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Is Stephen King Creepier Than His Own Characters? Yeah, Probably.

By Andrew Blumetti

Rock Bottom Remainders In Concert

“My next story features David Ortiz…it’s full of bats.  Get it?!?”

WARNING!  BEWARE OF THE NORTHEAST UNITED STATES!

When the red, yellow, and orange leaves begin to swiftly flutter to the ground and crunch under the weight of your shoe, and jackets make their way out of the closet faster than Liberace, things begin to get especially eerie up in the beautiful and quaint New England area.

No, you goofball, I’m not talking about the cackling Salem witches, and I am somewhat sure I’m not referring to Bill Belichick attempting to crack a smile and thus cracking a black hole in the nexus of the universe.

Nope, it’s the ever-ghastly presence of the morose master of the macabre, Mr. Maine himself, Stephen King.

“Quick, pull on my beard, it’ll keep us safe!”

Since the horror author first put spooky pen to paper, and began writing in the early 1950’s, libraries and bookstore shelves haven’t been safe thanks to King’s devilish novels and stories of blood-thirsty vampires, deathly plagues and killer cars.

Don’t think for a second this phenomenon is limited to only the written word, as the film adaptations of his wicked works have infamously become a part of classic American cinema history.  He’s crafted a wealth of terrifying tales that have scurried their way into our collective nightmares for decades and will surely continue to do so for years to come, long after King has hung up that same pen.

Part of King’s appeal is that he’s more than ready to delve into the seediest and darkest parts of our psyches, stirring up the pot and unleashing sinister and malevolent characters very few could imagine and even less would want to cross paths with.

That just raises the question– For all these years, how does he do it?  Why is he such a master at this bone-chilling craft?  Is Dracula his pops?  Too many Universal Monster marathons as a kid?   Perhaps a dark childhood could be the reason?

What leads someone to have such a natural knack for giving us the heebie-jeebies up our collective spine?  Is Stephen King really the most nightmareish creature to ever walk the earth?

Well, eight rounds with a handful of his own created brutes oughta answer that question for us…

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ROUND ONE:  “NO BEER AND NO TV MAKE HOMER SOMETHING SOMETHING…”

king jack

“Is this apple juice?  It’s apple, juice, right?”

 

THE CHALLENGER:  Jack Torrance

STORY:  The Shining

STRENGTHS:  Sinister smile, friendly with fiends, heck of a swing with an axe

WEAKNESSES:  Not so speedy in the freshly-fallen snow, ghost bartenders say he’s a lousy tipper

Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 classic on the King favorite, The Shining, has the honor of creating a veritable buffet of some of the most infamously creepy scenes in Hollywood history, often centered around Jack Torrance, in a role that was practically made for Jack Nicholson.  In the film version, Jack takes on Jack, a caretaker influenced by the evil spirits of a giant empty hotel  (Devil Tree Holiday InnsaneMotel 666Scaryiott?) closed down for the long winter.

…and when he isn’t busy trying to turn his family into his former family, Jack spends long snowy days in the middle of nowhere lending a hand out on Extreme Home Makeover. 

Say it with me… MOVE… THAT… BUS!!!

“Hey door- YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”

…and not to be outdone themselves, as an added bonus, the classic “soil-your-pants-in-fear” Grady twins who hang out in the hallway of TACKY WALLPAPER!!

Sure, they’re unsettling, but aren’t the Olsen twins too?

“We… wore… the same thing.”

Now, they might be permanently etched into your dreams tonight, but don’t tell me this guy’s any better…

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RESULT?:  Jack’s just a queen compared to this king.  Steve takes home the early victory.

CURRENT SCORE:

CHARACTERS:  0

KING:  1

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ROUND TWO:  THIS IS RUFF

“Sure, Beethoven got to hang out with Charles Grodin, I get fake blood on me.”

THE CHALLENGER:  Cujo

STORY:  Cujo

STRENGTHS:  massive angry pup who’s as big as a Buick, vicious bark, fetches only the obituary section of the newspaper

WEAKNESSES:  constantly wasting time to lift his leg on hydrants, can be distracted with Milk Bones

He certainly doesn’t put the “saint” in Saint Bernard…

Many unfortunate folks became Alpo for Cujo, the rabid homicidally playful pup who single-handedly pawedly terrorized a peaceful Maine neighborhood, and was kicked out of Petco more times than I can count.

“It’s BACONNNNN!!!!”

Stephen King, on the other hand, has been kicked out of Starbucks like four times.   Geez, just let everyone enjoy their Pumpkin Spice Lattes in peace, Steve.

“They call the small size ‘tall’, now, THAT’s creepy!”

