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The 13 Best Cousins in TV History

From Richie on The Bear to Cousin Greg to George Michael and Maeby, we're giving it up for the folks who are like siblings, only… not.
  • Nicholas Braun, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Richa Shukla, Robbie Rist (photos: Everett Collection, HBO, FX, Netflix)
    Nicholas Braun, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Richa Shukla, Robbie Rist (photos: Everett Collection, HBO, FX, Netflix)

    TV cousins have had some big moments in 2023 so far, whether in the halls of power at Waystar Royco or developing their front-of-house skills in Chicago. But cousins have always had their place on TV, dating back to at least the '60s, when Patty Duke played identical cousins on her eponymous TV show.

    The cousin has been an incredibly versatile role player in sitcoms — the normal one in a weirdo family (Marilyn on The Munsters) or the especially weird one in a weirdo family (Cousin Itt on The Addams Family). They've been the injection of youthful energy on an aging series, like Cousin Pam on The Cosby Show. Every now and then, the cousin is dynamic enough to get their own showcase on series as diverse as Maude, where Bea Arthur spun off from her All in the Family role as Edith's cousin, or Supergirl, where Kara Danvers saves the world independent of her more notable cousin, Superman.

    The following 13 characters have found a way to distinguish themselves as especially notable cousins. What's important is that their cousin-ness is primary to either their character or, if in a pair, their relationship to one another. They have to excel in the field of cousin-ness. Their vibe has to be "part of the family… once removed." And on this National Cousins Day, we're giving them their due.

    Richie Jerimovich on The Bear

    If you're not paying incredibly close attention, it takes a while into The Bear's first season before you figure out that Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) isn't a blood-relative cousin to Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) and Natalie (Abby Elliott). But "Cousin" is more than just a nickname that Richie and Carmy shout at each other over the clanging pots and sparks of faulty wiring at the Original Beef. "Cousin" is what Richie aspires to be to the Berzatto family. After all, if you're family, you can scream and fight and say hurtful (if sometimes truthful) things and screw up, and at the end of the day you're still Cousin Richie.

    Season 2's flashback episode offers a window into Richie's place inside the Berzatto family; he's got a place at the table, but he still needs to prove himself. Over the course of two seasons, it gets easier to root for Ritchie, his rougher edges feeling more like what you have to put up with to get to the good guy underneath. Just like you do with family. — Joe Reid

    Cousin Greg on Succession

    Across Succession's four seasons, Greg Hirsch's (Nicholas Braun) cousin-ness proved to be both a blessing and a curse. It was Greg's lineage that got him in the door in the series premiere: Even after disgracing himself at a Waystar Royco theme park, he felt comfortable enough attending the 80th birthday party of his great-uncle, Logan Roy (Brian Cox).

    Still, the fact that he's family by way of Logan's estranged brother Ewan (James Cromwell), rather than via the media titan himself, prevented Greg from penetrating the Roys' inner circle, no matter his allegiance in Logan's Season 4 feud with his children or how far he went to ingratiate himself to Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), the Nero to Greg's Sporus. Cousin Greg may be a Roy by blood, but he was, and always will be, an outsider in a family that values proximity to power above all else. — Claire Spellberg Lustig

    Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch

    No cousin has had a bigger impact on the history of television than the bespectacled, bowl-cut little tyke on The Brady Bunch. Cousin Oliver was played by child actor Robbie Rist, who wasn't quite 10 years old and had no idea he'd be changing television forever. Oliver was brought into the Brady household after the youngest of the six step-siblings were junior-high age or older. The idea was that the show needed to replenish the cute-little-kid energy it once had with Cindy and Bobby.

    Oliver arrived in time for just the final six episodes of the show's final season, but the "Cousin Oliver Effect" would go on to describe any sitcom that added a younger character late in its run to spruce things up. But Oliver was also blamed for the demise of The Brady Bunch itself, even though it's hard to imagine that the writing wouldn't have already been on the wall before the final six episodes aired. That's a lot to put on a nine-year-old kid whose only job was to look cute and distract the audience from Jan and Peter going through their awkward teen years. — Joe Reid

    George Michael Bluth and Maeby Fünke on Arrested Development

    The will-they/won’t-they isn’t something typically experienced by cousins, but George Michael (Michael Cera) and Maeby (Alia Shawkat) managed to kind of make it work. Nothing ever really crossed the line, and their attempts to test that boundary always ended up being more endearingly and hilariously awkward than fully scrub-your-eyeballs mortifying. For one, they may or may not be related by blood — at the very least George Michael tried his damndest to prove the latter to be true.

    But even more than being “dangerous cousins,” this pair managed to find comfort in each other while dealing with the rest of their out-of-touch family. And as they got older, it became more important for them to have a “normal” ally among their increasingly ignorant family (but not family by blood, if George Michael had anything to say about it). — Brianna Wellen

    Larry Appleton and Balki Bartokomous on Perfect Strangers

    TV has always loved an odd couple, dating back even farther than the actual show called The Odd Couple. Perfect Strangers matched the strait-laced Larry (Mark Linn Baker) with his distant cousin Balki (Bronson Pinchot), who emigrated to the States from the tiny Mediterranean island of Meepos, which was full of sheep and not much outside culture. So in addition to an odd-couple show, Perfect Strangers was also a fish-out-of-water show.

