For MSN.com, 2008:
Steaming Up the Screen: The Sexiest TV Shows of All Time
by Emily Russin
There’s more to turning on the television viewer than a plain old sex scene. Characters first must be attractive to a) the audience and b) to each other. A buildup of tension helps, particularly for those who tend toward the prudish end of the spectrum. If characters rush to bed, what’s the point of telling a story? Early TV was very buttoned-up, and sex and sexual references mostly absent. Now, in the 21st century, the bedroom doors have flung open (especially on premium cable!) and sexual content has become tolerated by the mainstream to a much broader extent. Because sexy is one thing to one person and another to another—gender has more than a little to do with this—the list below combines the thrill of the chase with the stuff that makes you blush.
Sex and the City: Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte, the four protagonists of the iconic HBO series lived, labored, and loved hard. Nothing was sacred: We were privy to their one-night stands, their not-so-innocent flirtations, painful crushes, and their diverse attempts at coupling. Sometimes even—sigh—romance. Given that narrator Carrie Bradshaw was a sex columnist, the series honed its arc through the conquests and near misses of the boudoir. It broke ground when first aired, partly because the gals spared no details about their dates’ idiosyncrasies and their own naked attempts at pleasure-seeking. Sex became an acceptable preoccupation for this eligible quartet. Post-coital cosmos all around!
Gossip Girl: There’s something about lovely people in lovely clothes finding and losing love that works on TV (see above). Here, however, there’s a hint of cradle-robbing, since these privileged kids attend Upper East Side upper-crust schools by day and haunt New York’s adult playgrounds by night. The show’s underage femme fatales, Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) and Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively), have become the CW’s new muses. Between their gauzy make-out scenes and their sultry, come-hither gazes they’ve more than earned Teen Temptress status. From across hotel lobbies and penthouse balconies they beckon hapless man-boys who don’t know what’s about to hit them. This Champagne-fueled hormonal rampage offers a tantalizing naughtiness. Sit back and watch as innocence is lost.
Workout: One word: Jackie. She’s the ripped owner of Sky Sport, the LA fitness club where the skinny and the morbidly obese work out side by side. Jackie is tall, tan, and lesbian. Bonus: She likes straight women, too—sometimes even her employees! But with her darting brown eyes and her glossy pink lips, her masculine swagger is just another tease. She’s tough, but vulnerable. And she likes to have a good time—even with cameras following her to parties and bars and her bedroom door. Her trainers look great on camera, too. Besides being hip and hard-bodied, they’re unabashedly horny and hide nothing in tight workout wear. Enjoy the sexual shenanigans, and sweat vicariously.
Melrose Place: 90210’s older sibling lacked the rich-kid vibe of its predecessor but more than made up for it with the swinging inhabitants of this LA apartment complex. A sort of sexual “Upstairs, Downstairs” for the slacker set, this is the show that revived Heather Locklear’s career and made everyone look forward to their first post-college rental situation. Who could forget the tantalizing tension between roommates Billy and Allison? Jo and Jake? What about dominatrix-on-the-prowl Amanda and….everyone? Everyone was in heat, yet hardly anyone hit the pool. Partners switched, doors slammed, and the predatory side of hooking up revealed itself in all its Darren Star-eque glory.
The Tudors: A crash course in British history and sex education! This Showtime series, starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and his blue-eyed pout as Henry VIII, retells the story of the early reign of the king who couldn’t settle down with just one woman. Natalie Dormer, an actress of porcelain skin and creamy bosoms, plays Anne Boleyn. Needless to say, corsets at the king’s court don’t stay on for long; the place looks like one of the most beautifully costumed harems ever seen on television. Tension fills the air; the politics run thick with plots and betrayals, but in the many bedroom chambers, the four-posters are put to great use. Henry is more than appreciative of a woman’s physical virtues, and Anne Boleyn, despite being used as king-bait by her scheming father, is more than willing to oblige by giving His Majesty a closer look.
Northern Exposure: Cicely, Alaska set the scene for some of TV’s best foreplay. Dr. Joel Fleischman and bush pilot Maggie O’Connell spend a few seasons bantering like Shakespeare’s Beatrice and Benedick before finally succumbing to their mutual attraction. But before this happens, the quirky show teased and cajoled viewers into watching these would-be lovebirds berate, debate, and hate each other. Their chemistry undeniable, the small town coupled up around them as if to taunt their stubborn denial of attraction. Everyone around them sees what they don’t want to admit, and while nothing, once begun, is ever permanent in Cicely or on CBS, Joel and Maggie played their long come-on to the hilt. (The recently cancelled “Men in Trees” was a less compelling retelling of the Alaskan antics of the sexes.)