RESULT?:  Hot dog!  We have a weiner!   … and it’s King.

CURRENT SCORE:

CHARACTERS:  0

KING:  2

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ROUND THREE:  HELLO NURSE!

“You can’t stop me.  I survived in ‘Titanic’.”

 

THE CHALLENGER:  Annie Wilkes

STORY:  Misery

STRENGTHS:  facing a nearly immobile victim, playing on home turf, shops in the “Murder Aisle” at Home Depot

WEAKNESSES:   homebound weirdo, frumpy dresser

Now, haunted chambermaids and misunderstood pooches, that’s merely child’s play.  Here’s a real challenge:  Annie Wilkes, the batcrap crazy nurse with a heart of poo in King’s classic, Misery, is nuttier than a Snickers bar and quite the menace with a sledgehammer.  After her favorite author in the world, Paul Sheldon, seriously crashes his car in the snow near her remote home, Wilkes rescues, cares for, traps, and tortures him, all in one heartfelt tale.

“What do you mean muffins are surprisingly high in calories?!?”

But… keep in mind, this is how Stephen King acts when the crowd sings “Sweet Caroline” at Fenway Park.  Uncalled for…

“Good times never seemed so good… SO GOOD! SO GOOD!”

RESULT?:  King surprisingly hobbled the nurse for the win.

CURRENT SCORE:

CHARACTERS:  0

KING:  3

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ROUND FOUR:  CLOWNIN’ AROUND

“I do Sudoku puzzles… IN INK!”

NAME:  Pennywise the Clown

STORY:  It

STRENGTHS:  being a terrifying clown, which is basically all you need here

WEAKNESSES: big goofy shoes make it awkward to walk, clown suit provides no fly to go to the bathroom

One of King’s all-time classics, It, is a long, long book with a long, long miniseries that starred Tim Curry as the infamous clown college dropout, “Pennywise”, a terrifying transformation of a malevolent force which exploits its victims’ worst fears, and is probably the reason your girlfriend is terrified of clowns.

He also went on to eventually went on to bang on tin drums on stage for Slipknot.  Or something…

“I don’t care if we’re rolling. I don’t step foot on set till I finish my bear claw.”

Clowns, schmowns, say goodbye to your balloon animals, cause Stephen King’s here, to sell you crappy kitchen knives, door-to-door!

RESULT?:  A big red nose, and a big red loss for the clown.  Halfway through, and we add another in the win column for King!

CURRENT SCORE:

CHARACTERS:  0

KING:  4

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ROUND FIVE:  THIS ROUND “SUCKS”

“Hurry up, I have to go host on The View.”

THE CHALLENGER:  Kurt Barlow

STORY:  Salem’s Lot

STRENGTHS:  head vampire, which luckily doesn’t include much paperwork

WEAKNESSES:  says, “fangs a lot” too much

In a book that King has referred to as his favorite in several interviews, Salem’s Lot tells the story of an writer who returns to his small Maine hometown, to find the residents are turning into bloodsucking vampires who fall in love with Kristen Stewart.  Word is, she didn’t smile once through the whole relationship.

Kurt Barlow (not to be confused with his cousin, Lou Barlow, who fronted 90’s lo-fi darlings, Sebadoh) is a master vampire, who notoriously terrorizes the town, and avoids all meals containing any trace of garlic, simply cause of bad breath.  In the novel, Barlow is depicted as a human, but is given a ghastly Nosferatu-esque appearance in the film adaptation, as seen here:

“Okay, who put my hand in warm water while I was sleeping?!?”

Stephen King, well, he just looks like a slightly thinner, less-fun version of Fat Mac from season 7 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia:

“I’m packing on mass.”

RESULT?:  Back to the coffin, it’s King by a country mile, again.

CURRENT SCORE:

CHARACTERS:  0

KING:  5

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ROUND SIX:  YOU DA PROM!

 

carrie

“I may look happy, but my date has the hair of an English Sheepdog.”

THE CHALLENGER:  Carrie White

STORY:  Carrie

STRENGTHS:  a mean case of telekinesis, bug eyes

WEAKNESSES:  extreme shyness, unstable nut mother, ruined prom dress

Many believe King, like many famous authors, loves to cloak his blood-soaked tales of terror heavily in metaphors.

Sure, Carrie may be the tale of a shy, bullied high-schooler who exacts her revenge on her tormenters at the prom, connecting bridges to areas of isolation, religion and the troubled youth of our society.  But really, Carrie, one of the most notorious banned-books in high schools across the country, is much more straight-forward; it’s really the story of a shy high-school girl who is really bad at pouring ketchup:

“But I tapped the bottle right on the ’57’, how did this happen?!?”

