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Promotion To Parent / Live-Action TV

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People who were promoted to parent in live-action TV.


  • An Afterschool Special titled "Daddy, I'm Their Mama Now" dealt with a country singer's oldest daughter becoming a mother figure to her younger brothers after their mother is killed in a plane crash.
  • Angel has a short-lived example at the beginning of season four: Angel and Cordelia have disappeared and Wesley is on the outs with the group, so Gunn and Fred are now in the parent role for Connor. Fred even notes that the reason that he keeps arguing with Gunn is because he's now the "alpha male" target of his teenage rebellion. Angel is found by the end of the season premiere, however.
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  • Apollo, to Boxey, after Serina is killed in the fifth episode of the original Battlestar Galactica.
  • In the Bones episode "The Girl in the Mask", Ken Nakamura raised his sister Sachi, leading Booth to refer to him as a parent.
    • Bones herself is an aversion; when their parents disappeared, her nineteen-year-old brother allowed her to be put in foster care because he didn't think he could take care of her. Years later she's still bitter.
      • This crops up in an episode where Bones becomes very close to the older brother of a deceased victim, largely because the brother accepted the Promotion To Parent her own brother could/would not. This makes it all the worse when the older brother is revealed to be the killer.
  • Starting in mid-season five, Buffy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer gets to pull double-duty as Slayer and caretaker of her sister Dawn. This starts catching up with her in season six, although the other Scoobies assist where they can (Depending on the Writer). During the gap between Season Five and Season Six (when Buffy was dead and in no condition to take care of Dawn), Willow, Tara, and Spike got a temporary promotion. In the Season 8 comic books, Dawn outright states that "Will is like a mom to me", and in Season 6 she's given a divorced-parents talk with Tara when she and Willow break up. It's pretty clear who Dawn views as her parents. Really all you need to see that is "Seeing Red" and how she reacts to finding Tara's body.
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  • Chuck: Ellie Bartowski had to step up from about the of age twelve to raise her brother and run their household since their mother left them with their mentally absent father. Their father left as well a few years later, making the promotion to parent even more official.
  • Fiz in Coronation Street has to act as mother to her younger brother Chesney, after their mum Cilla abandoned them.
  • Tom Jennings on Dark Shadows was apparently a very good parent to his much younger sister, Amy, then he got turned into a vampire. His twin, Chris, took over, but seemed content to let the Collins look after her because he's a werewolf.
  • Sean on Degrassi is taken care of by his older brother because he doesn't want to live with his parents after being expelled from his old school for a violent incident.
  • Desperate Housewives: Though it hasn't been elaborated on much, it's indicated that Lynette was this to her two younger sisters, since their father was out of the picture for as-yet-unspecified reasons and their promiscuous, alcoholic mother alternated between abusive and neglectful. This may also provide some insight into Lynette's initial reluctance to the idea of having children.
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  • Doctor Who: In "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances", Nancy looks after a bunch of homeless Blitz orphans and failed Blitz Evacuees. Except one of them really is her son.
  • Euphoria: Fezco raises his younger brother Ashtray due to their mother's illness.
  • In Firefly, after Simon rescues River he is put in a position where he has to protect and take care of her due to the results of what was done to her at the Academy. He is also considered responsible for her actions in the ship and is expected to keep her in line, though this sort of blurs as the series progressed, with the rest of the crew starting to care for River as well toward the end. Notably, Simon and River's parents never actually died; Simon was just the only member of the family willing to do what it took to rescue and protect River from the government.
  • The First Shop of Coffee Prince: Eun Chan's dad died, so she helps to support her mom and sister by working several jobs. She's also rather protective of her sister.
  • In the Floricienta Soap Opera, lead male Federico Fritzenwalden is a Hello, Attorney! who at the age of 27 becomes the Team Dad in his very numerous family after their parents suddenly die in an accident, and the lead female Flor is actually working for him as the babysitter/caretaker/Team Mom for his orphaned siblings.
  • Fuller House: In some ways, Ramona becomes this when she gives Kimmy advice. Lampshaded when she points out that one person in the family has to be an adult.
  • Game of Thrones: Viserys has been taking care of Daenerys for almost her entire life since their exile. He is abusive, but Daenerys still gets to her wedding day healthy, unharmed, reasonably innocent, and with her virginity intact.
