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.

100 Memorable TV Characters…Part 3

Television is chewing gum for the eyes.  –  Frank Lloyd Wright

My father & I occasionally hearken back to the late February day 18 years ago when we laid my mother to rest. We always recall how blessed our family was with such a beautiful sunny day, because on top of our grief it would have been that much more difficult to go thru the whole process in the midst of rain, snow, & chilly temperatures. We’ve been fortunate to once again have had some unseasonably temperate days here in West Virginia lately, and since I am a self-diagnosed sufferer of Seasonal Affective Disorder and know I’ve had issues with Vitamin D deficiency in the past I have taken the opportunity to award myself some much needed sunshine therapy this week. Alas, now we are back to the cold & wet climate more typical of this time of year, but the good news is that means that we can move forward with this project. If you aren’t up to speed with previous entries then by all means check them out here, here, & here. After you are all caught up come back and enjoy what’s next with the rest of us.

50     Beavis & Butt-Head (Beavis and Butt-Head)

In my final year of college I finally escaped dorm life and got my first ever Bachelor Palace off campus. It just happened to be a few blocks away from our favorite watering hole(s), so oftentimes my buddies would stop by to hang out before we headed to those establishments. It was during this time that MTV premiered a crudely animated sitcom in which two dimwitted delinquents wander around their town causing chaos in between sitting on the couch commenting on music videos (which MTV still aired occasionally at that time). It’s a show with a narrow focus and I assume a very specific target audience, which explains why I wasn’t nearly as interested once I graduated and segued into adult life. However, I have really great (though a bit fuzzy) memories of that year. Some things are special because it is a shared experience, and I am so glad that Beavis & Butt-Head were a memorable part of that era in my life. A feature film was released in 1996 in which the moronic duo go on a quest to find their stolen TV and somehow end up at the White House hanging out with President Clinton. The movie is alright, but not great. A few years ago I got excited when a revival of the show was announced, but I must admit that I never watched the one season return.

49     Lenny & Squiggy (Laverne & Shirley)

Speaking of idiots…

Wacky neighbors are a dependable television trope, so while the titular twosome (who had been introduced on Happy Days) were the focus of the show and the ladies swooned over “The Big Ragu” Carmine Ragusa, oftentimes it was Lenny & Squiggy who got the laughs. Lenny Kosnowski & Andrew Squigman live in the apartment above Laverne & Shirley and are truck drivers for the same brewery at which the ladies are bottlecappers. They frequently pop in to annoy the gals, and fancy themselves as tough, cool, desirable 50’s greasers, when in truth they are just a couple of goofballs that don’t appeal to women at all.

48     Matt Foley (Saturday Night Live)

It is an inescapable fact that Chris Farley’s weight was used as part of the joke in most everything he did, from SNL to the films in which he appeared. But since Farley himself seemed to be okay with that I suppose no one else should be offended. By far his best SNL contribution was Matt Foley, a raucous motivational speaker who is “35 years old, eating a steady diet of government cheese, thrice divorced, and living in a van down by the river!”. Foley isn’t as much a motivator as a cautionary tale since he is unkempt, belligerent, rude, pessimistic, & apparently a failure, hence the humor, and he usually ended up somehow hilariously crashing thru a piece of furniture. The character was the perfect showcase for Farley’s unique brand of physical comedy, and it is unfortunate that he passed on before Matt Foley could be brought to the big screen.

47     Opie Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show)

These days Ron Howard is best known as an award-winning director of films like Apollo 13, Splash, & A Beautiful Mind, and many affectionately recall his role as awkward teenager Richie Cunningham in the retro sitcom Happy Days. However, way back in the 1960’s little Ronny got his start portraying the precocious son of the local sheriff in The Andy Griffith Show. We literally get to watch Opie grow up from an adorable six year old to a young teenager. Father-son interactions provide some of the most uplifting moments on TAGS, but Opie has plenty of entertaining scenes with many other inhabitants of Mayberry as well. Two of my favorite TAGS episodes…Season 3’s Mr. McBeevee and Season 4’s Opie the Birdman…showcase Opie and give an indication of just how great of an actor Ron Howard could have been if that would have been his passion.

46         The Riddler (Batman)

Batman is my favorite superhero, and while his comic book origins are indeed dark…an aesthetic that most renditions of the story stick with…one notable exception is the beloved goofy 1960’s TV show. Episodic television allowed a different villain to invade Gotham City each week, including the already established “rogue’s gallery” of Batman baddies as well as some pretty hysterical adversaries created exclusively for the show. I’m a traditionalist, so I prefer the bad guys we all know & love to hate, and my favorite has to be The Riddler. Edward Nygma likes to tease The Caped Crusader with riddles that are clues to his location and/or the crime he is about to commit. Riddler wears a garish green costume peppered with question marks, and has an irritating laugh.

45     Balki Bartokomous (Perfect Strangers)

ABC had a penchant in the late 80’s into the 90’s for churning out silly sitcoms that, by any objective measure of quality, shouldn’t have made it more than a season or two, but somehow became cherished by the masses. It is an interesting lesson that modern television executives should learn. Not everyone is on the edge of their seat waiting for the next gritty, studious, sanctimonious, ripped-from-the-headlines show. Sometimes we simply crave pointless escapism that tickles our funny bone. At any rate, Balki is a sheepherder from the Mediterranean island of Mypos. He comes to Chicago to stay with his tightly wound cousin Larry, and boom…you have a fish-out-of-water story that’s also an amusing take on the Odd Couple formula. Balki’s misunderstandings about American culture are comical, as are Larry’s exasperated attempts to clear up any confusion. When anything good happens the two engage in Balki’s Dance of Joy, which kind of looks like something folks do at a Greek wedding.

44     Frank Costanza (Seinfeld)

In addition to the hysterical main cast, Seinfeld also had a ton of memorable guest stars and several great recurring characters. Frank is the obnoxious father of George. He is a temperamental traveling salesman best remembered for inventing Festivus, a non-commercial Christmas alternative that features feats of strength & airing of grievances.

