By Jeff Pfeiffer
Happy Friday the 13th! Whether this day is lucky for you, unlucky or neutral, it provides a good backdrop for a look back at some TV characters over the years who have had a tough go of it through various rough luck of all sorts. Here are some of TV’s unluckiest characters:
George Costanza (Jason Alexander), Seinfeld – Let’s face it. Although George often made (or unmade) his own luck through an astounding combination of laziness, poor attitude, lack of self-confidence, selfishness, arrogance, scheming, dishonesty and ineptitude, you did often have to marvel at his amazing run of bad fortune. Whether it was having his “shrinkage” exposed during a Hamptons weekend, getting his father’s car destroyed (after parking in a handicap spot), left handcuffed to a bed by a woman who robs him, getting busted taking food from the garbage by a girlfriend’s mother and countless other incidents (not to mention his string of failed relationships and jobs), you almost felt sorry for George even as you laughed at him. Even when it seemed as if his luck might change, you knew it wasn’t to be. His excitement over a potentially lucrative career as a hand model was very short-lived thanks to an unfortunate encounter with a hot iron, and his dream job with the Yankees ended with him getting inadvertently “traded” to Tyler Chicken. Poor George couldn’t even get a job as Jerry’s latex salesman at “Vandelay Industries.”
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Lt. Col. Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson), M*A*S*H – So you’re finally going home after managing to make it through your stint as a doctor in war-torn Korea alive, only to find your plane shot down over the Sea of Japan (there were no survivors). Pretty unlucky for poor old Henry, but even unluckier for actor Stevenson, whose decision to leave this hit series never translated into the same sort of career success he had enjoyed here.
Wile E. Coyote, The Looney Tunes Show – Good old Wile E. has been a Looney Tunes star on the big screen and on television for over 60 years now, and his luck has never changed. His efforts to capture the elusive Road Runner (maybe pop culture’s luckiest character) have gone for naught, usually ending up with the coyote plummeting into a deep canyon with a splat, blowing himself up with dynamite or suffering any other number of accidents, often as a result of the shoddy merchandise he purchases from the infamous Acme Company. Even in his new, CGI appearances on Cartoon Network’s The Looney Tunes Show, poor Wile E. Coyote can’t seem to win. Although, perhaps he has only himself to blame for his brand loyalty to Acme.
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Rosalind Shays (Diana Muldaur), L.A. Law – What a way to go. One moment recurring character Rosalind is chatting with her legal rival and recent lover Leland McKenzie (Richard Dysart), and the very next she is absentmindedly stepping into an empty elevator shaft (expecting a car to be there), falling to her death. One of the more sudden and shocking deaths in TV history, and certainly very unlucky, even though Rosalind was a fairly nasty character whom many fans likely were happy to see “get the shaft.”
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Kenny McCormick, South Park – When “Oh my God, they killed Kenny!” becomes a regular catchphrase for a series, you know that the “Kenny” referenced in the quote can’t be too lucky. Fortunately, he’s a cartoon character who can continue to return — and suffer the same indignity over and over again. But perhaps his luck has changed somewhat. Where in the first six seasons Kenny dies in nearly every episode, he has only been killed occasionally in recent seasons.
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Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill), Married … With Children – Maybe some of us know a guy like Al whose glory days have long since faded, and who has to relive his high school days in order to make it through his tedious work and family life. But that doesn’t make Al less funny — or unlucky. A literally bad break (of his leg) prevented high school football star Al from playing in college, and he ended up working as a shoe salesman to support his wife (whom Al proposed to in a drunken mistake) and two ungrateful kids. His life may be filled with wrong turns and regrets, but at least he always has that Polk High football memory.
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How about you? Ya feelin’ lucky? Let us know your suggestions for TV’s unluckiest characters!