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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Write Back Weekend "Follow You Around, In The Background"

They say that a man (or woman) is only as good as the man (or woman) behind them. The following list is a list of people who prove exactly that. While the leading actress or actor certainly did most of the shining, these actors also managed to steal the show, whether it was intentional or not.

Small Screen

1. Richard "Boner" Stabone- Growing Pains: Just like I have said before and I know I will say again, you know it was the eighties when the character's name was Boner and no one snickered under their breath. The lovable Boner was played by actor Andrew Koenig from 1985 to 1989. He was one of two of Mike Seaver's best friends on the show. He was the slightly dim-witted friend, you know, before it was a given that there had to be a slightly dim-witted friend in the mix. When it came to dim-witted, nobody had done it better.

2. Six- Blossom
: I don't know why, but people don't really talk much about Blossom anymore. Back in the nineties though, that show was a huge hit amongst teenage girls like myself. The focus was of course on the free-spirited Blossom, but Blossom's best friend Six, played by Jenna Von Oy was a great scene stealer. Some of my favorite moments revolved around fast talking dialogue between Six and her and her perfectly cast mother, Gail Edwards. Equally great was the story of how Six got her name. "Because that's how many beers it took."

3. Erwin "Skippy" Handleman- Family Ties: Family Ties was one of those rare ensemble shows where everyone brought something truly unique to the role they played. Marc Price's Skippy was the boy next door who lusted after Mallory Keaton (played by Justine Bateman). They still managed to give him so great one-liners, even if Mallory wasn't in the mix. Back then, no one did bumbling better.

4. Pacey Witter- Dawson's Creek: Dawson's Creek was a cleverly acted, cleverly written show created by Kevin Williamson. At the time, many argued that teens really didn't talk that way. It didn't matter though because all teens everywhere loved The Creek. More than anything else, Dawson's Creek prided itself on creating the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) angst ridden situations of its day.

The focus was supposed to be on main character Dawson Leery played by James Van Der Beek, but a funny thing happened while Dawson's Creek was on the air. Suddenly the characters, and the actors popularity, evolved. Suddenly we found Joey Potter (Katie Holmes) who was in love with Dawson from day one, torn between her newfound feelings for another boy who lived in the creek, Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson). This was another great thing about Dawson's Creek, self-actualization. As the writers were realizing Joshua Jackson the actor had more to offer, Pacey was having the exact same realization. "Pacey : You know what, your absolutely right. I'm sick and tired of being Dawson Leery's sidekick. I'm gonna get my own story line!"

In the end, this was one of the best cases where the best friend didn't pine in vain as Joey Potter ultimately rode off into the sunset--with him.

5. Seth Cohen- The OC: Right now I have feelings of ambivalence about The OC. When it first came on I loved it. I loved it because Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) actually reminded me of my love for Pacey Witter. He was cute, smart and sexy in a non-threatening sort of way. In my opinion, Seth was the reason to tune in each week, although the other characters did their jobs well, too. In the beginning he also was decidedly the second banana to the main character of the brooding loner, Ryan Atwood played by Benjamin "don't call me a young Russell Crowe" McKenzie. Eventually though the writers came around to the idea of giving Seth a storyline or two of his own. The first two years or so The OC seemed untouchable. But the star faded fast and fell hard. Now The OC will be added to SoapNet's new lineup. I'm upset about this because it seems it is being added at the expense of losing classic Another World episodes (call and complain people!)

6. Ed Norton- Honeymooners: I never watched all of The Honeymooners, however I think it would be sad if I did not include one of the most popular, and influential, sidekicks, ever. The lovable Art Carney portrayed Ed Norton and played off Jackie Gleason superbly. If you want to know where the sidekick got it's kickoff, look no further than Ed Norton (the character, not the actor)!

