100 Memorable TV Characters…The Top 25

Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your home.  –  David Frost

I am easily distracted and have a short attention span. In years past I could easily finish a 500 page book within a week, and not that long ago I would have completed a fun & frivolous project like this in 3 or 4 days, but the older I get the less I seem to be able to focus and the more time it takes me to complete a task. Perhaps I’m just bored with life in general. I don’t know. Anyway, y’all didn’t stop by for me to lay on the couch and have you analyze my neuroses. If you need to get caught up with how we arrived at this point please click here. Today we reach the summit and discuss the Top 25 most memorable television characters of all time (in my humble opinion). I don’t think there are too many surprises in store, but I could be wrong. I still believe that there are writers out there creating great characters in all forms of entertainment, but sadly I think nowadays those writers and thus their characters frequently embrace a gloomier, more solemn & complex vibe. There’s nothing wrong with complexity, but for pete’s sake most of us are just trying to relax, laugh a little, and escape from the tedium of the daily grind, not join a crusade about serious worldly issues. Hollywood has become far too enamored with promoting various agendas and has forgotten how to chill out & have fun. That’s my viewpoint anyway. Your mileage may vary and that’s alright. For now though let’s recognize & give kudos to times when those left coasters got it right. Enjoy.

25     Alex P. Keaton (Family Ties)

Okay okay okay…I suppose Family Ties did have a quasi-political premise. It was the 80’s and Ronald Reagan had cast his spell on a huge portion of the country, which didn’t sit well with aging 60’s radicals. And so we got a sitcom about middle-aged former hippies raising a family in Columbus, OH, with their eldest son being a right leaning yuppie Republican. However, despite that general theme the show itself didn’t deviate much from standard nuclear family fare, except that it was funny and extremely well-written & performed. Alex Keaton isn’t your typical teenager. He wears a suit to school, carries a Richard Nixon lunchbox, reads the Wall Street Journal, and actually enjoys studying economics. While Alex is depicted as somewhat uptight and often disagrees with his parents’ opinions he is never shown to be a bad guy or antagonistic, and he’s actually rather comical. He loves his family and they love him. There is a reasonably fair-minded presentation of differing worldviews, which has become all too rare just a few decades later.

24     Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Star Trek)

Dammit Manoverse…he’s a doctor, not a writer!! Admittedly my love for Bones McCoy began with the half dozen Star Trek movies produced in the 1980’s because that was my first exposure to Trek, but rest assured that he’s the same cantankerous curmudgeon even in the original series…just a few decades younger. He’s the voice of reason that tempers the reactionary passion of his captain and injects humanity into the detached analysis of the ship’s science officer. He’s also really funny and has some of the best one liners.

23     Luke Spencer (General Hospital)

Lucas Lorenzo Spencer emerged as one of the more provocatively popular leading men in soap history a few decades ago, a real accomplishment for a character that was intended to disappear after a few months. Instead, Luke’s stay in Port Charles lasted…off & on…for nearly four decades. He famously falls for beautiful young Laura Webber and rapes her at a college disco, a deed that would normally brand a character as a villain. However, Laura loves him, so Luke is redeemed and becomes a good guy. Luke & Laura’s wedding in 1982 had 30 million television viewers, which still has to be some sort of record. Over the years Luke evolved into a beloved scoundrel, always ready for an escapade or hatching a scheme to proliferate his bank account. He is the quintessential soap hero, constantly engaged in battle with the dastardly Cassadine clan while exhibiting fierce loyalty to his family, especially son Lucky, Aunt Ruby, & sister Bobbie. Luke & Laura both die and return to life a couple of times as soap characters tend to do, and eventually end their marriage. Luke moves on with bitchy socialite Tracey Quartermaine, which is arguably a more enjoyable pairing. He is a restless soul and always finds himself in hot water, but somehow makes it thru. Alcoholism becomes an issue, as well as horrible childhood memories that had been repressed for decades, both of which add layers of complexity to Luke but weren’t well-received plot points by GH fans who prefer their fun-loving scalawag instead of a depressed, broken, suicidal old man. Luke left Port Charles a few years ago and is presumably living a life of adventure somewhere in Europe.

22     Shaggy Rogers (Scooby-Doo)

Actually his given first name is Norville. Of course he is Scooby’s owner/master (or whatever title you prefer), and the two are inseparable. Shaggy is the prototypical slacker, an animated homage to Bohemian beatnik Maynard G. Krebbs from the early 60’s sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Unlike his friends, who bravely seek to solve mysteries they encounter, Shaggy is a chicken who runs at the first sign of trouble. He mostly prefers to hang out with his dog and take it easy. Oddly enough they both seem to always have the munchies, though I have no idea what that’s all about. Well-known radio personality Casey Kasem voiced Shaggy for four decades.

21     Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the world’s foremost consulting detective in 1887, writing four novels & 56 short stories about Holmes and his trusty wingman Dr. Watson over the course of four decades. Since then Holmes has had a long life in films, television, radio, stage plays, & any other entertainment outlet imaginable. At one time Guinness had Holmes listed as the most portrayed fictional character in history, though I believe Santa Claus & Dracula are right there with him. At any rate, though (surprisingly) I have never seen Benedict Cumberbatch’s well-regarded interpretation of the treasured detective in BBC’s series Sherlock, I do fondly recall the late Jeremy Brett’s depiction in an 80’s series that ran here in America on PBS. There were 41 episodes of Sherlock Holmes, each rather faithfully adapting one of Conan Doyle’s stories. I’m sure that all 60 would have been produced had it not been for the untimely death of Brett at the age of 61. Most rankings & polls out there rate Brett’s version of Holmes as one of the 2 or 3 best, and I wholeheartedly concur.

20     Mork from Ork (Mork & Mindy)

Robin Williams was a force of nature (and cocaine)…a legendary comedian who evolved into one of the most significant actors of a generation. His acting career was launched on a 1978 episode of Happy Days in which he portrays a goofy alien from outer space who wants to take Richie Cunningham back to his home planet as a human specimen. Mork got his own spinoff in which he lands in Colorado and befriends the young & beautiful Mindy, even telling her the truth about his identity. Mork lives in Mindy’s basement for four seasons, with the two eventually falling in love, getting married, & having a “baby” (hilariously played by legendary comedian Jonathan Winters). The show itself was never great, but it was a showcase for Williams’ peerless talent and an indication of great things to come.

