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Thicker Than Water / Live-Action TV

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  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Wet Saturday"
    Alfred Hitchcock: I presume that story was intended to illustrate that blood is thicker than water. I always find it heartwarming to see a family standing shoulder to shoulder in the face of adversity. Unfortunately, the authorities were not thrilled by this sight, and were seen tossing about such phrases as, "obstructing justice," "accessory after the fact," "murder in the first degree."
  • Game of Thrones:
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    • The Tyrells mostly stick together despite their ambition. Olenna does deride Mace regularly and is dismissive of Loras's intelligence ("[Knocking men off horses with a stick] does not make him wise"), but she and Margaery are also among the most accepting of Loras's sexuality.
    • Lord Rickard Karstark uses his final words to invoke an ancient taboo against kin-slaying, but it doesn't deter his executioner.
    • Cersei spoiled her first son Joffrey from day one, but was horrified when he became increasingly psychopathic and insane, starting to indulge in regular cruelties and atrocities. She later acknowledges to Margaery that even at his most evil she still loves Joffrey out of some sense of maternal care and she loses it completely when he dies in her arms.
    • As the man himself says, literally the only reason that Tywin Lannister hasn't killed his son Tyrion at birth is because "I cannot prove that you are not mine". This is a very twisted example because while Tyrion's whoremongering and drinking might reflect badly on their reputation, Tywin also blames Tyrion for things he can't possibly be held responsible for (such as causing his wife's Death by Childbirth and being born a dwarf) and blatantly favors his brother Jaime.
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    • Usually averted, but then zig-zagged with House Greyjoy. Among the Ironborn in general, they constantly fight civil wars against their own brothers to seize power...yet will also fight civil wars to avenge their own brother's death at the hands of someone else. In the older generation, there isn't much familial honor: Balon sees his own son Theon as a failure that was lost to the Starks anyway, while Balon's brother Euron is a psychopath who would gleefully kill any of his other family members. Balon is sort of proud of Yara, whom he raised as a surrogate son, but even she says that she "survived" her father and didn't exactly have a warm relationship with him (albeit Balon never disinherited her, the way he basically did to Theon). Balon's other brother Aeron is a priest and he doesn't like to pick political sides. A major part of Theon's storyarc which comes to a head in Season 2 is picking between Balon as his biological father, and staying loyal to his adoptive brother Robb Stark to avenge the death of his adopted father Ned. Theon picks Balon (blood thicker than water) — but then fails miserably, breaks down sobbing that he was given a choice and he chose wrong, and Ned was his real father. On the other hand, it turns out that Yara has a Big Sister Instinct for Theon, and he reciprocates this loyalty (she cares about him more than Balon ever did); in Season 6 they reunite and form a Brother-Sister Team, with Theon even voluntarily setting aside any claim to rule ahead of her and saying all he wants is to help her rule over the Iron Islands.
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  • Knight Rider
    Michael Knight: Kitt, she's Charlie's daughter. Blood's thicker than water.
  • Star Trek
    Ferengi Rule of Acquisition 171.: Blood is thicker than water, and Latinum is thicker than both. — an example of using another substance, also an inversion.
  • Star Trek: Voyager
    Captain Kathryn Janeway: There's an old saying: "Blood is thicker than water". It means that the ties of family run deeper than any other kind of relationship. We'll often do things for members of our family we'd never dream of doing for anyone else.
  • Blood Over Water interprets this a little differently: Are you more loyal to the friends that treat you like family, or to the water bottling company that will pay you hundreds of thousands of dollars to shoot them dead so they don't rat the company out? Also, that blood is shed over water.
  • The Waltons
    Narrator: [narration as John 'John Boy' Walton, Jr. reading from his journal] In those grey and grinding days of the Depression we often found comfort in the old familiar proverbs. We knew that in unity there was strength, that blood was thicker than water, that to err was human, and to forgive, divine. Usually we never examined these truths too closely, but in the autumn of 1934 I discovered, through pain and remorse, just how profoundly true they were.
  • The Wire: Avon Barksdale will do anything for kin. Stringer Bell... Not so much.
