7:45 pm EDT, April 3, 2018

Celebrating American families: 10 family comedy shows to watch instead of ‘Roseanne’

Whether you’re a fan of actual families or found families, there are plenty of comedy shows you can watch instead of Roseanne that tackle real issues, are genuinely hilarious and celebrate the power of families.

I’m not planning on watching the ABC revival of Roseanne.

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I’ve decided not to for a few reasons. Like TV writer Yolanda Machado, I feel like watching the show is a political statement and not just a personal choice. Similar to cultural critic Ira Madison III, I’m wary of the way the media depicts working class people in America as always being white Trump voters, despite the fact that many working class individuals are POC who never would’ve voted for Trump.

And I agree wholeheartedly with writer Roxane Gay that the show’s portrayal of Roseanne — the character — as a Trump voter (the same as the real life Roseanne) while accepting her genderfluid grandson and biracial granddaughter is acting “as if love can protect the most vulnerable members of their family from the repercussions of their political choices. It cannot.”

So I’m obviously not alone in this decision to not watch Roseanne.

But I’m certainly not part of the majority, either. In fact, the overwhelming success of the revival gave the show a second season renewal on the heels of the second episode and prompted something that few other shows currently airing have gotten: A congratulatory call from the current U.S. President (though to be fair, this is also something that few — if any — other shows currently airing would actually want).

The show has been lauded for its supposed singular ability in combining comedy with social commentary, apparently unique for tackling serious issues and depicting a ‘real’ American family.

Except that it’s not really that singular or unique at all. There are, in fact, a lot of shows like Roseanne that are currently airing and that would never field a congratulatory call from the current president.

You know, family comedies which combine uproarious comedy with smart social commentary, which tackle serious issues with equal parts humor and aplomb.

Family shows which do all these things while also depicting real American families.

So if you’re looking for shows like Roseanne — shows that celebrate American families, stories that will make you laugh and cry, that feel real and will make you think deeply about current social issues, smart television that also makes you feel grateful for the power of family — then look no further than these ten shows.

Actual Families

‘One Day at a Time’

Watch it on: Netflix
Summary: Inspired by Norman Lear’s 1975 series of the same name, the series follows the life of Penelope, a newly single Army veteran and nurse, and her Cuban-American family, as they navigate the ups and downs of life.

With the success of Roseanne, there’s been a lot of talk of which other family/slice of American life sitcoms should be rebooted, with Norman Lear’s All in the Family often rising to the top of the list. Fortunately for us all, there’s already a rebooted Norman Lear series currently airing and it is one of the best examples of a multi-cam family sitcom in a very long time. One Day at a Time is funny, timely, genuine and heartwarming — basically, it does everything that Roseanne purports to do but with the amazing and inspirational EGOT winner Rita Moreno as the older family matriarch rather than an incendiary, obnoxious supporter of our current president.


Watch it on: ABC
Summary: Dre Johnson has it all: a great job, a beautiful wife, Rainbow, four kids and a big home in a classy neighborhood, but as a black man, he begins to question whether all his success has brought too much cultural assimilation for his family. With the help of his father, Dre begins to try to create a sense of ethnic identity for the members of his family that will allow them to honor their background while preparing them to embrace the future.

Another fantastic example of a show that depicts a slice of everyday American life, all the while giving us a real American family that we unfortunately don’t get to see all too often on TV. Black-ish is family comedy is another amazing example of a show that happens to be incredibly funny while also doing a fantastic job of not shying away from the complicated and complex world we live in. Season 3’s episode “Lemons” is one of the finest single episodes of television, showing what life is like in America under our current president and what it’s like to love a country that, at times, doesn’t love you back.

‘Fresh off the Boat’

Watch it on: ABC
Summary: Based on chef Eddie Huang’s best-selling memoir of the same name, the show follows Eddie, a hip-hop-loving 11-year-old, as he relocates with his parents and two brothers to suburban Orlando from the Chinatown section of Washington, D.C.

By highlighting an immigrant family and detailing the ups and downs of the immigrant experience, Fresh off the Boat asks us to reconsider what exactly we mean when we talk about the everyday American family. It tackles ideas of culture, assimilation and the American dream and does so in a way that’s equal parts hilarious and thoughtful. It also gives us Constance Wu, whose performance as Jessica Huang alone would be reason enough to tune into this show.


