100 Memorable TV Characters…The Top 25

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

25     Alex P. Keaton (Family Ties)

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

23     Luke Spencer (General Hospital)

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

 

 

22     Shaggy Rogers (Scooby-Doo)

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

 

 

21     Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes)

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

 

 

20     Mork from Ork (Mork & Mindy)

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

 

 

19     Les Nessman (WKRP in Cincinnati)

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

 

 

18     Cliff Clavin (Cheers)

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

16         Fred Sanford (Sanford & Son)

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

 

 

15     Louie DePalma (Taxi)

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

 

 

14     Ari Gold (Entourage)

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

 

 

13     Dr. Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory)

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

10     Rev. Jim Ignatowski (Taxi)

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

 

 

9       George Costanza (Seinfeld)

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

 

 

8       Dr. Frasier Crane (Cheers and Frasier)

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

 

 

7       The Dynamic Duo (Batman)

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

 

 

6       Archie & Edith Bunker (All in the Family)

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

 

 

5       Arthur Fonzarelli (Happy Days)

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

 

 

4       Captain Kirk & Mister Spock (Star Trek)

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

 

 

3       JR Ewing (Dallas)

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

 

 

2       Cosmo Kramer (Seinfeld)

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

 

 

1       Deputy Barney Fife (The Andy Griffith Show)

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

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.

 

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 2

I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can’t stop eating peanuts.  –  Orson Welles

 

 

 

Welcome back!! If you haven’t checked out Part 1 yet please do. I think you’ll enjoy it.

As I’ve been working on this project I’ve been amazed just how varied & wide-ranging my television watching habits have been, and the span of time we are covering. I certainly have a preference for comedy and am an undeniable child of the 80’s, but have been fortunate to have been exposed to a wide variety of things in my lifetime. Syndication has helped me to appreciate programs that I may have otherwise been too young to have seen, and I can’t help but think about how kids growing up today have the advantage of streaming, which is cool on many levels. At any rate, we reach the halfway point today. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

75     The Castaways (Gilligan’s Island)

Gilligan’s Island is probably best remembered these days for its catchy theme song, but a funny show has to have more than that, right?? However, that tune does do a great job of introducing us to the group of folks who are aboard the SS Minnow for “a three hour tour” when they become shipwrecked on a remote Pacific island after a tropical storm. The eponymous Gilligan is the ship’s first mate, a bumbling screw-up (FYI…remember Jerry Van Dyke?? He also turned down the role of Gilligan. Oops.). Captain Jonas Grumby…simply known as The Skipper…served in the Navy with Gilligan, who once saved his life. The Skipper often becomes exasperated with the other castaways, especially Gilligan, but he’s also a good friend and big brother figure who affectionately calls Gilligan “Little Buddy”. Thurston Howell III & his wife Lovey are eccentric millionaires who hilariously try to retain their affluent lifestyle despite being stranded on an island. Ginger Grant is a famous movie star clearly based atleast somewhat on Marilyn Monroe. She insists on wearing expensive gowns at all times. Mary Ann Summers is a beautiful Kansas farm girl who won her “three hour tour” in a contest. She is the classic girl-next-door, much more practical & less haughty than Ginger. Professor Roy Hinkley…referred to as The Professor by the others…is a high school science teacher who joined the “three hour tour” to do research for a book about botany. He has a list of college degrees a mile long, and uses bamboo & coconuts to construct all kinds of creature comforts for the group…but can never come up with a way to get them rescued.

 

74     Denny Crane & Alan Shore (Boston Legal)

Boston Legal is an underrated dramedy that aired on ABC more than a decade ago. It was a spinoff of The Practice, which was another overlooked show. Two of the attorneys on Boston Legal are Denny Crane & Alan Shore. This was William Shatner’s big TV comeback after the 80’s cop show TJ Hooker, and James Spader’s initial foray into television after a mildly successful film career that included 80’s classics Pretty in Pink, Mannequin, Less Than Zero, Wall Street, and Sex, Lies, & Videotape. Denny Crane is a senior partner and a self-proclaimed legend in the legal profession. He’s also nuttier than a damn fruitcake, which he attributes to mad cow disease. He has questionable ethics, enjoys shooting a pistol in his office, and loves to say his own name. Alan Shore is a brilliant legal mind who, like his colleague, also has dubious ethical standards. He is neurotic and routinely finds himself in hot water for his unconventional courtroom antics. At the end of each episode Alan & Denny relax on the balcony outside of Denny’s office smoking cigars, drinking scotch, & discussing the events of the day. Alan & Denny are one of the most peculiar duos in television history, but despite the show winning its fair share of awards it never got great ratings and only lasted five seasons. That’s a shame, because even to this day I’d enjoy seeing more of Alan & Denny.

 

73     Jack & Rebecca Pearson (This Is Us)

I am violating my own rule. Usually, when compiling a list such as this, I refrain from being a prisoner of the moment. I typically opine that greatness takes time and we shouldn’t assign hyperbolic superlatives to something that is still in the present, that hasn’t had time to percolate and be viewed thru the unforgiving prism of time. However, if you aren’t watching NBC’s This Is Us…only in its second season…then you are missing out on one of the finest television programs of its generation. The premise is brilliant, the performances reside in their own stratosphere, & the writing is superb. Jack & Rebecca are the parents of three children that we get to know both as children & adults. The show time jumps between different intervals from 1980 thru the present…and on occasion even provides a glimpse of the future. We know that Jack is dead in the present, but in the past he is seen as an ideal husband & father. Yes he does battle alcoholism, but seems to successfully tackle the problem when faced with the prospect of losing his family. Rebecca in the present is reserved & tough, while in the past she is extroverted & approachable. Viewers are just beginning to understand her evolution, which is kind of the point of the whole show. Why are we the way we are?? How do events…big & small…in our childhood/youth/young adulthood shape who we become later in life?? Jack & Rebecca aren’t extraordinary. They aren’t wealthy. They don’t have cool & exciting jobs. They are average middle class parents from Pittsburgh who adore their children and do the best they can navigating the obstacles of life. And that’s exactly why we love them.

