TV shows live or die on their characters. The aim of most programmes is to be around for the long haul, and in order to do so, you need to populate your creation with characters viewers can love, hate, or be otherwise emotionally influenced by.
To that end, it stands to reason that a character should have a memorable name - a Don Draper, a Liz Lemon - that fans can connect to, discuss on Twitter, and so forth. To fail to name your character effectively seems a misstep; to neglect to name your character at all feels like nothing short of dereliction of duty.
And yet, TV has produced all manner of characters who’ve been effective in spite of, and often because of, their anonymity. It gives viewers the chance to create nicknames and descriptors of their own; it can even generate a mystery, with fans imagining that the character’s true identity will in due course be paid off.
These characters’ lack of names make up part of their personality, adding layers of mystery or everyman reliability. What’s in a name? Well, sometimes, absolutely nothing.
10. The Janitor (Scrubs)
One of Scrubs’ strongest attributes is its ability to flit seamlessly from heavy emotional material to zany comedy. The show tackled some weighty topics at times, and it had the confidence to do so because the creators could always fall back on The Janitor to pile up the laughs when things got a little too dramatic.
As played by Neil Flynn, The Janitor was a whirlwind of cheerily malevolent energy. For seemingly no reason, he took against audience surrogate J.D in the first episode, and from there staged a campaign of hate against the young doctor. These range from mild tricks and insults to outright torment, but Flynn moves through the show with such otherworldly confidence that the character is never dislikable.
Beyond that, The Janitor thrives on being unknowable, throwing out details of an impossibly rich life, making a game out of misleading his colleagues. Flynn was often given carte blanche to say what he wanted here, the script directing him to go nuts rather than trying to top whatever would come off the top of his head.
The Janitor is the most outsized character in Scrubs’ often cartoonish world, but it’s him who often keeps the show tethered to the world of comedy when the soapy or dramatic elements get too much.