43     Daisy Duke (The Dukes of Hazzard)

I went thru puberty while The Dukes of Hazzard was on the air, so yes…a sexy woman known for wearing super short jean shorts and who appeared in a skimpy bikini in the show’s opening credits every week for seven years definitely frosted my cupcake. Daisy is a hybrid…part sweet southern belle, part tough as nails tomboy. She is said to “drive like Richard Petty, shoot like Annie Oakley, & know the words to all of Dolly Parton’s songs.” She’s not above using her feminine gifts to distract anyone trying to go after her family, and most often does so with charmingly inept Deputy Enos Strate, who has always had a huge crush on her. In contrast to modern shows in which very little is left to the imagination even on network television, Daisy Duke seems like a quaint reminder of a more innocent time.

42     Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, & Sophia (The Golden Girls)

I just can’t choose one. The entire ensemble made The Golden Girls work, and even with two Emmys & three Golden Globes I still think it may have been an underrated program. Dorothy Zbornak is a Brooklyn born teacher who is divorced from philandering Stan. She is smart, acerbic, & perpetually exasperated by her roommates, though she thinks of them as family. Blanche Devereux is a well-to-do southern belle and a widow with a healthy libido. Rose Nyland is a naïve & simpleminded widow who is fond of telling pointless stories about her childhood in St. Olaf, MN. She’s really sweet & trusting, and prone to being taken advantage of by others. Sophia Petrillo is Dorothy’s elderly mother. She is sharp as a tack, fearful that Dorothy will send her back to Shady Pines retirement home, & loves to tell stories from her youth in Sicily, though there is a general vibe that most of those stories are poppycock. As opposed to many shows that tend to feature young & pretty people, The Golden Girls proved that “seasoned citizens” can be a lot of fun.

41     Otis Campbell (The Andy Griffith Show)

I love any episode of TAGS in which town drunk Otis appears. I suppose nowadays some people would get their knickers twisted about alcoholism being treated as a joke, but thankfully folks were much less politically correct back in the 60’s. Otis actually has a job & a wife, but every Saturday night he goes out and gets snockered on hooch, then locks himself up in the Mayberry jail. Did you know that Hal Smith…the actor who portrays Otis…was a well-known voice artist?? He most notably voiced Goofy in several Disney productions, including Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

40     President Jed Bartlet (The West Wing)

I’ve often asked myself if I would vote for Jed Bartlet in an election, but there is no conclusive answer because I don’t believe that anyone like him actually exists. He is a man of high ideals but realistic expectations. He is a Nobel Prize winning economist, but despite being brilliant he’s also empathetic & quite funny. President Bartlet…like everyone associated with the show…is a bleeding heart liberal, but somehow all involved are able to make that look like a good thing, which is probably one of the greatest magic tricks anyone has ever performed on television. Martin Sheen might be a crackpot in real life, but credit where credit is due…he is a brilliant actor. The President was originally intended to be a rarely seen supporting character, with plots revolving around various White House staff members. However, that plan quickly changed, which undoubtedly made for a better program.

39     Dr. Johnny Fever & Venus Flytrap (WKRP in Cincinnati)

When I was a kid I considered becoming a radio DJ when I grew up. Why?? Well, probably because Johnny Fever & Venus Flytrap made the job seem so cool & fun. Johnny is a laid back pothead & former 60’s hippie whose career in radio had been successful before he fell on hard times. He had considered WKRP to be rock bottom, but when the station’s format changes from easy listening to rock n’ roll he is energized and becomes a very popular morning drive personality. Venus Flytrap (real name: Gordon Sims) is a Vietnam vet who is hired by his pal Andy Travis, WKRP’s new program director. It is Andy who suggests the pseudonym and also advises Sims to dress cool so he’ll act cool. Unlike Johnny, whose on-air persona is hyper & wild, Venus is tranquil & chill. He is rather conservative and oftentimes acts as an even-tempered voice of reason. These two dudes made being a disc jockey look like an attractive career option to a young boy in grade school back in the day, and it wasn’t until many years later that I learned that it’s actually a really low-paying & unstable gig.

38     Norm Peterson (Cheers)

Cheers is the bar where everybody knows your name, and that’s especially true of Norm, who is enthusiastically greeted by the crowd every time he walks thru the door. Norm is an accountant who frequently seems to be between jobs, so he ends up spending a lot of time sitting at the end of the bar drinking beer. He is married to Vera, who we never meet in eleven seasons. Norm doesn’t seem to be particularly unhappy or disdainful of Vera, but neither is he ever in a rush to go home. It’s pretty funny that in an entire decade of watching the guy do virtually nothing except drink beer we never see him even remotely intoxicated, and his huge unpaid bar tab is occasionally the subject of mockery.

37     Wayne & Garth (Saturday Night Live)

Party on!! Wayne Campbell & Garth Algar are the hosts of a public access TV show emanating from Wayne’s basement. They are two nerdy juveniles who think they’re cooler than they are because they like heavy metal music & hot women. The sketches introduced a ton of catchphrases that many of a certain age still utilize with some frequency, such as “Schwing!”, “That’s what she said”, “Not!”, “hurl” & “spew”, “Are you mental?”, and “We’re not worthy!”. In 1992 the duo took their act to the big screen in a surprisingly solid film that did well enough to get a sequel just a year & a half later.

36     Linus Van Pelt (Peanuts)

Peanuts is interesting. It never spawned a regular comic book or TV show, and creator Charles Shultz was content to simply produce his comic strip for a half century. However, he did allow the characters to be marketed, which resulted in a ton of merchandise that’s still being churned out nearly two decades after Schultz’s death. As I did when writing about my favorite cartoons I am taking advantage of a loophole of sorts in the fact that there have been a plethora of Peanuts animated television specials over the years, a couple of which many of us grew up watching and continue to enjoy annually. Linus is the youngest of the group, a blanket toting, thumb sucking boy who tends to be the most solicitous & sensible out of any of his friends. He’s a great listener and always gives good advice, although his self-absorbed pals continue to overlook & disrespect his insight.

35     Captain Hawkeye Pierce (MASH)

Dr. Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce is the 4077th’s chief surgeon, a New England bred prankster who deals with the daily grind of being in a warzone by drinking copious amounts of martinis and flirting with every female in camp. He resents being drafted and definitely doesn’t conform to the Army way of life. Despite his irreverence it is Hawkeye that provides many of the series’ more somber moments after it segued into more of a dramedy during the second half of its run. In the series finale he suffers a breakdown and returns home to be a local country doctor after the war ends.