 

72     Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother)

HIMYM and I suffered a bad break-up. Many fans were angered & felt misled after the series finale in 2014. I vowed to never watch a rerun and have abided by that, which is a damn shame because it was a cool show up until that horrific dénouement. Having said that, I will reluctantly give proper credit. Viewers of a certain age may remember Neil Patrick Harris for his early 1990s portrayal of Doogie Howser, a prodigious 16 year old doctor, but Barney is no Doogie. He is a thirtysomething bank executive in a clear state of arrested development, described by his best buddy as a high functioning sociopath. He’s a suit wearing, catchphrase spewing, manipulative & self-absorbed ladies’ man who fancies himself an expert on women. In reality most people would hate a guy like Barney, and within the context of the show even his friends aren’t too sure about him. However, as a sitcom character his outlandish shtick is entertaining, and NPH’s performance is all the more remarkable given the fact that he is actually a flaming homosexual in real life.

 

71     Coach Ernie Pantuso & Woody Boyd (Cheers)

Cheers had a true ensemble cast so it is difficult to choose some characters over others. However, each is so different that it seems natural that fans would have their favorites. One of the cool things about the show is that even when there were departures new arrivals plugged right in and kept the laughs coming for 11 seasons, making Cheers one of the longest running sitcoms of all time. Coach is an original cast member. He is a former baseball coach & current bartender who is an amusing blend of senile & naïve. Nicholas Colasanto passed away after Season 3, therefore Coach also died and was replaced with the equally simpleminded Woody, an Indiana country boy whose charming innocence is in direct contrast to the neurotic cynicism of his colleagues. Whether intentional or not casting directors pulled off a neat trick. They filled the void left by Coach’s death with a character who is by no means a carbon copy but nevertheless retains many of the quirky traits that fans loved about his predecessor.

 

70     Dan Fielding (Night Court)

Smarmy. That’s the word that comes to mind about Dan Fielding, the night shift prosecutor for Manhattan’s criminal court. Dan is a greedy, narcissistic horndog who looks at his colleagues & the criminals they all encounter on a nightly basis with contempt. Dan is always quick with an insult and constantly seeking opportunities to make easy money or score with easy women. He’s the kind of guy few would want to deal with in real life, but as a sitcom character he adds a layer of joviality to what is obviously meant to be good old-fashioned slapstick.

 

69     The Church Lady (Saturday Night Live)

Her name is Enid Strict. Did you know that?? Dana Carvey’s interpretation of an elderly, sanctimonious, pejorative congregant has its basis…like all of the best impersonations…in truth, or atleast our preconceived notions of it. Thankfully most churchgoers I’ve known in my life aren’t quite as harsh as The Church Lady, but one can choose to see the character as a cautionary tale. The sketch…in which Enid hosts a show called Church Chat…also serves as a vehicle to poke fun at various celebrities with dubious scruples & the assorted scandals they find themselves in. I’m a little surprised that there was never a Church Lady movie, but that’s probably just as well. Too many SNL based films have proven that a little bit goes a long way, and I’m glad the legacy of this particular character wasn’t besmirched that way.

 

68     Toby Ziegler (The West Wing)

Toby is the Communications Director in the Jed Bartlet White House. He is a soft-spoken, morose, idealistic, prickly man with a profound sense of morality and extremely high standards. He is one of the President’s most trusted advisors and rarely backs down from an argument. I’m not sure I could be friends with Toby because we would likely clash over contrasting bedrock principles and he’s way too tightly wound for my taste, but he’s the kind of person one can’t help but deeply respect.

 

67     John Walton Jr. (The Waltons)

One of the cooler aspects of The Waltons that many might forget is its framing device. The series is essentially a reflection of the past by John Walton Jr….aka John Boy…whose older incarnation does a rather lyrical opening & closing narration for each episode. Depression Era John Boy is who we see onscreen, and he is the eldest of six siblings that live with their parents & grandparents at the foot of a mountain in rural Virginia. John Boy is quietly ambitious and eventually leaves Walton’s Mountain to pursue a career in writing. Amongst the most endearing traditions in television is the end of each episode when all of the various family members lay in their beds in the darkness and tell each other goodnight. To contrast wholesome, sentimental shows like The Waltons with much of what passes for entertainment nowadays is like comparing filet mignon to scrapple. Goodnight John Boy…thanks for the memories.

 

66     Arnold Horshack (Welcome Back Kotter)

Who remembers Welcome Back Kotter??

Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh!! I do!!

Horshack is the nerdiest Sweathog, the class clown always ready with the perfect one-liner. In contrast to the others, who like to believe they’re way cool & above it all, he is kind of whiny and not really a hallmark of machismo, but that’s okay because he’s seems genuine and, rather than beat him up like tough guys usually do nerds in high school stories, at James Buchanan High School in Brooklyn, NY Horshack is just one of the guys.

 

65     Howard Wolowitz (The Big Bang Theory)

I suppose I’m going against my own philosophy again, but since TBBT is in its 11th season I think it’s fair to say that we have a big enough sample size for a knowledgeable analysis of the character. Out of everyone on the show Howard is the one who has undergone the greatest amount of growth, evolving from a clueless lecher, mama’s boy, & wannabe ladies’ man to a devoted husband & father. Oh sure he still has quirks (I don’t understand why any man would voluntarily wear a dickey) and he’s still one of the most idiosyncratic & comical parts of the ensemble, but I like the fact that he has developed & matured instead of playing the kind of oblivious buffoon that never grows up. With TBBT certainly in its last couple of seasons I would be all in on a Wolowitz spinoff.

 

64     The General Lee (The Dukes of Hazzard)

Yes, I know…it’s a car. Yet I submit to you that The General Lee is just about as important as any other character on The Dukes of Hazzard. I was part of one of the key demographics…pre-teen boys…that made the show successful back in the early 80’s because guys love fast cars, especially ones that can leap over things like Superman. Plus it had that really cool horn!! And let’s not overlook the fact that it’s the car and only the car that has made the show “controversial” the past few years, decades after its original run. There is absolutely nothing else that anyone can point to about The Dukes of Hazzard as being “offensive” since it is about the least provocative television program ever produced. I read somewhere that 300+ General Lees were used in the course of seven seasons, and that only about 17 still exist. PGA golfer Bubba Watson owns one of the 17, but during the “controversy” a few years ago he indicated that he was going to paint the American flag over the Confederate flag. I don’t know if he actually followed thru or was just saying the politically correct thing in the midst of the storm, but either way he’s a moron that I haven’t cheered for since and never will again.

