It’s a long-standing tradition in television: parents are always right. First it was the loving, all knowing father, and then it shifted over to the sensible mom. One problem, though: TV writers are as human as everyone else, and sometimes they screw up.
Or, apparently, have serious psychological issues. Here are five TV parents that are exhibit A for the latter.
Lois, “Malcolm In the Middle”
Notable Failures as a Parent: A constant, terrifying willingness to throw her children to the wolves.
Early on in the series, Lois flatly states that she’ll happily let her son Malcolm swing because Malcolm is smart enough to handle himself, but her other children are too stupid and need all the help they can get. Which is great if you’re a military sergeant, but kind of crappy for a mother in the First World.
Lois gets some slack because unlike the rest of the people on this list, she’s actually got some major stress: she works a crappy retail job to help make ends meet, and she’s light-years better than her parents, who are shown to be some of the most terrifyingly abusive parents this side of a soap opera.
On the other hand, the series finale has her sabotaging Malcolm’s shot at a major corporate job because she wants him to be more sympathetic to the little guy when he becomes President. So we’re not talking parent of the year here.
Consistently Presented As Right Because: her husband, Hal, is a passive-aggressive wuss, and her children, in her defense, are little monsters who don’t get that she freaks out because they act like little bastards. So she is right, actually, to some degree.
Michael Bluth, “Arrested Development”
Notable Failures as a Parent: Repeated attempts to meddle in his son’s personal life, to the point where he screws it up beyond all conceivable belief.
One of the running jokes about “Arrested Development” that you don’t notice at first is that, while Michael Bluth is undeniably better in terms of having any grasp of the world than the rest of his family, he really is just as awful as they are underneath it all. OK, he didn’t name his kid “Maeby”, but on the other hand, he named him “George Michael”. He also tried to get his son to break up with his first girlfriend because he didn’t approve of her religion.
The sad thing about Michael is that he does actually try to do the right thing, but his fundamental control freak nature overtakes him, every single time. Of course, it would also help if somebody other than his insane family members weren’t the only ones pointing out that he’s pretty much a complete weirdo. To his credit, over the course of the series, usually by reflecting on his terrible upbringing, he usually realizes he’s being a bad person in some respect to his son…only to forget it by the next episode.
Consistently Presented as Right Because: Realistically, George Michael is vastly better adjusted considering the family he’s in than he has any right to be. Also, he’s a shining example of parenthood placed next to his self-involved sister and her equally self-involved husband.
Alan, “Two and a Half Men
Notable Failures as a Parent: Consistently, and relentlessly, refusing to take his obviously autistic child to any form of therapist.
Look, you already have serious problems if your dad was Jon Cryer. We’re pretty sure that if that guy has kids, he has to keep them under constant sedation to keep from trying to kill themselves. At least Charlie Sheen’s kids have a better than even chance of him dying before he screws up their lives too much just by existing. Cryer’s going to hang on until his nineties: crappy Christmas variety shows in the 2050s will be wheeling his decrepit ass out in a desperate attempt to appeal to us as old people.
But on the show, it’s magnified because Alan’s kid has precisely one joke: he takes things literally. Seriously. That’s the only thing that this kid does, take even the mostly blatantly figurative statement literally. You can be fairly sure that if somebody says “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush”, this kid is going to walk into the scene holding a parakeet and expecting a gardener to pull two of them from behind the gardenias. He seems totally incapable of normal human interaction.
It’s to the point where the joke stops being funny and starts becoming seriously worrisome. Why isn’t this kid in therapy, or at least kept away from the guy with a propensity to chug whiskey and bang hookers? We’re pretty sure Old Granddad and lapdances from Candi aren’t exactly prescribed to improve the social interaction of the autistic.
Although maybe they should try it.
Consistently Presented as Right Because: We can’t admit that Charlie Sheen is actually correct and drinking and empty sex is more fun than being a responsible adult, because then the twenty million people who watch this show would probably kill themselves en masse.
Peggy and Hank Hill, “King of the Hill”
Notable Failures as a Parent: Attempting, constantly, to stifle their son’s creativity, neglect, and a pretty basic refusal to so much as listen to the kid about anything, even when he turns out to be right.
If there’s one thing that we can take away from the work of Mike Judge, it’s that he hates the ever loving $#!t out of Texas, his home state and where he currently lives. Seriously. He spent fifteen seasons essentially detailing one of the most troublingly abusive parents in television history. And that includes “Mommie Dearest”.
Let’s start with Peggy. Peggy is basically convinced that she’s an intellectual and that everybody around her is a moron, which would be great if she weren’t a complete idiot. Keep in mind she’s a substitute Spanish teacher who actually manages to abduct a Mexican kid by mistake. So, Bobby’s lucky if Peggy notices him, and if he’s really unlucky, she’ll give him advice.
Then there’s Hank. Hank, as a human being, is pretty awful: when a thirteen-year-old girl gets a period, his first reaction is to freak out far worse than she does. Whenever he’s confronted with anything he doesn’t understand, his first impluse is to insult it. But probably his crowning moment of douche is, when confronted with a man starting to cry and going for a hug, to run away screaming.
No, really. This is the guy responsible for the health and well-being of a child.
Hank is such an awful human being that at one point, after Bobby picks up ventriloquism, and the dummy starts talking about sports, Hank starts turning the dummy into the son that he always wanted, and it takes Peggy pointing out what he’s doing for him to get it.
Consistently Presented as Right: Because the show would implode otherwise. Hank Hill is actually responsible for three other guys, including a manic depressive, a total nutcase, and somebody who seems to be from North Carolina, so the dude’s got issues. He’s generally keeping people from killing themselves or deflating their pretensions. The problem is, he generally sees his son’s “nonconformist” behavior as a pretension to deflate…and the show presents him as right, for some reason.
In other words, Texas sucks, kids.