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  • Awesome Music: "Come and Get Your Love" by Redbone, which is just as maddeningly catchy in 2015 as it was 40 years earlier.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Bill's nightmare sequence in "Paul Lynde to Block", where he imagines Frank and Sue as anthropomorphic airplanes having sex.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Maureen. She was an edgy kid in Season 1 who had fans split between those who either found her extremely funny or extremely annoying. Things didn't change much in Season 2 when it turned out she was interested in math and computers. For some, the change was too abrupt and a lot of her attitude seemed to disappear, making her annoying in another way. Others point out this is in accord with how kids behave.
  • Broken Base: While most agree this shows a realistic view to minorities' and women's struggles in the 70's, some say the execution isn't the best.
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    • In general, there's some disagreement over whether the depiction of feminism and post-Civil Rights racism, especially in season 2 when it's a major story arc, are entertaining and informative or just reduce the characters to mouth-pieces on the subject.
    • Sue wanting a job of her own is seen as something endearing and relatable, but the fact that she wants to quit when she finds the same hardships Frank went through for decades makes her look childish. This can be seen as an inversion of the A Day in Her Apron trope while Frank plays it straight, however, in that Sue hadn't held a job prior to that, and so she still had some expectations left to be dashed by reality (which certainly fits with the show's overall theme).
    • Then there's Sue's next job, which involves working for three males that constantly comment extremely sexually charged and belittling comments but is subdued by the fact that is shown that they want her only if she can not only endure this comments but insult back at them which while it shows an atmosphere of testosterone overload, it feels truly egalitarian. It's rather jarring since she's complaining of the work environment, that while it does insult her, not only approves but encourages her to attack back at her bosses, meanwhile Frank was fired for even daring to disagree with his boss.
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    • Maureen being limited to her gender roles can't be seen as serious since she does next to nothing to fulfill her desires instead wasting her time playing when she could go to the library or something, meanwhile Bill who wants a hockey stick spends weeks working for it.
      • This is supported because we've seen that 16 years before Sue was going to college and we saw she was studying a STEM related career while she was dating Frank, so it's not that Frank can't picture an educated woman but can't take seriously the word of a child, a problem he shares against teen Kevin.
  • Catharsis Factor: Scoop and Roger Dunbarton's bloody death in "Landing the Plan" is as shocking as it is satisfying seeing as they were both major Jerkasses. Particularly for Roger, as he was a Karma Houdini last season.
  • Crosses the Line Twice
    • In the Halloween episode, Maureen tries to go tick-or-treating as Jesus... complete with a cross on her back. When Frank tells her it's too offensive, she puts on a Hitler mustache and decides she's going as Nazi Jesus. (Before she suggested the Jesus costume she had the idea of going as Hitler.) Bonus points for her singing "Meet Lord Jesus" to the tune of The Jetsons theme song.
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    • The Season 2 finale doesn't just cross this line, it tramples it. Sue has to be picked up by 14-year-old Kevin because she's too drunk. The psychotic new manager at Mohican Airways is blown to bits, with Roger Dunbarton getting his throat slashed by shrapnel. Then when Frank and Sue decide to have some makeup sex, we find out that he's been using the same brand of condoms that Smokey puts holes in for laughs.
    • Anthony, a toddler, masturbating and then humping a TV? Gross. The fact that he's doing it because the thought of someone winning the ring toss competition on Hobo Jojo arouses him? Now it's funny.
    • Watching Roger and Scoop Dunbarton die, along with Frank getting covered in blood? Disturbing. Watching Rosie say he thinks Dunbarton would've wanted them to take the day off, mere seconds later? Then it's hilarious.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Although the show strives for a Cross the Line Twice approach, some viewers have found the decidedly cynical tone keeps many of the jokes from landing as they should, and the abundance of abrasive characters makes it difficult to connect with any of them.
