The holiday season is meant to be a time of appreciation, in particular an appreciation for what you have been given in life and how you can share that gratitude with your family. However, as we all know, visiting family isn’t always as great of a time as we think it is. Our relatives are annoying for as much as we love them. The stress of serving up the perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner doesn’t help matters either. So, while we strive for a picture perfect moment, what usually ends up happening can be some sort of mess. In honor of that mess, here are my top five favorite dysfunctional family episodes from my favorite series. Watching these families always helps me feel a little better about mine.
“Modern Family”: S3, Ep.23: “Le Tableau Vivant”
“Modern Family” is a classic sitcom on the everyday life of the average upper-middle class American family. Alex (Ariel Winter) has to recreate a famous portrait painting for her class. In this episode, everything amounts to that final presentation in front of the entire school. The best part of the episode is how everyone’s lies spin out of control. By the end of the episode it seems that everyone’s dysfunctional storylines for the episode have been served up to the audience on the dinner plate for all to watch.
All “Modern Family” episodes are streaming now on Hulu.
“Veep”: S2, Ep.8: “First Response”
In this episode, the Second family must do a television interview together. Seems normal, right? The jig is that this “family” is really more like three perfect strangers who happen to be related to one another. Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) is the daughter of the Vice President, Selina Meyer, (Julia Louis Dreyfus). Yet, as the show makes very clear from the get-go, she is only her mother by by blood and not by choice. There’s a particularly biting fake lunch scene with the reporter (Allison Janney), Catherine, Selina and Andrew (David Pasquesi), her ex-husband. The sheer embarrassment the viewer feels watching how painfully awkward of an interaction this lunch is is overwhelming. However, the entire episode is a great example of how to build tension on a comedic show, creating a mess that we can’t help keep our eyes off of.
All seasons of “Veep” are streaming on HBO Max.
“Succession”: S2, Ep.10: “This Is Not For Tears”
The Roys are the definition of a dysfunctional family. The entirety of “Succession” is based off the fact that all the children stab each other in the back because they want to become the next CEO of the company. When there is power and money involved, no one comes out unscathed. In the season finale, Logan must decide who will be sacrificed as the scapegoat for all the wrongdoings of WaystarRoyco. The entire family, including important board members, board a yacht sailing off the coast of Italy. Trapped at sea with nowhere else to go, the Roys and co must decide which member of the family should go down for their crimes. The tension in this episode is so intense but worth every single minute. No one screams dysfunctional family like the Roys. Perhaps your dinner may be full of drama, but at least no one is being put up as a sacrifice to serve time in jail.
All seasons of “Succession” are streaming now on HBO Max.
“Derry Girls”: S2, Ep.4: “The Curse”
Imagine being high at a wake. I think that would probably be my worst nightmare. Being surrounded in a room with all of my family members, mixed with some complete strangers and my best friends sounds like a recipe for disaster. The mixture of grief and stuffiness brings out the worst in everyone. The sheer anxiety of it all would ruin me personally. But, that is what makes this episode so great. Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), up to her usual antics, brings edibles to the family wake. The girls must find a way to get the scones back from everyone they’ve been handed to at the event, leading to some incredible comedy. I think that Dylan Llewellyn’s performance as James was particularly special this episode. James (Llewellyn) uses his knowledge of drug bust movies to try and get the girls out of their situation. Suffice to say nothing goes according to plan.
All seasons of “Derry Girls” are now streaming on Netflix.