17 Great Dramas That Focus on Family First

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We all have them. Families. 

Whether they're abundant and generations are still in existence or if there are only a couple of you who make your world go around, odds are somewhere, someplace, there's someone you'd probably like to hide from on the holidays! 

In the '70s and '80s it was difficult not to find a family's drama on television, but in the 2000s family drama got kicked aside for more violent pursuits. There may be families, but first there was a crime or a crime family. It became all about law and order. 

This list isn't about mob families, or procedural dramas that feature families, but about shows where the family comes first.

One interesting note, though, is that six of these series feature the natural or accidental death of a loved one near the beginning to kick the drama into high gear. Nothing like death to bring a family together.

1. Gilmore Girls

Who would have guessed nine years after the seventh and final season of Gilmore Girls aired we'd be about a month away from four new movie-lets? That's how much the Gilmore family meant to us then, and we know visiting with Lorelai, Rory and Emily will feel like home again in November.

2. Family

Family aired for five seasons from 1976-1980 and followed the everyday trials and tribulations of the Lawrence family, including mom Kate (Sada Thompson), dad Doug (James Broderick) and children college student Willie (Gary Frank), teenager Buddy (Kristy McNichol) and recently wed Nancy (Meredith Baxter).

3. Empire

Empire is in its third season, starring Terrence Howard as Lucious Lyon, who created a music empire while his ex-wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) paid for his crimes in prison. Sons Jamal (Jussie Mollet), Andre (Trai Byers) and Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) contribute to the family business as they all try to stay together and on top.

4. Once and Again

Once and Again was the story of Lily Manning (Sela Ward) and Rick Sammler (Billy Campbell), two divorced parents who fell in love and ultimately combined their families, facing all of the appropriate hurdles along the way. The series, which aired for three seasons from 1999-2002 also starred Marin Hinkle, Evan Rachel Wood, Shane West, Susanna Thompson and Jeffrey Nordling.

5. This Is Us

We've only just begun to know the Pearson family on This Is Us, but they're hitting all the right notes. On the show, from 1980 through today, Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley and Susan Kelechi Watson all share the Pearson name and their characters already feel like friends.

6. Switched at Birth

Switched at Birth stars Vanessa Marano and Katie Leclerc as Bay Kennish and Daphne Vasquez, two girls who were switched at birth and what happens to their families when the "error" is revealed. Soon to air its fifth and final season, the Kennish and Vasquez families, seemingly vastly different in culture and status on the outside, soon find common ground as they come together to form one unique family. Sean Berdy, Lucas Grabeel, D.W. Moffett, Constance Marie and Lea Thompson also star.

7. The Fosters

Running for four seasons, this series follows two married women who happen to be named Foster and the natural, adopted and foster children they are raising. The Fosters stars Teri Polo and Sherri Saum and various others as their ebbing and flowing brood of children.

8. The Waltons

The Waltons begain airing in 1971 and ran for ten years – nine seasons – featuring the life and trials of the virginia mountain family through financial depression and World War II. There was an enormous cast including Ralph Waite, Michael Lerned, Will Geer, Richard Thomas, John Walmsley and Mary Beth McDonough among others.

9. Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie was another period piece based upon the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder about her family in the 19th century American West. The show aired from 1974-83 and starred Melissa Gilbert, Michael Landon, Karen Grassle and Melissa Sue Anderson.

10. Parenthood

Everyone wants to be an honorary Braverman. The extended family became the subject of the television series Parenthood for six seasons beginning in 2010 starring Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard, Monica Potter, Erika Christensen, Sam Jaeger, Joy Bryant, Mae Whitman, Bonnie Bedelia and Craig Nelson as beloved patriarch Zeek.

11. Brothers & Sisters

The Walkers brought the drama on Brothers & Sisters from 2006-11 and for five seasons there were affairs, paternity questions and financial disasters galore. Talk about stars!! Sally Field, Dave Annabelle, Calista Flockhart, Rachel Griffiths, Ron Rifkin, Patricia Wettig, Matthew Rhys, Rob Lowe and Emily VanCamp just crack the top of this amazing cast.

12. Six Feet Under

Death may have been the prevailing theme for all five seasons of Six Feet Under, but it was because we spent 2001-05 with the Fishers in their family funeral parlor. After their father died, the family got together to save the family business and we were all the better for it. Peter Jrause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Freddy Rodriguez, Mathew St. Patrick, Rachel Griffiths, Justina Machado and Jeremy Sisto starred.

13. Queen Sugar

Following another family business in distress, new series Queen Sugar follows the Bordelon family trying to keep it all together when they know nothing about the sugarcane biz. Rutina Wesley, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Kofi Siriboe and Tina Lifford star as the family we're rooting for.

14. Downton Abbey

The Crawleys and their faithful servants taughts us a lot about the social classes in Yorkshire in the early 20th Century, and they won a lot of awards for doing so over their six season run beginning in 2011. Huge Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Joanne Froggatt, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, and a whole gaggle of others starred as this family changed over the years.

15. Eight is Enough

Eight Is Enough was another mid-'70s show, running from 1977-1981 and lasting for five seasons. Guess what! Eight children are plenty, it turns out, especially for the Bradfords, which was led by patriarch Tom (Dick Van Patten). After Diana Hyland fell ill and died in real life, Tom's television wife Joan died as well, and Betty Buckley joined the cast as his love interest and one-day wife, Abby. The series made a teen star out of Willie Aames who played Tommy, and to a lesser extent, Grant Goodeve, who played oldest brother, David.

16. Party of Five

In 1994, the Salinger family was born. For six seasons we watched the orphans raised by oldest brother Charlie feel their way through life without parents. Needless to stay, stars were born. Matthew Fox starred as Charlie, Scott Wolf as Bailey, Neve CAmpbell as Julia and Lacey Chabert as little sister Claudia. BFFs and love interests came to life via Paula Devicq, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jeremy London and Scott Grimes.

17. A Year in the Life

This one flew in under the radar, but off of an Emmy-Award winning miniseries the year before. For one brief, but wonderful season in 1987 we followed the Gardner family on A Year in the Life after they lost their mother. Richard Kiley starred as father Joe, Adam Arkin, Jayne Atkinson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Amanda Peterson and Wendy Phillips while they warmed our hearts.

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