The Top Ten American TV SF/fantasy mortals.

April 23, 2019 | By | Reply More

American TV audiences of SF/fantasy programming throughout the years had benefited from some of the most treasured televised characters ever to be broadcast. These SF/fantasy TV characters that appeared on the airways, from yesteryear’s ‘Star Trek’s Mr. Spock to the current phenomenon of today’s crop of SF/fantasy personalities, have the monopoly on pop culture circles.

However, what seems rather overlooked in some of these SF/fantasy shows of yesterday and today are the mortal counterparts to the aliens, robots, witches, genies or monsters that take centre stage on these types of programs. The mortal characters bring entertaining support and represent the human element to the off-beat whimsy aspects of their SF/fantasy colleagues.

Now let’s take a look at The Top Ten American TV Sci-Fi/Fantasy Mortals in this article. Remember, these selections will be presented in alphabetical order according to the TV character mortal’s names.

1.) Harriet Brundle from ‘SMALL WONDER’

Next door neighbour Harriet Brundle (Emily Schulman) was the freckle-faced, red-haired little irritant to the Lawson family whose bothersome intrusion caused constant worry. The robotic Vicki (Voice Input Child Identicant) was the Lawsons’ certified big secret being passed off as an ordinary little girl. Of course, Harriet’s pesky presence always made for nervous, wacky chuckles as her immense crush on Vickie’s human brother Jamie and overall nosy self threatened to expose engineer and inventor Ted Lawson’s ‘small wonder’ of a daughter. Harriet was annoying, pushy, brash, curious and pretty much over-stayed her welcome when visiting the Lawson household. Harriet was an insufferable distraction, a chip off the block much like her intolerable parents.

2.) The Henderson Family from ‘HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS’

‘Harry And The Hendersons’ first started out as a popular 1987 fantasy/comedy film starring the gifted Emmy-winner John Lithgow (‘3rd Rock From The Sun’) as head of the Henderson family that eventually welcome a tall, bigfoot-type furry beast named Harry into their home. Finally, in 1991 American TV audiences were afforded the syndicated TV version of the well-received movie Harry and his human caretakers arrived on the boob tube for two seasons bringing wackier high jinks to the forefront. Bruce Davidson starred as George Henderson, the head of the Henderson clan that tried to shelter the amiable Sasquatch specimen in his Seattle-based household. Harry (Brian Steele) was a loveable giant walking furball but his curiosity and innocence made for some hair-raising moments that could endanger his existence and that of his adopted family in the protective Hendersons. George and his extended family were instrumental for Harry’s welfare in providing protection, housing, and most important…affection.

3.) Gladys Kravitz from ‘BEWITCHED’

One of the more memorable mortals featured hilariously in the long-running popular 60s fantasy sitcom ‘Bewitched’ was the intrusive, nosy-minded neighbor Gladys Kravitz (first played by the late Emmy-winning Alice Pearce then later on Sandra Gould). Gladys always seemed to be on hand when witnessing the magical mischievousness going on at the Stephens’ house across the street. Whether watching items floating in the air or watching Samantha and her off-the-wall applying spells or having people and things disappearing on the spot, Gladys would get hysterical and run to her disinterested husband Abner to report her bizarre findings at the Stephens’ homestead. But Abner would act indifferent to his seemingly nutty wife and dismiss her claims despite Gladys’s unproven accusations. Alice Pearce was so convincingly humorous as the befuddled Gladys Kravitz that she would earn an Emmy Award for best supporting actress in a comedy series. Sadly, Peace would pass away due to cancer during the show’s production in the early episodes on ‘Bewitched’ much to the astonishment of her colleagues.

4.) Mindy McConnell from ‘MORK & MINDY’

Almost everybody knows that the late Oscar-winning comedian Robin Williams’s career was launched to its greater heights when he assumed the role of Mork from Ork, an alien sent to study earthlings and their customs in Denver, Colorado on the classic space-aged sit-com ‘Mork & Mindy’. Well, it was actress Pam Dauber that played the straight-woman Mindy McConnell to Williams’ spaced-out visitor Mork. Mindy was a straight-laced as they came, a pretty brunette who decided to take in the off-the-wall Mork after a break-up with her companion. Mindy, soon finding out about Mork’s identification as an alien sent on a mission, lets him stay at her attic apartment. Mindy would not only be roommates with the goofy-minded extra-terrestrial but would also be his romantic interest-turned-wife and mother of his overgrown child Mearth (played by Williams’ comic idol in the late Jonathan Winters). Mindy was the teacher to this fun-loving misfit Mork from another demented dimension.