19     Les Nessman (WKRP in Cincinnati)

Persnickety newsman Les Nessman is probably the most overlooked part of WKRP’s greatness. Johnny Fever & Venus Flytrap are cooler, receptionist Jennifer Marlowe is sexier, & clueless boss Mr. Carlson gets a lot of laughs, but Les is the comedic gem of the ensemble. Unlike his laid-back colleagues Les is super serious about his job, approaching it as if he is an important journalist breaking momentous news on a major media outlet, whereas in reality he’s the newsman for a smallish radio station at which rock n’ roll pays the bills and news is not essential at all. Despite his erudite demeanor & professorial appearance Les is a total dufus and completely incompetent. His only area of expertise seems to be husbandry, for which he has won a Silver Sow Award and multiple Buckeye Newshawk Awards, accomplishments for which he is quite proud. He amusingly likes to imagine that his cubicle is an office, putting tape on the floor where walls would be and demanding that his co-workers knock on the imaginary door. Les Nessman’s shining moment is the 1978 Thanksgiving episode Turkeys Away, during which he gives dire news updates on a promotional gimmick initiated by Mr. Carlson that goes horribly yet hysterically awry.

18     Cliff Clavin (Cheers)

Actor John Ratzenberger originally auditioned for the role of Norm Peterson, but when he didn’t get the part he asked the producers if they had a bar know-it-all in the cast, and thus the part of blowhard mailman Cliff was created. Cliff is a middle-aged momma’s boy who is terrible with women, and like the rest of his cohorts he’s a loveable loser that would come across as sad & pathetic in reality, but somehow works as a sitcom character. The funny thing is that we’ve all known people like Cliff that are mostly full of bull and try our patience when we’re in their presence for any length of time, but despite their faults we kind of like having them around.

17     Chandler, Monica. Ross, Rachel, Joey, & Phoebe (Friends)

In retrospect Friends was better than most of us realized at the time. Oh sure it was popular, ranking as a Top 5 hit in nine of its ten seasons, and the cast became superstars, but if you watch it now in syndication almost fifteen years after the final episode aired what you realize is what a well-written & performed show it was. I can’t single out any one character from the ensemble because I feel like each was a vital part of the program’s success. Monica Geller is an OCD fussbudget, a chef by trade who acts as the de facto glue that holds the group together. Monica’s brother Ross is a neurotic paleontologist whose ex-wife became a lesbian. Ross’ best friend is Chandler Bing, a sarcastic business executive. Chandler lives across the hall from Monica with Joey Tribbiani, a dimwitted yet kindhearted struggling actor who is a bit of a ladies’ man. Monica’s childhood friend Rachel Green, a self-absorbed rich girl who left her fiancé at the altar, shows up and becomes Monica’s roommate in the inaugural episode. Rounding out the group is hippy dippy massage therapist & quirky songwriter Phoebe Buffay. They mostly assemble in Monica & Rachel’s apartment, Chandler & Joey’s place, or at the local Central Perk coffeehouse. Ross’ unrequited love for Rachel and their subsequent on again/off again relationship is a principal focus of the show thru the years, and in later seasons Chandler & Monica become involved & get married. I’m not sure it’s fair to say that any of them are accurate illustrations of real 20/30-somethings, but some of their issues do ring true and did so at a time in my life where I really appreciated that connection.

16         Fred Sanford (Sanford & Son)

For some reason Fred, an elderly black junk dealer from south central Los Angeles, always reminded me of my paternal grandfather, a retired Italian-American coal miner from West Virginia. Perhaps it is because my Papaw was a fan of the show. Fred is a widower who lives with his middle-aged son Lamont and runs his business out of his home. Fred is a feisty old dude, never hesitating to mix it up with sister-in-law Esther, next door neighbor Julio, or Lamont’s best buddy Rollo. Though he & Lamont appear to be close he is quick to belittle his son, often calling him a big dummy. Fred is oftentimes shown to be bigoted, which is played for laughs but probably wouldn’t fly with the modern day PC Police, and he is rather lazy as well as a bit of a manipulator. By far Fred’s most enduring legacy is when he would find himself in a tight spot or on the verge of having one of his harebrained schemes exposed, at which time he’d fake a heart attack and proclaim “This is the big one! You hear that, Elizabeth?? I’m coming to join you honey!!”.

15     Louie DePalma (Taxi)

Danny DeVito has had a moderately successful film career, appearing in movies like Romancing the Stone, Ruthless People, Throw Momma from the Train, Twins, Batman Returns, & Deck the Halls, but his first taste of fame came via 80’s sitcom Taxi. Louie is the dispatcher at the Sunshine Cab Company and acts as if he’s the boss, although in retrospect I’m not sure if he had any kind of authority or just likes to pretend that he does. He is a misogynistic & unscrupulous schemer who shows zero respect for any of his colleagues and is rarely at a loss for words, usually of the demeaning & insulting variety. His diminutive size coupled with an arrogant, abrasive attitude are indicative of a classic Napoleon complex. However, despite his faults Louie oftentimes does the right thing, and, in contrast to his coarse exterior, deep down there’s a big ol’ soft heart that makes an appearance on occasion.

14     Ari Gold (Entourage)

I have no idea if life in Hollywood is as…colorful…as it is depicted on Entourage, but if there really is an agent like Ari Gold I’m not sure if an actor should sign with him without hesitation or run away as fast as possible. He is ill-mannered, foul-mouthed, arrogant, belligerent, & somewhat deceitful, but is also shown to be really good at his job and truly concerned about his clients, especially rising star Vincent Chase. In contrast to Vince & his buddies, who enjoy basking in the party lifestyle like a bunch of wealthy & carefree delinquents, Ari is a faithful husband & father whose biggest fault just might be hardcore dedication to his career. Ari is one of those rare characters that demands attention, stealing every scene in which he appears.