The L Word: Estrogen rules supreme, as LA women love other LA women and we get to watch. Like “Friends’” Central Perk, the ladies meet for a morning coffee klatch at the Planet, and their love lives swirl around them like gossip—or a really hot latte. Coupled or closeted, these women have lives and pasts, but the show’s forthright and successful attempt to show all facets of same-sex relationships is both sensitively and sensually accomplished. It doesn’t hurt that these babes are physically and intellectually in their prime; they’re successful and witty, contemplative and seductive. No wonder they find themselves wrestling with many a partner. Women know what women want, and here’s the show that proves it.
Moonlighting: Maddie and Dave, Dave and Maddie. Whether it was Cybill Shepherd’s come-hither smirk or Bruce Willis’ playful quips, these two made a goofy detective comedy steam with possibilities. Dave’s breezy banter barely disguised his appreciative lust for his female counterpart, and though it took a while for the consummation, we heartily approved when they just couldn’t keep up the charade any longer. This was a show that spilled over with pure, unadulterated romance, which steadily caused viewers’ heart rates to increase. Add to the mix the swoon-y theme song performed by Al Jarreau, and you had yourself a date. Tuesday nights were so gratifying in the ’80s….
Dancing With the Stars: Tame family entertainment, or potential minor-celebrity hookup? Judge this dance contest for what it really is, an excuse for future couples to bump, grind, and paw each other. Because the dances require such close contact and downright merging of limbs, some lovin’ isn’t just left behind on the dance floor. The grueling physicality and the constant intimacy the couples must endure—from sweat to sequins and back again—either brings an electric chemistry to the performances or…buh-bye. What is America voting for, really, other than the couple that gives off that whiff of something taboo? Whether it’s a tango, waltz, foxtrot, or rumba, the sexier you are the longer you’ll keep dancing. The barely-there costumes leave little to the imagination, making this all-ages show more risqué with each new season. (Notable exception: Kristi Yamaguchi, happily married mom of two, was just too good to beat this year.)
The Medical Drama (sexiest genre): Paging Dr. Love! The Medical Drama has healed the sex-starved public time and again over the years. Who can forget the palpable passion between Luke and Laura on “General Hospital”? From the RV-living Gonzo Gates on “Trapper John, M.D.” to the Airstream-living Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd of “Grey’s Anatomy,” there’s a serious precedent for hotties in the hospital. Their jobs score 10 out of 10 for intensity and pressure, so what’s a little cavorting on the side? These guys need a release! Will we ever forget the meaning conveyed in a single glance between “E.R.’s” Nurse Carol Hathaway and Dr. Doug “George Clooney” Ross? Or the all-female lip-o-suction between Drs. Torres and Hahn in the “Grey’s” finale? Our curiosity about the inner workings of the medical profession allows our belief to be constantly suspended: Scrubs fall to the floors of supply closets, eyelashes bat over surgical masks, and hands briefly meet over sutures and bedpans. Talk about palpitations. Get me a doctor! Stat!
For MSN.com, 2009:
The Good Wives Club
Husbands, kids, jobs, and plotlines: Here’s to TV marriages’ better halves.
by Emily Russin
What is a good wife? Does she ignore her own needs at the expense of her husband’s, or does she maintain her identity while also being a supportive partner? Many of this season’s shows feature marriages--- both stable and in disarray---that are driven by the wife’s interior battle over this very subject. In dramas like “Mad Men” and “The Good Wife,” the wives find themselves with power they didn’t know they had. Over in reality-land, the “Real Housewives” franchise reveals the extremes of spoiled materialism and attached-at-the-hip togetherness. From fiction to “reality,” the good wives are the ones who are comfortable enough in their own skins to strive for validation while validating their husbands as well. As “Mad Men” counts down to its third-season finale, it shows that, even in its pre-feminist era, some wives wear the pants even when their gender model is, as one young female character put it, to look good and “let [husbands] do whatever they want.” Some Orange County wives might just have to agree.
