Life in the ’80s could have been really great. Every night, my family gathered around our 19-inch television and watched TV families — our Hollywood counterparts — live idyllic lives. Everyone was good looking (obviously), they were funny, loved each other despite their conflicts, learned very important life lessons every single day, and had butlers, maids, and/or beautiful houses. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing terrible about my upbringing. Life was just…normal. And messy. And contained. And sometimes boring. You know, like life is supposed to be.
Here are some families from ’80s sitcoms that we all secretly had crushes on. These are the families that we wished we belonged to.
6. Mr. Belvedere
Lynn Belvedere, who at one point worked for Winston Churchill, becomes the butler for the Owens family right here in America. He becomes close with the family’s elementary school-aged son, Wesley, who makes it his life’s goal to antagonize poor Mr. Belvedere. It’s unclear how (or why) a family with the means of the Owens’ would even get a butler. (The father is a sports writer and the mother is a law student), but that’s exactly the sort of thing that would have made this family awesome to be a part of. We’re upper middle class — of course, we have a butler! Oh, how great it would have been to have my own butler to play tricks on and then sit with at the end of a long day over cookies and milk, discussing life’s great lessons.
5. Family Ties
Here we have parents who were formerly hippies, whose kids are raised right in the Reagan era. As a result, they develop conservative views (in a capitalist world) that are often at odds with the values of their parents. The great thing about this particular family is how they overcame the inherent conflict within their household. They held various views about how to live life, and it all ended with smiles, laughs, and the occasional finger-wagging and head-shaking. All in good fun and love. How often do we see parents and kids who disagree on such fundamental issues come together at the end of the day for a group hug?
Very little needs to be said about why anyone would want to be a part of the Tanner family. They had a sarcastic, ugly-yet-cute alien — who wanted nothing more than to make the family cat his next meal — living with them! They kept him a secret for obvious reasons, and loved him just like any other family member. I couldn’t convince my parents to get me a pet hamster, never mind an alien…
3. Growing Pains
The Seavers, at the center of this show, had such a textbook Hollywood storyline that it was impossible not to love them. Dad worked from home because mom had a career that took her out of the house. The eldest son Mike was a heartthrob and troublemaker with a goofball best friend (Boner). The middle daughter was responsible and smart, and the youngest son was often unruly. (Chrissy Seaver was born a few years into the series and was too young to have a real character description like her siblings.) How nice and neat it all was. Have you ever tried to successfully sum up your family with three-word descriptors? Real life isn’t that simple.
2. Diff’rent Strokes
Two poor kids from Harlem whose mother dies get relocated to her former employer’s penthouse in Manhattan only to be adopted by him. Well, that sounds nice, doesn’t it? Ok, not the mother dying part, but the rest of it. And if you remember the show, you’ll remember how grand the living room was. And the fact that they had a maid. None of this came even close to my life in the ’80s, so I lived vicariously through Arnold and Willis.
1. The Wonder Years
No, the Arnold family didn’t live in the ’80s, but the show surely did. We grew up watching Kevin navigate his way through adolescence and girls and school with his best friend, Paul, by his side. His annoying older brother made everything more difficult than it had to be. Dad was often grumpy but lovable, and mom was kind-hearted. They lived in an adorable neighborhood and house. There was nothing about the Arnold household (or life in general) that didn’t make us all swoon.