Follow TV Tropes

Following

Western Animation / F is for Family

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/f_is_for_family.jpg

Frank: I'm putting you in charge of your sister today. You got that?
Bill: Yep.
Frank: Okay. If anything bad happens to her, I will come right home... and I will put you through that fuckin' wall.
F is for Family, trailer
Advertisement:

F is for Family is a Netflix original animated sitcom created by comedian Bill Burr along with Michael Price, best known for his work on The Simpsons. The series stars Burr as foul-mouthed patriarch Frank Murphy, and is a semi-autobiographical story of his own childhood. The rest of the Murphy clan include Frank's wife, Only Sane Woman Sue; Dumbass Teenage Son Kevin; Middle Child Syndrome Bill; Bratty Half-Pint Maureen; and an old dog named Major.

The show takes place during 1973-1974 — when TV dinners seemed like space-age technology, boxing was the greatest thing on television, and kids would ride their bikes behind mosquito trucks and play in the sweet-smelling pesticide clouds. While this may seem idyllic, the neighborhood that the Murphy family live in is anything but, filled with prejudices and problems that father and protagonist Frank must deal with day after day. As much as the series is an examination of the 70's, much of it is also a harsh criticism of the time, pointing out the social flaws found in the culture of the time period.

Advertisement:

The show follows the Murphys through typical Dom Com conflicts peppered with profanity and the occasional graphic nudity. One main difference between F is for Family and traditional animated sitcoms, however, is that there is no Reset Button: Conflicts pile up over the show's episodes with disastrous results. Comparisons in style and tone can be drawn with BoJack Horseman, another Netflix original series.

The series premiered on Netflix on December 18, 2015. A second season was later released on May 30, 2017. A third season was released on November 30, 2018. Season 4 was released on June 12th, 2020. A fifth and final season was released on November 25th, 2021, concluding the show at 44 episodes.


Advertisement:

