From children who are basically props to 25-year-old high schoolers with wardrobes by Marc Jacobs, there’s a noticeable lack of realistic kid characters on TV these days. But, in the past few seasons, we’ve noticed that the vogue for Gossip Girl-style perfection has begun to give way to an influx of young people who actually seem real (and, um, young). In celebration of this development, we’ve collected 10 of the most distinctive and best-developed characters from the 18-and-under set that are on TV right now. Meet a sweet, precocious tween, a high-school girl struggling with her father’s suicide, and more, after the jump.
Manny Delgado, Modern Family
Let’s face it: Precocious kids can be annoying as hell, both on TV and in real life. But Rico Rodriguez is so charming as Manny, Gloria Pritchett’s son from her first marriage, that we find him both completely believable and totally endearing as an old soul trapped in the body of a tween. What makes Manny so lovable is that he’s multi-dimensional; sure, he’s smart, but he’s also a compassionate listener and a bona fide romantic who, despite his maturity, wants to believe the best about his biological father, no matter how many times Javier lets him down.