Support TV characters who have become more popular than protagonists

Getting a character in a TV show can be even more difficult than in a movie because, more often than not, they have to entertain the audience for much longer. While making the main character interesting enough to carry the show is essential, supporting characters are just as important. If not more.

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Over the years, several secondary characters have gone so far as to become even more popular than the protagonists of their shows. Whether they had a more interesting dramatic arc or were just plain funny, these characters stole their show.


Patrick Star, Spongebob Squarepants

The most popular Nickelodeon cartoon of all time features a huge cast of iconic characters, from Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy to Plankton to Spongebob himself. The one who stole the show in his first appearance was SpongeBob’s best friend, Patrick Star.

Patrick is quintessential cartoon comic relief. He’s adorably stupid, but is fully aware of it and embraces it. Patrick’s blissful incompetence and unwavering self-confidence led to many of his best moments on the show. Now that he’s gotten his spinoff, Patrick has managed to eclipse almost even SpongeBob SquarePants.

Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation

Parks and recreation maybe about ambitious Leslie Knope trying to do whatever she can to help her hometown, but the show’s stellar supporting cast easily stole the show. The best of the best of them had to be Ron Swanson, Leslie’s boss, and his polar opposite.

Ron was the antithesis of everything Leslie was on the show. He hated the government, didn’t care about work, and showed almost no emotion. Despite this, he says some of the funniest quotes on the show, and he and Leslie have one of the best friendships on the show. Government may not work, but Ron Swanson certainly did.

The Punisher, Daredevil

daredevil is easily one of the best TV shows in the Marvel Universe. It was dark, gritty, and more down to earth than the movies had been. The show was full of great characters and incredible acting performances, but one of the best came with the arrival of the Punisher in Season 2.

Frank Castle was a dark reflection of Matt Murdock’s Daredevil. Another unrestrained vigilante, the Punisher was determined to put criminals on the ground rather than behind bars. He manages to be both violent and sympathetic relentlessly and is the subject of several of the best action scenes of the season. He received his spin-off shortly after, cementing him as one of the best characters in the Netflix series.

Castiel, Supernatural

Castiel in The Man Who Would Be King SPN

Believe it or not, SupernaturalBeloved Castiel was only supposed to appear in a short series of a few episodes when he first appeared in Season 4. Castiel was an angel of the Lord who was sent to Earth to aid the Winchester brothers in their fight against the ‘Hell.

Since his appearance, Castiel has become one of the best characters in the entire series. He added the perfect amount of naive sympathy and serious drama, and his relationship with the two brothers, especially Dean, was one of the strongest parts of the show. Despite being killed several times, Castiel was always too popular to stay dead and is as synonymous with the show as the Winchesters.

Black Black, Boys

Black Noir didn’t get enough screen time to become fully more popular than the main characters in The boys, but he’s easily the best part of almost every time he’s onscreen. He is the parody of the Batman series and is a quiet but incredibly deadly superhero to the titular vigilantes.

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Despite being a superhuman killing machine who has proven himself in several intense action scenes, Black Noir is also one of the funniest characters in the series. Without ever saying a word or showing his face, he manages to be hilarious, expressive and quirky. It’s unclear what, if anything, will be revealed about his character, and that might be a question best left unanswered.

Dwight Schrute, The Office

Dwight Schrute of The Office standing at his desk holding a samurai sword

To like Parks and recreation after that, Office was an ensemble comedy held together by the strength of its great characters. While Michael Scott was the show’s lead and Pam and Jim were its heart, it was Dwight Schrute who was the real star of the show.

Dwight was odd even compared to the other goofy characters on the show, but he was one of the funniest characters, often unwittingly. Each new revelation about Dwight added to his delightful quirkiness, and the dynamic between Jim and the others in the office was hilarious and uncomfortable. Dwight wasn’t the star of the show, but he certainly came close.

Negan, The Walking Dead

Negan kneels with Lucille in The Walking Dead.

Negan’s first appearance is arguably the most talked about moment overall Walking Dead the story. Playing a game to decide which of the group would become his first victim, Negan made it clear what kind of man he was by brutally murdering Abraham and Glenn.

After that, Negan became a cultural phenomenon among fans. His cocky charisma and willingness to use his infamous bat Lucille made him a fan-favorite villain. Negan carried on for several seasons as the main antagonist and has since become something of an antihero on the show. Not only did Negan shake up the whole show, but it was also a significant moment in television history.

Steve Urkel, Family Matters

Steve Urkel in Family Matters

Almost everyone who remembers Family matters remembers it because of one thing, Steve Urkel. He’s become such an iconic character that it’s easy to forget he wasn’t the focus of the show. He was originally only intended to be a one-off character in the show’s first season.

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The Winslows couldn’t escape Urkel, however, and he quickly became the show’s main character. Urkel was a neighbor of the Winslows with a huge crush on the family’s daughter, Laura. He is the quintessential lovable nerd throughout the series and continued to grow in popularity until he literally stole the show, becoming the main character and a pop culture icon. Yes, he did that.

Grogu/Baby Yoda, the Mandalorian

Grogu in The Mandalorian

Speaking of cultural icons, few television characters in recent memory have had such an effect as The Mandalorian Grogu, aka Baby Yoda. Grogu is revealed in the first episode of the series after being rescued by Din Djarin. The rest of the series focused on Djarin’s attempts to protect him from the remnants of the Empire.

Grogu’s ridiculously cute character design instantly endeared him to fans and became the face of thousands of merchandising campaigns. He was central to the series, keeping the stakes high while providing plenty of funny and heartfelt moments. The show can be called The Mandalorian, but for many, it’s the Baby Yoda show.

The Fonz, happy days

Henry Winkler as The Fonz in Happy Days.

There can’t be a better example of a supporting TV character that outshines the rest of their show than Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli of Happy Days. Although he started out as a supporting character, The Fonz very quickly became the standout favorite and eventually took over the entire series.

Fonzie was the epitome of cool back then. He was charismatic, gentle and apparently could do anything. He also managed to be an interesting character beyond that, having complex story arcs and meaningful relationships with the rest of the cast. The Fonz has become such a cultural mainstay that one of his leather jackets even hangs at the Smithsonian. How many other supporting characters can say that?

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