13     Dr. Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory)

Far be it for me to fall into the “prisoner of the moment” trap, but after a decade on the air I don’t think it is an overreaction to consider Sheldon one of the best characters in television history. While TBBT writers have done a good job of remaining faithful to the ensemble dynamic of the show and still give a fair amount of screen time & storyline to everyone, it is undeniable that Sheldon is the breakout character, especially since the 9 year old version of him is already starring in a spinoff even as the original show remains one of the highest rated programs on television. I watched the first episode of Young Sheldon, but it just didn’t pique my interest. In TBBT thirtysomething Sheldon is a theoretical physicist, a genius with an eidetic memory and a total lack of social skills or emotional intelligence. He is egotistical, peculiar, somewhat irrational, & oftentimes childish. He & his pals are classic geeks who love comic books, technology, & sci-fi but know next to nothing about sports, pop culture, contemporary music, or current events. His mother is a devout Christian, and Sheldon’s devotion to science causes him to view her faith with derision, a foible that has troubled me a bit on occasion. Sheldon is an extremely well-written character whose physical comedy is an underrated portion of what has been an award winning performance.

12     Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (The Dukes of Hazzard)

Is he a bad guy?? Not really. Is he corrupt?? I suppose, but not in the traditional sense. It’s more accurate to say that Rosco is a weak-minded follower who is easily led astray by his greedy brother-in-law Boss Hogg. It is initially revealed that Rosco had served with integrity for 20 years, but got screwed out of his pension just as he was on the verge of retirement (Dukes was a show ahead of its time). He joins in Boss’ schemes in order to get back the money he lost. All traces of bitterness soon fade away though, as Rosco evolves into a simpleminded, inept, & comical lawman. His constant companion is a lethargic basset hound named Flash, and despite his own foolishness he consistently calls deputies Enos & Cletus dipsticks. He enjoys “hot pursuit”, but it usually doesn’t work out well as he oftentimes seems to “scuff his vehicle”. Rosco genuinely cares about Boss Hogg but is also intimidated & taken advantage of by him, rarely getting more than a small fraction of whatever windfall the duo earns from their deceitful plots. He doesn’t seem to have any genuine beef with the Dukes but is regularly ordered to chase them by Boss Hogg, though they rarely get caught & easily escape when they do end up in jail. Much like Hogg, Sheriff Rosco is portrayed as far more sinister in the 2005 big screen adaptation, which is another strike against that film.

11     Gomer Pyle (The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle USMC)

Television viewers have a love/hate relationship with spinoffs. Sometimes they work, but oftentimes they fall way short of expectations. Gomer Pyle USMC lands somewhere in the middle, which isn’t intended to be negative…it’s just that it’s almost impossible to measure up to TAGS. Gomer appears in Seasons 3 & 4 of TAGS and was introduced because the actor who portrayed Floyd the Barber had a stroke and was off the show for awhile. Like most residents of Mayberry Gomer is an unsophisticated bumpkin with a friendly & gentle disposition. He works at Wally’s Filling Station and is alternately shown to know nothing about automobiles or to be an expert mechanic (TAGS had issues with continuity). He is always willing to help out when needed and is deputized by the police on several occasions, though he proves to be a totally incompetent lawman. On a few occasions Jim Nabors is able to show off his real life singing talent. Any episode of TAGS with Gomer is even more of a delight than usual, which is probably why he was given a spinoff. That show lasted for five seasons and features Gomer as he enlists in the Marine Corps and clashes with hard-nosed drill instructor Sergeant Carter. It’s a classic fish-out-of-water story, with a bit of an Odd Couple vibe thrown into the mix. I like the TAGS version of Gomer much more than I like him in the spinoff, but that probably has more to do with the overall quality of the two shows rather than the character. When Gomer leaves Mayberry the void is filled by his cousin Goober, but I’ve never enjoyed Goober as much as Gomer.

Television is like a library. There are a lot of library books in it, and you have to pick and choose what you take out of it.  –  David L. Wolper

10     Rev. Jim Ignatowski (Taxi)

The third member of the Taxi cast to make the cut is a spaced-out relic from the 60’s who might be the most entertaining dopehead not named Cheech or Chong. Iggy grew up wealthy, but his Mom died when he was very young and his father was a busy doctor, so he was mostly raised by servants. He was extremely intelligent and attended Harvard, but in a comical twist on the whole Adam & Eve/forbidden fruit concept is goaded by his girlfriend into eating a marijuana laced brownie, which leads to him permanently becoming an eccentric & absentminded burnout. Jim’s random tangents that have nothing to do with the topic of conversation are hysterical, especially when he completely forgets whatever point he thought he wanted to make. Occasional glimpses of his former intellect & deep thinking skills sneak thru the fog and he says something profound, which of course takes everyone by surprise. Iggy once opined “You know the really great thing about television? If something important happens, anywhere in the world, night or day… you can always change the channel”, which kind of sums up how I feel about TV nowadays. In an early Season 2 episode titled “Reverend Jim: A Space Odyssey” the cabbies get Jim a job, but first they must take him to the DMV so he can pass the driver’s test and get his license. It is quintessential Iggy, and quite possibly one of the best sitcom moments of all time.

9       George Costanza (Seinfeld)

For some reason I really identified with George. He is Jerry’s best friend since junior high school, and becomes pals with Jerry’s other quirky cohorts. Jerry opines that George could have been normal, but isn’t mostly because of his crazy parents. He is a self-described “short, stocky, bald man” who is alternately bombastic & self-loathing. He always looks for the easiest way to do something, or even avoids doing it altogether. He’s awkward, impulsive, insecure, narcissistic, high-strung, occasionally devious, & not good at all with women. He has several relationships throughout the series, but always manages to screw it up. I am reminded of the 1999 film Office Space, in which the main protagonist states that “it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care”, except in George’s case he actually is lazy, though not necessarily stupid. Jerry Seinfeld made a brilliant choice when he decided to play straight man and let his co-stars be the wacky oddballs with most of the comedic moments.