Dwight Schrute (The Office)

It took me awhile to warm up to Dwight. He’s a bit prickly and definitely weird. However, in the course of nine seasons he grows on a person…atleast that was my experience. There was a spin-off on the table for his character, which is why we got a backdoor pilot episode during the final season of The Office, but the new show never happened. Dwight is a total kissass to his boss, shows a slight tendency toward violence, has a bunch of peculiar hobbies & interests, and owns a beet farm as a side hustle. Ultimately, despite his many unappealing qualities that make him difficult to like, he shows himself to be a loyal friend & decent human being. His romance with holier-than-thou accountant Angela is an underappreciated element of the show, and their marriage was a great way to wrap things up. 

34     Bo & Luke Duke (The Dukes of Hazzard)

The show’s theme song describes them as good ol’ boys that never mean any harm. Luke is the older cousin and is shown to be smarter & more level-headed. He’s a former Marine. Bo is the younger, more vain & flirtatious pretty boy. He almost always drives the General Lee. The Duke Boys are on probation after being caught unlawfully transporting moonshine, and aren’t legally allowed to own firearms or leave the county, although they frequently do so anyway. They are constant targets of law enforcement, and regularly foil Boss Hogg’s shady schemes.

33     Dr. Heathcliff & Claire Huxtable (The Cosby Show)

While characters like Fred Sanford, JJ “Dynomite!” Evans, Arnold Jackson, & “Rerun” Stubbs are all entertaining on various levels, I don’t think there’s any way they could be held up as role models. Conversely, The Huxtables are undeniably so. Mom is a perceptive & resolute attorney, while Dad is a fun-loving & considerate physician. Both are educated and have high expectations for their five children. They are strict yet devoted parents, and their marriage is strong. They are affluent but not extravagant, and seem to have solid moral certitude. In other words, Cliff & Claire represent the vast majority of Americans, the sort of stable citizens & contributors to society that are often disregarded & ridiculed by the media & pop culture. The Cosby Show was popular and critically acclaimed, so I’m not sure why the formula hasn’t been duplicated a thousand times over. Of course I suppose any attempt to copy it would just be a poor imitation.

32     Fred Flintstone (The Flintstones)

Yabba dabba doo!! The Flintstones is a sneaky show. What do I mean by that?? Well, we tend to focus on the fact that it is animated, and that it is set in The Stone Age (the rock puns are always a treat). However, the truth is that it is simply a traditional sitcom about an average nuclear family and their friendly neighbors. Fred is an overbearing yet kindhearted crane operator. He’s short-tempered & irritable, but he’s devoted to his family & friends. He enjoys bowling, golf, & hanging out at the Loyal Order of Water Buffalos Lodge. When I was a kid I honestly thought that actor Jackie Gleason provided Fred’s voice, but I was wrong…sort of. Gleason may not have been directly involved with The Flintstones, but his Ralph Kramden character from 1950’s sitcom The Honeymooners heavily influenced how Fred was portrayed.

31     Dr. Niles Crane (Frasier)

Niles is the neurotic & effete younger brother of the show’s eponymous radio show host. Like his big brother Niles is also a psychiatrist. He’s the kind of pretentious nerd who loves opera, expensive wine, classical music, French food, & theater but knows absolutely zero about sports or pop culture. Niles is definitely a hypochondriac & a bit OCD, and tends to be overzealous in attempts to ingratiate himself into the perceived proper social circles. When we first meet Niles he is married to Maris, who we never see (much like Vera in Cheers), but his descriptions of her are horribly hysterical. They eventually divorce and he ends up marrying his father’s caregiver Daphne, who he’d been infatuated with since the day they met. I absolutely love Niles, and would have really enjoyed a Niles & Daphne spinoff, but sadly that never happened.

30     Sheriff Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show)

Andy Griffith was a brilliant actor. Take some time to watch the 1958 film No Time for Sergeants, in which he plays country bumpkin Will Stockdale, who hilariously clashes with his superiors when he is drafted into the Air Force (sounds like a great idea for a sitcom). After that watch 1957’s A Face in the Crowd, in which Griffith portrays drifter Lonesome Rhodes, who turns a random appearance on a radio show into fame & fortune on television then becomes an egotistical bully before his star falls as quickly as it rose. Griffith based Sheriff Taylor largely on Will Stockdale, atleast initially. After the first season of TAGS he figured out that other characters in Mayberry should be the source of humor while he played the bemused straight man, and so he toned down the hillbilly simpleton persona considerably. Sheriff Taylor is the kind of lawman we’d all love to encounter but probably doesn’t exist in reality…not anymore anyway. He doesn’t even carry a gun!! He’s a good friend, a pleasant neighbor, and the type of father all men should aspire to be. Check out the Season 1 episode A Feud is a Feud in which Andy explains Romeo & Juliet to Opie, or the Season 3 episode Andy Discovers America, in which he gives a unique history lesson to a group of boys. Andy is constantly doing everything he can to boost his deputy’s fragile ego, and is usually the voice of reason in the midst of idiocy. In the last few seasons Sheriff Taylor becomes a little too serious, frequently becoming aggravated by the antics of others, which is just one of the reasons that the first five years of TAGS are the best.

29     Kermit the Frog (The Muppet Show)   

When The Muppets won the Sammy Award for Favorite Movie in 2011 I said that “Honestly, toward the end when Kermit breaks out into Rainbow Connection I became so swelled with happiness & emotion that if I could have jumped out of my wheelchair and given a standing ovation I swear to God I would have”. It was in that moment that I realized just what kind of impact The Muppets had on my childhood. In his other popular song It’s Not Easy Being Green Kermit laments that “it seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things, and people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky”, which I have always taken as a perceptive nod to the marginalized in society who often feel ignored, disrespected, & taken for granted. I bet you didn’t realize Kermit was so profound.

28     Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

There are only two starship captains in the Trek universe that matter. Captain Picard is an alleged Frenchman with singularly British proclivities (“Tea! Earl Grey! Hot!). He is cultured, judicious, & somewhat aloof, though he does care deeply for his crew. He prefers diplomacy over battle, but ultimately does what needs to be done. He is fascinated with archaeology, enjoys fencing, is quite knowledgeable about physics & literature, and loves horses. Captain Picard is a true Renaissance man, even though he was born about 600 years after that period ended.