F is for Family contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: A subtle one in the last season, when Rosie is stopped by the Rustvale PD on a spurious traffic violation, Bill's eyes meet those of Rosie's daughter, Nia. Bill Burr's real-life wife is Nia Renee Hill, who provides the voice of Georgia Roosevelt, Rosie's wife and Nia's mother.
  • All Anime Is Naughty Tentacles: Red and Carl are trying to sell Fuck School to a pornographic film producer, only to discover that they had a reel of Sleepy Ramirez cartoons (with their actual porno movie being screened by the equally unwitting Bill, Philip, and Jimmy to the other neighborhood kids.) The producer simply says that animated porn will go over really well in Japan. Possibly justified in that earlier in the season, the Sleepy Ramirez balloon in the Thanksgiving parade was anatomically correct and apparently well-hung.
  • Animated Shock Comedy: It may be more dramatic than the typical examples, but still qualifies, being a Grossout Show with copious amounts of sexual and occasionally violent comedy with lots of heavy swearing.
  • Animation Bump: The opening sequence has some rather fluid and detailed flying animation compared to the rest of the show.
  • Arc Words: "Box 16" which were Big Bill's dying words to Frank. Except not really. Frank misheard him, it was actually Bach 16.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Sue's "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Frank in episode five:
    Sue: You are a horrible, rotten human being. (Beat) And you're losing your hair.
  • Artistic License – History: The show depicts Sue, an American woman in 1974, as having created the salad tosser only to have her concept stolen and taken credit by a feminist woman. In reality, the modern version of the salad tosser was invented a year earlier by a French man named Gilberte Fouineteau.
  • Asshole Victim: It's really hard to feel bad when Scoop and Roger are killed by a bomb in "Landing the Plane".
    • Likewise, you won't feel any sympathy over Chet dying after being poisoned by Nguyen-Nguyen when she snaps from his constant abuse.
    • Considering how rude, abusive, disgusting and bitchy she was, few viewers will feel bad when it's shown that Julie, the crazy cat lady, dies alone on Christmas in the season 5 finale, and is eaten by her cats.
  • Bad Santa: The mall Santa apparently refused to pay Janet for a SUCK JOB!, so she decides to seize his sack of presents to satisfy the debt. The bag rips as they struggle over it, scattering presents everywhere. A riot ensues. Bill and Philip, dressed in their junior police uniforms, are watching the whole thing.
    Bill: Our first riot!
    Philip: Thank you, Santa!
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • Frank sees a commercial for Mohican Airways that features Native American stereotypes (and ends with a Native reacting in horror when offered a blanket). Frank finds it offensive... that the company can afford an ad campaign but can't give its workers a cost of living increase.
    • Kevin manages to get Vic's radio station to listen to his band's demo tape, hoping they'd play their song live. Kevin, Lex, and Bolo later find out a second-long clip of their song was used as a bumper for the weather report. Their surprised reactions almost implied they're upset that they got screwed out of a radio broadcast, but then they started cheering and praising themselves for technically being on the radio.
    • In S4E5, when there's no food at the Fitzsimmons house, Bridget tells Maureen she knows how they can get free food. She opens a drawer in the kitchen revealing a revolver and ammo, which she ignores and grabs her dad's janitor keys so they can get into the school cafeteria.
  • Berserk Button:
    • M*A*S*H for Frank, for condensing the hell he went through into a bunch of womanizing doctors.
    • Mentioning drowning, in any context, is one for Kevin.
    • Dr. Goldman seems to be a pretty chill father, forgiving Kevin throughout season 5 for such acts as heavy petting with his daughter Alice, casual faux pas regarding Judaism, Kevin accidentally setting fire to the temple grounds, and even Kevin punching his son in the jaw hard enough for his son to need to be on a puree diet. He remains that way until his last scene in the series, when he catches Kevin and Alice in a moment of Interrupted Intimacy, then he proves to be just as violent-tempered as any other father. This sharp turnaround in his attitude may be because of opposition to the idea of his Jewish daughter marrying and/or procreating with a Gentile (non-Jew).
  • Big Brother Instinct: Kevin to Bill, Maureen, and especially Megan.
  • Big "NO!": Frank reacts this way when Bill reveals he saw him and Sue having sex.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Chet Stevenson says his Vietnamese-American wife Nguyen-Nguyen is crazy about him, often saying "Chet-Chet" in her sleep. "Chết" is also the word "die" in Vietnamese, which could possibly mean she's having nightmares from the war or she's saying "Die, Chet!"
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Frank's father died at the end of the Season 4 finale, shortly after Sue's baby is born. Season 5 begins with Big Bill's funeral.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • For Season One, Frank loses his job on Christmas Eve, but manages to get one over on his deplorable employers and help Bill defeat his bully and said bully's father.
    • For the series finale, on the plus side, Kevin has made up with Alice, Rosie has managed to stop his district from being demolished, Mayor Tangenti has been indicted, Lou Gagliardi is dead, Sue has managed to patch things up with Louis and has opened her own parenting class, and Frank finally manages to move on from his past and is actively doing his best to be a better father and husband. On a more bittersweet note, Frank's come to terms with the death of his father and is moving on, though he's still understandably sour about the relationship and Bob Pogo will have to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, although he seems to be okay with this. And on the down side, Frank has been demoted to a position that pays half as much as his previous position, Louis and Stan’s relationship goes back to the stage of estrangement, and Ginny has abandoned her two sons with Greg.
  • Black Comedy: In a similar vein like many other animated sitcoms about dysfunctional families. Though, unlike the black comedy you'd find in a typical episode of The Simpsons or Family Guy, the black comedy in F is for Family is used to shine a less-than-nostalgic light on the 1970s and is based on Bill Burr's childhood.
  • Bland-Name Product: "Hamburger Assistant", as well as "Hamburger Associate Assistant", is a rather obvious stand-in for Hamburger Helper and it's various spin-off products.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: Vic has a gold plated revolver mounted on a plaque which reads "Thanks for the ride, man. Here's a gun. Phil Spector." He eventually uses it to shoot up his house when he finds out his girlfriend cheated on him.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: A gender-inverted example with Jimmy Fitzsimmons' gang in the first two seasons. Jimmy was the redhead while the other two filled the blonde and brunette void.
  • Bookends: In the Grand Finale, when Frank is trying to say something to his family, he is interrupted by a phone call just as he was in the pilot, only this time, Frank doesn't explode in anger like he did in the pilot and instead puts the phone on hold, showing off some Character Development throughout the entire show.
  • Book Dumb: Kevin consistently does horrible in school, even his best efforts reach a C. It's partially shown that he is more interested in music and has a band, but he's not particularly good at that either. It's just accepted that he is not a very bright kid, but has his own Hidden Depths when it comes to understanding and working through emotional matters.
  • Brain Bleach: Bill tends to become privy to unfortunate sights, quickly getting an "I'm traumatized for life" look on his face, always with the same face and musical cue.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs:
    • Maureen's ideas for Halloween costumes included Adolf Hitler and Jesus (bloodied and on a cross). When Frank reacts negatively towards her ideas she combines the two and asks if she could go as "Nazi Jesus".
    • Kevin's summer school classmates like vandalising their teacher's car and pushing things onto the train tracks so they can witness some destruction. The final episode of Season 3 shows they destroyed their teacher's car by pushing it onto the tracks.
    • Frank mentions that while he was at war he "got yelled at, got shot, and got yelled at for getting shot."
  • Breakfast in Bed: In "F Is for Fixing It", as Frank and Sue try to patch up their relationship, Frank tries to smooth things over with a breakfast in bed for Sue, one comprised of powdered eggs and frozen orange juice.
    Frank: Did somebody order breakfast in bed?
    Sue: No.
    Frank: Well, I brought it, anyway.
  • Broken Pedestal: Bill has been enthusiastic in his service in Rustvale's junior police corps and is even thinking about becoming a police officer. His conscience begins bothering him about the corruption in the police force when the police allow the boys to take items from the evidence room, though he still takes a pimp hat. He quits altogether when he witnesses Rosie being pulled over on a trumped-up traffic stop and publicly humiliated. Looking into the scared eyes of Rosie's daughter, Nia, Bill realizes that racial profiling by the police has been a reality for the Roosevelt family for their entire lives.
  • The Bully: Jimmy Fitzimmons, who torments Bill and Phillip relentlessly.
    • Amy Jenkins is a bully to both Maureen and Bridget.
  • Celebrity Paradox: The band "Lifted Riffs" is supposed to be the Led Zeppelin of this universe, but Kevin's friend Claire wears a "Zep" button on her jacket.
    • The fifth season features a daredevil named Buster Thunder Jr, who is a clear parody of Evel Knievel. However, Evel Knievel is mentioned while Frank is watching TV during the first season.
  • Central Theme:
    • The Values Dissonanceinvoked between the 70s and the current times is a recurring theme, both in regards to family values and social justice.
    • The Chain of Harm, how one generation of abuse causes another down the line. This is especially shown in Season 4, where the relationship between Frank and his father Big Bill take the spotlight.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The answering machine that Sue receives from Plast-a-Ware ends up recording Frank sabotaging her job offer.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Much of the show is very salty, but Frank especially is known for his string of swear words. His Fat Bastard boss Bob is similar.
  • Continuity Nod: In season 5, episode 3, Frank finds an ashtray his father stole from a hotel in Florida and gave to his mother as a gift. When he telephones his mother and asks her about it, she complains that he stole it from her when she left and that she is having to use a coffee can as an ashtray. The following episode, during the Thanksgiving montage, a close-up shows her using the ashtray at her California apartment, indicating that Frank mailed it to her at some point.
