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The lead characters in sitcoms often become immortalised in the public consciousness thanks to their distinctive appearances, catchphrases, and mannerisms. Of course, the likes of David Brent, Dellboy, and Mark Corrigan deserve their place as comedy icons, but we’re shining a light on the dark horses in sitcoms.
Here are 8 of the most underrated characters in comedy:
The dry and sarcastic Tim Canterbury, played by the brilliant Martin Freeman, is often overlooked. He isn’t the butt of the jokes like Gareth, nor does he have the limelight of Brent, or even the cult following of Keith, but his deadpan interjections emphasise the absurdness of the other characters whilst delivering plenty of good old-fashioned British mockery.
Writing and starring in an Edinburgh Fringe-turned-West End show-turned-BBC sitcom makes Phoebe Waller-Bridge a pretty difficult person to upstage. Enter, Olivia Coleman. The often warm, likeable and charming actress plays Fleabag’s stepmother – who’s kind of an arse – adding even more hilarity to the flawlessly written but deeply flawed character.
You may think Rodney is the most simple character in Only Fools And Horses, but Del’s friend Trigger gives him a run for his money. Whilst the iconic British sitcom’s supporting cast has many underrated characters, the gormless Trigger (played by Roger Lloyd-Pack) makes our list thanks to his deadpan, monotone deliveries and the guarantee that every joke made will go over his head.
Watching Maggie and Andy in Extras feels like observing you and your own best friend, but then you remember Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant wrote it and you’re both probably not that funny. Ashley Jensen’s character is sincere and fallible, delivering hilarious one-liners and finding herself in situations that allow the other characters, big and small, to have their moments too.
Every character in Shrill is written so brilliantly it’s impossible to have a favourite – but somebody’s got to make the list, and we’re going with comedian Lolly Adefope as Fran. Casting a British stand-up as the level-headed, straight-talking best friend to the protagonist creates a perfect contrast to the other characters in the American show. Expect dry, deadpan truth bombs and a thriving female friendship.
Oh No, It’s Selwyn Froggitt isn’t a sitcom that boasts regular reruns like many of its contemporaries, making it a less familiar name to a modern audience – hence why the title character has made this list. Bill Maynard plays the hapless but endearing handyman whose good nature won over the nation in the ’70s through distinctive northern humour and a smattering of slapstick.
Johnson is the ultimate alpha-male and a stark contrast to Mark and Jez – the leading men of Peep Show. Portrayed by Paterson Joseph, he’s a character so unlikable that you love him and so satisfyingly obnoxious that you can’t help but quote him, hoping that whoever you’re speaking to realises it’s a Peep Show reference.
Alan Partridge’s very normal and nice PA Lynn Benfield is the perfect character to contrast with her delusional and offbeat boss. In fact, Lynn is as underrated as a comedy character in the sitcom as she is undervalued by Alan in the show. Played by Felicity Montagu, the obliging, conscientious character is constantly made to feel ridiculous and inferior by Alan, creating a subtle but constant sense of irony that runs through each episode.
For more from the world of comedy, check out our guide.