Follow TV Tropes


Characters / Life in Pieces

Go To

Tropes related to characters appearing in Life in Pieces

    open/close all folders 

    Greg and Jen 

Greg Short

Played by: Colin Hanks

The youngest child of John and Joan, married to Jen, and father to Lark and Talia. He works at a crowd-funding website but isn't entirely happy with his job and feels like an outsider.

  • Bumbling Dad: The one time we see him go on a late night diaper run, he ends up getting arrested after failing a field-sobriety test (he was sober, but extremely sleep-deprived, and managed to piss off the cop) and had completely forgotten to load the diapers in his car after paying for them.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: He will try and say that others forced the secret out of him but the accused will immediately say that he blabbed without any prompting.
  • Comically Small Bribe: He once tried to get out of a traffic stop by tempting the cop with a disgusting convenience store hot dog.
  • Manchild: Due to the fact that Joan never stopped babying him, he is the most immature of the Short siblings and will go whining to his parents if Heather or Matt pick on him.

Jen Short

Played by: Zoe Lister-Jones

Married to Greg and mother to Lark. Considers herself an outsider and a step above the Short family's many issues and adventures despite constantly being sucked into them. She's a high-powered attorney but finds herself torn between choosing to dedicate herself to her demanding job or cutting back in order to spend more time with Lark.

  • Clean, Pretty Childbirth: Averted. The delivery of her daughter is anything but pretty and she's seen suffering and dealing with the lingering pain.
  • Deadpan Snarker: She's constantly commenting on the absurdity of the Shorts' misadventures.
  • Death Glare: She possesses an impressive one that comes out whenever Joan is in the vicinity. Unfortunately for her, Joan isn't intimidated at all by her.
  • Noodle Incident: She was once voted "most outgoing at Burning Man". Considering the amount of Body Paint, Public Exposure and generally flagrant extroverted nudity that goes on at a typical Burning Man festival, one can only imagine what she did to earn this.
  • Only Sane Man: She likes to think of herself as the rational one within the Short family dynamic. Time and time again, however, she's sucked into the Shorts' various adventures and her own neuroses cause their fair share of problems.

     Heather and Tim 

Heather Hughes, née Short

Played by: Betsy Brandt

The eldest child of John and Joan, married to Tim, and the mother of three. She is a homemaker and takes after Joan in dominating her family and dictating how they should behave.

  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Heather goes full mother hen on Tyler during his college trip, even stuffing a sandwich in her son's pocket for in case he gets hungry. When Tyler ends up puking in her handbag she's happy to see that he'd eaten the sandwich rather than angry for his having gotten drunk.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Depressed at the realization that her children are growing up, she temporarily becomes convinced that the solution to making her happy is to have a fourth child.
    • When Greg and Jen are debating trying to have a second baby, she tells Greg to go for it and that if they don't like their second baby, she'd be more than happy to take him/her off their hands. She even offers to act as their surrogate if Jen doesn't want to get pregnant again.
  • Granola Girl: She used to be one, fully intending to raise her children in a home without TV or junk food or any form of negativity. Then Sofia was born and turned out be a much more finicky baby than Tyler or Samantha and things started falling apart. She eventually just gave in and shoved TV and junk food at her children in order to get just a bit of peace and quiet for herself.
  • My Beloved Smother: As much as she tries to deny it, Heather takes after Joan in this regard, smothering not just her own children but her brothers and niece as well.
  • Really Gets Around: Was apparently quite sexually active before she fell in love with Tim, and takes zero issue with being referred to as "the slut" of the family by Matt.

Tim Hughes

Played by: Dan Bakkedahl

Husband of Heather and the father of three. He is a ENT doctor and desperately wants to be fully accepted into the Short family. However, John, Matt, and Greg don't make it easy for him.