  • Sam Evans on Glee is revealed to be this after his father loses his job and he's forced to babysit his young brother and sister while his parents look for work.
  • In Heroes, it's strongly implied this was the case for Nathan and Peter Petrelli: in the pilot, their mother Angela quite casually confessed to Peter that she never paid him much attention in favor of supporting Nathan's ambitions (and frankly, she thought Peter was too needy and she didn't have the energy to deal with it) and you find out at various points in the series that Peter was their father Arthur's Unfavorite, leaving him to turn to his older (by about twelve years) brother Nathan every time he needed help or support.
  • Tim from Home Improvement sometimes mentions being this for his younger siblings after his dad died when he was 11.
  • House:
    • "Whac-a-Mole" had its patient of the week being a teenaged boy whose parents died in a car accident, leaving him to raise his younger siblings. When faced with the choice of getting cured from his disease or having his siblings placed in foster care, he actually chooses the second, feeling that he can't handle parenthood.
    • Another episode has a young man playing the role of parent to his schizophrenic mother, and lying to Social Services about his age. Fortunately, it turns out she's not actually schizophrenic but that it's a symptom of a medical disorder, and she's able to resume being a parent after she's treated.
  • Bea for Evie in The House Of Eliott. After their mother didn't survive Evie's birth, their father, having hoped for a boy, wasn't interested in her and so abandoned her to the care of Bea, who was only twelve herself.
  • Spencer in iCarly. Their father is in the military and did not appear until the finale, while their mother is an Ambiguously Absent Parent.
  • One of the students in the sixth season of Kinpachi-sensei has parents who are too busy to take care of their kids. However the boys older brother is a Jerkass drug user who abuses him and takes money from him. He ends up beating him up and abandoning him. It's played with later on when it's revealed his parents were overworking to try and make their children's lives better than theirs were. They end up reconciling their bond after the older brothers gets put in jail.
  • On The L Word, Shane is forced to take care of her half-brother Shay for part of Season 4 after both his parents abandon him. She grows to care for him deeply, and is devastated when their father Gabriel returns and takes him away. Despite the fact that Shay has minimal lines, he is shown to have drawn a picture of himself and Shane when assigned a drawing of "family" at school.
  • In Melissa & Joey, Mel Burke becomes in charge of her niece and nephew after their parents get in trouble with the law for running a Ponzi scheme.
  • This is Lisbon's backstory in The Mentalist. Her mother died in a drunk-driving accident and her father became an alcoholic who was unfit to care for her and her younger brothers. Might explain why she tends to mother Jane and the team.
  • Marc Vilaseca, original prankster/good guy of Catalonia based series Merli gets promoted to parent his younger brother Pau because their mother works at night. Problems occured.
  • On Mom, Christy finds out that because of her years of substance abuse and continued self-absorption (even in the wake of her sobriety), Violet has assumed the role of mothering Roscoe and does an incredibly good job at it.
  • On NCIS, it's eventually revealed that Agent Lee's parents had died shortly after adopting a young girl, leaving Lee responsible for her new little sister.
  • Happened in Aussie soap Neighbours when a new family (or rather, part of an old family, the Ramseys) were introduced, but before they even got introduced properly, the single mother died in a car accident. With the father missing, oldest child Katie steps up to the plate as year-12 student and bread-winner for her marginally younger brother Harry (who repeatedly undermines her authority, not always deliberately, because he is only a year younger than her) and little sister Sophie (who's about 10 and looks up to both her older siblings—which causes problems if/when they clash).
  • In Only Fools and Horses, Del Boy and Rodney Trotter's mother Joan died when Rodney was a baby and their father Reg left as soon as Del was a teenager, so Del had to raise Rodney himself, with help from Grandad.
  • In On My Block, Cesar was raised by his older brother Oscar because their mother was neglectful, possibly due to drug abuse or a mental illness. When Cesar says he never noticed that she had problems, Oscar replies, "Good - then I did my job."
  • Promotion To Parent is the fundamental premise of Party of Five, in which 24 year-old Charlie is given the responsibility of legal guardianship of his four younger siblings (with ages ranging from 16 to 1 year old), after both parents are killed by a drunk driver.
  • Privileged
    • Part of Megan's back-story is that she became this when her mother left; some of the conflict in the later half of the season stems from her father and sister expecting her to resume this mantle when the mother returns, only to abandon them all over again. She is also usually promoted to parent for the twins whenever Laurel has to leave town for a while.