  • Crapsack World: The show essentially takes real problems present in the US in the 70s and turns them Up to Eleven. Most adults are chainsmokers or alcoholics, most media is comically racist or otherwise bigoted to some degree, litter, pollution, and dumped appliances are seen left all over the town, and no machinery is ever guaranteed to work right.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Sue had to deal with one in Ryetown while she was a Plast-a-Ware saleswoman. One of her complaints about a product she bought was "I don't like the way this one is looking at me!" It's later mentioned, thankfully not shown, that she uses all those tubs to hoard her cats' feces. Even their diarrhea.
  • Cut Short: Frank's favorite show, "Colt Luger," is put on hiatus after its star, Reid Harrison, is arrested and locked in a jail in Tijuana.
  • Dad the Veteran: Frank is a veteran of the Korean War. One of his first lines in the series is announcing he almost bled out in Korea.
  • Daddy's Girl: Maureen to Frank. She is the one person he will never yell at, often apologizing for a flippant comment explicitly saying he thought she was Bill or Kevin. Subverted in season 5 as Frank focuses more on baby Megan, relegating Maureen to middle child status along with Bill. This inspires a small amount of Sibling Rivalry from Maureen.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "R is for Rosie" in the fourth season explores Rosie's life and family exclusively, with a Special Edition Title appropriate to Rosie's situation (Rosie wanting to run for alderman and being brought down by the police and, by proxy, a predominantly white society that still tries to make it hard for minorities to get ahead, rather than Frank wanting to be a pilot and being brought down by being drafted to fight in the Korean War, marriage, being a father, getting older and fatter, and being stuck in suburban life) and the Murphys only making brief cameos. It shows him as living in a rougher neighborhood with his own unique issues, but having a lot of the same problems that Frank has to deal with.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Nguyen-Nguyen claims she's changing Chet "from the inside", a little every day. Turns out she's poisoning him by putting floor cleaner in his noodles, finally getting fed up and dumping a whole gallon one night.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Used frequently to contrast The '70s with today. When describing the show, Bill Burr described The '70s as a decade where you could smack your kid, smoke indoors, and bring a gun to the airport. Much of the show includes casual racism and sexism, lax safety standards and letting their kids do almost whatever they want outside.
    • A talk show called "What It Is" in the first episode being hosted by a white man. He asks his black guests, "So how do you people feel about these election results? So now that the civil rights movement was over, and we're all equals now... I mean, not that you're going to be marrying my daughter or anything". He also makes similarly off-color jokes when talking to a group of feminist activists.
    • In the first season, Frank (at least at first) has a phobia towards black people (besides his airport coworkers), as shown when he immediately flees after seeing a black guy (actually a white reporter in disguise) ask him for help with refilling his car with gas. More prominently though, Frank expresses a lot of sexism with his wife and daughter whenever they try breaking out of traditional gender roles.
    • One episode has Frank drinking a beer while driving. Then he lets Bill take the wheel.
    • When Sue gets a job in season 2, Frank is shown to be intensely resentful of it, since he thinks that, as the man, he needs to be the breadwinner, or at least be more successful than his wife. While this idea was relatively common back then, this is less present nowadays, and Sue is understandably pissed at him when these feelings surface.
    • The Rustvale hospital, an example of medical practice before the term "evidence-based practice" came into being the following decade. Sue's male obstetrician is a chain-smoker who looks extremely ill from either COPD, heart disease, cancer, or a combination of all three, and was also old enough to have attended Sue's own birth. He even blows smoke between her legs while performing an ungloved pelvic exam. He ends up being a subversion when he collapses to the floor and dies shortly afterward, at which point the head nurse, Beatrice, after saying "he's with half his patients now," openly admits he was known to be a poor doctor for years but was never disciplined for it. The hospital also has a policy not to release female patients until they're signed out by a male relative, reflecting how much of society still didn't see women as having agency for their own lives, keeping them in a room that looks very much like a crowded cell at the county jail. This is enforced by Beatrice on Sue.
    • Beatrice herself plays it straight by being verbally abusive towards patients and visitors and holding a steadfast belief that all problems can be medicated away with enough morphine. By the end of Season 4, with Sue, Frank, and Kevin all having stood up to her bullying and having found a kindred spirit in a remorseful Big Bill, she shows signs of having an epiphany that maybe the way she's been doing things because they were always done this way were wrong.
    • Sue's White Anglo-Saxon Protestant father cites Frank being Irish-American as one of the reasons why he hates him, showing how Irish-Americans were still considered Acceptable Ethnic Targets by Anglo-America during this time.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: When Frank gave his "Reason You Suck" Speech to Bog Pogo in the Season 1 finale:
    Frank: Well fuck you, fuck Dunbarton, and fuck you!
  • Deus ex Machina: If Mr. Dunbarton hadn't miraculously had his major neck blood vessels severed by a laminated piece of paper being propelled at very high speed by the explosion resulting from Scoop stepping on the bomb, Frank, Bob, Rosie, Red, and Carl would all have been facing long sentences in federal prison on multiple felony charges, a fact which Bob points out before deciding he needs to call an alderman relative to try and pull some strings. It's lucky for them that the FBI didn't investigate why Scoop was on the plane to begin with.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Bill and Phillip plan to take the ultimate revenge of Jimmy Fitzsimmons by leading him down a hill on his bike to get tripped up by a bungie cord extended by two trees, which will send him flying into a soiled port-o-san. They did not, however, consider the possibility that Jimmy could simply ride around the trees once he saw that he was headed for a trap, or that he'd be hit by a car and get one of his legs broken regardless.
  • Dude, Not Funny!:
    • Kevin seems to be having fun with the two slacker employees at Mohican Airways until they play a tape of Frank's boss getting decapitated by a plane propeller and crack jokes during it. Kevin becomes disgusted with them and leaves.
    • Vivian and the rest of the Plast-A-Ware executives exchanging numerous profane and sexist remarks. They're all laughing until one executive (Gene) makes a comment about Vivian that the rest of the group thought was too far and derailed the whole meeting.
  • Dying Alone: Happens to Chet and Julie.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The show reaches something between this and Stepford Suburbia. As a result it's played a bit more realistic and not as absolute chaos. Frank is a foul mouthed father who is stuck in a dead end job, Sue wants more for her life then being a housewife, Kevin is a slacker teenager with implied brain damage, Bill constantly goes through one traumatic experience after another, and Maureen is basically out of control.
  • Eagleland: Heavily type 2, mostly due to the time period, though the show slightly hints that things are not that different now than they were back then.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Knowing that the fifth season would be the final one, the writers and producers tried to bring closure to the stories of the main characters and the more prominent supporting characters. Generally, these are happy endings within the way the characters have been portrayed.
    • Rosie arguably gets the most unambiguously happy ending within the series, having successfully ousted the corrupt mayor and saved his neighborhood from being displaced by gentrification. The final shot of his home shows there is still much work to be done, but Rosie definitely goes out on a high note.
    • Jim Jeffords gets his job back as a news anchor after his role in exposing Mayor Tangenti, much to the disgust of Curtis Higgins, who replaced him and is now his co-anchor. Their last scene shows they're going to have a relationship similar to that of Rosie and Bob Pogo.
    • Vic is seen enjoying his first Christmas with Vic Jr, who is happily chewing on a toy Corvette.
    • Goomer and Evelyn rekindle their love for each other. Their Christmas presents to each other are Mohican uniforms, however, the name badges bear their real names, Walter and Mary Margaret.
    • Father Pat is at a Caribbean resort in the company of a buxom, bikini-clad woman, having traded his priest robes and collar for a Hawaiian shirt.
    • The Murphy family ends the series on reasonably high notes. Sue has a successful business, and Kevin is back with Alice (though her Overprotective Dad has now given him a "stay away from my daughter!" warning). The kids' Christmas presents are a reflection of their parents' Character Development and learning to accept their kids for who they are rather than who Frank and Sue want them to be. Kevin gets an electric guitar amplifier, Bill finally gets his new hockey stick, and Maureen gets a mortician's playset. Despite spending his morning in his usual trademark rage over his job and his father's memory, Frank finally starts to make peace with his life and realizes that his family is the most important thing he has. The final scene in the series is an almost exact re-creation of the first scene, only Frank chooses to ignore the phone this time and have a genuinely happy Christmas dinner with his family.
    • On the other hand, several of the more unpleasant characters are rewarded with Laser-Guided Karma. Ginny falls in love with Eileen and moves to California, abandoning her sons, but learns after the fact that part of her move involves living with Frank and Eileen's rude, abusive mother. The expression on her face clearly shows she's having second thoughts. Julie is shown dead in her home, being eaten by her cats. Louis Gagliardi dies after a scaffolding his outfit built using intentional shoddy materials collapses on him. Mayor Tangenti resigns and is indicted for being an accessory to attempted murder and accepting bribes..
    • Bob Pogo's ending is left up to interpretation as to whether it is a good ending or a bad ending. After being shot by Louis Gagliardi and saving Rosie's life by diving under a falling platform, he is now paralyzed and will spend the rest of his life being chair bound. To Bob, that means he can spend the rest of his life sitting down, which he thinks is a dream come true. At this point, he hasn't started to deal with the realities of life with paraplegia.
  • Enemy Mine: The relationship between Rosie and Bob Pogo. In the first season, they are clear adversaries. Starting in the second season, they start grudgingly working with each other against their common enemy, Scoop Dunbarton. Bob's casual racist tendencies keep getting in the way of any real friendship. In Season 3, Rosie saves Bob's life with CPR after he has a heart attack, which makes Bob somewhat grateful to Rosie, and he does try to curb his racial remarks, at least in public. In Season 4, Bob does help with Rosie's election campaign for alderman, though he's still quick to switch sides when it looks like Rosie is losing. In Season 5, Bob and Rosie grudgingly work together to take down the mayor and the Mafia, with Rosie even allowing Bob to hide out in his house from Gagliardi. After one final racial remark and Dirty Coward moment from Bob, he throws himself under a falling platform to push Rosie out of the way, saving Rosie's life. Bob becomes permanently disabled as a result, but tells Rosie that he is a good man and the injury was worth it to save him.
