There’s a popular saying that goes, “Blood is thicker than water.” But let’s pause and ponder on that for a moment. On the small screen, we often witness remarkable mentors and guardians who become like second parents to their “kids,” even without any legal or genetic ties. These compassionate individuals take their roles seriously, guiding and supporting younger characters to evolve into their best selves. Without their influence, these “children” would likely stumble in the face of life’s challenges.
Consider the vivacious Fran Fine from The Nanny or the wise Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, for instance. These non-biological parental figures demand our attention as they melt our hearts with their protective instincts. They are the ones who genuinely leave an indelible mark on their “children’s” lives, making a significant impact.
1. Uncle Phil To Will In ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a captivating tale of how Will’s life takes an unexpected turn when he is sent to live with his aunt and uncle in a different part of the country after getting into trouble back in Philadelphia. Initially, Will and Uncle Phil (played by the talented James Avery) clash due to Phil’s strong opinions on how Will should conduct himself. However, it soon becomes evident that Phil’s tough approach stems from his belief in Will’s untapped potential. Phil’s care and concern for Will are beautifully portrayed as he warmly welcomes him into his home, treating him with the same love and discipline he offers his own children.
One of the most memorable moments in their relationship occurs when Will’s estranged father, Lou, reappears in his life only to abandon him once again. Devastated by this heart-wrenching experience, Will turns to his uncle and vulnerably asks, “How come he don’t want me, man?” In response, Uncle Phil remains silent but tightly embraces Will, refusing to let go. This poignant scene is truly heartwarming and has the power to bring tears to anyone’s eyes, making it one of the most emotionally impactful moments in sitcom history.
2. Uncle Iroh To Zuko In ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’
Prince Zuko, played by Dante Basco, starts off as a bad guy in Avatar: The Last Airbender. He’s after Aang, played by Zach Tyler Eisen, with a vengeance, but his reasons are pretty understandable. Zuko got banished by his dad for speaking up, and his only way back in is to capture the Avatar.
Zuko’s uncle, Iroh, played by Mako, is a bit of an oddball but a genuinely good person. At first, Zuko thinks he’s just a clueless old man, but he soon realizes that Iroh is actually full of wisdom and knows how to think strategically. Iroh doesn’t want Zuko to turn into an angry and destructive person like his father, or like Iroh himself was when he led the Fire Nation Army.
With incredible patience and kindness, Iroh helps Zuko find himself and become a person of integrity. He guides Zuko away from a life of selfish ambition and teaches him the importance of doing the right thing. In fact, Iroh plays a crucial role in helping Zuko become a hero who ends the war and restores the Fire Nation’s reputation.
3. Vander To Vi In ‘Arcane’
The 2021 Netflix series Arcane, with its stunning animation, delves into the backstory of characters from the popular game League of Legends. The story revolves around two young orphans, Vi (Hailee Steinfeld) and Powder (Mia Sinclair Jenness), struggling to find their place in the impoverished undercity beneath the opulent utopia of Piltover. While the girls occasionally engage in mischief by attempting to rob the wealthy citizens of Piltover, they are not completely on their own. Vander (JB Blanc), the caring innkeeper, keeps a watchful eye on them.
At first glance, Vander appears to be a kind-hearted figure, a friend to all in the undercity, and a positive role model for mischievous youngsters like Vi. He emphasizes caution and care, having witnessed the disastrous consequences when the less fortunate attempt to challenge the authorities of Piltover. However, Vi soon discovers that Vander is not without his flaws and had made mistakes of his own during his youth as a leader of a rebellion. Despite his imperfections, Vander tries his best to impart the importance of being a responsible leader to Vi before he tragically meets his demise while fighting to save her from Silco’s followers.
4. Fran To The Sheffield Kids In ‘The Nanny’
The Nanny, Fran Drescher, captured the hearts of both fictional children and viewers in the 1990s. When Fran Fine enters the Sheffield home, she quickly realizes that the three children residing there need more than just a nanny; they need a mother figure. This need becomes even more pronounced after the passing of their real mother. With her affectionate and outgoing nature, Fran effortlessly dispels any doubts the children may have about her intentions or her ability to fit into their upscale world. Being a people person, Fran knows how to treat each child individually and provide them with what they need to flourish.
Maxwell Sheffield initially watches Fran’s eccentric behavior around his children with suspicion. However, as he witnesses her going above and beyond, opening her heart and embracing Maggie, Brighton, and Gracie, he too falls for her. Eventually, the two tie the knot, and Fran becomes the legal guardian of the children she played a vital role in raising.
5. Giles To Buffy In ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’
In the beginning of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) moves to Sunnydale with her mom, Joyce (Kristine Sutherland), who recently split up from her dad. While Joyce is caring, Buffy doesn’t really have someone who truly gets her role as a Slayer. But then enters Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head). Their relationship starts off all professional-like, with him being her Watcher and helping her prepare for her vampire slaying duties. But as time goes on, their bond grows deeper and more personal.
Giles is there for Buffy through thick and thin. He helps her gear up for the tough challenges she faces, stands up for her when the Watchers’ Council treats her unfairly, and isn’t afraid to call her out when she messes up or acts out like a sulky teenager. It’s almost like he’s a parent to her. When Buffy’s mom passes away, Giles is a rock for her, guiding her through the unknowns of adulthood and being both a friend and a father figure.
