To TV or Not to TV??

Okay, so…y’all know I’m not above borrowing a concept I’ve seen on social media and putting my own special spin on it for The Manoverse. This time the inspiration comes not from Pinterest but from Facebook. A former co-worker of mine posted it, and basically one is supposed to just indicate which of these television shows we’ve seen more than ten episodes of with a lil heart emoji. That’s a cool idea, but I think I can improve upon it with pithy comments and my own unique wit. I don’t watch as much television as I used to, and this exercise not only proves that but shows exactly why. Enjoy.

 

 

 

My 600LB Life

I’ve been overweight my entire life. There are legit reasons for that (the main one being that I really like food), and so I sympathize with the struggle of others. But no…I have no desire to watch a reality show about the topic and be “entertained” by other peoples’ problems.

  

911

I don’t know…is this another reality show?? Does it follow first responders to 911 calls?? Or is it a fictional show built around such situations?? Either way, I am not entertained by such things.

  

13 Reasons Why

I remember hearing about the show. Something about teen suicide. No thanks. I’m not a teenager and have no teens in my family. If it’s a good show with an educational message that can positively impact the lives of young viewers that’s great, but it’s not for me.

 

 

A Million Little Things

Almost. I nearly got sucked into this ensemble drama because the ads had a very This Is Us kind of vibe and I am familiar with some in the cast. However, I chose not to become interested because I knew it’d be the kind of show that demands a heavy emotional commitment and that’s just not where I am in my life right now.

  

American Horror Story

Nah…horror just isn’t my thing.

  

Angel

Wasn’t it a spinoff from Buffy the Vampire Slayer?? I didn’t watch the first show, so no…I didn’t care about the spinoff.

 

 Bates Motel

I assume it is loosely based on Psycho?? Once again…not my cup o’ tea. I prefer to laugh.

  

Bitten

I have no idea. It’s either about snakes or vampires. Either way I have zero interest.

  

The Blacklist

I dig James Spader. He’s quirky…kind of a knockoff Jeff Goldblum. But spies & intrigue & the whole “let’s rip off Hannibal Lechter” vibe I got when previews of the show first aired a few years ago just don’t frost my cupcake.

 

 

Bloodline

No idea

 

 Blue Bloods

Tom Selleck is cool, but police procedurals rarely interest me and I’ve never watched a single episode.

  

Bones

I don’t even know what the show is about.

 

Breaking Bad

I see it constantly lauded as one of the best TV shows of the 21st century, but I never understood the popularity of a story about a high school chemistry teacher who becomes a drug dealer.

  

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Nope. Vampires. Zombies. Werewolves. I don’t find any of it the least bit interesting.

 

Californication

Wasn’t that a Red Hot Chili Peppers album??

  

Castle

No…just…no.

 

Castle Rock

I assume it is somehow connected to or inspired by Stephen King?? I don’t know. I’ve enjoyed some of King’s books, but have no interest in a TV show.

 

 

Catfish

I enjoy eating catfish, but knowing what the word means outside of that I don’t believe the show would interest me.

 

 Chicago Fire / Chicago Med / Chicago P.D.

I vaguely recall watching an episode or two of one of these shows…not sure which one. But again…medical dramas & police procedurals have never been something I enjoyed all that much.

  

Criminal Minds

Nope

  

Dexter

I’ve heard people say it’s a good show, but a serial killer?? I’m telling y’all…I need to laugh!!

  

Dr. Pimple Popper

Eww. Is it a medical thing?? A kiddie show?? I have no clue, and I don’t care to know.

 

 Dr Who

I have several friends who really dig Dr. Who, and it seems like the kind of nerdvana that I should be into. It is my understanding that there’s time travel involved, which is cool. But here’s the thing…the original incarnation of Dr. Who premiered a decade before I was even born, and it was a British show. By the time it was revived and available in America (16 years after it had originally ended) I already had preconceived notions and never even thought of checking it out. Don’t misunderstand…people can change and should be flexible. However, I think by the time we are in our 30s the die is cast as far as what kinds of entertainment…TV, music, books, movies…we tend to gravitate toward, and Dr. Who seems to have come along both too early and too late for me.

 

 

Empire

I hadn’t given a second thought to Empire until last year when that idiot actor was in the news for faking an attack on himself. That whole story makes me thrice as glad that I never watched.

