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October 7, 2015

Eight sets of memorable sitcom siblings

by Allison Waldman, posted May 13th 2008 10:34AM
FrasierRecently, the AOL list of the 50 Best Sitcoms of all time got me thinking about ten all time great sitcom sidekicks. Working on that list inspired me to look at the best in sitcom siblings -- ADULTS ONLY. The brother/sister relationship, brothers, sisters, family dynamics are great fodder for comedy. For my collection of the best, I've limited it to grown-up siblings only because there are some truly funny things that happen only among adults brothers and sisters that are unique and universal at the same time. After all, unlike the childhood years when kids are controlled by parents, adult siblings remain close and in each other's lives by choice -- and that has made for some wonderful situation comedy.

Niles & Frasier Crane, Frasier
Two brothers, both psychiatrists, both opera buffs, both wine connoisseurs, both heterosexual despite evidence to the contrary. The Crane brothers were like two peas in a very funny pod, sparking each other in comedy, competitive and supportive at the same time. Making their brotherly friendship even funnier was the fact that their Dad, Martin, who was nothing like either one of them. What's even funnier is the fact that when Frasier was originally spun-off from Cheers, the writers didn't include the character of Niles. It was only after seeing an 8x10 of David Hyde Pierce, and how much he looked like Kelsey Grammer's brother, that they put him in the pilot. Frasier would not have been nearly the hit comedy it was without the brother angle.

Randy & Earl Hickey, My Name Is Earl
Never have two sitcom brothers been more joined at the hip. Randy lives in Earl's shadow, a comfy corner in which he admires and follows his older brother through every lame-brain escapade as Earl tries to cross the names off the list of people he's wronged in an effort to get on the right side of karma. Jason Lee and Ethan Suplee don't look like they could have come from the same womb -- which adds to the comedy -- but in so many ways they are the best of TV brothers. They support each other, respect each other, and love unconditionally -- which is a lot to say considering they are morally challenged, petty thieves with few socially redeeming values. They're also the only siblings on this list that sleep together in the same queen size bed.

Christine Campbell & Matthew, The New Adventures of Old Christine
Christine is a mess. She's a divorcee, running a gym, raising her 10-year-old soon, struggling to make ends meet and balance it all out. It's her brother Matthew that's her rock of Gibraltar, lending a hand, listening to her kvetch, accepting her craziness -- as this past season showed, Christine has a perverse attachment to Matthew, and he to her. They're really each other's best friend and tent-pole, so they can't go there separate ways. The neurotic attachment is played for hilarity; one of the funniest sights ever was the two of them on a rock climbing wall dealing with their dependency issues. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has a perfect comic foil in Hamish Linklater.

Ross & Monica Geller, Friends
The connections between all the friends on Friends start with the Gellers, Ross and his sister Monica, played by David Schwimmer and Courteney Cox. As grown ups living in Manhattan, Ross and Monica remained part of each other's lives and were actually supportive and nurturing siblings. When Ross's wife left him for another woman, he turned to Monica for a shoulder to cry on. Through the years, through all the ups of down of Ross and Rachel, Monica and Chandler, the bond of brother and sister proved to be as strong as any friendship they shared with their friends.

Suzanne & Julia Sugarbaker, Designing Women
Southern sisters, interior decorators, completely different types, masterfully played by Dixie Carter and Delta Burke. Julia was domineering, in charge, strong, driven, passionate and no-nonsense. Suzanne was former a Miss Georgia World beauty pageant winner who was happy as a clam cashing alimony checks and being a pampered princess. That these two deseparate women were able to work together was something of a miracle, aided by good friends Charlene and Mary Jo. The essence of the show, however, was sisterhood -- and that was especially underscored by Sugerbakers.

Alan & Charlie Harper, Two and a Half Men
Like Oscar Madison and Felix Unger on The Odd Couple, Alan moved in on Charlie when divorce ended Alan's marriage and he had no place else to go. And, like Oscar and Felix, Alan and Charlie are complete opposites. Charlie is a womanizing boozer who's destiny's darling, kind of like Charlie Sheen. No, just kidding. On the show, Charlie barely works -- writing commercial jingles, although lately he's become a hit singing kiddie ditties as Charlie Waffles -- yet makes mucho dinero and owns a Malibu beachhouse. Jon Cryer is Alan, a good-natured loser, is a hardworking chiropracter who struggles from paycheck to paycheck. The comedy arises from Alan's bird's eye view of Charlie's outrageous lifestyle. But there's also great business between the two of them as brothers who are so different, and yet they know each other so well from childhood. Together they share shock and awe at their over-the-top mom (the wonderful Holland Taylor). They also try to steer Alan's son Jake (he's the half in the title) down the right -- if cynical -- path.

