November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! On this, the annual Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I hope that you’re excited about a bunch of relaxation that’s about to come your way. I hope you’re headed somewhere cozy, where there will be an abundance of alcohol and carbohydrates. Not only that, but I hope you’re planning to put on sweatpants and watch things that make you happy; that’s where I’d like to step in and help you out.

Remember sitcoms in the 90s? It was a golden age, full of laugh tracks and wacky assistants. Characters practically winked at the camera to emphasize their jokes, but it wasn’t annoying because the jokes were funny! Or at least, they were funny to me, a dorky sixth grader with only two friends and a severe dry skin issue. I loved these sitcoms, and I was especially attracted to the offbeat supporting characters, who I felt were a reflection of the adult I might become (obviously, my ego was pretty out of touch with my dry skin-soaked reality). On this Thanksgiving holiday, let’s be grateful that these excellent characters were created, and that we can still enjoy them today.

Roz (Peri Gilpin) – Frasier (1993-2004)

Ah, Frasier. Two stuck up brothers and a curmudgeony old father, one hot British housekeeper, and Roz. Roz! Roz was a breath of fresh, real-person air in the otherwise out-of-touch Crane household. Her presence was what held the whole thing together, because she said what we were all thinking. Plus, she said it in her signature raspy, perpetually stressed voice: “Come onnn, Frasier.”

She was hot but not excessively so, and the large variety of men she dated made her fascinating to my sixth grade self. Now, I see her as an amazing role model for little girls: hard working and professionally successful, smart, pretty in a tough-around-the-edges way, and still largely unsatisfied. Reality! If Roz were alive today, I would want to meet her for a drink every single Friday at 5 PM.

Nina (Wendie Malick) – Just Shoot Me (1997-2003)

Nina Van Horne, Former Model. In the complicated office politics of Blush Magazine, Nina was an easy target. Finch and Elliot were constantly picking on her, but she never even seemed to notice. She held her head incredibly high. I think that was what drew me to her; she was just so damn TALL, and her facial expressions were priceless.

The great thing was that while she certainly wasn’t too bright, she did have a big capacity for happiness, and all of her ups and downs were genuine. If Nina and I were friends, I would probably make fun of her all the time, but deep down I’d count her as really important to me and I’d definitely want her to know my parents and help plan my wedding and stuff.

Harry Solomon (French Stewart) – 3rd Rock From The Sun (1996-2001)

3rd Rock From The Sun is often remembered as the moment at which we all first fell in love with tiny, adorable JGL, and it definitely was that. But there was someone else in that alien family who deserves to be remembered: that’s right, I’m talkin bout Harry Solomon. Weirdly, I always thought the character’s name was French Stewart, but upon further investigation I can see that French Stewart is the actor’s name – I’m not the only one who had that confused, am I?

Anyway, Harry/French was just so damn weird, it was amazing. With his perpetually nearly closed eyes, his high-waisted pants, and his constant state of confusion, he kept the whole gang together. He never really got to be front and center, but he completely killed it from the sidelines.

Rachel’s Boss (Alison La Placa) – Friends (1994-2004)

Rachel’s boss at Bloomingdales, Joanna, only appeared in 3 episodes of Friends, but she lives on in my memory. The best part about Joanna was that, while she loved Rachel, she hated her other assistant, Sophie. She was always saying things like, “Shut up Sophie!” and, “Sophie will you PLEASE crawl out of my butt.”

She famously went on one date with Chandler, who was not into her but couldn’t stop promising to call her (dammit, Chandler). Sadly, one of his main reasons for not liking her was that she always had mascara goop in the corner of one eye. Poor Joanna.

Joanna was tragically struck by a random cab, thus cutting her guest-starring role short (and destroying Rachel’s dreams of becoming an assistant buyer), but not before making a significant impression on Friends fans everywhere. RIP, Joanna. You were a total badass.

Olive (Kathy Najimy) – Veronica’s Closet (1997-2000)

Although Veronica’s Closet seems to have fallen to the bottom of our collective pop culture memory, it was once a prominent, valued part of my Thursday nights. It was Must See TV! After Seinfeld and before ER; the perfect little piece of sitcom lingerie.

Of course, it starred Kirstie Alley, but it also featured someone who has never appeared on Dancing with the Stars and whose talent deserves a lot more notice: Kathy Najimy, as Olive, Kirstie’s big-waisted, down to earth assistant. Clad exclusively in long flowy dresses paired with long flowy cardigans, Olive was a confident and capable lady who seemed to know just how to talk to people. She made me feel powerful and also safe. Olive, if you’re out there, I’d like to extend an invitation to join my family for Thanksgiving. The dress code is flowy and loose; come as you are.

Hang with all these baller characters on Portable.

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