There are some characters in television shows that are never actually seen on-screen. They are only mentioned or heard off-screen, but they’re talked about so much that they technically count as characters in the series. They might mean a lot to one of the characters that we do see, being their mother or their ex-wife or something like that, or it might just be that we’ve heard so many stories and details about them that we feel like we know them, like Kramer’s friend Bob Sacamano. It would be an interesting decision for a TV show creator to bring in a character who you’ll never see. Television is a visual medium. The whole reason that television exists is so you can see things. That’s why it was invented all those decades ago. It’s even got the word “vision” right there in the name. So, on paper, it might sound weird for a character on television to be completely unseen. But it can also work in the show’s favor. Niles Crane’s wife Maris in Frasier, for example, is funnier when you can’t see her. No physical actress could be quite as thin and cold and crow-like as Maris is described. The image that Frasier and Niles create in your head when they talk about her makes far more of an impact than any visible character ever could. So, here are the 15 greatest unseen characters in the history of television.
15. Mr. Patel in Peep Show
Mr. Patel runs the local corner shop that Mark and Jez shop at in Peep Show, and although the show ran for nine series and they lived in that same apartment the whole time, he is never once actually seen on screen. Mr. Patel was the fuel for many storylines throughout the show’s history. When Mark explored his sexuality, Mr. Patel was there: “Good old unfriendly Mr. Patel. Never says a word, whether you’re buying cornflakes, fabric softener, or gay porn.” When he wanted to take Sophie away for a weekend to propose to her, Mr. Patel was there: “Another mega deal will come along in some national newspaper eventually. Mr. Patel saves me the vouchers.” When Mark got mugging and felt vulnerable and needed protection, Mr. Patel was there: “Good old Mr. Patel and his illegal supply of knives.” We hear so much about him, and yet we never get to see him!
14. Abbi’s roommate in Broad City
Broad City is one of the best original shows on Comedy Central. It tells the story of the misadventures of a pair of cool, high-flying chicks in New York City, Abbi and Ilana. Abbi has a roommate, and she’s mentioned almost every single time Abbi is at home, but she is never, ever seen. Instead, Abbi’s roommate’s boyfriend Matt – better known by his surname Bevers – is always around at her apartment, eating her food and dirtying up her furniture and wearing her clothes. Abbi’s roommate appears just once, in a couple of photos alongside Bevers, but her face is never revealed. Her body is, though, and it’s smoking, which is just a joke about what a stunning woman a chubby freeloader like Bevers has somehow managed to bag.
13. The Gooch in Diff’rent Strokes
All throughout Diff’rent Strokes, a show that went a long way toward repairing the racial divides within American society, Arnold would get traumatized and beaten by a bully known as “The Gooch.” You never got to see The Gooch, but based on Arnold’s descriptions of him, he’s quite the brute, and we’re probably lucky we never had to look at him. One day, when Arnold comes home with a black eye from getting beaten up by The Gooch, Mr. Drummond says, “Arnold, I want to know. Did you go down there to talk or didn’t you?” Willis clarifies, “All right, Mr. Drummond. Arnold went down there to talk with his fists,” to which Arnold snaps back, “And my fists had NOTHING to say!” Classic Arnold.
12. Lomez in Seinfeld
Kramer refers to a lot of friends outside the core group of Jerry, Elaine, George, and himself in episodes of Seinfeld, and we never get to see any of them. Bob Sacamano, for example, and Lomez. The only friends of Kramer that we ever get to see taking part in his hare-brained schemes and doing their own wacky things are Newman and the occasional one-time character like that guy FDR who makes his birthday wish that he hopes Kramer will drop dead. One time, Jerry asks why he’s never met any of these friends that Kramer’s always going on about, to which Kramer replies that they always ask why they’ve never met this Jerry that he’s always talking about. That’s perfect comedy. It’s a funny line, but it’s also thought-provoking. It shows that there’s more than one way to look at any situation. Plus, it’s like there’s another TV show in another alternate universe that’s about Cosmo Kramer – the very same Cosmo Kramer, played by Michael Richards – who hangs out with these guys called Bob Sacamano and Lomez and always tells stories about his neighbor Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian who gets into masturbation contests and gets lost in parking lots and gets rejected by soup vendors, and the audience never gets to see him. Trippy, right?
