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Second Bananas: An Appealing Bunch

We’ve cherry-picked 10 classic TV pairings that made unforgettable fruit salads

  • Courtesy Everett Collection

    Ed Norton

    En español | Would Ralph Kramden have killed in The Honeymooners without classic sidekick Ed Norton? “The chemistry was there right from the beginning,” Art Carney recalled on pal Jackie Gleason’s death in 1987. Even when teaching Gleason to dance “The Hucklebuck” or “address” a golf ball, Art gave Jackie the spotlight.

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  • CBS via Getty Images

    Ethel Mertz

    We’ve all been led astray by a zany friend, right? Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to identify with sensible, skeptical Vivian Vance — the perfect foil for harebrained Lucille Ball on I Love Lucy. Like a second banana should, Ethel worked hard to make Lucy look good.

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  • ZUMA Press, Inc. /Alamy

    Robin

    “Holy Man Friday, Batman!” The screamingly obvious conclusions reached by Adam West’s Batman were hailed as brilliant deductions by Burt Ward’s Robin. Guess which actor got paid minimum wage — and had to do his own dangerous stunts?

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  • Corbis

    Rhoda Morgenstern

    On The Mary Tyler Moore Show, rumpled Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) from New York leavened meticulous Mary Richards of Minneapolis — and helped us get to know Mary Tyler Moore that much better.

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  • Hulton Archive / Stringer/Getty Images

    Barney Fife

    The physical mismatch alone told you panicky Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife (Don Knotts) was playing second fiddle to his poised sheriff (Andy Griffith) on The Andy Griffith Show. Barney would knock off his own hat when saluting, making you relieved he was allotted just one bullet. “Aw, shucks, Andy!”

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  • NBC via Getty Images

    Lamont Sanford

    Sanford and Son was driven by an inside joke: Fred Sanford (comedian Redd Foxx) was the petulant child (“You big dummy!”), while his son Lamont (Demond Wilson) was the hardworking adult who kept him out of trouble. And it worked beautifully; sometimes the best sidekick makes a top banana look perfectly rotten.

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  • Castle Rock Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection

    George Costanza

    With-it Jerry Seinfeld never would have been caught napping beneath his desk. Nor would he carry a fat wallet in his back pocket, or suffer a public display of “shrinkage.” How do we know that? Because his opposite number, Jason Alexander’s George Costanza, did all three!

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  • Photos 12 / Alamy

    Agent 99

    Barbara Feldon’s cool Agent 99 made Don Adams look like a stumblebum as Agent 86 on Get Smart. It could have been her cute pixie cut, or her eye-rolling at Max’s latest idiocy. But would you believe it was actually her voice? 99’s honey-throated purr ideally offset Max’s grating squawk.

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  • Courtesy Everett Collection

    Timmy Martin

    The best foil never steps on — or barks over — your lines. And when you’re adorable Timmy Martin (Jon Provost), the canine smarts of faithful Lassie highlight your innocence, paving the way for simple morality tales about stolen bikes, injured animals and even a runaway hot-air balloon.

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  • ABC via Getty Images

    Barney Rubble

    A second banana often enshrines the mere sound of his top banana’s name. How else could Barney Rubble’s goofy “Whatever you say, Fred!” have lodged in our brains? Flintstones creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera proudly based Fred Flintstone and Barney on Jackie Gleason and Art Carney.

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