  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Heather implies to Matt and Greg that Tim is very well-endowed.
  • Bumbling Dad: He finds it hard to adjust to his children growing up and not wanting him around as much and he struggles to try and remain relevant in their lives. One of his attempts at being a cool dad results in Samantha's slumber party ending early because he let them watch Alien and all the girls became too scared to sleep. Downplayed insofar as he is shown to be a very competent doctor, able to help a Mexican market owner suffering from vertigo simply by showing the guy what to do with his head whenever he gets an attack.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: A flashback episode shows that he used to be a highly active health nut with a full head of hair. Eventually, the stress of raising three children got to him and his hairline began receding and he began indulging in junk food while lounging around the house.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Tim is always added as an afterthought whenever one of the Shorts speaks about their family.
  • Overly Nervous Flop Sweat: He goes into one of these during his vasectomy, so much so that the protective sheet he's lying on actually dissolves.
  • Potty Emergency: His first time trying espresso doesn't go well. Heather has to go home to get him new pants and shoes.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Heather is clearly better looking than Tim, but it's shown that she finds him attractive and they share an equal and happy marriage.
  • Visual Pun: He wears a Cinderella outfit during the college basketball season to symbolize his alma mater's Cinderella story.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: He wears a Cinderella outfit whenever his alma mater's basketball team plays, believing that doing so brings the team good luck. Everyone else finds it odd/embarrassing.

Tyler Hughes

Played by: Niall Cunningham

Eldest child of Heather and Tim and husband of Clementine. He's at an age where he wants to be more independent but usually ends up causing trouble when granted it. He's an aspiring rocker who wants to make it big with his band, Funeral Goose.

  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Samantha implies that he spends a lot of time in the bathroom doing this.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Surpasses even his father in this department. His first ever girlfriend is so incredibly hot that the rest of his family simply couldn’t process it and his uncles and grandfather give him congratulatory hugs and backslaps for his success. He marries her in the Season 1 finale.

Samantha Hughes

Played by: Holly J. Barrett.

Middle child of Heather and Tim. Not much is known about her aside from the fact that she's a teenage girl who wants to be treated as an adult.

  • Bad "Bad Acting": She is a talented singer but a dreadful actress, with a stilted delivery and a ludicrously bad Southern accent when she's playing Clarice Starling on stage.
  • Daddy's Girl: It seems she used to be this as a child, given Tim's upset reaction to her caring more about what her friends think than what he thinks. She still loves him a lot, though. Samantha also seems to be closer to her grandfather John than her siblings.
  • First Kiss: She has hers in "Godparent Turkey Corn Farts" while at a fall festival. It's interrupted by John, but he agrees not to tell her parents, about the kiss or about the fact that she had to sneak away from him at the fair in order for it to happen, commenting that having her grandfather walk in on her kissing her crush was probably punishment enough.
  • Flat Character: She's received the least amount of distinct characterization. This begins to get lampshaded as the first season progresses.
  • Granola Girl: Her idea of a family vacation is picking up litter by the highway, and she brings her grandfather to a restaraunt where all the dishes are named after feelings.
  • Hidden Depths: After the girls at Samantha's birthday party have been terrified into going home by watching Alien, courtesy of Tim who thought they'd find it fun, Samantha admits to her dad that she actually thought it was awesome.
  • Nice Girl: She comes off as a generally sweet and good-natured girl for the most part.
  • The Pigpen: Tyler says that she should start wearing deodorant.
  • The Unfavorite: Samantha receives far less attention than her siblings, to the point that her parents even forget her school events.

Sophia Hughes

Played by: Giselle Eisenberg

Youngest child of Heather and Tim. She is incredibly smart yet equally naive.

  • Adorably Precocious Child: She astounds her parents with her intelligence. Tim has a hard time reconciling the fact that his daughter's so smart yet hadn't figured out that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy weren't real until someone told her.
    • She also has a good grasp of Spanish.
  • Children Are Innocent: She thinks singing the word "ass" repeatedly in her head makes her edgy and rebellious.
    • She also thinks that the F-word is "fart".
  • Deadpan Snarker: For someone so young, she gets in more than her fair share of zingers without ever changing her tone of voice.
    Sophia: [when Tim has forgotten the car keys and tells her to time him going to get them] One Mississippi, two, I'm just gonna tell him it's two minutes.


Played by: Hunter King

Tyler's wife and Funeral Goose's bassist. In Season 2, she decides to forgo her own desire to be a musician in order to support herself and Tyler.

  • Buxom Is Better: She is a gorgeous young woman, but her most prominent feature (and the one Tyler's family fixates the most on) are her very large breasts.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Gets hit on constantly, by both men and women.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Even though she's only Tyler's girlfriend, she's so attractive that even Tyler's family has trouble understanding how they're together. It becomes a literal case in the Season 1 finale when she and Tyler get married.
  • Vow of Celibacy: She took such a vow and wears a chastity ring, believing that the first time she has sex should be on her wedding night with her husband. This throws Tyler for a loop, as he'd been hoping for some action on prom night. Tyler gets around it by asking Clementine to marry him. And she does!.

