TV Squad Ten: TV's top second bananas

by Jason Hughes, posted Feb 16th 2009 11:09AM
Barney Fife (Don Knotts)So what's a second banana? Well they're certainly not second best. No, in fact they're often the main reason to tune into a particular show. Not because the show's major plotlines revolve around them, in fact they generally don't, but because they liven up every scene they're in. Virtual show-stealers, a good second banana can turn a generic sitcom or drama into television gold. The ultimate wingman on television, there was no greater second banana than my man Barney Fife, brilliantly played by Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show, and later Mayberry R.F.D.

When it came time to put together this list, I wondered if I'd be able to find ten viable and qualified bananas on the airwaves today. But I guess I needn't have worried. It looks like Barney was an inspiration (in more ways than one) to the current crop of second bananas. They litter their peels all over the television landscape, leaving us to trip over in laughter time and time again at their antics. But how do they stack up? Who's the biggest fruit in the tree? There's only one way to find out!

10) Matthew Kimble (Hamish Linklater), The New Adventures of Old Christine
Sometimes it seems like Matthew's only role on the show is to just blast everything Christine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) says and does. And yet he does it so well. He's gotten a little meat with becoming a therapist and even getting a girlfriend for a bit, before she took off for SNL, but mostly he's there to get pulled into Christine's dysfunctional world and to just brutally rip into her.

9) Morgan Grimes (Joshua Gomez), Chuck
Morgan is Chuck's lifeline to the life he used to lead before Intersect got dropped off into his brain. As it turns out that life involved pretty much every cliche you can think of for geekery. Still, loyal to the end and completely clueless at almost every turn, Morgan is always good for an outrageous stunt or event at the Buy More.

8) Glenn Quagmire (Seth MacFarlane - voice), Family Guy
Giggity, giggity, goo!

Tyler Labine (Sock) in Reaper7) Bert "Sock" Wysocki (Tyler Labine), Reaper
Tyler Labine has mastered this slacker lunatic role, even turning in a dramatic variation for the short-lived series Invasion. But here his performance really shines. Like in Chuck above, Sock is best friends with the main character, but unlike Chuck, Sock knows all about Sam's secret life as a demon hunter and even helps him out on the cases. But it's his one-liners and downright crazy behavior that puts him on this list.

) Paula Abdul (Herself), American Idol
You never know what she's going to say, when she's going to dance or what the hell is in her cup, but you can count on Paula for one thing ... bringing the crazy! From wanting to shrink contestant's heads and hang them from her rear-view mirror to finding a million different ways to not say "No," Paula may be virtually useless as a judge, but she's pure genius as comedic relief.

) Randy Hickey (Ethan Suplee), My Name Is Earl
Suplee has managed to take a truly dim-witted character and turned him into an absolute blast to watch. Loyal to a fault, Randy follows Earl around like a lost little puppy. He doesn't seem to understand the world around him or what's going on most of the time, but his childlike joy at the simplest things makes him a sweetheart lunk you can't help but love.

4) Janitor, (Neil Flynn), Scrubs
If ever there was a character who was completely unpredictable it would be the unnamed Janitor at Sacred Heart hospital. In eight years I can't even begin to list the ridiculous schemes he's been involved with and the absolutely insane things he's said. In fact, the majority of what he says is certifiable, and half of what he does, too. Damn if it isn't funny watching him come up with new and inventive ways to torture J.D.

Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) in 30 Rock3
) Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), 30 Rock
Just hearing Tracy Morgan deliver his lines is enough to get me laughing. Add to that his crazy paranoia and the loyal but often bewildered support he gets from his entourage and you never know what this loose cannon might do. He's not all craziness, though, as his porn video game did net him millions and millions more. Sure he may not get all the accolades that Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey get, but this show wouldn't be nearly as funny if it didn't have that lunatic running around the studio.

2) Sheldon Cooper, Ph.D. (Jim Parsons), The Big Bang Theory
Where to begin. A bundle of strict rituals and habits, Sheldon embodies everything that makes geeks look bad. He lacks totally in social skills, sports a massive ego, is incredibly stubborn and difficult to interact with and yet it is all of these quirks and mannerisms that have so quickly turned Jim Parsons' performance into modern day genius. TBBT is growing its ratings week after week and a lot of that has to do with the buzz surrounding what Sheldon will do or say next. Kudos to the creators for not dumbing down any of it, demanding more of their audience.

Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) in How I Met Your Mother1) Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris), How I Met Your Mother
Another show that's keeping it sharp and smart is this comic gem. That the top two bananas are on two back-to-back CBS shows tells you how well CBS is firing on all cylinders lately. Barney is on his way to becoming an integral part of the show in a way that might cause him to lose his banana status, but for now we can revel in his dating tips, designer suits and constant struggle with Marshall over who is in fact Ted's best friend.

Harris has turned what could have been a fairly one-dimensional character into a guy with actual feelings (don't tell anyone!) and a much deeper core. With catch-phrases like "Suit up!" and "Legendary!" and the "Have you met Ted" game, Barney is just fodder for pop culture greatness. But the bottom line is he's damned funny and totally ... wait for it ... awesome!

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Barney Fife (Don Knotts) was never a regular on Mayberry R.F.D. So take that back.

And Sheldon isn't a second banana, he's just one banana in the bunch.

February 25 2009 at 12:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great list. I couldn't disagree with any, but WHERE IS MURRAY? (Flight of the Conchords)

February 21 2009 at 5:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


February 21 2009 at 4:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

GOB from Arrested Development: "I'm the firstborn. I'm sick of playing second fiddle. I'm always third in line for everything. I'm tired of finishing fourth. Being the fifth wheel. There are six things I'm mad about, and I'm taking over"

February 19 2009 at 3:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jim's comment

Don't take me back to that wonderful time, I'll just get depressed and despise FOX again

February 21 2009 at 5:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe in LA

Don't forget Burton Guster!

February 16 2009 at 5:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Joe in LA's comment

I second that! We need the man w/ the Super-Sniffer in the Top 5!

February 16 2009 at 10:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tim Miller

I agree with both Barney Stinson and Matthew Kimble on list, they are probably the best part of their respective shows, especially Matthew on Old Christine. I know it's no longer on tv,but I think Tobias or Gob from Arrested Development could easily be on this list.

February 16 2009 at 4:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You left out another sidekick from a CBS show: Alan on Two and a Half Men. Jon Cryer practically channels Don Knotts....

February 16 2009 at 4:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am sure you are biased toward your own favorite shows, but I would have included Tony DiNozzo from NCIS.

February 16 2009 at 1:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Where's Dwight Schrute? He has to be #1 and he isn't even on the list!!!!

February 16 2009 at 12:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Daniel's comment


February 21 2009 at 6:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with your assessment about Barney Stinson. Neil Patrick Harris really owns this character. Not sure I would even watch HIMYM if he wasn't on it.

Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) is also another character that absolutely makes Entourage a great show. Not sure if he is a second banana, but should be noted.

February 16 2009 at 12:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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