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11 TV Families You Wanted to Join If You Were Born in the ’80s

Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad and Lisa Bonet (top row, from left), Tempestt Bledsoe (bottom)

For the better part of the ’80s, the “situation” part of many situation comedies involved a single house, a wacky family, and the various slings and arrows of regular life. Using the small screen to peek inside the homes of families as varied as the Seavers, the Tanners (two sets of them!), and the Winslows became a winning formula, resulting in more than a few ‘80s kids wishing that they could jump ship and join up with their favorite fictional families. Here are 11 you probably imagined being a part of if you were born in the ‘80s.

1. The Huxtables, The Cosby Show
The sprawling Huxtable clan lived in Brooklyn way before it was hip, stuffing their immaculate brownstone to the rafters with an assorted cast of characters, blood-related or not. The Huxtables always seemed to be having a great time together (just take a peek at all those dance-happy opening sequences), but that didn’t stop them from tackling some big issues. Are you unnerved by your dyslexia? A pregnant teen? A tiny tot eager for a new family? The Huxtables had you covered.

2. The Seavers, Growing Pains
On paper, the Seavers sound like a prototypical family next door — dad Jason was a shrink, mom Maggie worked at a newspaper, and their four kids were all wacky in various cute and acceptable ways — but beyond all that, a deep coolness lurked. Jason jammed out, Maggie was a tough reporter, and eldest-son Mike had a best friend named Boner. The most appealing element of the Seaver family, however, was their enduring interest in talking things out. What kid wouldn’t want such accommodating parents?

3. The Arnolds, The Wonder Years
Perhaps one of the most purposely and plainly normal families ever put on the small screen. Although the series was set in the ’60s and ’70s, the timelessness of the Arnolds and their interactions with each other (has any television show so perfectly portrayed the relationship between brothers?) kept the series feeling fresh.

4. The Cunninghams, Happy Days
The coolest Cunningham wasn’t even a Cunningham — he was a Fonzarelli, obviously — but his de facto membership into the otherwise-straitlaced clan gave them instant cred. It’s not just any family that would let a big-haired biker move in upstairs. But the Cunninghams were not just any family. Endlessly accepting and warm, the Cunninghams are the kind of group who would take in anyone at any time (from the Fonz to Richie’s doofus best buds, Potsie and Ralph Malph) without a second thought. Although Happy Days ruled television in the ‘70s, by the time the ‘80s and early ‘90s rolled around, the Cunninghams were still bent on pulling in new members in endless syndication.

5. The Ingallses, Little House on the Prairie
Life on the American prairie wasn’t easy — all that salt pork, all those cold nights, Nellie Oleson — but the Ingalls family made it seem manageable and even, somewhat inconceivably, kind of fun. Based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book series of the same name, this television show also peaked in the ’70s, yet offered its distilled look at prairie life via syndication well into the ’80s, charming the decade’s youth with various Ingallses from kindhearted Pa to capable Ma to spirited Laura.

6. The Tanners, Full House
Something was always afoot at this full house, thanks to the Tanner clan, their various hangers-on (sorry, Uncle Joey, but let’s be honest here), and endless high jinks. With such a wide cast of omnipresent characters (even Kimmy Gibbler, who could apparently come and go as she pleased), you could count on the Tanners to deliver personalized attention, big fun, and lots of snappy comebacks. They’ve got it, dude.

7. The Tanners, ALF
TV’s other Tanner family had one major attribute to recommend them to any and all children of the ’80s: The foursome knowingly took in a foulmouthed, cat-eating, furry alien named Gordon Shumway. On purpose! For four seasons, the Tanners aided and abetted ALF (as their resident alien life-form came to be known) as he hid from the government, tore their home to pieces, and routinely threatened to eat their own cat, Lucky. What couldn’t you get away with in that house?

8. The Winslows, Family Matters
Although the Winslows eventually played second fiddle to their nerdy neighbor Steve Urkel, the TGIF anchor remained rooted with the Winslows — literally, as the majority of the series took place in the family home. The blended family gracefully (and amusingly) tackled the normal run of sitcom-y problems, but it was their ability to bond over the weirdo next door that set them apart. Every time Urkel zipped into their kitchen with a nasally yelp of “Did I do that?,” we were all Winslows.

9. The Keatons, Family Ties
Hippie parents typically means loose household rules, and although both Elyse and Steven Keaton tried to keep their home-life free and easy, it was the kids who rebelled by staying conservative. Although their politics were diametrically opposed — everyone remembers that Michael J. Fox’s Alex P. Keaton was deep into Reaganomics, but baby Andrew was also molded to be a mini-Republican — the two generations of Keatons were always able to agree on one thing: how much they loved each other.

10. The Pembrokes and the Powells, Charles in Charge
Any family that hires Scott Baio to watch the little ones is automatically awesome, but Charles in Charge somehow managed to find two similarly inclined clans (the magic of television). The forward-thinking Pembrokes (and, later, the Powells) probably didn’t expect that Charles would all but become a member of their family, but that’s what happens when you let a wisecracking college student into your life and literal home. After all, he was in charge of their days and their nights.

11. The Bowerses and the Micellis, Who’s the Boss?
Television’s most beloved accidentally blended family (don’t worry, the Bradys still have a lock on the purposeful brand of blending), the Bowerses and the Micellis dealt with all the weirdness of sticking strangers in a single house together with plenty of heart and some big laughs to boot. Eventually joined in a more conventional partnership — though Angela and Tony never did get hitched during the course of the series — the Bowerses and the Micellis still exemplified the kind of modern family that anyone would want to join.

11 Awesome ’80s TV-Families You Wanted to Join