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Sound Off: Sitcoms with Questionable “Main” Characters

Are you like me in that I just don’t care about Ted’s search for the kids’ mother anymore on “How I Met Your Mother?”    I thought so.  And you know what, I think that’s a good thing.   You know why?   It’s a testament to the writing and casting teams.   To me the show has become about the lives of these 5 friends in NYC that I have grown to care about not about who Ted ends up marrying.  The best character on the show and, in my opinion, one of the best TV sitcom characters in TV history is Barney Stinson. Neil Patrick Harris is legen…wait for it…dary.  There hasn’t been one week where Barney hasn’t said something that made me laugh out loud.   And some of it is his delivery more than the line itself.  Robin and Marshmellow and Lily Pad (Marshall and Lily) also have their moments when they shine.  But together, the chemistry is palpable.  You can tell these 5 actors really enjoy working with one another and it transfers to my TV each week.  Ted is the weak link and that’s ok because everyone else is so strong.   If Ted gets married or doesn’t, I don’t care.  But I do care about the lives of these best friends and watching the different ways they will entertain me every week.

I think this happens with shows from time to time.  The “main” character of the show becomes secondary or non-existent in importance due to the great ensemble cast.  Here are some examples of shows that fall in the category:

  1. Seinfeld: I was never a Jerry Seinfeld fan.  I didn’t find his standup funny nor his character on his TV show.   But the rest of the cast (especially George and Elaine) made that show what it was.  Jerry became the Miracle-Gro Garden Soil for the show…he needed to be there to make the other parts flourish and stand out, but he wasn’t the focus nor should he have been.   That show became one of the best comedies of all time despite the fact that the main character wasn’t funny at all.
  2. Cougartown: jumping to a recent show, the show centers around Jules (Courteney Cox) and her family and friends.   I for one love the family and friends (especially Bobby and Ellie) but Jules is just kind of there.  She has her moments but she isn’t nearly as funny as the rest of the cast.   I like Jules’ character and I like her in the softer more serious parts of the show…like this past week during the Halloween episode with her and her dad (the amazing Dr Kelso from Scrubs, Ken Jennings) on the bench outside Grayson’s bar.  That is where Jules shines and is incredibly relatable.  But it’s a sitcom so it needs to be about the funny.  The rest of the cast brings that, Jules just doesn’t.
  3. Frasier: I don’t agree with this one because I found Frasier to be very funny and integral to the show.    But many of my friends and people I have talked to about Frasier said he was so annoying and the worst part of the show.  Now I will say that Niles, Daphne, Martin, and Roz were hilarious and stronger characters than Frasier, but I still thought that Frasier added wonderful comedic timing and his facial expressions to highlight just how he was feeling was priceless.   To me, watching Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce work off each other was like watching a Masters Comedic Acting Class.  They were brilliant together.  But other people found Frasier to be boring, over the top, and agitating.  And at times, I could kind of see how people would come to that conclusion.
  4. Roseanne: I may get a lot of people who don’t like this being on the list and I know it was a popular show but I thought Roseanne was the WORST lead sitcom character.  She is another one like Jerry Seinfeld where I just don’t think she is funny.  At least Seinfeld isn’t a jerk though.  I don’t have any problems with him personally, but Roseanne, on top of not being funny, was just a loud mouth jerk.  It’s hard to root for characters like that.   But I also thought she was the least funny on her show.  Jackie was the best character and Dan, Becky, and Darlene made me laugh more than Roseanne did.  Overall, I didn’t like the show Roseanne, but her supporting cast was great.   She was terrible.
  5. Everybody Loves Raymond: Another “comic” I don’t find funny at all.  Ray Romano, ugh.  Another popular show that ran for 10 seasons!!  But I just couldn’t watch because of him.   He was like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.  But Debra, Marie and Frank were hilarious.  Marie and Debra’s dynamic was terrific.  Robert was ok.  I could take his character in VERY small doses.  The Barones were perfectly cast (except for Ray) and the strong ensemble is what made ELR run as long as it did.

So what do you think?  I’m sure some agree and some disagree with the list above but I would be curious to hear your thoughts on which shows have some of the weakest “leads” but amazing “supporting” casts to make the show a success.

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Posted by on October 31, 2010 in CBS, Sound Off


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