7. Buddy Lembeck- Charles In Charge:
: In the late seventies, early eighties the ladies were all about Scott Baio. Eventually the character of Chachi from Happy Days evolved into Charles on Charles In Charles. Although writers never said the characters were supposed to be one in the same, they did share the same good looks, quirky friends and mother (played by Ellen Travolta).

Part of what made Charles In Charge so great was the dialogue between straight-laced and smart Charles and his not so straight-laced and smart friend, Buddy Lembeck (played by Willie Aames). In the beginning, Buddy just lacked the occasional bit of common sense. As time marched on however, they realized that the sillier that Buddy got, the more popular the show got. There was a period of time there that one would wonder how someone like Charles could ever have a friend like Buddy. Despite all the hilarity, in fact, maybe because of it, Charles In Charge worked.

8. Brian Griffin- Family Guy: An unconventional choice to some, Brian Griffin is the talking dog in the quirky Griffin family on the adult cartoon, The Family Guy. Although the show is primarily about Peter Griffin and his wife Lois, they switch things up by making the intelligent character a sidekick dog who can talk. For this alone, Family Guy is brilliant and Brian's dry wit is definitely worth tuning in for. In a way it only makes sense a dog would make this list. After all, they are man's best sidekick!

9. Javier and Meghan- Felicity: In the late nineties, early 2000's Felicity was all any college aged youth could talk about. Who will Felicity end up with Noel or Ben? Ben or Noel? While this in itself made Felicity something worth tuning in for, it also had some of the best ensemble casting, ever. Meghan, played by Amanda Foreman, was the slightly psychotic roommate that Felicity got randomly paired up with freshman year. Only instead of having Felicity be able to escape her antics, they wrote her in for all four years, stealing the show every chance she got.

Along the way Felicity also got a job at Dean & DeLuca. There she met her eccentric boss, Javier. Ian Gomez was playing a few great character actor roles at the same time. Each one was equally brilliant. Javier could have been a flash in the pan but Gomez carved him into something equally quirky and catchy, all at the same time.

10. Dr. George O'Malley- Grey's Anatomy:
When Grey's Anatomy first came on the air all anyone could talk about was McDreamy, played by Patrick Dempsey. But Grey's is all about getting it right. They know that a show, and its leading man, is only as great as the characters around him (or her). George (played by T.R. Knight) seemed doomed to be in second banana status for the duration of Grey's run, pining after one intern or another from a quiet, safe distance, stuck in the "friend zone" for life. A few years ago maybe that would have been the case. But nowadays, people like quirky and non-conventional. As the way things stand right now, George is lo and behold, more of a leading man screen time wise than McDreamy. In a way though, that makes him king of the sidekicks.

Big Screen

1. Phil "Duckie" Dale- Pretty In Pink: In the classic eighties teen angst, Pretty In Pink, Duckie (played by Jon Cryer) was the quintessential best friend. The guy who you turned to when you needed a shoulder to cry on or for someone to pick up the pieces. Only Andie Walsh (played by Molly Ringwald) never took into account that Ducky needed someone's shoulder to cry on, too. Best scene is when Duckie busts loose in the book store, lip synching to Try A Little Tenderness.

2. Mini Me- Austin Powers: Sure Scott (Seth Green) should have been the one who had daddy's affections, but for Dr. Evil (Mike Myers), Mini Me (Verne Troyer) was his true companion, and partner in crime.

3. Kenickie- Grease: When people think about Rydell High, they remember Danny Zuko (John Travolta) first, Kenickie (Jeff Conaway) second. But then again, isn't that what being a great sidekick is all about? I always had the feeling that if Kenickie transferred to another school he might have been the Danny Zuko there. But as we all know, there can only be one Danny. That's ok though because nobody rode shotgun better than Kenickie.

4. Trigger- Like Father, Like Son:
Once upon a time it looked like Kirk Cameron was going to have a successful movie career. But then he got all weird and religious and he bowed out gracefully from the place he was so obviously being groomed for. Like Father, Like Son remains as evidence that Kirk Cameron would have made the transition nicely, but it is also evidence that Sean Astin as his best friend, Trigger was being groomed for a sterling string of second banana roles himself. Nowadays Astin makes a pretty penny off of being the guy who is sorta, kinda in the background, proving that in the background is not always a bad place to be.

