Some of the best characters on screen are never shown. Ugly Naked Guy, the conceptual nude man living in the apartment opposite the Friends flat, was recently discovered to be played by Jon Haugen in the two episodes where he needed a corporeal form – which gets us thinking, which other unseen characters have a proper significance in TV shows? Here’s our pick of the best.
5. Columbo – Mrs Columbo:
Despite her on-screen absence, Mrs Columbo captures the imagination and hearts of the audience merely through her husband’s dialogue. The protagonist proves the show’s unreliable narrator, so while detective Columbo paints a picture of a spirited and curious woman, his wife’s true nature is left for the viewer to decide...
7. Babylon 5 – Kosh Naranek:
At face value Kosh is shown on-screen in nearly every episode of the show’s first three seasons. But what was actually shown was known as an ‘encounter suit’, shielding his true form from dangerous threats.
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9. Doctor Who – The Terrible Zodin:
The third most wanted criminal in the galaxy. The Doctor reminisces about the infamous Zodin on several occasions: she's equipped with terrible talons and is a famed sword-swallower at the Grand Festival of Zymymys Midamor. The Doctor(s) describe her as a cunning megalomaniac: "they don’t make villains like her any more".
13. My So-Called Life – Tino:
Lead singer of Jordan’s band Residue (formerly Frozen Embryos), Tino is the guy everyone wants to know, but remains entirely absent from the show. Too cool for school – literally. It’s unknown if he even attends Liberty High. He’s the guy spreading word of a Buffalo Tom concert or organising parties everyone hears of – but no one attends.
15. The Office (US) – The Scranton Strangler:
For a jovial sitcom like The Office, the mystery of ‘The Scranton Strangler’ has proven a compelling mystery for the show’s fans; many a reddit thread is dedicated to solving the case of Scranton’s killer-at-large. Fan faves include Toby, Dwight and Kevin – but the killer remains on the loose.
17. The Sopranos – Eckley DiMeo:
Aka “Old Man”, the notorious Ercole ‘Eckley’ DiMeo looms large as the unseen boss of the DiMeo family. Mentor to Tony Soprano and a force to be reckoned with in his peak, DiMeo spends the whole show incarcerated, suffering old age and receiving round-the-clock medical attention. He was inspired by the real-life aging mobster Giovanni Riggi.
18. Diff’rent Strokes – The Gooch:
The infamous bully “The Gooch” was mentioned throughout the sitcom's run, but never seen. Described as a formidable, physically imposing, troublesome brute, he is also (unsurprisingly) not famed for his intelligence or wit. But his vendetta against Arnold forms the basis of several episode plots at school, and the reason for Arnold’s training in karate.
19. Magnum P.I. – Robin Masters:
27 years on, fans still speculate over the true identity of Magnum P.I.’s enigmatic millionaire novelist, Robin Masters. Masters, for whom Magnum was a security expert, was originally voiced by Orson Welles. Welles passed away during the series, so the writers decided to tease the idea that the caretaker of Masters' property and Magnum's colleague, Jonathan Higgins, was in fact Masters himself. They never resolved the issue – on purpose – so no one knows if it was him or not.
23. Father Ted – Father Bigley:
Like Seinfeld's Bob Sacamano, Bigley is a character people tell strange stories about. He's got "big puffy fish lips bigger than the rest of his face" after an incident with an exploding kettle. He loves Irish singer Dana, performed at OJ Simpson’s wedding, wears perfume, and was once involved in arms dealing with Iraq. What a life.
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24. Only Fools and Horses – “Monkey” Harris:
One of Del Boy Trotter’s business associates, Monkey is frequently mentioned as a purveyor of dubious goods for the Trotters. A “famed” left-back and member of the “infamous” ‘Class of ‘62’ alongside Del, Trigger, Boycie, Denzil and Roy Slater, Harris makes for a suitably elusive, shady presence.