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Kromm

Barely Human: Favorite Over the Top TV Characters

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The ones who bear no resemblance to real humans.  The ones who are walking, talking jokes--virtual cartoon characters in human form.  Please note this isn't about hating them (although of course if you do, by all means, wail away at them)--for me it's personally more about celebrating them.  The ones who seem too dumb to live.  Or too "evil" (not usually real evil, but cartoonish evil).  Or too innocent to be believable.  Or too something, anything.  They're plot devices/joke machines, and that can be okay.  Occasionally a show may venture into trying to fill out their character, and it can work, but the important thing is that in many ways they don't even need it.


For example:  The Office's Kevin

 

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Mary Cherry from Popular. Most of the characters on that show were caricatures, but Mary Cherry took it to the next level. She had unlimited wealth, she was borderline psychopathic, she was born with webbed hands and feet, and her purse was basically Mary Poppin's bag. She even kept a shovel in there.

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 StarTrek , the Next Generation's Deanna Troi's mother Lwaxanna, she was so annoying but finally grew on me.

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Officer Dewey Dudek of Southland. Few individual human beings could come close to his level of sustained assholishness and remain employed for more than twenty minutes, let alone twenty plus years. The character was just this side of parody...and C. Thomas Howell played him beautifully.

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Everyone on SOAP except Benson. I mean Burt who thinks he's invisible and of course Chuck and Bob. Danny and Jessica were dumb but they were all so funny. Each actor played their character so well.

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Hate to say it, I worked with someone just like Kevin from the office.

How does someone like Kevin stay employed in the real world? (I'm assuming to truly be like Kevin, the job had actual responsibilities)

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Oz had an abundance of OTT characters, my favorite being Crazy Beecher. Generally, Tobias Beecher is a tragic character, but when he got mad as hell and wouldn't take it anymore he was a hoot.

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The ones who are walking, talking jokes--virtual cartoon characters in human form.  

 

This probably doesn't fit because they are in fact cartoon characters in human form, but I give you The Tick

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEBmh_zE9Yo

 

And as a special bonus for those that watched Lost or Ringer or Bates Motel, I give you Nestor Carbonell as Batmanuel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9378r0Rbhjk

Edited by ParadoxLost

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Mary Cherry from Popular. Most of the characters on that show were caricatures, but Mary Cherry took it to the next level. She had unlimited wealth, she was borderline psychopathic, she was born with webbed hands and feet, and her purse was basically Mary Poppin's bag. She even kept a shovel in there.

Wow, I loved her too back in the day but somehow forgot about that purse of hers!

I came in here to give a shout out to another Ryan Murphy creation, Sue Sylvester. A lot of that, like 90 percent of everything else on the show, falls on Jane Lynch who brought such energy to the role, even when she got the same "Sue vs. New Directions" plot ten times. That diva off with Blaine was easily my favorite moment of season four!

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Hate to say it, I worked with someone just like Kevin from the office.

 

 

And I went to school with a guy who was just like Reverend Jim from Taxi.  Honest.  Well, I never heard him say "What........does...the.......yellow......light......mean..........??"

but you get the idea.

 

Maxwell Smart, Larry, Daryl and Daryl.....This could go on for a while...

Edited by roseha
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Larry, Daryl and Daryl.....This could go on for a while...

I found Darryl and Darryl fairly realistic!  It was only that SOB Larry that was the issue!

 

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She might straddle the line between caricature and "quirky" in hindsight, but I can't let Suzanne Sugarbaker go without being mentioned.  Girl kept a pig, after all.

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I think he'd be right on the edge.  Garak was more melodramatic than anything else, though that certainly qualifies.

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Dan from Night Court. On paper, I should've found his sleazy shenanigans totally disgusting but John Larroquette played him so well and then they'd write in the occasional depth and selfless act, I absolutely adored this character.

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Kramer!

Who as unreally over the top as he SEEMS is actually based on a real person!  Kenny Kramer.  Who's admittedly not quite as far out there as Cosmo Kramer, but is close enough...

