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.

Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures
10 Monster Facts About Pacific Rim
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures

Legendary Pictures took a gamble on Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 monster/robot slugfest. Since it wasn’t based on a preexisting franchise, it lacked a built-in fanbase. That can be a serious drawback in our current age of blockbuster remakes and reboots. The movie underperformed domestically; in America, it grossed just over $100 million against its $180 million budget. Yet Pacific Rim was a huge hit overseas and acquired enough fans to earn itself a sequel, Pacific Rim Uprising, which arrives in theaters this week. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the movie that started it all.


Idris Elba in 'Pacific Rim' (2013)
Warner Bros.

One foggy day in 2007, Beacham—who’d recently moved to California—was walking along Santa Monica Beach. As he looked out at the Ferris wheel on the city’s eponymous pier, he pictured a looming sea monster. Then he imagined an equally large robot gearing up to fight the beast. “They just sort of materialized out of the fog, these vast godlike things,” Beacham said. He decided to pursue the concept further after coming up with the idea of human co-pilots who’d need to operate their robot as a team, which added a new thematic dimension.

“I didn’t know I had something I wanted to write until I realized these robots are driven by two pilots, and what happens when one of those people dies? What happens to the leftovers? Then it became a story about loss, moving on after loss, and dealing with survivor’s guilt," Beacham said. "That made the monsters scarier because now you care about the people who are in these robots.”


Pacific Rim was picked up by Legendary Pictures and handed over to director Guillermo del Toro. A huge fan of monster cinema, del Toro enthusiastically co-wrote the final screenplay with Beacham. Sixteen concept artists were hired to sketch original robot and creature designs for the film. “We would get together every day like kids and draw all day,” del Toro told the New York Daily News. “We designed about a hundred Kaijus and about a hundred Jaegers and every week we would do an American Idol and we would vote [some of] them out.”


In “Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats,” the tenth episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's sixth season, Charlie Day’s character gives us a darkly comedic monologue about rodent extermination. Little did the actor know that the performance would open a big opportunity for him. Impressed by the rat speech, del Toro offered Day the part of Dr. Newton Geizler, Pacific Rim’s socially-inept kaiju expert. “He said to himself, ‘That’s my guy. That guy should be in my next movie because if he killed rats, he can kill the monster,’” Day recalled during an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. On the movie set, del Toro often joked about how much he enjoys It’s Always Sunny. As a way of repaying his director, Day helped get del Toro a minor role in the series.


Most of the film’s special effects were computer-generated, but not everything was digital. For the robot cockpit scenes, del Toro had his team build the interior of a full-scale Jaeger head. The finished product stood four stories tall and weighed 20 tons. And like a Tilt-A-Whirl from hell, it was designed to rock around violently on its platform via a network of hydraulics. Once inside, the actors were forced to don 40-pound suits of armor. Then the crew strapped their feet into an apparatus that Charlie Hunnam has compared to a high-resistance elliptical machine.

Certain shots also required del Toro to dump gallons of water all over his exhausted, physically-strained stars. So yeah, the experience wasn’t much fun. “We saw every one of the actors break down on that set except for the female lead actress Rinko Kikuchi," del Toro said. "She’s the only actor that didn’t snap."


Del Toro wanted Gipsy Danger, his ‘bot, to have the self-confident air of a wild west gunslinger. To that end, he and concept artist Oscar Chichoni developed a swaggering gait that was based on John Wayne’s signature hip movements. The Jaeger’s Art Deco-like design was influenced by the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings.


Hailed as the “fortieth greatest guitarist of all time” by Rolling Stone, Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello rocked the MTV generation with hits like “Bulls on Parade” and “Killing in the Name.” Pacific Rim bears his mark as well. The film’s lead composer was Ramin Djawadi, whose other works include the Game of Thrones theme. Wanting to add a “rock element” to the Pacific Rim soundtrack, he and del Toro reached out to Morello. The guitarist didn’t need much persuading.

“When they asked me to put some giant robot riffs and screaming underwater monster licks on the film score, I was all in,” Morello said. Djwadi was pleased with the rocker's contributions to the project. As he told the press: “Tom’s unique style and sounds really defined our robots.”


