Top 10 Recyclable TV Characters

Monday, March 23 by

The average successful TV show has four or five seasons, a total of 80-90 episodes.  At 20 minutes an episode, that’s at least 1600 minutes of entertainment.  And that’s not including the really popular ones like The Simpsons (20 years) or ER (15 years).  That’s a lot of airtime to fill…  So, once execs discover a certain kind of show is popular, half a dozen clones will pop up… staple characters are born… then die… then get reincarnated.  The circle of life on Television.

Some of these recyclable characters have been around for ages, while others have just made their debut in the last ten years or so.  (And many of the shows below fall into several categories, but for the sake of variety once a show has appeared in a category it won’t appear again.) 

So without further ado, Screen Junkies presents… TV’s Top Ten Recyclable Characters.

 

10. The Drama Queen Doctor

Prime Suspects:
E.R., Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs

The Evidence:

Wait, haven’t I seen you before?
With the drama queen doctor, the question one usually finds oneself asking is, “When do they actually take care of patients?” Oftentimes the doctors wander liberally around the entire hospital, going to the bathroom, the cafeteria, or perhaps the broom closet, seemingly avoiding at all costs actually having to, you know, do doctor stuff.  And it’s usually because they’re busy chatting about their own personal lives, having a rivalry with the janitor, or keeping track of how many people on the staff they’ve slept with.  Hey, being a doctor is tough stuff.

 

9. The Stupid Boss

Prime Suspects:
Just Shoot Me The Office, Futurama

The Evidence:

Wait, haven’t I seen you before?
The stupid boss continues to thrive (and will always continue to do so), because every single one of us has had that boss, that guy whose awkward manner or stupid decisions frustrate us at the end of every work day.  In TV Land, though, it’s usually exaggerated – to the point where you wonder how in the world he landed that job in the first place, as the glaring sign on his forehead that says “Idiot” would have probably given it away in the original interview.  So the moral? It’s funny to laugh at superiors, cuz they’re all stupid!

 

8. The Sassy Lawyer

Prime Suspects:
Boston Legal, Raising the Bar, JAG

The Evidence:

Wait, haven’t I seen you before?
Courtrooms are actually fairly boring places, for the most part, so of course if you make a TV show about it you have to spice if up.  The hallmark of the sassy lawyer is that his courtroom behavior borders on that which would cause any real lawyer to get booted out of the courtroom, or even lose his job.  According to TV, all kinds of shit can go down in the courtroom, all the time, and if you scream and swear a lot while chewing the scenery, the jury and judge will be won over by the foam at the corners of your mouth.  Or, you could just have a quirky sense of humor and an unusual method of cross-examining the witness. It’s all good.

 

7. The Oddball Neighbor

Prime Suspects:
I Love Lucy, Full House, Seinfeld

The Evidence:

Wait, haven’t I seen you before?
In this case, the neighbor doesn’t even need to technically live across the street or next door, they just need to come over a lot, barging through the door rudely or constantly snooping in your business. The reaction from the characters on the show is usually to laugh and say, “Oh, that ______!”  Or perhaps even a big fight will ensue or something, but in most cases the neighbor never leaves, and will always find a way to come speeding through that door with a flourish in the end.  There are exceptions, though – sometimes the neighbor will offer sage advice, but the common denominator with all of them is that you usually never find out about their background.

 

6. The Weird Roommate

Prime Suspects:
Will & Grace, American Dad, Friends

The Evidence:

Wait, haven’t I seen you before?
The weird roommate’s job is usually to offer comic relief – oh that quirky roommate, you never know what he’s going to do next! Often they’re also the antithesis to everything the main roommate stands for – because two people who are completely different for each other is comedy gold if you’re a network executive.  Sometime the roommate will engage in excessive hijinks, which cause enmbarrassing situations, which the main dude (or dudette) constantly has to put up with, never once moving out or anything, of course.

