Over the next week or two, families will get together and celebrate whatever holiday they happen to celebrate. After the food is eaten, with gifts swapped, there’s a good possibility someone will say a word/name (ie. “Trump”) that will inevitably serve as the launching point for everything that can go wrong during the holidays. Depending on the year, it’ll be a different word. For me, it was #BlackLivesMatter in tired ass 2017 (boy that convo was fun). And for 2018, it may be “Will Smith” for that Aladdin bullshit. The point is, it’ll serve as a suitable delivery method for all the grudges, and hate that was stored beneath that turkey and stuffing.
As a man who understands the family struggle, I chose to prepare you in the only way that I know how. By showing you a few episodes with families far worse than your own (let’s hope). Whether it’s Mafioso happenings of The Sopranos or the fuckity fucked up Lannisters from Game of Thrones, I’ve got something for every denomination.
Game of Thrones - Winter is Coming / Crave
Your family is full of maniacs, and the scope of their insanity is as wide as the ocean. I feel you. But fret not, there’s much worse out there. Now I’m going to assume that you’re aware of the white-on-white violence that is called Game of Thrones. That one about turf wars between the pettiest of factions looking to attain the supreme prize: The Iron Throne. And between all that warring and factioning, you’ll know about the the Lannisters by the first episode. In a scene, young lad Bran Stark, climes the upper reaches of a bricked tower only to come across Cersei herself and brother Jaime doing the dirty. One exchange leads to another, and our blonde knight casually pushes young Bran out the tower window. Now it’s important to understand that brother Jaime has a special bond with sister Cersei. One that comes as a by-product of the time he spent swashing in the amniotic juices tainted by Cersei’s evil. It’s just that pure vindictive and sadistic kind of casual evil that populates a family much worse than yours.
Breaking Bad - Crawl Space / Netflix
Watching father Walter White attempt to hide his big secret from his family (he’s a drug pusher), only to spectacularly fail, is like trying to hide the fact that I work at a spot called VICE from god-fearing relatives. I won’t busy you with the details, but there’s a particular moment in “Crawl Space” that’s the definition of dysfunction. Walt calls his lawyer associate Saul, asking him to get a dude who’s an expert in disappearing folks for a cool half a million and change. When Walter rushes home to gather the drug money under his crawl space, he finds out that his wife Skyler gave the bulk of his cash to her hubby (yes, she’s cheating) on the side, Ted. All Walter can do at this point is laugh hysterically, like me laughing in the face of this miserable year.
The Wire - Hot Shots / Crave
There’s something to be said about telling that terrible family member the business straight up: I want no parts of you. And turtleneck-obsessed D’Angelo Barksdale does just that, exposing his neck and all. The dominant theme of the first few seasons of The Wire centered around a cat and mouse game between a major crimes unit, and the Barksdale crime family. In episode “Hotshots”, D’Angelo tells uncle Avon like it is, “leave me alone.” He just saw his crazy kingpin of an unk poison half a prison to frame a single corrupt officer. And at this point, he wants no parts of the family. For some of us, maybe it’s as simple as stating what’s on our mind to those that feel toxic, lest we end up like D’Angelo a little later in this episode. (It still hurts…)
Seinfeld - The Strike / Crave
Look, we all know that your uncle Jim has some strange ideas. He uses that spray OFF! (bug repellant) outdoors, and his car has no rear view mirror. There’s no point in confronting him when he makes that offhand comment about homosexual racoons or Justin Trudeau’s chin. At least you only have to see him once a year, and not at a clown show like Festivus. It’s the celebration episode that never stops giving from that “the airing of grievances” moment, to the “feats of strength.” This was a day invented by George Costanza’s father, Frank Costanza, who in some Frank-guided logic, thought that removing the constraints of holiday materialism by letting every grievance out on the table. It’s what I do everytime I write one of these listicles.
The Sopranos - Whitecaps / Crave
Nothing spells ho-ho-ho like like a middle aged man caught cheating. We all experience moments when that one secret everyone knew at the table would finally spill out in a mess, but “Whitecaps” takes the cake here. It’s in this episode when a history of grudges and frustrations over Tony Soprano’s infidelity explodes like a depth charge. If words could skin, both Carmela and Tony would be bloody pools of flesh. Because despite being the ultra-violent Mafioso that he is, Tony exercises a resistance to hitting women, as he tries hard not to do to Carm who pulls out the stabbiest of cards: she’s been sleeping with hitman driver, Furio. Like most real life arguments, it isn’t as long on paper. We’re talking two minutes. But the whole incident packs so much history spite that it feels like an entire episode.