  • Establishing Series Moment: Doubling as both this AND Establishing Character Moment for the whole family in the first 5 minutes of episode one. Frank drives home through a typical, idyllic 70's neighborhood of cars, pastel homes and beautiful front lawns, sits down at the table with an attentive and caring family, and begins to tell a story about work- only to fly into a rage from a single phone-call during dinner, establishing his anger problems and setting the profane tone for the rest of the series. Kevin reacts with disgust while obviously being high, Sue attempts to calm him down but fails and tries to deal with the fallout, Bill shirks away in fear, and Maureen ignores him. The last words before the title sequence are "GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!", said by Frank to a child.
  • Evolving Credits: The animated Title Sequence changes with each season, with the obstacles Frank flies through changing to depict the adversities he faces each season. In season 5, when Frank is dropped into his couch from the sky, baby Megan drops into his lap. Notice how in the page image, Maureen is affectionately cuddled up to Frank's arm? In the season 5 Title Sequence, she's been physically displaced by Megan as the "baby" of the family and looks resentful of the situation. Bill, who has been a longtime middle child since Maureen was born, warned her this would happen during their mother's pregnancy with Megan.
  • Euphemism Buster:
    • Vic gives us one regarding some sexual affairs he had as a student with the then lunch lady Vivian.
    Vivian: Remember how we (air quotes) "cleaned the kitchen"?
    Vic: Yeah, you (air quotes) "fucked the shit outta me"?
    • Nguyen-Nguyen delivers this to a juvenile delinquent brought to the prison.
    Nguyen-Nguyen: Oh, you make a pee-pee in your pants, big man? Wait till I make you act out Kojak with me. "The Strange Case of the Disappearing Lollipop." (Beat) It go in your ass.
    • The Lifted Riffs song "My Pickle" is full of phallic metaphors. Later in the song the singer just flat-out says "I'm talking about my penis!"
  • Expy:
    • Frank's alpha-male neighbor, Vic, looks and acts just like Wooderson from Dazed and Confused.
    • Rosie bears a very close resemblance to late comedian Patrice O'Neal, who was a good friend of Burr's.
    • The band seen in S1 E5 is a blatant Led Zeppelin clone, with a Robert Plant lookalike lead singer who performs a sexually charged blues-rock song clearly spoofing the chorus to "The Lemon Song" (complete with a Euphemism Buster Lampshade Hanging of the ham-fisted phallic metaphor).
    • Bongwater & Spliff, a stoner comedy duo are based on Cheech & Chong.
    • BLABLA, the left-wing radical group responsible for the hijacking at the Mohican runway in season 2, is based on the Symbionese Liberation Army. The leader, Tecumseh X. Dubois, is based on Donald DeFreeze, the founder of the SLA, while the young blonde woman is based on Patty Hearst, the wealthy heiress of the Hearst media empire. However, the real life SLA operated in Southern California rather than the Northeast in which the show is set. The hijacking is based on the real-life hijacking of a Mohawk airliner at Westchester County Airport in 1972.
    • Kevin's divorced summer school teacher Mr. Durkin bears a strong resemblance to D-FENS from Falling Down and leads a similarly crappy life, with no money, an unreliable car, and high alimony payments.
    • Sleepy Ramirez, a cartoon about a sombrero-wearing donkey that plays at the drive-in theater, is an obvious parody of Speedy Gonzales, with the Mexican stereotypes exaggerated even more. The cartoon resembles the style of the DePatie-Freleng Enterprises Speedy Gonzales cartoons of that era.
    • Daredevil Buster Thunder Jr. is a parody of Evel Knievel.
    • The radio program where the announcer uses vague anecdotes to describe a famous figure is a parody of Paul Harvey and his "The Rest of the Story" program. Naturally, the anecdotes in the show are usually about infamous figures like Lee Harvey Oswald.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: For a TV show, at least, each season takes place over a couple of months, rather than the typical "one season equals one year" format. The first season ends around Christmas 1973, the third season touches on summer stories with Sue pregnant throughout but doesn't give birth until the end of the fourth season. The fifth and final season ends with the Murphys celebrating Christmas 1974, one year after the strike which resulted in Frank getting fired.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Nana Rose Bonfiglio's dialogue reveals that she is Babe's aunt, rather than his mother and is also Philip and Anthony's great-aunt rather than grandmother. Her sister, a nun, got pregnant, and rather than have her disgraced by revealing she broke her vows of chastity, the family forced Nana Rose to raise Babe as her own son to hide the truth. It's strongly implied that she resented having to play the charade and is bitter that she couldn't have biological children of her own.
  • Fan Disservice: The show does have some obliquely-depicted sex scenes, but "Bill Murphy's Day Off" has an explicit view on Frank's hairy testicles.
    • In "Paul Lynde to Block," Bill goes in to the ladies' room to check on Maureen when she doesn't come out for some time, only to walk in on Julie, Sue's former crazy cat lady customer, mid-wipe. He gets an eyeful not only of Julie's pubic hair and labia, but a nasty-looking rash on her buttocks and some buttcrack hair when she jumps up.
    • When he closes the deal with Snub-Nose Louis to buy Captain Chucklethrust's and turn it into his dream chicken-skin restaurant, Bob Pogo stands in a grating updraft in a grotesque parody of Marilyn Monroe in The Seven-Year Itch. With his skin folds rippling the way Marilyn's skirt did.
  • Fat Bastard: Frank's manager, Bob, who is morbidly obese and a Pointy-Haired Boss. He is so heavy he has to be shuffled from chair to scooter to car, while also constantly yelling like he is about to pass out. He finally has a heart attack at the end of season 3, and has dropped a massive amount of weight after recovering at the start of season 4 due to spending over a month in the hospital
  • Fictional Counterpart:
    • Plast-a-Ware is heavily based on the real life Tupperware. The sales meetings Sue held at people's homes was a real marketing tactic called "Tupperware parties" that were prominent in the mid-to-late 20th century. "Burping" containers are also mentioned which came from an early Tupperware trademark used to boast their products air-tight seals. The themes of modern feminist issues in the series revolving around Sue's work can also parallel Tupperware's praise and criticism from mid-century feminist groups, the positives being the company employed a lot of women (most without prior work experience) and the negatives being a lot of the target marketing towards housewives sometimes invoked the Stay in the Kitchen stereotype.
    • Mohican Airways is based on Mohawk Airlines, a regional airline based in the Northeastern US from 1945 until 1972. Like Mohican, Mohawk used Native American imagery in its branding.
    • Alaquippa Airlines, one of the airlines participating in X-ray machine training in Cleveland with Mohican in Season 4, is based on the real-life Allegheny Airlines, which absorbed Mohawk Airlines in 1972, ending Mohawk's existence. The parody includes the impending buyout of Mohican by Alaquippa that Frank accidentally learns of from an Alaquippa employee, which will likely end with Mohican staff being laid off. This follows through into the fifth season, with Frank among the only people to stay on instead of taking a severance check.
    • Sam's Starving Boy, the family's favorite diner, is based on the the then-popular Big Boy and Sambo's chain of restaurants, done as a parody of racism that was still socially acceptable in the 1970s.
    • Sonabishi, the brand of TV Frank buys in the first episode, is a portmanteau of the Japanese brand names Sony and Mitsubishi. It also sounds like a profanity in English.
    • The ABS Network, which is the family's primary TV network, is based on the ABC TV network. Its logo resembles ABC's logo, and it airs a similar mix of campy comedies, crime dramas, and variety shows to the 1970s ABC lineup.
  • First World Problems:
    • Sue got her salad spinner idea stolen by the company owner, and immediately struggled with a new idea just as good. After venting to Nguyen-Nguyen, a Vietnam war wife, she gives a harrowing description of her village when the birds stopped chirping and the sound of gunfire, but adds "Your thing is sad too."
    • Frank has to deal with realistic and difficult concerns with a middle class family, but finds little sympathy from Rosie, who tells him that his lowest is still several levels above what the black community has to deal with.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Sue and Frank are debating about the fact that they don't see their parents anymore, Sue says that she still loves her parents. Later in season 3, it's revealed that Frank's father was horribly abusive and Frank tries to keep him as far as possible.
    • Nguyen-Nguyen's two phrases "I'm a survivor" and "I'm changing Chet from the inside" greatly foreshadows the couple's fate in the last few episodes of that season. She is a survivor because she isn't taking Chet's abuse, and is "changing him from the inside" by poisoning him with drain bleach.
    • During Big Bill's funeral, one of his old friends tells Frank about how much he loved the old White House Beer jingle and how he'd hum it constantly. That's what Big Bill's last words were really about, not Box 16, but Bach 16, the piece of classical music used for the jingle.
  • Formerly Fat: Handled with an element of Surprisingly Realistic Outcome. Bob Pogo has a heart attack at the end of season three, and returns in season four after recuperating at the hospital for several months. He ended up losing A LOT of weight, but losing that much weight so fast results in extreme amounts of excess skin flab.
  • Formerly Fit: The character designs are actually very attentive to changing body styles, with the opening credits showing a young and slender Frank develop some love handles as he gets older. Sue develops wider hips. After an extended absence Vic's lady-friend "Cutie Pie" returns and after giving birth to their child has a noticeably curvier figure.
  • Free-Range Children: Bill, Maureen, and other neighborhood kids run off unsupervised to climb tall trees, play in construction sites, and touch fiberglass insulation. Justified as an aspect of the time period.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: A good number of episodes have some moment where a subversive picture (like a dead Charlie Brown) or a Wall of Text (often in the form of a fully fleshed out newspaper) appears for a few seconds, giving the viewer several bizarre satirical articles to read.
