In the TV family hierarchy, the eldest child of the family bears a heavy burden on his or her shoulders. Whether a reluctant role model (Denise Huxtable, The Cosby Show) or the next King of the North (Robb Stark, Game of Thrones), the greatest oldest children in TV history have some essential qualities in common.
The best oldest children in TV history have a rebellious streak. As older brothers and sisters, the first child of the family has a responsibility to his or her siblings to push their parents’ limits to the breaking point. (Even Matt Camden (7th Heaven) sent his parents into fits when he eloped.) When their rebellion backfires – a là Greg Brady (The Brady Bunch) unsuccessfully hiding the school mascot in the attic – they sometimes find their parents will work with them instead of against them.
Of course the greatest oldest children have to cope with darker matter, as well. Protecting one’s mother from his father, the drug kingpin (Walter White, Jr., Breaking Bad), battling an addiction to uppers (Alex P. Keaton, Family Ties), and being Don and Betty Draper’s daughter (Sally Draper, Mad Men), are just a few of the difficult chores these firstborn have had to face.Finally, the greatest oldest children in TV history – or, many of them – must leave the nest first, creating tearful goodbyes as well as awkward plot devices. Though Modern Family’s Haley Dunphy getting kicked out of college seemed perfectly plausible, other eldest children either saw their screen time evaporate (Haddie Braverman, Parenthood), or simply refused to age at all (Bart Simpson, The Simpsons).