27         Stefano DiMera (Days of Our Lives)

I’ve been watching DOOL since I was about ten years old, and during that time no supervillain in any entertainment genre has been as evil as Stefano DiMera. He came to Salem in 1982 professing to simply be a European business tycoon, but it soon became apparent that he was more of a crime boss. Stefano has a longstanding vendetta against the blue collar Brady family and makes their lives a living hell for the biggest part of three decades. He dies about a dozen times, but is inevitably revealed to be alive, which explains why he calls himself The Phoenix. The actor who portrayed Stefano actually did pass away a few years ago, but the way the storyline was constructed on the show left things open ended, as though The Phoenix could rise again someday.

26     Charlie Brown (Peanuts)

Charlie Brown is essentially the animated personification of his creator Charles Shultz. He is the classic loveable loser, always being insulted & ignored by his friends. He’s a shy & mild-mannered kid with a bundle of neuroses bubbling up inside. But as unsuccessful as he tends to be Charlie Brown rarely gives up. He may not be confident about the result (with good reason), but he keeps trying. In the underrated 2006 sequel Rocky Balboa the aging boxer tells his son that “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.” That’s a great lesson for all of us, and Charlie Brown embodies exactly that attitude.

Okay ladies & gentlemen…let’s take another break. We’ll return for the exciting conclusion in a couple of days.

100 Memorable TV Characters…Part 1

The most corrosive piece of technology that I’ve ever seen is called television…but then again television at its best is magnificent.  –  Steve Jobs

 

 

I’ve always believed in God’s perfect timing, and have to say that with everything that has occurred recently in the world in general and The Manoverse specifically I am thankful for the distraction and the opportunity for a bit of levity. A platform like this can be many things…informative, entertaining, provocative, cathartic…for the reader as well as yours truly. Some folks paint. Others play music. Those blessed with a healthy metabolism pour out their sweat at the gym. I write. Throughout the near decade of The Manofesto’s existence I have endeavored to strike a balance between profound & frivolous, but oftentimes feel unsuccessful in that mission. For the next few days we’re going to skew toward fun because I think we could all use some of that right now. If you haven’t read the intro please go back and do so now. Otherwise…enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

100   Sheriff Jack Carter (Eureka)

It is likely that you missed out on the quirky Eureka a few years ago, a SyFy series about a secret government project in which an entire community in the Pacific Northwest is populated by geniuses. The one exception?? Single father Jack Carter, who is chosen to be the sheriff of Eureka. But, though his IQ is just average, Sheriff Carter uses good old-fashioned horse sense to figure out the bizarre calamities that tend to befall the town on an unnervingly regular basis. Eureka lasted for five seasons from 2006-12, and I must admit that I lost track of it in the final year or two. It was a show just a little ahead of its time, as I could see it being pretty successful nowadays if it aired on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. Sheriff Carter stands out because a) he is a regular guy amongst all of the eccentricity surrounding him, & b) despite lacking the intellect of the others he exhibits more warmth, personality, pragmatism, & sincerity than most of the brainiacs, making him relatable to viewers.

 

99     Cody Lambert (Step by Step)

Step by Step is a 90’s twist on The Brady Bunch starring Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing on Dallas) & Suzanne Somers (Chrissy on Three’s Company). Dad’s nephew pops in during the first season and sticks around, living in a van in the family’s driveway. Cody is a hippy dippy valley boy that no one seems to get, but he’s too oblivious to understand that. He is portrayed by Sasha Mitchell, who had previously played Duffy’s nephew…James Ewing…on Dallas. Though he may be quite versatile as an actor Mitchell was quietly booted from the show in its 4th season after being accused of domestic abuse (the charges were later dropped). As a show Step by Step was an amusing yet bland offering typical of the kind of kid-friendly sitcoms ABC churned out in the 90’s (Full House being the most famous example), and was meant to mark big TV comebacks for Duffy & Somers. However, it was Cody Lambert that stood out from the pack.

 

98     Hank Hill (King of the Hill)

You may be surprised to know that I could probably count on one hand the number of episodes that I have ever watched of three decades old animated sitcom The Simpsons, so you won’t be seeing Bart or Homer on this list. It’s been so long ago that I don’t even recall why High School Me never became interested in that show. However, its success gave rise to similar programs, one of which is this late 90’s program that lasted for an impressive 13 seasons (full disclosure…my interest faded about halfway thru that run for some reason). Hank Hill is the patriarch of a middle class Texas family and the assistant manager of a propane store. I like Hank because he’s just a regular guy, an old-fashioned conservative with a strict moral code who is befuddled by the craziness that surrounds him. Unlike so many sitcom Dads he isn’t a total fool with a wandering eye and poor parenting skills. He’s not buff & sexy, but his wife loves him anyway. Hank Hill is exactly the kind of citizen in “flyover country” that the socio-intellectual elites in certain cultural epicenters like to ridicule, but as Jimmy Stewart once said, such folks “do most of the working and paying and living and dying” in this country, and occasionally it’s nice to see pop culture acknowledge that fact.

 

97     Lowell Mather (Wings)

Wings is an underappreciated 90’s sitcom from the same folks who created Cheers and Frasier, about two brothers operating a small airline on Nantucket, a small island that is part of Massachusetts and is where that girl in all the dirty jokes hails from. One of the employees at Sandpiper Air is airplane mechanic Lowell. He is a dimwitted sad sack, especially after he discovered his wife cheating on him & his houseboat got sank, but he usually has the best one-liners. When the actor decided to leave the show during its 7th season Lowell is forced into witness protection after seeing a mob hit, a plot that only skillful sitcom writers could make funny.

 

96     Topanga Lawrence (Boy Meets World)

Okay, I’ll admit it…I’m a dirty old man that thought Topanga was kind of hot in the latter seasons of Boy Meets World. Aside from that though, she has a cool name (taken from a real life canyon between Los Angeles & Malibu), she’s got a hippie/New Age vibe that I’d find irritating in reality but works really well in a sitcom, & is the kind of girl that stays true to herself and doesn’t back down from a challenge. JK Rowling got the inspiration for Harry Potter in 1990 and published the first book in 1995. Boy Meets World premiered in 1993. Hermione Granger reminds me more than a little of Topanga Lawrence. It does make one wonder…..

