Not all TV parents can be as wholesome and picture-perfect as Ward and June Cleaver, nor as relatable - and fallible - as Roseanne and Dan Conner. Plenty of TV parents are so invested in presenting themselves as ideal role models that they actually become pretty insufferable. From parenting icons of classic television to supposed paragons of child-raising from today's hottest shows, TV holds countless examples of questionable parenting ripe for criticism.
Virtually since televised entertainment began, viewers have asked for family stories, whether comedic or dramatic. Some of the early pioneers, like Ralph and Alice Kramden of The Honeymooners, were notably childless. As time progressed, however, families grew, familial dynamics were explored to both serious and humorous effect, and a wide range of parenting techniques and abilities unfolded before our eyes.
Let's take a look at some of the worst fictional parents from TV, past and present.
Frank and Marie Barone are undoubtedly cute, but are they good parents? Despite their "loving family" act, they are anything but pleasant. While Frank is irascible and often obnoxious, Marie is the one who really takes the cake.
Since she lives across the street from her son, she's always involved in his businesses, fulfilling the role of a smothering and controlling parent. She also frequently serves her daughter-in-law backhanded compliments, which does little to aid the family dynamic.
Jack and Judy Geller are only occasional figures in the adult lives of their kids, Ross and Monica. Whenever they're onscreen, however, they more than make up for their absence by grinding on everyone's nerves.
Judy frequently mocks Monica, especially about her prior weight issues. Both parents fuel the sibling rivalry between Ross and Monica, and without fail, they side with Ross in any disagreement. With such stellar parenting examples, it's hardly surprising that Ross turns out to be a terrible father.
Ted and Karen Wheeler are so clueless that they make Alan and Amy Matthews from Boy Meets World look like involved parents. Perhaps most notably, Ted and Karen have no idea that their children are sneaking out in the middle of the night and engaging in supernatural shenanigans.
While any of the main characters' parents can be accused of this neglect, Ted and Karen take their ignorance one step further: they fail to realize their son is hiding a mysterious girl with psychokinetic and telepathic powers in their own basement. Among all this danger and mischief, the only discipline Ted dishes out is for his children's foul language.
7th Heaven is a perfect example of a "love it or hate it" TV show. Even those on the love-it end of the spectrum, however, can admit that Eric and Annie Camden are smug and sanctimonious parents. Their over-the-top moralizing is difficult to stomach and prevents their kids from gaining actual life experience and truly growing up.
As just one example, during one of the show's countless PSA-style episodes, Annie warns her kids of the dangers of pot by revealing she once smoked some when she was a teen. She claims the experience ended with her friend bloodied from smashing through a car windshield. She is a bit of a buzzkill, to say the least.