 

63     Dwayne Schneider (One Day at a Time)

One Day at a Time was a preachy sitcom…sporadically funny, but the kind of show that took itself way too seriously, an afterschool special with a laugh track about a single mother starting over in the big city with bratty teenage daughters. Of course I was in grade school when it was on, so it’d be reasonable to assume that I just didn’t “get it”. At any rate, levity (and testosterone) was provided by building super Schneider, whose pornstache & tool belt make him look like the love child of Clark Gable & Batman. He’s an affable windbag, the kind of neighbor that can be annoying but you miss him when he’s not around.

 

62     Felix Unger & Oscar Madison (The Odd Couple)

The Odd Couple is a 1968 Neil Simon play that begat a 1968 feature film starring the incomparable Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau. The concept came to television for five seasons beginning in 1970, with Tony Randall & Jack Klugman in the lead roles. Though its original run ended before my 3rd birthday the magic of syndication allowed me to appreciate Felix & Oscar throughout my childhood. Felix is a persnickety fussbudget who works as a professional photographer. Oscar is a laid-back disheveled sportswriter. When Felix gets tossed out by his wife he shows up at Oscar’s door needing a place to live. The two are oil & water…they couldn’t be more different. The word sitcom is short for situation comedy, meaning that the laughs are theoretically generated by the situation, but it is clear to anyone who’s ever watched much TV that characters matter more than the situations they are put in, and The Odd Couple is a prime example. The legacy of Felix & Oscar is a formula that screenwriters for television & movies have been trying to copy for decades, but it really is difficult to measure up to the original.

 

61     Sam Malone (Cheers)

The foundation of Cheers is bar owner Sam, a former Boston Red Sox relief pitcher and recovering alcoholic. He is supposed to embody the dumb jock stereotype, but doesn’t appear to be all that unintelligent. He’s a somewhat vain ladies’ man who uses his fading celebrity to score with women. The first five seasons of the show focused largely on Sam’s antagonistic romance with erudite waitress Diane Chambers, and her departure freed him up to grown ever so slightly in the latter half of Cheers’ decade+ on the air. In hindsight one may choose to look at the show’s regulars as kind of sad…losers who waste away hours of their hollow & futile existence in a bar. Sam is their pack leader, a lonely man desperately holding on to remnants of past glory and trading in alcohol for sex to satisfy an unhealthy addiction. However, since I was a teenager the majority of the years Cheers was on I remember it as a funny, well-written show and recall Sam Malone as a cool & amusing guy who is good to a group of friends with whom he engages in humorous hijinks.

 

60     Larry, Darryl, & Darryl (Newhart)

Vermont isn’t typically the first place that comes to mind when one ponders rednecks, but three of the funniest to ever appear on television lived there…and two of them never uttered a word in 8 seasons (until the legendary series finale). They always introduce themselves the same way…”Hi, I’m Larry. This is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.” I believe the characters were supposed to be a one shot deal, but were such a hit with the audience that they became a regular part of the cast, even running the neighborhood café. They remind me a little bit of The Darling Family, who guest starred in several episodes of The Andy Griffith Show back in the 1960’s.

 

59     Major Frank Burns (MASH)

Frank Burns was originally portrayed by Robert Duvall in the 1970 film, but I think the character is actually funnier on the TV series. Frank is an uptight & inept surgeon who doesn’t appreciate the sophomoric antics of some of his colleagues, and he is on the receiving end of a lot of insults & practical jokes. He carries on an allegedly secret affair with Hot Lips Houlihan that pretty much everyone at the 4077th knows all about. When she gets married to another soldier Frank has a nervous breakdown and is discharged from the army, eventually landing an administrative gig at a veteran’s hospital in Indiana. After Frank’s departure at the end of Season 5 I feel like MASH lost much of its wit and became a little more sanctimonious than originally intended.

 

58     Vinnie Barbarino (Welcome Back Kotter)

It is really easy to blur the lines between character and actor, especially when that actor is a megastar. Kotter is responsible for launching John Travolta’s career into the stratosphere. His role in the show led to being cast in Saturday Night Fever, which of course led to Grease. The rest is history. Vinnie is the apparent leader of the Sweathogs. He’s cool, good looking, confident, popular with the ladies…and dumb as a box of rocks. After Travolta’s film career took off he didn’t completely leave the show, but was only in about a third of the final season’s episodes. High school shows are tenuous anyway because eventually the characters are no longer credible as teenagers, but many such programs have found a way to evolve. However, losing Travolta meant losing Vinnie, and Kotter couldn’t survive without him.

 

57     George & Weezie Jefferson (The Jeffersons)

The Jeffersons was a spinoff of All in the Family that approaches racial issues from a slightly different perspective. George is a prosperous businessman who owns a chain of dry cleaning stores, and his success allows he & his wife Weezie to move from their house in Queens to a swanky penthouse apartment on the upper east side of Manhattan. They even have a maid. George is a fast-talking smartass, while Weezie is the classic exasperated wife who understands her husband’s faults and is often irritated by his antics, but loves him anyway.

 

56     Gordon Shumway (ALF)

The titular Alien Life Form from the planet Melmac has a name…Gordon Shumway. The show is a unique fish-out-of-water story, and Gordon is a sardonic yet good-hearted jokester who looks like some sort of Dr. Seuss/Jim Henson mashup. He’d really like to eat the family cat, but of course never does, and is purportedly working on fixing his spaceship so he can return home, but that process takes the entirety of the show’s four seasons. In what ended up being the series finale we get a cliffhanger in which Gordon is captured by the government before he can escape to Melmac, which is a pretty crappy conclusion for a memorable character.

 

55     Johnny Drama (Entourage)

By far my favorite HBO series was Entourage, about a Queens, NY born actor and his buddies living the high life in Hollywood. The movie star in the show is loosely based on the life of Mark Wahlberg, aka early 90’s hip-hop rapper Marky Mark, who of course went on to star in movies like Boogie Nights, The Perfect Storm, & The Departed. You may recall that Mark has an older brother named Donnie, who achieved success as part of 80’s boy band New Kids on the Block but then fell into relative obscurity before starring in the TV show Blue Bloods, which has been a modest hit at best. It is fair to say Mark’s stardom eclipsed that of his older brother long ago. The older brother on Entourage is Johnny Chase, aka Johnny Drama. He found success starring in a sci-fi fantasy show called Viking Quest, but then his career stalled as his little brother Vince’s star rose, and now he is ostensibly employed as Vince’s personal chef & bodyguard. Johnny outwardly displays bravado & confidence in his ability as an actor, but he is obviously insecure and all too aware that his brother is much more talented. He loves Vince and isn’t really jealous of his success, but hilariously seizes every opportunity to ride his coattails. Johnny, as my grandmother used to say, has more BS than a Christmas turkey, so while everybody likes him no one really takes him seriously.