    Stringer Bell: "But there go a life that had to be snatched, Avon (...) Twenty years above his fucking head. He'd flip, man! They got you, me, and Brianna! No fucking way, man! Hell, no! Now, I know you family, you loved that nigga, but you wanna talk that 'Blood is thicker than water' bullshit, you take that shit somewhere else, nigga! That motherfucker would've taken down the whole fucking show, starting with you, killer!"
  • Comes up frequently in The Sopranos, during Tony's confrontations with his mother, uncle, and nephew at various points. A particularly notable story arc finds him agonising over giving up his cousin Tony Blundetto (guest star Steve Buscemi) to be killed by fellow crime boss Johnny Sack. Blundetto has provoked this by killing one of Sack's men, but Tony (S) knows his cousin would have a drawn out, torturous death. In the end he compromises by shooting Blundetto himself, quickly and painlessly.
  • Firefly: Picking on either Tam sibling when the other is around is not good for one's health. "Not madness… something far more dangerous."
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the episode "Planet of Fire", Turlough is immediately interested in Malkon, and when Malkon is injured, Turlough's ready to kill. The Doctor says it would do no good, whereupon Turlough reveals that they are brothers. And this when they were parted so young that Malkon has no memories of Turlough. Later, Turlough, on seeing the healing gases from the volcano, carries his brother into them when everyone else is afraid of being burned.
    • In "The Mutants", Varan choses his own son for the assassin, which he cites as proof of his absolute reliability.
    • In "The Face of Evil", Leela's father takes the test for her.
    • In "The King's Demons", Ranulf's cousin does something because Ranulf had asked for it.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: Boss Hogg's Catchphrase to his local relatives was that "Blood is thicker than water, but money is thicker than blood."
    • His nephew Hughie gives it an Ironic Echo in "The Return of Hughie Hogg", in which Boss Hogg signs over all his possessions to Hughie (as a tax dodge or something) and Hughie then refuses to give them back.
  • On Dallas, whenever a group of non-Ewings was ready to give JR what he had coming, Bobby would usually stand up to them and talk them down, despite the fact that JR messed with Bobby's personal and professional life more than everyone else combined.
    • The trailers for the new series also have this gem from (who else?) JR: "Blood may be thicker than water, but oil is thicker than both."
  • Angel: Subverted with Angel and Connor. Later played straight in the Season Four finale when Angel agrees to mind wipe his team (and, in fact, the world) in exchange for saving Connor's life. Wesley is rightly steamed when he uncovers this. And like it or not, Darla is the closest thing to family Angel has. Even his team comes second.
  • On Buffy, Tara has this attempted on her by her family. It fails spectacularly, even before it's proven they lied about her being part demon.
  • On soaps, it's common for characters to quickly bond with their newly discovered family and completely forget about the non-blood relatives they grew up with.
  • Sanford and Son: Lamont is very patient with Fred's plots and schemes due to the father son relationship. During Season 3, Redd Foxx goes on strike and its written that Fred is visiting relatives in St. Louis. Grady goes to watch the house for Fred. Lamont doesn't extend his tolerance to Grady and is much more openly angered by Grady's plots than he is with Fred's.
  • Really the entire premise of Supernatural, especially the main characters. However, as the seasons progress, their Undying Loyalty is taken to the point of unhealthy codependency. Toyed with in places, as one of the defining lines of the series is "Family don't end with blood, boy," showing that it's your family, not your blood relations that are most important. Sam and Dean have their spats but love each other nevertheless, and Bobby shares no blood with them but loves them as if they were his own kids, even referring to them as his sons to a memory of his abusive father. For example, the season two episode "Tall Tales" has the two sniping at each other all episode Like an Old Married Couple. But at the end of the episode, we get this:
    Sam: Look, Dean, um, I just wanna say that I'm, uh... um...
    Dean: Hey. Me too.
  • Subverted in The West Wing. The senior staff are not related, but are so tight-knit that when it comes to defending one of their own, even at political cost, they explicitly invoke this trope by comparing their friendships to flesh-and-blood family ties in order to explain why throwing a co-worker under the bus is not an option. (Bartlet has actually point-blank declared that the senior staff are part of his family, and shall be treated as such).
