The 12 Most Lovable TV Dummies

The 12 Most Lovable TV Dummies

Generally speaking, TV comedies wouldn’t work without characters who are smart enough that we believe they could spontaneously come up with all the zingers the shows’ talented writers script for them. 

But if the whole cast of characters functioned at the same level of intelligence, the viewer might get bored. We need variation, and the quick-witted characters need less intellectually gifted characters to roast. And as the years go by, maybe those are the characters we come to treasure most. Behold: Our list of TV’s most lovable dummies, ranked by how lovable they are.

Matthew Brock, ‘NewsRadio

Though radio journalist Matthew (Andy Dick) started out as a pretty grounded character — slightly dorky, somewhat accident-prone, but basically competent and functional — he got dumber over the course of the show’s five seasons. 

The reporter who could talk his way onto a closed subway track evolved into a guy who signed up for the Big Brothers program and was assigned a Big Brother himself, and who would shoot a speargun in the office. By the final season, a whole episode — “Flowers for Matthew” — could revolve around Joe (Joe Rogan) creating a “smart drink” that temporarily cures Matthew’s idiocy. Matthew’s quirks and obsessions are what put him in the “lovable” category. His hero worship of Phil Hartman’s Bill retroactively takes on a whole new significance following Hartman’s death between the show’s fourth and fifth seasons.

Summer Dutkowsky, ‘Girls5Eva

All the members of the titular early aughts girl group are suffering from the lingering effects of… having been in it. But other than Ashley (Ashley Park) who died (or did she?), Summer (Busy Philipps) has had the toughest time. Pushed into an early marriage to boy bander Kev (Andrew Rannells), Summer has spent most of her life lonely, as Kev retreated to Florida to pursue his mysterious interests as secretively as possible. 

Their daughter Stevia (Penelope Richmond) has no interest in Summer. And because of her evangelical background, Summer was never encouraged to learn much of anything — though toward the end of the show’s first season, Summer decided to stop being ignorant and educate herself. Not everything she’s gleaned has necessarily lodged in her brain, but the effort alone is winning.

Neil Sutherland, ‘The Inbetweeners

In that The Inbetweeners is about four English boys’ horny, filthy late adolescence, arguably any of the leads potentially could find a place on this list of dummies. But whereas Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas) and Jay (James Buckley) all evince some capacity for complex thought — at least insofar as it’s required to acquire booze and drugs or convince girls to spend time with them — Neil (Blake Harrison) is perfectly gormless, cheerfully telling Will he’s probably going to think about Will’s mother when he jerks off, admitting he sometimes sits to pee “as a treat” and fondly recalling childhood experiments determining how many Lego pieces he could fit “up (his) bum”: “Didn’t you do it as a kid? Just a triangle one and a long one? Maybe a few singles?” 

Despite the many ways the world confuses or disappoints him, Neil stays lovable by staying positive; the only thing that can consistently make him drop his grin is when he has to “do a poo” and can’t, which makes him cry. 

Troy Barnes, ‘Community

Community college student Troy (Donald Glover) receives affirmation and love in abundance from Abed (Danny Pudi), his classmate and platonic soulmate — which is good, because without Abed, Troy might get roasted to death for some of the dumb things he’s done and said. Nearly running straight into a wall with a tunnel painted on it? Sinking an inflatable dinghy because cartoons taught him popping a hole in it would make it go faster? “I never thought about meals fighting each other. I guess that explains why you never see any two of them on the same table”? Troy’s sweet spirit must be protected at all costs — so it’s a good thing he has Abed to do it.

Mallory Keaton, ‘Family Ties

While Alex (Michael J. Fox), the eldest Keaton child, strove to appear intelligent and erudite by reading National Review and rejecting his parents’ politics, Mallory (Justine Bateman) was treated as a dummy mostly relative to him, and because she paid attention to feminine-coded matters like romance and style. Maybe she had a hard time retaining trivia, but that’s a very small part of life!

Furthermore, while most of the members of Mallory’s family would put her on this list, let’s not forget the time she outscored Alex on an IQ test.  

George, The Prince Regent, ‘Blackadder III

In the BBC’s anthology series, viewers initially meet Edmund (Rowan Atkinson) in a counterfactual 15th century where he’s the less-favored, sniveling son of King Richard IV (Brian Blessed), forever trying and failing to impress his father. In subsequent seasons, Edmund Blackadder is a scheming, money-grubbing social climber, given to hatching a “cunning plan.” In the third season, Blackadder is the butler to Prince George (Hugh Laurie), a feckless imbecile oblivious to Blackadder’s attempts to elevate his own station at George’s expense because he’s too busy meeting every event in his life with childlike awe. George shouldn’t be in charge of a vegetable garden, never mind a whole British Empire. But he’s adorable.

Laurie plays a different posh and idiotic George in Blackadder Goes Forth, the show’s fourth season, and while that George is just as dim as his royal ancestor, the air of imminent death that hangs over the proceedings — it’s set in a trench in the First World War — makes it harder to laugh at his dopey antics.

