10 of the best sidekicks in TV history

Every hero needs his sidekick. Batman has Robin, Jesus has Judas and I have alcohol. And while everyone loves to celebrate the hero, too many people ignore the contributions of the sidekick. For instance, Robin helps keeps Batman relaxed with a strict regimen of backrubs and well-timed handjobs. Alfred may not approve, but so what? He’s old and old people have weird values like faith, honesty and respect. See how far that kind of shit gets you in today’s world. Indeed, today’s sidekicks have to do far more important things, like make you laugh, do your dirty work for you and make sure you don’t choke on your own vomit following a night of vicious binge drinking. These ten loveable sidekicks are friends a man can depend on – well, okay, maybe not, but without them, their more illustrious pals would be a lot less interesting. And hey, that’s something, right?

Photo credit: YouTube/MTV

10 Cliff Clavin – ‘Cheers’

Sure, Cliff is weird as hell, and nobody seems to really like him, but let’s face it, without him around to make the rest of the gang at Cheers feel better, poor Norm probably would have hanged himself years and years ago. After all, Cliff’s inanity is Norm’s only release from the nagging hell that is life with the wife and Cliff’s pathetic nincompoopery is the one thing that lets Norm know that he hasn’t quite hit rock bottom yet. After all, Cliff is rock bottom. He is the human buffer between Norm and the soul sucking abyss. When Cliff is around, Norm is his minder, the drunken Batman to his feeble-minded Robin. Without Cliff, Norm is just a fat drunk who will probably die in a pool of his own vomit and urine in the bathroom at Cheers while Sam listlessly bangs a string of random whores in his office. Cliff is the only thing keeping that bar from turning into a macabre wasteland of the human spirit, and for that, we salute him.

9 Charlie Runkle – ‘Californication’

Sure, Charlie is a giant fuck-up and all around degenerate and sure, he’s kind of a shitty agent, but to his one faithful client, Hank Moody, Charlie Runkle is a true friend and the one man willing to travel with him down life’s more, shall we say, ridiculous highways. Without Charlie around to share in Hank’s debauchery, Hank would be all alone in the world and there is nothing sadder than an alcoholic, pilled-up sex fiend with no friends and no one to make sure he doesn’t choke on his own vomit in the middle of the night or to make sure he doesn’t accidentally sleep with a transvestite or two. But Hank has Charlie and Charlie has Hank and together they both give each other someone to pity besides themselves and somebody to take care of. In short, they give each other meaning, like any pair of soul-mates. How can you beat that? So what if Charlie can’t resist the occasional coked up whore or that he’s perfectly willing to leave his wife for a needy young porn star? After, all we all have our vices. At least he isn’t a fan of The Kardashians or something heinous like that.

8 Barney Rubble – ‘The Flintstones’

Barney Rubble is on this list not so much because of his friendship with Fred Flinstone but because the man knows the secret to life. I mean, by any standard, he is plain, kind of dumb and generally pretty worthless. Yet, he has a smoking hot wife, a decent job and he gets to look like a million bucks next to that idiot best friend of his. While, Fred is running around shooting off that big mouth of his, Barney is at home banging the holy hell out of Betty. I bet he’s probably just waiting around for Fred to have the inevitable stress and dinosaur-burger induced heart attack just so he can “comfort” Wilma and finally achieve his long-held dream of establishing a burgeoning stone-age sex-cult. Okay, okay, I may have gotten carried away here, but while everyone else views Barney Rubble as just a sidekick, I view him as a personal hero and as a man that we can all look up to in these strange and terrible times. And if that’s not a good enough reason to put a man on this list, then I don’t know what is.

7 Andy Richter – ‘Conan’

Andy Richter is his generation’s Ed McMahon, only he actually adds something to Conan O’Brien’s circus of the absurd. Ed McMahon was just an old drunken sycophant who laughed at all of Johnny Carson’s jokes. Andy, on the other hand, comes across more like Conan’s partner in crime. Sure, sure, for a while the two were separated but Conan never seems like he is quite complete without Andy by his side. And for his part, Andy proved to everyone that he can’t make it without Conan. He’s the perfect embodiment of the sidekick. He’s not interesting enough on his own, but he adds just the right flavor to his more illustrious pal’s life, which I guess makes him the Pilot Fish to Conan’s Shark. Just a little observational humor for all you marine biologists out there, who I understand make up 17% of our total readership.

6 Gilligan – ‘Gilligan’s Island’

Technically, Gilligan is a sidekick, the dimwitted whipping post for that fat madman known as the Skipper. But let’s face facts here, the show isn’t called Skipper’s Island now is it? No, it’s Gilligan’s island, which just goes to show you that sometimes the sidekick ends up actually being the leading man. Now, true, there might not be much to admire about Gilligan, but consider this – he is one of only four males left alone on a deserted island with both Mary Ann and Ginger. And out of those four males, one is a fat blob who probably can’t even find his own penis anymore, one is an old geezer who’s so rich that he can probably only get off now from watching imported exotic models fight each other naked to the death, and the other is a sexless science nerd who’d rather try to find a way to make a working coconut radio than to bust a nut. Who’s left to satisfy the physical needs of both Mary Ann and Ginger than Gilligan? Everyone likes to argue about the movie star vs. the girl next door, but Gilligan never had to choose. He could probably have them both any time he wanted. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was slipping his own lil’ buddy to Mrs. Howell too. There’s a reason it was called Gilligan’s Island and that was because on that particularly island, Gilligan was the man.