  

ER

Once upon a time it was thought to be the best show on television. It launched George Clooney into superstardom and jumpstarted the careers of several others. But it’s a hospital drama, and I don’t do hospital shows. I did watch a handful of episodes in the course of the dozen seasons ER was on the air, and it was a well written program with a top notch cast, but it’s just not my thing.

  

Family Guy

There was a time in my life when Family Guy might have been right up my alley, but apparently by the time the show premiered in 1999 that time had passed. I’m probably missing out on something I’d enjoy, but it seems a bit late in the game to give a rat’s petoot now.

 

 

Friends

Yes yes yes…I loved Friends and still watch the occasional rerun. I am amused by things I read about how offensive Friends is to millennials. I suppose GenX wasn’t all that woke back in the day, and that’s fine by me. We know how to chill out & have some fun without getting offended by every damn thing.

 

 

Fuller House

Yes…I like Fuller House. There, I said it!! Is the acting bad & the storylines cheesy?? Sure. But that’s okay. Not everything has to be award-winning, ripped from the headlines, or deep & meaningful. Pointless fun is alright on occasion.

 

 

Game of Thrones

I tried to read the first book in the Game of Thrones series and made it less than ten pages before realizing that I’d rather take a nap, therefore I never even bothered with the television show.

 

 

 

Gossip Girl

Nah…cause I’m a dude.

 

 

Ghost Adventures

I just can’t get into anything ghost related. I don’t find it compelling entertainment.

 

 

Grey’s Anatomy

I actually did watch the first season…maybe two…of Grey’s Anatomy. It was good…and I’m sure it still is 15 years later. But I drifted away early on and just never got back into it.

 

 

Gilmore Girls

Nah…I don’t think I was the target demo for that show.

 

 

Glee

No, because I have taste. I always imagined Glee as kind of the love child of Cop Rock & Beverly Hills 90210.

 

 

Hart of Dixie

Never heard of it.

 

 

Hawaii Five-0

I assume we are talking about the reboot that premiered in 2010 and not the original that aired in the 1970’s. In that case, yes I watched the first season of the new show, but after that lost interest and have no idea what’s been happening the past 8 or 9 years.

 

 

 

House of Cards

Surprisingly enough, no…I’ve never seen a single episode. I don’t care what the PC Police say…Kevin Spacey is freakin’ brilliant, so I’m not sure why I never bothered with this particular show.

 

 

House

Nope. I’ve been told that I’d enjoy it. I’m not sure if that’s because the main character is loosely based on Sherlock Holmes (who I adore), or because he is a grumpy old curmudgeon (which I am too), but for some reason the show was recommended to me more than once. Unfortunately, my aversion to medical dramas is like a shield on a starship that’s only down every once in a great while.

 

 

How I Met Your Mother

Oh boy…where do I begin?? I LOVED HIMYM. It was right up there on par with Friends. I love a good mystery so I was highly invested, especially in the last few seasons. But then came one of the worst final episodes in television history. After finally meeting The Mother (portrayed by the enchanting Cristin Milioti) toward the end of the series we are given a quick fast forward with the highlights of Ted & Tracy’s relationship, ultimately finding out that in the “present” day of 2030 (when the framing device is set) The Mother is dead and Ted is ready to revisit his long dormant relationship with former flame Robin. Oh yes…Robin. HIMYM spent the last few seasons building up an unlikely romance & eventual marriage between Robin and lecherous Barney Stinson, only to throw it all away in a “blink & you’ll miss it” hot second in the finale. All the character growth that we experienced with Barney is flippantly discarded when Barney & Robin divorce and he embarks on a quest to sleep with 31 women in the space of a month, a plan that goes awry when the final conquest gets pregnant. Look, I’m a sucker for happy endings, but I also know that life doesn’t work like that. To some degree I almost understand what the show’s creators were going for. My father always says that death is part of life, so writing that aspect into the show would be understandable…except for the fact that HIMYM is a freakin’ half hour sitcom. We don’t need deep & meaningful. Just give us our damn happy ending…Ted & Tracy and Barney & Robin all live happily ever after. But nnnnooooooo…they couldn’t do that!! I swore in the immediate aftermath of the finale in 2014 that I would never watch a rerun of the show, and for six years I’ve kept that vow.

