Thursday, July 24, 2008

Unseen TV Characters

Apologies. This is a complete time waster and not at all about cartoons, but it was fun to do.

There are a number of TV characters who are only known by what the other TV characters in the show say about them. These are the UNSEEN CHARACTERS OF TV. Within a short time, I came up with a list of unseen TV characters.

In no particular order:

Heather Sinclair, frequently trash talked girl at Degrassi TNG.

Lars Lindstrom, the dull, Swedish husband of Phyllis. This unseen character was killed off (off screen, of course) in the pilot of the PHYLLIS sitcom.

Sara & Juanita, the phone operator and diner waitress, respectively, in Mayberry. Juanita was the "go to girlfriend" if Barney's regular girl was not available. In one of the episodes, Barney recited a poem he had written to her (she is unseen, as he talks to her on the phone):

Juanita, Juanita,
Lovely, dear Juanita,
From your head down to your feet,
There's nothing half so sweet,
As Juanita, Juanita, Jua-neet.

Oh, there are things of wonder,
Of which men like to sing.
There are pretty sunsets and birds upon the wing,
But of the joys of nature,
None truly can compare,
With Juanita, Juanita, she of beauty beyond compare.
Juanita, Juanita, lovely dear Jua-neet.

Reverend Feltcher, who Archie would mistakenly call "Fletcher."

Edith (correcting him): Fletcher.

Archie: Whatever!

Charlie from CHARLIE'S ANGELS was not seen.

Maris, maybe the best unseen character.

Carlton Your Doorman

Sparky (M*A*S*H)

Belker's Mom from HILL STREET BLUES, who would always call when he was booking a suspect.

Orson (Mork & Mindy)

Now we get into a murkier sub-area. There are certain characters that referenced for years and sometimes in some shows, they eventually are cast with a real actor and come to life. For instance:

Johnny Paul Jason, a frequently referenced friend of Opie. The character finally appeared in a handful of episodes beginning 4 years into the series.

Mrs. Columbo was the pretty much always referenced wife of Lt. Columbo. While she never appeared on any of the Peter Falk-starring programs, there was a shortlived series titled MRS. COLUMBO (sans Falk).

Pickles was the memorable name of Buddy Sorrell's wife in THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. She was eventually seen as the series went on.

And, of course, the Big Giant Head -- the frequently named leader in THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN, who finally showed up, played by the and only William Shatner. My favorite clip: Shatner & Lithgow first meet and reference the same TWILIGHT ZONE episode.

After playing this little game, I found this:

Wikipedia's Unseen Characters page.

Oh well! It was more fun to come up with these on my own. If you have any to add, or if I made mistake, please comment.


JM said...

I had always assumed Maris on Frasier was a continuation of the joke from Cheers of Norm's wife Vera, that we never saw.

Brian Fies said...

I'm not gonna cheat by going to the Wiki page. But you forgot Vera, Norm's wife on "Cheers" (the gag worked so well there that the same writers took it with them to "Frasier").

All right, I just thought of a subcategory: characters we never quite saw all of. There was Wilson the neighbor on "Home Improvement," who always kept his face covered by convenient fences, shrubs, newspapers, etc. (I thought it was a good gag that wore itself out as the writers got too cute with it). And how about "Al" in "Police Squad," who was so tall his head was always off the top of the screen. Now that was a TV show...

Bonnie said...

Fun post! Yours is better than the Wikipedia page. The first unseen character I thought of was Pickles. Guess that dates me!

Robert Gidley said...

I think that Juanita in The Andy Griffith show was also a bit of an in-joke.

Andy Griffith had a bit called "Love Poems" To The Lovely Juanita Beasley" back when he was Deacon Andy Griffith performing stand-up comedy in the 1950's.

Bonnie, I see your 60's sitcom and raise you a 50's comedian!

Alan Smithee said...

When you rent Columbo on DVD (which everyone should), one of the extras is an episode of Mrs. Columbo. It starred a young Kate Mulgrew, the future Captain Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager.

Mike Lynch said...

Johnny, I never thought that Maris was a continuation of the idea of Vera from CHEERS. You (and Brian) are right.

Brian, I can't believe I forgot Vera! I had been putting this list together over 10 days and every time I would look at it I would think, I KNOW I'm overlooking SOMEONE!" And I like your idea for the "never quite saw all of them" sub-category. Al from POLICE SQUAD is one of the finest characters ever! Yes, that was a TV show, indeed!

Bonnie, for a couple of minutes I thought that Pickles WAS an unseen character. Then I remembered she was in later episodes.

Robert, thanks for the info. on Juanita Beasley.

And thanks, all of you, for stopping by.

Mike Lynch said...

Oh ... and thanks for the MRS. COLUMBO info. Mr. Smithee!

BillRiling said...

Does The Great Pumpkin count?

Mark Heath said...

Any teacher who ever spoke on an animated Peanuts was off-screen, speaking through a muted trombone.

Just to keep Sparky company on MASH, anyone who ever phoned or wrote a letter home. And for a while I thought Hotlips' unseen but perfect fiance might be a running gag.

I'm sure comic strips offer similar implied characters. But aside from the Great Pumpkin -- did the Head Beagle ever make an appearance? -- and any president to "appear" in Doonesbury, I can't think of any offhand.

Tom McMahon said...

An unseen character in the German version of Hogan's Heroes:

In the newer German version, the Germans speak in various different accents which makes it funnier to a German audience than Standard German would. It amplifies the contrast between Klink (who portrays the Prussian stereotype but has a Saxony accent) and Schultz (who portrays the Urbayern Bavarian stereotype). Furthermore Klink’s choice of vocabulary and memorable quotes add jokes which would not be present in a direct translation of the English language original. Another major change is that Newkirk, who speaks with a British accent in the original, is changed to an exaggerated stutterer in the German version. Apart from that there are numerous deviations from the original plot, introducing elements which were not present in the original. Amongst other things it introduces a new character, Kalinke, who is Klink’s cleaning lady and permanent mistress. She is referred to, but never seen.

Stacy Curtis said...

Actually "Sparky" on M*A*S*H was seen a few times.

Check out the "Tuttle" Episode. Radar is talking with Sparky and they have a short dialouge where Sparky is revealed and Sparky even introduces himself to Maj. Houlihan as "HQ Seoul, Sgt Pryor' when she is trying to reach General Clayton....

The actor who played Sparky: Dennis Fimple.

Sorry, I'm a M*A*S*H nerd.

Anonymous said...

Bob Sacamano from Seinfeld.

Anonymous said...

Actually, you mistakenly called Radar "sparky". The guy with the clipboard is Radar.

Anonymous said...

Sparky is never seen. That picture you have is of Radar.