40 Once-Loved TV Characters Who Will Make You Seriously Nostalgic

Lots of people get a majority of their entertainment from television. But countless different shows compete for attention, so the characters have to be good if they’re going to keep audience members tuned in. With that in mind, here are 40 TV characters who were once adored – even if they’re fading into memory a little now.

40. Sabrina Duncan, Charlie’s Angels

Sabrina Duncan of Charlie’s Angels proved that you could easily have beauty and brains at the same time. Such were her talents and drive, in fact, that she was pretty much considered to be the chief Angel. And because of that, her actress Kate Jackson always cropped first in the program’s credits.

39. Barbara Cooper, One Day at a Time

Barbara was one of the most memorable characters from the initial run of One Day at a Time. And actress Valerie Bertinelli enjoyed playing her, too. In 2020 she told Entertainment Weekly magazine, “I have such wonderful memories from those days… It changed my whole life.” Pondering where Barbara would be in the 21st century, she said, “I feel like Barbara would have an almost similar life to mine.”

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38. Marcia, The Brady Bunch

Everyone loved the adventures of The Brady Bunch, and Maureen McCormick’s sweet Marcia was an especially popular character. She was only 13 years old when the show began. But McCormick has more mixed feelings – her 2008 autobiography is significantly titled Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice.

37. Sarah, Sister, Sister

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Brittany Murphy played Sarah on the show Sister, Sister. But her tragic death means that the character will never be seen in any potential reboots or reunions. In 2014 actress Tia Mowry-Hardrict told OK! magazine that Murphy had been her favorite guest star. As she recalled, “She was always so sweet and so nice.”

36. Julia Baker, Julia

Actress Diahann Carroll became a trailblazer with the sitcom Julia. She played the main character and became one of the first black women to lead her own show. This was in 1968, during the height of the civil rights struggle. When Carroll passed away in 2019, Julia was mentioned as one of her greatest achievements.

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35. Sammy Jo Carrington, Dynasty

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Heather Locklear played Sammy Jo Carrington, a selfish and bratty young model, on the soap opera Dynasty. The role kickstarted Locklear’s career. You won’t see Sammy Jo in the rebooted version of Dynasty, though – or at least not the one you remember. Now, Sammy is a male character, played by Rafael De La Fuente.

34. Sharla, Kenan & Kel

In 1998 the popular comedy show Kenan & Kel introduced Sharla, played by Alexis Fields. She was the love interest for Kenan – and probably for several others in the audience, too. Kenan & Kel has been off the air for a long time now, but maybe one day it’ll return and bring Sharla with it.

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33. Lucy Ewing, Dallas

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When actress Charlene Tilton first was given the script for Dallas, she wanted to play Lucy immediately. And it was a good career move that she did, because the show made her a major TV star. Such was her popularity that when Lucy got married in 1981, around 65 million people tuned into the episode.

32. Little Joe, Bonanza

Playing Little Joe Cartwright on the Western show Bonanza made the 22-year-old Michael Landon famous in the ’60s. Audiences loved his character and he helped the show run for 14 seasons. And by the last one, Landon was a driving force behind the camera as well, both writing and directing episodes.

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31. Seven of Nine, Star Trek: Voyager

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From 1997 to 2001 Jeri Ryan played Seven of Nine on the show Star Trek: Voyager. It wasn’t always an easy role for the actress – the tight corset she wore prevented her from going to the bathroom without difficulty – but she became one of the most beloved Trek characters. And in 2020 she reprised the role for Star Trek: Picard.

30. Elizabeth Walton, The Waltons

The world got to see both Elizabeth Walton and her actress Kami Cotler grow up on screen. Cotler played the role from when she was six all the way until she turned 16. And by her own account she had a wonderful time on the set. She even considered her onscreen clan to be almost like a second family for her.

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29. Fred Sandford, Sanford and Son

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Redd Foxx played Fred on Sanford and Son, a stubborn and hilarious old guy in constant conflict with his son Lamont. Foxx, it could be said, completely disappeared into the role. Not only did he wear lots of makeup to make him appear older, he also wore heavy shoes in order to perform his character’s distinctive walk.

28. Maxwell Smart, Get Smart

The role of Maxwell Smart in the spy comedy Get Smart made Don Adams a television star. It also made him incredibly rich. But unfortunately, it’s widely thought that Maxwell probably made a dent in Adams’ career. He was so linked to the character that audiences and producers never saw him as anything else.

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27. Morticia Addams, The Addams Family

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Long before Anjelica Huston played the role on the big screen, Carolyn Jones was the woman behind the creepily delightful Morticia Addams. And without her, the character might not have sparked imaginations the way she did. Sadly, though, Jones passed away of colon cancer in 1983, continuing to work right up until she couldn’t anymore.

26. Stacey Carosi, Saved by the Bell

Leah Remini played Saved by the Bell’s Stacey, a pretty heiress who Zack has a holiday fling with. However, the character is also memorable because of who played her. Remini is one of the most high-profile ex-Scientologists in the entertainment world, and she frequently criticizes the organization and its practices.

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25. The Skipper, Gilligan’s Island

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Actor Alan Hale, Jr. came from a whole family of actors and lived a fascinating life. However, he was always most associated with one role – that of the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island. Yet he didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he enjoyed it. He even played the character on some completely different sitcoms.

24. Jeannie, I Dream of Jeannie

I Dream of Jeannie had a pretty bizarre premise. It centered on an American astronaut who happened across a bottle that unleashed a cute female genie. Yet the cast – including Barbara Eden as Jeannie – made it work. In 2017 Eden told the Daily Express newspaper, “Jeannie has been remarkably resilient, she’s always around. But that’s not a curse – she’s very easy to live with.”