Michael Scott (The Office)

When we began this journey I noted that there were allegedly great television shows that I’d not watched, therefore some significant characters y’all might love may not appear here. That is still true, however I have rectified one glaring omission. The Quarantine of 2020 prompted me to binge The Office on Netflix since I had never seen it when it originally aired on NBC from 2005-13. Though it is a delightfully quirky ensemble there is no doubt that the heartbeat of the show is the World’s Best Boss, Michael Scott. As portrayed by Steve Carell, Michael is, well…unique. Clueless. Superficial. Egotistical. Unintentionally offensive. Occasionally disrespectful. Desperate to be admired. In short, he’s certainly not management material, but that is the essence of the joke. In the real world someone like Michael  wouldn’t last five minutes in a leadership position. We wonder how he stays employed. Despite his shortcomings though, he sincerely loves his job and shows genuine affection for (most of) his employees. He tries really hard, and that’s why we like him. When Carell’s budding film career took off & he left the show it was never the same. Fans are generally united in the belief that Seasons 8 & 9 were lackluster, which is proof of the significance of Michael Scott. 

8       Dr. Frasier Crane (Cheers and Frasier)

Frasier Crane has the distinction of being one of the two longest running live action characters in television history, appearing in nine seasons of Cheers and, of course, all eleven seasons of the eponymous spinoff Frasier, for a total of twenty years on the air. He’d probably deserve a spot on this list for that alone, but there is so much more to love. Dr. Crane first appears in the third season of Cheers as the new beau of waitress Diane Chambers. The two are kindred spirits…pretentious intellectuals that don’t really fit into the working class pub dynamic. Alas, Diane can’t fight her attraction to bar owner Sam Malone and eventually leaves Frasier at the altar. Even after Diane departs Cheers at the end of the fifth season Frasier sticks around and becomes a regular part of the group, eventually marrying then divorcing aloof fellow psychiatrist Lilith and fathering a son with her named Frederick. When Cheers concludes Frasier moves back to his hometown of Seattle to help his brother Niles care for their father Martin, a police officer forced to retire after being shot in the line of duty. In Seattle Frasier hosts a radio talk show, so there is interaction with eccentric callers & quirky work colleagues in addition to the familial relationships. Frasier is a bit more masculine than his brother, but is just as much of a pompous elitist. He is passionate about theater, fine art, literature, & gourmet food, but because of his time in Boston is considerate toward his blue collar father’s lifestyle & hobbies, though he by no means shares those proclivities. It almost seems as if he might be bipolar because he can transition from eloquently helping a caller on his radio show in a soothing & melodious tone into an indignant fit of rage just minutes later, something that happens in nearly every episode. Despite being an alleged expert in helping other people solve their issues Frasier does not understand his own complexities and doesn’t have a great track record with the ladies. In addition to the doomed engagement to Diane & divorce from Lilith he dates a plethora of women in Seattle, but nothing ever seems to work out.

7       The Dynamic Duo (Batman)

Nearly every incarnation of Batman stays true to his gloomy origins as an orphaned billionaire who becomes a crime fighting vigilante after his parents are murdered in the gritty, violent, & sinister milieu of Gotham City. Robin is originally a young boy in a family of acrobats who witnesses his parents die in an accident arranged by a mobster, and is afterwards taken in by Bruce Wayne who becomes his legal guardian. But all of that melancholy stuff is set aside in the 1966 action sitcom that aired for three seasons on ABC. Dick Grayson (aka Robin) is still the “youthful ward” (now a teenager) of billionaire Bruce Wayne (aka Batman), and the two team up to fight crime in Gotham City, but the atmosphere is bright, the dialogue is cleverly corny, the villains are hardly intimidating, & the end result is delightfully absurd. Adam West’s interpretation of Bruce Wayne/Batman is funny because the character takes every situation so seriously, delivering his lines in a solemn & melodramatic tone. This incarnation of Robin is enthusiastic & peppy, but not annoyingly so. The entire show is cheeky & whimsical, a definite departure from the norm and a risky choice that paid off. Joel Schumacher’s 1997 film Batman & Robin starring George Clooney as The Caped Crusader attempted to borrow the cheesy vibe, but it fell flat because…well, let’s face it…Clooney isn’t Adam West.

6       Archie & Edith Bunker (All in the Family)

Contrary to popular belief the idea of Hollywood idealists using their entertainment platform to promote an agenda and talk down to the masses about issues that common folks in flyover country are allegedly ignorant about isn’t a brand new concept conceived in the 21st century…it’s just that they used to be much better at it. Norman Lear did a lot of it in the 1970’s and did it quite well, creating shows like Sanford & Son, One Day at a Time, Maude, Good Times, & The Jeffersons. By far his greatest creation was All in the Family, centering on a working class family in Queens, NY. The head of the household is Archie Bunker, an ill-tempered, opinionated, & narrow-minded loading dock foreman. He is an equal opportunity contrarian who insults just about every minority, religion, & nationality. He is especially dismissive of his ultra-liberal son-in-law, who he calls Meathead. However, despite his gruff exterior, deep down Archie is a loving & decent man who cares about his family and friends, though he often becomes impatient with wife Edith, who he calls Dingbat. Edith is rather ditzy, but she’s usually quite jovial & compassionate, the sort of person who might get on one’s nerves but you just can’t help but like. She’s a bit of a throwback…a submissive & dedicated wife, mother, and grandmother that would be scoffed at by modern day feminists. The Bunkers are extreme caricatures certainly created to make a point. Archie is intended as a mean-spirited dig at conservative values, while Edith’s kindhearted yet naïve subservience is meant as negative commentary on the traditional but allegedly outdated idea of the stay-at-home housewife. But an odd & unexpected thing happened…the audience actually liked & identified with them. Fans understood that conservatives aren’t really evil racists and easily dismissed many of Archie’s more exaggerated traits while realizing that some of his views had merit. They were able to chuckle at Edith’s comical zaniness while recognizing that being a traditional housewife isn’t a horrible thing. People saw thru the self-righteous poppycock of Meathead and agreed with Archie’s assessment of him. Decades later folks who are now much more aware of media bias can clearly see how Lear attempted to manipulate the conversation…and how he failed miserably.

