September 6, 2005

Maynard to God: "You rang?"

So soon after failing to make a public demonstration of mourning upon the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, I'm going to have to cry publicly here over the death of one of my favorite television personalities, Bob Denver.

Just yesterday, re-watching the last episode of my favorite TV show, "The Comeback," I said, "Valerie Cherish is my favorite TV character, ever."

"Really? What about Seinfeld?"

"No." I thought back over all the TV characters I could remember to see if anyone meant so much to me and said, "There's only one other person I can think of: Maynard G. Krebs."

All the obits will forefront Gilligan. But I don't care about Gilligan. It's Maynard I love!

Like, I'm getting all misty.

IN THE COMMENTS: "When you think about it, how many actors play two iconic characters in their careers on TV?" He mentions Mary Tyler Moore and Bea Arthur. For me, Lisa Kudrow sprang instantly to mind. Then there's Patty Duke, who did it on one show. Robert Young. William Shatner? Don Knotts?


Pat Patterson said...

Whos cares about Gilligan? Maynard G. Krebs is dead, now that is a tragedy

JZ said...

Miss Maynard? Me too, little buddy.

Brendan said...


Ron said...

When Eddie Haskell goes...I'll be all busted up, y'know?

Rick Lee said...

I never met a real beatnik, so Maynard G. Krebs was my beatnik icon. Bob Denver lived out the last couple of decades of his life here in West Virginia. I kept thinking that sometime I would meet him... my profession (commercial photographer) lets me meet lots of celebrities for one reason or another... but I never did. Now it's too late. RIP Mr Denver... his work did more good than harm.

somross said...

Everyone loved Maynard G. Krebs: he made beatniks lovable. My sister and I were beatniks one Halloween in our neighborhood costume parade (1961?), I'm sure inspired by Maynard. We wore berets that had long hair attached, sweatshirts, and I think carried cigarette holders.

Mark Daniels said...

When you think about it, how many actors play two iconic characters in their careers on TV?

Mary Tyler Moore and Bea Arthur spring to mind as perhaps the only others apart from Denver. I suppose one might consider Bob Newhart, although he really played the same character with different names in his two most successful sitcoms.

Any other ideas?

Brendan said...

Lee Majors: Big Valley, Six Mill, Fall Guy
Michael Landon: Bonanza, LHOP, Highway to Heaven
Ron Howard: Andy Griffith Show, Happy Days
Andy Griffith: same, Matlock
Larry Hagman: Jeannie, Dallas

Wave Maker said...

Who can catch me on this one: At the same time that Denver was doing Maynard Krebs, the Beanie & Cecil cartoon show featured another beatnik who was called Go Man Van Gogh. I always thought he was a take-off on Maynard (in the same fashion that Foghorn Leghorn was a take-off on Senator Clagghorn).

The double icon question is a good one. How about Sebastian Cabot as Mr. French in Family Affair and Winston Essex in Circle of Fear ("Ghost Story")? No?

Something more current? William Shatner as Capt. Kirk and Denny Crane of Boston Legal?

Or Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown and Shirley Schmidt in Boston Legal?

Wave Maker said...

Buddy Ibsen -- Jed Clampett and Barnaby Jones (and Matt Houston -- feh).

Tristram said...

James Garner: Maverick and Rockford
Carroll O'Conner: Archie Bunker, In The Heat of the Night

Overall, though, I think Ron Howard wins, as he was a key actor on two massively successful show...

bill said...

I've never seen Dobie Gillis, yet have almost always recognized Maynard G. Krebs references. Loudon Wainwright III gives him a shout out in his song cobwebs. I discuss over here - Bob Denver, an affront to language?

Do the kids still say "shout out"? Hmm, too young for Dobie and too old for The Kids[TM].

Mark Daniels said...

Garner and Howard are, I think, good answers. Great answers, in fact.

But, I suppose "iconic" is a relative term and there are certainly no right or wrong answers. I don't think that the others mentioned so far rise to the level of that status.

Shatner's 'Star Trek' character is certainly in that category. But his other major role?

Buddy Ebsen maybe, although I always think of Barnaby Jones as being of the same ilk as those other detective shows that feature beloved TV actors: Jack Klugman of 'The Odd Couple' fame in 'Quincy, ME'; Dick Van Dyke, also playing a coroner; Andy Griffith as Matlock. These actors enjoyed some success in these later shows, but mostly because they themselves were so revered and their writers created characters that matched their beloved personas.

I guess that's one of the things I mean by iconic status, though I could be wrong: The quality of belovedness. Iconic characters tend to beloved by viewing audiences.

Other elements of iconic status would be that the character is memorable to a huge chunk of the culture.

A final element, as I see it, would be staying power. Lots of people still watch 'Star Trek,' for example. Few continue to watch the later TV roles of Shatner. Hence, James T. Kirk is an iconic role. I'm not so sure one would say this of his later portrayals.

It's difficult for an actor to attain this status twice in a career because fans as well as the Hollywood community itself typecast actors.

With reference to a few of the other candidates put forward thus far:

I don't see Patty Duke in the 'Patty Duke Show' as attaining this status, with either the Patty or Cathy roles from that series. But I suppose it's theoretically possible for an actor to pull that off.

O'Connor, a far more gifted actor than he was often credited for being, really didn't do that twice, I don't think. His 'In the Heat of the Night' character was a play to do that, I suppose, reworking and 'nicing' the character which originally appeared in a novel and was portrayed by Rod Steiger in the movie. (In fact, O'Connor's writers seemed to subject his character to the same transformtion that TV writers gave to Hawkeye Pierce of 'MASH.' That character was substantially niced up on the sitcom compared to what he had been like in the earlier novel and movie.) Bottom line on O'Connor, I think, is that not that many people watched 'In the Heat of the Night'; thus, iconic status eluded him for this role.

