11 Famous TV Characters We Never Actually Saw


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.

The Criterion Collection
14 Deep Facts About Valley of the Dolls
The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection

Based on Jacqueline Susann's best-selling 1966 novel (which sold more than 30 million copies), Valley of the Dolls was a critically maligned film that somehow managed to gross $50 million when it was released 50 years ago, on December 15, 1967. Both the film and the novel focus on three young women—Neely O’Hara (Patty Duke), Jennifer North (Sharon Tate), and Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins)—who navigate the entertainment industry in both New York City and L.A., but end up getting addicted to barbiturates, a.k.a. “dolls.”

Years after its original release, the film became a so-bad-it’s-good classic about the perils of fame. John Williams received his first of 50 Oscar nominations for composing the score. Mark Robson directed it, and he notoriously fired the booze- and drug-addled Judy Garland, who was cast to play aging actress Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward took over), who was supposedly based on Garland. (Garland died on June 22, 1969 from a barbituate overdose.) Two months after Garland’s sudden demise, the Manson Family murdered the very pregnant Tate in August 1969.

Despite all of the glamour depicted in the movie and novel, Susann said, “Valley of the Dolls showed that a woman in a ranch house with three kids had a better life than what happened up there at the top.” A loose sequel, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls—which was written by Roger Ebert—was released in 1970, but it had little to do with the original. In 1981, a TV movie updated the Dolls. Here are 14 deep facts about the iconic guilty pleasure.


To promote the film, the studio hosted a month-long premiere party on a luxury liner. At a screening in Venice, Susann said the film “appalled” her, according to Parkins. She also thought Hollywood “had ruined her book,” and Susann asked to be taken off the boat. At one point she reportedly told Robson directly that she thought the film was “a piece of sh*t.”


Barbara Parkins had only been working with Judy Garland for two days when the legendary actress was fired for not coming out of her dressing room (and possibly being drunk). “I called up Jackie Susann, who I had become close to—I didn’t call up the director strangely enough—and I said, ‘What do I do? I’m nervous about going on the set with Judy Garland and I might get lost in this scene because she knows how to chew up the screen,’” Parkins told Windy City Times. “She said, ‘Honey, just go in there and enjoy her.’ So I went onto the set and Judy came up to me and wrapped her arms around me and said, ‘Oh, baby, let’s just do this scene,’ and she was wonderful.”


Costume designer William Travilla had to assemble 134 outfits for the four leading actresses. “I didn't have a script so I read the book and then the script once I got one,” he explained of his approach to the film. “I met with the director and producer and asked how they felt about each character and then I met with the girls and asked them what they liked and didn’t like and how they were feeling. Then I sat down with my feelings and captured their feelings, too.”


In an interview with Roger Ebert, Susann offered her thoughts on why Garland was let go. “Everybody keeps asking me why she was fired from the movie, as if it was my fault or something,” she said. “You know what I think went wrong? Here she was, raised in the great tradition of the studio stars, where they make 30 takes of every scene to get it right, and the other girls in the picture were all raised as television actresses. So they’re used to doing it right the first time. Judy just got rattled, that’s all.”


During an event at the Castro Theatre, Duke discussed working with Garland. “The director, who was the meanest son of a bitch I ever met in my life ... the director, he kept this icon, this sparrow, waiting and waiting,” Duke said. “She had to come in at 6:30 in the morning and he wouldn’t even plan to get to her until four in the afternoon. She was very down to earth, so she didn’t mind waiting. The director decided that some guy from some delicatessen on 33rd Street should talk to her, and she crumbled. And she was fired. She shouldn’t have been hired in the first place, in my opinion.”


All of Neely’s songs in the movie were dubbed, which disappointed Duke. “I knew I couldn’t sing like a trained singer,” she said. “But I thought it was important for Neely maybe to be pretty good in the beginning but the deterioration should be that raw, nerve-ending kind of the thing. And I couldn’t convince the director. They wanted to do a blanket dubbing. It just doesn’t have the passion I wanted it to have.”


Garland got revenge in “taking” the beaded pantsuit she was supposed to wear in the movie, and she was unabashed about it. “Well, about six months later, Judy’s going to open at the Palace,” Duke said. “I went to opening night at the Palace and out she came in her suit from Valley of the Dolls.”


