Margaret Lyons
January 14, 2011 AT 07:51 PM EST

Image Credit: Everett Collection; Fox; Bob D’Amico/ABCThis week’s Modern Family featured a subplot about middle-child Alex slavishly studying for a test. It’s not the first time we’ve seen Alex go into geek mode, but between her nerdery and this cast breakdown that made the rounds this week that compared Alex to the great Darlene Conner, one thing became clear: Alex is the new torch-bearer in the noble tradition of middle daughters on sitcoms.

Most often, these middle daughters are geeky, nerdy, or somehow socially maladjusted. The most iconic example is of course Jan Brady, but in more contemporary terms, the gold standard is Lisa Simpson, who once sang herself “happy birthday, overlooked middle chiiii-iiild.” There’s Darlene Conner, too, and although she’s more of a comic-book fan than a traditional bookworm nerd, she fits the model of “opposite of older sibling” just right. Stephanie Tanner was the neurotic one, Carol Seaver was the overachiever, and Vanessa Huxtable went off to college a year early. (Fourth of five/practically six still counts as middle.) Laura Winslow on Family Matters, Sarah on Charles in Charge, Mallory Keaton on Family Ties, Heather on Mr. Belvedere, Kyra on Reba, Sue on The Middle, heck, even the dinosaurs on Dinosaurs had a middle daughter. Middle daughters are sitcom gold.

Let us now praise famous middle daughters, PopWatchers. Whom did I forget — and who’s your favorite?

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