Posted at 5:00 AM Aug 25, 2008
By Jennifer Mathieu
Television just isn't as bad as it was in the '80s. Let's face it, with a bajillion channels and the availability of DVRs, plus a steady stream of Law and Order reruns to groove to at all hours of the day, it's just not as easy to get caught wincing during an episode of Reba. (Not that it doesn't happen.)
That said, there's no reason we can't celebrate the very best of the very worst. In an effort to make myself feel better about the countless hours wasted watching the following shows, I've decided to take a minute to represent for the sidekicks who made bad television so bad it was good. Well, almost good.
10. Monroe from Too Close for Comfort
One question. Was Monroe (a.k.a. Jim J. Bullock) actually supposed to be straight on this show? I mean, wasn't he supposed to be all hot for Ted Knight's babeilicious daughters? This struck me as ridiculously unbelievable even at the age of 10. I didn't understand the concept of "gay" just yet, but somehow, something told me there was no way that dude was into chicks. If only I could have seen into the future, I could have told Jim J. to stay strong, because his best years on Hollywood Squares were just around the corner.
9. Boner from Growing Pains
Um, wow. Just…wow. I'm pretty sure that boner has been a slang term for an erection for quite some time, and it was definitely accepted slang in the mid-'80s when Josh Koenig as Boner Stabone befriended Kirk Cameron as Mike Seaver. Did no one on the writing staff find this odd? Did Koenig not cringe when he discovered he would be playing a character named Boner? And oh, don't you just love how after Cameron got all crazy Christian, he insisted that Julie McCullough be fired as his character's girlfriend because she'd posed for Playboy, yet he had no problem with a character named Boner as his character's best friend? Double standard, hello! Honestly, I just don't get how this crazy name got in the show. Even crazier is that Koenig has become quite political and was recently arrested for protesting the Beijing Olympics. So…what have you done lately, Jeremy "Ben Seaver" Miller?
8. Kimmy Gibbler from Full House
Oh, Kimmy. As close to a bad girl as Full House would allow, you tarted up the screen with your back talkin' and your trouble makin'. As the magical Tanner house expanded to make room for not just Joey but Jesse and his wife and two lame-ass kids, I prayed and prayed that you, too, would get your very own room at Bob Saget's House O' Love and Fatherly Talks. It was not to be, was it? You were just too cutting edge for the Tanner clan, weren't you? Oh well. I loved you regardless.
7. Dudley from Diff'rent Strokes
I watched a million episodes of Diff'rent Strokes as a child, and the only lessons I learned were 1) Don't turn out like Dana Plato and 2) Don't hang out with the Maytag repair man. Seriously, remember the deeply disturbing episode where Arnold and his best pal Dudley got molested by Gordon Jump, who played Mr. Maytag in all those commercials? God, those '80s sitcoms were so heavy duty sometimes. Shavar Ross as Dudley played the part so well I didn't go near a washing machine for months. Creepy!
6. Derek Taylor from Silver Spoons
All most people seem to remember about Silver Spoons is that there was a train running through the living room and free arcade games all over the house. All I remember is Jason Bateman as the smarmy, sneaky, stone fox Derek Taylor, best friend of Ricky Stratton. Yes, Derek Taylor was the spark that set off my lifelong love of the bad boy. (It only took six years of therapy to trace it all back to Silver Spoons.) Forget the train, or Goody Goody Ricky Stratton with his faux "Rickster" persona. The show should have just been about Derek.
5. Harriet from Small Wonder
Oh! Small Wonder! The most low-budget, totally twisted, demented, disturbing, freaky deaky show in the history of shows, and yes, I've seen a lot of public access. Small Wonder. Oh my God, Small Wonder. They kept the "robot" child in a cabinet, the sets looked like they were made out of corrugated cardboard and Elmer's Glue, and the scripts seemed to be written by a collection of chimpanzees who had been taught the rudiments of typing. Emily Schulman as the annoying neighbor girl Harriet took this show to the next level, beyond horrible to just plain torturous. Yet somehow, I kept watching. Was it Harriet's outrageous hair bows or the back-and-forth dialogue with her mother Bonnie (played by Edie McClurg…yes, she was on this thing). Or did I just have a slightly masochistic side even then?
4. Larry from Three's Company
My mother didn’t like us watching Three's Company because of the sex jokes. The deal was, all of those jokes went over my young head. I never realized Jack wanted to get into Janet and Chrissy's pants (and Cindy and Terri's, too, for that matter). I never realized Mr. Roper thought Jack was gay. And I never realized that Larry was a lecherous pig. I just thought he liked to show his chest hair a lot while selling used cars. Larry seemed like the most fun to hang out with, perhaps because he had his own place, plus it was an upstairs apartment. As a child of the suburbs, I felt this seemed to give Larry a certain air of sophistication. That and the fact that everyone at the Regal Beagle totally loved him.
3. Willie Tanner from ALF
Willie Tanner, much maligned. A nervous, anxious man, pressured to keep a secret so great while trying to support his family on a social worker's salary. Having an alien with a phallic nose living in his family's laundry room pushed him over the edge so many times, how could you not feel for him? The stress made him lose his hair and talk in a high-pitched whine. His kids were brats, his wife cold and unfeeling, the alien a complete and total asshole. Willie Tanner, God bless ye.
2. Mona from Who's the Boss
Oh look, I'm old and I'm a slut! How novel! While Katherine Helmond as the trampy granny seemed a bit over played at times, I credit Mona with helping me develop the rather healthy concept that a woman's sexuality can only improve with time. Plus, she stole screen time from Alyssa Milano, and what teenage girl didn't hate her perfect little guts in the mid-to-late '80s?
1. Larry and Balki from Perfect Strangers
I realize I'm supposed to be talking about sidekicks here, but in a sense, Larry and Balki were sidekicks for each other. Without Larry, there would be no Balki. Without Balki, no Larry. And without Perfect Strangers, my childhood would have been a lot less bizarre and a lot more fun.