There’s something about an orphan that truly inspires and moves average Americans. They want to learn more about the children. They want to follow their lives as if the kid were their own. They cheer and they cry for them.
From the classic portrait of Little Orphan Annie in comics, stage show, and film to the girl in the fairy tale of Cinderella, an orphan child is regarded as the classic underdog in our society. The stories of television orphans give viewers hope as the children are put into new lives to grow into. Here are the top five. . . .
1. Punky Brewster (Punky Brewster)
Soleil Moon Frye portrays Penelope “Punky” Brewster, a feisty scamp with a dog who’s adopted by the grouch of an apartment super by the name of Henry. What makes Punky so adorable is that she is so creative and full of positive energy.
All this in spite being abandoned by her mother at a shopping mall. The contrasting chemistry between the girl and her adoptive father made audiences want more than the short two seasons her show ran in the mid 1980s.
2. Arnold Jackson (Diff’rent Strokes)
When rich Park Avenue tycoon Phillip Drummond adopts two African-American youths from Harlem, the antics just write themselves. Audiences were powerfully drawn to the controversial storylines that propelled this series for eight seasons.
Where Arnold, played by Gary Coleman, connected with audiences was in his innocent outlook on life. That outlook contrasted with the street-tough attitude of his older brother and spawned the memorable catchphrase, “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”
3. Webster Long (Webster)
Taking the same story premise as Diff’rent Strokes, Webster is an orphaned youth from Chicago who’s adopted by retired football star George Papadopoulos and his high-society wife Katherine. The result was six seasons of somewhat predictable shows that focused on Webster’s desires to be accepted into the family and how his adoptive parents accommodated this.
Audiences would root for little Webster, played by Emmanuel Lewis, and loved the antics which made him one of the most adorable orphans on television.
4. Luke Brower (Growing Pains)
By 1991, the show Growing Pains was having a few of its own pains. With all the children of the Seaver household grown up, the show found itself lacking in the “cute kid” department. Enter one Luke Brower.
Luke never officially became part of the Seaver clan; instead, he was a foster child brought in by the patriarch, Doctor Seaver. Audiences didn’t get to learn much about Luke in the final season but who could have predicted that the actor who played Luke, Leonardo DiCaprio, would become such a huge star?
DiCaprio’s impressive acting in Growing Pains had audiences curious about the rising star’s character, but alas, it wasn’t enough to keep the show alive.
5. Claudia Salinger (Party of Five)
When Party of Five aired, the premise was intriguing. Five children are suddenly orphaned and lost in the system, which leaves them to fend for themselves as a family unit. The youngest sibling, Claudia, played by Lacey Chabert, would prove to be a very talented violinist who was also whip smart.
Audiences couldn’t help but feel sorry for Claudia as she struggled with the reality that all her potential would go to waste.