Fox held a preview screening of the film at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre, but the marquee only read “The Biggest Book of the Year.” “And the film was so campy, everyone roared with laughter,” producer David Brown told Vanity Fair. “One patron was so irate he poured his Coke all over Fox president Dick Zanuck in the lobby. And we knew we had a hit. Why? Because of the size of the audience—the book would bring them in.”


Twentieth Century Fox

Richard Dreyfuss made his big-screen debut near the end of Valley of the Dolls, playing an assistant stage manager who knocks on Neely’s door to find her intoxicated. After appearing on several TV shows, this was his first role in a movie, but it was uncredited. That same year, he also had a small role in The Graduate. Dreyfuss told The A.V. Club he was in the best film of 1967 (The Graduate) and the worst (Valley of the Dolls). “But then one day I realized that I had never actually seen Valley of the Dolls all the way through, so I finally did it,” he said. “And I realized that I was in the last 45 seconds of the worst film ever made. And I watched from the beginning with a growing sense of horror. And then I finally heard my line. And I thought, ‘I’ll never work again.’ But I used to make money by betting people about being in the best and worst films of 1967: No one would ever come up with the answer, so I’d make 20 bucks!”


In the 2006 documentary Gotta Get Off This Merry Go Round: Sex, Dolls & Showtunes, Barbara Parkins scolded the director for keeping the film’s pill addiction on the surface. “The director never took us aside and said, look this is the effect,” she said. “We didn’t go into depth about it. Now, if you would’ve had a Martin Scorsese come in and direct this film, he would’ve sat you down, he would’ve put you through the whole emotional, physical, mental feeling of what that drug was doing to you. This would’ve been a whole different film. He took us to one, maybe two levels of what it’s like to take pills. The whole thing was to show the bottle and to show the jelly beans kinda going back. That was the important thing for him, not the emotional part.”


In 1995, Los Angeles theater troupe Theatre-A-Go-Go! adapted the movie into a stage play. Kate Flannery, who’d go on to play Meredith Palmer on The Office, portrayed Neely. “Best thing about Valley of the Dolls to make fun of it is to actually just do it,” Flannery said in the Dolls doc. “You don’t need to change anything.” Parkins came to a production and approved of it. Eventually, the play headed to New York in an Off-Broadway version, with Illeana Douglas playing the Jackie Susann reporter role.


By 20th Century-Fox - eBayfrontback, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The night the Manson Family murdered Tate, the actress had invited Susann to her home for a dinner party. According to Vanity Fair, Rex Reed came by The Beverly Hills Hotel, where Susann was staying, and they decided to stay in instead of going to Tate’s. The next day Susann heard about the murder, and cried by the pool. A few years later, when Susann was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, she joked her death would’ve been quicker if she had gone to Tate’s that night.


Of all of the characters in the movie, Duke’s Neely is the most over-the-top. “I used to be embarrassed by it," Duke said in a 2003 interview. "I used to say very unkind things about it, and through the years there are so many people who have come to me, or written me, or emailed who love it so, that I figured they all can’t be wrong." She eventually appreciated the camp factor. “I can have fun with that,” she said. “And sometimes when I’m on location, there will be a few people who bring it up, and then we order pizza and rent a VCR and have a Valley night, and it is fabulous.”


In 2000, Grant, Duke, and Parkins reunited on The View. “It’s the best, funniest, worst movie ever made,” Grant stated. She then mentioned how she and Duke made a movie about killer bees called The Swarm. “Valley of the Dolls was like genius compared to it,” Grant said.

6 Tips From Experts on How to Fake Loving a Gift You Hate

In this season of holiday giving, it's almost inevitable that you're going to get a gift you just don't like—and nobody wants to hurt another person's feelings when they went to the trouble of buying you a gift. So as you struggle to say thanks for that gaudy scarf from a beloved relative, or that stinky perfume from a well-meaning coworker, we bring you these tips from Jack Brown, a physician and body language expert from New York, and Alicia Sanders, a California-based acting coach with the conservatory program Starting Arts, for how to fake enjoyment—at least until you can exchange your gift at the store.


