in yours.

Pick up the reflection journal that goes with the book to begin your peronal transformation.

If you feel you need the help of a therapist to end dysfunctional family patterns, reach out to for support.

Please share this article with those who can benefit from it. Together, we can help heal each other. If you need to reach me, contact me here. Thank you for spending your time with me. I’m sending you peace, love, and light!

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