But even if you didn’t find a date to the prom, an encouraging word to all the single readers out there spending wakeless hours a day on Match.com… Don’t lose faith, this guy found a wife!

(I almost take it back, this picture is kinda awesome.)

RESULT?:  The win goes to the prom king.

CURRENT SCORE:

CHARACTERS:  0

KING:  6

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ROUND SEVEN:  “DON’T STAND SO CLOSE TO ME”

“The world may have ended, so I just raided Jay Leno’s closet.”

THE CHALLENGER:  Randall Flagg

STORY:  The Stand

STRENGTHS:  pure concentrated evil, a love for demin

WEAKNESSES:  bossy, kind of a jerk, and let’s face it, way too much denim to be honest

Look what the cat dragged in…   It’s Randall Flagg, King’s self-proclaimed “best villain”, who was featured in a number of his works, but most notably as the antagonist of the apocalyptic magnum opus, The Stand.

After 99% of civilization takes a swan dive thanks to a released superflu, the wicked Flagg begins an arbitrary society of some survivors in Las Vegas of all places.   Not only do you not want to run into Flagg at the craps or poker table, you just don’t want to run into him period.  Just ask Wayne Newton.

He’s super-duper evil and has maraschino cherries for eyes.  He killed a lot of people, but most significantly of all, he killed Laura San Giacomo’s career.

“This mullet will end humanity one day.”

…and Stephen King has a fantastically creepy Dwight Schrute-ish face.

“Mose is chopped up and hidden in my backyard.”

RESULT?: Bears.  Beets.  Battlestar Galactica.  King for the win!

CURRENT SCORE:

CHARACTERS:  0

KING:  7

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ROUND EIGHT:  EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS

 

It’s nice to see they’re still giving Wanda Sykes job opportunities. 

THE CHALLENGER:  Evil giant spider

STORY:  The Mist

STRENGTHS:  speed, shoots acid, stronger webs than Spiderman, there’s a billion of little ones crawling around

WEAKNESSES:  none, this thing could kill me in a second.

The Mist, a novella by King which was turned into the feel good film of the century by The Walking Dead series developer, Frank Darabont, featured a bountiful bevy of freaks, monsters and deadly oddballs in an unnatural evil fog engulfing a small town and closing in on a group of its trapped townspeople.

..and if you hate spiders, oh man, they had spiders.   They broke into millions of little freakin’ spiders and had webs of acid too, unlike regular spiders, which make webs Gwen Stefani walks into.

“Sorry I’m not home right now, I’m walking into spider webs, so leave a message and I’ll call you back!”

Ok.  The spider wins.  Sorry King.

FINAL SCORE:

CHARACTERS:  1

KING:  7

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and the winner is… 

Well, dang-it, 26 outs is close to a perfect game, and King came pretty close in his own right today.  In a landslide, there’s no question on who’s the creepiest of the creepies, long live the…. yep…  King.

king

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Come As You Arf! Celebrating Dog Nirvana

By Andrew Blumetti

The Bad News:  You look at your calendar and reality sinks in like a cold bath that it’s officially now deep into 2013.  That means twenty years ago, 90’s Seattle-alterna-rock legends Nirvana were probably sick of playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on a nightly basis at this point already.

The Good News:  In dog years, that’s 140 years, so when you think about it, we’re not really that old.

Now that has been established, here’s my attempt to not lift my leg on one of the all-time great rock bands in history.  It may or may not have worked.

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“When I swear that I don’t have a bone!” 

 

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Krist playing bass during “Milk (Bone) It”

 

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Courtney Love wasn’t the only dog in that relationship.

 

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A dog’s least favorite song on this record? 

 

“Train You”

 

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Grrrrrr-ohl.

 

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From the MTV Unplugged concert, an acoustic version of David Bowie’s “The Doberman Who Sold the World”.

 

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One of Nirvana’s classics, “Heart Shaped Barks”

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Tarantino’s Wuss Pack

By Andrew Blumetti

Quentin Tarantino (tærənˈtiːnoʊ), noun One of the most prolific, controversial and popular film directors of the past two decades.  His over-the-top smattering of grindhouse ultra-violence, 70’s throwback nostalgia, dialogue-heavy scenes and non-linear story telling has captivated movie goers from east to west and north to south, and back to east again.

Mr. Tarantino’s given us quite the array of characters in his seven (or eight if you split the Kill Bills) major motion pictures.  Unsavory, immoral, and entertaining as the night is long, their bigger-than-life personalities jump out from the screen, grab us by the scruff of the neck, and demand our attention.

