Friday, June 10, 2016

Unplanned Characters We Love

The history of new characters is dark, sad one, and it is usually a sure sign a show is going downhill and it will be canceled, soon.

Roy's brief appearance before moving to his own crib
The Simpson's famously parodied this notion in their eighth season in the episode "Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie". In this episode, the animated show within the show, introduces a new character, "Poochie", who would be universally hated. Poochie's introduction would be parodied by "Roy", who joins the Simpson's family with nary an explanation. Both Poochie and Roy were soulless characters, designed by committee, who both departed after the one episode. Their only purpose was for the shows writers and creators to push back on Fox who thought they needed a new character.  Too often, as Lisa noted in the show, new characters are a desperate attempt to boost ratings, marking the end of a show. Her feelings undoubtedly mimicked the feelings of the Simpson's producers, and usually they are right.

Usually, but not always.

Below are a few examples where new characters have been added with great success. These are certainly not the only ones, but they do represent a small group of characters who added so much, it is hard to imagine the show without them, even though they were not part of the original plan.

Ben Linus (Michael Emerson)

"I always have a plan"
Ben, the manipulative mastermind himself, the only character on the show who really seemed to know what was going on was not an original cast member. He would go on to dominate the show; when it was over, "Rolling Stone" voted him the the greatest villain of all time. Even funnier than him being a late add was he was never intended to be an ongoing cast member. He was brought in for Season 2 for a three guest appearance stint; however, the producers were so impressed by his performance, he would be brought back in an expanded role as leader of the "Others".

Sal Goodman aka Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk)
"Breaking Bad"
"A conscious gets expensive, hun?"

Yep, everyone's favorite shyster lawyer didn't join the show until mid-way through Season 2. Whether he was planned to be added to the cast or not doesn't matter; once he joined, he was as much a part of the show as Jesse and Walt. His knowledge of criminal behavior and the legal system, combined with his total lack of scruples, always made his appearances memorable, so much so, that he got his own spin-off show. Who else you gonna call?

Andy Dwyer
"Parks and Recreation"

Everyones favorite goofball and giant sized man-puppy was never meant to be a full time character. He was only planned to be a part of the 6-episode Season 1, as Anne's love interest who gets dumped. Amy Pholer and Co were so impressed with his comedic abilities, they quickly decided he needed to be kept on board. No way they were putting this puppy down.

Fraiser Crane (Kelsey Grammer)

He's listening
Of course, the granddaddy of them all: the one, the only Dr. Frasier Crane. Cheers was already a successful show, #12 in the ratings when he was brought in for season 3 as Diane Chambers love interest. In season 4, he becomes a regular at the bar. Once it was closing time for good, he would move back to Seattle for his own show. In total, Kelsey Grammer would play the "flawed, silly, pompous, and full of himself" doctor for 20 years, the longest run of any character in all of TV history. Not bad for a late add.