 

How to Get Away with Murder

Not the least bit interested.

 

I Zombie

Is that like an iPhone for dead people?? I don’t know.

 

 

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

I’ve read alot of comments about it thru the years, but have never given it a whirl. The cast looks top notch (I rather enjoy Danny DeVito’s work), but it’s just something I’ve never given a chance, probably to my detriment.

 

 

Law & Order SVU

Nope. I’ve never watched any of the Law & Order shows. I mean really…why the hell would I be entertained by a program with the word “victims” right in the title??

 

 

Lost Girl

I mean, I hope they find her…but no.

 

 

Making A Murderer

Our culture’s fascination with killing & death mystifies me.

 

 

Manifest

Isn’t that one of those Lost knockoffs that the network will lose patience with and cancel, leaving fans with no resolution?? No thanks. That’s one of the reasons I’m so hesitant to become invested in much on television nowadays.

 

 Mom

Sorry, but I just don’t understand how generational substance abuse can be sitcom fodder.

 

Nailed It

Is it one of those home improvement/renovation shows on HGTV?? I honestly don’t know.

 

NCIS / NCIS New Orleans / NCIS Los Angeles

Nope. Just like the Law & Order shows and the CSI shows the whole NCIS thing has never frosted my cupcake.

 

 

New Girl

I’d love to meet a new gal. Hell, I’d like to meet any gal (within acceptable parameters). But in real life…not on television.

 

Once Upon a Time

In a land far, far away…

I have no idea.

 

One Tree Hill

I was really into One Tree Hill for 2 or 3 seasons. It reminded me of Dawson’s Creek, which is meant as a compliment. Unfortunately, TV shows about high school students tend to grow stale when the characters graduate, and I have no idea what went on with the show in its last half dozen years.

 

 

Orange is the New Black

Women in prison. No thanks. And please don’t take that as a sexist remark. I have no interest in any kind of show centered around prison.

 

Ozark

Never heard of it.

 

Parenthood

In 1988 there was a film called Parenthood with an all-star cast…Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Robards, Keanu Reeves, Rick Moranis, & a very young Joaquin Phoenix, all directed by Ron Howard. It was a good flick that garnered two Academy Award nominations: Best Song (Randy Newman) and Best Supporting Actress (Dianne Wiest). In 1990 Parenthood was adapted for television with the same characters but a whole new cast, including David Arquette, Ed Begley Jr., Thora Birch, & a young Leonardo DiCaprio (portraying the character played by Phoenix in the film). That show only lasted for one season, which is a shame because it wasn’t bad. Then in 2010 NBC decided to revive the general concept of Parenthood, albeit with a whole new set of characters and a more 21st century angsty kind of vibe. I really liked the original film, and enjoyed the first TV show, but by the time the second show came about I was almost 40 years old and not all that entertained by angst anymore. I have enough anxiety & torment in my real life…I’m not amused by it in movies or on television. The cast (Craig T. Nelson, Bonnie Bedelia, Monica Potter, Peter Krause, Lauren Graham) was terrific, and I did watch a few episodes in the course of six seasons, but it was never something I was going to invest in completely.

 

Pretty Little Liars

I don’t think I’m the target demo, and that’s fine with me.

 

Reign

I have no clue. I’m guessing there are dragons, swords, & kings battling over…whatever it is that they battle over. Those kinds of stories can make interesting books, but they don’t seem to translate well to television.

 

Riverdale

On the surface a live action, soapy reimagining of the comics starring Archie, Veronica, Jughead, & Betty sounds intriguing, and perhaps if I’d known about it before its launch a few years ago I may have checked it out. Alas, I had no idea it existed for two years because it’s on The CW, and let’s be honest…most of us forget The CW exists because they do a terrible job of promoting their network and its TV shows. So now we are four seasons in and the ship has likely sailed.

 

Roseanne / The Conners

I didn’t care for the original incarnation of Roseanne back in the 90’s, and a couldn’t possibly care less about the reboot that launched a couple of years ago, despite the titular star bucking the Hollywood lockstep and “coming out” as a Trump supporter. I wasn’t going to get sucked into that tug-of-war. Like everyone else I had my opinions when Roseanne Barr was fired from her own show for a completely innocuous tweet, and that debacle just reinforced my lack of interest in the whole thing.