    • Sage also fits this trope; after the twins' parents died, she took it upon herself to partially fulfill the parental role and sees herself as responsible for both her own and Rose's future security (as revealed in All About The Big Picture after she fires their publicist.)
  • Henry Warnimont invokes this when he adopts Punky Brewster.
  • In Royal Pains, Hank stepped up and raised his little brother, Evan, after their mother died and their father abandoned them.
  • Smallville: This is where Tess's relationship with Alexander (the young clone of her half-brother) was headed before his inner Lex took over. By "Scion", when he's become Conner, she's closer to a regular older sister or aunt to him. (It's interesting to note that while it's this trope in retrospect, at the time she was technically a Parental Substitute since she didn't know that she was Lex's sister.)
  • The premise of both the British and American versions of Shameless is that due to mother Monica being a Missing Mom who weaves in and out of the kids' lives and father Frank being an utterly useless alcoholic, eldest daughter Fiona Gallagher stepped up to the plate and began taking care of her five siblings. The original UK version had the responsibility shift to other siblings in later series.
  • Sherlock: Interestingly, even though Sherlock's parents never died or abandoned them, they never understood their kids that well, so this is literally what happened with Mycroft.
    Mycroft: [pouring tea] I'll be 'Mother' [for non-Brits: the highest ranking Female of the party that serves the tea]
    Sherlock: [dryly] And that is our entire childhood in a nutshell.
  • Luke's older brother in SLiDE after their parents are killed. Not the most pleasant example of the trope as it has turned him into a taciturn and brooding young man with a propensity for taking his anger out on Luke.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Tasha Yar's sister implies that Tasha, five years older, began caring for her after their parents died when they were both young children.
  • The premise of Summerland is that the protagonist, Ava, now has to raise her nephews and niece after the death of their parents. She lives in a beach town with three friends (one of whom is an Amicable Ex), who help her with this task.
  • Supernatural
    • Dean was the one who looked after Sam when they were kids since their dad John was too busy going around trying to find the demon that killed their mother. Hell, Dean was the one who pulled Sam out of the fire that killed Mary, and he even uses the Because I Said So line, like in "Bedtime Stories." Dean arguably replaces their mom even more when the three are reunited, as he regularly acts as peace-keeper between Sam and John. In Season 12, Dean outright states that he had to be a big brother, father, and mother to Sam (John clearly couldn't be any) which was damned unfair to expect of a child.
    • Michael also claims that he was this to his younger brother Lucifer.
  • Super Sentai:
    • Both used and averted in Mahou Sentai Magiranger, in which the oldest of the five Ozu siblings brings home the paychecks and grows vegetables for food, while the middle sibling uses said paychecks to handle the bills and does the cooking/cleaning. Only the youngest sibling is school age, but since all five are superheroes, the whole Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World thing isn't an issue anyway.
    • In Chikyuu Sentai Fiveman, Gaku Hoshikawa acts as a father to his siblings after the loss of their parents. Until it's revealed they're still alive and well.
  • Lauren from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles season 2 episode "Alpine Fields" raises her infant sister Sydney after both her father and mother are killed by a Terminator.
  • Animal sort-of example in Too Cute. The Tonkinese cat Queenie and her eldest daughter Princess raise their litters together, but Queenie gets sick so Princess finds herself with her paws full by taking care of both her half-siblings and her own babies until the matriarch gets better.
  • The Vampire Diaries
    • Elena's aunt Jenna, after her parent's are killed. After Jenna is killed, Elena becomes this towards Jeremy. Although she eventually leaves for college, leaving Jeremy in the custody of her boyfriend, Damon.
    • Elijah and Klaus are this to their younger siblings, Rebekah and Kol, since there parents are dead and horrible.
  • This is the backstory of Joe from Wings; when his and Brian's mother abandoned them as children, his father wasn't really competent to look after them and the job went to Joe. As he rants to his mom later:
    "Who do you think got your job when you left? I was twelve years old; you left me with a sinkful of dirty dishes and two kids to take care of, Brian and Dad."
  • Michael Lee of The Wire: his father is unknown, his step-father is in prison, and his mother is a drug addict, so he has to take on the role of parenting his younger brother Bug. When his step-father returns, there's a power struggle between him and Michael over who is a better father figure for Bug, complicated with the implication of sexual abuse in their shared past.


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