A definite highlight of this movie is Gipsy Danger’s duel with the winged kaiju Otachi in downtown Hong Kong. Both characters were computer-generated, as were the majority of the streets, cars, and towers in this epic sequence. However, there is one moment which was at least partly realized with practical effects. Gipsy punches through the wall of an office building early in the fight. We see her fist rip through a series of cubicles and gradually decelerate until it lightly taps a chair with just enough force to set off a Newton’s Cradle desktop toy. For that shot, effects artists at 32Ten Studios constructed a miniature office building interior featuring 1/4-scale desks, cubicles, and padded chairs. The level of detail here was amazing: 32Ten’s staff adorned each individual workspace with lamps, computers, wastebaskets, and teeny, tiny Post-it notes.


Rinko Kikuchi in 'Pacific Rim' (2013)
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures

Audiences reacted strongly to Kikuchi’s character Mako Mori, who inspired an alternative to the famous Bechdel test. Some critics praised the culmination of her relationship with Raleigh Beckett (Hunnam). Although it’s common practice for the male and female leads in an action flick to end their movie with a smooch, Mori and Beckett share a platonic hug as Pacific Rim draws to a close. Del Toro revealed that he shot three different versions of that final scene. “We did one version where they kiss and it almost felt weird. They’re good friends, they’re pals, good colleagues,” del Toro said.


At the end of the credits, there’s a tribute that reads: “This film is dedicated to the memories of monster masters Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda.” Harryhausen passed away on May 7, 2013—two months before Pacific Rim’s release. A great stop-motion animator, he breathed life into such creatures as the towering Rhedosaurus in 1953’s The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

Ishiro Honda was another giant of the kaiju genre, having directed Rodan, War of the Gargantuas, and numerous Godzilla films. Del Toro has great respect for both men. When Harryhausen died, the director said, “I lost a member of my family today, a man who was as present in my childhood as any of my relatives.” He also adores the Japanese monster classics and says he’d love to see a Pacific Rim-Godzilla crossover someday. Maybe it’ll happen.


If you’re not familiar with the practice of “Sweding,” let us fill you in: The 2008 comedy Be Kind, Rewind is about two co-workers at a VHS rental store who accidentally erase every tape in stock. Hoping to save their skins, they create ultra low-budget remakes of all the films they’ve destroyed using cardboard sets and cheap costumes. It’s a process these guys call “Sweding” as a ploy to convince everyone that their (unintentionally hilarious) knockoffs were produced in Sweden. Since Be Kind, Rewind was released, Sweding has become a legitimate art form.

When Pacific Rim’s first trailer debuted in 2013, YouTubers Brian Harley and Brodie Mash created a shot-for-shot, Sweded duplicate of the preview. Instead of state-of-the-art CG effects, their version used toy helicopters, duct-tape monster masks, and an ocean of packing peanuts—and del Toro loved it. At WonderCon 2013, he praised the video, saying that it inspired the editing used in Pacific Rim’s third trailer. Harley and Mash happened to be at the same gathering. When del Toro met the comedic duo, he exclaimed “I loved it! My daughters loved it, we watched it a bunch of times!” Then he invited the Sweding duo to attend Pacific Rim’s premiere in Hollywood.

5 Ways to Define a Sandwich, According to the Law

It’s easy to say what a sandwich is. Grilled cheese? Definitely a sandwich. Bacon, lettuce, and tomato? There’s no question. Things start to get messy when you specify what a sandwich isn’t. Is a hot dog a sandwich? What about a burrito, or an open-faced turkey melt?

The question of sandwich-hood sounds like something a monk might ponder on a mountaintop. But the answer has real-world implications. On several occasions, governments have ruled on the food industry’s right to use the delectable label. Now, Ruth Bader Ginsburg—pop culture icon, scrunchie connoisseur, and Supreme Court Justice—has weighed in on the matter.

