This was originally written for a now-defunct entertainment website, and although it’s essentially just a silly list of unpopular short-stay characters that I like to annoy obsessive fans by reminding them of the existence of, it was also something I put a good deal of thought into. Probably more than it warranted, to be honest, but few things fascinate me more than someone being sidelined or written out of a television series for no obvious reason, and on top of that it was another excuse to stick the boot into Lost and the woeful popular-vote-courting making-it-up-as-they-go-along antics of the showrunners, and I wasn’t about to let that go by. So while this is probably quite a slight piece – albeit one I’ve given a bit more weight to here – it’s still rather fun and I’d like to think it’s streets ahead of the average You Won’t Believe What These Ten Pop Songs You’d Forgotten Even Though They’re Still Covered On X Factor Every Week Had For Elevenses Last Week!!! lists that get linked to all the bloody time.
Incidentally, the characters from The Wire I’m alluding to were Polk and Mahon, the boozy elderly detectives that Major Crimes get landed with for a couple of key episodes, and Orlando Blocker, Avon and Stringer’s previously reliable ‘straight business’ frontman who suddenly decides he wants a piece of the action. I also used a photo of Sara Kingdom from Doctor Who as the lead image for the original piece, despite the fact that she’s not mentioned in the list, as I was shamelessly courting the Doctor Who fan audience if I’m honest about it. We won’t be going into that debate about her character status here, though. If you want to know my thoughts on that issue, then you can find them in Can’t Help Thinking About Me, available in paperback here or from the Kindle Store here.
For every long-running TV show, there’s a character that didn’t quite work out. Whether the writers found them difficult to write for, the star got the huff and walked, or the audience simply didn’t take to them, look hard enough and you’ll find an intended main character that faded into the background and was eventually forgotten about.
Sceptical? Then just try watching series one of The Wire again. Here are ten of the best Characters That Time Forgot, who you’ll find all over certain episodes of their parent shows, but who can’t even muster a single Wikipedia entry between them…
Frank Weisel From Yes, Minister
Chief architect of Jim Hacker’s rise to MP-dom, cheerfully withstanding repeated attempts to keep him in the dark on account of his knowing far too much about politics for Sir Humphrey’s liking. Weisel came to the department’s rescue on many occasions, and was once such a key character that he appeared in the original ‘newspaper headlines’ opening titles, but tricky fourth wheel script status led to his eventual departure for a cushy Butter Mountain-circumnavigating number in Europe, as head of a Quango reporting on Quangos.
Paul, Basil And Rosalie From The Magic Roundabout
Perpetual pub-quiz-question-inspiring ‘other children’ who intermittently accompanied Florence on her jaunts to the Magic Garden, or Pio, Basile et Coralie as they were known in ‘old Francs’. Tended to only appear whenever an additional human was needed to wrestle with dog/snail/rabbit/cow/train/indefinable jack-in-the-box thing interpretations of the laws of the physical universe, or spinoff media needed to fill a bit of illustrative space, though they do make a cameo in Dougal And The Blue Cat and in fairness they were seen riding on the roundabout itself in the opening titles of every single episode.
Nikki Fernandez From Lost
Number 321 on Jacob’s List: a sexy soap opera actress on the run with a bagful of murderously obtained diamonds, and a vest top that looked like it was made out of deckchair material. There for several key moments in the show, including personally discovering the existence of Mental Eyepatch Bloke, but propensity for ‘testing’ badly with viewers led to abrupt departure after being bitten by a poisonous spider and accidentally buried alive muttering something about ‘power lines.’ Not even mentioned in the finale.
Brenda From Rising Damp
Knocker-heavy proto-ladette artist’s model and the most prominent – she was on the front of the tie-in novel – of Rigsby’s infrequently-glimpsed ‘other’ tenants. Usually to be found threatening (and succeeding) to drink Alan and Philip under the table, or giving off distinct ‘look but don’t touch’ vibes to her lecherous landlord. Mainly only seen in episodes where Frances De La Tour was unavailable, but still there for many classic storylines including the ‘Grey Lady’ hoax and the Christmas Special.
Mandy Hampton From The West Wing
Power-walking embodiment of the ‘get me a decaf mochalatte on rye and get me it now!!’ no-nonsense White House Media Consultant ethos. Disappeared without explanation after a gunman took a potshot at President Bartlet; if she was caught in the crossfire, none of the other characters ever mentioned it. Nor indeed was she ever mentioned again, even in an extended flashback sequence covering the pre-election Bartlet For America campaign she’d supposedly been a prime mover in.
Catastrophe Kate From Rentaghost
Rootin’ tootin’ sharp-shootin’ whip-crack-away-whip-crack-away-whip-crack-away Wild West ghost gal briefly employed as additional spook labourer in the definitive Claypole/Mumford/Davenport era of Rentaghost, largely for the purpose of setting her male colleagues at smitten loggerheads and scaring the Perkins with trigger-happy ectoplasmic antics. Eventually moved on to other employment opportunities, but not before recommending more widely recalled Spirit World pal Hazel The McWitch as her replacement.
Mr. Dagenham From Camberwick Green
Mod-suited sports car-driving flash salesman cut from uncharacteristically up-to-the-minute Carnaby Street cloth, whose introductory song boasted he could sell ‘anything, anything money can buy’, including ‘an overcoat/a motorboat/a holiday in Africa’ and, less impressively, ‘a button.’ Usually to be found, however, flogging helicopters to assorted villagers, seemingly regardless of whether they wanted or even had a practical purpose for one. Later made a cameo in Chigley. You’ll never guess what doing.
Hana Gitelman From Heroes
The Doctor From Pipkins
Clacky-mouthed lab coat-sporting Anthony Perkins-resembling ventriloquist dummy type who looked after the healthcare side of things at Pipkins. Humanlike appearance may go some way towards explaining why he is less well remembered than Hartley Hare, Topov the Monkey, Octavia the Ostrich, Tortoise the Tortoise and Pig the, erm, Pig. Clearly intended to make youngsters less afraid of their visits to the physician, and presumably in comparison to his grotesque co-stars less afraid of the programme itself.
Kenny From The Tomorrow People
Wisecracking ‘copper’-baiting flare-sporting original main attraction amongst the telepathically-enhanced teens, whose star quality was somewhat hampered by the limited acting ability of the youngster chosen to portray him. Within a couple of episodes he’d been bound to a chair with a special ‘limiter’ headband to stop him moving or speaking, before rounding out the adventure by accidentally teleporting into a duck pond to the decidedly genuine-sounding amusement of his co-stars. Not invited back for the next series.
You can find more about Mr. Dagenham, and plenty more about plenty of other forgotten characters (and indeed more about Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley) in my book The Camberwick Green Procrastination Society, available in paperback here or from the Kindle Store here.
You can hear me talking about a Brenda-heavy episode of Rising Damp on Perfect Night In here, and talking about the history of The Magic Roundabout on BBC Radio 4 here. I’ve also got plenty to say about the finale of Lost here.
© Tim Worthington.
Please don’t copy this only with more italics and exclamation marks.