HBO
HBO

11 Famous TV Characters We Never Actually Saw

HBO
HBO

Our reputations often precede us—but, in the case of these television characters, reputation is all they have. Here are 11 TV personalities that are often talked about, but rarely (if ever) shown on screen.

1. Heather Sinclair // Degrassi: The Next Generation


What they're saying: "Did you see Heather Sinclair's eyebrows? Tragically overplucked!"

The lowdown: For a time, the Queen Bee of Degrassi never appeared on camera—but was often the subject of gossip nonetheless. "It felt very high school to me to see someone's reputation created through bits and pieces of gossip, without ever meeting the legend herself," says Matt Huether, a Degrassi co-executive producer and writer. "If we'd seen her, it's hard to believe she could have lived up to that reputation." In the seventh season, the series introduced a new character, Holly J. Sinclair—Heather's younger sister—but her big sis still never made it on screen. "We thought this might give us the opportunity to one day meet Heather Sinclair, through Holly J., and we discussed many times over the course of several seasons doing some stunt-casting and bringing in a high-profile guest star to play Heather for a scene," Huether says. "Anyone who was blond and famous from 2007 through 2011 was mentioned. Ultimately, we never committed to it, perhaps because we didn't really want to see the real her."

2. The President of the United States — Veep


What they're saying: "Did the president call?"

The lowdown: It's hard to believe the fictional president of the Veep universe won an election, considering the low profile he's kept. He's never seen on screen, his party affiliation hasn't been mentioned, and he doesn't even have a name—the other characters just refer to him as POTUS. Then again, that absence is symbolic of the veep's place in the D.C. pecking order. "You'll never see the president," star Julia Louis-Dreyfus tells NPR. "We're depicting a situation in which that relationship is highly dysfunctional, and the president is very much trying to keep this vice president, Selina Meyer, an arm's length away." Meyer often asks if the president has called for her—and the answer is always no.

3. Tino — My So-Called Life

What they're saying: "We have to go! With Sharon, to the hospital. I'll get Tino to drive us, he loves hospitals."

The lowdown: It's possible My So-Called Life heartthrob Jordan Catalano never got anywhere with his band, the Frozen Embryos, because Tino, its front man, wasn't very present. Then again, maybe he didn't have to be: possibly the most-referenced unseen character on this list, Tino is mentioned in a majority of the series' episodes, by almost every major teenage character. He can get a fake ID. He can get into an exclusive club, loft, or empty, for-sale house. He is, like, Mr. Halloween. When he quits the band, Jordan laments that "There's gonna be, like, this big empty hole where Tino used to be," but, for the audience, that's all he ever was.

4. Maris Crane — Frasier


What they're saying: "She distrusts anything that loves her unconditionally."

The lowdown: "Everybody has their own vision of what Maris looks like," Frasier executive producer Peter Casey says in an extra feature included on the second-season DVD. "Frankly, with some of the things that have been written about her in the scripts, I don't know if we could ever find anybody that could match all those things." It would be hard to find an actress who fits the bill, considering Maris is described as extremely slight (her ideal weight is 45 pounds, 12 ounces), addicted to plastic surgery, and easy to mistake for a coat rack.

5. Bob Sacamano — Seinfeld

What they're saying: "My friend Bob Sacamano had shock treatments, but his synapses were so large—had no effect."

The lowdown: Seinfeld's Kramer is always going on about his friend Bob Sacamano, from lamenting his case of rabies to crediting him with inventing the idea of attaching a ball to a paddle with a rubber band. (Before him, "people would just hit the ball and it would fly away.") Does the name "Bob Sacamano" sound too perfect to be made up? That's because it is. Starpulse reports that the rat-fur-hat salesman is the creation of Seinfeld writer Larry Charles, who borrowed the name from a real-life friend. While some would be flattered to achieve immortality through Seinfeld infamy, apparently the real Bob Sacamano was not. According to Gunaxin Media, after "The Heart Attack," the first time the character is mentioned (when we learn about how a botched hernia operation left him with a high-pitched voice), the real Sacamano had a falling out with Charles over the use of his name. No word on whether or not Lomez felt the same way.

6. Diane — Twin Peaks

What they're saying: "Diane, if you ever get up this way, that cherry pie is worth a stop."

The lowdown: Twin Peaks' Diane is not really an unseen character who's talked about as much as she is an unseen character who's talked to. FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper addresses her as he makes detailed recordings on microcassette—but it's never shown how his tapes are received. In fact, the shooting script of Fire Walk with Me had a scene that took place in FBI HQ, and even then the character of Diane was written so that she was never heard or seen. She must've been a good muse, though; Simon & Schuster released an audiobook dedicated to her, titled 'Diane . . .' The Twin Peaks Tapes of Agent Cooper, which featured Kyle MacLachlan's narration from the show along with new recordings. It was nominated for a spoken-word Grammy in 1991, alongside John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s reading of his father's Profiles in Courage. (Both lost to Gracie: A Love Story, read by George Burns.)