Alicia Florrick, “The Good Wife”
With her state’s attorney husband in jail for misusing public funds, his wife Alicia is left behind to pick up the pieces. Not only is her husband gone, she and her two teens leave the comfortable Chicago suburbs behind and move into a condo with her mother-in-law. And then there are those pesky sex tapes, implicating her husband in a prostitution scandal that is more damaging to her than the loss of his political status. Alicia is deeply affected, but she puts her unused law degree to use and gets a job as an associate at a prominent firm. She maneuvers between the shock of her husband’s indiscretions and her loyalty to her children’s father. Visiting him in jail, she manages to hedge talk of their future while vocalizing her confusion and anger. What her husband doesn’t realize is that his wife is stronger than he is, a more compassionate public servant than he was, and perhaps a more forgiving wife than he could ever deserve.
Joan Holloway Harris, “Mad Men”
Joan sashays into a room like a force of nature, her femininity and confidence as powerful as her curves. Joan has become this season’s surprise on “Mad Men,” as we see her marriage to a handsome, young medical resident crack before its foundation has even set. Watching Joan realize that her choice to get married was more about her need to rebound from her noncommittal lover, Roger, jealous, as well as to realize the office girl’s dream of becoming a doctor’s wife. When, in a brutal scene, her husband’s veneer falls away and he rapes her, we see Joan’s resolve harden as she realizes what it means to keep up appearances. Even when her husband’s career flounders, Joan does what any good wife should do. First, she comforts him. Then, when he confesses to enlisting in the Army, she breaks a vase over his head.
Allison DuBois, “Medium”
Allison is a psychic. Or, until recently, she was fully capable of seeing things that were going to happen or had happened. What is remarkable about Allison’s role as a wife is her complete, two-way communication goes with her husband, Joe. Even if he’s exasperated and quite frequently stressed out, Joe needs and listens to his wife. She manages to convey control during the height of chaos, and nurtures his dreams of stable job funding while hers turn into nightmares. Together they are able to weather the storms that three daughters (at least one of them psychic as well) bring them on a daily basis, and she also manages to assert her need to work and her frustrations when her visions, once reliable, start to slip.
Pam Beesly Halpert, “The Office”
Pam finally married Jim, her longtime romance, Jim. Theirs was a courtship based on mutual attraction and compatibility. What makes Pam a good wife, albeit who’s fairly new to marriage, is her willingness to make her opinions known (Michael dating her mother, for example), and her ability to maintain her own identity at work, where Jim is now a co-manager and she’s a salesman. A good wife is a good partner, and Pam is collected, reasonable, and kind to Jim. Pam is firm, not a pushover, and someone Jim knows he needs on his side in order to keep his sanity as co-manager of Dunder Mifflin’s motley crew. She has his back. Because, really, you have to be there to appreciate how maddening that place is to work. In this, they are the strongest of allies.
Meredith Grey, “Grey’s Anatomy”
Meredith Grey was a terrible girlfriend. Wishy-washy, indecisive, and impulsive. But she’s turning out, so far, to be a supportive, caring wife. It helps that she’s been laid out with a kidney operation and spent the last several episodes in bed recovering, but she was just Derek’s sounding board for his most difficult neurosurgery ever, and has been engaged and interested in his travails and feelings. This is not to say that she’s diminished by the institution of marriage (Post-It vows and all), and has become a fawning, insubstantial spouse. As a fellow surgeon, she and Derek share an almost spiritual intensity about medicine. And Meredith finally gets what will make their partnership last: She has learned to be vulnerable, and, what’s more, she’s starting to shake the selfishness that kept her from getting what it means to love, not just be loved.
Lisa Wu-Hartwell, “Real Housewives of Atlanta”
Lisa is the Hot-lanta housewife who actually has the most functional marriage in the group. Her (second) husband Ed, a former pro footballer, is something of a stay-at-home daddy when not trying to get back into fighting shape or escorting Lisa to the ObGyn. Lisa is undeterred by her husband’s career disappointments. She talks with him about other options, and he thinks about broadcasting, even doing a mock interview with her. Lisa has multiple business ideas of her own going, from a so-so-clothing line to real estate, is raising their young son (she has older children from her first marriage) and wants another baby. In a most impressive wifely moment, Lisa and Ed talk about downsizing to a smaller home given the fact that he the NFL won’t be paying the bills. Even as foreclosure rumors hit the Internet, Lisa and Ed talked openly about what they needed versus what they wanted. Lisa never strayed from being positive, while helpfully playing devil’s advocate to Ed. She deploys humor to get through to him, and remains emotionally as tough as her bulging biceps.