  • Freudian Excuse: Frank came out of high school a relatively optimistic graduate. Then he got drafted into the Korean War, got Sue pregnant, married her too young, and started to grow old. As revealed in season 3, his awful childhood didn't help, and season 4 explores the toxic relationship with his own father than lead to his own issues.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: William "Big Bill" Murphy had a horrible relationship with his son Frank because of how abusive he was to him as a child. So, the first time where he visited Frank and his family after years of having no contact with them, it appears he grew into a nice old man. Frank is understandably shocked when Bill is kind to him and his family, and his children love their newfound grandfather. However, slowly Big Bill's nice guy facade begins to fall apart, with his grandson Bill getting to witness his true character firsthand when he almost hits him over accidentally knocking a display case over. And even when it appears that he and Frank are making peace with each other, Big Bill refuses to acknowledge his abuse of Frank, causing the two of them to fight and Bill getting a split lip after daring Frank into punching him after another round of insults. However, when Big Bill's grandchildren Bill and Maureen tell him off, pointing out he's the reason their father messed up, he listens to them and realizes they were right. At a hospital he confides to a nurse that he raised Frank the best way he knew for the times. As he says, he knew he was not perfect, admitting that he messed him up and just could not admit it to anyone, even himself. So when Frank is in the hospital to see his wife, Bill genuinely apologizes. Frank is so touched that he promises that they will talk after he sees his wife.
    • Also, while Big Bill uses the idea that he was raising Frank the best way he knew how because of the times, everyone that sees or hears his methods is plenty horrified or downright angry.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Ginny. Never stops talking about herself. Not to mention that she is a constant downer as well.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Just after Frank promises Red and Carl that working for Alaquippa will be better than working under Bob Pogo, Burke, Alaquippa Ed's subordinate, demands that he be called "President of Ground Operations - POGO." At that point, Carl and Red walk.
  • Good-Times Montage: Subverted in a montage of different characters shown eating Thanksgiving dinner to the tune of "Now Thank We All Our God."
    • Frank is taking abuse from both Stan and Louis as a way to get them to get along with each other as a favor to Sue.
    • Evelyn and Goomer are enjoying Thanksgiving with Vic Jr. Vic is shown unconscious on their couch, having been drugged by Evelyn.
    • The Bonfiglios are eating when Anthony decides to breastfeed with Marie at the table. Babe, Philip, and Nana look on, clearly horrified.
    • Mr. Fitzsimmons is carving Thanksgiving dinner for his kids - a can of baked beans, which he is cutting through with a knife. Still, the family looks as happy as they ever get.
    • Alaquippa Ed is eating his dinner, a pre-packaged Alaquippa in-flight turkey dinner, alone in the airport break room. A close-up shows that he's clearly feeling lonely and depressed.
    • Rosie and his family are eating and watching TV. Rosie angrily throws a sweet potato at the TV when he sees footage of Mayor Tangenti cutting the ribbon for the new tollway, which is planned to run straight through Rosie's district.
    • Nguyen-Nguyen is enjoying her dinner and watching her favorite TV show - using one inmate as a footrest while another inmate holds her tray. Clearly, she's established herself at the top of the inmate pecking order.
    • Nora, Eileen, and Nora's new husband are enjoying TV dinners in California. At least Nora and Eileen are. The old man has fallen asleep on the couch with his meal in front of him.
    • Red and Carl, also in California to try to get Fuck School made, are enjoying a Thanksgiving feast of various narcotics crushed into powder for snorting.
    • Louis Gagliardi is shown eating a "Tollway Turkey" in the ruins of Skinneee's while his thugs beat Bob Pogo for trying to weasel out of paying back the money he borrowed from the Mafia.
  • Generation Xerox: A recurring theme in Season 4 is The Chain of Harm, and how Frank, despite thinking he is better than Billy as a father, he is only marginally so in some aspects, and in a lot of aspects, is just as bad as him. He emasculates, yells, terrifies, and humiliates his sons Kevin and Bill just like his father did to him.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Of other adult animated sitcoms about dysfunctional families. Different from other cartoons where this is only Played for Laughs, this show actually displays the awful effects of this kind of family dynamic in the children's and parents' lives. The straining marriage, the children's increasing issues that are often ignored or worsened by their home life, and the constant stress and trauma everyone is under. In an aversion of Negative Continuity, the show instead is very slow-paced with each season only covering a few months at a time, meaning each episode is only a few days apart from each other, and we see the fallout and impact of every major event in detail.
  • Genre Shift:
    • In-universe with Vic's radio station, it was normally a rock station that was forced to play teen pop which Vic forced the DJ into doing. Vic himself got a taste of this in Season 4 when a new manager switches the station to easy listening, much to his (and Kevin's) dismay.
    • Kevin's band with Lex and Bolo started out as a progressive rock band called "Merlin's Monocle" that played really long and deep Heavy Mithril songs. Then Ben joined and the band started playing more upbeat, sexually charged rock as "Throbinson Crusoe". In order to get a radio deal, Vic later forced them into playing easy listening under the name "Good Vibe Harbor".
  • Get a Room!: Frank has a nice comeback to this one:
    "Aw, fuck you, get an apartment!"
  • Get Back in the Closet: Ginny's rocky marriage is shown to be the result of her complete denial of her husband's homosexuality, calling him "silly" and forcing him not to divorce her, even when he begs her to, when he tells her he's been living a lie.
    • Sue's otherwise liberal parents refuses to accept that their son, who lives in Florida with his "roommate" Jeremy, is anything other than a "confirmed bachelor".
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Frank and Sue had to put their own life's ambitions on hold when Sue got pregnant with Kevin and they decided to raise him together. Somewhere along the line, they had two more children and have a fourth in season 3.
  • Grand Finale: The series ends with episode 44, with Mayor Tangenti being forced to resign after his crimes are exposed, and Frank making a kind of peace with his deceased father, accepting that it's the closest thing to closure he's ever going to get. The show ends with a Bookends shot of the Murphy family sitting down to dinner together, except this time, instead of exploding in anger over an unwanted phone call, simply hangs the phone off the hook, and bonds with his family, showing his Character Development.
  • Grew a Spine: This seems to be the point of Bill's arc. Though he tries to grow a spine several times throughout the series, it never ends well.
  • Grossout Show: The series portrays America of The '70s as a Wretched Hive that looks like one, gigantic Disgusting Public Toilet (complete with copious Toilet Humour), with most places seeping with grime, decay and garbage.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Frank. The very first episode begins with him flying into a rage over a telemarketer call during dinner.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Gene, who is always making crude innuendos about wanting to have sex with Sue, gets caught hooking up with another man in the parking lot of a gay bar.
  • Heavy Mithril: Shire of Frodo, a progressive rock group and Kevin's favorite band. Their musical style contains a lot of fantasy and Tolken-esque themes. Merlin's Monocle, Kevin's own band he starts with Lex and Bolo follow a similar theme.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: While Frank's abuse of his children is clearly shown be harmful, it's still otherwise depicted as Black Comedy.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Frank and Chet, especially their private conversation at the drive-in. It's Frank's admiration for Chet that makes it hard for him to believe in Sue telling him about his abusiveness.
    Sue: [Chet] is not the guy you think he is.
    Frank: He's better?
    Sue: Jesus Christ, Frank! Why don't you drive him to Make-Out Mountain and queer off with each other?
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: The morbidly obese prostitute has a son in Maureen's computer club who she genuinely loves and cares for.
  • Hope Spot: In the Season 1 finale. The Deal is finally about to go off, Dunbarton tells Frank that his proposal is impressive, and is just about to sign when his wife asks for a pen. Needless to say everything falls apart, and he leaves quietly goes back home. It's seemingly over when a fight with Bill's bully Jimmy and his father reawakens Frank's passion for the deal to still go off. He goes once more to plead with his boss, who agrees but under an unmentioned agreement. This ends up being Bob's agreement to fire Frank for failing to do his job to keep the employees from striking.
    • Season 5 begins with Big Bill having seemingly recovered from his heart attack, and him and Frank are bonding on a fishing trip... then it turns out to just be a desperate Imagine Spot by Frank as Bill dies on the operating table.
  • Horrible Camping Trip: The cabin the family rents for summer vacation in season 3, which turns out to not only have been incredibly poorly maintained (it's filthy and when they first walk in, there's two geese mating on the table), the lake outside has been turned into a toxic waste dump and it starts raining basically the second they leave the car. Oh, and the cabin itself was the site of a mass murder in 1925, according to a plaque on the wall.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: The first episode sees Kevin leave a make-out session with his girlfriend just when it was heating up to save Bill from being bullied by some teenagers. He drives Bill's tormentors off in a surge of Big Brother Instinct... and then he punches Bill in the gut for making him go through that trouble.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Kevin and Sue bear a fairly strong resemblance to Justin Long and Laura Dern. However it’s completely averted with Frank who looks nothing like Bill Burr. However Bill Murphy is based on Bill Burr and looks like what you’d picture a childhood version of him to look like.
  • Is That What They're Calling It Now?: Kevin reassures Frank that he's not doing anything with the girl down the street. Frank sarcastically tells him that he used to "not do anything" too, and that's where Kevin came from.
  • Jaded Washout: Frank is a Korean War veteran with dreams of becoming a pilot who found himself in a mediocre desk job and stressful family.
    • Vic, who was seen by Frank as leading a charmed life in Season One, starts to show signs of this after his 30th birthday. He is rehired by his rebranded radio station to host its "oldies" music. However, following an unsuccessful attempt to manage Kevin's band which makes him feel even more out-of-touch, Vic starts to find meaning in his life again after learning Karen ("Cutie Pie") is about to give birth to his baby.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In general, while everyone has their share of jerkass tendencies and selfish moments, few of the characters actively wish harm on one another and are decent people just trying to get through life. Frank especially, who's anger issues are the result of a stressful job, strained financial situation, and having to put his ambitions on hold to raise a family, whom he clearly loves (in his own way).