7. Vera Peterson — Cheers 

What they're saying:
Woody: "Hey, Mr. Peterson, what do you say to a cold one?"
Norm: "See you later, Vera, I’ll be at Cheers."

The lowdown: Maris wasn't the first character in the Cheers universe to eschew the spotlight. And, as with Niles and Maris, barfly Norm Peterson often talks about his wife in less-than-flattering terms, implying that he frequents the bar to stay away from her. Although the audience never gets to see Vera's face, they do hear her voice a handful of times (and see her full body once, with her face obscured by a smashed pie). Both the voice and the body were provided by Bernadette Birkett, the real-life wife of George Wendt.

8. Lars Lindstrom — The Mary Tyler Moore Show

What they're saying: "Sooner or later, Lars is going to get tired of her. And he'll come back to me. And then I'm going to punish him for this."

The lowdown: Lars Lindstrom, the dermatologist husband of Mary Richards' landlady, Phyllis, didn't need to show up in person to make a big impact on the series. In a fourth-season episode—titled "The Lars Affair"—Phyllis discovers he's cheating on her with Sue Ann Nivens, star of The Happy Homemaker on Richards' WJM-TV. Not only does this have big consequences for the plot, it shapes the series in general: the introduction of Nivens was Betty White's debut on the show. Outside of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, when Phyllis gets her own spin-off, Lars is still a no-show—the series takes place after he's died.

9. and 10. Juanita Beasley (and Sarah) — The Andy Griffith Show

What they're saying: "There's nothing half so sweet/As Juanita, Juanita, Juanit."

The lowdown: Mayberry may be populated with lots of colorful characters, but two of them—both creations of producer Aaron Ruben—are never shown on screen: Sarah, the telephone operator, and Juanita Beasley, the waitress at the Bluebird Diner and sometime object of Barney Fife's affection. In the book The Andy Griffith Show, author Richard Michael Kelly writes: "They reminded Andy Griffith of the old radio show Vic and Sade: 'They originally had only three characters—later four—but they talked about their town and other towns nearby, and you never met any of those people. But their talk made you believe they were there.'"

11. Angela Valentine — Leave It to Beaver


What they're saying:
Wally Cleaver: "Hey Beav, isn't that Angela Valentine the one that's always showing the kids her extra toe?"
Beaver: "Yeah, but everybody's used to seeing that, so now she eats library paste."

The lowdown: It seems that Beaver often comes home with tales of his phantom classmate, whether he's reeling from her getting sick in the back of the school bus to reveling in triumph that ensues after she enlists the entire class to help find her lost bike plate. Though she's mentioned at least a dozen times in the series, she's not entirely unseen. In the third-season episode "Baby Picture," Beaver's teacher addresses the class about an upcoming beauty pageant—giving credit for the idea to Angela Valentine, whom she acknowledges with a head nod. Of course, the class is only shown from the back.

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iStock
18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
iStock
iStock

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
11 Things You Might Not Know About Johann Sebastian Bach
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images

Johann Sebastian Bach is everywhere. Weddings? Bach. Haunted houses? Bach. Church? Bach. Shredding electric guitar solos? Look, it’s Bach! The Baroque composer produced more than 1100 works, from liturgical organ pieces to secular cantatas for orchestra, and his ideas about musical form and harmony continue to influence generations of music-makers. Here are 11 things you might not know about the man behind the music.

1. PEOPLE DISAGREE ABOUT WHEN TO CELEBRATE HIS BIRTHDAY.

Some people celebrate Bach’s birthday on March 21. Other people light the candles on March 31. The correct date depends on whom you ask. Bach was born in Thuringia in 1685, when the German state was still observing the Julian calendar. Today, we use the Gregorian calendar, which shifted the dates by 11 days. And while most biographies opt for the March 31 date, Bach scholar Christopher Wolff firmly roots for Team 21. “True, his life was actually 11 days longer because Protestant Germany adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1700,” he told Classical MPR, “but with the legal stipulation that all dates prior to Dec. 31, 1699, remain valid.”

2. HE WAS THE CENTER OF A MUSICAL DYNASTY.

Bach’s great-grandfather was a piper. His grandfather was a court musician. His father was a violinist, organist, court trumpeter, and kettledrum player. At least two of his uncles were composers. He had five brothers—all named Johann—and the three who lived to adulthood became musicians. J.S. Bach also had 20 children, and, of those who lived past childhood, at least five became professional composers. According to the Nekrolog, an obituary written by Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, "[S]tarting with Veit Bach, the founding father of this family, all his descendants, down to the seventh generation, have dedicated themselves to the profession of music, with only a few exceptions."