…and I wouldn’t like to run into any of them in a dark alley any day (but to be fair, I wouldn’t want to be in a dark alley anyway.  It’s a breeding ground for puddles and gum to get stuck on the bottom of your shoe).

Lucky for me though, the way the world works, things often balance out.  For every Mr. Blonde, Pai Mei, or Hugo Stiglitz that makes us wet our collective britches in fear, there’s gotta be some lightweights shuffling around in Queint’s flicks… and I’ll take my chances with them in a dark alley anytime.

I now present, “The Top Ten Tarantino Non-Toughies I Could Probably Take in a Fight”

(much like old sour cream in the toasty July sun, the following is NOT spoiler-free)

1. Mr. Blue (Reservoir Dogs, 1992) portrayed by Eddie Bunker

The ‘Dogs resident seasoned vet with that impressive ‘stache and psycho gleam in his eyes.  Now, he’d probably have me eating red-hot lead within seconds, but considering I was 12 when this movie came out, and he was old then, I think he may be the only one of the colored-named criminals in the bunch I could’ve held my own against.

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2. Brett (Pulp Fiction, 1994) portrayed by Frank Whaley

One of the four clowns who decided to screw over Band-aided crime kingpin, Marsellus Wallace, Brett is actually a whiter guy than me, which I never thought possible.  His ability to get rubber-mouth under pressure, and the fact that he eats cheeseburgers for breakfast sure puts the odds in my corner.

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3. Buck (Kill Bill- Vol. 1, 2003) portrayed by Michael Bowen

The creepy orderly in the hospital who had a gross on-the-side business dealing with coma patients.  This immoral entrepreneurial weirdo met his eventual fate from a fresh out-of-coma patient with dead legs, so that’s gotta put me in a good spot.

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4. Warren (Death Proof, 2007) portrayed by Quentin Tarantino

In a film full of mostly tough adrenaline-seeking women who’d whoop me in a heartbeat, I had to find one of the few fellas in the latter half of Grindhouse to pick.  Now, if I couldn’t at least go toe-to-toe with a cornball bartender (played by Quentin himself) who pushes a drink called “Chartreuse”, then it’s time to hand in my man-card.

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5. Master Sgt. Wilhelm (Inglourious Basterds, 2009) portrayed by Alexander Fehling

Guten tag!  A German soldier given the night off to celebrate the birth of his son, Wilhelm’s crap timing finds himself smack dab in the middle of a firefight inside a Parisian pub.

Sure, he’s a Nazi, and sure, he’s experienced with heavy artillery, but the guy and his fellow soldier comrades seem like sloppy drunks, like Jersey Shore-ish drunk.  And if there’s one time Andrew can successfully pull off a strike, it’s when battling against the very inebriated.  That’s why I’d be so good at fending off zombies, they’re just like decaying cannibalistic drunks.

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6. Larry Gomez (Kill Bill- Vol. 2, 2004) portrayed by Larry Bishop

I do feel bad putting anyone on this list who’s been in Kung Fu, Laverne and Shirley and The Dukes of Hazzard, especially someone who made me laugh so much in the second Kill Bill installment.

He spent his lone five minutes in the film snorting coke with a trashy exotic dancer and chewing out Michael Madsen for being late to work, so outside of those five minutes, he’d probably beat the everloving cake out of me, so strike when the iron is hot.

I bet he’d enjoy my Sylvester Stallone article though, seeing as he kinda looks like him.

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7. Mark Dargus (Jackie Brown, 1997) played by Michael Bowen

I’m really banking this list on the fact that Michael Bowen’s got a glass jaw, cause otherwise, I’m toast.

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8. “The Gimp” (Pulp Fiction, 1994) portrayed by Stephen Hibbert

This leather wearing, zipper-mouthed freak basically went down in one stealth hit by a just-out-of-a-car-accident Bruce Willis.  Despite his creepy mask, “The Gimp” doesn’t necessarily instill much fear, seeing as he was tethered on a leash the whole time, and I’m highly suspect that Jim Belushi is actually under that costume.

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9. Francesca Modino’s poodle (Inglourious Basterds, 2009)

Here we have the prissy dog of the prissy Francesca Modino (Julie Dreyfus), the French-to-German interpreter to Head of Propaganda in Germany, Joseph Goebbels.  Naturally, fighting animals is a big no-no (I really don’t want PETA getting all huffy and puffy, protesting to shut down my blog and toss red paint over computer screens nationwide),  but I’d put the over/under at me beating this dog at a foot race at about 65/35.

