Wednesday, August 17, 2011

10 TV Characters Who Saved their Shows

Putting together TV shows can be a funny business. It's not unusual for a series to go in a completely different direction than writers and producers originally intended. Whether it means focusing on a character who was supposed to stay in the background or rearranging the story because of a tragic death, it's not always easy to find the right cast combinations to keep a show on the air. But some shows have found a wider audience just by introducing a certain character, helping sustain their show for several seasons. Here are 10 characters who saved their TV shows, whether they were breakout stars, successful replacements, or just new characters who helped turn their series around.

  1. Arthur Fonzarelli on Happy Days

    Fonzie on Happy Days may have been with the show from the beginning, but he was originally meant to be a minor character in the series. He quickly became a fan favorite, however, and the show's producers put him front-and-center. They even took measures to make sure he could wear his signature leather jacket on TV by including his motorcycle even in some indoor scenes, which is the only way the station's censors would allow the hoodlum clothing. Arthur Fonzarelli, played by Henry Winkler, became Richie Cunningham's best friend and even eliminated the need for the eldest Cunningham child, Chuck, who went upstairs with a basketball and never came down, becoming one of the best-known disappearing characters on a TV show. Without Fonzie's character, Happy Days wouldn't have known the success it did. Well, at least until Fonzie jumped the shark.

  2. Elaine Benes on Seinfeld

    If you've ever watched an episode of Seinfeld, you probably can't imagine it without Julia Louis-Dreyfus' character, Elaine. She fits in with the guys but provides a female perspective that's necessary for the series. So it might be surprising to know that Elaine Benes wasn't part of the show originally. In the pilot, the three men hold the show down alone and the female balance was supposed to be achieved through a waitress at the luncheonette where the characters were going to eat frequently. But the network executives thought the show was dominated by males and told producers to include a main female character if they wanted the show to get picked up. Elaine Benes, an ex-girlfriend and current friend of Jerry Seinfeld, was created to fill that role. Female viewers were able to relate to Elaine's dating problems and neuroses while guys were left wondering why they didn't know any girls as cool as her.

  3. Woody Boyd on Cheers

    Bartenders hold a special place in our hearts, especially those on the hit 11-season show, Cheers. So when Nicholas Colasanto and his character Ernie "Coach" Pantusso died after the third season, many wondered if the show could bounce back from the deep loss. Coach had been old and a little slow, but well loved. Young Woody Boyd, played by Woody Harrelson, was brought in rather than bringing in a character similar to Coach, and the results were amazing. Woody brightened the show and provided some comedic relief to the audience and cast. And while Woody helped save Cheers from a depressing end, Harrelson says the show saved his life. While in Croatia, Harrelson made a group of men angry and they charged after him, wanting to tear him apart. But one man recognized him as Woody from Cheers and they ended up taking him out for drinks instead.

  4. Logan Huntzberger on Gilmore Girls

    Gilmore Girls fans had to stick around until the fifth season to find a complex character outside the Gilmore family. Most other side characters were likeable but one-dimensional, providing enough quirk to keep the series afloat but not enough to push the story and Gilmores in promising, interesting directions. Logan Huntzberger, played by Matt Czuchry, finally brought a multi-faceted love interest for Rory, the Gilmore daughter. Following typical boyfriend characters Dean, the good guy, and Jess, the bad boy, (and then Dean again), Logan offered a relief from the stereotypes and helped propel the show through its last three seasons. Logan had proud moments and glaring faults, but they weren't predictable and kept the show interesting through its end.

  5. Steve Urkel on Family Matters

    You may not remember the name of the show Family Matters but there's no doubt you remember Steve Urkel. The nerdy, nasally next-door neighbor was a fringe character who appeared midway through the first season of the sitcom, but became one of the main characters by the third. Urkel's character and catchphrase, "Did I do that?" carried the show for another six seasons, and Jaleel White, who played Urkel, also played a couple of other recurring characters, including Steve Urkel's alter ego Stefan and a female character, Myrtle. It's impossible to say whether or not Family Matters would've been canceled without Urkel, but it's unlikely that it would've become the second longest running U.S. sitcom with a predominantly African-American cast.

  6. Max Lewis on NewsRadio

    Phil Hartman played news anchor Bill McNeal on NewsRadio and provided the kind of laughs you would expect from an ex-SNL star. But when Hartman was murdered by his wife in 1998, the NewsRadio cast felt incomplete and the show's future was hazy. Jon Lovitz, who had worked with Hartman on Saturday Night Live, stepped in as Max Lewis and helped the show soar through its final season. Even though NewsRadio only survived one more season, Max brought the show back to life and made it a tribute worthy of Hartman. When Lovitz was asked why he took the role on the show, he always said he was doing it for his friend, Hartman, and that was it.

  7. Arthur "Trinity" Mitchell on Dexter

    Though there wasn't any question whether Dexter was still America's favorite serial killer, the second and third seasons of the show were beginning to slow down. The hunted killers left something to be desired (if there are things you desire in serial killers) and Dexter was starting to lose himself. The introduction of John Lithgow's Trinity Killer breathed new life into the series and took the lives of plenty of characters, minor and otherwise. Not only did Lithgow make a smart, chilling, and moving murderer, he brought out sides of Dexter himself that hadn't been revealed before and provided some room for the storylines and main characters to move forward after the season was over.

  8. Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live

    OK, Eddie Murphy is an actor not a character, but his characters and impressions on sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live revived the show after the original and beloved cast had left. Though he was hired on with a cast that was mostly fired after one season, Murphy provided the stability and sense of humor that helped the show overcome the hurdle of replacing actors and producers in the early '80s. He brought SNL back from the brink of failure after creator Lorne Michaels left temporarily because of contact disputes and made it relevant and loved again. Some of his most famous characters include pimp Velvet Jones, Mr. Robinson, and Buckwheat, along with impressions of some celebrities who are characters themselves.

  9. Col. Sherman Potter on M*A*S*H

    Killing off a major character in a series like M*A*S*H is a risky move, so when producers killed commanding officer Henry Blake as he was on his way home at the end of the third season, many weren't sure whether the show would fully recover. In stepped Harry Morgan as Col. Sherman Potter, and all doubts subsided. The Colonel took over the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital and appeared in all but one episode thereafter. Potter was a more capable commander than Blake had been, but had the same friendly attitude and easygoing management style, causing the audience to like and respect him. He became such a large part of the show and storyline that after the series' 11-season run, Potter along with two other characters, went on to the two-season spin-off, AfterMASH.

  10. Michael Jackson on Sesame Street

    You might think it's a bit of a stretch to say that the King of Pop saved Sesame Street or that he's even a character on the show, but who doesn't like a Michael-Jackson-as-hero story? Jackson did, in fact, appear on Sesame Street in 1978 on a Christmas special, where he's reading a book about ghosts and then gives it to Oscar the Grouch. But his role as protagonist didn't come until a few years later in the early '80s when Sesame Street was close to losing $5.5 million. Though the show sings countless parodies of famous songs in order to teach kids a lesson, they weren't threatened with legal action until the owners of the Beatles' catalogue filed a $5.5 million suit saying that Sesame Street's "Letter B" was too similar to the Beatles' "Let It Be." Before the case went to trial, however, Jackson bought the Beatles catalogue and dropped the suit. And that's how he saved Sesame Street -- or at least saved them several million dollars.

Taken From Online Degrees

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