3. BACH TOOK A MUSICAL PILGRIMAGE THAT PUTS EVERY ROAD TRIP TO WOODSTOCK TO SHAME.

In 1705, 20-year-old Bach walked 280 miles—that's right, walked—from the city of Arnstadt to Lübeck in northern Germany to hear a concert by the influential organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude. He stuck around for four months to study with the musician [PDF]. Bach hoped to succeed Buxtehude as the organist of Lübeck's St. Mary's Church, but marriage to one of Buxtehude's daughters was a prerequisite to taking over the job. Bach declined, and walked back home.

4. HE BRAWLED WITH HIS STUDENTS.

One of Bach’s first jobs was as a church organist in Arnstadt. When he signed up for the role, nobody told him he also had to teach a student choir and orchestra, a responsibility Bach hated. Not one to mince words, Bach one day lost patience with a error-prone bassoonist, Johann Geyersbach, and called him a zippelfagottist—that is, a “nanny-goat bassoonist.” Those were fighting words. Days later, Geyersbach attacked Bach with a walking stick. Bach pulled a dagger. The rumble escalated into a full-blown scrum that required the two be pulled apart.

5. BACH SPENT 30 DAYS IN JAIL FOR QUITTING HIS JOB.

When Bach took a job in 1708 as a chamber musician in the court of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, he once again assumed a slew of responsibilities that he never signed up for. This time, he took it in stride, believing his hard work would lead to his promotion to kapellmeister (music director). But after five years, the top job was handed to the former kapellmeister’s son. Furious, Bach resigned and joined a rival court. As retribution, the duke jailed him for four weeks. Bach spent his time in the slammer writing preludes for organ.

6. THE BRANDENBURG CONCERTOS WERE A FAILED JOB APPLICATION.

Around 1721, Bach was the head of court music for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. Unfortunately, the composer reportedly didn’t get along with the prince’s new wife, and he started looking for a new gig. (Notice a pattern?) Bach polished some manuscripts that had been sitting around and mailed them to a potential employer, Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg. That package, which included the Brandenburg Concertos—now considered some of the most important orchestral compositions of the Baroque era—failed to get Bach the job [PDF].

7. HE WROTE ONE OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST COFFEE JINGLES.

Bach apparently loved coffee enough to write a song about it: "Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht" ("Be still, stop chattering"). Performed in 1735 at Zimmerman’s coffee house in Leipzig, the song is about a coffee-obsessed woman whose father wants her to stop drinking the caffeinated stuff. She rebels and sings this stanza:

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes
More delicious than a thousand kisses
Milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I have to have coffee,
And, if someone wants to pamper me,
Ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

8. IF BACH CHALLENGED YOU TO A KEYBOARD DUEL, YOU WERE GUARANTEED TO BE EMBARRASSED.

In 1717, Louis Marchand, a harpsichordist from France, was invited to play for Augustus, Elector of Saxony, and performed so well that he was offered a position playing for the court. This annoyed the court’s concertmaster, who found Marchand arrogant and insufferable. To scare the French harpsichordist away, the concertmaster hatched a plan with his friend, J.S. Bach: a keyboard duel. Bach and Marchand would improvise over a number of different styles, and the winner would take home 500 talers. But when Marchand learned just how talented Bach was, he hightailed it out of town.

9. SOME OF HIS MUSIC MAY HAVE BEEN COMPOSED TO HELP INSOMNIA.

Some people are ashamed to admit that classical music, especially the Baroque style, makes them sleepy. Be ashamed no more! According to Bach’s earliest biographer, the Goldberg Variations were composed to help Count Hermann Karl von Keyserling overcome insomnia. (This story, to be fair, is disputed.) Whatever the truth, it hasn’t stopped the Andersson Dance troupe from presenting a fantastic Goldberg-based tour of performances called “Ternary Patterns for Insomnia.” Sleep researchers have also suggested studying the tunes’ effects on sleeplessness [PDF].

10. HE WAS BLINDED BY BOTCHED EYE SURGERY.

When Bach was 65, he had eye surgery. The “couching” procedure, which was performed by a traveling surgeon named John Taylor, involved shoving the cataract deep into the eye with a blunt instrument. Post-op, Taylor gave the composer eye drops that contained pigeon blood, mercury, and pulverized sugar. It didn’t work. Bach went blind and died shortly after. Meanwhile, Taylor moved on to botch more musical surgeries. He would perform the same procedure on the composer George Frideric Handel, who also went blind.

11. NOBODY IS 100 PERCENT CONFIDENT THAT BACH IS BURIED IN HIS GRAVE.

In 1894, the pastor of St. John’s Church in Leipzig wanted to move the composer’s body out of the church graveyard to a more dignified setting. There was one small problem: Bach had been buried in an unmarked grave, as was common for regular folks at the time. According to craniologist Wilhelm His, a dig crew tried its best to find the composer but instead found “heaps of bones, some in many layers lying on top of each other, some mixed in with the remains of coffins, others already smashed by the hacking of the diggers.” The team later claimed to find Bach’s box, but there’s doubt they found the right (de)composer. Today, Bach supposedly resides in Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church.

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