Every Batman has his Robin, every Don Quixote his Sancha Paza — and any sitcom protagonist is nothing without his comedic, ego-boosting sidekick. It’s a symbiotic relationship — every main man needs a sounding board; every sidekick needs a star’s spotlight to bask in. But every so often a supporting actor entirely outshines the headliner. Browse through the sidekicks we think add more to their shows than their dominant counterparts, and tell us who you’d add in the comments.
Kimmy Gibbler > D.J. Tanner, Full House
The Tanners hand out love to every stray that passes their heartwarming San Francisco abode, and yet Kimmy Gibbler, D.J.’s loyal best friend, is nothing but an annoying neighborhood teen in their eyes. What the Tanners don’t recognize about Kimmy as she busts though their front door, uninvited and unwelcome, is that she is the only source of style and spunk in their boring, stuck-up daughter’s life. Sure, her feet might stink, but Kimmy has the moxie that Danny’s precious eldest lacks, both shaking her up when she’s buried in homework and putting Deeg in her place when she crosses a moral line.
Amanda Tanen > Betty Suarez, Ugly Betty
Amanda is the catty, ditzy receptionist at Mode magazine who endlessly teases Ugly Betty about everything from her clothes to her nationality and uses sex appeal to advance her career. Although she’s unlikeable, we would argue that this sassy shit-starter is the best character on the show. Her over-the-top callousness is perfectly calculated to make us laugh both with and at her, and while she remains as biting as ever, as the series progresses, she begins to reveal her vulnerable side, where she falls prey to stress eating, daddy issues, and even harbors a soft spot for Betty.
Fonzie > Richie Cunningham, Happy Days
You tell us who wins this face-off: One of them is remembered as that guy from Happy Days, and one has become idiomatically synonymous with “cool.” The Fonz, born Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli, started out as the all-American protagonist’s biker-boy sidekick, protecting him in the hallway and educating him in the ways of street smarts, but his lovable penchant for the thumbs ups and irresistible swagger soon bumped him up to the series’ lead role. In the show’s 1980 cartoon spin-off, retitled The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang as though to prove our point for us, Fonzie even got his own sidekick dog imbued with the ability to perform his signature thumbs up-“heyyy” line.
Abed Nadir > Troy Barnes, Community
It’s together that these two soul mates, who met in a Greendale Community College Spanish study group, thrive, but while Abed is the less popular and more awkward of the pair — and of the whole study group, really — he has the most insight into the group’s dynamic and its individuals’ emotions. He’s clueless about how people view him and takes everything literally, but he’s integral to the study group, has eerily accurate foresight, and is the pinnacle of humor in a show that’s all about delivering laughs.
Abed shines brightest after Community‘s closing credits, when he and Troy habitually do strange things in front of the camera. But despite his genius, his bromance with Troy wasn’t originally written into the show at all. According to producer Dan Harmon, the initial tag team he scripted was made up of Troy and Pierce (Chevy Chase), until he saw Abed and Troy rapping together at a red carpet event one day and knew he had to take advantage of their chemistry.
Screech Powers > Zack Morris, Saved by the Bell
The ultimate in sidekicks, Samuel “Screech” Powers does best friend Zack’s homework and generally everything else Zack tells him to. In return, Zack lets Screech hang with the cool kids and acts as his muscle in the hallways of Bayside High. Zack is the most popular guy in school and Saved by the Bell’s beloved chick magnet, but he’s been relying on Screech to boost his confidence since kindergarten. Screech, meanwhile, hides in his locker, likes science and chess, and wears eccentric getups (even for the ‘80s). He’s a textbook nerd, but he’s going places with or without Zack; he builds himself a robot that lives in his bedroom. A robot. His loyalty to Zack is by choice, not by necessity, and that makes him all the more superior in our eyes.
Fez > Eric (and Kelso and Hyde), That ’70s Show
Fez — short for foreign exchange student — was rescued from the coat hook of a janitors closet by Eric Forman’s That ‘70s Show crew and has been a member of their basement smoking sessions ever since. His undetermined nationality is a running gag, teasingly hinted at several times but never revealed, which allows him to be the butt of the show’s many xenophobic jokes. The gullible, blunt sidekick, whom many have assumed to be gay, does not understand sarcasm and is in relentless, often unsuccessful pursuit of a girlfriend. While Eric is caught up in the drama of being an ignorant high school boy, Fez lives his life drama-free and has full confidence in his natural romantic charm.
Boner > Mike Seaver, Growing Pains
Richard Milhous “Boner” Stabone was Growing Pains star Mike Seaver’s best friend, but over the years, he became something of a member of the Seaver family — something of a favorite child, even. The day he was shipped off to the Marines was a sad one for American television viewers. We still miss the character, and mourn Andrew Koenig, the actor who portray him, who died last year in an apparent suicide.
Dale Kettlewell > Rusty Cartwright, Greek
Before he was Jacob in Hot Tub Time Machine, Clark Duke was Dale Kettlewell in Greek. As Rusty’s bible-loving, Confederate flag-hanging, lisping freshman year roommate, Dale wears ‘70s-style patterned shirts every day of the week and founds Cyprus-Rhodes University’s Students Against Greeks club (USAG) while Rusty pledges Kappa Tau. Dale has a habit of heading down questionable paths — like when he dates a cougar he met online and joins Omega Chi, Rusty’s rival fraternity — but everything he does, he does with immense zeal and with his nagging sense of right and wrong in mind. While Greek is arguably Rusty and older sister Casey’s saga, it’s Dale whose life we’re most eager to follow, and it’s Dale who matures the most after matriculating at CRU.
Dwight Schrute > Michael Scott, The Office
Dwight is exceedingly loyal to his hero and boss, Michael, who in turn undervalues his most devoted follower. Equally oblivious and socially exiled, they’re an organic pair. But while Michael’s overstated awkwardness is a little too much to handle, Dwight’s outright malevolence (with no authority to back it up) makes him the more fascinating of the two.