 

5. The Unorthodox [Insert Profession]

 

Prime Suspects:
House, The X-Files, Numbers

The Evidence:

Wait, haven’t I seen you before?
A winning formula for ages has been to take a profession and dump into it someone who, you know, does that thing in a stranger manner than the rest of the people in that profession.  The meetings to create these shows probably go something like this, “Hey, what if a cop, you know, did things…..different?”  After all, who wants to see a show about a guy who goes to work just like everybody else?  “What if that dude believed in aliens, or was really really mean, or, I know, used numbers!!  We could put the 3 instead of an E!  It’s genius!!”  Of course, this way that’s different is always shown to be right in the end, because doing shit the way you were taught to do them is just dumb.

 

4. The Wise-ass Kid

 

Prime Suspects:
South Park, Malcolm in the Middle, 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter

The Evidence:

Wait, haven’t I seen you before?
Have you ever actually met a wise-ass in kid real life?  What’s the first thing you want to do to them?  Correct – punch them in the mouth, or at least tell them to go sit in the corner for a few minutes. In TV Land, though, we’re often asked to sympathize with the kid, as sometimes on the show their antics are looked at as adorably funny or excused because they were young.  Often these kids are teenagers, but sometimes the cuteness quotient goes higher and higher the younger someone gets, culminating in a one-liner spewing toddler that sounds like they’re using jokes discarded from Bob Saget’s America’s Funniest Home Videos.  (I’m lookin’ at you, Michelle Tanner.)

 

3. Hardened/Gritty/Tough/Clever Police Detective

Prime Suspects:
NYPD Blue, CSI, Monk

The Evidence:

Wait, haven’t I seen you before?
Anybody who does any kind of work for the police has been a hallmark of television almost since the medium first began, but since police work often involves long, boring stretches of doing absolutely nothing at all, not to mention a hell of a lot of paperwork, writers need to give people a reason to watch these shows, and the solution usually revolves around a combination of any of the above categories.  Much like the Unorthodox Blank, often the way this particular cop does something, which is virtually never “by-the-book”, is shown to be superior to those fools who follow the rules.

 

2. Long-suffering Wife

Prime Suspects:
George Lopez Family Guy, Roseanne

The Evidence:

Wait, haven’t I seen you before?
TV is probably more guilty than any other form of entertainment for perpetuating stereotypes, and one of those is that men are dumb and women have to put up with them, especially married men.  Maybe TV writers are subconsciously trying to make up for all the oppression the female sex has undergone, in their own clumsy way, but given that most of these wives stay at home all day taking care of the kids and cooking (sometimes badly, because a woman who cooks terribly is hilarious!) while the husband goes off to win the bread, it seems a little off.  Usually these shows will find wives instructing the father on a particular aspect of parenting, an aspect that you wonder why they haven’t learned yet since the kid is 12 years old. (e.g. diapers) Which finally brings us to….

 

1. The Clueless Husband

Prime Suspects:
The Simpsons, Home Improvement, Everybody Loves Raymond

The Evidence:

Wait, haven’t I seen you before?
The holy grail and nearly endless wellspring for comedy on TV has been The Clueless Husband.  The husband will almost invariably exhibit nigh on complete incompetence when dealing with any given aspect of average married family life, like taking care of the kids, doing dishes, keeping the house clean, etc.  While Homer Simpson may be the candidate for most famous and best clueless husband, he started out being more of a jerk than clueless.  So the honor has to go to Tim Taylor of Home Improvement, a show that managed to cram The Stupid Boss, The Oddball Neighbor, Unorthodox Blank, Wise-Ass Kid, Long-Suffering Wife, and Clueless Husband all into one 22-minute segment, even featuring at least one of the others (Weird Roommate) in a few separate episodes.  That, my friends, is talent.

– THOMAS ANDERSON
aka MovieBuzzReviewDude. Check out his movie/media/pop culture blog here.

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