 

 

Santa Clarita Diet

I’ve battled weight issues my entire life, to the point that I’ve kind of given up. Diets just don’t seem to work for me. I’m almost certain that the show has zero to do with food or weight loss, but I have absolutely no desire to research what it is about, what channel it’s on, or who it stars.

Scandal

If I was going to get into a political soap opera I probably would have chosen House of Cards, but I chose neither. I think the truth is that The West Wing spoiled all political dramas for me because nothing can ever live up to that level of greatness.

 

Secret Life of the American Teenager

Okay…confession time. I actually watched this show for a bit during its first season in 2008. It’s from the same folks who’d created 7th Heaven, a show that I loved in the late 90’s thru its decade long run that ended shortly before Secret Life premiered. The two programs shared a similar vibe, and I was drawn in by the cast, which included 80’s Brat Pack queen Molly Ringwald (as a Mom!!). But I quickly lost interest somewhere in the midst of the second season.

 

Shameless

That was a really underrated song released by Billy Joel in the late 80’s, with a popular cover performed by Garth Brooks a few years later. Oh…it’s a television show too?? I had no idea.

 

 

Sons of Anarchy

That’d be an excellent name for a wrestling tag team. As far as the television show goes, I’ve never seen it and have no plans for that to change.

 

Stranger Things

I’ve heard good things. I had every intention of checking it out. But now, with the show preparing to release its fourth season, I am 24 hour long episodes behind and that just seems like too big of a mountain to climb at this point. Never say never though…maybe I’ll get into it long after it’s over, which isn’t my normal modus operandi.

 

Station 19

I have no idea.

 

South Park

I gave South Park a whirl back in the day, believing it to be a worthy heir to the throne abdicated by Beavis & Butt-Head. I suppose my entertainment palate matured just a bit in those years, so I quickly lost interest.

 

Supernatural

I used to believe I was a sci-fi fan, but I’ve come to realize that I am very selective about the kind of sci-fi in which I invest my time, and Supernatural just didn’t make the cut.

 

Teen Mom

Call me old-fashioned, but I just don’t believe that teenage pregnancy is appropriate fodder for reality television. I am not a fan of reality TV in the first place, and shows like this are among the worst offenders. I don’t understand people who are entertained by the very real & difficult circumstances of others.

 

The 100

100 what?? I need more information.

 

The Tudors

The only Tudors I care about is Tudor’s Biscuit World, home of The Thundering Herd, a delicious breakfast biscuit with scrambled egg, cheese, sausage, & a hash brown.

 

 

The Big Bang Theory

Yes, yes, yes!! I LOVED The Big Bang Theory. I faithfully watched new episodes for a dozen seasons on CBS, and for the past several years reruns on TBS a few nights a week for 2 or 3 hours at a time helped fill some lonely nights for me. I was sad when CBS cancelled the show, but if I’m being honest the quality of the writing had dipped noticeably in the final few seasons. The finale was well done, and surprisingly I haven’t been all that interested in the TBS reruns since last spring.

 

The Fosters

Is it on Freeform?? I believe it’s on Freeform, and for me Freeform is a place to watch old movies, especially during the Christmas season. It is not a channel I click on for original programming.

 

The Good Doctor

Okay…so he’s a doctor, but he’s autistic. That’s nice. But it’s yet another medical drama, and I just can’t do it. I nearly gave it a shot only because of the presence of Richard Schiff in the cast. Back in the day Schiff brilliantly portrayed Toby Ziegler on The West Wing, and I loved that show. But at the end of the day I decided to leave the memories alone and pass on The Good Doctor.

 

 

The Handmaid’s Tale

I know very little about the show, but from what I’ve been able to glean it seems like kind of a downer, the kind of thing that critics fawn all over and awards shows shower with praise, but regular folks in flyover country just don’t see the big deal.

 

The Last Kingdom

I have no idea.