  • Epileptic Trees: The last episode of the fourth season ends with the return of Cutie Pie (revealed to be named Karen), Vic's ex-girlfriend, also giving birth in the hospital, and Cutie Pie tells Vic the baby is his. However, some fans theorize that the baby might be Kevin's instead due to Cutie Pie and him having had sex with each other, causing Cutie Pie and Vic's relationship to be ruined. A tweet from the official twitter of the show's writer room josses this, though it still didn't stop Wild Mass Guesing.
  • Growing the Beard: While the first season was already well-received, season 2 does a better job of exploring the Murphy family dynamic and giving a lot of extra depth to most of the main and secondary characters, revealing several Jerkasses to actually be Jerkass Woobies who aren't as unsympathetic or one-dimensional as they once seemed.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Ellie Satler and Nick Van Owen became neighbors and hate each other.
  • Iron Woobie:
    • Otto Holtenwasser. That old man is a Holocaust survivor who lost his entire family in a Nazi death camp; and yet in his present life in America, he seems to refuse to let his tragic past keep him down. Either he's just as cheerful and optimistic as he appears to be, or is one hell of a Stepford Smiler.
    • Nguyen-Nguyen. She was forced to marry a man who destroyed her village and murdered her whole family. Despite this, she puts on a brave face and is later revealed to be quietly killing her abusive husband.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Frank, whose extreme Hair-Trigger Temper is justified by his constant misfortune. After high school, he was immediately drafted and forced to fight in the Korean War. He later impregnated his girlfriend, which led to a Shotgun Wedding that eventually created a Dysfunctional Family. His dreams of becoming a pilot dashed, he's forced to make ends meet with a crappy job that he hates, which he later gets fired from. He means well and loves his family, but they drive him nuts every day, and he's so busy that he ignores his wife's and kids' emotional needs. Then you find out that Frank's dad did a number on his self-esteem.
    • Kevin. He's a lazy, irresponsible, and totally irreverent slacker. But his poor performance in school is implied to be caused by Childhood Brain Damage from a near-fatal drowning incident. An angsty Emo Teen, he's usually on very poor terms with his father and dislikes him, but is always desperately craving for his affection.
    • Maureen has her own moments of this too (see Rescued from the Scrappy Heap).
    • Even Frank's Mean Boss Bob Pogo becomes this in Season 2. He recalls how humiliated he was after getting locked in his own car for several hours on a cold winter night, and was forced to defecate in his pants to stay warm. He also hates working for Roger Dunbarton's nephew Scoop, who is an even nastier boss than he ever was; and so Bob rather desperately (and pathetically) begs for Frank's help out of his troubles, in the process revealing that he's deeply unhappy with the direction his life has taken, and consumed with self-loathing and insecurity.
    • Jimmy Fitzsimmons, despite having very little (if any at all) in the way of redeeming traits, is at least implied to have a Freudian Excuse in the form of a crappy home life. He gets physically disciplined by an Abusive Dad, and after Jimmy is framed for a crime that he was completely innocent of, he's forced to attend a Catholic military school that tried to change his behavior by using lots of brute force.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • Maureen's only role in Season 1 seemed to be making things more difficult for Bill, especially when she blackmails him into giving her his lunch just to rip it up in front of his face, and occasionally making the family cringe with blue jokes. Season 2 humbles her significantly by having her nearly lose an eye, then develop a more interesting arc as her love of science and above-average intelligence (and inelegance) is used as a commentary on gender roles.
    • Vivian gradually becomes more respectful and supportive to Sue throughout the second season, but her telling Sue "This is your day!" at the corporate event is what really establishes her as being a decent person beneath her bitchy exterior, in that she was sincerely rooting for Sue to succeed, and had no intention of claiming any glory for herself (and it wasn't her fault that Henrietta Van Horne had no such sense of honor).