Everybody Loves Raymond - The Wallpaper / Crave
The thing about the holidays is that family will treat your house like a cookout. Yes, we know it’s not a cookout. But arrive like it’s one, as if there was a cooler or wooden bench to sit on. They’ll barge in like it’s an open field, and grab at your food like it’s free for pickings. It’s like they’re living roommates until they decide otherwise. That’s the thing about the Ramones in Everybody Loves Raymond. They love each other, but it's not hard to believe that if they all moved to separate continents, escape would still be futile. One of the best examples of this comes when Ray Romano’s mother Marie (Doris Roberts), drives an entire damn car into Ray’s living room. Up until that point, Marie and Frank had a habit of coming by without warning (the whole intro is a play on that), but it’s only when a wall gets repaired, and there’s a slight difference in some wallpaper, that we see Ray explode. We all have our familia limits.
The Haunting of Hill House - Darkness Within / Netflix
So let’s see, we’ve got type-A Shirley Crain (Elizabeth Reaser) who deals with her issues by operating a funeral home with her hubby. Younger sis to Shirley (Theodora Crain), who numbs the pain with casual sex and a rotating doorway of women. And then the youngest twins, Nell and Luke, who suffer from depression and drug addiction. What’s the common issue here? Ghosts. They’re haunted by them, as I’m haunted by my lack of vacation time. One of the better examples of the dysfunction comes in episode one, when audiences are moved from the past to the present as an explanation to how everyone turned out so damaged. What each family member—despite the stress—feel most guilty over however is young Nell, who ends up the most disordered. Throughout the ep, they all ignore her frantic calls and pleas for help; and by the end, she ends up dead.
Bates Motel - Nice Town You Picked, Norma / Netflix
So you’re sitting at that dinner table of long lost family, and you’re ranking the weirdos and potential murderers that seem just a bit off in your head. I mean they always start out nice don’t they? Just look at Bates Motel for example. I’m sure you know the story from Psycho (1960): white dude named Norman goes insane and stores his mom’s rotting corpse in a basement, and takes on her personality. But even before the twisted happenings, the odd mother and son relationship between the overprotective Norman and Norma Louise Bates began from a weird and obsessive place. When Mom decides to go on a semi-date, son Norman goes ballistic, and later picks a fight with his half brother Dylan Massett when he hears him call his mother a whore. While Dylan dodges a few swings, it becomes clear that Norman’s out to cut, not punch. How’s that for family.
Six Feet Under - I’ll Take You / Crave
There’s a moment when you state it in your head; “fuck, I shouldn’t of said that.” It could be me saying “fuck” among my church-going fam, or it could be the one time I asked Aunt Deb for the salt when the turkey was dry. It just becomes this thing in one long list of bad decisions. Your life feels like a bad-decision at this point. And it’s a bukkake of bad decisions. Six Feet Under’s Brenda Chenowith made a bad decision. At one point, Brenda and soon-to-be husband Nate Fisher were happy. Brenda was doing her fictional writing thing, and under Nate’s nose, she was using current day sexual encounters for inspirations. When Nate figured this out accidently, the argument felt raw. He calls her a cunt, and uses every single jab he can like a Scorpio without a fuck to give. At the moment’s end, Nate goes for the engagement ring before a disgusted Breda gives him the opening, “don’t you throw that ring at me. That is such a fucking cliché. I’ll fucking barf,” to which my guy lets it loose, “There, barf.” Fire.
Succession - Celebration / Crave
If you’re one to hate every family member for whatever valid reason, HBO’s Succession will rekindle that feeling. I hate everyone in Succession. I hate that patriarch of a father, Logan Roy. I hate that older uppity son of his, Kendall. I’m not too keen on faux-left leaning daughter Shiv, and that living dick on a head, Roman Roy—they’re all rich, and they’re all spoiled as easily demonstrated in episode one. We’re talking about a family that operates on self-interest. In one moment, Kendall is being promised the head of father Roy’s advertising business. In another, it’s being stripped away from him as dick-head Roman giggles at the thought. And daughter Shiv spends these moments smiling from a distance as if she was in on the joke—that her family is trash. By the end, we’re left hoping that something terrible happens to each and every one of these people.
Mad Men - The Grown Ups / Netflix
A lot of holiday get-togethers can amount to smiling in the face of how we really feel. Mad Men was half way about Don Draper’s cheating on Betty, Betty cheating on Don, and a merry go round we went. From the start, It was always known that Daddy Don as the advertising executive honcho that he was, occasionally slept around. Betty knew this too, and in the second last episode of Mad Men, she lets him know how she feels, and gets her, “I don’t love you” moment. Like many women of that era, she was always the restrained one, often trying to articulate her frustrations in different ways. But that old stare, and even tone shifted the power in that very moment. They would continue to be dysfunctional as fuck, but Betty now held the aces.
Follow Noel Ransome on Twitter.
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