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • In Bill Murphy's Night Off when Frank yells at Anthony for rambling on and on. While it can be chalked up to Frank having a short fuse, it needs to be said that Frank was especially high strung from having Billy go missing and an attention-hungry toddler was wasting valuable time. Any decent parent would blow up under that kind of stress.
    • Alaquippa Ed points out to Frank that Mohican's questionable business practices and lack of employee discipline are why part of why Mohican was in such poor financial shape that it was bought out by Alaquippa.
  • Jerkass to One:
    • Chet to Sue and Nguyen-Nguyen in Season 3. Frank eventually overcomes his initial adulation of Chet and ends up on the receiving end as well, but the neighbors still don't believe him or Sue.
    • Big Bill to Frank early in Season 4, with the family unable to understand why Frank hates his father until Bill gets a glimpse of what Frank went through when Big Bill takes him to the sporting goods store.
  • Jizzed in My Pants: Kevin manages to have this happen to him twice in a row when his crush invites him over to give him a haircut. When she first sits him down, he imagines a fantasy scenario of the two of them in his head with plenty of phallic and penetrative imagery, which causes him to cum. His crush rubs his shoulders when she sees he's stresses and the whole thing happens again, only twice as fast.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Jim Jeffords, the television personality, is finally put on indefinite leave for his racist and sexist behavior near the end of season 4. He insists on calling it a "vacation".
    • A lot of characters receive this, especially near the end of the series. In most cases, their karma is the result of the Surprisingly Realistic Outcomes of their choices.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: In an effort to support Sue, Frank has an exchange of this kind with Samantha, the Lamaze coach with whom he shares a mutual loathing. Sue knows good and well what he was going to say, but appreciates Frank's effort to get along all the same.
    Samantha: Congratulations. You've done the bare minimum as a father.
    Frank: And you've been a f—-
    Sue: Frank!
    Frank: Let me finish. (takes deep breath) Phenomenal help.
    Samantha: Oh. And you are so full of shiiiiiimmering energy.
  • Limited Animation:
    • Anytime a character is shown walking, it's clearly stock animation.
    • When Goomer draws a pair of glasses on his face to look more like Frank, the asymmetry makes it clear that the animators used the same face and occasionally flipped it rather than come up with a new face.
    • In-universe, it's very common since the 70's was the era when cheap, syndicated animation was really starting to become common, as shown with the Sleepy Ramirez cartoons, and the Harlem Globetrotters parody.
    • In certain scenes where Frank is talking to one of the kids while driving, you can see him driving past the exact same overpass and highway sign several times.
  • Longest Pregnancy Ever: Sue is pregnant for at least two seasons, starting at the end of Season 2. She doesn't give birth until the Season 4 finale. This translates to her being pregnant for three years in real time.
  • The Mafia: As it was in real life, organized crime is heavily entrenched in society in the early 70's, and Rustvale is no exception. Both the city government and the local trade unions are either directly led by, or working with the mob, headed by Lou "Snub-Nose" Gugliardi. While the Murphy family doesn't deal much with them, other than Frank negotiating with the union, it becomes part of Rosie's character arc after he's elected alderman, and is increasingly forced to come into conflict with the corrupt mayor and his mob supporters. This finally comes to a head in season 5, where Rosie and Bob Pogo team up to expose the mayors corruption, and Gugliardi outright tries to murder them.
  • Meaningful Background Event/Rewatch Bonus: Among the carnies standing in the unemployment line we can see a young black man with albinism, which is only meaningful in retrospect after Smokey recalls that he sold his infant son to the circus because the baby was born albino. Smokey mentions in Season 3 that he actually does know of his son's whereabouts, but avoids him because he can't stand albinos.
  • Meaningful Echo: At the beginning of Season 4, Frank tells a story of how awful his father was, how he would demand approval from his wife, with that scene ending with him saying "How about an attaboy every once in a fucking blue moon?". In "Murphy & Son", Frank and Sue fight, and he says the exact same thing, meant to show he is just as bad as his father in some regards at least.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Bill's major issues surround being ignored over his slacker older brother and genius younger sister, all while dealing with a particularly sadistic bully. When baby Megan is born, Maureen finds herself in this as well.
  • Mirror Character: Season 4 shows that Frank was very similar to Bill as a preteen and Kevin as a teenager, especially the poor relationship with his father.
  • Mood Whiplash: Happens to both Sue and Bill during respective Woobie moments: Sue's emotional breakdown is interrupted by Major trying to hump her leg, and Bill's heartbroken reaction to overhearing his father calling him a "pussy" is quickly superseded when he tries to crawl out from under the parents' bed and gets a traumatizing view of his dad's balls.
  • Must State If You're a Cop: Randy believes this trope is true, while Phillip knows it is not.
    Randy: (to Phillip) Are you a cop? You have to tell me if you're a cop!
    Phillip: No I don't, that's a popular misconception!
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: In the season three finale, "Bill Murphy's Night Off", Bill goes missing. Three attempts fail at rescuing him.
    • Vic looks for him in a helicopter. He finds Bill, but the helicopter runs out of fuel and crashes, knocking over a streetlight and causing Bill to fall in the river.
    • When the fire department can't throw life rings to Bill, Pogo announces he was a discus thrower in college, so he picks up a life ring and gets ready to throw it... and has a heart attack.
    • Kevin announces he has overcome his fear of water, so he grabs a life ring and jumps in... and is immediately swept away by the current and has to be rescued off screen by the coast guard.
    • The main plot of the series finale is a NMOA. In order to boost Alaquippa's sales and to secure a Christmas bonus and promotion, Frank convinces Alaquippa management to hire a famous daredevil named Buster Thunder Jr to jump over an "Ala-hican" airliner on his motorcycle. Surprisingly, despite a few hitches, the daredevil successfully completes the jump, which is not only being broadcast on TV but is well-attended by a huge crowd of people which includes Alaquippa's board of directors. Frank seems almost poised to end the series on a note of triumph for once. And then Buster gets on the mic and delivers a profanity-laced tirade against Rustvale in general and Alaquippa and Frank in particular. Neither the town, nor Alaquippa management, are amused, and Frank ends up being demoted as a result.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Averted in the first episode. Frank's boss dies, leading to Frank getting a promotion, which he feels lucky about. When Sue calls him out on this and points out a man is dead, he just goes "Yeah, but he was kind of a dick."
  • Not in Front of the Kid: Averted. Frank swears like a sailor in front of all the kids. And it's shown to have rubbed off on Bill, who uses profanity jarringly often for a 5th grader.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Sue's parents to Frank. While they love and dote on their grandchildren, they have never forgiven Frank for getting Sue pregnant so early, forcing her to drop out of college, and constantly treat him like dirt and make snide remarks about his job problems.
  • Off the Wagon: Despite his decision to quit cocaine after the events of season 2, Vic struggles with keeping off drugs throughout season 3 and eventually relapses in the finale. While flying a helicopter. In season 4, he goes on a massive bender after getting rehired by the radio station during his birthday party, and doesn't come down for a week and a half. Becoming the single father of Little Vic finally gives Vic the strength to kick his drug habit for good, to the point where he is shown briefly contemplating finding a quieter and safer neighborhood to raise his son in now that he's more aware that some of his neighbors have rather disturbing issues.
  • One-Joke Fake Show: Two fictional sitcoms on the show, which serve to parody the corniness of 70s television.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Vic's girlfriend is only ever referred to as "Cutie Pie", and it's implied that Vic doesn't use her real name because he doesn't actually know it. In season 4, it's revealed to be Karen when Vic finds her in the hospital, about to give birth to his child. He still didn't know it, he just read it on her chart.
    • Even Bob Pogo calls himself Bob Pogo. The one time his full name, Pogrohovich, is used by Brandy during a company meeting, she mangles the pronunciation, demonstrating why Bob and his co-workers exclusively use his nickname.
  • Pædo Hunt: When Frank sets up a viewing spot at the Memorial Day parade, he tells his to kids to yell "He touched! He touched me!" if someone tries to sit there, which would cause anyone to run away.
  • Parental Neglect: Both Frank and Sue become so invested in being better parents to Kevin, that they seem to be oblivious to all of Bill's problems (being bullied, blackmailed, called a pussy behind his back, only to made an alter boy, due to a series of events that accidentally lead to a huge fire), even down a proper conclusion of his character arc.
  • Parents as People: Pretty much the biggest point of the show; as much as your parents might love you, they're still their own people with their own feelings and won't always be able to put your needs ahead of their own.
    • Finally reaches it's climax in season 3 where all three kids suffer this to an extent due to Frank and Sue dealing poorly with Sue's pregnancy. It ends with Kevin robbing a liquor store, Bill running away and Maureen attacking a kids show host.
  • Pedophile Priest: Strongly implied by Father Pat as off-camera, one of the priests was shipped out to Albuquerque in hopes that going to a less populated area would curb his proclivities.
  • Pet the Dog: Frank stomachs interacting with Vic just so he can get Kevin tickets to his favorite band.
    • In the first episode, Kevin vouches for Bill several times - he saves his younger brother from bullies and takes the blame for the broken TV when it was Bill's fault, though this backfires. He also protects his brother from their father, due to knowing that the timid Bill can't handle his rage.
    • Randy jumps to Bill's defense when Jimmy is robbing him and yells at Philip for doing nothing.
  • Pink Is Erotic: The Reynolds family are associated with the color pink and both Vic and Cutie Pie are sexually promiscuous. Their house is decorated in pink and Cutie Pie is shown wearing pink top.
  • Pitbull Dates Puppy: Bill and Bridget start going out in the third season, he is generally a mild-mannered, sensitive kid while she is violently aggressive and swears more than Frank.
  • Please Dump Me: Greg begs Ginny to divorce him when he tells her that he's gay, while she cries at him to stop "being silly."
