Behind every great man is a lesser sidekick just lucky to have a job. From the Boy Wonder and Ed McMahon to Scrappy-Doo and Alan Harper, television is full of sycophantic second bananas. They’re the well-meaning screw-ups who inadvertently lead the hero into ambushes, hold their partners back from greatness and frequently get mistaken for roadies and P.R. flaks. They are the lamest sidekicks of all time, and this is their Hall of Fame.
Tattoo (Fantasy Island)
There was a brief period in the 1980s when nearly every primetime show was required by law to have a cute, undersized cast member. Diff’rent Strokes had Gary Coleman, Webster had Emmanuel Lewis and Fantasy Island had Hervé Villechaize, a 3’11” French actor who was born and raised in Paris. And while Coleman and Lewis both played pivotal roles in their respective programs, Villechaize’s only purpose was to shout “De plane! De plane!” at the beginning of every episode as a new set of guests arrived on Mr. Roarke’s mysterious island. It’s been said that there are no small roles, only small actors, but upon closer examination Hervé Villechaize was both.
Ed McMahon (The Tonight Show)
Hi-ooooo! How empty must your life be when you know that at any moment you can be replaced by a computerized laugh track? Sure Ed McMahon may have been a war hero when he was younger, but as Johnny Carson’s sidekick he was little more than couch ballast. True to form, he even kept his sidekick status alongside Dick Clark on TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes and later became the first man in history to play second banana to an oversized check when he appeared in a series of ads for Publishers Clearinghouse. Lame? You are correct, sir!
Lame doesn’t even begin to describe what your life is like when you spend your teenage years cruising around town with a 40-year-old man, wearing little more than a pair of green leotards. If he had served a better purpose it would have been one thing, but Robin’s principal duty was seemingly getting rescued by the Dark Knight while uttering idiotic lines like “Leaping lizards, Batman!” Thanks, but if our life is on the line we’ll stick with Superman.
Sidekicks often have complementary skills to the heroes they support, but after eight years and 96 episodes we’re still trying to figure out what skills Turtle possessed. Sure, he was a decent wingman and he could smoke twice his weight in Maui Wowie, but when it came to actual marketable talents this career deadbeat was about as useful as a turtle on its back.
Dr. Watson (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)
Sherlock Holmes’ partner in crime-solving was everything the detective was not: romantic, sentimental, dull and oafish. On the few occasions Watson did try to solve cases on his own he invariably failed, for as Holmes noted, “You do not observe.” With a cronie like Watson, it’s no wonder Sherlock spent so much time in the corner smoking his “pipe.”
Al Borland (Home Improvement)
Look up “Al Borland” on the Urban Dictionary and you’ll find that this character’s name has become a synonym for any mindless gopher. That’s because this oafish, flannel-wearing mama’s boy always did everything Tim Taylor asked him to do, and he did it with zero panache. While Tim was funny, assertive, outgoing and playful, Al was quiet, reserved and had all the personality of a Binford Tools ratchet set.
Alan Harper (Two and a Half Men)
For more than 10 years, television viewers have been trying to determine whether the “half” in Two and a Half Men refers to Jake or his father, Alan Harper. On one hand, Jake is considerably younger, but Alan is clearly the less masculine of the pair as he allows himself to continually get stepped on by his brother Charlie, his ex-wives Judith and Kandi and virtually everyone else who enters his life.
Newton (The Mighty Hercules)
Easily the most inept superhero sidekick of all time, Hercules’ little buddy was constantly getting nabbed by Daedalus and even his cat Dydo. No matter how you do the math, the bare-chested, girly-sounding Newton was half boy, half horse and all annoying.
Screech (Saved by the Bell)
Every teenage sitcom needs a resident nerd and Samuel “Screech” Powers happily filled that role for 11 years on all four incarnations of Saved by the Bell. Along the way he unwittingly sabotaged dozens of Zack’s scams, got crammed in hundreds of lockers, delivered thousands of cringe-worthy puns and infuriated millions of male viewers who were really only tuning in to check out Kelly Kapowski.
Scrappy-Doo (Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo)
Imagine a pint-sized version of Scooby-Doo with slightly better powers of enunciation and you’ve got Scrappy-Doo, his charmless and utterly annoying nephew. Scrappy extolled the gag-inspiring virtues of “Puppy Power” and was positively teeming over with ill-founded self-confidence. To make matters worse, his emergence on the scene in 1979 pushed Fred, Daphne and Velma to the fringes while making the show a plotless merry-go-round of cheap gags. A master at “playing dead,” it took years before Scrappy finally took the hint and buried himself in the backyard for real.