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The greatest characters ever: Height of hijinx

Emmy Commemorative 2012

Our favorite TV mirthmakers invariably had many ways to entertain us, and their considerable, timeless skills ran the gamut of comedy styles.

Give antsy New York housewife Lucy Ricardo a task gone sour — candy assembly line, anyone? — and the silent comedy gods would smile. Loudly vocal bus driver Ralph Kramden, on the other hand, took part in marital spats as memorable as any domestic stage comedy. TV comedy writer Rob Petrie had the rubbery, open-faced appeal of the most beloved clowns, while cantankerous junkyard owner Fred Sanford — who brooked no fool — was the classic truth-telling putdown artist.

As the Coneheads play-acted what a typical American family was supposed to look like, what was being forged was a brand of irreverent parody befitting a hip, freshly funny latenight program. Yet at the same time in primetime, klutzy young SoCal chef Jack Tripper was entering sexcapade scrapes right out of age-old French farce.

Which leaves Jerry Seinfeld, the face of postmodern hijinx, a real name on an invented character, an observational comedian living an elaborately plotted Rube Goldberg existence of cause and effect. It was all nothing, he might say, except for the fact that — like those before him — it made us laugh.

Emmy Commemorative 2012
Critic says ‘MASH’ top show of character
THE GREATEST CHARACTERS EVER
Anti-heroes | At your service | Authorities | Crimesolvers | Father Figures | Goundbreakers | Height of Hijinx | Heroes | Inseparable Duos | Journeyers | Ones of a kind
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