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The Best TV Characters We Never See On-Screen
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The Best TV Characters We Never See On-Screen

Plot. It’s what drives stories up and down, for better or worse. Characters add to that plot, and what is sometimes more interesting than the characters we see are the ones who have an impact on the story, but aren’t seen. This can be a fun, and often humorous, gimmick employed by writers for various reasons, but the end result is often a positive impact on the story itself.

Sometimes, these characters have little effect on the plot, but can still be widely humorous. When done correctly, this device can even add an air of completeness to the stories being told, and as opposed to the ongoing mystery of the characters’ absence, the audience can enjoy the over-arching story. These are the best characters not seen on screen, in no particular order.


10 Honorable Mention: Wilson — Home Improvement


The critically acclaimed comedy Home Improvement ran eight seasons and was some of comedian Tim Allen’s best work on a series along with his work on Last Man Standing. The former starred Allen in the role of Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, Patricia Richardson as his wife, Jill, Richard Karn as co-host, Al Borland, as well as a slew of others including one of the Taylor’s three sons, breakout star, Jonathon Taylor Thomas. Like anyone, Tim needed advice on all things life, and for that advice, he turned to wise, and taller than a fence post neighbor, Wilson W. WIlson Jr. He is an honorable mention here because, unlike others on this list, he is seen, but only from mid-face up as there is always a fence or obstacle obstructing his face. A couple of times, the audience felt they may actually see his face due to no obstacle being in the way, but the writers always had the viewers fooled and would find a clever way to disguise it all the way until the series finale curtain call.

Related: 10 TV Shows That Should Have Ended After One Season

9 Dr. Claw — Inspector Gadget


Inspector Gadget was a wildly popular kids show and even had a later film adaptation starring Matthew Broderick. The show focused on Inspector Gadget, who, aided by his niece Penny and her dog, waged a seemingly endless battle against evil and the menacing Dr. Claw. Unlike other cartoon shows of the era, like Transformers and G.I. Joe, where we see the villains Megatron and Cobra Commander respectively, the audience never sees beyond a shadow of Dr. Claw. His deep and menacing voice is heard, voiced by the extremely talented Frank Welker (who also voices the aforementioned Megatron), and we see an armored glove here and there, but the villain is never actually seen in the clear, and for a show where the main villain is as visible as a ghost as well as posing an ominous threat, that feat was pretty impressive.

8 Maris — Frasier


The first wife of Niles Crane (David Hyde Pierce), Maris has quite the impact on Frasier. It is stated that Niles married for the money and that Maris is a socialite from a wealthy family. While never seen, beyond a shadow and a Roz impersonation, Maris is described aptly in the series. Tall, thin, no pigment, and webbed fingers are all descriptors of her physical appearance, while Frasier himself once referred to her as “like the sun, except with no warmth.” Maris is also compared to that of her dog, as the two share an apparent uncanny resemblance. Nevertheless, she drives the plot forward in other ways such as adding comedy to specific parts of the show, as well as being the source of Nile’s money throughout season 1.

7 Envelope Guy — America’s Funniest Home Videos


Bob Saget seemed to be everywhere in the early-90s. Surprisingly, he was dubbed “America’s Dad” for his role on Full House despite being one of the dirtiest onstage comedians of the time. Saget was a pro at comedy and this continued with his run on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Week after week, Saget would narrate and do incredible voice-overs while families duked it out for the honor of being the funniest video in America for the week. Each week, the final result was handed off to Bob by “Envelope Guy.” Much like Maris above, what we know about Envelope Guy was given in small bits over the course of the show by Bob himself as this character is only described and never seen. At one point in the show, there was even a contest to have viewers depict envelope guy based on the descriptors that were given over the years.

6 Cousin Jeffrey — Seinfeld

Number 8 - Seinfeld-1
Columbia Pictures Television

The “Show About Nothing” was just that. An instant classic to viewers chalked full of inside jokes and crazy stories, aided by the comedy of Jerry Seinfeld, Seinfeld was a pleasant change of pace for sitcom viewers of the time. Each week, Jerry and the gang would find themselves in situations that would often annoy them, and every week, the audience would laugh at their misfortune. This is especially apparent when Jerry’s Cousin Jeffery is spoken of on several occasions by Uncle Leo, Jeffrey’s father. The audience doesn’t know much about Jeffrey except he has the tendency to annoy Seinfeld, which, you know, who didn’t do that? He looks like a horse, works at the Parks Department, and stays in to watch nature shows. Sounds like a wild guy.

Related: Best TV Shows of All Time, Ranked

5 Miss Othmar — Peanuts

Cartoon Network

One of the more quotable characters on this list, Charlie Brown’s teacher (as well as all adults) from Peanuts, Miss Othmar is always depicted as being incomprehensive when speaking. Always sounding like she has a mouthful of peanut butter, her unmistakable “bwah bwah bwah” is likely an accurate depiction of what most children hear when speaking to adults.

4 Vera Peterson — Cheers

CBS Television Distribution

A character that was never seen, but heard several times, Vera is Norm’s beloved wife in Cheers. She is aware that Norm, among others, hang out at the place where everybody knows your name, she just doesn’t care. Norm does make many jokes at her expense, but he does love her very much, which drives the plot forward for their relationship.

3 Sarah — The Andy Griffith Show

andy griffith show
CBS Television Distribution 

One of the earliest examples of a character appearing off-screen, as well as being pretty important, was the role of Sarah from The Andy Griffith Show. Sarah was Mayberry’s switchboard operator and was famous for listening in on conversations between the townsfolk of the intimately small Mayberry. Throughout the show, Sheriff Taylor would remind Sarah not to listen to his calls in particular, but in the end, curiosity got the best of her on many occasions, and she just couldn’t help herself.

2 Charlie Townsend — Charlie’s Angels


Voiced by the late John Forsythe, Charlie was obviously a huge part of the show that bears his name, Charlie’s Angels. Weekly, the wealthy do-gooder would assign his angels missions from clients through his speakerphone and, without fail, the fearsome trio would complete the missions successfully. Spawning a few movies, some have found success, but none have come close to capturing the magic of the original show which starred Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Jacyln Smith. The show helped set the tone for strong women characters in shows, and the women often kicked major, well…you know.

1 Ms. Wolowitz — The Big Bang Theory


Debbie Wolowitz was a major character on the highly successful sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, and the audience only saw a brief glimpse of her torso once. Voiced by the late and talented Carol Ann Susi, Ms. Wolowitz was highly protective of her son Howard. She was often the object of many of the shows jokes, but she also showed great compassion for Howard and his friends. This is made all the more evident when the real life death of Susi caused the character to also be written off the show. During the touching good-bye episode, Howard and his friends remember fondly the positive impact she had on all their lives, and even though she was depicted as an overprotective, overbearing woman, her actions offscreen are made very apparent as being quite impactful on the close-knit group of friends.