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August 21, 2014

The five worst names in the history of television

by Jay Black, posted Oct 11th 2007 10:30AM
Don't hit me, please don't hit me!My wife gave birth to our first son three months ago, so names have been on my mind recently. A name says a lot about a person: strong names help kids to grow up to be television news personalities or American Ninjas (Wolf Blitzer and Joe Armstrong, respectively). Weak names, on the other hand, lead to name calling in grade school and sad lives of quiet desperation in adulthood.

Television has given us a large catalog of super-cool names to choose from. Since TV is all about wish fulfillment, it's rare for a character to be given a truly terrible name. Sometimes, though, a terrible name slips through the network sieve and luckily for all of us, TV Squad is there to catch it. The five worst names in the history of television after the jump...

Like my last list (The seven hottest animated housewives), this list will be a reverse order countdown, with the fifth entry being the least bad name and the first entry being the worst name ever. As always, I warn against my readers thinking too hard about this list. I'm fairly certain that the real cause of global warming is all the brain power currently being wasted on pop-culture ephemera. Seriously, we're like six more Cracked lists away from a Day After Tomorrow-type global catastrophe.

It should also be noted before we begin that when I say "worst names" I don't mean "most ill-fitting names." From a character point of view, most of the people on this list are given names that perfectly suit who they are as people. When I talk about their names in a negative way, I'm talking about just how terrible it would be if someone in the real world actually had to live a life being called what these characters are called.

Now, on with the list:

5. Milhouse Van Houten. Named after Richard Milhous Nixon, but still somehow finding a way to be be known as something worse than "Tricky Dick", Milhouse has had a lifetime of abuse. He's spent the last 20-odd years desperately pining after Lisa Simpson who views him, at best, as a worst-case scenario final option should everything else in her life go wrong. In one of the many possible futures shown on The Simpsons, Marge tells Lisa that sex with Milhouse "doesn't count." Undeniably connected to his terrible name, Milhouse has had a string of rotten luck in his life (The one notable exception being the time he was wearing flood pants on the same day there was an actual flood. Milhouse's reponse to this situation -- "Looks like everything is coming up Milhouse!" -- says more about his past struggles with the world than it does anything else). You can study Milhouse's tragic life in greater detail here and here.

There is Dick... trickling.4. Dick Trickle. There's going to be some controversy with this one, I know, because while Mr. Trickle has appeared on television several times in his capacity as a NASCAR driver, he's not technically a television character. I felt that he ought to be included in this list, though, for the sheer outlandishness of his name. There's not much I can say here that every horrible southern-circuit working stand-up comic hasn't already said, but I would like to ask a philosophical question regarding the name Richard: why? Why would anyone, with the exception of people carrying on a family tradition, saddle a young man with a name that will inevitably be turned into "Dick?" This goes double for anyone with the following last names: Pound, Rider, Kisar, Feeley, or Diver. My only guess is that the parents of these children are trying to toughen them up, Boy Named Sue-style.

Now would be a good time to say that I had a ridiculous crush on Kelly Martin. We need to see more of her! (Literally)3. Charles "Corky" Thatcher. Before you get worried, this will not be an entry making fun of the mentally handicapped. I've had a problem with Corky's name since Life Goes On premiered in 1989. Let me ask you a question: you're ABC and you want to make a show that is sensitive to the struggle of people with Down syndrome. You want to present them, perhaps for the first time in mainstream media, without also mocking them. So why, in the name of all that is good and holy, would you name the Down syndrome character on your show "Corky?" What were the rejected choices? Goofy? Ricky Retardo? Here's a novel idea, how about just letting the kid go by Charles or maybe Chuck, and leave it at that? This show handled Corky's name about as sensitively as Lenny handled the puppies in Of Mice and Men.

Ward, weren't you a little hard on the beaver last night?2. Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver. This is a family blog, so I won't say anything at all about why this name is dirty. If you know why it's dirty, then read on. If you don't know why it's dirty, well, I envy you your innocence. Either way, I often wonder about this name seeing as it was created in the 1950s. I'm not sure of the etymology of the dirty word in question, but I have to imagine that it was at least semi-known when the show premiered. There had to have been knowing looks between the men, at least, whenever Leave it to Beaver was on. Certainly the writers room, always filled with the kind of soullessly filthy humans who collect dirty words the way idiotic kids used to collect pogs, would have known what they were doing when they came up with the main character's name. Graduate students, take note: there's a BS Masters Thesis floating around here somewhere: Ward, Weren't You A Little Hard on the Beaver Last Night?: A history of 1950s subversive cursing.

Yeah, the long hair doesn't really make up for being known as Boner.1. Richard Milhous "Boner" Stabone. Here's a bit of advice for you: if you're ever researching an article on the worst names in the history of television, whatever you do, don't type "boner" into Google; you will not like what you find. That being said, my research did capture this bit of trivia: Andrew Koenig, the actor who portrayed Boner Stabone for several years on Growing Pains, is the son of famous Star Trek actor Walter Koenig. What does this mean? Nothing! Except that his father should have given him some advice: "Yes, I know it's network TV, but, really, Andrew, you'll be playing a character named 'Boner'? Really? Oh, don't give me that it means a 'goof-up', you and I both know what it really means. The character I played was named after a famous playwright for God's sake. I had dignity in my role. Oh don't you dare bring up the 'Nuclear Wessels' scene in Star Trek IV. It was funny and I stand by it. I'm telling you right now, Andrew, if you play a character named 'Boner' you'll never again work in network television!" If only that conversation had taken place, Andrew Koeing might be a household name right now. Instead, he'll be forever known as... Boner.

As always, I want to hear your choices in the comments!

Which name do you think is the worst ever?
Milhouse Van Houten85 (4.7%)
Dick Trickle560 (30.8%)
Corky98 (5.4%)
Beaver Cleaver152 (8.4%)
Boner868 (47.7%)
Other (list in the comments)55 (3.0%)

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Laura

Really surprised no one has included Dick and Beaver Casablancas from Veronica Mars on this list.

Laura

October 18 2007 at 3:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
FlickDude

I'm pretty sure that Boner is The Joker in a VERY well done internet indie short sensation, "Batman Vs. Predator". Check it out in a Google search.

October 15 2007 at 7:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tim McCleese

There was a man who used to work at our company by the name of Richard Lipps. Indeed a cruel (but very probably unintentional) joke to name a child.

ps: Mr. Black....a very heartfelt congratulations on the birth of your child.

October 12 2007 at 7:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Eric

Well, I am from Chicago, and our NBC morning news anchor is Dick Johnson (basically Dick Dick), and our morning weatherman is Pete Sack. Ouch.

October 12 2007 at 6:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
blaine

What, no love for Cockroach from the Cosby Show?

October 12 2007 at 5:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Courtney

A friend once told me the story of his Uncle Peter. His uncle's last name, I kid you not, was Stiff. This is worse when you think that his name was always listed as Last Name, First Name on a lot of roll calls.

October 12 2007 at 11:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Courtney

My nickname for many years was Corkey, and it was sadly around the time that Life Goes On was on the air.

October 12 2007 at 10:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
scott mclendon

And former NBA coach Dick Harter

October 12 2007 at 10:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
terry

What about the actor from"The Big Valley" and "Nanny and the Professor"...Richard Long? Think about it... Or,of course, the famous actor, Peter O'Toole?

October 12 2007 at 9:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Babs

What makes Milhous' name even worse is that his last name is the same as one of Charlie Manson's chicks, Leslie Van Houten.

October 12 2007 at 8:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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