I enjoy watching 90’s and early 2000’s sitcoms quite a bit. Fraiser, Mad About You, Friends, Seinfeld… these are all great shows that I find funny, but with exception to a few of the relationships, I don’t really relate to these shows all that much. I’m a thirty-something year old man from the South. What do I know about having half a dozen friends living in New York City?
But there are a few sitcoms that feel a bit more grounded in my reality. Shows about families dealing with more issues like grocery store prices, regular jobs, unexpected bills, and the like. Shows that I can relate to a bit more than Ross got a monkey. These shows tend to be my favorites.
While shows about lower middle class/poor families have been around for a very long time, the first show that really captured my attention was Roseanne. The Conners are almost a surrogate family to me, since I spend more time with them on a yearly basis than I do my own family!
Dan and Roseanne’s ability to find humor in all of the terrible situations is one trait that I do try to channel into my own life. It seems sometimes that life is just one cosmic joke and when the bad stuff keeps coming your way it can be difficult to keep your head up. Roseanne does an excellent job at showing your how to do this and even when you can’t, watching the show lets you channel that frustration with a group of characters that would seemingly understand.
The Middle has become one of my all-time favorite shows. I’ve almost reached the end of the series and I dread the day when I finally run out of new episodes. The Heck family is a bit more modern and definitely more over the top than The Conners, but when it comes to my personality I have more in common with Mike Heck than Dan Connor.
The Hecks are great at laughing off some of the bad times, but the show also leans into how sometimes the various family members personality causes the conflict. Frankie is a bit of narcist and Mike might be a bit too detached. The kids are all varying degrees of different, and it seems from season to season I always find one kid who I just get irritated with.
Still, The Middle does an amazing job at presenting a family who can’t always afford what they want and must work extra to provide for their children. The house is always dirty and there just never feels like there is enough hours in the day.
Each episode ends with a lesson, usually about how family can get through anything. It’s maybe a bit naive and a little too cheery at times, but it’s a nice message to hear in a world that tends to berate us with negative messages.
Grounded for Life star Megyn Price and Donald Logue and that alone makes it worth watching. The Finnerty family is an Irish Catholic family from State Island. Their location is clearly defined in the series and that makes it a bit less relatable seeing that I’ve always lived in the suburbs. Still, this is a blue-collar family that struggles with the bills and is constantly putting out fires, usually started by their daughter.
Out of all the shows on this list, I like Grounded for Life the least, but that’s not a slight. I absolutely love the other shows and Grounded for Life is very solid and quite funny. If I have any complaint about the show it’s the format of beginning the show with a disaster and then flashing back to figure out how it occurred is just not my cup of tea. Still, the amazing cast makes this fun to watch and it’s nice seeing a family doesn’t live in pristine mansion with all the nicest things.
Finally, we have Raising Hope. Raising Hope is the least grounded of these shows, but arguably the most fun. The show begins with Jimmy Chance accidently impregnating a serial killer. He and his family end up raising Hope, his child, and all sorts of hijinks the ensue.
Raising Hope features an utterly fantastic cast from top-to-bottom. There is no weak link and each cast member is a memorable character. The show is completely bonkers at times but has more heart than a lot of shows. The Chance family is far from the smartest, but they are resourceful, and they do their best to love one another.
Raising Hope is much harder to relate to due to how wild some of the characters are and how absurd the plot lines, but seeing a family that does love one another and makes the best of each situation is inspiring. Just last week, I was having a horrible week and it took just one episode of Raising Hope to bring a tear to my eye and make me feel a lot better. That’s the power of good television and the power of being able to relate to the characters and their situations.