11. Bruce Winchill in Drake and Josh
Drake and Josh is an important show for children. It shows a different kind of family from the kind you normally see. It sees two single parents getting married, bringing together various step-siblings. You don’t usually see that represented in the media, so it’s good that Nickelodeon did it for a young audience to show that it’s perfectly normal. In the show, the dad is called Walter and he’s a local weatherman. Bruce Winchill is the rival weatherman. He’s better-looking, he beat Walter to the Weather Man Award at the “News-ie” awards, and his weather forecasts are much more accurate – Walter’s predictions are only 70% accurate, while Bruce’s are 100% accurate. It’s also suggested throughout the show that the entire family believe Bruce to be better than Walter, which brutally offends the latter. You never see Bruce – not even for a cameo!
10. Trudy Beekman in Archer
We know that Mallory Archer is a bit of a conniving so and so from her relationship with her son, gentleman spy Sterling Archer, and the way that she runs the spy agency they both work for (which shall remain nameless, as it does on the show now, since it’s a name that’s now affiliated with an infamous terrorist group) with an iron fist. This is probably the reason that we never see her long-time arch nemesis Trudy Beekman on the show. It’s like a running gag that we only get to hear Mallory’s side of things. Since we’ve never met Trudy, we only have Mallory’s recollection of the way that she speaks: “Meh, meh, meh! I’m Trudy Beekman. I’m on the co-op board and I’m going on a blimp! MEHHH!”
9. Beavis and Butthead’s moms in Beavis and Butthead
Beavis and Butthead is the defining mark of Generation X, the generation of pot-smoking slackers who lay on the couch all day and don’t care about anything. The characters of Beavis and Butthead spend most of every episode just sitting around, watching TV networks like MTV and VH1, and commenting on all of their programming. They made crude sexual references and juvenile jokes and then chuckle to themselves. This whole time, they’re just sitting on a couch in the living room. But while it’s implied that they live with their moms, and they often will shout to them or refer to them, their moms are never actually seen in the TV series or the movie. In the tie-in book This Book Sucks, you see pictures of them in a family tree – where Beavis’ mom looks like a female version of Butthead and Butthead’s mom looks like a female version of Beavis – but that wasn’t in the series, so it doesn’t count as a canon appearance.
8. Halley Wolowitz in The Big Bang Theory
Halley is the daughter of Howard and Bernadette in The Big Bang Theory. She was named after Halley’s comet and Raj is the godfather. Sheldon won’t go anywhere near the baby, and her first word was “Mama,” but she didn’t say it to Bernadette – she said it to Penny. It doesn’t really matter, though. Babies don’t know what the hell they’re doing. They don’t know that “Mama” means “mother” – it’s just an easy sound for them to say. Still, it would’ve been nice for Bernadette to hear her own daughter’s first word. The baby has never actually been seen on camera, but this is an intentional homage to Howard’s mother, who died around the time that Halley was born. As showrunner Steven Molaro explained, “[Halley] is a loving tribute to her grandmother – this is a nice way for us to keep [Mrs. Wolowitz] alive. It also means we don’t have to have a baby on the set, so it solved lots of problems.” Pamela Adlon (aka Bobby Hill from King of the Hill) provides the shrill, shrieking voice of the baby.
7. Cousin Jeffrey in Seinfeld
Uncle Leo is a character you see a lot in Seinfeld, because he’s one of the only members of Jerry’s family who lives in New York with him. Whenever he sees him, he yells out, “Jerry, hello!” But there’s one other Seinfeld family member who lives in New York: Cousin Jeffrey. And you can’t see any appearance of Uncle Leo without, at some point, hearing a mention of Cousin Jeffrey. Uncle Leo likes to point out that Jeffrey works for the Parks Department, like that’s something to brag about. Jerry even once suspected a girlfriend of having an affair with Cousin Jeffrey, and yet we still never got to see him in any of the 180 episodes of Seinfeld that there were across nine seasons. It’s crazy, some of the character who go entirely unseen.
6. The President of the United States in Veep
Veep is a terrific political satire on HBO that stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, the fictional Vice President of the United States. She’s won an Emmy every single year that the show’s been on the air, and she’s deserved them, too. The show is hilarious, searing, and topical, but one thing sticks out and that is that the President who Selina is serving under is never seen. He isn’t even named! Armando Iannucci created Veep as an American adaptation of his earlier British series, The Thick of It, which is similarly about the chaotic and profane inner workings of a government, and in The Thick of It, the Prime Minister is never seen, so the President’s visual absence from Veep is just an evolution of that. His presence is just felt around the West Wing.