5       Arthur Fonzarelli (Happy Days)

Fonzie was never intended to be a significant part of the Happy Days cast. He is introduced as a local mechanic who Ritchie & Potsie occasionally bump into at Arnold’s Drive-In. He didn’t even wear a leather jacket at first because the powers-that-be were concerned about him looking too much like a hoodlum (which is old school slang for what we’d now call a gang member). But Fonzie is too awesome to be held down by The Man, and eventually became a central part of the show. He’s all about being cool and chillin’ with the ladies. He has the ability to make a jukebox work with the pounding of his fist, and women flock to him with the snap of a finger. Richie, Potsie, & Ralph Malph all look to Fonzie for advice about various issues, and the Cunninghams treat him like a member of the family. In the beginning he is a high school dropout, but eventually completes his education, and at various points owns a garage, is part owner of Arnold’s, & even becomes a high school teacher. Fonzie’s oddest contribution to pop culture is the 1977 fifth season opener in which, after helping a couple of Hollywood producers passing thru Milwaukee deal with mechanical issues, he finds himself in Tinseltown for a movie audition. While there he is challenged by an obnoxious jerk to a water skiing duel (a laughable idea at best). During the competition Fonzie literally leaps over a tiger shark in the water. Though Happy Days would continue for six more seasons that episode was cited by some as a moment indicative of a decline in quality, therefore popularizing the term “jumping the shark”. Fonzie became so popular that some wanted to rename the show Fonzie’s Happy Days, but actor Henry Winkler adamantly refused and insisted that Ron Howard continue to receive top billing. I believe that, even to this day, more than thirty years after Happy Days went off the air, one can still see Fonzie’s leather jacket on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, which is a pretty cool legacy.

4       Captain Kirk & Mister Spock (Star Trek)

This may be the strangest variation on the Odd Couple formula ever seen on television. James Tiberius Kirk hails from Iowa and is Starfleet’s youngest & best yet most rebellious officer. While a student at Starfleet Academy he is the only person to ever overcome a training exercise called the Kobayashi Maru, a moral dilemma and no-win scenario that Kirk defeats by reprogramming the computer. Though his solution is what most would consider cheating he is actually commended for original thinking. That one story sets the stage for everything we see afterward from Captain Kirk. He is brash, passionate, bold, dedicated, & extremely smart. He thinks outside the box and doesn’t back down from a fight. The yin to Kirk’s yang is his science officer Mr. Spock, a half alien whose mother is human while his father is Vulcan. Spock exhibits many Vulcan traits, primarily the predisposition to rely on logic & reason and leave emotion out of their thought process. It is this ability that enables Spock to balance Kirk’s intensity and inclination to jump in with both feet. Spock can present all the options to Kirk along with every possible outcome. Conversely, since Spock is essentially a computer with legs it is Kirk that oftentimes explains concepts like feelings, humor, & emotions to him, helping him to make sense out of the foolish & illogical things that human beings tend to do. The two men don’t always understand each other, but have immense respect & admiration for one another and might have been television’s first bromance.

3       JR Ewing (Dallas)

Entertainment used to be very clear about the differences between heroes & villains. In old westerns the good guys would literally wear white cowboy hats, while the bad guys would wear black hats (an idea some would undoubtedly consider racist nowadays). However, somewhere along the line the concept of the anti-hero became prevalent, wherein a character might not necessarily be evil but certainly has dubious ethics & selfish motives. JR Ewing is the eldest son of a wealthy oil baron who eventually takes over the family business. He loves his family, but tends to love his money just a little bit more. Dallas originally intended to focus on the Romeo & Juliet-esque romance of JR’s younger brother Bobby and his new wife Pam, the daughter of patriarch Jock Ewing’s most bitter enemy, but JR’s penchant for screwing over everyone…business rivals, his family, his wife…with a sly grin on his face made him the character everyone loved to hate. It was always a treat to see who JR was going to cheat, shake down, intimidate, & defeat next. He is always a few steps ahead of everyone else, especially the honorable & benevolent Bobby, as well as Cliff Barnes, Bobby’s inept brother-in-law and JR’s spirited but overmatched nemesis. Dallas reached its pinnacle at the end of Season 3 when it popularized the concept of the cliffhanger after an unknown assailant tried to murder JR Ewing. During the entire summer of 1980 America was abuzz with the question “Who shot JR??”, a mystery that was solved that November in what remains the third most watched television episode in history, bested only by the series finales of MASH & Cheers. I was a kid when Dallas was on the air, and one of my most cherished memories is what a kick my Dad got out of it whenever JR was revealed to be the dastardly mastermind behind a scheme that had vanquished Cliff, Bobby & Pam, JR’s wife Sue Ellen, or one of Ewing Oil’s many adversaries. Dad was genuinely entertained by JR Ewing in a way that few people seem to be by anything on television these days.

2       Cosmo Kramer (Seinfeld)

Seinfeld has four of its characters on this list…two of them in the Top 10. Kramer lives in an apartment across the hall from Jerry and has been described as a “hipster dufus”, although I’m not exactly sure what that means. He has a unique fashion sense, as well as peculiar tastes in things like food, sports, cigars, & women. He is neurotic in a way unseen on television before or since, fearing clowns & mice and having seizures whenever he hears the voice of Entertainment Tonight host Mary Hart.  In nearly every episode Kramer busts into Jerry’s apartment with a combination smile & look of perpetual amazement. He doesn’t seem to have a job and supports himself with get rich quick schemes & wacky entrepreneurial ideas, sports betting, publishing a coffee table book about coffee tables, & a brief but lucrative gig as an underwear model. To call him quirky or eccentric would be an epic understatement. His philosophies & perspectives aren’t by any means normal, yet they oftentimes make sense in a way one would have never imagined to be possible. Kramer really isn’t comparable to any other character in any form of entertainment. He is a unique creation, with credit given to Seinfeld’s stellar writing as well as actor Michael Richards’ flawless physical comedy.

