Thanksgiving is inevitably intertwined with the idea of family. It’s the time of year where we trek across the country one way or another to be with family and share a massive meal together. Sometimes the family dynamics are warm and nurturing, and sometimes they can be explosive, but family is always at the center of the season.
One of our favorite TV troupes is the “found” family, where a group of individuals, often misfits, come together and support each other just as much, and sometimes more, than a biological family. In this post, we’re going to look at four of televisions best found families, from Firefly, New Girl, Castle, and Dead Like Me.
Any genre TV fan will almost immediately point to “Firefly” when the topic of found family comes up. The crew of Serenity is a found family in every sense, with all the ups and downs of a biological family. Captain Mal Reynolds and ship’s companion Inara are sort of the parental figures to a motley crew of space pioneers.
The crew has their disagreements, like between Mal and Inara, or Mal and Simon…well, you get the general theme there…but at the end of the day, they’re all on the same team, and they support each other when it counts. The scenes where the Serenity crew all have dinner together are iconic and never fail to provide the warm fuzzies. The design of the Serenity dining area, with it’s rustic large table and chairs, is almost perfectly designed to evoke the feeling of family and tradition.
Los Angeles, like other big professional cities such as New York and Washington, DC, is full of transplants. When you’re half a country away from your biological family, like three of the four New Girl roommates are, found family takes on special importance. There’s no parent figure in this family; all four roommates have moments of immaturity. Jess, Schmidt, Winston, and Nick all stick by each other when it counts, though, and many episodes of New Girl end with three of the roommates (usually the guys) standing up for the fourth (usually Jess).
In some cases, like last year’s holiday episode, “The 23rd,” the roommates even choose their found family over their biological family. In that episode, Nick ignores his mother’s nagging about making sure he makes his flight to Chicago to take Jess to Candycane Lane when she’s feeling down after a difficult break-up.
In terms of the great found families in the modern TV era, Castle has gone through it’s fair share of familial changes. From the start, Beckett has always been the older sister to Ryan and Esposito’s pesky brothers. Captain Montgomery was the protective father figure and Castle played the role of awkward cousin/brother wannabe. As the series has progressed and Beckett and Castle’s relationship has evolved to one of romance, they’ve severed those ties and become lovers.
And of course, Captain Montgomery has been replaced by Captain Gates, a much harsher parental figure to our detective quartet. Still, one of the aspects of this TV family that we love is that despite the changes rocking their world, the boys are still able to be friends. Of course, it wouldn’t be Castle without Ryan and Esposito giving Castle a little crap for dating their big sister.
Dead Like Me
The Grim Reaper crew was an unlikely amalgamation of characters that really fell into place as one of the best found TV families in the last decade. From the start, you have George who is killed by a falling space toilet seat. Seriously, how great is that? She gets swept up by Rube and his band of Reapers, essentially being the newly adopted daughter of the family.
Over the course of the two seasons the show was on, the family remained fairly stable. George found her place in the family, going from annoying, clueless little sister to effective big girl Reaper. Mason was the ever annoying older brother while Rube and Roxie were the mostly stable parental units. The only real change that took place was the quick transition from Betty to Daisy. Daisy really proved to be the older sister that George needed to fit in with her newfound relatives.
So whether you’re bouncing around that big wide universe on a little Firefly class ship, taking souls or just trying to grow up and survive, family is the key to making it just that little bit better. Having people to depend on when you need them most is a theme that everyone can relate to, and perhaps that is why as we all make our way to our own families this Thanksgiving, we take a page out of these families’ books and just let the good times roll.