Sun Kwon, “Lost”
The daughter of a traditional Korean businessman with a criminal bent, Sun married Jin, and renounced her father before she and her husband crashed on that fateful Oceanic flight. As the show enters its sixth and final season, Sun has risked everything in order to find Jin, even though she saw him die at the end of the fourth season. She does this for herself, for how much she loves him, and she does this for their daughter. Sun’s conviction that they could be anywhere together and be happy drives her to leave her child behind and return to the island. Sun’s intelligence and her willingness to risk her life for the love she knows is possible is hard to ignore. And you know what they say about the love of a good woman. Jin, should he escape his time-warp, has one waiting for him.
Lily Aldrin, “How I Met Your Mother”
Lily is an example of a wife on the edge of losing herself. She’s known her husband, Marshall, since college. They got engaged, and she broke away to become an artist, to find herself and see if she was really supposed to be with him. Lo and behold, her life pre-Marshall wasn’t as great. Not as fun, not as sweet. In knowing that she had to leave him and separate herself in order to experience missing him, she allowed herself to follow her heart into their shared future. Now married, they recognize the goofiness they bring out in each other, and their separate quirks make their union a series of never-dull moments. But if Lily hadn’t taken a detour, resentment could have seeped into their lives. Now, it’s not likely that it will. Unless, of course, Marshall does something stupid.
Carla Turk, “Scrubs”
Sometimes guys marry their mother. Turk, a cocky surgeon with a bit of a prankster-player complex, is yet another case in point. But Carla takes it all in stride. She loves the guy who can be a goof as well as a doctor. She plays along with his antics, sometimes even aiding and abetting them, because she knows that her husband needs to be himself in order to be happy. Carla is a good wife who knows that she can’t nag the child out of her man, but has to find that middle ground where he feels good about himself and she still likes who he is. Theirs is a medical partnership, as well, and her nursing skills go a long way to nurturing their relationship. Like most RNs, Carla knows when to perform triage and when to sit back and let things work out. Good think she’s committed to sitting back and enjoying her life with Turk; he’s all play and some work, but never a dull boy.
Echo is a vessel, programmed to inhabit characters for the pleasure or necessity of the clients that patronize the underground human laboratory known as the Dollhouse. In her tenure as an “active,” Echo has become the action hero, the art thief, the naïve college student, and the willing girlfriend. And, in some cases, she’s been the doting wife. What’s interesting about her role as a spouse is how she’s made to order. Since the client custom-orders the characteristics he wants, Echo has little free will the matter. But the potential husband’s ideas don’t vary much: a little bit Stepford, a little bit naughty, and a little bit into keeping up appearances as his enthusiastic arm candy. What most clients don’t know, and the Dollhouse staff is just figuring out, is that Echo is discovering her own, original instincts. So be it go-go dancer or athlete, she infuses something authentic into each assignment---and as a wife she commits fully, and happily.
From MSN.com, 2008:
TV Parents Who Should/Should Not be Allowed to Adopt
by Emily Russin
Brad and Angelina aren’t the only parents who make us feel like hicks who haven’t the global imagination to raise a village. There’s a plethora of small-screen precedents as well, solid citizens who would win over any adoption agency and manage to incorporate a child into their family structure with success—and, of course, some entertaining high jinks along the way. New and old, nontraditional and sometimes even irrational, these TV parents help shed light on the everyday lives and decisions all parents make. Then there are those characters for whom the door to adoption should be forever bolted, mommies and daddies who should never have procreated fictionally in the first place. Applying standard adoption criteria to the best and worst candidates for adoption clearly reveals which families just might pass muster. Or not.
Who Should be Allowed to Adopt
- Heathcliff and Clair Huxtable, “The Cosby Show”
Employment/financial status: Obstetrician (Cliff) and attorney (Clair). Home is a Brooklyn, NY brownstone with Jacob Lawrence paintings on the walls. Ka-ching!
