The Best and Worst TV Sisters: A Psychological Analysis
To celebrate the DVD release of the beloved series Sisters, which transcended genres in order to realistically document the lives of four smart, complicated, awesome women, I present for you the best and worst TV sisters of all time. Needless to say, the gals on Sisters are among the best ever...
SPOILER ALERT: Some major plot points are discussed about the shows below. You have been warned.
Best: Suzanne and Julia Sugarbaker
Who are they? Suzanne is a former beauty queen turned lovably high maintenance diva. Julia is the ultra-feminist, ultra liberal owner of an interior design company, who will not take the tiniest bit of crap from anybody.
Would you want to be their sister? More than anything in the world.
They’re rich, smart and witty as the devil. However, when it comes down to it, they are good people with good values (watch Julia tell off a hypocritical homophobe!). They have fun adventures constantly and dress up as phenomenal celebrities almost every season (most notably The Supremes). Most importantly, they have each other’s backs. Take, for example, the seminal moment in which Julia rips a snotty beauty queen to shreds for implying that Suzanne lost her status as the greatest beauty queen ever by gaining some weight.
Worst: Marcia and Jan Brady
The Brady Bunch
Who are they? Marcia is the most beautiful, popular teenager in the history of the world. Her hair is like straw that Rumpelstiltskin wove into gold. Everybody wants to date her, including Desi Arnaz Jr. and Davy Jones. Jan has a major inferiority complex that sometimes leads her to hear voices and wear bad black afro wigs. However, she actually has smarts and personality, developed from a lifetime of traumatic sisterhood. Even though nobody values these qualities enough, they will allow her to grow up and become an architect and marry Philip, the dreamiest nerd ever. Meanwhile, Marcia — not knowing how to make good decisions, because everything has always been handed to her — will marry the chronically depressed toymaker Wally and be driven to alcoholism by her miserable life.
Would you want to be their sister? Hellz to the no.
Angst and drama all the time. The tension is so high between these two that you can cut it with a knife, and the waves of dysfunction permeate the entire Brady family. Does anybody ever talk about Cindy Brady? No! She’s not even featured in this article, because the battle between Jan and Marcia overshadows everything that dares to come near it.
Best: Lursa and B’Etor Duras
Star Trek: The Next Generation & Deep Space Nine
Who are they? These ruthless, buxom goddesses start a war to try to make their nephew High Chancellor.
Would you want to be their sister?: It would be a difficult road, but yes.
They look awesome, they’re all-powerful and, even though they’re evil, at least they work together. With a third sister to help them dominate, perhaps they would have avoided getting killed in the movie Star Trek: Generations.
Best: Tia and Tamera
Who are they? Twins who were separated at birth and adopted by different families. Tia is an intellectual type from inner city Detroit. Tamera is a typical boy crazy teenager from the suburbs. When they’re 14, they accidentally encounter each other at the mall and become best friends and sisters 4ever.
Would you want to be their sister? Totally.
First of all, Jackée Harry would be your adopted mother/mentor, which is every normal person’s dream. Also, Tia and Tamera may be different, but they get along really well. It’s so rare that a sister comes into one’s life unexpectedly in TV Land without being evil/causing a boatload of drama! If you were their sister, you’d always have two lovable partners in life.
Worst: Sue Ellen Ewing and Kristin Shepard
Who are they? The Jan and Marcia Brady of Texas, that's who. Kristin Shepard was always jealous of Sue Ellen, who became Miss Texas in 1967 and married the monstrously wealthy J.R. Ewing. Years later, she comes to live with Sue Ellen at South Fork (the Ewing manor) and is still jealous of her, even though J.R. cheats on her, ruins her life, and drives her to drink. So Kristin schemes to steal J.R. and, in doing so, lets him use her to spy on his business competitors. When he doesn’t give her the financial award and commitment that he promised her, she shoots him and frames Sue Ellen.
Would you want to be their sister? Under no circumstances.
The Shepard family is cursed. Sue Ellen and Kristin are trapped by oppressive gender roles that make them angry, dissatisfied, and desperate to cause trouble. It’s impossible to imagine that their third sister would fare any better. Also, you can bet your bottom dollar that after Kristin was finished making Sue Ellen’s life miserable, she’d come after you. Until, that is, she drowned in J.R.’s swimming pool because of a drug overdose, leaving the child that she allegedly had with him to Pamela and Bobby. But it wasn’t really his child. See? You don’t want to have to deal with her. But you would be gorgeous, and have phenomenal hair and taste in shoulder padded outfits.
Best: Roseanne and Jackie
Who are they? Roseanne is a tough smartass with a really biting sense of humor. Jackie is her deadpan, neurotic sister who is always having trouble with men (she’s actually a lesbian, even though we don’t find out until the last episode, when Roseanne admits that she changed Jackie’s sexual orientation while writing her memoir/the events of the series). Roseanne and Jackie fight sometimes, and they have to deal with some serious stuff, including financial hardship, spousal abuse, and depression. However, they also triumphed, especially as mothers and business owners.