 

54     Dick Loudon (Newhart) & Dr. Bob Hartley (The Bob Newhart Show)

How can anyone not love Bob Newhart?? He is quietly & subtly hilarious, as opposed to many loud & obnoxious comedians. He essentially played himself…or comparable versions of his stage persona…in two different sitcoms. In the 70’s he was Dr. Bob Hartley, a mild-mannered psychiatrist dealing with a zany group of patients & colleagues. In the 80’s he was Dick Loudon, a mild-mannered writer & innkeeper dealing with an entire town of eccentric oddballs. I think I like the second show a little more than its predecessor, but that’s probably because I was a little older when Newhart was on and remember it better.

 

53     Latka Gravas (Taxi)

Andy Kaufman was more of a performance artist than a stand-up comedian, and he definitely marched to a different drumbeat than everyone else. His most enduring creation is a character called Foreign Man, a staple of his comedy club act. That persona was the basis for Latka, a timid mechanic at the Sunshine Cab Company who has multiple personalities, a concept that allowed Kaufman to portray different characters. Kaufman was famously reluctant to sign on for Taxi and didn’t really enjoy playing Latka, but nevertheless created an enduring character that was a welcome addition to the ensemble.

 

52         Dawson Leery & Joey Potter (Dawson’s Creek)

I am not ashamed to admit that I loved Dawson’s Creek!! High school shows are a tried & true television staple, and occasionally they appeal to age groups other than teenagers. The early seasons of Dawson’s Creek overlapped with the final years of the ostensibly cooler and unquestionably glitzier Beverly Hills 90210, a program to which I never really became all that attached. The kids in Capeside, MA seemed much more relevant & grounded than their left coast counterparts, and the writing was crisp & astute. The eponymous Dawson is an aspiring filmmaker whose hero is Steven Spielberg. Joey (a female for those not in the know) is the beautiful yet shy & awkward girl next door. Their relationship is the cornerstone of the show, and it’s one of those on again/off again will they or won’t they deals. Ultimately Joe ends up with Dawson’s best friend Pacey (and boy did that relationship cause some angst), while Dawson finds happiness with his true love…a writing gig in Hollywood.

 

51     Jack Tripper (Three’s Company)

Could you imagine a show like Three’s Company in the 21st century?? It would never fly. First of all, a guy and a couple of women living together is something most people wouldn’t raise an eyebrow about these days. And secondly, the idea that Jack has to lie to his landlord and say that he is gay to be allowed to stay in the apartment wouldn’t be politically correct now, no to mention the reactions of Mr. Roper & later on Mr. Furley to Jack’s alleged orientation. But this was four decades ago and the world was a different place. At any rate, Jack is the comedic cornerstone, an aspiring chef who hangs out with his lascivious pal Larry down at The Regal Beagle (a local watering hole), but respects the boundaries set within his living arrangement with roomies Janet & Chrissy (and later Cindy then Terri). Jack is a clumsy screw-up whose pratfalls provide many of each episode’s laughs.

 

 

 

Let’s take a break. We’ll dive into Part 3 tomorrow. Or the next day *lol*.

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*.

Superfluous 7 – Dumbest Overreactions to the Confederate Battle Flag Controversy

As everyone that hasn’t been living under a rock knows, on June 17, 2015 a sick & twisted individual attended Bible Study at a predominantly black church in Charleston, SC and, after spending an hour studying God’s Word and praying with church members, shot & killed 9 people. The shooter was eventually captured and has been proven to be a mentally disturbed racist who was upset after being jilted by a woman (gee…I wonder why she dumped him??).

 

Those facts don’t seem to be in dispute. However, the aftermath has went in an odd & fascinating direction after a photo was discovered with the shooter holding a Confederate battle flag. Because the people in Charleston reacted to the tragedy with prayer & mercy rather than looting & chaos the media quickly grew bored with the story and had to fan the flames of controversy & outrage. What has followed in the weeks after the shooting is a concerted effort by leftists to eradicate the past of the American South. Even though The Civil War has been over for a century & a half and the Civil Rights Movement of over 50 years ago has proven to be successful, affording minorities opportunity & equality that they should have enjoyed all along, the shooting stirred up a storm that isn’t likely to calm anytime soon. South Carolina’s Governor began the snowball by asking for the Confederate battle flag to be taken down from the grounds of the state capitol. Unnecessary?? Meaningless?? Misguided?? Yes…all of the above, but also understandable. Those that say that this is The United States and that only our national flag and perhaps an individual state’s flag should fly on government property probably have a point. My only issue with it is that it didn’t seem to be a problem for years & years & years and for people to all the sudden be offended by that flag because of one photograph is disingenuous, reactionary, and ignores more legitimate concerns. Having said that, I didn’t have a huge problem with removing that flag from South Carolina’s capitol and whatever other government properties from which it was taken down.

 

However, after that things became really stupid and people have lost their freakin’ minds.

 

I think oftentimes the meanings of things can evolve and morph into something else over time. One can debate what the Confederate flag represented 150 years ago, and it is certainly a thought-provoking topic. However, I am more concerned with modern times, and it is undeniable that, for most folks in the past few decades, it has come to stand for southern pride, redneck culture, & the hillbilly lifestyle. To the vast majority of people who fly the flag, wear clothing emblazoned with it, or own any other associated knick-knacks and memorabilia it is not a “flag of hate”. It does not imply racism or a tacit fondness for slavery. It doesn’t even indicate a hatred for America or a desire for The South to literally rise again. It’s just a mascot, a logo, a harmless talisman with no sinister motives intended from most who display it. Southerners are generally some of the kindest, most genuine, eminently approachable, & good-hearted people one will ever encounter. As a whole they would not utilize a symbol inferring hatred of any kind. Most everyone seemed to understand this fact for decades…until now.

 

In his classic novel 1984 George Orwell wrote of the dystopian future that “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” We may be 30 years past Orwell’s vision, but we are beginning to fulfill his prophecies. Because of one whackjob who was upset about a woman a movement has built steam to remove all reminders of The Civil War, atleast one half of it. Why now?? Why were these monuments & statues & buildings bearing the names of Confederate generals erected many years ago and few have had any complaints until this summer?? One tragedy is enough to erase history?? I have to believe that there were legitimate reasons why these things were made or named in honor of certain people in the first place. What has changed?? Why were these things not offensive a month ago, a year ago, a decade ago, or beyond??

