There’s always been something unsettling about the characters played by Jim Carrey, from Stanley Ipkiss, a.k.a “The Mask,” all the way up to Andy Kauffman in Man on the Moon.
His latest character is his most unsettling yet. Jim stars in Kidding, a new eight-part series starting on Showtime this Sunday (September 9), playing a children’s TV host called Mr. Pickles who’s far from the beacon of wisdom and kindness he makes out to be.
The figure of the TV host can expose the worst excesses of fame and television, and their fictional counterparts are some of the most unsettling characters on screen. Here are 10 of the most memorable.
10. Truman Burbank
“Good morning!” he says every morning. “And in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and good night!” With the slogan and cheesy smile, Truman Burbank is every inch the “host” of his own reality TV show — he just doesn’t know it. Yet. Another Jim Carrey character who questions his “real” identity, Truman eventually strips back the fake TV show that’s been surrounding him his whole life and discovers his true purpose.
9. Henry Davenport
The news anchor and veteran reporter in Drop the Dead Donkey, a British sitcom from the 1990s satirizing the television news industry, Henry (David Swift) was rude, obnoxious and full of contempt for anyone younger or more successful than him. He went on to have a Jerry Springer-esque chat show, though it’s fair to say he wasn’t exactly cut out for it.
8. Miss Piggy
There’s nothing unsettling about the original Muppet Show, except for the fact it was hosted by a rather anxious frog in thrall to the whims of his fame-obsessed wife Miss Piggy. In 2015 they announced a separation, and now Kermit is dating Denise from marketing. The recent reboot is an Office-like mockumentary set behind the scenes of new show “Up Late With Miss Piggy,” and it quickly became clear Piggy wasn’t completely over it.
7. Jenna Maroney
Played by Jane Krakowski, the co-host of the fictional SNL-esque sketch show at the heart of 30 Rock is, at first glance, an image-obsessed “dumb blonde.” A darker side to her character emerges over the show’s run, however, revealing Jenna’s insatiable desire to win, instilled in her by an overly zealous stage mom and a childhood entering singing and dance competitions.
6. Stephen Colbert
Now this one is unsettling because it’s so confusing. See, there was a fictional TV host called Stephen Colbert, played by Stephen Colbert, who then went on to have a talk show of his own called, you guessed it, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The former was a well-intentioned, but ultimately poorly informed and paranoid, right-wing commentator, while the latter is, well, the opposite.
5. Sue Ann Nivens
The TV host played by Betty White in The Mary Tyler Moore Show may have been the ultimate happy homemaker on screen, with great cooking skills, radical cleaning tips, and a bright and breezy personality, but off screen she was anything but. Behind the scenes she revealed herself to be conniving, self-centered, and two-faced.
4. Krusty the Clown
Herschel Shmoikel Pinchas Yerucham Krustofsky — a.k.a. Krusty the Clown — is the long-time host of Bart and Lisa Simpson’s favorite TV show in The Simpsons. Cynical, burnt-out, and addiction-riddled, he hates kids even more than he hates show business, but continues on anyway.
3. Alan Partridge
The U.K. doesn’t have many late-night talk shows, but it does have Alan Partridge, the sports reporter and chat show host played by Philomena and Stan and Ollie star Steve Coogan. When Alan’s chat show is canceled by the BBC, he enters his wilderness years, and goes on an increasingly desperate rampage to get back on the TV.
2. Howard Beale
Played by Peter Finch in the 1976 film Network, and Bryan Cranston in the recent stage play version, Howard is a news anchor who struggles with the inequality and depravity existing in the world. One day, he “just can’t take it any more,” and threatens to kill himself on nationwide TV.
1. Larry Sanders
Award-winning series The Larry Sanders Show takes on the monstrous ego of the late-night talk-show host (played by comedian and part-time host Garry Shandling), his A-list Hollywood guests, and the team forced to attend to his every whim. No-one was immune from ridicule, with stars such as Robin Williams, David Duchovny and Jim Carrey all sending themselves up, long before Extras was even a twinkle in Ricky Gervais‘s eye. The most merciless portrayal, however, was reserved for Shandling himself, who could be just as difficult as Larry, according to recent documentary The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.
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