  • Poor Man's Porn: In "This Is Not Good", Kevin goes through a masturbation montage to prepare for potentially losing his virginity on a date. His wanking material includes pictures of women from non-pornographic magazines, a biology textbook, and a roast beef sandwich that vaguely resembles a vagina.
    • Discussed by two firemen in "O Holy Moly Night" while discovering the burned remains of Jimmy's stash of porno magazines.
      Fireman 1: Look at the stash this Fitzsimmons kid had.
      Fireman 2: Lucky bastard, I had to jerk off to the Indian girl on the butter box.
  • Porn Stache: The Murphys' neighbor Vic has one. He lives up to it. Greg Throater and Gene also sport pornstaches, and Gene's is definitely fitting for his crude personality.
  • Primal Scene: In "Bill Murphy's Day Off", Bill gets trapped under his parents' bed while they're having sex. When he tries to get out, he gets an up-close view of them from behind. When Frank eventually finds out about this four seasons later, he's horrified and tells Bill not to mention it to Sue, as it would probably kill her.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: A rare non-video-game in-universe example with the ''Bruce Again!'' board game. Every space is a door, and only one character (the titular Bruce) is ever behind the door.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • In-universe, Colt Luger has to write the title character out by putting him in a coma for several months due to Reid Harrisson, the actor who plays him, ending up in jail in Mexico.
    • According to Father Pat, one of the priests at the Rustvale Catholic Church was literally put on a bus to Albuquerque, which is strongly implied to be a cover-up of sexual abuse of minors. In the previous episode, there is a bus at the bus station bound for Albuquerque.
  • Rustproof Blood: Whenever blood is seen, it's always a bright red color and the stains never darken.
  • Sequel Hook: The final scene of Season 2 heavily, heavily implies that Sue is going to be pregnant with a 4th child, as Smokey is shown poking holes in the same brand of condoms she and Frank are using to have sex, all while "You're Having My Baby" is playing in the background.
    • Season 3 confirms Sue to be pregnant and the family getting ready for the fourth child is an arc throughout the season. The baby still isn't born yet after the season finale but Frank is left with a new problem: his dreaded father is coming to visit.
    • Season 4 ends with the birth of the new baby, but Franks father suffers a heart attack/stroke almost immediately afterwards. Frank also learns that Brandy Dunbarton is planning to sell Mohican Airways to a large national airline, which will likely lead to almost all Mohican staff being laid off. This revelation comes near the end of Season 4, with Frank, Rosie, Bob, and Red vowing to save Mohican, laying the groundwork for a possible main plotline of Season 5.
    • Vic reunites with Cutie Pie, who is in the hospital preparing to deliver a baby at the same time Sue is preparing to deliver hers. Given that both babies were conceived in the same time frame and what happened at that time, it's up in the air as to who the father of Cutie Pie's baby is.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: "Come and Get Your Love" by Redbone.
    • In the season 4 episode, "R is for Rosie," Frank cuts the regular theme song off (which is playing on a radio) as it is beginning. The opening credits for the episode then show Rosie flying through the air like Frank, to the tune of "Shining Star" by Earth, Wind and Fire.
  • Scary Black Man: In essence of Deliberate Values Dissonance, Frank showed his fear against African Americans (besides his coworkers) due to fear of being mugged by them. This bites him back when a reporter does a Black Like Me undercover story, disguised as a black man, and simply asks Frank for gas before Frank drives away in fear.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Being set in 1973-1974, most of the older male characters in the show are veterans of the various wars the US fought in over the prior few decades, and many of them exhibit signs of psychological trauma from their service. Frank, Bob, Alaquippa Ed, and possibly Babe (who mentions that he was in the Navy), are all veterans of the Korean War, with Frank being wounded and nearly KIA, while Ed was a P.O.W. Chet and Red are Vietnam War veterans, and both of them were definitely scarred from their experiences in the war. Chet especially so. Otto Holtenwasser is a German Jewish survivor of the Holocaust and still carries physical and emotional scars.
  • Shout-Out: At one point in "Land Ho!" Bob Pogo scarfs down clams using forks akin to Wolverine who ironically, wouldn’t debut in-universe in the comics for at least a couple months.
  • Show Within a Show: The family watches a lot of TV. Most of the time, their TV is tuned to ABS, based on ABC. Many of the shows appear to be based on shows that aired on ABC during the 70s, although some of these shows first aired after 1974, the most recent year portrayed in the show.
    • Colt Luger appears to be based on Baretta, an ABC crime drama starring Robert Blake.
    • Bruce Again! bears a resemblance to ABC's Three's Company, though it didn't air on TV until 1975, which is the year after F is for Family ends.
    • Fairy On My Shoulder is based on fantasy comedy series such as Bewitched, which aired on ABC, and I Dream of Jeannie, which aired on rival network NBC. The "fairy" is played by a Richard Pryor pastiche, parodying comedians such as Redd Foxx and Bob Saget who starred in family-friendly TV comedies while performing blue comedy routines.
    • Several real-life ABC TV shows are referenced directly in-universe. An unnamed show that is clearly meant to be The Brady Bunch is shown on TV a few times. Nguyen-Nguyen is shown to be a fan of Bewitched and The Six Million Dollar Man.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, another animated Dom Com about a family of five, and which was made in the early 70's, when F Is For Family is set.
  • Status Quo Is God: Averted entirely. The closest thing to a Snap Back thus far is the implication that Frank regained his job at Mohican Airways at the end of Season 2, but there's also the possibility of another unplanned pregnancy on the horizon changing the family's dynamic even further. Seeing as the Murphys were already at borderline poverty level another child could be the absolute last thing they need right now. And at the end of Season 4, Frank learns that Mohican Airways may be bought out, leading to multiple layoffs. Season 5 subverts this slightly. Mohican has indeed been bought out, all of Frank's major co-workers took a buyout package and started their own ventures with varying degrees of success, but Frank himself is stuck at "Alahican," as the company is known, thanks to his firing and rehiring in the first seasons leaving him with no seniority and no buyout package.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: A running theme in season 2.
    • In season 1 Sue was looking to gain a side job selling plastiware containers, but after Frank loses his job she takes on an official position at the corporate offices. She struggles with the sexist comments made while working as a secretary for her chauvinist pig bosses, learning from Vivian that the only way to keep her head above the water is through Volleying Insults, regardless of whether or not she proves her worth to them. While dealing with a difficult customer, she even weights the pros and cons of simply being a doting housewife when the news comes in that Frank might get his job back.
    • A subtler example is Maureen's subplot about her sudden interest in science and computers constantly being shut down by her parents, who keep forcing her to participate in a girl scout troop (mostly by Frank). When she gets a perfect score on a math test, her teacher automatically assumes that she cheated off of her Asian classmate (they eventually let up when the boy confesses that he cheated off of her).
  • Stylistic Suck: The family's favorite tv show Colt Luger, a detective show with terribly choreographed fight scenes, a comically out-of-shape main star and cartoonishly racist characters.
  • Suck E. Cheese's: Captain ChuckleCrust's Family Fun Time Pizza Palace in "Bill Murphy's Day Off," with a animatronic band of bears.
    • Which ends being converted to a strip club, Captain ChuckleThrust's, by season 2.
      • And the animatronic bear band can be seen in the episode "F is for Fixing It" "doing sex stuff with each other."
  • Sympathy for the Devil: The show is more or less a fanciful biopic cartoon of Bill Burr's father who he despised for most of his life, examining the circumstances and motivations that made their relationship so awful in the first place. In-Universe, Bill is shown to take at least a little pity on his bully, Jimmy Fitzsimmons, when he learns that Jimmy's father is more abusive than his own father.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: A running theme throughout the series is of aspirations and expectations getting crushed under the hard heel of reality. Here are just a few examples out of many:
    • Flashbacks show that Frank and Sue were caught off guard by her pregnancy, but nevertheless optimistic that they could still pursue their dreams of being a pilot and scientist respectively. The show's central premise is about what ended up happening instead.
    • Sue's desire to have a career outside of being a homemaker runs into the reality that holding down a job is pretty much the opposite of "liberation" to the vast majority. Going to work often means putting up with a bunch of unreasonable assholes who either don't value your contributions, or outright steal your ideas and take credit for them.
    • Frank's Hair-Trigger Temper outbursts are seen by him as something he just has to do to get things done sometimes, until he blows up on Bob Pogo again, thinking he's been strung along. This screws him out of a job recommendation at a bigger airline and gets him blacklisted from the industry. He later bursts into tears of shame over making such a catastrophic mistake.
    • Bill greatly enjoys his new job as a paperboy, and we get a montage of him nailing his morning deliveries with only a minimum of trouble. Then he learns what usually gets left out of period pieces where the kid has a paper route: in order to get paid, he has to go around and collect the money from subscribers himself, with the not-so-assuring assurance from his boss that "most will pay."
    • Kevin managing to have sex for the first time isn't presented as something awesome to high-five his friends over, as he deals with the complexity of physical relationships and ends up being deeply ashamed and guilt-ridden for sleeping with Vic's girlfriend, while "Cutie Pie" is, in turn, horrified that she unwittingly slept with a 14-year old boy.
    • Frank gets off a great sitcom-style zinger at the start of the Season 2 finale ("...Breakfast sucked."), but it just puts even more strain on their relationship because Sue wasn't setting him up to make a smartass quip; she was trying to get a sincere attempt at reconciliation out of him so they could move on together, and as dawns on him afterward, his flippancy in the face of the awful things he'd said and done up to that point severely hurt his wife's feelings.
    • After getting into a fight at school, Bill is suspended and must get a form detailing the punishment signed by one of his parents. Bill is terrified of what Frank's reaction will be and voices his concerns to Kevin. Kevin proceeds to take the form and forge Frank's signature, telling Bill that he's been through the same thing and the school administration doesn't actually bother checking whether the parent's signature is authentic. While the suspension form is a big deal to Bill, to them it's just another bit of paperwork they have to sort through.