     Matt and Colleen 

Matt Short

Played by: Thomas Sadoski

Middle child of John and Joan. He begins the series completely broke after having gone through a bitter divorce and having had to move into his parents' garage. He begins trying to pull his life together by beginning a relationship with Colleen. He'd like to make a living as an artist, but struggles to find paying work.

  • Basement-Dweller: He's forced to move back in with his parents after losing all his money during his divorce. His mother suggests that he uses his old bedroom but he insists on staying in the garage because it reminds him that the situation is temporary.
  • Honor Before Reason: Despite being flat broke and living in his parents' garage (after a nasty divorce), he decides to quit his job in order to openly date Colleen (she was his boss).
  • Starving Artist: He used to have a job at a airline catering company but quit (see Honor Before Reason above) and is trying to start a new career as an illustrator. He's so broke that he even borrows money from his 17 year-old nephew.
  • True Art Is Angsty: In-Universe. When Colleen writes a children's book and asks Matt to illustrate it, he produces dark and brooding pictures to try and connect the story (about a chicken with teeth) to industrial pollution and the destruction of the environment.
  • Would Hit a Girl: He agrees to wrestle Dougie, Colleen's obnoxious roommate, to try and get her to move out. In fairness to him, Dougie is only about an inch shorter and probably weighs twice as much as he does.

Colleen Ortega

Played by: Angelique Cabral

An HR manager at an airline catering company and Greg's former boss. She finds that she fits right in with the Shorts and their antics. She has aspirations to be an author and eventually gets her first book published by the end of the first season.

  • Dark and Troubled Past: She laughs about it but she used to be a chola in high school and would regularly get in violent fights with other girls.
  • Mister Muffykins: She shares custody of Princess with Chad, her ex-fiance.
  • Unwanted Spouse: An unmarried variant. She's stuck living with her ex-fiance because they bought their house together but neither can afford to buy the other's share now that the relationship fell apart.

    John and Joan 

John Short

Played by: James Brolin

A former airline pilot. He likes to think of himself as a man's man but his macho attitude is mostly bluster. Somewhat of an aloof father, but he's an incredibly attentive grandfather and loves to spend time with his grandchildren, particularly Sophia.

  • Bumbling Dad: He's the kind of person who believes that a funeral-themed birthday party is a good idea. He also has a hard time remembering Jen's name despite the fact that she's been married to his son for several years.
  • Drink Order: He likes tropical cocktails, particularly mai tais.
  • Hidden Depths: John normally comes across as macho man who epitomizes masculinity. Beneath that exterior, he's a doting grandfather who's genuinely upset at the fact that his grandchildren are growing up and spend less time with him and enjoys making creepy ventriloquist dummies (he thinks they're adorable but everyone else is disturbed).
  • Jock Dad, Nerd Son: John is very much a old-school man who likes to take care of things on his own. He's disgusted to hear that Greg hired someone to chop down a tree and convinces Greg and Matt that they can do it themselves. Things don't go well.
  • Mister Muffykins: He bought a miniature horse (because he was upset that Sophia didn't want to spend time with him) and babied it despite the fact that it destroyed the house. Joan manages to redirect his affections towards a Yorkshire Terrier named Tank.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: One of his hobbies is making ventriloquist dummies. They are hideously crude creations and disturbs everyone else in the family but he considers them to be funny and cute.
  • Retired Badass: He's a former paratrooper and spent most of his life flying Boeing 747s all around the world.

Joan Short

Played by: Dianne Wiest

A therapist who has a habit of meddling in everything her family does. Likes to think of herself as a permissive grandparent who lets her grandchildren have as much fun as possible despite having been rather strict with her own children, occasionally bringing her into conflict with Heather. Continues to baby Greg, to Jen's displeasure.

  • My Beloved Smother: She passive-aggressively meddles in her children's lives and is locked in an eternal struggle with Jen to see who loves Greg more.
    Joan: You let the first two go and baby the third until you die!
  • Serious Business: She is a die hard St. Louis Rams fan. Her team losing is one of the few times she's openly angry and snapping at people. She'll even hold Lark for over an hour because the Rams scored when she picked the baby up.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: She loves vanilla ice cream and has regular ice cream dates with Greg where they gossip over sundaes.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: