I decided to make a list of the best recurring characters of all time. If you are wondering what my criteria for this is (and why wouldn’t you be) I am referring to characters who are not in a TV show as a main character yet have appeared in a number of episodes but not all of them (less than 50%), I am however excluding guest actors or actors who have only appeared in a grouping of episodes. Initially I intended this to be a list across all genres but as I wrote down the names that I felt deserved to be on the list they were all from comedy shows. I think this may stem from the fact that dramas do not lend themselves to strong non starring characters the way comedies do.
For me the ultimate recurring character, every other recurring character must look up to Newman as their God because when he got his screen time he made the most of it and became a legend from it.
Newman the fat, curly haired, associate of Kramer, arch nemesis of Jerry and deliverer of mail, what can’t this man do? The Newman episodes of Seinfeld always felt that little bit extra special because you knew that some crazy Newman sketch (usually with Kramer) was going to unfold and very rarely did they disappoint.
For me Newman is the 5th member of Seinfeld and is the 3rd best character, which is a massive compliment to a character that only showed up in about 8 episodes a season.
Really you could write an article about the whole of Springfield being amazing recurring characters, but I decided to limit it to the best one and for me that is Abe ‘Grampa’ Simpson.
The kooky old senior citizen who is loved (sort of) by the Simpson family as he shuffles around and gets confused by every day events (much like all old people [or so I’ve heard]). It is hard to imagine the Simpsons without Grampa Simpson because although he isn’t a major character he is such an integral part of the Springfield experience that without him the show wouldn’t be the same.
It helps that The Simpsons have gotten the Grampa character spot in terms of what many old people are like (he reminds me of mine in many ways) and that as well as the fact he is very inadvertently funny make him a great character.
Super Hans the drug addled friend of Jez from Peep Show, and the man who makes drug taking look cool and sexy (when apparently it is not). Like many great recurring characters Super Hans main purpose is to get into crazy schemes and situations with one of the main cast.
There isn’t really much that you can say about Super Hans that I haven’t really said but he is and lives the life that many people wish they could (being a layabout with no responsibilities) and does so with style, he is the embodiment of cool.
The first of many appearances from a 30 Rock character, Dennis Duffy the loser ex-boyfriend of Liz Lemon, who as much as she tries will not leave her alone, is a well-deserved entrant on the list.
Dennis pops up from time to time (much to the distaste of Liz) showing that even losers can make themselves a career as an entrepreneur. Dennis portrays that person in everyone’s life that as much as you try to get rid of them they just keep coming back and it really is a pain in the tits.
Now I know what you are thinking (because I can read minds) ‘what Satan is this you are referring to?’ well first of how kind of you to ask and secondly I am of course talking about the Satan from South Park (not the one who talks to the Walton’s).
It is funny to think that when you imagine what Satan would be like, you think of him being big, red, and one mean bastard. You look at South Park’s Satan and he is big (tick), red (tick) and a pansy homosexual who is bossed about by his lovers (wait what?). That is what makes Satan in South Park so great; he just isn’t what you’d think of when you imagine what a cartoon Satan would be.
A proportion of the episode’s that Satan appears in also include Saddam Hussein (who doesn’t love Saddam [South Park’s Saddam not the real one]) and it is possibly the greatest homosexual relationship in television history.
Not an obvious name on the list when you first look at but Bebe Glazer is Frasier’s agent in well Frasier. It is always interesting when the ambitious Bebe shows up in an episode of Frasier because you know that she will be using her powers of seduction to once again entrap Frasier in her web.
There was that one weird episode where the agent client relationship between Frasier and Bebe get a little too close and they end up bumping uglies much to the distress of everyone (Frasier included).
The arch nemesis and sometimes colleague of Jack Donaghy in 30 Rock, portrayed by the brilliant Will Arnet is the best of the many recurring characters which 30 Rock has produced.
Devon is the openly gay (although once engaged to Kathy Geiss although known to be gay) business competitor of Jack who (in many ways similar to Dennis Duffy) manages to upset Jack at every point possible.
Often found to be competing for the same jobs as Jack and eventually failing to get them (because Jack is awesome), he eventually decides to live a family life with his 3 gagybies produced from a swirl sample with his boyfriend so that they won’t know who the father is (although they are black so I’m guessing they aren’t his).
Devon is the yang to Jack’s Yin and the combination of these two great actors is always going to produce the fireworks that you’d expect.
Father Dick Byrne
The arch nemesis (I feel like I have wrote this a lot) of Father Ted Crilly who lives on the neighbouring Rugged Island. Who knew what priests got up to on their spare time, but thankfully because of Father Ted we know, and it seems like they spend their time getting into rivalries with other priests who they don’t like.
Father Dick Byrne has a tendency to get under Father Ted’s skin and usually gets the better of their rivalry which inevitably has Father Ted cussing ‘oh I really hate Father Dick Byrne’ and who doesn’t, he is a dick. Even though Father Dick Byrne is a dick he did produce the finest song to never make it onto Eurovision Song Contest ever!
The bumbling lawyer of the Bluth family on Arrested Development makes us all question why a family which was once rich did not have a better lawyer (like a Bob Loblaw for instance), but that would require logic and to be honest if the Bluth’s lawyer was competent would it be funny? No probably not, and because he is so useless he fits in nicely with the rest of the Bluth’s.
Barry is the quite possibly closeted homosexual (or maybe not it is hard to tell because he is rather homophobic) but he certainly is a totally inadequate lawyer. The fact that Barry is so useless as a lawyer leads to the continued legal troubles of the Bluth’s which you can only imagine would be less worrying if they had a half competent lawyer.
The mother from hell (or just your mother if you come from an Irish Catholic background) also happens to be the mother of Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock (told you that there were a lot of them).
The loathing mother son relationship of the Donaghy’s rears its head every so often throughout 30 Rock and when it does you know you are going to be witnessing that bitch Colleen who is always doing her best to undermine Jack’s achievements and general awesomeness. The real problem with Jack and Colleen relationship is that they are too similar (which isn’t surprising considering she is his mother) and this allows the battle of the minds to be that damn good.
It isn’t really surprising that there are two of Jack Donaghy’s nemeses in this list, as Jack is such a great character that anyone that can play off of him gains instant credibility.
The legendary Jerry Stiller plays the father of the legendary George Costanza so there can only be one outcome from that combination, an amazing character. I could feasibly have included Frank’s wife Estelle but decided instead to just include Frank because for me he is the slightly stronger character.
It isn’t really surprising that George Costanza is nuts because when you look at his parents he begins to look remarkably normal. Frank Costanza is probably the nuttiest character on the list (which is quite a feat when you consider all the nutters on the list) and likes to show how nutty he is by making sure that even if you are standing across the street you will still hear him.
Imagine if you had Frank Costanza as a father and Colleen Donaghy as a mother how screwed up you would be, it sounds horrible.
Dr. Leo Spaceman
The local doctor for the 30 Rock crew Dr. Spaceman is a sort of qualified physician, much like many people on the list you find yourself questioning how the hell did he become a doctor?
Personally I take most of my advice on medical situations from things that Dr. Spaceman says, because after all he is on TV and it isn’t like they would put a man on TV that is talking complete medical gibberish (well that’s my theory anyway).
Dr. Spaceman never really takes a big part in an episode of 30 Rock (he is usually part of the sub story) but the impact he has in his minor recurring role make him one of the most likable and memorable characters on the whole of 30 Rock, and that is a hard feat with such a memorable cast.
There it is the top recurring characters in 30 Rock (it just feels like that) TV. There seem to be two types of recurring characters, they are either a kooky friend for starring characters to play off of or they are the nemesis of a starring character.
It is funny to note that I put in 4 characters from 30 Rock on the list (the next closest being Seinfeld on 2), I really do think that 30 Rock did a marvellous job of using recurring characters to their full potential. The great thing about recurring characters is that you don’t get them all the time so when they show up it makes it extra special, however it can only be made extra special if that character is also one you like or one who adds something to the show, credit to 30 Rock because for me they do this better than anyone else.
Anyway leave a comment if you have any recurring characters you believe I have besmirched by leaving off the list, or alternatively leave a comment telling me how much you loved the list and how great you think I am. Either way all comments are appreciated.