Rose Nylund, ‘The Golden Girls

Back in St. Olaf, Rose (Betty White) may have been one of the smartest people in town. In Miami — where Rose shares a house with her chosen family Blanche (Rue McClanahan), Dorothy (Beatrice Arthur) and Sophia (Estelle Getty) — Rose is generally agreed to be a dunce. Only Rose could consider using “intrauterine” as a song lyric, mistake (Bernard) Malamud with Mallomars or bring home a phallic cake thinking it’s been made in the shape of Florida. But if Rose is a simpleton, she is a well-meaning one. For example, a memorable third-season episode finds her writing letters to President Ronald Reagan and Premier Mikhail Gorbachev pleading for them to find their way to peace so that she can stop being so afraid of nuclear annihilation… only for the Soviet functionary who screens her note to assume it came from a little girl. 

Jason Mendoza, ‘The Good Place

When he’s initially introduced on The Good Place, Manny Jacinto’s character is called Jianyu; his neighbors are told he’s a silent monk. Before long, however, the truth comes out: His name is Jason Mendoza, he’s a dirtbag from Florida and he arrived in The Good Place straight from his fatal jet-ski accident. Everything we learn about him contributes to the overall impression that he probably should have died by misadventure much sooner than age 27. A heist is foiled due to a basic misunderstanding regarding how safes work and why a human couldn’t survive in one; and on a long enough timeline, a 60-person hip-hop dance crew like Jason’s is probably going to end up losing several members to mortal combat. The proof that Jason is capable of change, however, is that he’s able to get informational assistant Janet (D’Arcy Carden) to fall in love with him. 

Rollie Gonzales, ‘Primo

As with the collection of doofuses in The Inbetweeners, the five chaotic uncles of Freevee’s Primo also challenge the critic to determine which is the biggest dummy. Depending on the day, one might decide it’s Mondo (Efrain Villa), who can find it a challenge to keep track of his shirt. Maybe it’s Jay (Jonathan Medina), whose mistrust of banks leads him to hide all his cash in his coats, only to find himself robbed of hundreds by his unwitting daughter. Maybe it’s Mike (Henri Esteve), who goes so over-the-top with his tactical gear for a hike in the woods that the lightest touch can knock him over. Maybe it’s Ryan (Carlos Santos), who tries to attract business to his bank branch by attaching his business card to promotional apples… using staples. 

The competition is fierce, but Rollie (Johnny Rey Diaz) comes out barely ahead in the dummy department by styling himself “The Brown Knight” for his vigilantism, trying to summon the spirit of a deceased neighbor to demand $20 he’s owed, and musing that someone should invent a “bus in the sky,” forgetting that someone has, and it’s called an airplane.

Joey Tribbiani, ‘Friends

As the only boy in his large Italian-American family, Joey (Matt LeBlanc) probably never had to try very hard to gain his parents’ approval — specifically, excelling academically seems not to have been part of his backstory, and during the run of the show, he engages with books so infrequently that his attempt to read Little Women becomes a major plotline. Joey doesn’t know why he should disregard Chandler (Matthew Perry) when he suggests changing his stage name to Joseph Stalin; doesn’t measure before building an entertainment center, so it blocks both his apartment’s bedroom doors; and doesn’t consider that throwing away all the spoiled food in his broken fridge is a better option than eating it himself. Joey is dumb! But as we see when he falls in love with Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), he’s also the show’s biggest sweetheart.

Woody Boyd, ‘Cheers

Cheers is a show in which the characters of moderate intelligence definitely outnumber the intellectuals, but it launched with one who was decidedly dimmer than the rest: Coach Ernie Pantusso (Nicholas Colasanto). A former baseball player whose signature move was getting hit by pitches, Coach has a hard time remembering where he left his keys, what patrons’ orders are or who he is when he answers the phone. When Colasanto unexpectedly died during the show’s run, Cheers needed to replace him behind the bar, and hired Woody (Woody Harrelson). 

A farm boy freshly arrived in Boston from Indiana, where he was voted “Most Likely to Explode,” Woody believes organ donors have to supply them pre-mortem, but that doesn’t prevent him from getting elected to the City Council in the show’s final season. (In the early 1990s, a dangerously unqualified person holding public office could still be a viable joke.)

Mr. Peanutbutter, ‘BoJack Horseman

Like many of the characters in BoJack Horseman, Mr. Peanutbutter (voice of Paul F. Tompkins) is non-human. Specifically, he’s a yellow Labrador retriever who happens to engage in many human activities, such as hosting a game show and marrying a human woman. But some of his dumber moments — like trying to remove the stink from a skunk attack by rubbing himself against every soft surface in his house, or failing to understand tennis because he’s frustrated that no one catches the ball — are, you know, standard dog stuff. Mr. Peanutbutter is bad at signs and bad at metaphors, but he’s a good dog, yes he is, yes he is, and we love his cute funny face!

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