Many television shows have charismatic, funny, and memorable stars and a great supporting cast. Some great shows also feature hilarious and impactful recurring characters. These are the ones that show up for a short time or every few episodes but leave a lasting impression. Here are my favorite recurring characters from some of my favorite TV shows.
Everyone recognizes Central Perk as the go-to hangout on Friends, but the best part of the famous coffee shop was its resident barista, Gunther. He charmed us with his snarky one-liners and endearing Rachel obsession. The frequent scenes with the cast gathered around the couch just wouldn’t have been the same without him.
For most of the series, Futurama‘s Nibbler only made whimpering noises, ate anything in sight, and pooped dark matter. Then, in the episode The Day the Earth Stood Stupid, we find out he is actually the super-intelligent Nibblonian ambassador to Earth, in charge of keeping the universe in existence. Not too bad for a little guy.
Never before has a character made such an impact with such little screen time and basically no speaking. Who couldn’t love the weirder, dirtier, and dim-witted Schrute cousin? Everything he does is hilarious: running beside Jim and Pam’s car as they arrive at Schrute Farms, sitting in the outhouse as the door flaps open in the wind, and instilling FEAR in the heart of temp Ryan.
While Arrested Development features a crazy cast of characters, one of my favorites is Barry Zuckerkorn, the Bluth’s incompetent family lawyer. While he never seems to fully understand anything, he remains likable even with his affinity for rest stops and inability to do anything right.
All the doctors of Seattle Grace unwind at Joe’s. He’s the blunt, wise uncle everyone needs to pour them a drink and put things in perspective. He’s a grounded, relatively normal character in a sea of neurotic, narcissistic, and damaged doctors. Grey’s Anatomy is better with his balance.
Although Lost had a very large cast of very different and memorable characters, one character’s influence pervaded the last several seasons of the show, despite having very little screen time. Penelope Widmore was the driving force that kept Desmond going, saved him from the brink of insanity, and ultimately ended up saving the Oceanic Six.
In a world of show tunes and flamboyant dance routines, Glee‘s Burt Hummel provides some normalcy. He’s a flannel-wearing, car-fixing, donut-loving everyman, who wants nothing more than to protect his family and see his son Kurt happy.
Even though Wilson appears in every episode of Home Improvement, I still couldn’t leave him off this list. He’s the Taylor’s famously mysterious next door neighbor who offers insanely wise advice and keeps an impressive amount of knowledge in his half-concealed noggin. He added a fun part to every episode that we could all look forward to.