Edited by Kromm
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Officer Dewey Dudek of Southland. Few individual human beings could come close to his level of sustained assholishness and remain employed for more than twenty minutes, let alone twenty plus years. The character was just this side of parody...and C. Thomas Howell played him beautifully.

Speaking of law enforcement, Detective Sonya Cross of The Bridge. I gave up on the show because I can't believe that she was hired, much less served on patrol to become a crimes against persons detective. Maybe if she was a Sherlock Holmes type consultant it would work for me.

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Mr. Smithers - The Simpsons

I agree with Suzanne Sugarbaker.  One of my favorites.

Ted Knight - The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Roy Biggins - Wings

Newman was deliciously evil, but I found Kramer annoying

Bulldog - Frasier

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Veronica from Better Off Ted. She gets away with being the most ridiculous boss ever because you get the impression that this is perfectly acceptable behavior on her home planet.

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Alex Kerkovich, Happy Endings. Hands down.

 

"I read it in a book I heard."

 

Honorable mention: James Van Der Beek, as himself, on Don't Trust The B In Apartment 23.

Edited by ScullyInApt42
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Nearly everyone on Chuck.  I liked them, though.  They knew it, and I felt like it was always done with a wink.

 

And, of course, everyone on Gilligan's Island.

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Maryann Thorpe from Cybill

 

In that same vein, Eddy and Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous.

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Nearly everyone on Chuck.  I liked them, though.  They knew it, and I felt like it was always done with a wink.

 

And, of course, everyone on Gilligan's Island.

Hmm. On Chuck I think that really only Lester and Jeff met that burden.  Casey and Morgan at times had over the top traits, but neither of them resembled Cartoon Characters come to life.  Whereas Lester to a large degree, and Jeff to a T, fit that.  Jeff seemed literally too dumb to live at times, and that's one of the keys to a master level over the top character.  At least of the "dumb" variety (there are other traits, like being super-Jingoistic, or super-Survivalist, or being super-Snooty/Elitist, or super-Sleazy or  super-Uptight that can work too).

 

On Gilligan's Island I'd say The Howell's fit this best.  There's no sense that people like that could function in the real world.  Even Gilligan seemed like he could on some level, but not The Howells.

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Kromm - I'll admit, I thought of Lester and Jeff immediately.  Morgan might have been a bit complex, but I would make the argument that Casey was a pretty good representation of a super competent, always reliable, long suffering, tough guy of few words who frequently saved the day sidekick.  Even the attempt to humanize him (he cares about his daughter.  Really!) was a stock story.  I loved him, though.  Heroes work for me.

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On Gilligan's Island I'd say The Howell's fit this best.  There's no sense that people like that could function in the real world.  Even Gilligan seemed like he could on some level, but not The Howells.

 

But...Ginger? 

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Gilligan's Island I'd say The Howell's fit this best.  There's no sense that people like that could function in the real world.  Even Gilligan seemed like he could on some level, but not The Howells.

But...Ginger?

 

I got two words for you: Kim Kardashian

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Alex Kerkovich, Happy Endings. Hands down.

 

 

The entire cast over Happy Endings is pretty over the top in their own way. And I love them for it.

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But...Ginger? 

A parody sure, but I don't think that's always the same thing as "over the top".  Her behavior, while cliched, doesn't seem to transcend the limits of normal humanity.

To me that's what over-the-topness means.  Not just a parody.  Not just a cliche.  But beyond belief that a human being actually functions that way.  These characters are MEANT to poke your disbelief button, but also designed to be so entertaining, in a deliberate scene-stealing way, that you don't care about that.

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Going into the way back machine.

 

From a cast of over the top characters, Burt Campbell was the craziest of the lot on Soap.  From the time he decided he could make himself invisible by snapping his fingers to the time he was abducted by aliens and replaced by a double.  He was a genius at physical comedy.  Just watching him snapping in the background was enough to have me ROFL.

 

 

Then there was Latka and Jim from Taxi

 

 

But if you made me choose, I'd pick Revered Jim just for 6:00.  "Who's going to be the leaders of tomorrow?"  Tom Hanks, Indeed.  ROFLMAO.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Going into the way back machine.

