Jewish World Review
Jan. 13, 2011
/ 8 Shevat, 5771
The 10 greatest sidekicks ever
A few weeks ago, I was invited to an early screening of the new costumed superhero movie "The Green Hornet," which opens Jan. 14.
As I watched it, my mind wandered a bit and I started to think about Barney Fife.
That doesn't happen a lot to me. In fact, I can't remember the last time I sat in a movie theater and thought about Barney Fife.
This might be a good time to explain because I swear that there is a connection, however tenuous, between Sheriff Andy Taylor's bumbling but lovable deputy and the crusading publisher Britt Reid, who dons a costume to become the avenging crime-fighter Green Hornet.
And that connection is Kato.
You remember Kato, don't you? Played most famously by the late Bruce Lee on the mid-'60s TV show "The Green Hornet," he served as Reid's valet by day, and as sidekick to Reid's Green Hornet at night. Lee's portrayal is credited with kicking off the intense interest in martial arts that has run unabated in this country ever since.
Kato, who is played by Jay Chou in the new film, is certainly one of the greatest sidekicks ever created. But does he make our list of the top 10 fictional sidekicks of all time?
Before we start, must I remind you that the late Ed McMahan was not a fictional character? Johnny Carson's second banana certainly ranks at the top of any list of the greatest real-life sidekicks of all time, but we're maintaining a strictly fictional stance.
And that brings me to Pat Buttram, Gene Autry's sidekick. He was kind of a fictional character, but his real name was also Pat Buttram, so I have always been very confused. Therefore, I chose to leave him off the list but I want to honor the great sidekick by mentioning him here. Autry, the "Singing Cowboy," owned Orange County's baseball team before the guy who insulted the entire county by changing the team's name.
Now, on with the list of the 10 greatest sidekicks of all time:
10. Chewbacca: If one were to listen to any "Star Wars" geek for any length of time — and who would really want to — you might think that this overgrown shaggy dog was one of the eight wonders of the universe. He's not, but I agree that Chewie proved an able sidekick to the dashing Han Solo on the Millennium Falcon.
9. Kato: The Green Hornet wouldn't make it through a single night of crime-fighting if not for his martial artist sidekick.
8. Garth Algar: Shwiiiiing. There would be no "Wayne's World" if not for Wayne Campbell's best friend, sidekick and cable show co-host.
7. Tattoo: Played by Herve Villechaize on the TV show "Fantasy Island," the diminutive actor was sidekick to the mysterious Mr. Roarke. He was very good at pointing out "de plane, de plane."
6. Dr. Watson: Who would Sherlock Holmes bounce ideas off of if not for his trusty sidekick?
5. Ethel Mertz: Without Ethel, Lucy Ricardo would have been arrested. Ethel was Lucy's partner in crime, but also her conscience.
4. Robin: Unlike the relationship between The Green Hornet and Kato, Batman would get along fine without Robin. Having said that, it's always nice to have someone else around in tights and a mask so it's trick or treat every night.
3. Ed Norton: We're getting in rarified air now. These last three are practically interchangeable, in that they represent everything perfect about sidekicks. In Norton's case, Ralph Kramden would just be an obnoxious, abusive loudmouth without the great Ed Norton. Close your eyes and imagine Norton preparing to do something with his hands, taking so long that Kramden loses it. Hysterical.
2. Barney Fife: There is a reason that this show runs continually on TV somewhere in the world decades after it went off the air, and the reason is Deputy Fife. Oh sure, Sheriff Taylor is a great father and a reassuring model of good, decent people, and Mayberry is an idealized place where everybody wishes they were from (even with the annoying Floyd the barber), but Don Knotts' Barney is as funny a character as ever existed on the small screen.
1. Tonto: There is a debate in some circles concerning the Lone Ranger's sidekick. Apparently, there are people who are very sensitive about the character, but I have never found him to be politically incorrect in any way. In fact, Tonto, who saved the ranger's life and nursed him back to health, is one of the most dignified and honorable characters in fiction.
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