TV shows such as Ozzie and Harriet and Leave it to Beaver have such iconic status that even if you are too young to have watched them when they first aired, you know all about them. The shows modeled one particular way to live – in a nuclear family household, with mom, dad, and the kids, and no one else.

I don’t know if there were other shows at the time that featured other ways of living – such as living alone, living with an extended family, or living with friends. (Do you?) If there were, they did not become the cultural touchstones that the Beaver did.

Now, in the 21st century, much has changed, both in how we actually live our lives, and in the models of living we see on TV. All sorts of ways of living are shown on television. Sure, sometimes the situations are played for laughs, but even in those instances, the shows invite viewers to contemplate a different way of living other than with only nuclear family members.

I’m impressed by how many shows airing since 2000 offer serious depictions of different ways of living, including nuanced portrayals of the good and the bad. I don’t think Ward and June Cleaver ever engaged in snide exchanges or iced each other out for days at a time, but lots of contemporary televised family members do just that – and often get over it.

Below are some of the examples of 21st century shows in which people live in all sorts of interesting ways. In some of these shows, living arrangements change over time. In several instances, I have never seen the shows and I’m just going by what I’ve heard, so do let me know if I am wrong. Also please nominate other shows that illustrate ways people live other than in a household with just mom, dad, and the kids.

More than One Generation Under the Same Roof

  • Blue Bloods
  • Brothers & Sisters
  • Six Feet Under
  • Modern Family
  • Parenthood

A Group of Friends Live Together Under the Same Roof

Grey’s Anatomy

Friends Have Places of Their Own, but Live Next Door to Each Other or Drop In on Each Other

  • Private Practice
  • House
  • NCIS

Single-Parent Households

The Good Wife

 Each Person or Family Has a Home of their Own within a Neighborhood in which the Neighbors Socialize (so, not the stereotype of people isolated in the suburbs)

Desperate Housewives

Are there any shows in which a married couple lives apart not because they are separated or have jobs in distant places, but because each person wants their own space?


    Last reviewed: 24 Dec 2012

APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2012). What Does TV Tell Us about How to Live?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2014, from



Subscribe to this Blog: Feed

Recent Comments
  • RainbowExplorerRN: This approach to determining “basic needs” is absurd, speaking as the RN, clinical...
  • Mark: I do the same thing with bread. I never know how long it will take me to use a loaf of bread. This keeps it...
  • Emerson: My strategy with bread is to cut the whole thing into slices, freeze it, and then defrost however much I...
  • Bella DePaulo, Ph.D: I totally agree, Wil. It is one of my pet peeves about supermarket shopping.
  • Wil: One business that I think was left out are grocery stores. It seems like there are items that are large enough...
Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code

Users Online: 12240
Join Us Now!