100 Years, 50 Losers: #10 – #6
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on December 19, 2008
A.J. Soprano, The Sopranos
Played By: Robert Iler, Jr.
Born to Lose: Forget a ne’er do well–A.J.’s a ne’er do anything remotely correct. Well, that’s not completely true–over the course of six (really seven) seasons, Anthony Soprano, Jr. does a grand total of three things right. In season three, he recovers a fumble for his football team. In season five, he puts on a profitable frat party (albeit one that ends up in a brawl). And in season six, he bribes a bunch of loud thugs to be quiet, and is rewarded with sex from his date for his efforts. That’s it. Besides that, he gets into fights with bigger kids, misinterprets (and mispronounces) Nietzche, flunks High School English, plans a half-assed assassination attempt on his great-uncle, gets his eyebrows shaved off by his friends, gets caught vandalizing the school swimming pool, cries for his mommy at the sight of a bear in the backyard, sets his car on fire, flunks out of college, grows a Lars Ulrich hairdo, misguidedly proposes to his one-foot-out-the-door girlfriend, and passes out a whole bunch of times. Of course, the show saves A.J.’s coup de grace for one of the last episodes, when he even fails to properly kill himself, attaching a brick with a too-long length of rope to his leg, jumping in the family pool, and just flailing around for a minute until Daddy comes out to save the day. For all of the horrific things that Tony Sr. does over the course of the show’s run, the fact the he continues to put up with two family members that are veritable Worst Case Scenarios–an ungrateful, domineering, possibly demonic mother like Livia and a spoiled, lazy malcontent of a son like A.J. (the sight of him loafing on the couch, chuckling at an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force while his parents watch on in confusion and disgust, is one of the series’s most indelible)–goes a long way towards making up for them.
Too Close to Home: Robert Iler, Jr.’s rap sheet is almost as impressive as A.J.’s, getting busted for attending an underground poker club and for the armed robbery–in ’01, still the height of SopranoMania–of a couple of Brazillian tourists. Think maybe there’s a reason you never see Bobby in other acting roles?
Played By: Jerry Ferrara
Born to Lose: Turtle might come closer than anyone on this list to obtaining the title of “Professional Loser”–an innovation which we can all respect and appreciate. Turtle doesn’t really do anything but smoke pot, party and chase girls, but his networking abilities and shamelessness regarding those three things make him a useful enough asset that when his actor friend hit it superbig, Vinny put Turtle on the payroll. Consequently, Turtle became a loser with an almost bottomless budget, allowing him resources the likes of which most of us can only dream in the pursuit of getting high, drunk and laid. In the first article he wrote about Entourage, Bill Simmons said that in a real life Entourage, Turtle would constantly be angling for E’s position, and while that may be true, Turtle’s lack of personal ambition makes perfect sense to me–if you could just hang back and leech of your good friend while he did all the work and you got to enjoy all the benefits, why would you wanna fuck with that? Especially when you have a partner in crime like Johnny Drama to work with-an equally shameless running partner with some spectacular loser credentials himself. Besides, Entourage is at heart as pure a fantasy show as they come, and in Turtle, those of us without any particular God-given talents or looks get someone whose existence we can pragmatically fantasize about having.
Real-Life Retribution: Not only does Turtle eventually get with Jamie Lynn-Sigler (a.k.a A.J. Soprano’s much hotter and more successful older sister) in the show, but Jerry Ferrara eventualy gets with her in real life, too. I guess Meadow turned out to be a much bigger fan of hip-hop, pot and the Yankees than we all could’ve anticipated.
Trix Rabbit, Trix Commercials
Voiced By: Mort Marshall / Russell Horton
Born to Lose: What is there to say? In terms of the strictest definition of the word loser–as in, one who fails at the achievement of his or her most prized goals–there is no bigger loser on TV, or in any other medium for that matter, than the Trix Rabbit. Does he need oxygen? Maybe. Does he need the love of a good woman? Doubtful. Does he need clothes? Almost certainly not. He has but one need in this world, one craving, one desire–for some fruity, puffy, mediocre cereal. And to that end, there is basically no measure to which the rabbit–disguises, fake accents, cross-dressing, possibly some socially acceptable forms of prostitution–will not go. Yet despite this, the rabbit is perpetually thwarted in this obsessive, singular pursuit, denied the only thing he wants by a bunch of vicious, mean little breakfast-hoarding shits with opposable thumbs. And why? Social prejudice of the most debasing, disgraceful order–species discrimination that you’d have to think the producers would never be able to get away with in this day and age. Tony the Tiger never appears to have to fill out any paper work to lay rightful claim to his Frosted Flakes, and Toucan Sam can follow his nose to Fruit Loops whenever he damn well pleases, but the Trix rabbit remains eternally unsatisfied.
