10 thoughts on “Who is the Greatest Recurring TV Character?

  1. It’s got to be Sidney Freedman on M*A*S*H, right? I mean, it can’t be done any better than that?

  2. My immediate response was Ernest T. Bass from “The Andy Griffith Show,” but he wasn’t in enough episodes. So my head says James Michael Tyler as Gunther on “Friends,” but my heart says Al Rosen as Al, giving “Cheers” some of its best one-liners.

  3. Mathew E. and Brian Smith took my two immediate choices. Let me offer these two…Jeff Maxwell (Igor) & Roy Goldman (Roy)…the two servicemen who were always flinging slop in the mess line or bearing litters or working guard duty on M*A*S*H…they gave the 4077th a sense that the camp wasn’t just populated with doctors and nurses, but there were servicemen doing their duty behind the scenes. I am currently rewatching, and am thru Season 7, and they are still there…one or both dang near every episode.

  4. On a show full of colorful recurring characters, The Good Wife’s Louis Canning stands out. Played by the perfectly cast Michael J. Fox, Canning was both antagonist and sort-of mentor to the show’s main character, Alicia Florek. He was charming, sweet, and utterly ruthless. On one episode, Alicia panicked about her missing daughter. Canning, who was her opposing cancel in the case of the week, supported her with a show of concern and friendship–and used the opportunity to sneak a look at some confidential papers in her briefcase that helped him win the case. Canning showed Alicia what kind of lawyer she would or would not want to become.

    Honorable mention: Aunt Esther on Sanford and Son

  5. my first thought is Evelyn “Angel” Martin (Stuart Margolin) in the Rockford files
    I aways enjoyed his appearances in the series and remember the episodes like the one he suddenly became rich (as a patsy/victim in a mob tax fraud scheme)

  6. Bernie Kopell as Siegfried in 1965’s “GET SMART.” Appearing in 14 episodes across the last 4 seasons, he hits Brian’s minimum requirement. He takes over as Maxwell Smart (Don Adams)’s reoccurring nemesis in season 2, after replacing Leonard Strong’s “The Claw” (who was a terrible yellow peril stereotype even at the time). The show infinitely becomes better with a cooler and funnier main antagonist. Kopell even reprised the role in 1989’s “GET SMART, AGAIN” reunion TV movie, and one episode of Fox’s awful (and short lived) sequel series, “GET SMART” from 1995 (that starred Andy Dick).

    While we’re on “GET SMART,” I could also mention Robert Karvelas as Larabee. He was Don Adams’ cousin and technically was in virtually every episode (or at least 94). In the first season or so he usually played uncredited background extras; even in drag a few times. As the show went on he became the Chief’s assistant who would say functional dialogue (i.e. “Yes, Chief,” “Call on line one,” etc.). But as season 2 wound on they decided to name his character and gradually give him more personality. He basically became like Kelly Bundy; getting more comically stupid every season, until the last when he was dumber than Maxwell Smart and the Chief actively wanted to kill him. Despite being in nearly every episode, he was never one of the credited “main cast.” Karvelas had a variety of minor roles in sitcoms during the 1970s. He died in 1991 and didn’t act again after that 1989 TV movie. He did have the “honor” of being the only member of the original show’s cast besides Adams to star in 1980’s “THE NUDE BOMB,” which did.

  7. While I have not dug out my DVDs to check, I believe only Garner, Beery and Santos made the cast in Rockford Files TV episodes.

    I’ve been looking for alternatives which is harder than you might think as there does not seem to be many characters who have enough episodes, are not full cast members and are memorable enough to consider.
    Maybe, by combining multiple Star Trek shows, Q (John de Lancie) may qualify (8 Next Generation, 1 Deep Space 9, 3 Voyager, so his Picard appearances are needed to make “more than.. a dozen”)

    Or how about Exidor (Robert Donner) from Mork and Mindy (I don’t think he ever made full cast)

  8. Star Trek has had some pretty good ones. Here’re just two:

    John de Lancie has only made a dozen or so appearances as Q, but his near-yearly visits to The Next Generation and trips to Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and finally in Picard, felt like the whole series was about him every time. Few actors can feel so dominant and yet so comfortable in their camaraderie with the regular cast (but especially Patrick Stewart with so little time to work with.

    The other would be Andrew Robinson as Garak in Deep Space Nine, which had a whole host of recurring characters, but few as charismatic as the “plain, simple tailor.”

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