100 Years, 50 Losers: #30 – #26
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on December 9, 2008
Samuel “Screech” Powers, Saved By the Bell
Played By: Dustin Diamond
Born to Lose: For those of a certain generation, Screech will forever be the go-to when contemplating the mental image of High School loserdom. He was smart but not necessarily intelligent, extremely outgoing but without any sort of finesse, and a member of the popular crowd without actually being popular. More importantly, he looked like the picture above–a Jewish, acne-ridden schlub without the wit of Woody Allen or even the self-awareness of Seth Rogen. This was what young losers of the early 90s believed they had to look forward to upon reaching high school, and to be fair, for a show of its time, Screech wasn’t that far off. Was there any doubt that this guy was going to grow up to do porn and dress like Kevin Federline?
Too Close for Comfort: Sez Wikipedia: “Diamond was three years younger than most of the cast of Saved by the Bell. Because of the age and religious differences, he was never very close to any of the other teenage actors on the show. He said that while the other teenage actors went out together and got along, he basically did his own thing.” The article says that he did get along pretty well with the guys who played Principal Belding and the maintenance dude from Good Morning, Miss Bliss. Aw, Samuel…
George O’Malley, Grey’s Anatomy
Played By: T.K. Knight
Born to Lose: It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when George O’Malley was pretty much the Lloyd Dobbler of prime-time medical melodrama. Poorly dressed, shaggy-haired, looking and acting younger than the rest of the interns, it’s no surprise George never earned a McNickname. Instead, he got stuck in the friendzoniest of friend zones with roommate Meredith Grey while she fell in and out of a relationship with the dashing Dr. Shepherd, and caught syphilis from his worst enemy, the even dashing-er Alex Karev (via their mutually shared girlfriend). O’Malley eventually hooked up with the supremely annoying Callie Torres, cut his hair, and became as boring as the rest of the Seattle Grace staff (while coming off as TV’s biggest wet blanket off-screen by inadvertently running co-star Isiah Washington off the show). Still, George was what made those first two seasons compelling, which in retrospect was a hell of an accomplishment.
Ultimate Low Point: In S2, George actually finally manages to bed Meredith, but she can’t stop crying while they’re having sex. An impressively unwatchable moment from a show whose idea of real human drama was to have the doctors treat a patient that had a ticking timebomb inside of their stomach.
Non-Alltel Cell-Phone Service Providers, Alltel Commercials
Played By: Matthew Brent, Scott Halberstadt, Ian Gould, Michael Busch/Adam Herschman
Born to Lose: The non-Chad cell-phone representatives of the world are far from the most successful of business paragons, being trumped at every turn by those with more pragmatic (and less inhuman) service strategems. Nore are they necessarily sympathetic characters, trying to cheat trusting customers out of lower rates and more minutes at just about every possible opportunity, and sniping at those who wish to do right by the constituents. Still, when the other side is represented by a do-gooder as despicable as Chad–with his gelled up hair, shiny outfits, Svengali-esque powers of persuasion and exceedingly villainous name, is it really any mystery who I’m rooting for, against all odds, to come out victorious in these ads? Don’t worry, guys–some day you’ll tempt the wizard back to your side with promises of orbs or powders or rare Magic: The Gathering sets, and then Chad will rue the day he first decided to let kids share his lemonade stand.
Bill Haverchuck, Freaks and Geeks
Played By: Martin Starr
Born to Lose: Needless to say, there was no shortage of loser characters to go around on Freaks and Geeks–of just about all stripes, in fact. Really, though, when you get down to them, only one of them was particularly likeable, and that was Bill Haverchuck. Mostly, that’s because unlike hissimpering geek friends and the self-stylized freaks found elsewhere on the show, Bill was perfectly comfortable in his own skin. He didn’t question his place in the world, he didn’t try to improve his station–he was a nerd, and he didn’t hide or sugarcoat it. So he dressed up like The Bionic Woman for Halloween, feuded with his gym teacher, and obsessively followed the plot of Dallas, never doubting or apologizing for his life choices. He had a self-confidence that made you sure that he’d turn out pretty OK, and based on Martin Starr’s performance (essentially as himself) in Knocked Up, he probably would’ve been pretty tight with one of my friends on the Ultimate Frisbee team at Hampshire. To be fair, though, it was John Francis Daley who had the post-F&G role of a lifetime as the silent trainee in the criminally underrated Waiting.
Classic Loser Quote: “Remember that time in civics when I had to fart, and it came out, well, a poop? And I had to flush my undies down the toilet? Do you think I wanted to tell you that?”
Cliff Clavin and Norm Peterson, Cheers
Played By: John Ratzenberger and George Wendt
Born to Lose: Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, because in your day to day life, you’re such an unbelievable nobody that even expecting someone to know what to refer to you as is a little but too much to ask. When you’re a teenage loser, you go to your room and dream about the day when you’re old or independent enough to make your own way in the world. When you’re an adult loser, you go to a bar, drink yourself to oblivion and wonder why the fuck that day hasn’t come just yet. Of course if you’re lucky enough, you at least have some other like-minded folk to do it with, and at the very least, Cliff and Norm–two middle-aged men with unexceptional employment, unfortunate unlucky streaks and perpetual woman issues (romantic and maternal)–always had each other, and had at least one place in the world where life was always OK. Cheers might not’ve necessarily romanticized the adult loser persona, but it definitely gave it a sort of quiet dignity, showing that there were enough of them out there that if you were fortunate enough to find each other, there was enough to constitute a family.
Moment of Triumph / Ultimate Low Point: In one of the few episodes of this show that I still vividly remember, for obvious reasons, Cliff goes on Jeopardy!, catches a dream board and cleans up, but as Norm correctly predicts from the audience, blows it all on an incorrect Final Jeopardy guess. Hey, they don’t call ’em losers for nothing…