Babes in TV Land: Kiddie character names

November 1, 2010 Linda Rosenkrantz

Guest blogger Abby Sandel, whose blog appellation mountain is a top nameberry fave, takes a look at the names TV characters have given their offspring–and which of them have had a lasting influence.

 From Peyton Place’s Allison to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Xander, plenty of television characters’ names catch on after expectant parents tune in. 

Some of those characters eventually have fictional children of their own.  Mad Men couple Pete and Trudy just welcomed daughter Tammy90210’s Jen has a brand new son called Jacques.  In honor of the two new arrivals, here’s a look back at some notable small screen births.

Everyone was watching I Love Lucy when Ricky and Lucy welcomed Enrique Jr. – LilRicky – in 1953.  The show was a sensation, but Richard was already a Top Ten mainstay, and even Ricky was in the Top 100 before the baby’s arrival.

The first influential television baby probably came from 1964’s Bewitched, a sitcom with a supernatural twist.  Bewitching wife Samantha’s name caught on, as did daughter Tabitha, who arrived in the show’s second season.

There’s more than one way to add a child.  The Brady Bunch’s six kids became seven when Cousin Oliver came to stay during the show’s final season.  While his name is the height of fashion today, it didn’t catch on until decades later.  The character did lend his name to Cousin Oliver Syndrome – the phenomenon of adding a younger child to revive a fading show. 

 It happened often in the 1980s and 90s:

  •  Family Ties siblings Mallory, Alex, and Jennifer were joined by Andrew in 1984.
  • Too Close for Comfort mom Muriel also had a late-in-life son, also named Andrew.  The name was already popular in the 80s.
  • Growing Pains added a fourth Seaver sibling.  Chrissy joined Mike, Carol, and Ben in 1988.
  • A baby in a bar?  Not exactly, but Cheers’ Frasier and Lilith Crane welcomed son Frederick in 1988.
  • The Cosby Show influence extends to baby names.  Cliff and Clair Huxtable’s granddaughter Olivia came to stay in 1989, and helped propel Olivia into the Top 100 a year later.
  • Full House launched the careers of MaryKate and Ashley Olson.  The series also included twins Nicholas and Alexander, born in 1991, when both names were on the rise.
  • Murphy Brown welcomed a son named Avery in 1992, named after Murphy’s mom Avery.  The name caught on for both genders, though it is wildly popular for girls right now.
  • Even Roseanne caught Cousin Oliver Syndrome, though the 1995 arrival of Jerry Garcia Conner did not influence trends.
  • The Nanny ends in 1999 with the birth of twins Jonah and Eve.
  • The same year, Mad About You’s Mabel seemed an outlandish choice, even for a pair of stylish New Yorkers.  Mabel remains uncommon, but the whole category of grandma chic names is quite fashionable.

 More recent small screen small fry include:

 Newcomers Tammy and Jacques seem unlikely to catch on, but another current  favorite could give us one more to add to the list of names propelled into wider use by a fictional baby:  The Office’s Cecelia, daughter of Jim and Pam, though spelling Cecilia is more familiar.

 What’s next from the small screen?  The only way to know for certain is to keep watching.  With a baby on the way for 30 Rock’s Jack and Avery, there’s always a reason to tune in.

ABBY SANDEL, creator of the terrific website Appellation Mountain, lives in Washigton DC and is the mother of two young children.


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