It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these, but this is one cliche I just couldn’t pass up talking about. It amazes me how often this happens in sitcoms, so often that it’s almost just a part of the formula that makes a show work. It always works the same way. The character barges in unannounced and often unwelcome, has a few funny lines, and then he’s gone.

 

There is a simple reason why this happens so often, in virtually every example the annoying character barging in is also the most popular character on the show. Fans look forward to their arrival and love it when they finally appear. In some cases the character becomes so popular that they actually are the one thing the show is watched for.

 

These are friends who don’t understand boundaries. Sometimes these are obnoxious neighbors that the characters of the show have just learned to tolerate. They all have one thing in common, barging in whenever they want. Does anyone lock their doors in sitcoms? Let’s look at some famous examples.

 

The Honeymooner-I think if this trope started anywhere, it was here. Jackie Gleeson played Ralph Kramden and his friend was Ed Norton played by the amazing Art Carney. I would be lying if I said I have seen many of these, but Ed Norton may have been the first friend who just barged in without warning.

 

I Love Lucy-Not sure if Fred and Ethel really count, but how could I not mention them in passing?

 

Laverne & Shirley-Lenny and Squiggy were the all time classic example (well, until a more famous one came along which we’ll get to in a minute). Not only did they just barge in, unannounced, but almost every entrance was preceded by a cue. The cue would be some vague remark about something horrible, immediately followed by Lenny and Squiggy storming in with Squiggy’s famous “Hello!” This is also an example of people barging in who aren’t particularly welcome. Laverne and Shirley generally met the arrival of the guys with groans.

 

Bewitched-I am stretched this a little but Gladys Kravitz was one of the nosiest neighbors in TV history. She set the standard that many have copied since.  Sometimes when she wanted proof that the crazy things she saw were real, she would sneak over. It always backfired and her poor husband Abner just silently thought she crazy. Of course all of Samantha’s family, including her mother Endora, count since they all popped in and out whenever the heck they wanted.

 

The Bob Newhart Show/Newhart-On Bob Newhart it wasn’t that unusual to see people just walking in most notably Howard who dropped by unannounced. Of course on Newhart the famous three brothers Larry, Daryl, and Daryl were the famous example. The funny thing about these three was that Larry always did all the talking. Then there was that famous line “I’m Larry, this my bother Daryl, and this is my other brother Daryl.” I hardly ever watch this show but am familiar with them, that’s how popular they were.

 

Happy Days-Fonzie was a drop-in character at first, but as he became a breakthrough character that faded pretty fast. Others also tended to come and go as they pleased.

 

Three’s Company-Not sure if I would appreciate my landlord coming over all the time, whenever he wanted. But first The Roper’s and later Mr.Furley seemed to spend more time with Jack, Janet, and Chrissy then they did in their own homes.

 

Famliy Ties-Of course we always had the annoying neighbor Skippy dropping by whenever he wanted. Even though Mallory didn’t like him, he still came by to chase after her. I always love one episode where Alex has insomnia. Everyone has gone to bed but Alex, and this is when Skippy pops over. Who goes to a house when the lights are off? To be fair, he usually knocked but I am counting him because he was usually uninvited and unwelcome.

 

Alf-Of course what would a show about trying to hide an alien be if you didn’t have obnoxious neighbors barging in? That was the Ockmoneks, Trevor and Raquel. They were nosy and rude, and came very close to discovering Alf on a few occasions. However being typical sitcom neighbors they never did catch on. It’s funny, everyone knows Liz Sheridan as Jerry Seinfeld’s mother, but she will always be Mrs.Ockmonek to me.

The Hogan Family-Mrs.Poole was one of my favorite annoying neighbors.

 

Coach-How would you like it if your best friend dropped by at any odd hour because he was having a crisis? That’s what Luther would do very often do on this show. I hesitate to use this as an example because Luther didn’t barge in, but rather he’d knock on the door. But the way he did it was so annoying, he would bang on the door shouting Hayden’s name until Hayden managed to drag himself out of bed to deal whatever his problem was. Luther was clumsy, dimwitted, and full of neurotic fears. Jerry Van Dyke did a great job taking an annoying character and making him so darn likable.

 

Frasier-This is a tough one, but Niles tended to pop over without warning. Of course he always knocked first, he never just barged in.

 

Full House-D.J.’s annoying friend Kimmy Gibbler. Actually, I never found Kimmy as annoying as she was supposed to be on the show. Yeah, she was kind of annoying especially as the series went on but I don’t think the actress made the character as obnoxious as the scripts made her sound. Jesse didn’t like her because Kimmy had a crush on him, but why were Danny and Joey so unkind? Eventually Kimmy became next door neighbors, in one horrible episode driving Jesse crazy with noise.