5. Dr. Richard Nygard in Parks and Recreation
Dr. Richard Nygard is the therapist who Chris Traeger claims to see “fifteen times a week” on Parks and Recreation. He’s constantly talking about the wisdom that Dr. Nygard imparts onto him, name-dropping the entire “Dr. Richard Nygard” every single time. “My therapist, Dr. Richard Nygard, suggested that I try some non-exercise based hobbies. So, I’ve been studying woodworking with Ron. I made this,” he says, as he holds up a hunk of wood, and adds, “Before I started, it was bigger.” There’s a creepy fan theory – the kind of fan theory that gets passed around Reddit and blows your mind – that Dr. Richard Nygard didn’t really exist, and he was just Chris talking to himself in the mirror. That would explain why we never see him. Also, to know that Chris was actually insane the whole time would explain how he managed to stay so upbeat all the time. He was loopy.
4. Bob Sacamano in Seinfeld
Seinfeld is filled with channels for absurd humor: Newman’s job at the Post Office, Kramer’s hare-brained schemes, George’s foibles with dating, a whole bunch of stuff. One of them is Kramer’s unseen friend Bob Sacamano. Near enough every time something happens, Kramer pulls a new anecdote out of the bag that relates to the incident, and it almost always starts with the words, “My friend Bob Sacamano…” Writer Larry Charles created the character, naming him after a real life friend who was called Bob Sacamano, and apparently, straight after the character was introduced, Charles and the real Sacamano had a falling-out. But stories about the character remained in Kramer’s wheelhouse for the rest of the show’s nine-season run. You almost see him one time, in season 9’s “The Betrayal,” as Kramer waits for him to emerge from a construction site bathroom, but Kramer has to flee the scene before he’s done.
3. Ugly Naked Guy in Friends
For whatever reason, the characters of Friends are obsessed with a fat man who struts around his apartment in the nude opposite Rachel and Monica’s window. It’s like Hitchcock’s Rear Window, except the person they’re spying on from afar isn’t a suspected murderer – he’s just ugly and naked. The guy who appeared as the back of Ugly Naked Guy’s head in his rare screen appearances was revealed recently, after twenty years of being veiled in mystery. For years, Michael Hagerty had been credited as playing Ugly Naked Guy on IMDb, but he actually played the super, Mr. Treeger. But it was recently discovered that it was in fact Jon Haugen, who said that playing Ugly Naked Guy was “the best time in my life.” Right. The producers cast an extra, because they didn’t want anyone to officially “be” Ugly Naked Guy. He had to remain a ghost. That was very important to them.
2. Mrs. Wolowitz in The Big Bang Theory
Debbie Wolowitz, better known as Mrs. Wolowitz, is the mother of Howard Wolowitz in The Big Bang Theory. The character is never seen, even though Howard lived with her for the first few seasons of the show. You only heard her voice, which was provided by Carol Ann Susi until she sadly died, after which they killed off the character out of respect, rather than recasting. Debbie can mostly be found on the toilet throughout the series, and that’s why we don’t see her. For a while, there was a storyline involving a romance between her and Stuart from the comic book store, which was really weird. The character generally adhered to every single stereotype in the book attached to Jewish mothers, and her relationship with Howard had creepy sexual overtones.
1. Maris Crane in Frasier
You never see Maris Crane. You just hear about how great her divorce lawyers are, how cold her heart is, and how tortured she makes her husband/ex-husband Niles feel. But based on all of these things – all the references and the stories and the vivid descriptions – you kind of feel like you do see her and you do know her. Well, the Frasier team, when they were planning their Cheers spinoff, had originally intended for that to be the case in a more literal sense. Frasier co-creator David Lee explained, “When David [Angell], Peter [Casey], and I were writing the pilot, we thought, ‘Let’s pull a fast one on the audience and make them think that we’re going to do a thing like Norm’s wife, Vera, in Cheers, where he talks about her, but you never see her. Let’s do that for a few episodes, and then, surprise! We’re actually going to see her, so we weren’t ripping off that Cheers thing after all.” Knowing that the producers intended to cast the role, each actor in the cast had their own choice for who would play her. But, as Lee explained, the plans changed: “Two or three episodes in, she was already so bizarre, she was uncastable. So, we just went, ‘Well, we’re never going to see her,’ although we did see the shadow of her behind a shower curtain once.” And there you have it.