 

At any rate all that is a longwinded introduction to our intended purpose today, which is to recognize…..

 

 
from the home office in Appomattox, VA…..

 

 
The Superfluous 7 Dumbest Overreactions to the Confederate Battle Flag Controversy:

 

 

 

7 NAACP Wants To Deface Stone Mountain
I rank this lowest on the list because it hasn’t actually occurred…but the subject has been broached. I’ve never been to Georgia, & stone mountainheretofore the only thing I knew about Stone Mountain is that it is where legendary WWE wrestler Jake “The Snake” Roberts was from. Apparently there is an actual mountain there (well, it’s actually more like a knob or a ridge), and on that mountain is a sizable carving of Generals Robert E. Lee & Stonewall Jackson as well as Jefferson Davis, along with their horses. The piece was begun in 1912 but not completed until 60 years later for various reasons. Anyway, now the NAACP (itself a divisive, race baiting organization) is pushing for the images to be sandblasted away. Now we could go down the road of debating the strengths/weaknesses, plusses/minuses, & positives/negatives of Davis, Lee, & Jackson on an individual basis, and I am sure that there are knowledgeable historians that have studied each man’s life. But the issue is this…folks didn’t know those facts and debate the issue a hundred years ago?? How about during the SIX decades it took to finish the thing?? If the carvings are so offensive how come no one…during all that time…said “Hey…let’s just forget it and start over. Maybe carve some pretty flowers or happy little trees instead.”?? But now…all the sudden…40 years after its completion…it is offensive?? May I humbly suggest that what has really changed is that our culture wasn’t so infested with politically correct, perpetually offended pansies back then.

 

6 Tom Petty & Bubba Watson Selling Out
pettyIt’s no surprise that Tom Petty is a wussified, angst-ridden, tookas kissing opportunist. Actually it’s more surprising that Tom Petty is alive and people are still paying to hear him sing. Who knew?? At any rate, in a pathetic attempt to remember what it was like to be relevant, Petty recently told Rolling Stone (that’s something called a magazine kids…we used to read them in the old days) that he regrets utilizing the Confederate battle flag as stage décor & album art…30 years ago. Really dude?? No one cares. I can’t remember what I had for dinner yesterday, let alone what some record had on its cover in the 80’s. Get over yourself…you’re not that important. And then there is Bubba Watson, a decent pro golfer and alleged fellow fan of The Dukes of Hazzard. In fact, Bubba was such a big fan that in 2012 he paid $110k for one of the show’s approximately 300 General Lee cars. Specifically he purchased one of the earliest General Lees, the one that is seen jumping over a police car in the opening credits (it’s a scene from the very first episode). But now…because of all the hoopla…Bubba says that he will paint over the rebel flag on top of the car, replacing it with the American flag. That’d be like owning an original Batmobile and painting it green, or replacing the gull-winged doors on a Back to the Future DeLorean with standard doors. There are less than 20 original General Lees left. Regardless of one’s bubbaopinion of the show it is indisputable that the car is a valuable piece of memorabilia, cherished by collectors all over the world. Maybe Watson is receiving heat from sponsors. I get it. But for the love of God if he is that weakminded then sell the vehicle…don’t destroy it & make it just another worthless car. To my knowledge he hasn’t followed thru with the paint job yet so there is still time to do the right thing. However, as things stand I must say that, though I’m not really a believer in karma, I smiled when Bubba Watson recently missed the cut at The British Open.

 

5 Amazon & Walmart No Longer Selling Flag Merchandise
amazonThis is what really got the crazy train rolling. Did, as one customer service rep reportedly told a customer, the federal government “encourage” Amazon to remove all Confederate flag related merchandise from its site?? We’ll probably never know. WalMart is based in Arkansas and for years has been the mothership of lowbrow redneck culture, so for them to fold like a cheap suit and remove flag related products was truly shocking. I’m not a boycotting kind of person because I just don’t believe that such movements are effective. Like so many big corporations these days Amazon & WalMart are so gargantuan that it would take a truly focused & united effort to negatively impact their bottom line, and the American people can rarely reach a consensus like that these days. I shop at both places regularly and am unlikely to stop doing so, but nonetheless I am extremely disappointed in their decision to remove clothing & other items adorned with the Confederate flag (even though I’ve never owed any walmartof those things anyway). It is the textbook definition of pandering, and from a business standpoint makes no sense at all. Sure there’ll be some that will applaud the decision which will earn both companies some PR brownie points, but that is a short term benefit. I wouldn’t be surprised if both entities quietly add flag merchandise back into their inventory in the future, once all this controversy simmers down.

 

4 #NoFlaggingChallenge
Someone is going to get hurt. There is just no way around it. Apparently some mental giant started this idea on Twitter, daring people twitterto invade others’ private property and remove Confederate flags from vehicles, homes, etc. Thankfully it doesn’t seem to have caught fire like the Ice Bucket Challenge or The Macarena, but I have seen a few videos where folks have actually done this. Most adults know that two wrongs don’t make a right, so no matter how much a person might hate the Confederate flag (probably because the media told you to) it is absolutely insane to think it is okay to violate someone else’s property, committing theft or vandalism in the process. Anyone doing so is a misguided punk, and I sincerely hope as many as possible are arrested. That is atleast a better option than getting beaten into a bloody pulp.

 

3 Man Calls Cops On Antique Store
A typical 21st century American male (that is to say wussified & emasculated…probably a fan of One Direction and an avid viewer of fleaThe Bachelor) was recently shopping at a flea market in Connecticut. That flea market happened to have for sale both Confederate flag & Nazi memorabilia. I will not defend Nazi merchandise. That’s a bit much even for me. However, had most people with an ounce of sense encountered the same situation we would have likely done one of three things: a) ignore the items, b) complain to whoever is in charge of the flea market, or c) leave & take our business elsewhere. This idiot chose Option D…he called the police. Now folks, I know law enforcement has taken it on the chin a bit lately for various reasons, but I still hold most cops in the highest regard. I’m not sure what kind of thuggery & delinquency occurs most often in Connecticut, but I feel confident in saying that their ladies & gentlemen in blue probably have more important matters to deal with than a moron at a flea market offended by items he is under no duress to buy. Needless to say no charges were filed because, as the United States is still a free country (for now), the flea market can sell whatever legal items it wants, no matter who might be upset by them. As a matter of fact what should have happened is the prompt incarceration of the shopper himself (who was apparently so distraught he was shaking & almost vomited…seriously) for wasting the taxpayers’ money & the police’s time.

