1. WKRP In Cincinnati, Andy Travis
Building a television ensemble is a tricky proposition. There must be enough outsized characters to keep the laughs (or the drama) coming, but the show also has to stay grounded. To manage this balancing act, shows often end up building around a down-to-earth lead who acts as connective tissue between more colorful characters, but is not terribly interesting on his or her own merits. That was the dilemma faced by WKRP In Cincinnati, which built a terrifically memorable group of characters around a bland, easygoing nice guy, Andy Travis (Gary Sandy—for those too young to remember him, just picture Nathan Fillion’s hair with a Texas drawl). As the ostensible lead—the theme song is about him—Travis was set up as the classic “I’m surrounded by idiots” straight man forced to wrangle the burnout morning DJ, a paranoid reactionary newsman, a sleaze ball salesman, and a dimwitted boss. But Travis himself never had much more to do than react to the insanity around him, and he wound up as the least interesting character on the show. Later ensemble sitcoms (Arrested Development and 30 Rock come to mind) solved this problem by slowly revealing the “straight man” to be as crazy as the rest, but WKRP dealt with the issue by shuffling Travis into the ensemble, where he tended to be overshadowed by the rest of the cast.