Unkonwn Depths and Complexities: Apaprently the cereal-buying public did take sympathy enough on poor Trixie to vote “Yes” on a nationwide poll taken in the early 90s over whether or not he should finally be reunited with his beloved, resulting in him finally getting to eat a bowl in ’91. That bowl only having fed his obsession further, however, he has not been the recepient of more than a single spoonful since.
George Michael Bluth, Arrested Development
Played By: Michael Cera
Born to Lose: Or, where a nation of awkward post-adolescent males finally found the poster boy they had been searching for for so long. I remember the exact moment I fell for George Michael–playing cards with Maeby at the end of the pilot episode, his circuits having been completely scrambled by his kiss with his cousin (initiated by Maeby in an unsuccessful attempt to piss off her parents):
George Michael: “I’m tempted to kiss again just so we could teach them a lesson!”
Maeby: “And…why would that teach them a lesson?”
GM: “Oh, uh, I mean, to freak them out.”
Maeby: “Yeah? But that doesn’t make any sense… ”
GM: “Well, isn’t that what makes it funny? I’m laughing. Go fish. Uno. Uh, I gotta finish this drink.”
This was not TV awkwardness. This was not TV anything. This simply could not be taught, only lived. There was no disguising it–George Michael was one of us.
Over three glorious seasons, George Michael represented us at our most confused, our most uncomfortable, and our least athletic. His tragic dilemma–being in love with his father’s sister’s daughter–was the real meat of his character, leading to numerous classic lines (“Cousins can bunk together! That’s why they call it ‘Bunking Cousins!'”) and even classicer subplots (Les Cousins Dangereux, anyone?) But George Michael was George Michael in absolutely everything he did, from reflexively turning away and shrinking whenever someone throws something at him to re-enacting the Star Wars Kid video in his garage to his response to his girlfriend dumping him, when he just collapses and folds while walking in his living room–probably one of the ten funniest things ever to be shown on TV. As the show went on and nearly every character became grating and borderline-intolerable, we never got sick of George Michael. And until Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, we thought we never would.
Moment of Triumph:
Milhouse Van Hauten, The Simpsons
Voiced By: Pamela Hayden
Born to Lose: C’mon, say it with me now: “NOBODY LIKES MILHOUSE!!” It’s rare that a TV show reserves a character almost purely for punching bag purposes, but The Simpsons’ let loose on Milhouse like no other. Picked on by bullies, teachers, psychiatrists, his friends and their parents (Milhouse even gets placed by Bart on the FBI’s Most Wanted list in one episode), the few people whose attention he craves–like unrequited crush Lisa, who considers him more of a big sister than a romantic prospect (“NO I’M NOT!! WHY DOES EVERYONE KEEP SAYING THAT???“)–tend to have better things on their mind. Meanwhile, his future looks to be even more dismal than his present, as Principal Skinner elects to swap Bart’s permanent record (“[which] will one day disqualify you from all but the noisiest, hottest jobs”) with Milhouse’s to bribe Bart to keep quiet about his relationship with Edna, and then there’s all those projections about Milhouse turning out gay (despite his torrid but short-lived smoochfest of an affair with one-off girlfriend Samantha). Eventually, he apparently does get to sleep with Lisa, but is written out of history by Lisa and Marge on the former’s wedding day (“Oh, Milhouse doesn’t count”), while he ends up working as Homer’s hardass supervisor at the Power Plant. If Milhouse ever actually won, though, it’d be borderline tragic–what good is a punching bag that punches back, anyway?
Ultimate Low Point: The entire Summer of 4 Ft. 2 episode, where Bart, Lisa and Milhouse vacation with the Simpson parents in Little Pwagmattesquarmsettport. Bart and Lisa argue and threaten each other heatedly while ignoring Milhouse (hidden behind a box of cereal) completely. Bart and Lisa spit at each other on an amusement park ride, and somehow both of their spit ends up hitting Milhouse. Bart, Marge and Homer play Mystery Date, and when Bart draws the “dud” date, Homer exclaims at Milhouse “He looks like you, Pointedexter!” Finally, when they’re driving back to Springfield and Lisa admires all the signatures of her new friends in her yearbook, she disdains the final signature in the corner: “See you in the car! – Milhouse”