 

2 Taking The Dukes of Hazzard Off TV
dukes3I thought for sure this would take the top spot because it is the one that has angered me the most. I am from West Virginia, and my feelings for my home state are ambivalent at best. The economic & entertainment environment here is bleak to say the least, and if I had been wiser & more brave I would have escaped this Appalachian abyss two decades ago. To that end I have never embraced the whole redneck/hillbilly thing because I am a little embarrassed by it. I get tired of the jokes & preconceived notions. Everyone I know wears shoes & has indoor plumbing. I am not only literate but college educated. We don’t all sit around drinking moonshine and I have never met anyone that has been intimate with their cousin or any other close family member. Having said all that, there are a few southern conceits that I happily embrace. When I was a kid I LOVED The Dukes of Hazzard. I faithfully watched it every Friday night. As an adult I realize that the show was a bit hokey and the production values not great, but I also appreciate even more the homespun southern morals it espoused. The Dukes of Hazzard wasn’t violent, the good guys always won, it was sexually tame (Daisy Duke’s short shorts are nothing compared to the filth we see on TV now), there were no drugs, & even the villains (Boss Hogg & Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane) weren’t all that bad. The show was good clean fun. Like many other television shows I grew up watching, The Dukes, along with other beloved classics like The Andy Griffith Show, The Golden Girls, The Brady Bunch, & Cheers, have continued to entertain us decades after their first run airing thanks to syndicated reruns, and I would still rather watch an episode of The Dukes any day than most of the crap that is currently popular. Unfortunately, as of a few weeks ago, that isn’t as easy as it used to be. Why?? Because one of the main “characters” on the show is a really cool car called The General Lee that happens to have a Confederate battle flag painted on its top. This is suddenly, three decades after the show ended its original run as one of the most popular shows in the country, considered offensive. Lunacy!! glYou want to take the flag down from a government building?? Okay, fine. But to somehow catch a TELEVISION SHOW in the web of politically correct fascism is beyond stupid. The Dukes of Hazzard is undeniably one of the least offensive programs of all time, yet TV Land & other channels have bent over and kissed the…feet…of the perpetually offended leftist minority that is ruining the America I knew & loved. Anyone who ever watch The Dukes of Hazzard would have to honestly say that it wasn’t at all bigoted or racist. It was a spaghetti western with fast cars instead of horses. Good triumphed over evil…always. Family, community, respect, friendship, helping out your neighbors, doing the right thing…that’s what the show was about. Yet because a few people have become upset about a vehicle’s paint job the powers-that-be have taken the program off the air. Seriously people…that’s messed up.

 

1 Desecrating the Grave of Nathan Bedford Forrest
I am a huge fan of the 1994 Oscar winning film Forrest Gump. In that movie the dimwitted main character mentions that he was forrestnamed after Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Forrest was also a lieutenant general in the Confederate army. A few weeks ago the city council in Memphis, TN voted to DIG UP THE REMAINS of Forrest & his wife from a park in the city. Full disclosure…the remains have been dug up before, relocated from their original cemetery lots and moved to the park in 1904, which at the time had been named in Forrest’s honor. However, I am not a fan of desecrating graves, especially for reasons involving idiotic political correctness. Look, no one is defending The Klan. Well, I’m not anyway. There might be some that would. But I think it is so wrong to be digging up graves, no matter who the person is or what they might have done. And here is the kicker. Forrest condemned The Klan a decade before his death and called for its disbandment. This is particularly interesting to West Virginians like myself, who constantly hear so many defending the late Senator Robert C. Byrd, himself a former Klansman who had called black folks “mongrels”. “But but but…Byrd “evolved” on the issue and regretted his Klan history!!” Well…apparently so did Nathan Bedford Forrest. Let’s be clear…I am not saying that Forrest was a good guy. I am simply pointing out an obvious double standard and opining that desecrating a grave for almost any reason is disrespectful & wrong. You’re mileage may vary and that’s okay.

America: A Eulogy

Okay…I tried. I have been holding back…resisting the urge to pontificate on a confluence of recent events that a decade ago I wouldn’t have imagined possible. But I just can’t do it. I cannot remain silent.

 

hugLet me first say that my purpose is not to insult, demean, or degrade anyone. I come in peace. I approach my task with love. I respect the opinions & feelings of others, although it seems like nowadays that peace, love, & respect is a one way street. My father has always taught me to disagree without being disagreeable, a lofty goal that I far too often fail to achieve. However, thru that failure I have learned that arguments, contempt, & vulgarity do nothing except intensify the chasm, and really…aren’t we divided enough??

 

Today is Independence Day. The 239th birthday of the United States of America. Millions of people will be celebrating flagwith cookouts, concerts, fireworks, & various other frivolities. Many may have already began the festivities a couple of days ago. I plan on participating in some of those activities and will undoubtedly have a nice time. However, from a big picture perspective I do not consider it to be a happy birthday. As a matter of fact I believe that our nation went on life support on November 4, 2008 and the plug was finally pulled sometime in the past few weeks. Now I am no medical expert, but I do know that a person in a vegetative state can sometimes hold on for awhile after the machines are turned off, and I think that is where America stands at the moment. We’re still breathing, but the end is imminent. Depressing?? Obviously. Honest?? In my opinion…yes. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay. I’ve tried being an optimist but it doesn’t seem to suit me.

 

What would a medical professional say is the cause of death for America?? Probably something like “complications resulting from sin, political correctness, & apathy”.

 

constFrom the time of its founding America was referred to by many as The Great Experiment. Democracy. Freedom. Liberty. These were radical concepts in the beginning. No monarchy for us. Freedom of Speech. Freedom of Religion. The right to participate in the process by voting and, atleast theoretically, pointing our elected leaders in the direction we wanted the country to go. Oh sure there were some pretty significant bumps along the way. I don’t think you’d find anyone these days that believes slavery was ever a good idea. The fact that women couldn’t vote for the first century & a half of the nation’s existence seems silly now. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s & 60’s is an undeniable blight on our history simply because black folks should have never had to fight for equality & fairness in the first place. But I believe that one can be patriotic without being intellectually dishonest about these scars, and we should be able to acknowledge past mistakes without painting America with the broad brush strokes of hatred & disdain.