 

The Office

I’m way late to the party on this one. First, I have to explain something. I grew up in the 70’s & 80’s, a high water era for multi-camera sitcoms, which is the more traditional format. In the past decade we’ve seen the rise of single camera sitcoms, meaning there is no live audience or laugh track. Since I came of age with multi-cams as the norm that’s what I’m used to. I need a live audience and/or a laugh track. I have had a difficult time adjusting to single camera sitcoms and oftentimes reject such programs right out of the box. Perhaps I need to be a bit more flexible, but I’m just being honest about my experience up until now. It is for these reasons that I never even gave The Office a second thought when it premiered in 2005. I adore the 1999 cult film Office Space, so The Office would seem to be right in my wheelhouse, but I never gave it a chance. However, a few things happened in the ensuing years. Steve Carell became a movie star in films that I rather enjoy. Other stars of The Office went on to have solid careers in movies & television…folks like Jenna Fischer, Ed Helms, & John Krasinski. Internet memes became a thing, many of them featuring characters from The Office. Friends & family began making references related to the show. And now…finally…nearly seven years after it ended its run on NBC, I have begun watching reruns on Netflix.

 

The Originals

Original what?? I don’t know, and it shall remain a mystery.

 

The Simpsons

I may have missed the boat on The Simpsons. I was 17 years old & in my senior year of high school when it premiered in 1989. Perhaps I thought I was too cool for an animated show. Maybe there was something else in that time slot that I preferred to watch (this was way before DVR). I don’t recall exactly why I never got into The Simpsons, but at some point, as I heard more & more about its sardonic humor and funny characters, I began to realize that maybe I’d misjudged it. However, by that time it was way too late. I’m the kind of person who is either all in from the very beginning or not in at all. I may lose interest in a show a few years into its run, but rarely do I begin watching something that I’ve already missed multiple seasons of. I also don’t think that anyone would have ever predicted that The Simpsons would still be going three decades later, which is another reason why I feel like I may have missed out on something I might have liked.

 

 

The Sinner

I am assuming it’s either preachy or dark or both. Either way I’m not interested.

 

The Vampire Diaries

Vampires?? Nope.

 

The Walking Dead

Zombies?? No thanks. I realize that a lot of folks are really into it, but I’m not nor ever will be one of them.

 

The Witcher

Never heard of it.

 

This Is Us

Once upon a time I adored This Is Us. For the first two seasons I was glued to my television every Tuesday night. The mystery of when & how Jack Pearson died was riveting. The show was well-written with a top notch cast. I’ve had a Mandy Moore fetish for many years. Back in the day my friend Stacy would call me whenever A Walk to Remember was on television and I was usually already watching it. At any rate, something happened in the fall of 2018. This Is Us began a story arc about Jack’s tour of duty in Vietnam, and I decided to change the channel to WWE Smackdown. I DVRed This Is Us and told myself I’d catch up eventually, but before long I had about a dozen episodes recorded and knew I wasn’t going to invest that much time in getting up to speed, so I just decided I was no longer interested in the show. Perhaps someday I’ll revisit it.

 

True Blood

Vampires?? No.

 

True Detective

Nah. I’ve got a few friends who are really into this new wave of true crime, but it’s never interested me.

 

Twilight Zone

The original was way before my time. There have been a few revivals I believe, but I’ve just never been into giving any of them a whirl.

 

 

Two Broke Girls

I tried. I wanted to like it, but the humor was just so crude & sophomoric and the characters poorly constructed. I’m stunned that the show lasted six seasons.

 

Vikings

You mean the Minnesota Vikings?? Those are the only Vikings with which I am familiar.

 

The Ranch

The only reason I’ve even heard of it is because it stars Ashton Kutcher. However, I have no clue what the show is about, when it airs, or on what channel I could find it. And I couldn’t possibly care less.

  

Flip or Flop

I actually enjoy the occasional home renovation program, usually on HGTV (I especially like The Property Brothers). However, I don’t think I’ve ever watched Flip or Flop. I believe it’s the one where the hosts were married and now they are divorced, which seems like way too much drama for a fix-up show.

 

The Rookie

It’s a cop show, right?? Nah, not my thing.

 

 

Deputy

I’ve seen ads for it, but have no interest.

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.

 

 

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’s true that those two time periods are most easily distinguished by the fact that Seasons 1-5 were broadcast in black & while 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.