  • In Merlin, the reason for Arthur's trust in his Obviously Evil Uncle Agravaine is handwaved by the show with this excuse; that he is Arthur's mother's brother, and therefore trustworthy.
  • In season three of Justified, Detroit mob boss Theo Tonin raised Robert Quarles as an adopted son. However, when Quarles pointed a gun at Theo's biological son Sammy, Theo did not hesitate to put a bounty on Quarles' head and send mooks to kill him.
    • This is subverted in the relationship between Raylan Givens and his father Arlo. Arlo is a career criminal and was an abusing husband and father. Raylan despises Arlo but in the first season he still helps Arlo out of a bad situation. We are let to believe that the two of them will enact this trope, helping each other because they are family. However, Arlo then sells out Raylan to cartel hitmen and Raylan decides that he will never do his father any favors again and instead commits himself to sending Arlo to jail. The relationship never recovers from that.
    • Averted with the Crowders. While they do believe in the importance of family, it does not stop them from betraying family members.
  • Days of Our Lives is fond of this one. In addition to all the myriad ways characters are related due to marriage and divorce and remarriage and all the half-/step-siblings running around and the ways in which they use those ties to take advantage of one another, it's often a good test of paternity: when a man is unable to comfort the infant he's raised from birth, but another, seemingly random man is able to stop the baby from crying in an instant, you can bet dollars to donuts the second man is secretly the biological father. It's as if being blood relatives gives you magic powers over fussy children.
  • Although the titular character's family in Malcolm in the Middle are dysfunctional, obnoxious, fight constantly, and make each other miserable, it is by far the most important thing in their lives, which is a recurring theme of the series. Despite their dysfunctionality, the characters can always count on one member of their family or another to pick up the pieces of their failures. In the finale, it is revealed that they have all been scheming to make sure Malcolm fulfills his potential and becomes successful for years, because they know he is the only one of them who has the capacity to do great things. Malcolm in turn, dedicates his valedictorian speech to them and dedicates his life to making them proud, even though his mother brutally screwed him over in order to force him to go to Harvard and aim to change the world rather than waste his genius on a high-paying corporate job.
    • Subverted in the story Dewey tells his brother Jamie. In the story, Dewey and Jamie decide to defeat their evil parents and free their brother Francis from their clutches. At the end of the story, Dewey abandons Jamie and leaves him to be captured. The story ends with Dewey's moral: everyone in this family would turn on you at the drop of a hat.
  • The family from Married... with Children fight and crap on each other all the time. But God help the outsiders who come after, mess with, or screw over one of them, for they shall invite the full white-trash wrath of the Bundys upon them.
  • In Battlestar Galactica (2003), John's mother is extremely disappointed in her Cylon son and how many terrible things he has done out of pettiness and rage at his parents for giving him a human body. She calls her petulant son out on his jealousy and sadism, but despite all of John's crimes like fratricide, genocide, and even raping her, says that he isn't broken and could still be redeemed if he accepted what he was. She states she still loves him because she made him.
  • This trope probably appears in any Disney Channel sitcom where a character has a sibling. Taken Up to Eleven in Wizards of Waverly Place, to the point of a Relationship Writing Fumble with siblings Justin and Alex. Consequently, they are the shows Fan-Preferred Couple.
  • In the TV adaptation of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Caroline Shepphard found her brother's journal confessing the crime, along with a gun which he initially planned to use to murder Roger Ackroyd. When Dr Shepphard was left in the police interrogation, she came along with both items to help the killer escape.
  • Schitt's Creek:
    • Johnny Rose is shown putting up with a tremendous amount of spoiled, obnoxious behavior from his two adult children, David and Alexis. Prior to losing his wealth, Johnny pretty much indulged their every stupid whim, including bankrolling David's pretentious gallery and Alexis's god-awful album. David and Alexis mature over the course of the series, making Johnny's devotion less ridiculous and more touching.
    • Siblings David and Alexis bicker constantly, but they are shown to be willing to stick up for each other and protect each other.
    • David goes out of his way, and will even humiliate himself, to protect his mother Moira.
    • Alexis has more than one opportunity to leave the town, but she ultimately won't leave her family.


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