 

95     Steve Urkel (Family Matters)

Trust me ladies & gentlemen, I debated whether or not to leave him out just on principle, because it’s probably a damning indictment of our culture that Urkel was ever a thing. But he was a thing, and I cannot in good conscience ignore it. Family Matters was supposed to be a spinoff of Perfect Strangers centering on the Winslow family…elevator operator Harriet, policeman Carl, Harriet’s sister & nephew, Carl’s elderly mother, and Carl & Harriet’s two kids Eddie & Laura. But during Season 1 nerdy next door neighbor Urkel popped over for a visit and the rest is history. The show lasted for nine seasons, but the truth is that without the inexplicable popularity of Urkel it probably wouldn’t have made it half as long.

 

94     Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, & Miranda (Sex & the City)

For the first fifteen years of the new millennium The Bachelor Palace had HBO, until I discovered that Netflix was less expensive and way cooler. During those years I enjoyed…to varying degrees…watching shows like Lucky Louie, Entourage, Six Feet Under, The Mind of the Married Man, & Big Love. And, while I skipped acclaimed mob drama The Sopranos, I somehow became enamored with Sex & the City. It doesn’t feel right to rank one character over another, as they have their individual charms. Writer Carrie Bradshaw is the centerpiece & narrator. She’s a somewhat vain fashionista, but can also be sensitive & thoughtful. Samantha Jones is an oversexed & outspoken PR executive. I definitely wouldn’t call her a role model for women, but I guess her confidence could be considered…inspirational. Charlotte York is a perky yet timid WASP who works at an art gallery. She’s much less shallow & jaded than her pals and eventually finds happiness with her Jewish divorce attorney. Miranda Hobbes is an uptight & cynical lawyer. She has an on again/off again relationship with a nerdy bartender named Steve, with whom she shares a child. There was a brief moment in time, at the height of the show’s popularity, when I felt like there were too many women watching this show and trying to emulate these four characters, with the issue being that they are a) so far away from reality it’s laughable, & b) not really the kind of people that anyone should ever model themselves after. Having said that, their influence cannot be denied and I can understand why they might be considered pop culture feminist icons.

 

93     Bill McNeal (NewsRadio)

Y’all know that I consider NewsRadio to be one of the more underrated sitcoms of the past couple of decades. Its biggest star was arguably SNL alum Phil Hartman, whose portrayal of a conceited blowhard news anchor is hilarious. Despite his arrogance Bill isn’t nearly as intelligent as he’d like people to believe, and he oftentimes treats his colleagues dismissively though he seems to think of them as close pals. Hartman’s tragic death in 1998 was also a fatal blow to NewsRadio, which had to fill the gap in the cast with Jon Lovitz in the fifth season, which…not surprisingly…was its last.

 

92     Flo Castleberry (Alice)

Kiss my grits!! That refrain from the most opinionated waitress at Mel’s Diner still has staying power forty years later. Flo left Alice halfway thru its run to star in a spinoff, but that show only lasted two seasons.

 

91     Mary Katherine Gallagher (Saturday Night Live)

Saturday Night Live has had a plethora of humorous recurring characters in its four+ decades, but only a few really stand the test of time. Mary Katherine is an apparently bipolar Catholic school girl with rage issues and poor social etiquette. She habitually puts her hands in her armpits then smells her fingers, recites Shakespeare-esque monologues quoting obscure movies & TV shows, crashes thru furniture, and then plays it all off by triumphantly declaring herself a “”Superstar!”. The character got its own standalone film in 1999, but I never saw it, and judging by its 32% Rotten Tomatoes score one can assume I’m not missing anything.

 

90     Al Bundy (Married with Children)

Married with Children began a wave of change in sitcoms as they evolved from the fairly wholesome & charming shows that I grew up with and began to embrace a more lewd, harsh, & cynical vibe. Even as a teenager I understood this transformation and didn’t particularly care for it, so I never became a fan of the show. However, thru the prism of time and after running across video clips here & there the past few years I have to give credit where credit is due…Al Bundy is pretty hysterical. A terrible husband?? Yes. An awful father?? Sure. A bad employee?? Obviously. Al certainly is no role model, but I get why fans of the show think he was really funny. If you see a dysfunctional family or poor parent on TV today they owe it all to Married with Children. Perhaps that’s not the most positive legacy…but it’s something.

 

89     Eric Matthews (Boy Meets World)

Feeny? Fa-fa-fa-fa-feeny! Feenay! Fee-hee-heenay!

In one hilarious instant The Feeny Call became legendary and Eric Matthews…the older brother of Cory & a supporting character no one expected much from…bellowed himself into television history. In another episode…set in a future where Cory & his pals have drifted apart…Eric shows up as a bearded hermit calling himself Plays With Squirrels who has figured out the secret of life, which is apparently “lose one friend, lose all friends, lose yourself”. I quickly lost interest in the sequel series Girl Meets World a few years ago (not that I was the target demo anyway), but perhaps if they’d done a spinoff featuring Eric it would have been more successful.

 

88     Dr. John Becker (Becker)

From 2006 to 2008 my life was pretty much put on hold due to an ulcer on my tailbone. I’ve spoken of it at other times here at The Manofesto so I’ll skip all the specifics now. At any rate, during that time I watched a lot of TV and discovered Becker, which had aired on CBS for six seasons from 1998-2004. I always enjoyed Ted Danson on Cheers, so I’m not sure how I missed his big television comeback, but atleast it was there for me in syndication a few years later. The titular character is a doctor who runs a small practice in The Bronx. Dr. Becker is a grumpy malcontent who is easily annoyed by just about everyone & everything, but underneath his constant state of irritability he’s a good guy who does whatever he can to help his patients & his friends. I’m not sure I’d actually get along with someone like Dr. Becker since he leans left and seems to be an atheist or atleast agnostic, but I’m all in on his bewilderment at the craziness & stupidity one seems to run across all too often nowadays.

 

87     Endora (Bewitched)

For various reasons I am a little hesitant to give any sort of kudos to a witch, but let’s be honest…Endora was pretty cool. She is a unique interpretation of the stereotypical mother-in-law, as her entire purpose on the show seems to be to disapprove of her daughter’s marriage to a mortal and make lame attempts to break up Samantha & Darrin (who she constantly insults & always calls Derwood). Of course her schemes hilariously backfire.

