We all have our favorite and least favorite tropes. From love triangles to slow burns, tropes are often the best ways to showcase great characters and storylines. They can also be frustrating and make you question why it is even a trope at all. In this bi-weekly column, we’ll take a deep dive into some of the most classic television tropes.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been watching Desperate Housewives for the first time. I went into it not really knowing what to expect and found myself captivated by the dramatic and twisted lives these women have. Some are more normal than others, yet they all make questionable decisions one after the other.
As I watch these characters’ lives unfold, I’m constantly reminded that most of them are also parents. And it got me thinking about the way parents are portrayed on television. There are series like Desperate Housewives in which the show revolves around the parents, and there are shows like Pretty Little Liars in which, on occasion, you get a glimpse of the parent’s lives.
The sanest parents such as Melissa McCall from Teen Wolf and Joyce Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer have their merits, but they aren’t as nearly as interesting as some of the most whacked-out parents like those of Desperate Housewives. So for this week’s column, I thought it would be fun to list some of the best and worst parents in television history.
After all, most of your favorite characters wouldn’t be the people they are without some influence from their parents — good or bad.
Best: The parents of Teen Wolf
A lot of supernatural shows have a habit of killing off parents (looking at you, The Vampire Diaries). However, Teen Wolf decided to use the parents of the main characters to their advantage. Sheriff Stilininski, Chris Argent, and Melissa McCall are three of the best television parents out there because Teen Wolf made their characters truly part of the show.
Rather than having Scott’s mom as just a character that randomly pops up to tell Scott to do his homework, Melissa played a big role in helping Scott understand who is and who he could be. The same can be said with Stiles and his relationship with his father. Because Teen Wolf really made you care about these characters as their own entity, they were able to benefit the show as a whole.
Honestly, Teen Wolf wouldn’t have been the same without these three characters. I really commend the writers for doing what few teen shows do which is actually utilize the parents.
Worst: The parents of Pretty Little Liars
Let’s be real, the parents of Pretty Little Liars were entertaining at best. Seasons would go by without any of them really questioning a lot of the awful choices their kids were making, and sometimes, they even made bad decisions themselves. While I enjoyed the episode in which all the moms were stuck in a basement together, most of the time, these parents didn’t add any value to the series.
On occasion, there were some heartfelt storylines between the parents and child. For example, I loved the relationship between Hanna and her mom, Ashley. They were really two peas in a pod and they both would do anything for each other (even sleep with the town’s detective to make sure her daughter didn’t get arrested). But while we had Ashley Marin, we also had Tom Marin who was pretty awful most of the time. Not only did he abandon Hanna, but when he did stroll back into town, he did so with his new wife and daughter — a slap in the face for Hanna and her mom.
I’d say for every good thing one of these parents did, something bad followed. And I can’t help but look at most of them with disdain just for the mere fact that so many terrible things happened to their kids under their watch and they were too oblivious to really notice.
Best: Stef and Lena Foster, The Fosters
The Fosters is another series that I wished I talked more about. I really did love this show, and one of the best parts of this series was the relationship between Stef and Lena Foster. These two really demonstrate what great television parents look like. Not only were they always there for their children but they were there for each other.
They showed what true, unconditional love is and what it means to be a family. Their life wasn’t easy by any means, but the fact that they stood by each other through thick and thin made me admire them as parents. I wished more television parents were as great as these two, and I hope to one day catch up on Good Trouble so I can see what they’re up to these days.
Worst: Dan Scott, One Tree Hill
I feel as though no explanation is needed here. Dan Scott is arguably the worst television parent out there. He abandoned one son, mentally abused the other, and killed his brother all throughout the first four seasons of One Tree Hill. I’ve previously discussed his redemption arc, but no matter what happened in the final seasons of this series, Dan Scott’s parenting skills will forever live in infamy.
Sure, he did rescue Lucas from a car wreck but that doesn’t really earn him a father of the year award. Keith, who technically wasn’t the father of either Lucas or Nathan, was more of a father to them than Dan would ever be. A show has to have its villain, and for One Tree Hill, that was Dan Scott.
Best: The Bravermans, Parenthood
Name me a more wholesome television family. I’ll wait.
Similar to Desperate Housewives, Parenthood centers on the parents rather than have them be secondary characters. Because of this, we are able to really see the highs and lows of being a parent. For those of us that don’t have any kids, Parenthood provides us with a glimpse into what it can be like. It can be full of sorrow, pain, happiness, and excitement — and you never know what is going to happen.
While Parenthood has its fair share of drama, it’s not nearly as exaggerated compared to Desperate Housewives. In this series, we’re able to really get to the heart of what it means to be a parent and have a family. Watching this series makes you feel like you’re part of the Bravermans clan and it’s because of the way these parents’ stories are portrayed.
I guess if you’re going to watch a dramatic and borderline trashy TV show, you’re going to get parents that are also on that level. If you watch a show that’s more down-to-earth, then you may have a better shot at getting parents that actually give a damn.