OTB’s 10 Forgotten Sidekicks..
Sherlock Holmes‘ long-suffering best mate Dr. Watson may have been one of the first sidekicks in modern pop-culture but he certainly hasn’t been the last, so compiling this list was a big job. Honestly.
Every great character deserves a great sidekick. A sidekick should be the voice of reason, the blithering idiot, the sounding board for wacky plans and the source of banter that makes a great partnership. With this in mind we have put together our top ten, rejecting the likes of Samwise, Spock and Robin, for the true unsung heroes…
The first of two dogs in the top ten is Peter Griffin’s best friend, Brian, another canine more intelligent than its master; but this time with the power of speech. This being Family Guy though, his ideals and intellect are usually overshadowed by his drinking and womanising, not to mention Stewie’s megalomania.
Interestingly Peter and Brian seem to reverse the usual sidekick paradigm, with Peter’s abject stupidity often winning out over Brian’s brains in the show, as this clip demonstrates:
A bit of a historical one this, but probably one of the first examples of a sidekick is Don Quixote’s trusty partner in the famous book of the same name by Miguel Cervantes. Sancho is an illiterate, idiot peasant picked by master Don Quixote De La Mancha as a faithful squire on his adventures as a knight errant; leading to many a farcical encounter and gradual role reversal between the pair.
The deluded duo have become the template for all sidekick/hero partnerships since, with Sancho quickly becoming the voice of reason despite his literary shortcomings. The story has been brought to the screen on numerous occasions, but most recently and perhaps most amusingly by John Lithgow and Bob Hoskins:
Only just beating Bender to the title of best robotic sidekick, Marvin deserves to be on the list for being possibly the most depressed character ever created. With a ‘brain the size of a planet’ and Zaphod Beeblebrox as his master, perhaps it’s not surprising that he’s on a bit of a downer, but this combination of his massive intelligence and menial tasks makes for inadvertently great comedy.
One of the better decisions made on the big screen version of the Hitchhikers Guide was casting the permanently dour Alan Rickman to voice Marvin, bringing Douglas Adams’ brilliant writing to a whole new generation.
Shanghai street kid, Wan Li, becomes Indiana Jones’ sidekick after being caught trying to steal his wallet, in the overtly imperialist but highly entertaining Temple of Doom.
Named Short Round by the disconcertingly xenophobic archaeologist, he plays the mischievous scamp to perfection, getting the adults out of several scrapes and providing much light relief with cheeky one-liners.
Often hard to tell apart from the real-life Kevin Smith, his Silent Bob alter-ego appears as the sidekick to Jason Mewes’ Jay, in a string of stoner classics. As with so many of the best sidekicks, Silent Bob stays true to his name, making his brief outbursts at the end of movies all the more amusing.
Compared to the crass ineptitude of his partner in petty crime, Bob’s reserved demeanour and dignified silence works perfectly, massaging Kevin Smith’s bulging ego by giving him maximum screen time for minimum effort.
Another character almost imperceptible from their real life persona, Jason Alexander was made to play loveable loser, George Costanza, in Seinfeld. Often described as the best sitcom character of all time, George’s seemingly constant pitfalls are perfect fodder for his best friend Jerry, whose similarly terrible luck in love pales in comparison.
Apparently written by co-creator Larry David largely about himself, George lives on through the man himself in Curb Your Enthusiasm, but it seems unlikely that there will ever be a better sitcom partnership.
The long-suffering (several centuries of abuse in fact) servant of Rowan Atkinson’s brilliant Edmund Blackadder, Tony Robinson as Baldrick is one of the great comedy sidekicks. Forever dropping his master in it with his cunning plans, the filthy, snivelling idiot of course always seems to maintain the moral high ground, despite being constantly patronised and derided.
To those who only know him as a man who stands around in fields while people dig up old things, here is Tony Robinson at his finest:
Much like Baldrick, Stimpy is clearly the subservient ignoramus in the relationship, yet he consistently and unwittingly comes out smelling of roses; while Ren explodes with rage. This classic dynamic has of course been replicated by many animated duos, from Pinky and the Brain to Asterix and Obelix, but only Ren and Stimpy take the stresses and strains to such extremes.
Like a Spongebob and Patrick for sado-masochists, Stimpy and Ren have the archetypal love hate relationship.
Most sidekicks will fall into one of two categories: the bumbling buffoon or the true genius behind the pairing. Gromit is perhaps the perfect example of the latter, always on hand to save his master, Wallace, from evil houseguests and perilous situations he inevitably becomes embroiled in.
The plucky little dog is of course criminally underappreciated as he uses any number of contraptions to get Wallace through his daily routine and never takes the credit for the duo avoiding certain death and disaster.
The wonderful wookie beats R2D2 to best Star Wars sidekick due to Chewy’s manly relationship with Hans Solo fitting the sidekick mould far better than the R2’s cutesy bleeping beside Luke Skywalker or C3PO. Interestingly, while both characters are completely unintelligible, they both get their point across with surprising clarity, saving the day and endearing themselves to the audience.
Chewy’s skill with a spanner and unwieldy fighting technique are the perfect backup for Solo’s marauding style though, so the big chap gets our vote.
Notable mentions: Al Borland, Carlton Banks, Screech, Billy Rosewood, Murthaugh, Clyde, Goose, Millhouse, Penfold, Snarf, any of Dr Who’s dolly birds.