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10.  Billy Crash (Django Unchained, 2012) portrayed by Walton Goggins

Cowboys are the true classic American-definition of “manly”.  They’re gruff, tough, and I’m guessing their sweat smells like a leather couch from Crate and Barrel.

Billy Crash may have been quick with the six-shooter and wore a pretty sweet hat, but he was all talk, with nothing to back it up when push comes to shove.  Basically he’s kind of like a slavery-era cowboy version of every single stupid bully in every single stupid after-school special that ran in lieu of Duck Tales.

Man, I hated those.

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The Top Mop-Top Flops on The Boob Tube

By Andrew Blumetti

Remember Dutch Boy Paint?  Travel down any hardware store aisle, and that lovable lil’ scamp with the rosy cheeks and sunshine-colored locks will be smiling right back at you, dripping yellow paintbrush in hand, begging for a home on your living room walls.

For a company actually based out of Ohio, that’s a pretty adorable idea, and boy howdy, it sold buckets of the stuff.  One couldn’t be blamed to think it would make sense that the same look would translate well in other areas of marketing, right?  Throw some shaggy blonde hair on a chihuahua and maybe that bilingual Taco Bell dog would still be around.  Maybe the GEICO cavemen would’ve been easier to stomach if they popped a little peroxide on that noggin.

Surprisingly enough, Tinsletown never felt the same way.  Case in point:  the 20th Century epidemic of irrelevant WASP-y sitcom children who forgettably graced our television sets.

Follow the yellow-haired road:

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1. Jonathan Bower (Who’s The Boss?) played by Danny Pintauro

According to IMDB, he was on all 196 episodes of the series, and I can’t remember anything significant he did in any of them.  That Danza was really an attention hog, wasn’t he?

Honestly it’s more shocking that show ran that long.  To think we watched Mona decompose for eight seasons is borderline terrifying.

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2. Andrew “Andy” Keaton (Family Ties) played by Brian Bonsall

Now, there’s clearly some bias here, seeing as how the character and I share the same first name.  Despite that, this impish pre-turd loses major points for trying to steal the irrelevant thunder from Nick and Skippy, two already established characters who proudly claimed that throne for years before this punk came around.  Respect your elders Andy.

For more recent news on Bonsall, check your local police blotter, as the now throat-tattooed former child actor was arrested for attacking a friend with a wooden stool.  You can bet Skippy is faring much better.

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3. Mark Taylor (Home Improvement) played by Taran Noah Smith

Remember when Mark Taylor broke Tim’s wrench?  Or when he was tricked to think he was adopted?  Or the time he went to the mall, went on a Hot Topic shopping spree, bought some guyliner and turned all goth on us?

Nope?  Me neither.  Because there were already two other floppy spaghetti-haired runts on the show already.  The quota was already reached, and Mark ended up being the biggest tool on the show.

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4. Seven (Married… with Children) played by Shane Sweet

A classic case of subtraction by addition.  A hated character who the writers at least had the brains to quickly write off the show…  and leave us with more air time for shim neighbor Marcy, who would’ve turned full-on into a man, had the show ran a couple more seasons.  The actual film, Seven, didn’t have that ugly of an ending.

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5. Ben Seaver (Growing Pains) played by Jeremy Miller

See:  #1.

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6. Nicky and Alex Katsopolis (Full House) played by Dylan and Blake Tuomy-Wilhoit

When you’re on a show with Dave Coulier and you’re still the most annoying blonde, you’re doing something wrong.  Cut. It. Out!

It seems odd that two parents, neither of whom were blonde, gave birth to these two hay-haired Hitler-youths.  Come to think of it, there was only one cute blonde on this show, and it was Comet, the golden retriever.  Between you and me, I bet Blake was the primadonna of the two.

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7. Cousin Oliver (The Brady Bunch) played by Robbie Rist

One of the quintessential examples of shark jumping… literally.  Cousin Oliver (The Brady Bunch’s unwanted answer to The Partridge Family’s already unwanted Ricky) was another child in a show filled with already too many children.  His look-  a dwarfy John Denver with serial killer potential who probably smelled like corn chips, never resonated with American viewing audiences.

Clearly, you gotta earn your way into those nine squares.

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8. Elroy Jetson (The Jetsons)

Confession time.  I actually can’t say I’ve ever watched an episode of the futuristic family spacecom, The Jetsons, so it may not be fair for me to pick on this animated little extra-terrestrial ragamuffin who dresses like he’s sporting a Oktoberfest costume from the Party City bargain bin.

On the other hand, this kid has those evil squirrel eyes  …and he looks like he’s from Switzerland  …and why he wears a wrist watch in space is beyond me.

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