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Retracing television's family roots

Retracing family roots: ABC's hit show is only television's latest "modern family," one that stretches the boundaries of traditional stereotypes. Here are representative "modern families" from each decade in TV history, with a mix of memorable quotes and trivia.


Good old family values? Not in the last couple of decades. "Despicable" doesn't come close to describing the characters (and sometimes the actual people) from TV's best-loathed shows.

The Sopranos

(The Sopranos, 1999-2007)

"What (expletive) kind of human being am I, if my own mother wants me dead?" — Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini)

The Kardashians

(Keeping Up With the Kardashians, 2007-present)

Executive producer Ryan Seacrest is to blame for giving America a reason to dread the names Kim, Kourtney, Khloé, Kendall, Kylie and Kris.

The Bluths (Arrested Development, 2003-06)

Using your best Ron Howard voice: "Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together."


Homer and Marge weren't the only cartoonish family leaders in the '90s. Roseanne Barr's cranky character and the entire cast of Raymond proved to be just as clownish.

The Simpsons (The Simpsons, 1989-present)

"Doh!" "Don't have a cow, man." "Ay, caramba!" Do we need to go on with Bart's catchphrases? Also one of two on this list set in a Springfield.

The Connors (Roseanne, 1988-97)

"Corn" is shown or mentioned in every episode (usually canned corn).

The Barones (Everybody Loves Raymond, 1996-2005)

Ray Ramano had the main role, but Peter Boyle (Frank Barone, above) often had the punch line: "Holy c---!"


Money was the theme in the go-go '80s, from the white-collar Cosbys to the soap tycoons on Dallas. And even for the middle-class Keatons, cash was king to Reagan-loving Michael J. Fox.

The Huxtables (The Cosby Show, 1984-92)

A never-ending source of advice from Dr. Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable: "Look at me when you lie."

The Ewings (Dallas, 1978-91)

The ultimate cliffhanger: Who shot J.R.?

The Keatons (Family Ties, 1982-89)

So popular was this Michael J. Fox show that the star was forced to shoot his scenes as Alex P. Keaton during the day and then race off to become Marty McFly at night during filming of Back to the Future.


Jon and Kate Gosselin picked the wrong decade. Bigger was better in the '70s, where families needed bunk beds and shared bathrooms to accommodate their enormous broods.

The Bradys (The Brady Bunch, 1969-74)

"Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" — Jan (Eve Plumb)

The Partridges (The Partridge Family, 1970-74)

You'll be singing the theme song the rest of the day: Come On Get Happy.

The Bradfords (Eight is Enough, 1977-81)

Can you name them all? The kids, from oldest to youngest, were David, Mary (above), Joanie, Susan, Nancy, Elizabeth, Tommy and Nicholas.


When the Space Race captivated the world in the 1960s, TV put one family into outer space and sent another into the Stone Age. As for the Addamses, well, they're altogether ooky.

The Flintstones

(The Flintstones, 1960-66)

"WILMA!" — Fred

The Robinsons (Lost in Space, 1965-68)

"That does not compute." — Robot

The Addamses (The Addams Family, 1964-66)

Lurch: (gong) "You rang?"


Fathers in suits who head off to work, moms in housedresses who stay home and bake, and children who obey. Today, we'd call it satire. In the '50s, it was called status quo.

The Cleavers (Leave It to Beaver, 1957-63)

"Gee, Wally, that's swell." — Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver (Jerry Mathers), who had the mom-in-pearls every kid wanted, June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley).

The Cartwrights

(Bonanza, 1959-73)

With Lorne Greene and Michael Landon, this was the first U.S. Western television show to have all its episodes filmed in color.

The Andersons (Father Knows Best, 1954-60)

With wise, fatherly Robert Young in the title role, this show also took place in Springfield, state unknown, though characters mentioned Altoona, an actual city in Pennsylvania.

Compiled by Steve Spears and Kelly Smith, Times staff writer

Retracing television's family roots 04/18/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 4:30am]
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