 

Unfortunately it seems the experiment has ended. The United States has somehow transitioned into an oligarchy gavelwherein a chosen few with money & influence make the rules while condescendingly patting the rest of us on our collective head and treating The Constitution as if it is was written with erasable ink. Free speech is only free if this ruling class deems it appropriate. Freedom of the press is laughable since the media has become nothing but a tool willingly used by the powers-that-be to propagate their agenda. Religious freedom has been completely redefined and may very well be eradicated soon enough. The right to keep & bear arms…written by the Founding Fathers to provide an avenue for the citizenry to protect themselves against lawbreakers of all kinds, including an overzealous & tyrannical government…is constantly under attack and will likely be eliminated in my lifetime. American exceptionalism has been portrayed as arrogance, with too many of our leaders seeking to bring this once great nation down to an equal level with other countries so they don’t hate us. The Godly principles that were undeniably a bedrock of our discovery as “The New World” and our fight for independence are now seen by many as offensive & obsolete. I suppose there are those that would call this progress, but nothing could be further from the truth.

 

iwoThe United States used to fight for big ideas. Now we bow down to the lowest common denominator. We used to go to war in defense of freedom & liberty. Now we file lawsuits and ban things from public view because a few overly sensitive types whine & complain. We used to be the tough guys on the block that everyone else looked up to and expected to lead the way. Now we are a nation of sheep who are afraid of upsetting anybody and fret over whether or not people like us. Our media has sold us out. Our politicians have sold us out. Our culture has been decimated. Our history has been bastardized.

 

fathersI often wonder what men like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, & Abraham Lincoln would think if they could visit America in the 21st century. No one knows for sure, but allow me to offer an opinion. On one hand I believe they’d be fascinated by technology…television, The Internet, automobiles, computers, smartphones. Those guys were sharp cookies. Brilliant minds. They’d dig having so much information & knowledge readily available. But on the flipside I sincerely believe they’d be horrified & disappointed in how we’ve taken their life’s work, the nation that they fought so hard to make a reality, and damaged it by twisting or outright dukesignoring their words, spitting on the beliefs & values that guided them, reducing God’s influence in society, & becoming a weakminded, narcissistic, covetous population that blithely murders 3000 innocent babies every day but thinks The Dukes of Hazzard is evil.

 

I want…I need…you to know that it is hard for me to express these things. I love my country. There is nowhere else obama-logoI’ve ever wanted to live. I truly believe that it is those that oppose our traditions, our values, our history, our culture, our freedom, & our God that hate America. During Barack Obama’s initial presidential campaign he talked about “fundamentally transforming” the country. Now I know that supporters of Obama try to shine that up real pretty and make it sound like something good. However, when you study Obama’s history, his influences, & his education it becomes clear that those words weren’t used accidentally. He never wanted to tweak things, make minor changes, slightly adjust policy, or do a course correction. His goal was always to alter the United States on such a deep level that it would essentially become unrecognizable in comparison to what it was before. To that end he has been frighteningly successful. The transformation is so profound that I don’t think the damage can easily be undone no matter who we elect in 2016. I suppose it is possible that I am being slightly unfair to Obama, that this makeover would have happened even without his guidance…but I don’t think so.

 

pray2I don’t have many answers. I wish I did. I would prefer to be more hopeful, especially on this holiday, but I’m being honest. Your opinion may be different. You may think everything is just dandy. That is certainly your right. Unlike the vitriolic, smallminded keyboard warriors that like to vomit their hatred in the direction of myself & others who see thru the stupidity and understand what’s really going on I don’t seek to censor anyone. If that’s how entities like WalMart, NASCAR, & Warner Brothers choose to approach things then all I can do is spend my time & money elsewhere. That may be the silver lining in all of this. As more & more individuals, companies, & entertainment outlets cave to sin & political correctness it provides more time for me to focus on God and His purpose for my life. I truly believe that He is at work separating the wheat from the chaff. Which will you be??

25 Favorite TV Theme Songs…..Part 2

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

Superfluous 7 – Fictional Characters With Whom I’d Like To Hang Out

Awhile back I read a book called The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived. It wasn’t quite what I thought it was going to be when I made the impulse purchase, skewing a bit too much toward the analytical and academic instead of the lighthearted and interesting. The authors made a point of emphasizing that their list was based on influence and not popularity. Many of the conclusions reached were curious, some in a good way and some in a real head scratching sort of way. Rosie the Riveter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Barbie (the doll) made their list. The Marlboro Man was #1. Meanwhile, Fonzie and Rocky Balboa are nowhere to be found. So I decided to make my own, much shorter list. My criteria isn’t based on popularity or influence. The question I asked myself was simply “Who would it be cool to hang out with??” Now let me be very clear…I am not simply talking about meeting them or doing an interview. I am talking about spending a weekend or maybe a summer with a person, becoming involved in their daily life. Michael Corleone is an awesome character, but really…who wants to become part of the mafia with all the guns and blood?? Shakespeare created many memorable characters, but a lot of them are unstable and end up dead. I love Forrest Gump, but I think he may get on my nerves after awhile. So I thought about who it would be fun to converse with and learn from, or just have a good time with. It was difficult to narrow down to seven, but the mission was accomplished. Who would you enjoy chillin’ with if you had the opportunity and the line between fiction and reality was not only blurred but eliminated?? Don’t hesitate to let me know…after you enjoy…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Spasticsville, Kansas…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Fictional Characters With Whom I’d Like To Hang Out:

 

 

7 The Duke Boys

I am a child of the 80’s, and every Friday night from 1979-1985 I could not wait for The Dukes of Hazzard to come on television. It is only now, 25 years later, that I can truly appreciate the show (and I mean that sincerely). Was the acting great and the writing superb?? No. But no one ever got killed, and the crimes committed were pretty benign. Hazzard County seems like it would be a cool little town in which to live, as long as one doesn’t get on the bad side of Boss Hogg & Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane…and even then they are actually rather tame as far as villains go. Now I am resisting the urge to write about what I would do if given the chance to spend some quality time with Daisy, instead taking the high road and choosing to chillax with Bo & Luke. Did they have jobs?? What did they do all day other than run the roads in the General Lee and occasionally throw back a cold one at The Boar’s Nest?? I suppose they helped Uncle Jesse by doing most of the heavy lifting on the farm, but that’s okay…a little elbow grease and sweat never hurt anyone. I’m not much of a fast driver, but I could handle being a passenger as the guys race around evading the law. I imagine it’d get the ol’ blood pumping, especially when a washed out bridge forces one of those cool jumps. I could grip the roll bar and yell “Yeeeee-haaaaaa”. Mostly I can just see myself enjoying the slow pace, the good people, and the relative innocence of a place like Hazzard and learning the essence of being a cool country boy from The Dukes. And yes…I’d probably hit on Daisy.