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped:
    • Frank and Sue have a right to complain about their hardships, but both of them learn in not-so-subtle ways that it helps to keep some perspective when one is going through a tough time. Sue realizes that her own problems are easier to overcome than the war horrors Nguyen-Nguyen went through of having her entire village burned down, and then being forced into an abusive relationship with the soldier who destroyed her home. Otto offhandedly mentions that the Murphy family's struggles are nowhere near as deadly as the Holocaust. Rosie tells Frank that while the latter's financial problems are certainly upsetting, they are not as difficult to resolve as the racial prejudice that African-Americans had to tackle on a daily basis in the 1970s.
    Rosie: I'm trying to sympathize with you, Frank, but you gotta understand: You're a white man in a black bar; your basement is six floors above our ceiling!
    • Domestic Abuse comes in many forms, and it is always damaging. Frank verbally abuses Kevin and Bill to the point of lowering their self-esteems, while Chet emotionally abuses Nguyen-Nguyen by denying her any autonomy and treating her like his subordinate. And Big Bill was an outright bully to Frank, wearing down his son's self-esteem when he was in fifth grade and even beating him with a crutch at least once. Just as importantly, domestic abuse can come from women as well, a notion that would have been dismissed as "impossible" in the 1970s. Bridget and Ginny both claim that nobody sympathizes with them, but then they abuse their male partners to the point that Bill, Greg and Otto are as traumatized as Nguyen-Nguyen. Bridget humiliates Bill and deliberately puts him in grave danger, while Ginny forces Greg to go to conversion therapy and then sexually assaults Otto.
    • Just because some questionable (and even abusive) actions from parents or other adult figures towards younger generations were more or less seen as alright for the time period doesn't mean it was alright to do, especially when it exacerbates The Chain of Harm.
  • Squick:
    • The moments that traumatise Bill to the point where some mournful music starts playing as he stops blinking. There was the disgustingly vile public toilet scene in Season 1. Then in Season 2 Bill walks in on Kevin masturbating; thankfully, Bill's head keeps the latter out of our view. Then in Season 3 he walks into the women's toilet and sees a fat woman's unkempt vagina.
    • Episode 5 has Frank's testicles, which both the audience and Bill (hiding under the bed) had to see when he was having sex with his wife.
    • Ben joining Bill and Phillip's Excrement Statement on the burned remains of Jimmy's clubhouse. His urine is a very sickly orange color as a sign of his neglected health.
    • The season 3 premier shows a man bleeding excessively from his ear.
    • Anthony, a toddler, indiscreetly masturbating and then humping the TV while watching Hobo Jojo.
  • The Woobie:
    • Bill. Nothing ever goes right for the poor kid in spite of his best efforts. He's bullied at school and at home, is subjected to multiple traumatizing images and his self-esteem is permanently destroyed after he overhears his dad calling him a pussy. It gets worse when he enters a relationship with Bridget.
    • Sue and her quiet desperation to have some sort of life outside her household. She eventually achieves her goal of finding a paying job but hates it; having to put up with all kinds of bullshit, from overly-demanding customers to lousy/sexist bosses. When she tries to make a comeback from her latest failure, she gets even less support. And of course, she struggles to keep a semi-peaceful house, and feels constantly ignored by her husband.
    • Bill's friend Phillip. Bill really isn't as much of a wimp as his peers believe him to be, but he suffers from extreme bad luck and keeps winding up in more trouble than a kid his age should ever be expected to handle. Phillip, on the other hand, is even more timid, sheltered, and somewhat effeminate, meaning he gets picked on by pretty much everyone, even Bill, and he isn't nearly resilient enough to shake it off or push back. A look in his diary shows that he entertains some very disturbing thoughts as a coping mechanism.
    • Ginny's Stepford Smiler husband Greg, whose wife all but physically forces him back into the closet because of how deeply in denial she is about his homosexuality, even as he's begging her to get a divorce. Even before that, it's hinted she's taken him to religious conversion therapy, and he's only ever able to be with men through seedy hookups in public bathrooms, all of which is clearly shown to drive him mad.

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