Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rant #795: Great Sidekick

It seems that every "star" has a great sidekick with him or her, a person who isn't the star, but shares the same experiences as the person that the focus is on.

Sherrif Andy Taylor had his deputy, Barney Fife, on "The Andy Griffith Show."

Bus Driver Ralph Kramden had plumber Art Carney on "The Honeymooners."

Housewife and show business wannabe Lucy Ricardo had fellow housewife and former vaudevillian Ethel Mertz on "I Love Lucy."

And several major TV stars have had Bill Daily as a sidekick, on shows like "I Dream of Jeannie" and "The Bob Newhart Show."

Daily turns 85 today, and if there was a "Sidekicks Hall of Fame," he would probably be inducted on the first ballot.

On "I Dream of Jeannie," he played Roger Healey, fellow astronaut to Larry Hagman's Tony Nelson character. They both knew the secret of Jeannie, played by gorgeous Barbara Eden, that she was actually a genie that Nelson unleased from a bottle he found after a launch touchdown.

The show was filmed in a breakneck pace, with each episode breathlessly revolving around Eden's encounters with the new world around her, and Hagman and Daily's efforts to cover up for her and her doings.

Each of the three stars fit their roles perfectly, which was one of the major selling points of the show. Sure, it was pure fantasy, but Daily and the others were so good that you actually believed the whole concocted story.

Daily success on this show led him to another memorable sidekick turn, as Howard Borden, the insecure airplane pilot and next door neighbor of the Hartleys on "The Bob Newhart Show."

Where on "Jeannie," Daily's acting skills were pretty much rolled up into a manic ball, on the "Newhart" show, he really had to act.

Always coming into the Hartley's apartment--Bob Newhart and luscious Suzanne Pleshette--seemingly at the wrong time, Daily's character was insecure, and a great sidekick to Newhart's psychologist character, who was also not the most secure person in the world.

It was probably Daily's signature character, and he was all over television in the 1970s. If he wasn't on the "Newhart" show, he was on "The Match Game."

He also starred on a few shows where he was the top banana, but they all failed miserably.

He, like Don Knotts, was very capable, but was sort of in a TV caste system.

Once a sidekick, always a sidekick.

Although you will continue to find Daily in reruns all over the tube, he is pretty much retired now, although he does pop up from time to time, especially on radio.

He has been a guest on New York WABC's "Saturday Night" program hosted by Mark Simone, and he has also filled in on occasion as a radio host on stations out west.

Daily's legacy is that he was among the best TV sidekicks of all time, and you can see that in reruns of "I Dream of Jeannie" and "The Bob Newhart Show" that continue to run all the time.

It probably isn't easy to be a second banana, but Daily took the peel off of the job and did it as well as anybody.

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