 

86     Mr. McMahon (WWE)

Let’s take an excursion off the beaten path. Yes I am aware that professional wrestling is pre-determined & choreographed. It is a soap opera for men. And I realize that everybody involved…wrestlers, announcers, managers, referees…is playing a character. But, though it would be a gargantuan task and detract from our mission to get into evaluating the merits of the dozens of unforgettable grapplers that have stepped inside the squared circle in my lifetime, we need to recognize the owner & CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. Vince McMahon bought the WWF from his father in 1982 and was known to most “marks” simply as a TV commentator. But in 1997 he inserted himself into storylines as a “heel”, basically portraying a larger-than-life version of the kind of evil boss that we’ve all had at one time or another. In the past two decades he’s been booed & cheered, gotten in the ring and mixed it up with wrestlers twice his size & half his age, and even battled his own family. These days wrestling fans often question Vince McMahon’s behind the scenes decisions, but Mr. McMahon can still get a good pop from the crowd, especially since his appearances are much more sporadic than they once were.

 

85     Charles Ingalls (Little House on the Prairie)

When I was a kid I loved Little House, although I’ve never read the books on which the show was based. The patriarch of the Ingalls clan is Charles, a hardworking farmer. Throughout the series Charles is portrayed as a solid husband & father who does his best to take care of his family and raise his children right. He is a generous, tranquil, vulnerable yet tough man of faith, the kind of person anyone would be happy to have as a friend, employee, & neighbor.

 

84     Elaine Benes (Seinfeld)

Jerry Seinfeld is a talented writer & comedian, but his acting chops are…less than impressive. However, though you will not be seeing Jerry’s interpretation of a fictionalized version of himself on this list you will see three of his buddies, starting with former girlfriend Elaine. NBC felt that the show, as originally constructed, was too guy centered and asked that a female be added to the cast. Elaine & Jerry had dated at some previous point in time but had settled on being “just friends”. She’s no shrinking violet, routinely standing up to the guys and literally pushing them around. We all know women like Elaine. They’re quite feminine & not tomboys by any means, but they just seem to mesh better with men and don’t really have many gal pals. Elaine is self-confident, brash, intelligent, & just as neurotic as her friends. Much like Jerry she is shallow and difficult to please, meaning she bounces in & out of relationships looking for something she’ll probably never find. She is educated and somewhat professionally successful, though she does have multiple jobs over the course of nine years. I’m not sure I would call Elaine a role model, but she was a welcome addition to the Seinfeld wolfpack and gave us many hilarious moments.

 

83     Gomez Addams (The Addams Family)

The Addams Family was based on cartoons originally published in The New Yorker in the mid-20th century. The family patriarch is Gomez, an eccentric & wealthy businessman who at one time was a lawyer. He enjoys fencing, smoking cigars, throwing knives, crashing toy trains, & being romantic with his wife. What many may not get about the family is that they are not monsters or any kind of supernatural beings…they are a human family who just happens to be really weird, and the fact that Gomez is supposed to be the normal one is hysterically funny. The TV show was on in syndication a lot in my childhood, and two rather entertaining feature films were produced in the early 1990’s.

 

82     Carlton Banks (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)

Believe it or not Will Smith isn’t the best part of his own television show. First we have to give a tip o’ the cap to the theme song. I don’t even like rap “music” but almost thirty years later I can still bust out the Fresh Prince theme. Secondly there is Will’s erudite & pompous cousin Carlton, who takes the uptight preppy stereotype to a whole new level. He’s such a nerd that as a high schooler he listens to Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, & Michael Bolton. To be honest that makes him rather cool in my eyes because I celebrate those guys’ entire catalogues, but I get the joke. We cannot escape the fact that even into the 1990’s black families tended to be portrayed a certain way in pop culture, and the Banks family…especially Carlton…turned those pre-conceived notions upside down. Carlton’s most enduring legacy is his love for 60’s pop crooner Tom Jones. Anytime Jones’ 1965 hit It’s Not Unusual comes on he breaks out into a hysterical dance that came to be known as The Carlton, and anyone who was ever a Fresh Prince fan can probably imitate it.

 

81     Jefferson Davis “Boss” Hogg (The Dukes of Hazzard)

In recent years The Dukes of Hazzard has inexplicably become a target of maniacal political correctness in connection with debates about racism, The Civil War, & the Confederate flag, but as a kid I always loved the show and continued to watch syndicated reruns up until they became virtually extinct a few years ago. The main “villain” in Hazzard County is Boss Hogg, the influential, wealthy, & corrupt county commissioner that pretty much owns & controls everything in town. He is greedy, with a voracious appetite for power, money, & food. He and Jesse Duke are former moonshiners & old frienemies. Boss is fixated with the idea of taking possession of the Duke farm, and equally as obsessed with putting Bo & Luke Duke in prison. In almost every episode Boss hatches some kind of shady scheme to put more money in his pockets, and if he can find a way to pin a crime on the Duke Boys in the process that’s fine too. Of course in Hazzard County even the bad guys aren’t truly evil, and despite Boss Hogg’s best efforts the good guys always win and we can’t really bring ourselves to hate him. There was a laughably bad Dukes of Hazzard feature film about a decade ago, and one of the many things they got wrong was casting Burt Reynolds as Boss Hogg. Reynolds portrayed Boss as menacing & harsh…an actual bad guy, which missed the mark entirely.

 

80     Aunt Esther (Sanford & Son)

My Papaw Mano loved Sanford & Son. Whenever I’d visit my grandparents he’d watch reruns (the show’s original run ended when I was in kindergarten), which is how  I became a fan. The main antagonist is Aunt Esther, sister of long dead Elizabeth and aunt to Lamont. One of the funniest running gags of the show is Aunt Esther’s contentious relationship with her brother-in-law Fred, as the two continuously trade insults. Aunt Esther is a hardcore, Bible thumping church lady, the kind that gives churchgoers a bad image as she is constantly calling others heathens. She & Fred verbally spar in every episode in which she appears, and whenever he is confrontational with her she comes back with “Watch it Sucka!!”, sometimes swinging her purse at him in the process.

