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Ten Deep 12.05.13: Top 10 Dysfunctional TV Siblings
Posted by Mike Gorman on 12.05.2013

" Top Ten Dysfunctional TV Siblings"

A few weeks back Ten Deep dove into the world of movie siblings and at the time I made a mental note to find a way to get into the topic from the TV angle. When I decided to revisit the idea I drew some inspiration from a column I did three years ago on dysfunctional TV families. In looking at the past I realized a few things, there is a lot more dysfunction on TV now and looking at siblings specifically changes the discussion. The end result is the list you see below. They're not all included for the same reasons but some similarities will become apparent as you move through the countdown. Let's start with some twins who ruled the airwaves in the 90s…

10. Brenda and Brandon on Beverly Hills 90210

Brandon and Brenda Walsh were transplanted to Beverly Hills in the early 90s as you may remember. The show's initial premise seemed to set up these fraternal twins as two fish out of water facing the new world together. That all seemed to disintegrate when it became obvious that Brenda's role was to get caught doing bad things and Brandon's was to lecture her with a mightier than thou attitude. The disdain between these two became such a norm that any time the show tried to play a moment of tenderness and care with them it came off as forced and out of character. Personally I did not blame Brenda when she chose to move away from him!

9. Bart and Lisa on The Simpsons

On The Simpsons Bart & Lisa at times seem to have the average relationship of siblings in their age range. They often tease each other but can come together when the family needs it. I included them this week not just because they haven't aged a day during their show's 20 plus year run but because their love you/hate you pendulum has such dramatic yet believable swings. One moment Bart can be plotting a way to destroy Lisa in the eyes of her peers and in the next he is singing a song with a gigantic white Michael Jackson impersonator to raise her spirits. And who can forget the time Lisa spent all of her money to procure Bart's soul and then returned it to him. Whereas Brandon and Brenda's reconciliations always felt forced, Bart and Lisa's somehow always felt true.

8. Buffy and Dawn on Buffy The Vampire Slayer

I know some of you are groaning, "There he goes again, wedging Buffy into a topic!" but I hope you will believe me when I say I consciously tried to keep them off of this list. Then I started asking friends for suggestions and people that weren't even fans of the show kept saying, "You have to include Buffy and that fake sister of hers" I gave in because realistically is there a more dysfunctional sibling relationship than one between a chosen hero with super powers and her "sister" who used to be a ball of energy that may be the "key" to destroying the world? For Buffy and Dawn it was the circumstances of their relationships and lives that made them dysfunctional, not their love and care for each other. Their relationship also led to one of Buffy's more famous quotes too: "So, Dawn's in trouble... must be Tuesday." Though unlike normal families the big sister was not saving the little sister from a failed date or a school problem, she was protecting her from gods and demons.

7. Phoebe and Ursula on Friends

The introduction of Ursula on Friends took the dysfunctional spotlight off the Gellars (Monica & Ross) and put it on her and her twin Phoebe. Their relationship was introduced in a series of one off lines where Phoebe would reference her sister, who hated her or she hated, and eventually we got to see her in person. Their interactions were played with a clear twinkle of delight in the eye of Lisa Kudrow, as each appearance upped Ursula's unbelievably callous behavior. The clip below starts with one of my favorite moments between them when Phoebe rushes to Ursula to let her know that their mother who committed suicide was not actually their biological mother. Ursula responds that she knew because she read it in their mother's suicide note; a note that Phoebe never knew existed!

6. Becky, Darlene and DJ on Roseanne

The relationship between Becky, Darlene and DJ on Roseanne may be one of the most down to earth and realistic every portrayed on television aside from one small fact… there were two Beckys and not everyone noticed! The role of Becky was played by two actresses over the run of the series, Lecy Goranson and Sarah Chalke, and unlike other shows where a recasting occurred Roseanne eventually allowed some cracks in the 4th wall to appear letting the audience know that they were aware on some level of the difference between the two Beckys. This was often played to comedic success on the series including a flash forward where it is revealed that DJ knew the whole time, which you can see in the clip below.

5. Sookie and Jason on True Blood

I am a big fan of the Stackhouse siblings on True Blood and feel like they due truly love each other. I don't think that is where their dysfunction lies; instead it seems to involve their awareness of each other. If you watch the series they each tend to find themselves in a variety of life threatening and over the top predicaments, but don't seem to realize the other is in trouble until it is either too late or their storylines cross paths. Yes that is the nature of television, but it does seem a bit strange that the only two surviving members of a family, living in a small backwater town, would not notice that one or the other goes missing for days at a time. Heck, I get a phone call from sister who lives across the country if I disappear for day, and we don't even have to deal with vampires, witches and werewolves!

4. Brenda and Billy Chenowith on Six Feet Under

With Brenda and Billy Chenowith on Six Feet Under we start to enter a new realm of awkward and dysfunction when it comes to brother and sister relationships. Granted a fair amount of their unique dynamic was explored in dreams, enough spilled over into the real world of the show to make you do a double take at times. The first time we met Billy it actually seemed like he might be a lover of Brenda's but we soon discovered that he was just her really close brother who was way into every detail of her life and may have tried to kiss her, in real life, or done more in the dream sequence below. Whether it happened or was just thought of these two siblings definitely raised an eyebrow or two during their tenure on the program.

3. Deb and Dexter on Dexter

Now we come to the dysfunctional relationship of two people that seemed to reach an awkward peak when Deb expressed developing feelings for her foster brother Dexter but reached new heights as the show drew to a close. Dysfunction seemed to become the new D word with Deb and Dexter when Deb found out about Dexter's murderous ways and even became involved in covering up his more nefarious activities. Deb's involvement actually drove her into a reckless depression that Dexter was able to eventually help her get out of bringing new meaning to the phrase, "The family that slays together, stays together!"

2. Lindsay, Michael, G.O.B. & Buster on Arrested Development

The dysfunctional relationships between the Bluth siblings on Arrested Development could probably fill an entire column if we dug into them deeply. Attractions, jealousy, egos, and financial blundering just scrape the surface of the pond that is their lives. Specifically there is a storyline at the end of Season Three that involves Lindsay attempting to seduce Michael after she learns she is adopted, which leads G.O.B. to unsuccessfully attempt to seduce her because he can't stand to see Michael have something he cannot. Lucky for us all Netflix came along and brought these siblings back into our lives after the original series was canceled.

And lastly…

1. Cersei and Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones

If you have somehow managed to get to this point in your life without seeing HBO's fantastic Game of Thrones go now and catch up, then come back to this countdown. I would not want to spoil anything for you.

That said the twisted relationship between Cersei and Jaime Lannister goes beyond sibling squabbles, dream of dalliances, and petty jealousy. Cersei and Jaime take the closeness of twins to a new level in this series. Physical attraction between twins is sometimes hinted at in literature and on film, but here there is no hinting nor is anything left to the imagination. Cersei and Jaime have a long sordid sexual history that comes to life in many ways in the series. First there at the children they have sired to keep the Lannister blood pure, while pretending they were from another father. One of these children, Joffrey has ascended to the throne and is not a very kind king. Also their sexual affairs lead to one of the very first "WTF!" moments I can remember from the series. It is here in the clip below and involves Bran Stark discovering just what these two siblings are up to behind closed doors. I think a word stronger than dysfunction is needed to describe their exploits.

Did I miss any of your favorite dysfunctional siblings? Tell on me in the comments below!

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