5.) Jack McGee from ‘THE INCREDIBLE HULK’

Dr. David Banner (the late Bill Bixby) already had a monstrous menace that he was dealing with at large, the green-skinned, massive and muscular man-creature known as the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) that he morphed into whenever he found himself angered or anxious by notorious humans or stressful situations. But another monstrous menace that hounded the beleaguered Banner was in the form of the dogged investigative newspaper reporter Jack McGee (Jack Colvin). McGee was relentless in tracking down the Hulk and publically exposing the bulky behemoth as a societal threat. Truth be told, the Hulk was a sensationalised news story for the opportunist McGee looking to gain journalistic clout among his competitors. McGee’s constant thorn-in-the-side pursuit of the harried Dr. Banner only added to the frustration of the concerns for the scientist on the run to control the underlying rage within his chemically imbalanced psyche.

6.) Major Anthony ‘Tony’ Nelson from ‘I DREAM OF JEANNIE’

Long before the late actor Larry Hagman was known worldwide for his iconic villainous role as dastardly oil magnate J.R. Ewing on the immensely viewed TV primetime soap ‘Dallas’, he first came into noticeable prominence as the befuddled astronaut Major Anthony Nelson from the highly popular 60s fantasy sitcom ‘I Dream Of Jeannie’. The klutzy but orderly Tony had the chaotic experience of trying to hide his household secret from the world…mostly from NASA psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Bellows. The ‘secret’ in question: the pretty blonde-haired genie named Jeannie (Barbara Eden), the magical maiden that he rescued from her bottle when stranded in the middle of nowhere during one of his missions. Major Nelson, along with his colleague and best friend Major Roger Healey (the late Bill Daily), tried shielding the impish Jeannie at every turn week after week. Poor Jeannie would always find a way to get her ‘Master’, whom she fell in love with from the get-go, in hot water with her magical mishaps. Sure, Jeannie was a pain-in-the-neck to Tony Nelson but he couldn’t hide the fact that he loved her as well. Finally, Jeannie got her wish as she finally landed the coveted role of becoming Mrs. Anthony Nelson in the show’s fifth and final season on network TV.

7.) Tim O’Hara from ‘MY FAVORITE MARTIAN’

Young newspaperman Tim O’Hara (the late Bill Bixby) ends up giving cover to a human-looking extra-terrestrial named Exigius 12 1/2 (the late Ray Walston) whom he passes off as his Uncle Martin in the 60s alien sitcom M’y Favorite Martian’. Indeed, Tim and his Martian partner-in-crime Uncle Martin was the SF version of ‘The Odd Couple’ long before the likes of Emmy-winning actors Jack Klugman and Tony Randall would assume this title years later. Tim had a certain respect for the matured Martian Martin as he was, in many ways, the wise galactic uncle from beyond the stars that came off as inherently knowledgeable and eccentric during his earthy visitation.

8.) Dr. Zachary Smith from ‘LOST IN SPACE’

Dr. Zachary Smith is such a polarising figure in the realm of the sci-fi/fantasy landscape that one could basically insert him in any top ten listings that apply. The duplicitous Dr. Smith from ‘Lost In Space’ was somewhat of a sinister, not to mention cowardly, scoundrel to both humans and non-humans alike. But as a manipulative mortal, Dr. Smith could bully and berate the likes of the likable Robot with his alliterative insults like ‘you mechanical moron’, while cower to or double-cross or scheme with the assortment of alien life-forces that he crossed paths with much to the detriment of the Robinsons. Shifty, shady and self-absorbed, Dr. Smith was totally unredeemable but hey…that’s what made him endearing and enduring to the masses of Lost in Space fans globally. ‘Never fear…Smith is here!’

9.) Darrin Stephens from ‘BEWITCHED’

If there was one specific mortal more tortured or tormented on American fantasy television both nostalgically or currently in TV rerun heaven it is Bewitched’s Darrin Stephens (the late Dick York and then later played by the late Dick Sargent). For eight seasons, Darrin had to suffer the dire comical consequences of being married to his lovely witch wife Samantha (the late Elizabeth Montgomery) that came with a costly price…putting up with her wacky spell-casting relatives. From exchanging heated barbs with his mundane mother-in-law Endora (the late Agnes Moorehead) to witnessing the corny cut-up antics of Sam’s Uncle Arthur (the late Paul Lynde), poor Darrin Stephens never seemed to get an even break. But even with all the sorcery chicanery going on for the flabberghasted mortal, it was still worth all the headaches because he loved his Sam unconditionally.

10.) Willie Tanner from ‘ALF’

Willie Tanner (Max Wright) was the nebbish family man playing host to a wise-cracking furry alien that one day ended up in his garage on the late eighties American sitcom ‘Alf’. Gently frustrated yet showing patience, Willie played guardian to the sarcastic Alf whose appetite for the family cat was something of many concerns for the Tanners to worry about concerning the far-out fuzzball with the glib sense of humour. Willie had a hint of dizziness to his personality and was the straight-laced Ying to Alf’s outrageous Yang. Nevertheless, the strange coupling of Willie Tanner and Alf made for some innocuous chuckles during the series’ four-year run.

(c) Frank Ochieng 2019


Category: MEDIA, Scifi, TV

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About FrankOchieng

Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

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