25 Favorite TV Theme Songs…..Part 2

tvmusicWelcome to Part 2 of my Favorite TV Theme Songs. Please check out Part 1 if you have not already done so. I will remind you that these choices reflect my own unique taste and life experiences. You may agree or disagree with my rankings. Please leave me comments (be nice) suggesting your favorites that I may have skipped over. Now on with the show!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 Frasier
Frasier’s theme song was actually played during the closing credits, which seems a bit counterintuitive. I assume there were two reasons for this though. First, jumping right into the show at the beginning rather than playing a theme song might possibly maybe kinda sorta provide a small advantage over the competition in gaining the viewership of people, like my Dad for example, who flip thru channels like a crackhead with the attention span of a gnat. Secondly, maybe it keeps the attention of viewers at the end of the show and helps whatever program comes next. Anyway, Tossed Salad & Scrambled Eggs was a nonsensical tune that had to have been written by someone who was high and thought it was h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s. I spent a decade watching the show and trying to figure out exactly what in the heck it meant. I still don’t know. What I do know is that the tune, sung by series star Kelsey Grammar, is unique and obviously memorable.

 

 

14 The Addams Family
They’re creepy. They’re kooky. They’re altogether ooky. They are the Addams Family of course!! You’re snapping your fingers right now aren’t you?? The show was based on a series of cartoons that began appearing in The New Yorker in the 1930’s. It only lasted two seasons in the mid-60’s and was off the air before my father had even met my mother, but thanks to syndicated reruns in the 80’s I came to love it and its infectious & quirky theme song.

 

 

13 WKRP in Cincinnati
The WKRP theme song spins a tale. It’s about someone (presumably program director Andy Travis) who is writing to an ex-girlfriend hoping that maybe she thinks of him occasionally even though they weren’t meant to be. He has apparently had an unstable professional life of which he has grown weary but has finally settled down at this pugnacious little station in Cincinnati, OH. The song may not fully set up the premise of the show, but it does tell a story and I like that. These days listening to the WKRP theme makes me wistful. It makes me long for the days when sitcoms were funny and songs on the radio were awesome. Those were good times.

 

 

12 The Dukes of Hazzard
When I was a kid I LOVED The Dukes of Hazzard. I still do. Various TV stations broadcast reruns with some regularity and I watch whenever I get the chance. Country music has never frosted my cupcake, but I definitely dig the Dukes theme, which was composed & performed by the legendary Waylon Jennings (who also narrated the show). Good Ol’ Boys, which actually reached #1 on the country charts in 1980, solidly outlines the program’s premise, telling us that these two harmless guys are always in trouble with the law because they fight the system like two modern day Robin Hoods. They just don’t make shows or write theme songs like this anymore. Such a shame.

 

 

11 Friends
I’ll be There for You was a one hit wonder for a pop duo called The Rembrandts. It’s an upbeat, rockin’ tune that might have been a hit all by itself, but if not for Friends it would have never existed. The song was written by the show’s producers, who originally offered the opportunity to sing it to 80’s alternative rockers They Might Be Giants (who went on to do the theme for Malcolm in the Middle, which I never watched). After that didn’t work out the song was offered to REM, which would have been really awesome, but that didn’t happen either. The Rembrandts, despite their cool band name, never really achieved any lasting success, but I’m sure they are pleased with the residual checks that keep rolling in. The lyrics perfectly describe life for a 20-something (and in my case my 30’s and 40’s thus far as well). Your job is a joke, you’re broke, your love life is dead, it seems like you’re stuck in second gear, it hasn’t been your day, month, or year, and your mother warned you that life has a way of bringing you to your knees…but your friends will be there when it rains because they understand what you’re going thru. It’s a rather deep song for a television theme, and one that I really connected with back in the 90’s.