 

79     Herman Munster (The Munsters)

What do you get when you combine a wholesome family sitcom with the monster movies of the 1930’s?? The Munsters. Unlike The Addams Family, who are just normal human beings that happen to be really strange, The Munsters are actually monsters (obvious nods to Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, & Bride of Frankenstein), though they view themselves & live their lives as a typical middle class American family. The patriarch is Herman Munster, an archetypal sitcom Dad who is a good-natured, kindhearted, gentle, loveable goofball. He works at a funeral home (of course), has no concept of his own immense strength, & is clueless of the fact that he doesn’t physically look like a normal person. People routinely run screaming from Herman, frightened by his appearance, but he remains blissfully unaware that people are afraid of him.

 

78     Isaac, Doc, & Gopher (The Love Boat)

The real stars of The Love Boat were the passengers, typically portrayed by famous faces of the day, movie stars of yesteryear, & actors who would do big things in the future. However, we did have the pleasure of having (mostly) the same crew from week to week. Isaac is the bartender on the Pacific Princess, Doc is…obviously…the doctor, & Gopher is a yeoman purser. I spent a great deal of my childhood wondering exactly what in the heck a yeoman purser does, and eventually discovered that he is basically the ship’s treasurer. I’ve never been on a cruise, but I assume that the typical crew is much larger and that there are multiple bartenders, physicians, & business people among them, but for the purposes of The Love Boat this triumvirate worked really well. They interact with passengers, get involved with various storylines on a week to week basis, and are always good for a chuckle or two.

 

77     The Clampetts (The Beverly Hillbillies)

I just can’t choose one over the other. Patriarch Jed is a “poor mountaineer” from the Ozarks (either Tennessee, Arkansas, or Missouri…the show doesn’t specify) who finds oil on his land and receives a $25 million fortune for it. His elderly mother-in-law Granny is a spitfire who fancies herself an expert in home remedies. Jed’s daughter Ellie Mae is a smokin’ hot tomboy who loves animals (i.e. critters). Jethro Bodine is the dimwitted, girl crazy son of Jed’s cousin who comes along when the family moves to California. The Beverly Hillbillies is a classic rags-to-riches fish-out-of-water story made all the more entertaining by these well written characters. Being from West Virginia I have always been a bit sensitive about how “hillbillies”, “rednecks”, & “hicks” are portrayed in the media, but I am oddly unoffended by The Clampetts.

 

76     Luther Van Dam (Coach)

Not long ago we lost actor Jerry Van Dyke (brother of Dick), but thankfully we’ll always have Coach. Van Dyke had an opportunity to become part of the cast of The Andy Griffith Show when Don Knotts left, but instead chose to star in My Mother the Car, which has to secure him a place in the Bad Career Move Hall of Fame. At any rate, more than two decades later he was cast as Luther, the scatterbrained defensive coordinator for the fictional Minnesota St. Screaming Eagles. I have serious doubts about Luther’s football prowess, but he is perfect as the standard loyal sidekick/best friend, and usually has the funniest moments.

 

 

 

 

Let’s take a break. We’ll dive into Part 2 tomorrow. Or the next day *lol*.

Random Thoughts 15

The whole concept of hate crimes is insipidly inane. Murdering someone because of their race or sexual orientation isn’t any worse than murdering someone for any other reason. Either way it’s murder. Hate crimes are just a branch of the vapid political correctness tree.

I think television died a two part death for me. The first part came on May 20, 1993…the last episode of Cheers. The final blow was the demise of Seinfeld on May 14, 1998. I just haven’t given a damn about scripted prime time television since those two events occurred.

Comedian David Cross was recently bragging that he snorted coke…the drug not the cola…at the White House Correspondents Dinner mere feet from President Hussein Obama. Oh where to begin?? First of all, the only reason Cross was there was because he is inexplicably dating cute actress Amber Tamblyn. Yeah, you’ve probably never heard of her either. Both are so far down on the relevance scale that they are barely worth writing this sentence. Cross’ career highlight was cancelled TV show Arrested Development, a show so fantastic and popular it was…well…cancelled. Secondly, what kind of a society do we live in where such an illegal act is not only not frowned upon but put on a pedestal?? There is no doubt in mind that the same intellectually vacant societal succubuses that thought it was funny that Letterman cheated on the mother of his child with a professional subordinate will find it hysterical that Cross “got away with” snorting coke at The White House. Amongst this group will likely be the approximately 3 dozen people who ever bothered to watch Arrested Development and the even smaller group of losers who wasted their $$ at the local cineplex for Cross’ live action Chipmunks film. And finally…way to go White House security. Not even I can pin this one on Hussein Obama. I almost feel sorry for him. How safe is he supposed to feel if it’s so easy to commit a felony within feet of him, at an official White House function??

The older I get the more I embrace short stories over long novels. It seems like my attention span is decreasing.

The shootings at Fort Hood and an office building in Orlando are tragic stories, situations that I cannot even fathom. I believe more details will come out about the Fort Hood situation, but thus far it looks like a Muslim with atleast some anti-American feelings decided to handle things in precisely the way The Koran tells its followers to. It’s scary to think that the armed forces can be infiltrated like that. And I’m sick and tired of politically correct apologists who keep defending Islam and saying it’s a truly peaceful religion with a few overzealous nutjobs. That’s just not the case. Maybe those folks who have the knee jerk reaction of soft selling the reality haven’t been paying attention, but I have and I’m not afraid to call a spade a spade. Islam seems to have more than its fair share of violent zealots. As far as the Orlando shootings…it was a disgruntled former employee. That’s certainly not new or unique, but it’s never been something I’ve been able to grasp. I’ve been on both sides…..having to fire people and having been fired myself. It gave me no great joy to have to do it and not for one second do I believe the folks who did it to me got any kind of perverse pleasure in their task. It’s not personal, it’s just business. For someone to get so angry about it that they take innocent lives is just something I will never understand.

I’d honesty forgotten that football legend Lawrence Taylor matriculated at the University of North Carolina until he showed up at one of their televised games.

The just released 3D motion capture animated version of A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey is amazing. It’s stays fairly true to the book and is rather dark and disturbing in places. I enthusiastically recommend it for all moviegoers and especially fans of the classic novella and/or Christmas movies in general. However, I recommend leaving the crumb crunchers at home. Just because it’s animated doesn’t mean it’s kid friendly.

