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The Top 12 Quirky TV Characters, 1960s to Present

Updated on January 29, 2015

The Top of the Weird

There are lists galore out there. It seems our fascination with rankings hit high gear in the 1970s. The Guinness Book of World Records started appearing on best seller lists and many articles and books followed. When the century turned, "Top 100"s proliferated. In other words, what I am doing here is not new. My research shows, however that many of my best quirky characters do not show up in other articles. Let us begin and see what this author thinks of the weird science of television character creativity.

Present Television Shows

Sheldon Cooper, PhD from The Big Bang Theory. Okay, so this is an obvious choice. Because it is obvious, I had to include this member of the ensemble cast. Jim Parsons has won Emmys for his portrayal of the socially awkward, obsessive compulsive, genius. His awkward moments are funny and well played within the story lines of the show. Considered The Friends of present day, this sitcom has held up because its evolving plot, characters and relationships. Sheldon's relationships with Amy and Penny are touching and very special. Sheldon deserves to be at top this list.

Victoria Flynn from Mike and Molly. She is the stoner sister of title character Molly Flynn. Promiscuous, flighty and a no filter mouth puts her on the list as one of the funniest supporting characters on television. She is employed as a funeral home beautician, which fits right in with the quirky presentation of this person. She is currently engaged with Carl, Mike's partner on the Chicago police force, so like many historic characters her role is growing with her maturation.

Rick Castle from Castle. The handsome title character of this comedy/drama has a boyish charm, a vivid imagination and a fascination with outrageous conspiracy theories. His character is a mystery writer who plays poker with several other real world authors including James Patterson and Stephen J Cannell. Castle's love relationship with character Kate Beckett and the sexual tension betwwen the two has held up well for seven years. According to actor Nathan Fillon, who plays the role, the name Richard Castle was chosen because it sounded a bit like "Richard Asshole." He describes his character as "a bit of a douche" with a Peter Pan Syndrome.

Guys don't like it when you sneeze on their wiener.

— Victoria Flynn

Quirks of the Law

Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show. Did you know that Andy and Barney were cousins? In the first episode The Sherriff decides to hire "Cousin Barney" as his deputy. This explains how such an inept, and bazaar person became a law enforcement officer in this Carolina county. Barney was overzealous, superstitious, gullible, and his accidental firing of his side arm was a running gag (yet no one ever got hurt by the discharge of his gun). In 1999 TV guide ranked Bernard Milton Fife as the 9th best character in television history. You may note that the deputy is the only character on this list that appeared in black and white.

Lieutenant Columbo from Columbo. With wrinkled trench coat, cigar, beat up 1959 Peugeot and rarely carrying a gun, Columbo solved murders. The police detective's seemingly absent-minded persona routinely lulls the criminal into a false sense of security while Columbo patiently and politely solves the mystery. Columbo's physical health is fragile and so is his psyche. He suffers from a fear of heights, flying, swimming, hospitals and blood. Beyond all of it, the viewer is never in doubt that Columbo is the smartest man in the room.

Nostradamus "Bull" Shannon from Night Court. The physically imposing and child like bailiff of this comedy classic often stole the scene. He was loved by the cast of characters and was fiercely protective, especially of the main character, Judge Harry Stone. Bull's catchphrase served, to many, as the series signature... "Ohhh-kay." Bull's go to action was a palm slap to the head after he realizes he has made a mistake, which was often. His nickname was given to him by his mother, not because of his size, but because, when she was told she was pregnant, her response was "Bull."

Two with Two

Radar O'Reilly and Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H. Radar and Hawkeye were the yin and yang of this show, one of the most celebrated and popular of all time. Radar was the naïve, innocent farm boy from Iowa who is a simple clerk who does extra ordinary things and keeps the unit running. Hawkeye was the gin guzzling, womanizing cynical doctor from the East Coast who does extraordinary things as a surgeon steeped in blood. Hawkeye was obsessive about his refusal to be "military." Radar sleeps with his teddy bear and insistent in getting his comrades what they need to function. This is a fantastic story of people trying to sane in an insane situation.

Frasier and Niles Crane from Frasier. Unlike the duo from MASH, Frasier and Niles are brothers and mirror their traits. Each is an intellectual, snobby, compulsive and pretentious. Frasier was originally a character on "Cheers" and on that show declared himself an only child. When he moved to Seattle from Boston, where Cheers was located, he became a talk show psychiatrist and picked up a sibling. Frasier and younger brother often found themselves in awkward situations and capers somewhat like Lucy and Ethel. Niles, obsession with Frasier's housekeeper, Daphne became a running theme of the show.

The Rest of the Best

Burt Campbell from Soap. This serial comedy was so zany, the whole cast could be at the top of quirky characters lists. Burt is a high strung man who gets elected sheriff, involved in politics, accidentally kills his wife's ex-husband, becomes mentally ill and is abducted by aliens. Not necessarily in that order. What puts Burt above the rest is his belief that he can make himself invisible. He doesn't want to go to therapy because he can't perform his invisibility when he is nervous and the psychiatrist will think he is crazy. Ned we say more?

Eric Matthews from Boy Meets World. Eric may be the most obscure character of those named here. He is the big brother of key character Cory Matthew, The Boy who is meeting the world. Originally, Eric is a suave, popular, ladies man. He soon becomes a not so bright teen who never the less is very protective of his family and has a great heart. He talks of aspirations of becoming a weather man and on several occasions shows himself to be good with children. Eric's classical comedy, though, is often seen in the background of the main action...begging for food or trapped in a glass display case.

Carlton Banks from Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Carlton is often called upon to be Will's sidekick in this sitcom. Actor Alfonso Ribeiro does a great job of taking Carlton's actions and traits over the top while keeping him vulnerable and lovable. Carlton is best known for his dancing, usually to his favorite singer Tom Jones. Carlton, as the stereotypical suburban, upper middle class youth fixated with wealth and prestige, contrasts Will's character who grew up in suburban Philadelphia. Fresh Prince was the Cosby Show of the 90s and Carlton was the clown prince

And finally...

Phoebe Buffay from Friends. Her best buddies call her quirky and "we love that about you." Even the way her last name is spelled is different. She uses her strange ideas and traits to befuddle, scare, frustrate and comfort the people she loves and strangers alike. Her songs and lyrics are iconic. Her cat was her dead mother , according to her. She mugged Ross. Phoebe is the quirky that all other comedic characters aspire.


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    • russinserra profile image

      Russ Inserra 3 years ago from Indianapolis, In

      Loved it!


    • russinserra profile image

      Russ Inserra 3 years ago from Indianapolis, In

      Thanks for the comments. There were so many characters to choose from, these are my personal favorites.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I like your quirky selections!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Without a doubt they were quirky. There have been so many shows over the years with quirky characters. I don't even know where to start with a list like this....anyway, a fun read.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Anybody who remembers Night Court, gets my UP vote! Nice work here on some memorable (if not leading) characters. Where did all the great comedies go in television?

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Good selection of quirky characters Russ. There were a couple of shows and characters mentioned that I am not familiar with, maybe they were never shown in Australia. I do agree with Barney Fife, Colombo, Radar and Hawkeye, Sheldon, and Rick Castle though. Well done.