 

 

10 Welcome Back Kotter / The Facts of Life
Yep…you guessed it…we have another tie. Welcome Back Kotter is a criminally underappreciated program. Everyone knows it launched John Travolta’s career, but aside from that it rarely gets the attention it deserves. One fantastic element of the show that, along with the Travolta connection, has remained in the American pop culture consciousness is the theme song that was composed & sung by John Sebastian, former lead singer of The Lovin’ Spoonful, the band that brought us the 1966 chart topper Summer in the City. It’s a breezy, laid back, very 70’s tune that tells us that Mr. Kotter is originally from Brooklyn (as a matter of fact he was an alumnus of the high school in the show and an original founding member of The Sweathogs) and that he has moved back after his dreams were his original ticket out. I don’t recall if the show ever explained where Mr. Kotter had gone to, what those dreams were (getting an education? becoming a teacher?), or why exactly he felt compelled to return. I suppose that would have been a bit heavy for a sitcom. The Facts of Life was a spinoff of Diff’rent Strokes and lasted an amazing nine seasons. The theme song taught us all that the facts of life meant taking the good with the bad, that they were all about you, and that it takes a lot to get them right. The song was composed by songstress Gloria Loring and her then husband, actor Alan Thicke. Loring sang the Facts theme, while Thicke crooned the other song they’d written…the Diff’rent Strokes theme.

 

 

 

9 Laverne & Shirley
For the record, a schlemiel is what a clumsy blunderer is called in Yiddish. I suppose we may refer to them as a screw-up. Schlimazel is the Yiddish term for an unlucky person. Hasenpfeffer is German rabbit stew. I’m not sure which of Laverne and Shirley was the screw-up and which one was the unlucky one, or what rabbit stew has to do with anything. But let’s face it, that little bit of Eastern European gibberish takes what would have otherwise been an ordinary theme song called Making Our Dreams Come True and makes it one that we’ll always remember.

 

 

8 The Jeffersons
Movin’ On Up basically tells us the premise of the show. We know that George & Louise Jefferson had been neighbors of All in the Family’s Archie & Edith Bunker in Queens. When the spinoff was created George, the well-to-do owner of a dry cleaning chain, and “Weezie” moved to Manhattan. They moved “on up to the sky”, aka a penthouse apartment, finally getting “their piece of the pie”, their “at bat in the big leagues”. I’m not really sure about fish not frying in the kitchen or beans not burning on the grill. Maybe rich people were supposed to stop eating those things?? Anyway, anyone who grew up in the 70’s & 80’s and watched too much TV is familiar with this particular theme and likely recalls it with affection.

 

 

7 The Tonight Show (Johnny Carson)
A few weeks ago former Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinsen made a guest appearance on the Jimmy Fallon incarnation of the program. At 87 years of age Doc looks like he has hardly grown a day older than he was two decades ago when Carson abdicated his throne as King of Late Night and the entire television landscape changed. As a nod to Doc’s tenure with Carson the house band played the show’s old theme song, the one so closely identified with Carson’s reign. It was a brief but cherished trip down memory lane. The song itself has an interesting history. Toot Sweet was a tinny melody written by Paul Anka in the 50’s. Anka & Annette Funicello dated briefly and she covered Toot Sweet (with lyrics) in 1959, calling it It’s Really Love. When Carson took over The Tonight Show in 1962 Anka revamped the tune into Johnny’s Theme. You did not know that. Wacky wild stuff. Hiyoooooo!!!!

 

 

6 The Beverly Hillbillies
In the 1960’s CBS was home to a plethora of shows that catered to a rustic, small town target audience. The Andy Griffith Show, Green Acres, Mister Ed, Petticoat Junction, & Hee Haw were all set in rural areas with simple, goodhearted country folks as the centerpiece. The Beverly Hillbillies added a fish-out-of-water element to the mix, transporting its family from the hills of an unspecified southern locale to the posh neighborhood of Beverly Hills. The Ballad of Jed Clampett explains that the poor mountaineer had been out hunting when he hit oil (black gold, Texas tea) and became a millionaire. His family encouraged him to use his new wealth to move to California, because I guess back then that seemed like some sort of nirvana, as opposed to the economically & morally bankrupt cesspool it has become. At any rate, the storytelling lyrics combined with some really catchy banjo music has made this particular theme song one of the most beloved in television history.

 

 

5 The Andy Griffith Show
Did you know that the TAGS theme song has lyrics?? I had no clue until a few years ago when Andy Griffith passed away and my buddy Conner, as big of a fan of the show as myself, posted the song on Facebook. The Fishin’ Hole is pretty much what you’d expect…a story about chillin’ out at an idyllic fishing spot. I’m not sure who made the decision to not utilize the words for the TV theme, but it was a brilliant choice. Instead the song is whistled, which just adds to the pleasant & tranquil vibe of the show. I can’t whistle, but if I ever learn how I think I’d just have to perform the TAGS theme for myself on a daily basis. That’d make me happy.