Your inner voice may be saying "No!" the moment you peel pack that paper, but there may be a hidden yes inside you somewhere that you can mine for.

Sanders explains that the key to successful acting "is finding the truth in your scene." She encourages her students to tap into a moment when they felt the emotion they are trying to convey, for authenticity. "So you get an ugly sweater with a hideous shape and a terrible image, but you think the color blue is not so bad. You can say, ‘This color blue is so beautiful,' because it's truthful," she explains. The more you can find a real truth to speak from, "the more convincing you can be."

By opening with a grain of truth, you don't set yourself off on a chain of lies. "When you have to start to lie, that's when it's going to show through that you're an inexperienced actor, because you'll be more transparent," Sanders says.


However, faking joy runs deeper than just the words you speak. Sanders reminds us to think of what our hands are doing. "If you sit there statically, it feels like you're working too hard," she says.

Your hands can be a telltale giveaway that you don't really like a gift, according to Brown. People experiencing unhappy emotions tend to ball their hands into fists, tuck them against their bodies, or put them in their pockets. "If a person likes what they are getting, their arms and hands are going to go further out from the body, and tend to be more loose and relaxed," he says.

Similarly, we can reveal falsehood by touching our face or head, which often signals lying, anxiety, or discomfort, Brown says. People in these emotional states "tend to touch their face with one hand, and slowly. They might scratch near their eye, right in front of their ear, or their forehead."

Sanders suggests you put a hand on your chest or bring the gift closer to your body as a way of showing that you can stand to have it near you.


Indeed, the gift-giver is most likely going to be looking at your face when they assess your reaction, so this is the canvas upon which you must work your most convincing efforts at false gratitude.

While you may think a bright smile is the perfect way to fake joy, Brown says smiling convincingly when you're feeling the opposite is not as easy. "Most people aren't good at it," he says.

A fake smile is obvious to the onlooker. These usually start at the corners of the mouth—often showing both top and bottom teeth, he points out. A sincere smile almost always just shows your top teeth, and begins more from the mid-mouth. Another giveaway of a fake smile is tension in the mid-face: "If you see someone with mouth tension, where the mouth opening gets smaller, the person's got some anxiety there."


Smile with your eyes first, Brown advises. "Completely forget about your mouth," Brown instructs. "If you smile with your mouth first, you're absolutely going to mess up."

And be sure to make eye contact, which Sanders says is "crucial to convince someone that you like their present."

But keep in mind that there are degrees of appropriate eye contact if you want to look natural. "If the eye contact is too little or too much, it'll feel like it's not sincere," Brown says. You want to be sure to avoid a stare—which can feel "predatory or romantic," he explains. Instead, make "a kind of little zig-zagging motion that people have when they look around a face."


As you unwrap your unwanted gift and have a moment of unpleasant surprise, you may be tempted to reach for the simplest phrase, such as "awesome," which Brown calls "a one-word cliché" that tries to convey a happiness you don't really feel. Brown says this is a no-no, too: "If you use a cliché, your body language will parallel that."

Instead, eliminate canned words and phrases from your repertoire, he urges, "because then you'll think more about what you're going to say."

Aunt Suzie will also notice if your voice is strained or you have to clear your throat before choking out a "thanks." But how do you convincingly soften your tone of voice so that your words sound as authentic as they can?

Back to acting. Sanders suggests mining your own personal happy experiences for honest emotional content; you may be seeing an ugly sweater you'll never wear but thinking of those prized theater tickets you received another year.

Brown, meanwhile, recommends you think of your favorite comedians; they're good at improvisation, and are often laughing or smiling. "When you do that, you're getting yourself in a better emotional state," Brown says. "Or you can think about a funny time in your own personal life."

A mental rehearsal before you get a gift is a good idea too. Brown says you can imagine a gift that this person could realistically have gotten you and draw on the joy of that imagined gift instead.


If you aren't completely overwhelmed yet, keep in mind you must try to get these small communications by your eyes, mouth, hands, language, and tone in alignment with one another. Brown calls this "paralanguage."

"If they're not congruent, if they don't all line up, then you're not going to come across as sincere," Brown says.

If all of this advice has you contorting yourself into a state of confusion, Brown says that if you remember nothing else, just smile with your eyes. You might just fake it until you make it.


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