 

Family Matters-Come on, you knew that he would be on here. Steve Urkel took this trope to a new level. Unlike with Kimmy, I can totally understand why the Winslow’s don’t want this kid around! He’s annoying and clumsy, always destroying something! Of course if it were the real world he would be told to leave and never come back. In sitcom land the best that they can do is tell him to go home. Steve always did, but you knew he would return. I already defended him once but I simply I think the reason he was so tolerated was because the family knew deep down he was a good kid with a big heart. He was locked out once, in the opening credits we see the entire family barricading the door to keep him out. That is an annoying drop-in character!

 

Reba-This show featured possibly the worst example of this trope, as Reba’s ex-husband and the woman he left her for felt perfectly justified in walking into her home without any form of notice or even knocking.

 

Roseanne-Aunt Jackie tended to come over whenever she wanted. She was usually there to do laundry, but the truth is that most of their friends were likely to wander in the backdoor unannounced.

 

The Nanny-Not so much in the start of the series, but as the show went on Fran’s mother and grandmother would appear without warning many times. Yetta was played by Ann Morgan Gilbert who was also the frequently appearing neighbor Millie back in The Dick Van Dyke Show.

 

Murphy Brown-Eldin the painter came and went whenever he wanted. He was always there; it didn’t matter if it was first thing in the morning or the middle of the night. Pretty amazing really. This could be explained by saying he had his own key, but still did he ever go home? Did he even have his own home? Eldin was supposed to be a real person to contrast with Murphy’s being a star, and he was often the best part of the show.

 

Empty Nest-One of the few good things in this show was David Leisure and his character Charlie. Not only did he barge in whenever he wanted, but he would also hit on Harry’s daughters. He had nothing redeeming about him, being a sex crazed guy with no sense of boundaries. With Steve Urkel you just had to tell him to leave once. It was a little harder to get Charlie out. However David Leisure gave the guy so much charm we couldn’t help but love him.

 

Friends-When you think about it, everyone on this show was a drop-in character. The other friends always seemed to wind up over at Monica’s apartment. They never knocked, never used the buzzer (yes, she had one), and would stay all hours even after Monica had gone to bed! One episode saw Chandler walk in and catch Rachel coming out of the shower. As she berates him he stops her to point out that the blanket she was using to cover herself wasn’t very concealing. This is made fun of many times through the series including the series finale when we see everyone has their own set of keys.

 

Fresh Prince-I love this example because it’s the one time we see the cast doing something about an annoying pest. The pest was Jazz, who was Will’s friend, and he would always kind of barge in. It was usually up to Uncle Phil to literally grab him and toss him out. I wasn’t a fan enough to know how many times we got the same scene where we cut to a shot of the house, and then a shot of Jazz being tossed out with that same scream. It happened often, and in a dream episode was reversed so Uncle Phil was tossed out instead.

 

Seinfeld-You knew we’d get to this one. Kramer took this trope and perfected it as far as I’m concerned. He would barge in literally anytime he wanted. Not only that, but he would raid Jerry’s fridge, use his phone, even entertain his friends there. The reason I say he perfected is because we loved it whenever he came in. Michael Richards knew how to take an annoying as heck character and made him, possibly, the most likable character on the show. We see the origins of this behavior in a late series episode when we flashback to Jerry moving in, and telling Kramer that they’re neighbors so is happy to share. Boy, did Kramer take that to heart!

 

Everybody Loves Raymond-So you find out that this show is about Ray and Debra living right across the street from Ray’s parents. Ok, that doesn’t sound so bad. That is until you find out the way Marie, Frank and Robert come over constantly. Marie comes over to clean and snoop while Frank tries to fix things but usually only makes them worst. I have said bad things about Debra in the past but I will say Patricia Heaton did a great job of conveying how annoying this situation was. Marie and Frank don’t believe in boundaries because they feel they are justified to do what they are doing. No matter how hard they try, Ray and Debra can’t keep them from barging over as many times a day as they want. One episode Debra points out Marie had been over nine times one day. How is that even possible? There is another episode where the doorbell rings, and Frank asks what the noise was. “You always had that?” he says.

 

Will & Grace-Will’s annoying friend Jack would often barge in. He would be there at odd times and take whatever he wanted. There is one episode where Will is away and leaves explicit instructions for Jack not to enter the apartment. He proceeds to ignore the note and walk right in. Karen wasn’t as bad, she would at least knock first.

 

The Big Bang Theory-I wasn’t sure if Penny counted, but she does tend to come over without warning. She steals the guys broadband and comes over for dinner and if she wasn’t invited.

 

Couple quick examples include Kenny on The Cosby Show (who would barge over and then see if Rudy was home), Iola on Mama’s Family (like how she would say knock knock but not actually do it), Jamie’s sister Lisa on Mad About You, Steve & Marcy on Married….with Children, and pretty much everyone on That 70’s Show.

 

Why don’t people on sitcoms lock their door? I know I already asked that but it bears repeating. It’s just amazing how often this happens, I didn’t even scratch the surface. Did I miss your favorite?

By richb

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