 

 

4 The Flintstones
I wasn’t a huge cartoon fan as a kid, but I did enjoy a few, one of them being The Flintstones. It’s amazing to think that it was a prime time show back in the early 60’s. There is a scene in the 1987 Thanksgiving classic Planes, Trains, & Automobiles where John Candy & Steve Martin are riding in a bus and the rather extroverted (some might say borderline obnoxious) character played by Candy is getting everybody interested in a sing-a-long. He asks Martin’s somewhat aloof character to pick a song, and when he does his best to sell the passengers on the old Sinatra standard Three Coins in the Fountain they all look at him like he just escaped a mental institution. Candy takes over and immediately gets the crowd into a rousing rendition of the Flintstones theme. It’s just that kind of song. Like several other beloved TV themes it is an excellent introduction to the show itself, literally inviting us to meet this modern, Stone Age family from Bedrock and promising that we’re going to have a yabba dabba doo time, which of course we all know by now is a good thing.

 

 

3 Gilligan’s Island / The Brady Bunch
This is our final tie and it seems appropriate for various reasons. Both shows were created by the same guy. Gilligan’s Island aired for three seasons in the mid-60’s, while The Brady Bunch was on the air for five seasons in the early 70’s. I became familiar with both shows because they aired regularly in syndication throughout my childhood. Occasionally you can still find them today on channels like TV Land and Nick at Nite. Both shows are looked at with equal amounts of fondness & derision because thru the prism of our modern culture (the one that has made stars out of Justin Bieber & The Kardashians and thinks reality TV is cool) they seem hokey & trite. Each theme song outlines its show really well and introduce us to every character. The lyrics for both songs were written by series’ creator Sherwood Schwartz. And both theme songs are well-known and cherished by multiple generations.

 

 

2 Cheers
The older I get the more I appreciate class & sophistication. I suppose everyone probably defines those things a bit differently, but I think most people know it when they see it. The Cheers theme songs sets a tone. The show takes place in a bar, and that can mean a variety of things depending on one’s life experiences. This tune clearly establishes that this particular bar is a friendly, relaxed, pleasant, tasteful place to hang out. Where Everybody Knows Your Name communicates that Cheers is a place where people “are always glad you came”, where everyone understands that life can be tough and that sometimes you just have to “take a break from all your worries”. It doesn’t promote “partying” as most young people understand that term, and I can’t recall any character on the show…not even constant beer drinker Norm…becoming intoxicated and doing something stupid or illegal. Unrealistic?? Sure, but that’s fine by me.

 

 

1 The Love Boat
Finally…we’ve reached the summit!!
I’ve never been on a cruise, but I want to try it sometime and that curiosity is, in part, because I grew up watching The Love Boat. I am comfortable enough with my machismo to admit that I never really enjoyed virile tough guy shows like The A-Team, Hill Street Blues, Simon & Simon, Miami Vice, Magnum P.I., or Knight Rider. I am a lover, not a fighter, and prefer the simple half-hour comedy, but occasionally I can be roped into dedicating an hour of my time to a program, especially if it has the kind of quirky charm present in The Love Boat. The theme song was composed by prolific songwriter Paul Williams, known to those of us of a certain age as Little Enos Burdette in Smokey & The Bandit but whose real career includes writing The Carpenters’ hit We’ve Only Just Begun, An Old Fashioned Love Song as sung by Three Dog Night, & the awesome Rainbow Connection for The Muppets. Love Boat was performed by jazz crooner Jack Jones and was meant to evoke the idea of a lounge singer on a cruise ship. Mission accomplished. The song has a disco undertone reminiscent of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana, but also kind of a big band vibe. It doesn’t really detail the premise of the show except to say that the ship “soon will be making another run” and that “it promises something for everyone”. It advises us to “set a course for adventure” and get our minds on romance because love is a) life’s sweetest reward, b) exciting & new, & c) will float back to you if only you let it flow. Now I am old enough & jaded enough to realize that all that is a bunch of poppycock, but it does sound really cool. I am not ashamed to admit that occasionally…when I am alone of course…I will randomly belt out Love Boat, but you should be glad your ears will never be exposed to such cruelty.