I'm not sure about you, but when I think of HBO, I don't necessarily think about "family" first. I think about my family going to bed so I can watch some TV-MA shows with a lot of cursing, a little murder, and the occasional tasteful nudity. Well, aside from the HBO Family channel, which delivers the excellent Sesame Street, HBO has actually done an astounding job at helping redefine the American family on television. 

HBO has worked with some of the most interesting writers, directors, and producers since its inception. These people have brought epic families onto the screen. The Roys, Sopranos, Fishers, Bullocks, Lannisters, and every other amazing lineage examined across this interesting array of series. 

Recently, The AV Club did a deep dive into how these families shaped the next generations.

While reading it, I was surprised by how much I forgot that HBO was not just forged by the Soprano family, but the family on Six Feet Under as well. Without the Fisher family and their funeral home, I'm not sure viewers or the network would have believed in a gangster on television. Still, The Sopranos did happen, and both shows helped usher in how we see the American family today. 

Look at shows like The Leftovers, which takes the apocalyptic genre and religion and refocuses it on family values, people seeing each other through thick and thin—it's special.

Also, shows like The White Lotus prove HBO is not backing down from talking about income inequality, in-laws, and cheating. It ushered in a new HBO family that we can look forward to expanding on in other seasons. 

One thing HBO also did was work at getting diversity on the air. Both Insecure and Watchmen brought in Black families. One was a found family of friends, another showed a Black family of superheroes dealing with generational trauma.

Even Big Little Lies had a diverse cast that not only highlighted the idea of what modern families look like, but showed how money comes into play within these dynamics.

They also were not afraid of LGBTQ+ storylines, with shows like Looking and Six Feet Under. While there's still room for more of these shows to be on the air, it does seem as if HBO heard early diversity criticisms and pivoted well. 

So why write about families? 

Writing about dysfunctional families is the writer's catnip. Families provide a ton of inherent drama. You have relationships, patriarchy, matriarchy, money, backstory, and so many other things you can sort out.

The onset of HBO brought people to write about families in a real way. It offered them a way to look at them unfiltered. You could curse, have violence, and talk about anything. You could have same-sex couples, throuples, and goomars. 

The American family has a long legacy in television, from Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy to The Simpsons and Modern Family. Still, what HBO has done is travel to the R-rated versions of all these stories and deliver uncensored and uncompromising stories. They also hired fearless creators who can help push them into the future.

Finally, they never shy away from genre. Whether that's fantasy, dystopia, gangster, or romance, it all happens on screen. 

What are some of your favorite HBO families and why? Let me know in the comments.