I think it is entirely within the realm of possibility that within a few decades physical attendance at school may be purely voluntary. I envision an Internet based home schooling system (government approved of course) where a child has a curriculum to complete at home at their own pace, meaning an intelligent, driven child could conceivably graduate high school by their early teens. Conversely, a lazy, academically challenged person may not finish until they are legal adults. Either way it will drastically reduce demand for teachers, eliminate the necessity for upkeep of older school buildings and the construction of new ones, minimize health and security risks (think swine flu & Columbine), and utilize a reward system in which the smart go getters are able to move forward with their lives much sooner. I’m not saying this is all gonna happen tomorrow, but don’t be surprised if you see a version of this scenario on some scale within your lifetime.

This just in: both Sting (the singer, not the wrestler) and Bono are idiots.

Top 5′s (Thanks For The Inspiration Facebook)

Ok…so…the rage on Facebook these days seems to be listing one’s Top 5 this and that. However, because I am a nonconformist, and in an effort to bring new readers to The Manofesto so they may have the privilege of discovering my brilliance, I am just going to do all my Top 5’s here at the same time. This also affords me an opportunity to pontificate on my choices, and if there’s one talent in the universe I have (atleast one that I can discuss publicly) it is most certainly pontification.

Movies – I’m not going into that right now. I’m doing a whole series on my Top 100 Favorite Movies, so you’ll just have to read that.

Books – The Bible, The Sherlock Holmes Canon, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn/Tom Sawyer, Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Animal Farm. I could go on all day. I’m a bookworm. Love to read. I like classic literature, biographies, nonfiction…..it’s all good. I did not include the works of Shakespeare because I think Shakespeare is better experienced in a live performance. I also did not include The Lord of the Rings trilogy or The Godfather because, while the books are outstanding, they are the rare case where the movie actually outshines the book. I’ve tossed around the idea of doing a Top 100 Books series, but I take reading much more seriously than I do movies so it would take much more critical thought and consideration, more effort than I’m willing to put forth at the moment. Besides, there is The Bookshelf feature here at The Manofesto.

Sports Teams – Pittsburgh Steelers, West Virginia Mountaineers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Penguins. I’ve been a diehard Steelers and Pirates fan since before I even started kindergarten. I grew up in northcentral WV, which is Mountaineer country. Marshall University is my alma mater. I include the Penguins only to get to five. I’m not really much of a hockey fan.

Singers/Musicians/Groups – Frank Sinatra, Van Halen, The Eagles, REO Speedwagon, Boston. I could very easily list atleast a dozen more. I’ve seen all of these five in concert with the exception of Sinatra. I was born probably a decade too late to really appreciate his brilliance while he was still doing live shows. My musical tastes are very eclectic and vary widely depending upon my mood.

Candy – If chocolate is involved it’s all good. No need to narrow it down to a Top 5. However, let me take this opportunity to express my deep affection for some candy bars that aren’t produced anymore or are very difficult to find, making my love for them all the more heartbreaking in a “you always want what you can’t have” kind of way. The first is Bar None, a chocolate bar produced by Hershey’s in the mid 80’s. It was a chocolate wafer, some chocolate ganache-like filling, and peanuts all covered in chocolate. At some point they re-did it so it was two smaller bars in the package instead of one bigger bar. The original was outstanding, the revision still very tasty. Bar None was discontinued in the mid 90’s and I’d pay just about any amount of money for a case of those babies. Mallo Cups are shaped and packaged like Reese’s Cups, only instead of peanut butter the chocolate encases soft creamy marshmallow filling. Mallo Cups are still around, but they are far from ubiquitous. I actually took the step of ordering a case online directly from the company a few years ago, but it’s rather pricey. And finally I want to give some attention to Chunky bars. Chunky is a trapezoid shaped hunk of chocolate with peanuts and raisins. Very unique. And it comes in a shiny silver foil wrapper. Chunkys are still around, but they are even harder to find than Mallo Cups. I used to stumble across Chunky at my local video store, but renting movies is an archaic 20th century task, so I haven’t had one in ages.

Fast Food Joints – Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Rally’s, Hardee’s. You’ll notice the absence of McDonald’s. That’s because when examining their menu every single item is done better at other places, with the exception of french fries. McDonald’s fries can’t be beat. Anyway, I love love love Wendy’s and eat there way too much. We didn’t have a BK in my area until I was in high school so I felt deprived and put it up on a pedestal of expectation. Then in college my fraternity house was right beside a BK and I have a lot of great memories. Ditto for Taco Bell…..it has a nostalgic place in my heart dating back to the fantastic college years. We had a Rally’s here when I was a kid but it disappeared when I was in high school and I miss it. In & Out and Sonic are two places I‘ve heard great things about but haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing.

Beers – Killian’s Irish Red, Dos Equis, Rolling Rock, Heineken, Corona. I’m kind of a beer snob, eschewing blue collar brews like Budweiser and Miller Lite for the most part. But at the same time I don’t really drink a lot of beer and haven’t been exposed to much of what is out there.

Cereals – Rice Krispies, Honey Bunches of Oats, Raisin Bran, Corn Flakes, Wheaties. I’m not exactly Mr. Excitement when it comes to cereal. I like it basic and old fashioned. Not too sweet, not too cute.

All Time Athletes – Michael Jordan, Terry Bradshaw, “Dr. J” Julius Erving, Dale Earnhardt, Willie Stargell. I’m not a huge NBA guy. The closest team in proximity to my home is in Cleveland, and until recently they were an afterthought. So for me the NBA has always been more about individuals that I enjoyed watching, and in my book there were none better than Jordan and Dr. J. I cheered for the Sixers when Erving was with them and I was a Bulls fan during Jordan’s reign. That’s the closest times I’ve ever come to having a favorite NBA team. Earnhardt was one of the toughest competitors I’ve ever seen and his tragic death was very upsetting. Bradshaw and Stargell were the faces of the Steelers and Pirates during the glory years of the late 70’s, my formative as a sports fan. I limited this to athletes who I’ve actually had the privilege of seeing perform in my lifetime, which is why you don’t see people like Jim Brown or Babe Ruth.

TV Shows – Cheers, Seinfeld, Dallas, The Andy Griffith Show, Taxi. Another case where I could list many many more. I watched a lot of television as a kid. Probably too much. But atleast I can say with confidence that the shows that were on back then were really really good, unlike today where so much is pedestrian and uninspired.