When pressed on the hot-button issue as to whether a hot dog is a sandwich while appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Ginsburg proved her extreme judiciousness by throwing the question back at Colbert and asking for his definition of sandwich before making a ruling. Her summation? A hot dog fits Colbert's definition of a sandwich, and therefore can be considered one.

While RBG's ruling may not be an official one, it matches Merriam-Webster's bold declaration that a hot dog is a sandwich (even if the Hot Dog Council disagrees). Officially, here’s where the law stands on the great sandwich debate.


Hot dogs are often snagged in the center of the sandwich semantics drama. Despite fitting the description of a food product served on a bread-like product, many sandwich purists insist that hot dogs deserve their own category. California joins Merriam-Webster in declaring that a hot dog is a sandwich nonetheless. The bold word choice appears in the state’s tax law, which mentions “hot dog and hamburger sandwiches” served from “sandwich stands or booths.” Applying the sandwich label to burgers is less controversial, but it’s still worth debating.


When Qdoba threatened to encroach on the territory of a Panera Bread in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, the owners of the bakery franchise fought back. They claimed the Mexican chain’s arrival would violate their lease agreement with the White City Shopping Center—specifically the clause that prohibits the strip mall from renting to other sandwich restaurants. “We were surprised at the suit because we think it’s common sense that a burrito is not a sandwich,” Jeff Ackerman, owner of the Qdoba franchise group, told The Boston Globe.

The Worcester County Superior Court agreed. When the issue went before the court in 2006, Cambridge chef and food writer Christopher Schlesinger testified against Panera [PDF], saying, “I know of no chef or culinary historian who would call a burrito a sandwich. Indeed, the notion would be absurd to any credible chef or culinary historian.”

Justice Jeffrey A. Locke ruled that Qdoba would be allowed to move into the shopping center citing an entry in Merriam-Webster as the most damning evidence against Panera’s case. “The New Webster Third International Dictionary describes a ‘sandwich’ as ‘two thin pieces of bread, usually buttered, with a thin layer (as of meat, cheese, or savory mixture) spread between them,’” he said. “Under this definition and as dictated by common sense, this court finds that the term ‘sandwich’ is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos, and quesadillas.”


If you want to know the definition of a certain dish, the officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are good people to ask. It’s their job to make sure that the nation’s supply of meat is correctly labeled. When it comes to sandwiches, the agency follows strict criteria. “A sandwich is a meat or poultry filling between two slices of bread, a bun, or a biscuit,” Mark Wheeler, who works in food and safety at the USDA, told NPR. His definition comes from the Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book used by the department (the USDA only covers the “labeling of meat, poultry, and egg products,” while the FDA handles everything else, which is why the USDA's definition excludes things like grilled cheese). Not included under their umbrella of foodstuff served between bread are burritos, wraps, and hot dogs.


The USDA’s definition may not be as simple and elegant as it seems. A sandwich is one thing, but a “sandwich-like product” is different territory. The same labeling policy book Mark Wheeler referred to when describing a sandwich lumps burritos into this vague category. Fajitas “may also be” a sandwich-like product, as long as the strips of meat in question come bundled in a tortilla. Another section of the book lists hot dogs and hamburgers as examples of sandwich-type products when laying out inspection policies for pre-packaged dinners. So is there an example of a meat-wrapped-in-carb dish that doesn’t belong to the sandwich family? Apparently strombolis are where the USDA draws the line. The Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book clearly states the product “is not considered a traditional sandwich” [PDF].


When it comes to sandwiches, New York doesn’t discriminate. In a bulletin outlining the state’s tax policy, a description of what constitutes a sandwich warrants its own subhead. The article reads:

“Sandwiches include cold and hot sandwiches of every kind that are prepared and ready to be eaten, whether made on bread, on bagels, on rolls, in pitas, in wraps, or otherwise, and regardless of the filling or number of layers. A sandwich can be as simple as a buttered bagel or roll, or as elaborate as a six-foot, toasted submarine sandwich.”

It then moves on to examples of taxable sandwiches. The list includes items widely-believed to bear the label, like Reubens, paninis, club sandwiches, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Other entries, like burritos, gyros, open-faced sandwiches, and hot dogs, may cause confusion among diners.


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