The greatest only children in TV history have many talents, little competition for their parents’ affections, and – unless they are the title character of their respective shows – a lot of free time. Some only children bear great responsibilities, bestowed on them either by their parents (Veronica Mars) or a teenage serial-killer ghost (Violet Harmon, American Horror Story). Other great only children characters are short, towheaded maniacs who like to terrorize elderly neighbors (Dennis the Menace).
Only children on TV have the best of two worlds: They don’t have to share screen time with annoying siblings; plus, they usually get a pet. (Though, sadly, that pet will probably die to teach the only child about death.) TV moms and dads love to lecture only children about how the world works (Opie Taylor, The Andy Griffith Show), but turnabout is fair play, so sometimes only children get to deliver the lectures (Alexis Castle, Castle).
Life can be confusing for an only child, especially when he or she is adopted into a nontraditional family (Punky Brewster; Webster), is reunited with an estranged parent (Henry Mills, Once Upon a Time), has magical powers (Tabitha Stevens, Bewitched), or has a sexual deviant as a parent (Eric Cartman, South Park). Luckily, only children are usually of above-average intelligence, or might even be child prodigies (Doogie Howser, M.D).The storylines for the best only children in TV history are as varied as the shows in which they star. Yet, they are all beloved, thanks to syndication, from one generation to the next.