5 Ricardo Tubbs – ‘Miami Vice’

Sure, Crockett was the one who got all the attention, but Tubbs was right there by his side for every key drug bust. Without Tubbs, Crockett was just a sad drunk, a perpetual screw-up who probably would have gotten himself killed by the first Cuban with a cigarette boat he stumbled upon. There is no Miami Vice without Tubbs. He is damn near the prototype for the cop-show sidekick. Crockett may have been the flashier of the two but Tubbs was the backbone of that team and you all know it. Besides, just look at how fly he looks in that picture. You can’t tell me he wasn’t crushing some serious ass of his own in Miami during those halcyon days of yore when cocaine was king and the thong was the preferred attire of his majesty’s royal court.

4 Waylon Smithers – ‘The Simpsons’

I could have gone with Milhouse as the token representative from The Simpsons, but Milhouse is nothing more than an ineffectual whiney little toady, and we already have Cliff Clavin on the list for that. Or I could have gone with Barney Gumble, but he’s just a sad, pathetic drunk with no future or reason for being and, again, we already have Cliff Clavin on the list for that. But Smithers on the other hand is a dynamic presence, the real power behind Montgomery Burns’ evil throne. Smithers is the glue that holds that operation together. Monty Burns is just a senile old man who spends all his time alone in his giant mansion skinning dogs in order to make custom vests. Waylon Smithers is the one who runs Burns’ nuclear empire. He’s the man who makes sure the money keeps rolling in. Besides, Smithers’ unrequited love for his boss adds a layer of pathos to the typical Leading Man/Sidekick dynamic and in doing so reveals the thunderous heart behind the homo-eroticism that lies at the core of just about every character on this list. Or maybe not. Hell, I don’t know, I’m just looking for something interesting to say here. Just be glad I didn’t talk about homo-eroticism when I mentioned Jesus and Judas earlier, okay?

3 George Costanza – ‘Seinfeld’

What made Seinfeld such a phenomenon? For as much attention as it received, it wasn’t Kramer’s insanity. Nor was it Elaine’s bitchy shallowness. It sure as hell wasn’t Jerry’s, uh, whatever the hell it was that Jerry did. No, it was George Costanza and his life. That was what was at the heart of the Seinfeld experience. Hell, it was such an integral part of the show’s success that it basically spawned a whole different show specifically about the George Costanza character, only this one was called Curb Your Enthusiasm and was about the real life George, Larry David. Nobody gave a shit what Kramer got up to after Seinfeld ended or about whatever half-assed stupid relationships swept Jerry and Elaine away. But people cared what happened to George. And that’s because in many ways George Costanza was Seinfeld. Everything that people loved about that show was personified by George. He was the beating heart of that show and hey, for a sidekick, that’s pretty damn impressive, right?

2 Beavis – ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’

Let’s face it, Butt-Head has always been the alpha male of their little relationship. He’s always the one coming up with the dumb schemes, he’s always the one who’s first in line to score with the chicks as the result of said dumb schemes and he’s always the one who does the talking for the duo. And despite the occasional rebellious nut-shot from Beavis, Butt-Head pretty much abuses Beavis whenever the hell he feels like it. But here’s the thing: Beavis is just cooler than Butt-Head. He always has been. He’s Cornholio, not Butt-Head. He’s the true mayhem of the duo, not Butt-Head. He’s the one with the wild feral look in his eyes, crazy with the empty madness of a lost generation gone insane, not Butt-Head. And he’s the one who made me laugh my ass off in junior high and made me run around calling my childhood best friend Beavis, something I still do to this day. And that’s why he’s so high on this list.

1 Mr. Spock – ‘Star Trek’

Come on, like it could be anybody else. Spock was just a badass, man. A half-Vulcan, half-human logic machine whose insides were a maelstrom of wild, repressed raw emotion, Spock was not only Captain Kirk’s best friend but his ace in the hole. You can’t mess with Kirk because if you do, then Spock’s gonna emerge from the shadows and knock your ass out like an ice-cold killer. He is the silent menace that gives edge to Kirk’s roguish charm. He is the relentlessly mechanical, cold hard logic that tempers Kirk’s fiery impulsiveness. He is the yin to Kirk’s yang, the black to his white, the, uh, thing to his opposite thing. I’m sure Spock could find an appropriate and cool way to end that sentence and that’s why he’s the best sidekick in TV history and that’s why he’s number one on this list.

(Previously published on November 30, 2011.)