Watch it on: ABC
Summary: Maya DiMeo, a wife and mother, is fiercely protective of her husband, Jimmy, and their three children, Ray, Dylan, and J.J. — who has a condition that leaves him with unique mobility and communication challenges.

If you’re looking to watch a show that highlights the struggles of a working-class family, look no further than Speechless. The show depicts the problems that working-class families go through while also incorporating the adjustments that families with disabled persons make. It’s honest and heartwarming, while also asking you to think about how society as a whole sees and treats those with disabilities.

‘Jane the Virgin’

Watch it on: The CW
Summary: After vowing to remain chaste until marriage, Jane Villanueva learns she’s pregnant due to a medical slip-up and has to rethink her future.

Every year, Jane the Virgin makes it only at least half a dozen “best of” lists — and for good reason. The show is based on a Venezuelan telenovela and certainly takes it cues from that genre with the hilarious narration, the outrageous plot points and sometimes the entire character of Rogelio. But beneath those telenovela beats is a heartwarming, hilarious and thoughtful show about the love of family and the strength that we can draw on when we have people who care about us and when we care about others in return.

Found Families

‘On My Block’

Watch it on: Netflix
Summary: Lifelong friendships are tested as Monse, Ruby, Jamal and Cesar navigate their way through high school, including all the of the triumph, pain and newness they experience along the way, in their predominantly Hispanic and black neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles.

I have a longer article in the works as to why you need to be watching this fantastic teen show, but for now let me say that it’s a show that should absolutely be in your queue if it isn’t already. It tells the story of brown and black teens in a working class, south Central LA neighborhood in a way that never falls into stereotyping or tokenism. And while it incorporates difficult and sad parts into their lives, it also does a great job of making the teens more than their neighborhood or their problems — it lets them have fun with one another, make mistakes and lean on each other, just like the best found families do.

‘Brooklyn 99’

Watch it on: Fox
Summary: Set in the fictional 99th Precinct of the New York City Police Department in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Nine-Nine follows a team of detectives as they navigate police work and their own interpersonal adventures.

Brooklyn 99 — like the other enduring and iconic workplace comedies, The Office and Parks and Recreation — shows just how important found families can be. It’s no wonder, given that all three were created or co-created by Michael Schur, who is apparently just the king of writing hilarious workplace comedies featuring found families and the best healthy romantic relationships. Brooklyn 99 hits all three of those standard Michael Schur objectives and gives us Andre Braugher’s Ray Holt, which makes it one of the best comedies out right now.


Watch it on: NBC
Summary: An oddball family of employees at supersized megastore Cloud 9 tackles the day-to-day grind of rabid bargain hunters, riot-causing sales and nap-worthy training sessions.

Anyone who’s ever worked retail will find a lot of truth and hilarity in Superstore, while anyone interested in found families, diverse casting, clever setups and slowburn OTPs will find what might be their new favorite show. Though less timely or topical than Brooklyn 99 or Black-ish, Superstore nonetheless does a great job of highlighting everyday, working class life with a truly oddball yet lovable family of employees.

‘The Good Place’

Watch it on: NBC
Summary: Due to an error, self-absorbed Eleanor Shellstrop arrives at the Good Place after her death. Determined to stay, she tries to become a better person.

Another Michael Schur created comedy, this one eschews the workplace setup for afterlife. There, Eleanor Shellstrop learns how to be a good person while also developing her own little found family with a pre-successful Filipino-American DJ, a Nigerian-born/Senegal-raised moral philosophy professor, and a name-dropping Pakistani-English socialite. It doesn’t explore the complexities of American life in any sense of the word — it is set in the afterlife, after all — but it does ask us to consider what it means to be a good person and what we owe to one another in a way that’s both thoughtful and hilarious.

‘Grace and Frankie’

Watch it on: Netflix
Summary: For as long as they can recall, Grace and Frankie have been rivals. Their one-upmanship comes crashing to a halt, however, when they learn that their husbands have fallen in love with each other and want to get married. As everything around the ladies is coming apart, the only thing they can really rely on is each other.

Grace and Frankie is a show that highlights the lives of individuals who are all but non-existent in your standard Hollywood fare: women over the age 70. The show follows the two women as they deal with life after their divorce and find that family is more than those who are related to you — they’re those who stand by you and stick by when times are tough. It’s a great show that I love not just for how hilarious it is, but for the fact that I can watch it with my own mother and mother-in-law and have them relate to the story presented on the screen.

What are some of your favorite family sitcoms?

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