The big advantage TV has over movies is that there is way more screen time to tell stories. That allows for producers to bring in actors as guest stars, and if they fit in well with the show, have them reprise their role. Often times these characters will sign on to be series regulars, and start appearing in the opening credits. Sometimes there are characters that simply come and go as needed. These are some of my favorite examples of recurring characters. All brought a dynamic to the show that it otherwise lacked thanks to the efforts of the actors.
10. Richard Coad – Robert Patrick Benedict – Felicity
Felicity was hardly a brilliant show. Mostly that had to do with a premise that was designed to be a film, that got stretched out into four seasons of TV. The concept was that Felicity (Keri Russell) would chase Ben (Scott Speedman) to NYU after high school, only to get caught in a love triangle with (Scott Foley). By the end of the pilot many of those issues had been addressed, so the writing really had no obvious mechanism to drive the plot. The plot devolved quickly into the fine cast sleeping with each other multiple times throughout the years. Beyond that fray was always Richard Coad. He was the comic relief of sorts (there were a couple) who was outside of the group enough to remain unsullied. Actor Robert Benedict always brought a much needed energy to whoever he was acting with, in most cases good comic actors, buried under the weight of melodrama.
9. Alexis Denisof – Sandy Rivers – How I Met Your Mother
Denisof got the job because his wife, Alyson Hanigan is one of the stars of the show. This wasn’t just nepotism though as Denisof is one of the finest working TV actors, who sadly has not been in nearly enough things lately. Sandy Rivers is the horny and dim newsman who often plays opposite of Robin. Every time he shows up there is sure to be laughter as he stumbles through awkward attempts to hit on women, with perfectly groomed (almost plastic looking) hair and a spray on tan face. Despite being completely one dimensional as a character, he keeps on getting invited back because he is sure to nail a liner. Maybe the key is that he hasn’t been over utilized. Other characters (most notably Ted) have become boring over time, whereas Sandy always leave you wanting more.
8. David Puddy – Patrick Warburton – Seinfeld
Puddy showed up in the latter, underrated years of Seinfeld. By then they show had already made its cultural impact and was heavily in syndication, but what was lost was that it was never funnier. Puddy was Elaine’s off an on boyfriend. Warburton was an unknown. Now he’s famous for his deadpan line delivery and large physique, but it was brand new at the time. There are few things funnier than him wearing that fur coat with zero irony.
7. Number Two (Leoben Conoy) – Callum Keith Rennie – Battlestar Galactica
Of all the Cylons he was my favorite. Mostly because he was legitimately scary. I love Dean Stockwell, but I didn’t exactly feel menace dripping off his character. Tricia Helfer was fantastic, but was a main part of the cast. Some of the other cylons that showed up periodically seemed somewhat flat. Rennie brought a masculine energy to the role that occassionally veered into the animalistic. The work he did when Starbuck was imprisoned was perhaps the most disturbing part of the series.
6. Det. Bob Giebelhouse – Stephen James Lang – Millennium
Some guys just have a knack for timing. Stephen James Lang is far from a household name, but his ability to bring some small bit of levity to an otherwise bleak show earns him great respect from me. The writers must have liked it to because he went from essentially an extra, to having a sizeable role in several episodes. Bob Bletcher was supposed to be the cop that Frank Black was friends with. Fortunately Lance Henriksen who played Frank, hated Bill Smitrovitch who played Bletcher. This was good because the Bletcher character was completely flat. Enter Giebelhouse and enter a few jokes. The show never was supposed to be a comedy, but a joke here and there to break up the tension was sorely needed.