Benson, Bob Benson here. Fine day this is. Where are my manners? Can I get you anything, sir? Coffee? Tea, perhaps, if you’re looking for some, as my father used to say, caffeine minus the mean? I’m not sure what he meant by that. No one did. Horrible drunk. Just horrible. Fancy dresser, though. I have his pair of swimming trunks in my office, in fact. Anyway, please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you…anything. The reason I stand in front of you today — and might I say, sir, you have a delightful office and this photo, well, I just can’t believe how much Lil’ Suzy has grown — is because I, Robert Benson, wanted to thank you for all the opportunities you given here. It seems like only yesterday that I joined the company, but it feels like I’ve been here for at least five years.
I’m certainly not the only one who must feel that way.
1. Erin Hannon
“Michael Scott Paper Company” is one of The Office‘s last truly great episodes, not only because it jump started a show that was stalling and hey, there’s Stringer Bell, but also because it introduced us to Erin Hannon, Pam’s ever-optimistic replacement receptionist. During the lean, later years, when many of the characters either annoyed (Jim) or made you want to throw them out a window (Andy), Erin continued to be a goofy delight. Plus, Hipster Erin.
2. Butters Stotch
OK, this one’s not technically true. Butters has been on South Park since “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe,” and he even briefly appears in South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, but it wasn’t until season six that Matt Stone and Trey Parker began giving him (or her, with all due respect to Marjorine) stories of his (her) own. He was no longer Student Friend #6 — he was South Park‘s biggest breakout sensation since Cartman, and with the exception of Randy Marsh, no other character on the show is quite as beloved as Professor Chaos, I mean, SIMPSONS DID IT, I mean, Butters. (Also, my fiancée and I named our guinea pig after him, so I might be biased here.)
3. David Puddy
It’s to Seinfeld‘s credit that Puddy, as memorable as any of the show’s recurring characters, didn’t make an appearance until season six’s “The Fusilli Jerry” as Jerry’s mechanic, and was only on the show 11 times total. Patrick Warburton made the most of his few opportunities and provided so many of the show’s most iconic lines, the best being, “Feels like an Arby’s night.” Still waiting for someone to say that without running to the bathroom right after.
4. Tony Blundetto
Until season five, Tony Soprano never mentioned his cousin Tony Blundetto. No one did. And yet there he was, Steve Buscemi, beginning with “Two Tonys,” as essential to the plot as Paulie Walnuts or Silvio Dante. This bothered many fans (I’m fairly certain the name “Roy” popped up once or twice), but it was a typically brilliant decision by David Chase: if you were in the mob, how much time would you spend yakking about one of your own in the slammer? They’re not a sympathetic bunch.
5. Mike Nelson
Team Mike. Moving on…
6. Gil Gunderson
Since the end of season seven, The Simpsons has added Duffman, Crazy Cat Lady, YESSS Guy, Johnny Tightlips, and Frankie the Squealer to Springfield’s already gluttonous population. No other show in TV history has been so adept at seamlessly creating new, instantly beloved characters, including poor ol’ Gil Gunderson, an homage to anthropomorphized flop sweat Jack Lemmon whose never-ending misery is second only to Hans Moleman’s. If a car suddenly bursts into flames for no reason, it’s probably becuase Gil and Moleman in the Morning are there.
7. Michael Lee
The structure of The Wire allowed the show to bring in an entire batch of new names after every season. The Cop Season turned into The Docks Season, then The Politics Season, then The School Season, and finally, The Journalism Season. There’s no wrong answer for the best season of The Wire, but I’ve always preferred season four, partially because of the students, Dukie, Randy, Michael, and Namond. They’re only in eighth grade, and already they’re doomed. Where Dukie and Randy try to make the best out of the life they’ve been handed, however, Namond and especially Michael give in, and become part of the problem. As Snoop knows all too well.
8. Rebecca Howe
Probably the most famous example on the list. Out went the beloved Diane Chambers after season five, so Shelley Long could become a major movie star (Don’t Tell Her It’s Me! Dr. T & the Women! Zombie Hamlet!), in came Kirstie Alley’s Rebecca Howe, as well as Woody Boyd (season four), Lilith Sternin (season four), and Frasier Crane (season three). Such strong additions to the cast is what made Cheers for 11 seasons.
9. Daniel Faraday
Lost needed new characters to keep things interesting. If the show’s central mystery to extend five seasons, there was only so much the writers could reveal about Jack and Kate, at least until the final run of episodes. Enter: mad genius Daniel Faraday, one of many new faces introduced in seasons three and four, but the only one to look and move like a squirrel that’s just been electrocuted. I’m still bitter about what happened to him.
10. Jim Cutler
Can’t mention Bob, Bob Benson without bringing up Jim Cutler. (Shout out to Ted and Lane Pryce, too.)