TV’s Ten Most Underrated Siblings
By Rebecca Leib
It’s no wonder that some of the most successful shows on television are family-centric. Everybody can relate to the trials and tribulations of their tribal units. Siblings have a particularly special role in TV land. They simultaneously support the storylines of the family unit while also reflecting upon the show’s growth.
Much like a Greek Chorus in a classic play, siblings comment upon the lessons of the television series and measure a show’s creative trajectory. In KoldCast TV’s riveting dramatic series The Syndicate, siblings and brotherhood play an integral role. Serial killer Nathan has a gaping void in his life after the death of his brother and partner in crime, Jamie. When wannabe serial killer Rhys accidentally strays into Nathan’s territory, Nathan decides to take young Rhys under his wing.
You are watching Episode 1 of The Syndicate
Though Nathan may have underestimated Rhys on any other day, the death of his brother makes him see the true killing potential within his new protégée, much like the exceptional roles these ten underrated television siblings played in their respective television shows.
Wally Cleaver, Leave It To Beaver
Wally may have been written off by viewers as the boring, “all-American” older brother of the Beaver, but he functions in Leave It To Beaver as so much more than a wholesome foil. Wally served as The Beaver’s conscience, often lecturing him and trying to instill discipline within him, giving The Beaver a more multi-dimensional existence. The fact that Wally was much older than The Beaver also permitted writers to address dating and teen love, which made this benchmark show a trailblazer for other coming-of-age sitcoms.
Stephanie Tanner, Full House
Throughout Full House’s eight-season run, Stephanie Tanner played the smart-alecky tomboy who was always meddling in everyone else’s affairs. Though sometimes she got in the fray of D.J.’s boy troubles or Michelle’s cute catch phrases, Stephanie was an integral part of the show’s ability to teach important lessons to its young viewership. Hands down, she dealt with the darkest controversies on the show, which included smoking, sex and parental mortality. Through her struggles, the show gained a conscience beyond Danny Tanner’s end-of-episode morality speeches.
Sam Weir, Freaks & Geeks
Sam Weir takes no backseat to any other character on this critically acclaimed show, and his underrated status comes from the fact that he’s just so… nice. Sam isn’t one of the boisterous freaks on this Judd Apatow classic, but one of the mild-mannered geeks, always willing to lend a hand or an ear to a guy or gal in need. What viewers often forget is that Sam is one of the smartest, most self-aware characters on the show, and is also surprisingly proactive for being a shy teen. Sam serves as the catalyst for most of the major and more serious plot lines, including his pursuit of Cindy and finding out about infidelity in the neighborhood.
Jan Brady, The Brady Bunch
We all remember Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! But what about Jan, Jan, Jan? Jan always seemed to take second fiddle to beautiful, well-adjusted Marcia, but in actuality Jan’s imperfections made her character one of the more fascinating and quirky on the nationally syndicated ABC hit. Mousey Jan had a rough childhood, but she evolved into the most successful Brady, eventually marrying her professor and taking over her father’s architecture firm.
Adam Whitman, Mad Men
Mad Men may be one of the most popular shows on television, but the true identity of debonair ad man Don Draper is decidedly hidden. As more is revealed about Don’s murky past, the more Don’s younger half-brother Adam seems to haunt him. Adam is broke, awkward, stunted, and disheveled – not the best fit for Don’s elitist social circle. Regardless of how hard he tries to shove his childhood – and Adam – under the rug, his little brother is always there to remind him some things never change.
D. J. Conner, Roseanne
Youngest Conner child D.J. was often taunted by his family and served as the butt of a running joke. Still, D.J. was the most consistent thing on Roseanne; as the other characters changed, grew up, and got recast, D.J. was the one you could count on for good old pubescent humor. As D.J. grew up, he was used to touch upon important adolescent issues like sexuality, identity and achievement, but he was still always the loveable, mumbling baby Conner brother.
Maggie Simpson, The Simpsons
Did you know that Maggie is actually older than almost every other character on The Simpsons? Maggie appeared on the Simpson’s precursor, The Tracy Ullman Show, and since then this eternally infantile, pacifier-sucking tyke has never looked back! Though Maggie never talks and constantly trips over her jumper, throughout The Simpsons’ unprecedented 23 seasons she saves the family’s life numerous times. In my book, this famous television sibling is a child prodigy and a hero.
Buster Bluth, Arrested Development
The youngest son of George and Lucille Bluth, you could easily write Buster off as being a whiny, entitled Mama’s boy. Still, this hilarious character was the most loyal of the Bluths. He was more than happy to live with his family while their business went bottom up, and even held on to his Bluth stock when every other family member was eager to jump ship.
Wayne Arnold, The Wonder Years
Wayne could also be overlooked due to his nearly constant torture of The Wonder Years’ wonder boy Kevin. Still, Wayne served as a modern-day Wally Cleaver in The Wonder Years as an older, disciplinarian figure for Kevin when he would stray from his moral compass. Wayne also got in over his head himself. One particularly good example is when Wayne falls for a divorced mother many years his senior in the episode “Wayne And Bonnie.” Needless to say, the love affair did not last.
Niles Crane, Frasier
This reserved, curmudgeonly sibling of Frasier succeeded as a hilarious brotherly foil, but his plot lines took the show to new heights in later seasons. David Hyde Pierce was extremely memorable as the show’s idiosyncratic Niles, winning him a record-breaking eleven Emmy nominations, one for every year of the show’s run! Aside from his thoroughly entertaining neuroses, Niles is beloved for his relentless pursuit of Daphne, who saw his good heart beyond the frazzle.
Rebecca Leib is a comedy powerhouse living in Los Angeles, California. She performs regularly at iOWest, UCBLA and The Comedy Store. In addition to The Sixth Wall, her writing can be seen in Beautiful/Decay, Tvgasm, and Perezhilton. You can read her weekly column on http://saysomethingfunnybitch.tumblr.com/rebeccaleib, or go to her website at RebeccaLeib.com.