My 6 Favorite TV Character Parent-Child Relationships – Part I

Castle, Hawaii Five-0, Psych, Burn Notice, Once Upon A Time, Big Bang Theory

Most prime time TV shows, particularly dramas, focus on the relationships between adult characters – for example romantically, or as colleagues or friends. It is much more common to see child focused relationships in comedy shows. Despite that, I was able to come up with a fairly long list of parent-child relationships in a combination of dramas and comedies shows.

While making my list, I did not limit it to children under 18, since there are some great parent-child relationships that involve adults and their parents. I did limit it to blood relatives, however. And, this article is just focusing on shows currently airing new episodes, whether in hiatus or not. Next week I plan to do a second part to this article where I name my favorite parent-child relationships from shows no longer showing new episodes – a mini blast from the past.

Why six? My list of parent-child relationships was longer, but ultimately I decided that to limit it to my top 6 would force me to really be selective and would make it easier to detail what I treasure in these relationships.

Castle – Rick and Alexis

Rick and Alexis - Castle

Have you ever noticed that the more immature the adult character, the more mature their child seems to be? This sweeping generalization is very true in Castle. While Rick has his serious moments, and as the series has progressed they have become more frequent, he is still basically a little boy. This is not saying I think that is a bad thing! I adore his enthusiasm, and his ability to always look for the improbable and the weird.

Contrast him, though, with his daughter Alexis. She is your archetypal high achieving good girl and mature teen! She excels in school, is wise beyond her years, and is the perfect counterpoint to her father’s boyish outlook. I truly enjoy their interactions and discussions, as well as the fun things they like to do to spend time together.

Danny and Grace – Hawaii Five-0

Chin Ho, Steve, Kamekona, Kono, Grace, Danny - Hawaii Five-0

Of all the single-parent parent-child relationships on TV, I think Danny and Grace are my favorite. There is such a stark contrast between Danny, the cop; tough as nails, going badass on a perpetrator, and Danny the devoted dad; who moved all the way to Hawaii from New Jersey just to be closer to his girl.

What I especially like is the way he interacts with her. The tenderness of all their scenes together is very touching and heartwarming. Their scenes together are full of “Awww…” moments and add an authenticity and lighter tone to an otherwise heavy drama.

Michael and Madeline – Burn Notice

Michael and Madeline - Burn Notice

Michael and Madeline have a very interesting family dynamic. In true parent-child fashion, she frequently annoys him, and yet he is very devoted to her. She too is very devoted to him. The fact that they are both adults does not seem to matter. She is very good at laying a guilt trip on him and despite his street smarts and skills as a spy; he can’t always seem to get past her domination.

They also have the shared secret of the abuse they endured at the hand of Michael’s dad. While the viewing audience has heard veiled references, and seen some of the post traumatic syndrome like effects on Madeline, we still do not know the full extent of the abuse. What is clear is that Michael’s estrangement from his family was caused by his early experiences in a dysfunctional family.

Shawn and Henry – Psych

Henry and Shawn - Psych

In another antagonistic relationship, Henry and Shawn make an interesting pair. Henry is responsible for the skills that Shawn uses in his work as a psychic detective, but at the same time, Henry is also responsible for the two of them being slightly estranged. Their estrangement has lessened a bit over the run of the series, and Henry clearly loves and worries about Shawn, but there are still moments when the two of them lock horns.

It was an interesting twist when the police department brought Henry on as a consultant, effectively putting him in charge of Shawn and Gus. Because of this their relationship has evolved and I think they have grown in their understanding of each other.

Howard and Mrs. Wolowitz – The Big Bang Theory

Howard and Bernadette - The Big Bang Theory

Although we never see her, Ms. Wolowitz is the perfect example of the stereotypical domineering mother who babies her grown son. She does his laundry, cooks his meals, and generally enables him in all aspects of his life. The fact he is still living at home and sees nothing wrong with all the things she does for him, speaks to the strength of this stereotype.

In addition, Howard’s relationship with his mother is shading his interactions with his future wife, Bernadette. He expects that she will do all the things for him that his mother is now doing. While this leads to many comedic moments, I do have to wonder how much she will put up with, being an intelligent, career minded woman.

Henry and Emma – Once Upon A Time

Henry and Emma - Once Upon a Time

An example of the precocious children we typically see on TV, Henry was the catalyst for all that is now happening in Storybrooke. His search for his real mom, Emma, and her interest in staying in Storybrooke out of curiosity should lead to the undoing of the evil queen’s plans.

Of course, Emma is totally inexperienced in how to be a mom, so their relationship is different than many others on TV. She is slowly learning about Henry and how to be a mom and her love for him is growing. It is interesting to watch their relationship change as the show progresses and more is revealed each week about the mysteries surrounding Storybrooke and its inhabitants – as well as the part Emma has to play!


Those are my top 6 TV character parent-child relationships. Do you have others that you would like to add to my list or comments on the ones I chose? Please let me know your opinions in the comments below.