    Balki made life difficult for his Cousin Larry, his unsophisticated outlook on life getting them into sitcommy scrapes. But of course, Balki was also untainted by modern cynicism, which made him lovable and often correct, a familiar morality for '80s TV. Larry and Balki were nothing alike, but that was the whole point; TV had come a long way from Patty Duke's identical cousins. — Joe Reid

    James Maguire on Derry Girls

    James (Dylan Llewellyn) might be Michelle’s (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) cousin, but his familial tie hardly granted him a secure spot within the tight-knit Derry Girls clan. Originally from London, James was the biggest outsider in Derry, a city embroiled in the final years of The Troubles during the ’90s. While James attended Our Lady Immaculate College to avoid bullying from the boys school, spending time with his cousin’s friends didn’t prove to be any better. The wee English lad was the constant target of the girls’ beratement, his heritage providing ample ammunition as they complained about his “oppressive breathing.”

    Still, despite the relentless taunts, the group wouldn’t have been complete without him. Whether it was ditching his “Creep Convention” to accompany Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson) to prom, or dressing up as Posh Spice to help Michelle fulfill her dream of being on TV, James proved himself as the best (and only) English friend the gals could ever need. — Dianna Shen

    Kamala Nandiwadal on Never Have I Ever

    Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) didn't exactly welcome Kamala (Richa Moorjani) into her home with open arms in Never Have I Ever Season 1, but as the show progressed, Kamala became the ideal role model for her high school-aged cousin. While Devi was off juggling her many boyfriends, Kamala's storylines carried real weight as she attempted to square her traditional upbringing with Western values and dealt with sexism in the workplace.

    It often took multiple episodes, but Kamala's level-headedness inspired Devi to keep her cool in the stressful situations she faced at school and home, just as Devi's self-centeredness pushed Kamala to stand up for herself and pursue her own dreams. And while Moorjani's character was frustratingly underserved by the final season of the Netflix comedy, co-creators Mindy Kaling and Justin Lang were kind enough to gift fans one last moment of cousinly love, as Kamala helped Devi get her happily ever after with longtime crush Ben (Jaren Lewison). — Claire Spellberg Lustig

    Sonia on Los Espookys

    Renaldo’s (Bernardo Velasco) sharp-tongued and aggressively confident cousin Sonia (River L. Ramirez) was always on the hunt for her next victim, be it Renaldo, her father (Fred Armisen), or legendary actress Isabella Rossellini. Sonia was overly dramatic, always involved in some money-making scheme, and knew how to go viral online. These were all skills that could have helped out her cousin’s Los Espookys business, but she didn’t care because she was only looking out for number one — she is a Scorpio, after all.

    That didn’t mean that Sonia didn’t ultimately have Renaldo’s best interests at heart. When he finally stood up for himself, kicking her out of his own bed in the series finale, she gave him a brief moment of respect that in turn made him a better version of himself. She then stabbed his mattress with a knife thinking it was a waterbed before sweetly saying goodnight. Classic Scorpio. — Brianna Wellen

    Kathy Wakile on The Real Housewives of New Jersey

    The Real Housewives franchise has gotten a lot of mileage out of family strife. Whether it's the Richards sisters in Beverly Hills or the strained Mormon relationship of Heather and Whitney in Salt Lake City, family complicates things. No Housewives branch has seen more evidence of that than The Real Housewives of New Jersey. The show debuted with sisters Caroline and Dina alongside their sister-in-law Jacqueline; and the first major cast additions rocked Teresa Giudice's family to the core.

    The strife between Teresa and sister-in-law Melissa is still being felt today, but don't sleep on cousin Kathy Wakile, who joined the show as backup to Melissa, despite Teresa treating her like a distant relation she met once at a reunion. Kathy had the dish on Teresa from when they were kids and could see through her cousin's bullsh*t. Nothing was more fun than when Teresa published a cookbook, and Kathy would routinely show up to family events with better lasagna than her cousin. Melissa threatened Teresa's standing, but Kathy really got under Teresa's skin. — Joe Reid

    Jessa Johansson and Shoshanna Shapiro on Girls

    Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) couldn’t be more different. Jessa was effortlessly cool and went with the flow — sometimes maybe a little too much. Shosh, on the other hand, tried her hardest to fit in despite her naivety, bringing unwarranted enthusiasm to nearly every encounter. But together they made the perfect odd couple, especially as roommates. Jessa inspired Shoshanna to be more adventurous and sexual, and was her bridge to the other titular girls in the series.

    Shoshanna kept an eye on Jessa’s more dangerous behaviors, supporting her during her recovery from drug addiction and heartache the best she could. They made each other just a little bit cooler and a little bit kinder, balancing their own narcissistic tendencies. Even Shoshanna’s epic “Beach House” verbal lashing couldn’t put a wedge between them — they’ll always be family. —Brianna Wellen

    TOPICS: The Bear, Arrested Development, Derry Girls, Girls, Los Espookys, Never Have I Ever, Perfect Strangers, Succession, Bronson Pinchot , Dylan Llewellyn, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Jemima Kirke, Mark Linn-Baker, Nicholas Braun, Richa Moorjani, Richa Shukla, Zosia Mamet