Lindsay & Michael Bluth, Arrested Development
Amid the bizarre Bluth clan, twins Lindsay and Michael are the seemingly normal pair. The eye of a hurricane, they often could look at the craziness going on in their family with a wry smile and a wink of recognition that if they couldn't fight them, they might as well join in. Jason Bateman and Portia Di Rossi were off playing straightmen to the comics around them, but they did so with aplomb.

Raymond & Robert Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond
Oh, the envy! The person speaking the title is Robert, Raymond's older brother. His jealousy of Raymond is so deep, so strong and yet he cannot dislike his little brother. He loves him. It drives him crazy that Raymond has such good fortune, but at the core, Robert really likes Raymond and they have more in common and share more things together than many other siblings. Like David Hyde Pierce, Brad Garrett as Ray Romano's brother was shrewd casting.

Honorable Mentions

Brian & Joe Hackett, Wings - I loved Wings; not in the original run, but later on, in syndication. Steven Webber and Tim Daly were another mismatched sibling pair, working together in a small airline.

Roseanne Conner & Jackie, Roseanne
Jackie was always there for her big sister, Roseanne, her sounding board and pal. She also needed Roseanne's washer and dryer to do the laundry. Accomplished actress Laurie Metcalf was the perfect second banana to wisecracking Roseanne, more comic than actress.

Hilda & Betty Suarez, Ugly Betty
Not strictly a sitcom, but a comedy nonetheless, the relationship between ugly Betty and her glamour-seeking big sis Hilda hits home in its familiarity. We've all had a big sister like Hilda, haven't we? No -- well, I did. Ana Oritiz and America Ferrara seem like real sisters.

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Sorry, missed the "sitcom" requirement :)

May 15 2008 at 11:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Was a very short-lived series, but River Tam and her brother Simon from "Firefly" were close and he was very protective of her.

Don't forget the Ewing brothers: J.R., Bobby, Gary and later Ray. Plus J.R.'s arch-rival Cliff Barnes and Bobby's wife Pam were brother and sister.

Jamie Buchman and her nutso sister Lisa from "Mad About You".

May 15 2008 at 11:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My favorite goes back quite a few years: the Maverick brothers. The originals were brothers Bret and Bart, starring James Garner and Jack Kelly. Later, you had cousin Beau (Roger Moore) and brother Brent (Robert Colbert).

May 14 2008 at 11:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How about any member of the Tates and Campbell families in the TV series "Soap"?

May 14 2008 at 9:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sallad's comment

Or simply the two sisters, Jessica Tate and Mary Campbell, from which the two branches of the tree originate?

May 15 2008 at 11:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David Cook is my Idol!

My favorite adult sibling pair is Joe and Brian Hackett from Wings. I also love Frasier and Niles. Too bad Wings and Frasier never did a cross-over. It would have been funny to see the Hacketts and Cranes interact with each other.
Those are two of my all-time favorite sitcoms.

May 14 2008 at 2:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

what about dukes of hazard, that was pretty much a sitcom wouldnt you say??

May 14 2008 at 12:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Stigmata's comment

Bo, Luke and Daisy Duke were all cousins. None were siblings.

May 14 2008 at 10:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
el forastero

and what happened with Sideshow Bob and his brother Cecil, I know they only been together one episode, but they deserve to be in the list... at least to have Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce twice in the same list.

May 13 2008 at 7:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh how I love Niles. What would Fraiser be without Niles! They definitely deserve to be number one on this list.

May 13 2008 at 6:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

what about the brothers from Numb3rs?

May 13 2008 at 3:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yeah, I was about to comment that Lindsey certainly wasn't a straightman in that show. She'd have her brief bouts of being normal, then fly off into insanity with the rest of them.

I rarely bought Monica and Ross as siblings, and I can't take more than 30 seconds of 2 and a Half Men, so I'd have switched at least one of those with Wings. Other than that this is a list full of entertaining memories.

May 13 2008 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MosquitoControl72's comment

I'm curious as to why you didn't buy Ross and Monica being siblings since I thought they were spot on.

May 13 2008 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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