Would you want to be their sister?: Yes and no.
You could not ask for a better sister than Roseanne or Jackie. They’re totally real with each other all the time, and they constantly make fun of each other — but in a way that makes both of them laugh. They help each other succeed, and they’re friends with the awesome Nancy Bartlett (Sandra Bernhard) for several seasons! That said, their mother is aggravating, and they have to deal with a lot of real problems. Their life struggles make the show brilliant and groundbreaking, but if you’re going to be adopted by a TV family, you might want to choose a life that is less like your actual life. Also, if you’re Roseanne and Jackie’s sister, then neither Roseanne Barr nor Laurie Metcalf could play you in the sitcom of your life, which is a problem.
Best-ish: Alexis Carrington Colby and Cassandra “Caress” Morell
Who are they? Alexis is supremely gorgeous, wealthy and powerful. Caress is yet another overshadowed sister. However, Caress is no wilting flower: She was sitting in Alexis’ shadow and taking notes. It would be impossible to outline all of the crimes, backstabbing and secrets that go down between Alexis and Caress in a mere article. For one thing, Caress wrongly went to jail because of a murder for which Alexis and her lover were likely responsible. She emerges years later with a new name, a wardrobe of phenomenal gowns and a book deal for her memoir Sister Dearest. Needless to say, her arrival causes a lot of problems.
Would you want to be their sister? Possibly, if you thrive on drama.
You could argue that Alexis and Caress are no more desirable as sisters than the similarly dramatic Sue Ellen and Kristin. However, Alexis and Caress are somehow less tragic than their Dallas counterparts. They seem to love battling each other, one-upping each other and verbally cutting each other down, all the while looking great and getting into sinful relationships with hunky men. Also, unlike Sue Ellen and Kristin, they are strong enough that they both get what they want in the end. If you have a lot of energy, it would probably be fun and exciting to get involved with their shenanigans as their other sister dearest.
Best: Rhoda and Brenda
Who are they? Rhoda and Brenda were raised by the same overbearing Jewish mother (the brilliant Nancy Walker). As a result, they’re both neurotic and insecure, but also loving, funny and caring. Rhoda found herself in Minneapolis and became glamorous so, when she returns to New York, Brenda looks to her as a role model. In other words, Rhoda becomes the Mary, and Brenda is the Rhoda.
Would you want to be their sister?: Without question.
Even though the Morgensterns struggle with their weight, neuroses, divorce and insecurities, and have to date a series of undesirable men, their lives are the best. They have impeccable taste in home décor, so their adorable, bourgeois-bohemian apartments are to die for. Also, even though their mother made them crazy, having to deal with her together created a bond of steel that could ne’er be broken. Being Rhoda and Brenda’s sister would be like having a slumber party all the time, filled with frozen pizza and k’vetching. It would be perfect.
Worst: Patsy Eurydice Colette Clytemnestra Dido Bathsheba Rabelais Patricia Cocteau Stone and Jacky Stone
Who are they? Patsy is a narcissistic, co-dependent, former fashion model and alleged Bond girl who has only eaten twice since 1973. Jacky is Patsy’s world traveling younger sister. There are rumors that Jacques Brel wrote his song “Jacky” about her. She has tried to murder Patsy twice with drug overdoses. In an ingenious move, AbFab‘s casting people chose Caress Morell herself, Kate O’ Mara, to play the wicked Jacky!
Would you want to be their sister? No.
These gals have issues because their childhood was a nightmare. Patsy’s mother locked her up alone in a room for her first decade! You wouldn’t have been able to escape it. You might want to be Patsy’s true soul sister Edina, though.
Worst: Pepper and Rita Gayheart
American Horror Story
Who are they? Pepper is a sweet, loving, microcephalic woman. Her sister Rita is an evil nightmare who plots the murder of her own disabled baby (because her creep husband doesn’t like “freaks”), then frames Pepper for it and locks her up in the scariest and most horrible asylum imaginable (and that’s saying something).
Would you want to be their sister? No way! You’d rather be anybody on this list’s sister than Rita Gayheart’s!
Rita Gayheart is pure, unadulterated evil and cannot be trusted for a second. If she would subject the lovable Pepper to such horrors, who knows what she would do to you?
Who are your favorite TV sisters? Let us know in the comments!
Ben Raphael Sher is VP of Development at XG Productions LA, Inc. He holds a PhD in Film, Television, and Digital Media from UCLA, where he teaches. He also writes for Chiller TV (http://www.chillertv.com/friday13), SyFy (www.syfy.com), and his blog, Eyes of Ben Sher (http://eyesofbensher.blogspot.com). He is a regular co-host of the Retro Movie Love podcast (http://retromovielove.com).