Other household members: Children Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy; occasionally Sondra’s husband, Elvin; Denise’s husband Martin and his daughter, Olivia; and Pam Tucker, Clair’s second cousin.
Approach to discipline: Edifying stories leading to confessional or apologetic outburst. Paternal humor.
Pros: Kids move to their own beat and are appreciated for individuality. Watch them groove in the opening credits! Power couple demonstrates commitment and stability, despite Technicolor sweaters and all the mouthy mouths they’ve fed.
- Lorelai Gilmore, “Gilmore Girls”
Employment/financial status: Co-proprietor, Dragonfly Inn B&B, Stars Hollow, CT. Home is charming bungalow with just-available extra bedroom. While she’d prefer not to ask her wealthy parents for assistance, they’d readily shell out for another grandchild.
Other household members: Daughter Rory (Yale graduate!); on-again boyfriend Luke, owner of local diner; Paul Anka (dog).
Approach to discipline: Direct orders, spiced up with pop-culture references and delivered over Pop Tarts. Wields honesty and instructional ’80s movies.
Bonus point(s): Fiercely protective, loyal parent who fosters independence while channeling teen spirit. The village stands by to help.
- Charles and Caroline Ingalls, “Little House on the Prairie”
Employment/financial status: Farmer (Charles) and homemaker (Caroline), Walnut Grove, MN. Simple log dwelling with central kitchen table, byproduct of shared labor. Cooking, sewing, and manual labor provide enough, i.e., children look well fed.
Other household members/children: Daughters Mary, Laura, and Carrie. Adopted son Albert Quinn, and, later, siblings James and Cassandra Cooper.
Approach to discipline: Non-corporal punishment meted out for bad behavior. Visible signs of parental disappointment elicit tears of remorse. Advocates of Golden Rule—unless Nellie Oleson started it first.
Bonus point(s): Unconditionally loving parents with special-needs experience (daughter Mary is blind) and God-fearing lessons to spare. Bunk beds for all!
- Shirley Partridge, “The Partridge Family”
Employment/financial status: Singer/musician in family band, collectively known as the Partridge Family. Profession requires frequent travel and public appearances. Splits time between modest home in San Pueblo, CA and a converted school bus that takes them on tour. Hit songs = $$$!
Other household members/children: Children Keith, Lori, Danny, Chris, Tracy; manager Reuben Kincaid; and Ricky, neighbor kid and eventual band mate.
Approach to discipline: Expectations reinforced with well-honed firmness of voice, knowing smirk. Lori offers maternal backup and support. Family meetings held to air grievances and discuss the biz.
Bonus point(s): Family harmony. Touring also offers valuable opportunities to learn about different places while receiving musical education. There’s always room for more on the bus!
- Darrin and Samantha Stevens, “Bewitched”
Employment/financial status: Advertising executive, McMahon & Tate (Darrin), homemaker (Samantha). Gracious suburban home outside New York City.
Other household members/children: Daughter Tabitha, son Adam. Samatha’s mother Endora visits spontaneously. As do Samantha’s doppelganger sister Serena; her Aunt Clara; her Uncle Arthur; and her family’s quack, Dr. Bombay.
Approach to discipline: Warnings, followed by a quick nasal twitch. Problem solved!
Bonus point(s): Charms—real and otherwise—keep this family humming. Sam’s quick wit and upbeat demeanor work their magic on negative influences, such as Darrin’s headachy mother and meddlesome neighbor Gladys Kravitz.
- Jin-Soo Kwon and Sun Paik Kwon, “Lost”
Employment/financial status: Slated to improve in three years, by which time they’ll no doubt become upstanding members of society.
Other household members/children: Fellow castaways, for the time being, assist with day-to-day needs.
Approach to discipline: Strict and patriarchal, yet mollified by maternal soothing and neo-feminist input. Life lessons taught alongside survival skills.
Bonus point(s): Eager to begin their parental lives with a clean slate and much-improved communication skills, they’ll provide a loving home—or hut—environment. Bilingual.
Who Should Not be Allowed to Adopt
- Jack Bauer, “24”
Employment/financial status: Counter-terrorism agent based in and around Los Angeles. Work requires spur-of-the-moment relocation for various lengths of time, as well as the diffusion of life-threatening situations. High-pressure. High pain threshold.
Other household members/children: Young adult daughter Kim. (Wife Teri deceased.)