But Garner and Howard are outstanding answers...I can't believe I didn't think of them.

Mark Daniels said...

Yes, I agree with you, Ann, on Robert Young as well. Jim Anderson on 'Father Knows Best' and Marcus Welby definitely qualify him.

He did this on top of a pretty distinguished movie career.

Young always struck me as a tragic figure really. A likable guy with that fabulous voice who battled depression in an era when there was little help for people in this condition. To think of this man who so convincingly played such beloved characters ultimately taking his own life is so sad.

Brendan said...

Sally Field: Gidget, Flying Nun
Fred Gwynne, Al Lewis: Car 54, Munsters
Kate Jackson: Charlie's Angels, Scarecrow & Mrs. King
Raymond Burr: Perry Mason, Ironside

Ann Althouse said...

If sketch shows count: Gilda Radner and John Belushi.

Red Skelton.

Johnny Carson.

Jackie Gleason? (Trying to count Joe the Bartender.)

Mark Daniels said...

Raymond Burr was one I thought of just as I signed off earlier, although one may quibble about whether 'Ironside' is anything other than Perry Mason in a wheelchair or whether the latter series catapulted the lead character to iconic status.

I enjoyed Kate Jackson in 'Scarecrow and Mrs. King'; hated 'Charley's Angels.' But I wonder if 'Mrs. King' qualifies as an iconic character.

It seems to me that people only pay attention to Sally Field's earlier roles on TV because she was able to break with them, showing herself to be a true actor in her film roles.

When I call something "iconic," I have something like this in mind...Yesterday, my extended family and I got together for the Labor Day holiday. Conversation turned to one of my nephews, who likes to write. My sister said, "He really seems himself as Rob Petry, I think." That comment denotes Dick Van Dyke's comedy writer for the Alan Brady Show as an iconic character. It's impossible for me to imagine a similar reference to 'The Flying Nun' or 'Ironside' or 'Barnaby Jones.'

When a character is beloved, seen in almost archetypal terms, and is featured on a series that lasts and is loved long beyond its original run, that, I think is a character that has attained iconic status.

Does this make sense?

Someone help me better define "iconic" status for these roles and why it's tough to do it twice.

Mark Daniels said...

I think that Gleason's (or Skelton's, Belushi's, et al's) sketch characters are in a slightly different--though interesting--class.


Richard Fagin said...

Andy Griffith was a great Sherriff Taylor and Matlock. Buddy Ebsen tried so hard to be Barnaby Jones, but he just couldn't exorcise the ghost of Jed Clampett. I don't guess Ironside was able to distance himself from Perry Mason, either. I bet few watching "The Cosby Show" remembered much of "I Spy", but that show had a groundbreaking TV role for Dr. Cosby.

Tom said...

Ultimate trivia question: what was Gilligan's full name? He does have one, too. Denver revealed it on an Oprah show 10 or 12 years ago.

MikeTheLibrarian said...

Willy Gilligan.

Double Icon... hrm... I guess it really depends on when you grew up and what you watched. I'm heavily influenced by sci-fi, so here goes.

Lorne Greene: Ben Cartwright on "Bonanza" and Adama on "Battlestar: Galactica"

Richard Dean Anderson: MacGyver on "MacGyver" and Jack O'Neill on "Stargate SG-1".

Steve Donohue said...

Somewhat more recent: Katey Sagal for both "Married... with Children" and the more abyssmal (and popular) "8 Simple Rules...". She was also the voice of Leela on Futurama, a much underrated show that's kind of in a Family Guyesque renaissance right now.

Matt Barr said...

I suppose the deputy mayor character in Spin City wasn't iconic enough for Michael J. Fox to be considered.

Liewise Carroll O'Connor's character in In the Heat of the Night.

How does Katey Segal get mentioned and not John Ritter? If not 8 Simple Rules, how about Three's Company and Clifford, the Big Red Dog?

David Hasselhoff!

Larry in Gibbsville said...

How about Betty White? She was great as that vixen Sue Ann Nivens on MTM, and a completely different endearing character, Rose Nylund, on Golden Girls... Good stuff!

LarryK said...

A couple of curve balls, offered half seriously..

Bill Bixby on "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" and "The Incredible Hulk."

Pamela Anderson on "Baywatch" and "Stacked".

And speaking of "Baywatch," didn't David Hasselhoff also do "Night Rider"?

Troy said...

Dual TV impact roles:

Bill Cosby -- groundbreaking in "I Spy" in the 1960s and yet again in the Cosby Show -- Dr. Huxtable.

John Forsythe from Charlie's Angels and Dynasty.

Gavin McCleod -- Murray Slaughter from MTM Show -- and Capt. Steuben (?) from Love Boat

And Dirk Benedict "Starbuck" from Battlestar Galactica and The Face Man from A-Team -- very much an impact on a pre-pubescent to pubescent young man.

Marcus Welby and Ftaher Knows best -- Robert Young. I am a geek and I've got to stop.

IrishLad said...

I agree... Maynard G. Krebs was an AWESOME character. Denver was great at playing good hearted, innocent guys. I hope his life was much the same (without the silliness).

George Wallace said...

Sheila Kuehl, who as Sheila James was Zelda Gilroy on Dobie Gillis, is now a California state senator. The Senate adjourned early Tuesday, in Bob Denver's honor. See here.

Proof positive that it is Maynard, not Gilligan, who really counts.

P.S., Did you know that Zelda was to have had her own spin-off series, but that it was quashed "when rumors began to circulate that she was a lesbian"? That's the sort of thing that leads to a successful public interest legal career and to becoming the first openly gay legislator in California.