1       Deputy Barney Fife (The Andy Griffith Show)

TAGS can easily be separated into two eras…its first five seasons and then its final three. While it is true that those two time periods are most easily distinguished by the fact that Seasons 1-5 were broadcast in black & white before switching to color in the latter three years, a more significant difference is the departure of Barney Fife at the end of the fifth season. Barney is the excitable & ham-fisted deputy in Mayberry. Early on we are told that he is Andy Taylor’s cousin, but that relationship was only alluded to a couple of times and from then on the two are merely lifelong best friends & co-workers. Barney reminds me a bit of WKRP’s Les Nessman in the sense that he takes his job very seriously and is hilariously overzealous. There are also shades of Cheers’ Cliff Claven, with Barney’s incompetent attempts to present himself as a know-it-all when the truth is that he has no clue what he’s doing or talking about. Barney’s bravado is poorly disguised window dressing for tremendous neuroses and low self-esteem, and Andy selflessly goes above & beyond to save his deputy’s fragile ego on multiple occasions. Everyone likes Barney but few respect him, and respect is what he craves. He tends to overreact, while Andy is laid-back & steady. Barney is emotional, anxious, & easily taken advantage of by others, but despite his numerous shortcomings he is the heart of TAGS, and his absence during the program’s latter three seasons left a hole that was never quite filled. In Season 6 Floyd the Barber’s nephew Warren Ferguson becomes Mayberry’s new deputy, but he only lasted 11 episodes before the character was never heard from or spoken of again. Immediately following actor Don Knotts’ exit TAGS played with the idea of making a character who’d been introduced as a banjo player at a carnival the new deputy, but actor Jerry Van Dyke declined the opportunity. In hindsight the plan might have actually worked out for the show, but obviously that didn’t occur. Gomer Pyle’s cousin Goober was given the primary role as Andy’s sidekick, but I never really warmed up to Goober. As I’ve stated previously the final three seasons of TAGS were just dandy and it is still terrific TV, but it just isn’t the same, and I can’t think of any better example of a character’s exodus so significantly altering the fabric of a show.

The 2017 Sammy Awards – Part 1

Before we get too far into a new year it is time once again to take one final look back at the year that was 2017. This is the seventh presentation of The Sammy Awards, the world’s wittiest fantasy awards show. I’d like to imagine that The Sammys would be streamed on Netflix or Hulu, and could be produced efficiently yet in a tasteful & entertaining manner…less bloated & pompous than some awards programs, but more respectful & sophisticated than others. It is intended to be a year in review, an honest appraisal of the previous twelve months…the fun & the tragedy, the heroic & the forgettable, the sublime & the ridiculous.

 

 

 

Our host this year is fresh off a gig co-hosting CNN’s New Year’s Eve coverage that was hotly debated on social media. He is also the host of Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live, so we’re pretty confident he can handle the Sammy Awards stage. Please give a warm welcome to Andy Cohen!!

 

 

After some humorous opening remarks from our host this year’s show begins with a musical performance. Because we’re not worried about being hip, cool, lit, or woke it is a huge honor to welcome to the stage…singing a medley of some of his biggest hits…rock music icon Billy Joel!!

 

Wow!! Thanks to The Piano Man…that was off the chain!!

 

To present our first award please give a polite golf clap to three time Masters Champion Phil Mickelson!!

And the nominees are:

 

 

Best Sports Story

 

Tar Heels Title

The conclusion of March Madness saw the North Carolina Tar Heels defeat the Gonzaga Bulldogs to win their sixth NCAA basketball national championship.

 

ESPN Downsizing

This past spring The Mothership in Bristol, CT did a massive personnel purge, ridding themselves of over 100 employees. Among the cuts were familiar faces like MLB reporter Jayson Stark, NFL reporters John Clayton & Ed Werder and analyst Trent Dilfer, college basketball analyst Len Elmore & reporter Andy Katz, college football analyst Danny Kanell, and Sportscenter anchors Jay Crawford & Jade McCarthy.

 

Patriots Win…Again

Ugh. The New England Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl in grand fashion. They completed the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history (25 points) and forced the game into the first overtime on its 50+ year history.

 

Penguins Repeat

The Pittsburgh Penguins won their second straight Stanley Cup (and their fifth since 1990) by defeating the Nashville Predators in six games.

 

Clemson Wins Playoff

The Clemson Tigers played in their second straight college football National Championship, both against the Alabama Crimson Tide. But this time they won the title with a very exciting last second touchdown pass from QB Deshaun Watson to WR Hunter Renfrow.

 

Indians Win Streak

They didn’t end up playing in the World Series, but back in August & September the Cleveland Indians had the attention of baseball fans everywhere when they won 22 straight games, a new American League record.

 

JJ Watt’s Philanthropy

After Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, TX in August Texans’ All-Pro defensive lineman JJ Watt began a fundraising effort to help the city. His initial goal was $200k. The final tally?? Over $37 million. The NFL has been given a lot of grief the past few years…with good reason. But Watt seems like one of the good guys. Well done sir. Kudos.

 

Warriors Win Another Title

The NBA bores me, but I usually watch the playoffs. Last summer the Golden State Warriors met the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third consecutive year in the NBA Finals. The Warriors were just too much for the Cavs and won the championship in five games.

 

Sergio Wins The Masters

Sergio Garcia has long been saddled with the moniker of “best golfer not to have won a major”. He ended that conversation in April when he defeated Justin Rose in a sudden death playoff at Augusta to finally get the monkey off his back.

 

Dale Jr.’s Retirement

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been NASCAR’s most popular driver since he first began racing in the late 1990’s, grabbing onto the impressive coattails of his famous father and holding on for dear life. He became a tepid substitute for his Dad after Dale Sr.’s tragic death at the 2001 Daytona 500, and soiled his legacy beyond repair in 2008 when he sold out and joined the evil empire of Hendrick Motorsports. Dale Jr. won two Daytona 500s and zero NASCAR Cup championships. In 2016 he missed a big chunk of the season with concussion issues, and last spring announced that he would be retiring after the 2017 season.

 

Astros Win World Series

The Houston Astros were a MLB expansion team in 1962. In 2013 they moved from the National League to the American League due to MLB realignment. They lost over 100 games for three consecutive seasons from 2011-13. But slowly they began to build a contender, and it all came together this autumn when the Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games. It was a great story, especially given the circumstances surrounding the city of Houston after Hurricane Harvey, however we shouldn’t overlook the fact that Houston, TX is the fourth largest city in the United States, so this wasn’t exactly a David vs. Goliath upset by small market little guys.

