The show centers on the eccentric and dysfunctional Paré family, with the elderly Paré parents as the main characters. Jacquelinenote and Aimé "Ti-Mé" Paré (respectively nickamed Môman and Pôpa, French versions of "Mom" and "Pops") form the two halves of a retired couple whose marriage has long since lost its passion. Both have developed their own strange routines to give meaning to their otherwise now boring lives: Mom fusses over the increasingly massive turkeys she cooks, treating them like children (and arguably as replacement for her actual children, who are all adults now), while Pops obsesses over the state of his garbage bags and of his workshop in the basement - despite it never having come into use. The couple interact with their four children, who are just as messed up as they are: Mom must ceaselessly comfort Thérèse, her nervous wreck of a daughter; Caroline seeks new corporations and governments to rebel against; Rodrigue refuses to mentally grow out of his teenage-hood; and Rénald, The Un Favourite, desperate for his parents approval, who insists he isn't a penny pincher despite being a high-strung bank manager.
The show ran from 1993 to 1999. During its peak, La Petite Vie used to be the most watched TV show in Quebec, at one point one out of five Quebecers was watching the show's episodes on their first run. One of the episodes holds the record for the highest market share ever achieved by a television program. An oft remembered prop of the show is the parents' bed, which was laid vertically against a wall. While this was originally used during the stage show so the audience could see the actors, the bed kept this characteristic into the TV show, and was revealed to be a particular eccentricity of the elderly Paré.
La Petite Vie contains examples of the following:
- All Men Are Perverts: Réjean barely conceals the fact that he sleeps around on the regular, and he gets away with it only due to his wife's profound innocence.
- Camp Gay: Jean-Lou, who seems to get more effeminate with every appearance.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Thérèse shows time and again that she cannot ever think straight due to her nervous disposition, leading her to screw up the most basic of life skills.
- Doting Parent: Mom for Rod, to the point where despite being in his 40s, Rod still depends on her to do his laundry and cook him meals for the week.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty
- Pops' way of teaching his wife to drive is to put her through a simulation of what amounts to nothing less than a weather apocalypse, using waterguns, confetti, and cardboard to take her through a storm, blizzard, and nighttime in quick succession.
- Pops insists on taking a controlled approach to teaching home improvement, to the point where he will disallow his pupil from using anything but a hammer and the same five nails.
- Hands-Off Parenting: Implied to be Pop's preferred method for raising his kids. Applies to Mom, too, except for her first born, Rod.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Rénald is shown in flashbacks to have been denied even the most basic of attentions, which makes it a sheer miracle that he survived to this day. Played for laughs in that he's completely oblivious to it.
- Jerkass: Réjean and Popa.
- Noodle Incident: Pops' best friend Pogo constantly begins counting the tale of a tragic event that happened to him at a Montreal Canadians hockey game in 1972, only to be interrupted every time, and never getting to finish his story.
- Parental Neglect: Rénald's conception was accidental. Mom and Pops both freely admit they did as little as they could to raise him. They have only one photo of him as a kid and it's Rénald hiding behind a tree (even there, they just wanted a picture of the tree). Even now the parents are not shy about showing their dislike of him, to the point where Mom will purposely cook foul meals to discourage him from coming over for lunch. This doesn't work as expected: Rénald is more than happy to bite into a sandwich full of nothing but tomato caps.
- Revised Ending: The first Christmas special has an ending where Celine Dion shows up. But there is an alternate ending only in audience where Ding et Dong show up instead.
- Running Gag: Thérèse keeps trying to recreate her mom's shepherd's pie recipe, which is about as simple as cooking can possibly get: she even spends an entire episode reciting the mantra "Meat, corn, potatoes!" Every single one of her attempts is an unmitigated failure.
- She repeats the feat with date squares, with her first attempt defying all reasonable logic: she ends up with date triangles, date circles, date parallelograms... but no date squares.
- Straight Gay: Mr. Bricole
- Straw Feminist: Caro.
- Take That Me: Combine with Self-Deprecation. In one episode, the family watched a comedy routine by Ding et Dong, calling them "Those two weirdos", with Pops remarking that the one with glasses was way too annoying. note
- Also qualifies as a Celebrity Paradox moment.
- Unseen Character: Le beau Marco (Handsome Marco), constantly referred to but never seen until the end of the second season. Turns out, beauty is in the eye of the beholder (and every character needs some urgent laser-eye surgery).
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Pops.
- You Look Familiar: Some actor like Martin Drainville or Luc Guérin played different one shot character.