 

From a cast of over the top characters, Burt Campbell was the craziest of the lot on Soap.  From the time he decided he could make himself invisible by snapping his fingers to the time he was abducted by aliens and replaced by a double.  He was a genius at physical comedy.  Just watching him snapping in the background was enough to have me ROFL.

Burt's an odd case to me, because while they often had him ACT the craziest, they also at other times had him as the most normal too.  The writing veered between those two versions of him.  Not that ANY character on the show escaped having a crazy/unbelievable side, other than the one specifically designed for that (Benson).  Who wasn't so much normal as he was a built-in straightman for half the cast.

 

I'd argue they also had Billy Crystal, despite being the gay character (a much much much bigger deal in those days) be another voice of normality... until later in the series (when they had some plot about him being hypnotized into thinking he's an old Jewish man named Julius).

 

Besides being an observer of a lot of craziness, his plots were more like "his boyfriend leaves him, despite him being willing to have a sex change to keep him around, and then he decides to kill himself".  These two clips following are the end of that plot, and you can see it's the opposite of over the top.  So the show could do serious too, when it wanted to.

 

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So I'm bumping this because I'm sure the 2014-2015 TV season provided some new OTT characters to add here.
 
Okay, from the current Comedy Central "Another Period" I can add a great one.  I'd argue that Riki Lindhome's Beatrice is gloriously over the top (by glorious I mean it totally works).  Now my initial premise top of this thread is that the real OTT champions are cartoons on purpose who bear little resemblance to actual human beings.  Seinfeld's Kramer isn't real (even if he's based on a real person).  The Office's Kevin isn't real. There's almost zero real about them (and we love them for that). 
 
But I've got to nominate Beatrice knowing that's not 100% the case with her. Oh, she's still totally ridiculous in endlessly ridiculous situations, but the writers and actress were clever enough to toss in a joke where we could kind of see that Beatrice was PUTTING IT ON (because she says something smart, then apologizes and comes back with something twice as stupid).  
 
Now an INTENTIONALLY OTT character is a novel idea.

Edited by Kromm

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Now an INTENTIONALLY OTT character is a novel idea.

 

I always thought The Office's "Dwight Shrute" (US) was exactly intentionally OTT.  Surely he didn't seriously think that being the safety leader (or whatever he was) meant that he could legitimately bring a gun to work and fire it during a fire drill.  (I may have gotten some details wrong.) 

 

I always thought of him as the kind of person who emphasized his eccentricities at work just to see how far he could push it, and then went home at the end of the day and put up his feet and watched tv and drank beer and ate beets just like any other normal guy.

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There are some characters on this list that I think just border on being OTT with occasional moments of being way OTT.  When I read the title, characters like Kevin from The Office and Kramer from Seinfeld came to mind. Both were way over the top on a regular basis.  I usually hate those types of characters.  However....

 

Chris Pratt made Andy on Parks and Rec work.  I would sometimes roll my eyes at him, but I couldn't hate him (and I was thinking this way before he got so popular with GotG).

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Sue Ann Niven (Betty White) from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," a hysterical maneater, and Karen Walker from "Will and Grace."  Both characters were over the top but both were played somewhat subtly, which made them even more fun to watch.

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Dr. Gregory House.

 

No medical professional (hell, no person) would be able to get away with the stuff he pulls. I mean, it was a full time job for Cuddy to deal with how his actions affected patients and the hospital. Granted, he's not treated as a joke at all, but still.

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No medical professional (hell, no person) would be able to get away with the stuff he pulls. I mean, it was a full time job for Cuddy to deal with how his actions affected patients and the hospital. Granted, he's not treated as a joke at all, but still.

I wasn't thinking about dramas.  In that case, Jack Bauer from 24.  Everything you said about Dr. House is true about Jack and how his coworkers had to deal with his way of doing things. 

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But she won't be back for the finale!

 

And how about a shout-out to Titus from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt?

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And how about a shout-out to Titus from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt?

 

While I've never seen that show I love how Tituss Burgess is finally getting his due.  He was amazing as Nicely Nicely Johnson in a Broadway revival of 'Guys And Dolls' a few years back.

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