SBS On Demand's new show Raised By Wolves joins some esteemed company...
By
Gavin Scott

27 Jun 2016 - 10:11 AM  UPDATED 27 Jun 2016 - 10:11 AM

Once upon a time, television families used to get along - facing any obstacles that came their way together and resolving any differences between them by the end of each episode. It wasn't very realistic.

These days, TV families are more likely to be dysfunctional than functional - with some more messed up than others. Joining the long list of complicated clans is the Garrys in new British comedy Raised by Wolves, now available on SBS On Demand. Based on the life of comic writer Caitlin Moran, the series follows an unconventional mother and the girls she's raising on her own.

They'll fit right in with this lot...

 

The Bunkers (All In The Family)

This is what dysfunction looked like in the 1970s, when the influx of new ideas and trends upset the old guard - as represented by bigot Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor). Quick with a racist or misogynistic insult, Archie was the epicentre of (comic) tension in the Bunker house.

 

The Ewings (Dallas)

Everything is bigger in Texas, including the dysfunction to be found in the all-powerful Ewing family. Besides the squabbling and double-crossing you'd expect among relatives all hoping for a bigger slice of the Ewing Oil pie, the family upped the ante with shootings, alcoholism and a remarkable return from the dead.

 

Any daytime soap opera family

The Ewings continued a soap opera trope established since the dawn of TV - the complicated family unit. From the Abbots on The Young and the Restless to The Bold and the Beautiful's Forresters, every soap has a family that would rather feud than forgive and whose members push the boundaries of acceptable inter-marrying. The Hortons (above) on Days of Our Lives have always set the standard - early in the soap's 50-year run, a love affair between an amnesiac, plastic surgery-altered brother and his unwitting sister resulted in the latter fleeing town to become a nun when the truth came out.

 

The Conners (Roseanne)

 

By the 1980s, TV families were less likely to resemble The Cleavers (of Leave it to Beaver) and more likely to take after one another with a meat cleaver, as parents that screamed at their kids and kids that really got stuck into each other became the norm. And there was no family more the norm than the working class Conners.

 

The Bundys (Married… With Children)

 

And there was no family dumber than the Bundys. OK, Bud (David Faustino) was smart enough to get into college, but his parents and sister... well, they'd be lucky if they could rustle up a brain cell between them. The cartoonish family bickered and sniped their way through 11 seasons.

 

The Simpsons (The Simpsons)

Next up is an actual cartoon family - and one that's still going strong after 27 seasons. Well, they're still going. An animated depiction of the classic American nuclear family, the never-aging Simpsons show that familial friction is timeless.

 

The Griffins (Family Guy)

Another case in point: Family Guy, which is basically just a ruder version of The Simpsons - with cutaway gags, a talking dog and an evil genius baby.

 

The Monsoons (Absolutely Fabulous)

The Americans don't have the monopoly on dysfunctional TV families, with the three generations of Monsoon women in this classic British comedy demonstrating that it's possible to be genetically linked but have very little in common.

 

The Royles (The Royle Family)

 

The British version of the couch-dwelling family, the Royles don't so much talk to each other as talk near each other, usually with eyes firmly fixed on the box. 

 

The Sopranos (The Sopranos)

 

In the late '90s, dysfunction gained an added dimension as The Sopranos showed what it might be like to be a member of a Mob family* and find out what Dad (James Gandolfini) really does for a living.

* the parents-and-kids type, not a crime "family" - although we saw that side of things, too, and it was just as dysfunctional.

 

The Fishers (Six Feet Under)

 

The dysfunction permeating the Fisher family had nothing to do with them spending an inordinate amount of time with dead bodies. This was a classic case of fraternal rivalry between brothers Nate (Peter Krause) and David Fisher (Michael C Hall). The latter had been the dutiful stay-at-home son, while the former had flown the coop, returning only when not-so-dear old Dad (Richard Jenkins) passed away, leaving both brothers equal shares in the family funeral home. Talk about tension. Throw in a nutty mother (Frances Conroy) and rebellious sister (Lauren Ambrose), and the Fishers were really like any other family (except for the dead bodies bit).

 

The Gallaghers (Shameless)

 

The dysfunction permeating the Gallagher family had everything to do with the antisocial behaviour and criminal tendencies of perpetually drunk patriarch Frank (David Threlfall). With more children than he could count on the fingers of both hands, Frank's dereliction of fatherly duties resulted in long-simmering resentments that regularly boiled over into physical confrontations - more often that not, a headbutting - and screaming matches.

 

The Bristows (Alias)

 

She was estranged from her father and thought her mother was dead - what a surprise it was for Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) to discover Mum (Lena Olin) was actually alive and had been a KGB spy, and that Dad (Victor Garber) wasn't an enemy of the state but was a double agent working for the CIA to bring down SD-6, just like she was. Trust issues? You bet.

 

The Bluths (Arrested Development)

 

A separate list could be made purely of the many and various dysfunctions within the Bluth family. Siblings who hate each other, cousins who like each other a little too much, fractured marriages, distant parents... and that's only scratching the surface.

 

The Botwins (Weeds)

 

Chances are, if Judah Botwin (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) hadn't passed away, his family wouldn't be on this list at all - of course, there'd also be no TV show. Following her husband's death, soccer mum Nancy (Mary Louise Parker) has "no other choice" but to turn to dealing drugs to keep the family in the lifestyle to which they'd become accustomed. By the time the Botwins left suburban California for a series of increasingly ludicrous new adventures, Nancy was deep in to her new career - and her family (including her brother-in-law and a ring-in family friend) became increasingly screwed up.

 

The Reynoldses (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia)

 

Chalk one up for nurture, with Frank Reynolds' (Danny DeVito) cruel and unusual treatment of his kids resulting in all manner of psychological issues for son Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Dee (Kaitlin Olson). Despite the revelation that Frank isn't the twins' biological father, the torment continues with all three continuing to hang out as part of the same gang.

 

The Proudmans (Offspring)

After decades of happy, grounded families in locally made series, Australia finally produced a dysfunctional family to rank among the craziest clans from overseas. Codependent and interfering, the Proudmans are always in each other's business, so preoccupied with sticking their oar in their family members' problems that they don't notice the issues in their own lives.

 

The Lannisters (Game Of Thrones)

 

Spoiler alert (for the three people who don't watch GoT): two of the five characters in the picture above are now dead. One was killed by someone else in the photo, and the other is believed to have been murdered by the same hand - a belief that's held by yet another person in the image, someone whose incestuous sexual relationship with the final person pictured produced... Oh, just watch the show.

 

The Jenningses (The Americans)

 

Try this on for size: Mum (Keri Russell) and Dad (Matthew Rhys) aren't travel agents, they're KGB spies with a sham marriage masquerading as American suburbanites - and the kids have no idea what their parents do or that they were conceived as a means to solidify the cover story. Yep, that's gonna cause a few problems down the track...

 

The Rayburns (Bloodline)

 

Nothing makes waves in a family like the return of the black sheep - and that's certainly the case for the Rayburns when Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) comes home. As viewers came to understand just why the family is so fractured, even more shocking events unfolded that will ensure the Rayburns will stay in disarray.

 

Want to meet the Garrys? Series 1 and 2 of Raised by Wolves is available on SBS On Demand. Watch the first episode right here:

More on The Guide
The 10 best zingers from the first 10 minutes of Raised by Wolves
A British comedy so chock-full of wit that its pearler per minute rate leaves nothing to be desired.
Meet the weird and wonderful women of Raised By Wolves
Created by and based on the lives of Caitlin and Caz Moran, the sitcom is full of memorable female characters we’d love to see stick around.