Thursday, November 18, 2010

10 FAVORITES (11) - TV's Annoying Neighbors

Television comedies, sitcoms and "dramedies" have delivered some of the most memorable characters in our pop culture history. Out of the pantheon of characters, of which there are many types, there are none more recognizable and sometimes irritatingly endearing as the Annoying Neighbor. This trope has taken many forms and could not be more simple than that of a person in the series whose main existence seems to be nothing more than to annoy, irritate and frazzle the lead character (or characters). But who are the most memorable (or most annoying, as the case may be)? This week's 10 FAVORITES is all about TV's Most Annoying Neighbors.


The Residents of Wisteria Lane, Desperate Housewives
Yes, I'm including everyone that lives in Television's sauciest cul-de-sac, including the leading ladies. I am not saying I hate them or anything, I am just pointing out how irritating it would be to live on the same street with these people (all of whom seem to miraculously look like they stepped out of a Calvin Klein or Victoria's Secret ad...not that there's anything wrong with that).

Phyllis Lindstrom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Ah, the great Cloris Leachman, is there anything she can't do? She has an Oscar (for 1971's The Last Picture Show) and countless Emmy awards, including two wins (and many nominations) for this comic gem role as Mary Richards' scatterbrained and pretentious landlady. She certainly annoyed Mary's BFF Rhoda (the delightful Valerie Harper) and made an enemy of Mary's co-worker Sue Anne Nivens (the legend that is Betty White).

Newman, Seinfeld
Everyone remembers Jerry Seinfeld saying (in an irritated tone): "Hello, Newman!." NY mailman Newman (played to perfection by Wayne Knight) seemed to be a nemesis to the titular lead, but since the show was about "Nothing" then that plot point probably shouldn't be applied.

Larry and his brother, Darryl and his other brother, Darryl, Newhart
Ever since the success of The Beverly Hillbillies, TV audiences have adored a country bumpkin (think Cletus on The Simpsons, for you younger folks!). Bob Newhart's highly rated and acclaimed 1980's sitcom (set at a remote Vermont inn) tripled the audience's delight by having a set of brothers (Larry spoke, the Darryls did not) who were as hilarious as they were irritating (and even creepy at times!).

The Residents of Stars Hollow, Gilmore Girls
Gilmore Girls is one of the more popular of the "dramedies" in the past decades (so I may be angering a large group of loyal fans here!). Lead mother and daughter pair Lorelai and Rory Gilmore (played by Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, respectively) were surrounded by a loving yet nosey bunch of neighbors that, though well-meaning, could make one rethink the possibility of buying a house in the town.

Irwin "Skippy" Handleman, Family Ties
He grew up next door to the Keaton family on the acclaimed 1980's sitcom, but Skippy (well-played by Marc Price) was clumsy, nerdy and a little tongue-tied at times. His apprentice-like friendship with older brother Alex (Michael J. Fox) and his adoration of middle daughter Mallory (Justine Bateman) made him a standard within the trope (inspiring another character who went on to even greater notoriety...but we'll get to him in a bit!)

Frank and Marie Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond
Imagine your parents annoy you just when you go to visit them or they come to visit you. Now, imagine this irritation being a daily occurrence, considering they live across the street from you. Ray Romano's successful sitcom took annoying parents to a whole new level by throwing the neighbor quotient into the equation. Marie and Frank (greatly played by Doris Roberts and the late Peter Boyle) certainly made one think violent thoughts.

Mr. Harry Bentley, The Jeffersons
George Jefferson, like his counterpart Archie Bunker, seemed to be annoyed by everyone and everything. But George's across-the-hall neighbor (in "the deluxe apartment in the sky"), Mr. Bentley, frustrated him to no end. Bentley (delightfully played by the late Paul Benedict) was a UN interpreter who walked on people's backs (literally, he walked on backs to soothe back pain) and would find himself in the oddest and most bizarre situations on the series.

Ned Flanders, The Simpsons
For many, Ned seems to be the definition of this trope and that mainly speaks to the dominance of Matt Groening's groundbreaking animated sitcom. Groening and Co. are constantly receiving letters from fans to find more ways to put Homer and his neighbor-nemesis Ned "Flandiddily" Flanders together (and the stories are becoming more increasingly odd, but that's another blogpost altogether!). From his annoying sayings and positive "Can Do!" attitude to his uber-Christian and slightly effeminate behavior, I would be extremely remiss if I did not include Ned near the top of this list.

Gladys Kravitz, Bewitched
Like the ladies on Desperate Housewives know, it is extremely difficult to hide your secrets when you live in the suburbs. Samantha Stephens was trying to do that long before the residents of Wisteria Lane were, yet her results were much more hilarious. Samantha's neighbor Gladys Kravitz would constantly be bewildered and sometimes downright frightened by the magical happenings she would witness from across the street. For Samantha, hiding from Gladys and constantly explaining things had to be a 24/7 job.

Steven Q. Urkel, Family Matters
While Ned Flanders may define the trope, Steve Urkel is most likely the ultimate when it comes to Annoying Neighbors. Flanders only pretty much annoyed Homer Simpson. But Urkel, well, he irritated everyone in the Winslow household from Carl to Eddie to Harriet to that of his "one true love" Laura. The Urkel phenomenon went beyond that of a popular supporting character. He had is own video game, dance steps and cereal! He was so popular that many fans don't believe it when they hear that the character was originally written to ONLY be in one episode. But, of course, response to him was so well-received from audiences that the powers-that-be behind the sitcom demanded he be written in as many times as possible. And the show's focus and dynamic was dramatically shifted from its original intent. But that's TV history for you!

So there you have it: The 10 Most Annoying Neighbors on TV Comedies! Not many surprises, as most of these names popped up immediately when researching this trope. The one thing that most of these characters have in common besides being Annoying Neighbors is that they are beloved by the fans. They each have endearing qualities that make them timeless when watching the shows in reruns. I hope your favorite was on here. If you have suggestions (for future lists) or comments, do not hesitate to drop me a line!

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