 

Mayweather-McGregor

My nephews love UFC/MMA…aka ultimate fighting or mixed martial arts. A lot of people do. UFC has grown exponentially in the past decade. But I just can’t get into it for whatever reason. At any rate, one of UFC’s champions & biggest stars is brash & outspoken Irishman Conor McGregor. In 2017 he decided he wanted to test himself in a boxing ring, and he challenged Floyd Mayweather Jr., who many consider the greatest boxer alive and who happens to be just as cocky as McGregor. The matchup was a marketing dream come true. Mayweather made over $100 million, while McGregor was paid in excess of $30 million. The sports media slobbered all over themselves for months. Fans paid $100 to watch the fight on PPV. But all along the talking heads admitted that they didn’t foresee a competitive fight and predicted a fairly easy Mayweather victory, which is pretty much what happened. Mayweather probably could have won in the first round, but he let McGregor hang around for ten rounds before winning with a TKO, thus giving fans the illusion that the fight was worth the money they’d spent and the hype surrounding it. I didn’t watch a) because I had absolutely no interest, and b) there is no way in hell I’d pay $100 for anything on PPV.

 

 

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 

Mayweather-McGregor. It wasn’t my cup o’ tea, but I recognize that a lot of people watched it and the sports media did a nice job of hyping it up into an event, even though most understood that it probably wasn’t going to be that competitive. And then lo & behold it went ten rounds. Whether you believe that McGregor is really skilled enough to have legitimately kept up with Mayweather for that long or if you take the cynical view that Mayweather made a conscious business decision to allow the fight to last as long as it did doesn’t really matter. The fact is that everyone involved laughed all the way to the bank, and most fans probably don’t regret the time or money they spent. Everybody wins.

 

 

To present a very special award please welcome an Emmy nominated & Golden Globe winning comedian & actor, the star of television hits Home Improvement and Last Man Standing as well as films like Toy Story, Galaxy Quest, & The Santa Clause…Tim Allen!!

 

 

 

 

The Fred Berry Memorial Award for Excellence in Syndication

 

Frasier

For eleven seasons, from 1993 to 2004, Dr. Frasier Crane and his wacky family & work colleagues…effete brother Niles, blue collar father Martin, live-in aide Daphne Moon, flirtatious producer Roz Doyle, bombastic sports radio host Bulldog, oddball co-workers Gil & Noel, and a host of others…came into our living rooms. Frasier Crane had already been with us for a decade, originally appearing on Cheers. Though Frasier was technically a spinoff of Cheers the two shows are very different, albeit similarly well written & both very funny. It may seem blasphemous to some, but I must admit to loving Frasier even more than Cheers. Whereas Cheers took place in a bar, Frasier was about a family, and specifically about an educated, cultured man dealing with all manner of frustrating madness surrounding him. I always felt very connected to Frasier, so it has been a delight this past year to be able to watch a plethora of reruns, usually very late at night, on Hallmark. And they don’t just air one or two episodes. There is…I believe…a three hour block almost every night. I’m not always up that late (or early, depending on one’s perspective), but when I am awake and in a channel surfing mood it is always a pleasure to run across one of my favorite sitcoms of all time. The show has aged remarkably well, and I appreciate the skillfully scripted dialogue & talented cast even more now than I did two decades ago. I’ve reached a point in my life where I don’t feel compelled to check out every new TV show that pops up. Most of them don’t seem like my cup o’ tea anyway. Fortunately I am alive in an era when it is fairly easy to go back and enjoy programs of yesteryear that I know I enjoy. Kudos to Hallmark for introducing a whole new generation to the exquisite charm of Frasier, and a tip of the cap to all involved for creating a show that has stood the test of time.

 

 

We are amped to introduce our next presenter. He’s a former ten time World Heavyweight Champion, and upon his retirement from professional wrestling has starred in films like Be Cool, Get Smart, Baywatch, & numerous entries in the Fast & Furious franchise. Do you smell what he’s cookin’?? FINALLY…Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has come to The Sammy Awards!! And the nominees are:

 

 

 

The Twitter Award for Most Interesting Water Cooler Topic

 

Cracker Barrel Fires Brad’s Wife

Nanette Reid was an employee of 11 years at an Indiana Cracker Barrel before she was terminated. Nanette’s husband Brad wanted to know why his wife had been fired, so he made an inquiry on the restaurant’s corporate Facebook page…and things took off from there. #JusticeforBradsWife went viral and lives on.

 

The End of The Circus

After almost 150 years of entertaining the masses Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus put on its last show this past spring. The plethora of 21st century entertainment options as well as politically correct social justice warriors whining about animal abuse led to a decline in profitability and the eventual demise of the circus.

 

Fidget Spinner

I don’t know…it’s some sort of toy for nervous people. I suppose it’s a better option than drugs or homicide.

 

Great American Eclipse

On August 21, 2017 the United States enjoyed a total solar eclipse, the first visible in America since 1979. People gathered in large crowds and some traveled great distances just to see an event that lasted about as long as it takes to go to the bathroom while the ballgame is in a commercial break. I was kind of into it until I found out that viewing the eclipse required special sunglasses or otherwise one might go blind, and by the time I learned that helpful nugget every place was sold out of the glasses so it just became a hassle. However, as I watched the coverage on TV I kind of regretted my laziness. There is another eclipse coming in 2024, so if I’m still around I might make more of an effort.

 

Taking A Knee

NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick spearheaded a movement in 2016 by kneeling instead of standing respectfully during the playing of the national anthem before football games. Kaepernick said that he refused to honor the flag of a country that oppresses “people of color”. In other words he was upset about alleged police brutality toward black folks. When Kaepernick found himself unemployed in 2017 (what a shock) other players decided to take up the cause. This upset President Trump, who offered some very blunt opinions on the subject. That caused more players to kneel, so the situation had evolved from protesting perceived racism to a hissy fit by people who don’t like Trump. It became a huge PR nightmare for the NFL. On one hand the United States is built on a foundation of freedom and the ability to express opinions, but conversely these protests are viewed by many as pointless, disrespectful to law enforcement & the military, and a juvenile temper tantrum by millionaires who play a game for a living.