Approach to discipline: Consequences first, explanations later. No excuses. No whining. Father shows little tolerance for dishonesty or rash decisions. Has been known to drag daughter away from sticky and sometimes preventable situations.
Red flag(s): Ex-heroin addict. Overly protective. No stranger to violence, torture, and heart-attack-inducing stress. Likely target of revenge; this could deem any residence or car unsafe for a child. No down time.
- Tony and Carmela Soprano, “The Sopranos”
Employment/financial status: Tony (businessman) and Carmela (homemaker). The family 9 home in an upper-middle-class New Jersey township with a backyard pool. Tony’s business ventures are numerous and, frankly, shady. He maintains an office at the strip joint Bada Bing.
Other household members/children: Daughter Meadow, son Anthony Jr. (AJ); Tony’s erratic sister Janice; Tony’s manipulative Uncle Corrado, or “Junior”; and addict nephew Christopher Moltisanti. Tony’s close friends also frequent the house, particularly trusted business associates Paulie Gualtieri and Sil Dante.
Approach to discipline: Swearing and shouting punishments at the children is not uncommon. Carmela issues punishments while Tony offers backup in the form of corporal threats. Then Carmela backpedals. Kids win!
Red flag(s): Tony’s anger issues. Carmela’s lack of authority. Focus on wider family circle versus nuclear family. People they know disappear.
- Wilhelmina Slater, “Ugly Betty”
Employment/financial status: Creative director, MODE magazine, New York City. Cold yet stylish Manhattan loft, filled with white and chrome furniture.
Other household members/children: Empty nester. Rebellious yet affection-starved daughter Nico sent to boarding school in France, then moved to Dubai to be with her father. Assistant Marc St. James provides outlet for what little affection she has for another human; he coordinates her nefarious plots.
Approach to discipline: Follow orders or you’ll be sorry. Revenge comes as naturally as breathing.
Red flag(s): Wilhelmina always comes first. Control issues leave no room for emotion. Her insatiable hunger for power obliterates maternal instinct. About to become a despised stepmother.
- Al and Peg Bundy, “Married…with Children”
Employment/financial status: Al (women’s shoe salesman) and Peg (anti-homemaker). Family lives in a house in a Chicago neighborhood.
Other household members/children: Daughter Kelly, son Bud. Dog Bucky. Next-door neighbors Marcy and Steve engage in verbal assaults with Bundys and serve as butt of family jokes.
Approach to discipline: Apathetic detachment. Cynical put-downs. Inappropriate comments regarding physical and mental deficiencies.
Red flag(s): De-emphasis on intellectual development. Collective focus on flighty materialism (mother) and ignorant self-pity (father). Misery, in this case, doesn’t need any more company.
- Wayne and Dahlia Malloy, a.k.a. Doug and Cherien Rich, “The Riches”
Employment/financial status: Wayne (grifter, a.k.a. Doug Rich) and Dahlia (con artist, a.k.a. Cherien Rich). Currently living in an upscale gated community in Baton Rouge, they earn suspicious paychecks and try to keep up with the neighbors. Members of Travellers.
Other household members/children: Eerily intelligent children Cael, Di Di, and Sam.
Approach to discipline: Lifestyle supports theft, crime, and other illegal activities. Frequent communication breakdowns lead to yelling, name-calling, and the children reinforcing sham life with criminal sub-specialties.
Red flag(s): No sense of right/wrong modeled by parents. Evading authorities and angry clansmen, not parenting are priorities. Arrests imminent.
- Ray and Debra Barone, “Everybody Loves Raymond”
Employment/financial status: Ray (sports journalist) and Debra (homemaker) Barone.
Other household members/children: Daughter Ally, twin sons Michael and Geoffrey. Ray’s parents, Frank and Marie Barone, live across the street with Robert, Ray’s older brother. They come and go as they please, causing disruptions and tensions that never end.
Approach to discipline: Mother is enforcer, father adds resigned and disgruntled backup. Parents are unable to support each other’s action plans for children’s consequences. When not in school, kids banished upstairs for inordinate stretches of time or left to Grandma’s devices. Confrontation and simmering hostility is the norm.
Red flag(s): No boundaries between nuclear and extended family. No two adults are ever allied for long. Parents’ authority undermined by grandparents. Unresolved paternity issue: Kids are blonde, parents have black hair.