    • In the season 3 finale, while looking for Bill, Frank engages in Driver Faces Passenger to ask Kevin and Maureen if they really think he's a bad father. He runs a red light and is hit by a truck, then crashes into a streetlight.
    • The difficult relationship between Frank and his father, Big Bill, throughout season 4, despite some minor bonding moments, quickly falls apart again towards the end, since neither man has really changed, and 40 years of resentment and bad feelings won't just go away overnight.
    • Bob Pogo's heart attack in the season 3 finale, after almost 20 years of horrendous diet and virtually no exercise or any movement at all really. His massive weight loss between seasons as well, by the time he returns in season 4 after an extended hospital stay, his entire body is covered with loose skin, and he's extremely weak.
    • In season 4, Rosie manages to overcome several obstacles and win the election for his neighborhood alderman. Unfortunately, Rosie's aspirations for bringing real change and good to his neighborhood hit a brick wall because systemic racism and cronyism are still deeply entrenched in the city government and no one is interested in his ideas. He even lampshades the trope at one point.
    • Despite the fact that she was subjected to physical abuse at Chet's hands, Nguyen-Nguyen is still convicted of murder and spends the remainder of the series in prison.
  • Take That!:
    • One of the records in Kevin's room is of a Led Zeppelin expy called Lifted Riffs, a dig at Robert Plants notorious habit of borrowing portions of old blues songs in his own without crediting the original songwriters.
    • Frank evidently detests M*A*S*H, describing it as the show that "Took the hell I went through and turned it into a bunch of doctors playing fuckin' grab-ass in the Hollywood Hills!"
      • Similar to Frank's hatred for M*A*S*H, Otto Holtenwasser understandably dislikes Hogan's Heroes saying he "sees nothing funny about that show."
    • One episode made fun of animation from 1970s, where Colt Luger made a cameo with an expy of The Harlem Globetrotters. Everything from goofiness and Wraparound Background, which the latter was lampshaded by Maureen.
    • Rosie doesn't seem to like Syracuse, New York. Calling it a shithole in the second season.
    • The series frequently makes fun of labor unions, which were blamed in part for the United States losing ground to countries like Japan in the 1970s, and had also been infiltrated by organized crime syndicates. In-universe, there are bizarre and often dangerous union rules such as firing any guns that were taken out, no matter the circumstances. Red and Carl both claim they'd have been fired a long time ago if it hadn't been for union protections.
  • The Talk: Frank tries to give this to Bill, but is so inept at it that Bill eventually tells him not to worry about it and admits he already knows about it from witnessing him and Sue having sex.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Done by Bob Pogo twice while he eats Frank's vending machine stock as revenge.
    Bob: You fuck me, then I'm gonna fuck you... with my mouth! (Beat) You know what I mean!
    Frank: God dammit Bob open this door! I gotta get home to my daughter!
    Bob: Fuck your daughter! (Beat) You know what I mean!
  • Theme Naming: Many streets, schools, and other institutions have darkly humorous names that often reference well-known tragedies of the mid 20th century.
    • The public schools in Rustvale are named after victims of assassination or murder, such as JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King, Huey Long, Anton Cermak, Sharon Tate, and Archduke Franz Ferdinand. There are also a number of adult learning institutions named after musical artists who died in vehicular crashes, such as Patsy Cline and Buddy Holly.
    • The tollway Mayor Tangenti wants to destroy the Black neighborhood to build is named after Joseph Valachi, an Italian mobster famous for his testimony to the United States Senate that exposed the existence of the Mafia to most of the American public.
    • The bands playing at Kweezetoberfest are named after streets in Los Angeles.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Given how everyone goes through some serious shit in this show, these are handed out like candy. Bill gets one after watching his parents have sex in season 1,and Frank is shown with one after seeing a video of childbirth at Sue's Lamaze class (since he's never been present for the other children's births) .
  • Time Skip: Season 2 starts three weeks after the Season 1 finale.
    • Season 3 is set several months after the Season 2 finale, with Sue visibly pregnant
  • Tempting Fate: In the final scene of season 2, Frank and Sue agree that the children are finally old enough to take care of themselves so that they can get their lives back on track, Frank can go to flight school and Sue can go back to college. All is well, and the two decide to have celebratory sex... with the condoms that Smokey poked holes in.
  • Toad Licking: One of the many drugs offered at Vic's party in "Pray Away". After he decides to get clean, one can still be seen dead in his yard until he accidentally runs his lawnmower over it.
    • In season 4, Ben tells Vic that he "ate some green chicken" he found in Vic's garbage and had hallucinations as a result.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Bill gets one in the season 4 episode "Nothing is Impossible" when one of his classmates put gum in his hair. This stays like that throughout the episode.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Frank has a bad temper with some racist and sexist attitudes that often ends up directed at his family. What keeps him from being completely unlikable is that he is surrounded by a lot more overt racists and misogynists (Rosie is one of his best friends, that doesn't mean he doesn't have his own prejudices when driving in a bad neighborhood), and while his rants can be hurtful most of the time it is just him venting his own frustrations and can equally turn around and be kind and supportive.
  • Verbal Tic: Kevin's first thought when it comes to insulting people is to call them a dildo.
  • Visual Pun: During a good chunk of Season 2, Vic kept a large portrait of a naked Cutie Pie. In the portrait, where her vagina is, it was obstructed by a bush on a dresser.
  • We Used to Be Friends: In Season 2, we find out that Frank and his former Mean Boss Bob were in the military together and were pretty close friends at that. They seem to have drifted apart over the years, until their relationship reached it's current state. Bob's heartfelt desire for them to go back to being good friends again in the season finale is a major Pet the Dog moment for him.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: At the beginning of "Heavy Sledding" Kevin mutters "I liked it better when he yelled at us." Regarding a very somber and depressed Frank.
  • Weird Trade Union: The baggage handlers form/join one with circus carnies, unambiguously run by The Mafia.
  • Wham Line: In "Bill Murphy's Day Off".
    Frank: Oh, God, are you really gonna bring that up again? Kevin was only down there for two minutes!
    Sue: Two minutes, Frank, at the bottom of a motel swimming pool!
    • In the season 3 finale:
      Sue: Evidently... your grandfather is going to be staying with us for a while
    • In the penultimate episode of Season 4.
    Ed: You haven't heard? They're selling Mohican Airways to Alaquippa...
    • And in the season 4 finale.
    Big Bill: Oh, here we go... *keels over from a heart attack*
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A variation, the Grand Finale features a montage during Buster Thunder Jr's stunt jump at the airport, showing where many of the characters, major, minor and one-shots, are and what they're doing while the jump is airing on TV:
    • The Murphys, Louis, The Fitzimmons, The Vanderheims, most of their neighbors, Bolo and Rex, Viviene, Trace, Gene and Dana are all attending the stunt jump in person.
    • Rosie's neighborhood friends, including the bartender and the Random Puerto Rican, are watching it on TV at the local barbershop.
    • At the hospital, Nurse Beatrice is watching the jump in the room for unaccompanied women, alongside the hospital orderly, and the hippie lady.
    • Carl and Red are watching the stunt on TV, right in the middle of a porn shoot, having successfully made it into the porn business.
    • Father Pat, no longer wearing his priest clothes, is watching from the bar at a tropical beach, alongside a pretty woman in a bikini.
    • Julie, the crazy cat lady, has died, with her corpse being eaten by her cats.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The exact location of Rustvale, the city where the show takes place, is not revealed, though it's continuously stated to be in the rust belt, which could be anywhere from the upper Midwest to New England. Some other hints included: Bill Burr as Frank speaking in his native Massachusetts accent, but nobody else has one, the football stadium where the Rusties play is a lot like old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the few mentioned flights from the Airport are going to Syracuse, Boston and Cleveland, Ryetown, NY, is apparently within a day's driving distance, and there's a direct connection to Pittsburgh by train.
    • In one driving scene, a highway sign shows the keystone-shaped state highway markers of Pennsylvania, and most media stories about the show seem to agree that Rustvale is in Pennsylvania. There is a Rye Township in Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg, and Rustvale could be based on Harrisburg or York.
  • Yandere: Bridget had some Tsundere tendencies while dating Bill, some of which earned a "You're a psychopath" from Bill, but after they break up her craziness ramped up.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Every season ends with things getting better for the Murphy family (Frank in particular), only for something to happen at the very end that sets the plot of the next season in motion and makes things even worse.
    • In Season 1, Frank gets the deal between Mohican management and its union to go off, but he's fired for speaking to Roger as an equal.
    • In Season 2, Frank gets his job at Mohican Airways back and he and Sue believe that their kids are old enough that they can go back to pursuing their dreams, but thanks to Smokey poking a hole in one of their condoms, Sue is pregnant with another child.
    • In Season 3, Chet is dead and the Murphy's starts rebuilding the new baby's room, this time with a city permit, only for his abusive dad to suddenly show up and move in.
    • Season 4 in particular kicks Frank square in the balls in the last two episodes. He learns that Mohican Airways is being sold to Alaquippa, which will most likely result in him and everyone else at the airport losing their jobs, and although his new daughter is born, when he goes to his father to introduce her and try to finally patch things up, Big Bill suddenly has a seemingly fatal heart attack/stroke.
  • Younger Than They Look: Maureen talks to a middle-age looking carny running a bottle toss game, whose dream is to run the tilt-a-whirl. He claims it's too late for him because he's almost 17. Maureen recoils in shock.

Mommy's alright, daddy's alright,
They just seem a little weird
Surrender, surrender,
But don't give yourself away...
Top

"Put you down that well!"

Or rather, "adapted catchphrase".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / BorrowedCatchphrase

Media sources:

Report