 

iPhone X

Apple’s latest & greatest iPhone…complete with creepy facial recognition technology…went on sale in November (just in time for Christmas!). I’m an iPhone user, but I just upgraded a year ago and the $1000 price point might have finally exceeded my maximum utility.

 

The Royal Engagement

Prince Harry, younger son of Prince Charles & the late deified & beatified Princess Diana, got engaged to a filthy American, an inconsequential & marginally attractive actress named Meghan Markle. Congratulations to the happy couple. I’m sure this will be a bigger story in 2018 as the wedding day approaches this May.

 

United Airlines

On April 9, 2017, police at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago forcibly removed passenger Dr. David Dao from a United flight after he refused to depart the airplane upon the demand of management. Dao screamed as officers pulled him out of his seat, and his face hit an armrest during the struggle. Officers then dragged him, apparently unconscious, by his arms on his back along the aircraft aisle past rows of onlooking passengers. Video & photos of the incident went viral. Apparently the man was one of four passengers selected to be removed from the flight to make room for airline employees needing to get to Louisville. The other three were obviously more…compliant. Dao eventually received a monetary settlement from United. This was not an isolated incident, as similar stories were reported a few other times in 2017.

 

Kathy Griffin’s Career Decapitation

I’ve never found comedian Kathy Griffin funny…at all. She’s not the first person who has built a career out of being obnoxious, and she won’t be the last. Griffin has ticked people off before: she was banned from appearing on The View and Jay Leno’s incarnation of The Tonight Show, got fired from E! after making an inappropriate joke about then 11 year old actress Dakota Fanning, blasphemed Jesus when accepting an Emmy Award, & was banned from performing at New York’s famed Apollo Theater after using profanity. I’m no expert, but being shunned by The View has to be career rock bottom given the loathsome environment that surrounds that show like a noxious gas. However, Kathy Griffin really stepped in it last spring when she posted a video of herself holding the decapitated head of President Trump. The backlash was a little surprising. Since Hollywood hates Trump one might assume that Griffin’s career would reach new heights in the wake of the video, but the commoners in flyover country still wield some influence. She lost marketing deals, was dropped from CNN’s New Year’s Eve show that she’d co-hosted with Anderson Cooper since 2007, and her upcoming comedy tour imploded. Griffin has used social media to cry & moan about how she’s been mistreated in the aftermath of the brouhaha, but the simple fact is that she went too far and it bit her in the tookas.

 

Unicorn Frappuccino

I’ve patronized Starbucks exactly once in my life. I’m not a frequent coffee drinker, and when I do drink a cup I just want a basic, no frills cup o’ joe with some creamer (no sugar). This past spring Starbucks introduced a new addition to their menu…a multicolored drink made with ice, milk, pink powder, sour blue powder, crème frappuccino syrup, mango syrup, and blue drizzle, which sounds absolutely horrifying.

 

O.J.’s Release

OJ Simpson’s arrest & trial for murdering his ex-wife & her waiter friend was one of the biggest stories of the 1990’s. As we all know The Juice was found not guilty and was allowed to resume his dogged pursuit of the real killer. But that life was too boring for OJ, and he was ticked off about having to sell a bunch of his stuff after losing a civil suit brought by the victims’ families, so in 2007 he was arrested after an ill-conceived & poorly executed robbery at a Vegas casino during which he tried to get back some of his sports memorabilia. The following year Simpson was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 33 years in prison. Most legal experts agree that almost anyone else would have been given little more than a proverbial slap on the wrist, especially since all three of the co-defendants pled down to lesser charges. Many opine that Simpson’s conviction & harsh sentence was a “make-up call” after he’d escaped punishment for the 1994 double murder. OJ Simpson served nine years, and this past summer was granted parole. He was released from prison in October.

 

Civil War Monuments

Politically correct whining about Civil War monuments…specifically those erected to honor Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee & Stonewall Jackson…isn’t a new discussion. The debate has heated up the past few years. But arguments reached a fever pitch in 2017 after tragic events saw one person killed and 19 injured at a rally in Charlottesville, VA organized to protest the removal of a General Lee statue. My personal opinion is that these monuments were erected for a reason, and in most cases they honor complex yet worthy individuals who lived during a tumultuous time in our nation’s history and were forced to make some very difficult decisions. Thru the prism of time we recognize their mistakes and understand their errors in judgement, but I don’t feel that it is proper to erase our history. None of this was an issue a hundred years ago, fifty years ago, or even ten years ago, but nowadays we are a country full of easily offended social justice warriors who get their jollies trying to destroy everything about the United States with which they disagree.

 

 

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 

Taking A Knee. Most sports fans just want to chill out and enjoy watching the ballgame. They want to argue about which team is better, debate who the best quarterback or wide receiver is, and kvetch about dreadful officiating. They do not want divisive sociopolitical rhetoric ruining their fun, but that’s exactly what’s been happening. It’s the reason ESPN is bleeding money and a contributing factor to declining attendance & TV ratings. The fact is that Colin Kaepernick is a marginally talented quarterback who is no longer worth the baggage that accompanies him…baggage that he created. The fact is that, while there are bad cops out there because there is incompetence in any & all professions, the vast majority of police officers do a fantastic job and should be praised for the dangerous work they do protecting all of us. The fact is that, while there are people that are erroneously & tragically killed by police officers, the odds are that anyone…black, white, Hispanic, Oriental, Middle Eastern, & any other hue one can think of…anyone who finds themselves in the presence of a police officer with a weapon has most likely put themselves in that situation. That’s not to say that those people deserve to be murdered…not at all. But you’ll never drown if you don’t go in the water and you won’t get burnt of you steer clear of fire. So if you’re living life right, obeying the law, & not causing a ruckus there is very little chance that you’ll be shot by a cop. There are 32 NFL teams. With 53 Players on each roster that’s nearly 1700 players. Of those, nearly 900 are convicted felons, which is over half the league. So while I admire their skill & athleticism and enjoy watching them play, forgive me if I have very little regard for their opinions on more serious matters.

 

 

 

 

 

This feels like an appropriate place to pause. Please stay tuned for Part 2!!