 

 

6 Bilbo Baggins

There is a reason I specifically chose Bilbo Baggins. His nephew Frodo is a character we get to know much more in depth, as he is the main protagonist in all the Lord of the Rings books/movies. In contrast, Bilbo is the focus in only one shorter book, The Hobbit. But Frodo’s adventure is so long, grueling, and dangerous that it doesn’t seem like it’d be much fun to be in his proximity. As a matter of fact, because of that damn Ring (The One to rule them all) Frodo’s life and the lives of everyone around him becomes way too scary. Bilbo’s adventure in The Hobbit is not without peril, but it is much shorter and less fraught with life-in-the-balance moments. However, if I were to hang out with Bilbo it would not be in the midst of an adventure at all. I would want to hang out in The Shire with he and the other hobbits. The Shire is a quiet, idyllic land where the hobbits enjoy simple things like eating, drinking, smoking, and being social. The hobbits enjoy gardening and live off the fat of the land. It is a simple place and they are simple folk, which I like. Bilbo is a good storyteller and definitely has some stories to tell, plus he is pals with the wizard Gandalf, so one never knows when he might pop in.

 

 

5 Batman/Bruce Wayne

Batman is the ultimate example of bi-polar disorder. How cool would it be to hang out with him?? During the day one could enjoy the lavish lifestyle of billionaire Bruce Wayne, and at night get a taste of adventure as The Dark Night trolls the seedy underbelly of Gotham City exacting vigilante justice. I would LOVE to ride shotgun in The Batmobile and of course chill in the ultimate man cave, The Bat Cave. I am not much for physicality, but it’d be intriguing to try to outwit villains like The Riddler, Catwoman, and The Penguin. While Batman doesn’t seem like much of a conversationalist his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, is charming and charismatic. And since I would know his secret we could have rather fascinating discussions. Trying to get inside the head of a man who was emotionally scarred as a child by seeing his parents gunned down and who uses that trauma as a reason to dress up like a bat and fight crime…well call me crazy, but that sounds like fun.

 

 

4 Sheriff Andy Taylor

It has long been my opinion that the happiest place on Earth is not Disney World, but rather the town of Mayberry. I am too young to have caught The Andy Griffith Show when it first aired in the 60’s, but forty years after it was cancelled generations of people like me are still invited into the lives of Andy, Opie, Barney, and Aunt Bea thanks to reruns. And while Barney Fife is one of the funniest characters in television history and we all love Opie because we have literally seen Ron Howard grow from a small boy to an Oscar winning director and a grandfather, for me the heart & soul of the show and the town is Sheriff Andy. It may seem like a trite cliché, but Andy Taylor is a good man. He is kind, wise, understanding, and tough. He’s a great Dad, a good friend, and good at his job. I have reached a point in my life where I see that running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to impress people and achieve what the world defines as success is akin to a cat chasing its tale…an exercise in futility. Faith, family, and friendship are the most important things in life. I think a man like Sheriff Taylor understands that, and I would enjoy immensely the opportunity to sit on the front porch sipping some iced tea, picking a little on the ol’ guitar, and shooting the breeze with him.

 

 

3 Captain Jean-Luc Picard

This was a tough call. Thanks to my good friend The Owl I am a Trekkie, and the Star Trek Universe is polluted with memorable characters. I love Bones McCoy, but I really can’t see myself voluntarily spending time with a doctor. Scotty is cool, but I am not an engineer either. Spock is interesting, but really…would he even understand the concept of chillaxing?? ‘Tis not very logical afterall. Captain Kirk is awesome, but a little too intense and adventurous for my tastes. I like to keep things low key. Captain Picard is more my speed. He is less of a swashbuckler and more of an intellectual, an educated man with eclectic interests in classical music, literature, archaeology, fencing, and physics. Picard is the type of guy one could probably sit and listen to for hours, even if he is so smart that the majority of what he is saying goes way above your head. Captain Kirk would be fun to party with and you’d definitely want him on your side in a fight, but Picard is someone to learn from and gain insight about the world.

 

 

2 Santa Claus

Oh come on…who wouldn’t want to hang out with Santa Claus?? And I am not just talking about on Christmas Eve as he makes his journey around the globe delivering presents and eating cookies. I want to spend all year with Old Saint Nick. How does he know when we are sleeping and when we are awake?? How does he know whether we’ve been bad or good?? How does he know exactly what every child wants for Christmas?? Precisely when does he check The List twice and how much time does that take?? Who compiles The List in the first place?? What kind of set up does The North Pole have as far as manufacturing all the latest gadgets kids want these days?? Most of us are selfish and not the least bit concerned about the needs of others, so why is Santa so different?? Why is he so giving and what lead him down this career path?? What is the economic situation for him personally and professionally since he just gives presents away?? Does he get a cut of the profits from stores like WalMart, Sears, Amazon.com, and Best Buy?? What is the deal with the elves?? These are things I need to know people!!

 

 

1 Sherlock Holmes

I have been a huge Sherlockian since junior high school. I have read each of the 56 short stories and 4 novels countless times and enjoy them tremendously. I think maybe the coolest job in history was Watson’s. I would love love love to be Watson, hanging out with Holmes and then writing about all his adventures. I realize that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle makes Victorian London seem far more awesome than it probably was in reality, but that’s okay. Doyle’s London is an odd mix of quaint, mysterious, dangerous, and romantic. Holmes wouldn’t need to flip through endless channels of mind numbing idiocy even if the technology were available to him. He’s got plenty to keep him busy. If he’s not out solving some of the oddest crimes ever conceived he is conducting chemistry experiments in his living room, writing an academic treatise on various types of soil or poisons, or playing his violin. One would never get bored hanging out with Sherlock Holmes, except during those times of languid inactivity when he takes to shooting up cocaine. That’d be when I’d have to leave and visit someone else on the list. At any rate, spending time at 221B Baker Street would encompass meeting all sorts of strange people, trudging through the streets of London at all hours of the day & night in search of answers, and most of all learning at the feet of quite possibly the smartest man in history.