6. Hilda And Zelda To Sabrina In ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’
The ’90s live-action sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch tackles the challenges of being a teenager, especially when you suddenly gain magical powers. Sabrina, portrayed by Melissa Joan Hart, faces the difficulty of not being able to meet her mortal mother or live with her warlock father. However, she finds solace in her 600-year-old witch aunts, Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick), who provide her with a loving home.
Hilda and Zelda take on the role of mentors for Sabrina, guiding her through her newfound magic abilities and offering advice on navigating the ups and downs of teenage life. While they encourage Sabrina to use her powers responsibly, they are always there for her whenever she needs support. Each aunt brings a unique perspective to the table – Zelda emphasizes the importance of academic studies, while Hilda ensures that Sabrina never loses sight of having fun.
Adding to the mix is their pet Salem, a talking cat with a voice provided by Nick Bakay. Salem serves as yet another source of guidance for Sabrina, albeit with a healthy dose of sarcasm. Together, this quirky family provides Sabrina with a well-rounded support system as she learns to navigate the challenges of adolescence with magic in tow.
7. Uncle Joey And Jesse To The Tanners In ‘Full House’
Full House is a true full house, with Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) showering his daughters Stephanie, Michelle, and D.J. with a lot of love. Despite the loss of their mother, the girls find themselves with not one, but three father figures. Joining the family are their uncle Jesse (John Stamos) and his best friend, practically an uncle, Joey (Dave Coulier). This ensures that they never lack for affection or kind words in their home.
However, Jesse and Joey have a completely different approach to “parenting” compared to Danny. Joey, the fun-loving “uncle,” loves to bring humor into the mix, while Jesse is the cool guy who gives unconventional advice. But surprisingly, this unique dynamic works, providing the Tanner girls with a warm and well-rounded upbringing courtesy of this trio of parents.
8. Hopper To Eleven In ‘Stranger Things’
In Stranger Things, Jim Hopper, played by David Harbour, is not only a good man but also a commendable cop. Unexpectedly, he finds himself thrust into the role of a father due to his involvement in uncovering a conspiracy in Hawkins. After rescuing a young girl with telekinetic abilities, known as “Eleven” and portrayed by Millie Bobby Brown, Hopper brings her home to ensure her safety. As Eleven gradually lets her guard down, having endured mistreatment during experiments, she starts to appreciate Hopper’s warmth. However, she still feels frustrated by being confined for her own protection.
Through Hopper’s love and care, along with the support of Eleven’s friends, she experiences a level of comfort and happiness that she has never known before. Hopper’s role transforms from an impromptu guardian to a legal guardian when he officially adopts Eleven as his daughter. The loss of Hopper, presumed dead in the Starcourt Mall explosion, leaves Eleven devastated. Nonetheless, their reunion in Hawkins is an incredibly emotional moment.
9. Joel To Ellie In ‘The Last of Us’
In HBO’s 2023 adaptation of The Last of Us, the relationship between Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) doesn’t start off on the strongest foot. Joel is still haunted by the pain of losing his own daughter, and in a world where infected creatures roam around, forming attachments could be risky. However, as Joel accompanies Ellie on their journey across the country, his tough exterior gradually softens due to Ellie’s terrible dad jokes and youthful energy.
As they spend more time together, Joel and Ellie develop an unbreakable bond. Despite being in the midst of an apocalypse, Joel goes to great lengths to keep Ellie safe. There are moments when he even encourages her to continue without him, fearing that he might not make it. His courage shines through as he protects Ellie from those who seek to harm her, hoping to exploit her natural immunity to create a cure for the infection. It is evident that Joel’s love for Ellie goes beyond blood relations.
10. Johnny To Miguel In ‘Cobra Kai’
Cobra Kai picks up where The Karate Kid left off, showcasing a captivating array of martial-arts-based relationships. Miguel Diaz, played by Xolo Maridueña, bears similarities to the movie’s protagonist, Daniel LaRusso, when he first encounters Johnny Lawrence, portrayed by William Zabka. Faced with relentless bullying, Miguel finds solace as Johnny takes him under his wing and transforms him into Cobra Kai’s prized fighter, ultimately guiding him to victory in the esteemed All-Valley Karate Tournament.
Throughout their journey, Johnny forms a deep bond with Miguel, who idolizes his sensei and reignites Johnny’s sense of purpose. The inseparable duo shares a father-son-like relationship, which unfortunately creates tension with Johnny’s biological son, Robby, portrayed by Tanner Buchanan. When Miguel ends up paralyzed after a fight with Robby, Johnny wholeheartedly supports and motivates him to regain his mobility. As their connection strengthens even further, it comes as no surprise that Johnny embarks on a romantic relationship with Miguel’s mother, Carmen, played by Vanessa Rubio.
11. Luke To Rory In ‘Gilmore Girls’
Gilmore Girls kicks off with Lorelai taking care of her daughter Rory all on her own. However, Rory has a significant male figure in her life despite lacking a blood relation. Right from the start, it’s evident that Luke plays a positive role in Rory’s life. As Lorelai and Rory frequent Luke’s Diner for their meals, he happily feeds them, sometimes even offering free meals, and imparts occasional words of wisdom.
Although it takes several seasons for Luke and Lorelai to embark on a romantic relationship, from the beginning, Luke willingly steps up for Rory. Whether it’s offering casual encouragement, showing up with his pickup truck to help her move into her college dorm, or simply ensuring her coffee cup is always filled, Luke is consistently there for her in meaningful ways. He surpasses her biological father’s presence in her life and unquestioningly supports Rory during important milestones such as birthdays and graduations. Therefore, it feels entirely natural when he eventually marries Lorelai and becomes Rory’s stepfather years later.