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Eighinger: TV's most memorable characters include Kramer, Homer and Archie

Posted: Jul. 28, 2012 4:02 pm Updated: Aug. 25, 2012 5:15 pm

There are times when it seems like we are in the midst of another of those "golden eras" of television programming.

The performances of such actors as Gabrial Macht as Harvey Specter on "Suits" and Bryan Cranston as Walter White on "Breaking Bad" got me to thinking where they might someday rank in TV history when memorable characters are ultimately categorized.

That, of course, started me to making all sorts of lists regarding such a topic. Here is my top 10, plus an honorable mention selection, for television's all-time most "memorable" characters. ("Memorable," for the purposes of this column, simply means making a lasting impact. They did not have to be the lead character of the show.)

Honorable mention, Barney Fife, "Andy Griffith Show": Who didn't love Andy Griffith's deputy sidekick? His facial gestures alone were worth tuning in for, but the idea he was only allowed one bullet -- and had to carry it in his shirt pocket -- told us all we needed to know about his law enforcement abilities. Portrayed by: Don Knotts.

10. Charlie Harper, "Two and a Half Men": Charlie and his schtick grew stale in his latter years on the show, but those first few seasons were hall of fame caliber comedy. Charlie and his brother, Allen (Jon Cryer), were the best TV brother combo since Beaver and Wally, but in a totally different dysfunctional fashion. Portrayed by: Charlie Sheen.

9. Sue Ann Nivens, "Mary Tyler Moore Show": She was the always-perky, man-crazy, happy homemaker who hosted a show at fictional WJM-TV in Minneapolis. One of her theme shows was once entitled "What's All the Fuss About Famine?" Portrayed by: Betty White.

8. Mork, "Mork and Mindy": Mork was an alien who brought middle America to its knees in laughter in the mid-1970s. Na-nu. Na-nu. Portrayed by: Robin Williams, whose comedic genius was put on display for all to enjoy in a weekly 30-minute sitcom. He used his role as "Mork" to springboard to a lucrative film career that is still going strong.

7. Homer Simpson, "The Simpsons": Normally, I'm not an animation type of guy, but "The Simpsons" have always been an exception to that personal rule. Homer is the overweight, doughnut-eating, middle-aged patriarch of the family. (Hey, he sounds like someone I know.) Portrayed by: Homer Simpson.

6. Kramer, "Seinfeld": To say the neighbor of Jerry Seinfeld, with the infamous upright hairstyle and "vintage" wardrobe, was a bit off-center would have been an understatement. Portrayed by: Michael Richards.

5. George Costanza, "Seinfeld": He is described as "neurotic, self-loathing and dominated by his parents." That pretty much sums it up. Portrayed by: Jason Alexander.

4. Ted Baxter, "Mary Tyler Moore Show": The vain and untalented newscaster was the stuff of legends. Like so many great sitcoms, it was not the central figure of the show -- in this case, Mary Tyler Moore -- who made the program a classic. Instead, it was the supporting players like Baxter. Portrayed by: Ted Knight.

3. Abby Ewing, "Knots Landing": No one, absolutely no one, rocked eye shadow and the messy-hair look like Abby Ewing, who was this marvelous combination of vixen and corporate sleuth. As her character developed, life on the cul-de-sac made "Knots Landing" destination TV every Thursday night for more than a decade. Portrayed by: Donna Mills.

2. Cliff Clavin, "Cheers": For 11 years, Cliffie was our favorite know-it-all mailman who was petrified by members of the opposite sex. I always wondered if the U.S. Postal Service appreciated Cliffie's contribution to the legend of letter carriers. Portrayed by: John Ratzenberger, who, ironically, auditioned for the part of Norm Peterson (which eventually went to George Wendt), Cliffie's best friend and drinking buddy at Cheers.

1. Archie Bunker, "All in the Family": We laughed out loud at Archie and his bombastic comments, but we also began to think about what he was saying. Although we didn't realize it at the time, not only were we being entertained, we were being educated. More than 40 years after "All in the Family" hit our TV screens, it remains one of the most popular programs in syndication. Portrayed by: Carroll O'Connor.

 

-- seighinger@whig.com/221-3377

 

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