5. Chris Knight-Real Genius: Real Genius was a story about a bunch of nerdy college students. The lead character was really an actor Gabe Jarret. He played Mitch Taylor, the super bright high school student who skipped a few grades but socially was out of his league. That is, of course, until he paired up with equally smart (but socially ept) Chris Knight, played by Val Kilmer. At the time, Kilmer was just beginning to develop a strong movie career. Now if you look at boxes for Real Genius it makes him look like he was the star. If you watch the movie more closely though you will realize he was just the opening act.

6. Cameron Frye- Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Every kid at sometime or another has dreamed about all the things they could accomplish if they were cool enough to skip school. Well, Ferris Bueller was a movie about just that. Ferris, played by Matthew Broderick, was an extremely popular boy who stays home "sick" from school for one day. Although he is very charming, he inexplicably is best friend's with a rather nerdy, uptight Cameron, played by Alan Ruck. Although they are very different, somehow their friendship works. You also get to see Cameron come to a true evolution through Ruck's portrayal, not an easy feat to accomplish in two hours or less.

7. Goose- Top Gun: Top Gun was hot back in the eighties because it had a little bit of everything. Romance for the girls, action for the guys. Tough guys to make girls swoon, tough guys for regular guys to appreciate. Oh, and it featured rapidly rising star, Tom Cruise, too. But Tom Cruise's Maverick was only as good as the partner he has beside him. Goose, played by Anthony Edwards, was the partner every little boy who went off to the military would love to have.

8. Lucas- Lucas:
I know that Lucas is a bit of an unconventional choice. After all, how can you be considered a supporting player when the movie is named after you? Only if you've ever seen Lucas you know that he was actually a supporting player in his own life. Lucas was a nerdy kid who loved to look at bugs and books, until he met new girl, Maggie (played by Kerri Green). Even he didn't think he was too important in the grand scheme of things. Lucas, played by Corey Haim (before he got all crazy) represented all second banana's out there, proving that somehow, someway you too can get your turn in the limelight.

9. Lenny Haise- That Thing You Do!:
Anyone who knows me knows about my love for the film, That Thing You Do! Initially my love started out of curiosity considering my Ethan Embry was in the movie. While I loved seeing Ethan, that is the one complaint I always had about this otherwise excellent film, that they didn't flesh out his character enough. His name was only the bass player, if that says anything to you.

But then there was Tom Everett Scott who was the second banana/leading man in disguise. He played Shades with conviction and for that, I grew to love TES, too. So why then, knowing all of this, would I choose to list Lenny as the best sidekick in the movie? Well, that's because he was the only one who was truly a sidekick for sidekick's sake. He wasn't a major player and yet his presence would have been missed if it was not there. Steve Zahn, the actor who played Lenny, delivered some great one-liners that if I didn't know any better, I would swear were ad libbed. He's more than a great sidekick in a movie. He's the type of guy you'd love to have as a sidekick in life, too.

10. Garth Algar- Wayne's World: It all started as a small time skit on SNL. The premise was simple; two teenage losers broadcast a wanna be talk show from their parents basement. Not only did it succeed on the small screen, it worked on the big screen, too. Wayne's World was the pet project of Wayne, Mike Myers. As we all know, Myers went on to star and write many other successful projects. But people forget that part of what made Wayne's World and SNL for that matter, so great was Dana Carvey who portrayed Garth. The chemistry between Wayne and Garth was great. They made stupid look brilliant which is no easy feat to do. Life seemingly imitated art, too. Dana Carvey, once the crowing jewel of SNL, went on to be a second banana of sorts, never quite making it to leading man status.

I guess that just goes to show. Good supporting actors have your back while managing somehow to come out in front, too.



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