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23. Mr. Green Jeans, Captain Kangaroo

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A man named Mr. Green Jeans used to entertain a whole generation of children with his music on Captain Kangaroo. That wasn’t his real name, of course – he was actually called Hugh Brannum, and he was a Marine during World War II. Brannum died back in 1987, but his legacy still lives on.

22. Batgirl, Batman

The ’60s version of Batman is, to some, the definitive take on the character. And the leading lady of the show was Yvonne Craig as Batgirl. Just before her death in 2015 Craig told Closer magazine that she thought people liked Batman for its escapism. As she put it, “It’s silly and fun and filled with pretty colors.”

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21. Michael “Grandpa” Woo, The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo

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Pat Morita was already known as Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid movies when he played the role of Shelby’s grandad in the kid’s show The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. And although his character was Chinese and he himself was Japanese, in 1996 he told the Washington Post newspaper that he wasn’t bothered.

20. Stoney, Stoney Burke

Jack Lord played the title character in the short-lived ’60s cowboy show Stoney Burke. Audiences followed him in his quest to be awarded with the Golden Buckle, an honor given only to the greatest rodeo rider. The show has more or less been forgotten about among mainstream audiences now, but it still has a small and devoted fanbase.

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19. Judy, Family Matters

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Audiences liked Judy, Jaimee Foxworth’s character from Family Matters. Then, one day she was just simply gone with no explanation – apparently, it was down to budget troubles. Foxworth, understandably, was not happy. In 2017 she told website The Root, “The producers felt that they could do it and no one would notice… My fans took notice of it.”

18. Laurie Partridge, The Partridge Family

Actress Susan Dey played Laurie Partridge on The Partridge Family for four seasons, despite having had no prior acting background at all. According to some people, she wasn’t that great a singer, either. But perhaps it was her relatable lack of polish that made her – and the show – so popular.

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17. Samantha Stephens, Bewitched

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Actress Elizabeth Montgomery was so charming as the nose-twitching witch Samantha Stevens that she made Bewitched a massive television success. And no one else could play Samantha the way she did. In fact, when acclaimed actress Nicole Kidman took on the role in a 2005 Bewitched movie, it was met with derision from critics.

16. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie

Laura Ingalls Wilder was a real person, and Melissa Gilbert gave her new life in the television series Little House on the Prairie. She remained on the show for nine years, growing into a teenager on the set. In 2017 Gilbert told Parade magazine, “That experience shaped me in a huge way as a professional, certainly. But also as a person.”

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15. Willis Jackson, Diff’rent Strokes

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Child actor Todd Bridges played Willis on Diff’rent Strokes. This character, notoriously, was the focus of the famous catchphrase, “What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” Bridges unfortunately went through a lot of difficulties after the show wrapped up its eight-season run in 1986, but he’s lived a life of sobriety for the last 25 or so years.

14. Herman Munster, The Munsters

The man underneath the very uncomfortable looking Herman Munster costume in The Munsters was Fred Gwynne. He was a good actor, but he hated being known for only that one iconic role. Allegedly, he almost played Henry in the sitcom Punky Brewster, but walked out after the casting director referred to him as “Herman Munster.”

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13. Mike Stone, The Streets of San Francisco

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Oscar-winning actor Karl Malden played Mike Stone in The Streets of San Francisco opposite future A-lister Michael Douglas. The show was a success – so much so, in fact, that people even mistook Malden for his character. According to a story from his autobiography, someone once tried to get him to chase a criminal on the street.

12. Commander Straker, UFO

Ed Bishop played his namesake Commander Ed Straker in the Gerry Anderson sci-fi series UFO. It wasn’t an easy acting role, though, as it delved deep into some pretty dark concepts. Bishop’s co-star in the show was Michael Billington, and sadly the pair died during the same week back in 2005.

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11. Phyllis Lindstrom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show

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Though the show was named after Mary Tyler Moore, Cloris Leachman’s snooty Phyllis Lindstrom was an important character, as well. She was so popular, in fact, that she got her own spinoff which lasted from 1975 to 1977. The character also returned for the very last episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

10. Keith Partridge, The Partridge Family

David Cassidy shot to fame with the show The Partridge Family. Not only did he act on the television, he sang on the radio, increasing his fame more and more. But life as a teen heartthrob was hard on him. He often resented that nobody would see him as anything other than Keith Partridge.

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9. Cinnamon Carter, Mission: Impossible

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Actress Barbara Bain played the magnificently named Cinnamon Carter in the television show Mission: Impossible. And her character had a big impact. In 2019 she told The Classic Film and TV Café blog that she often received letters saying, “Because of watching you on Mission: Impossible, I’m going to get my degree.”

8. Catwoman, Batman

Catwoman has been a sex symbol for a long time now, but one of the defining versions of her was Julie Newman’s in the Batman TV series. And Newman put a lot of work into the character. It was she herself who designed Catwoman’s figure-hugging costume, a creation so iconic it’s now in the Smithsonian.

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7. Natalie Green, The Facts of Life

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Mindy Cohn kept audiences laughing for nine years with her role as Natalie in The Facts of Life. But Cohn considers that she and the character “grew apart” after season three. In 2013 she told the HuffPost website, “This is when I started to ‘feel’ like an actor. I stopped playing me and learned how to create a character.”

6. Gunther, Friends

Everyone remembers the six main characters, but there was another character who played a big part in Friends. This, of course, was James Michael Tyler’s Gunther, the manager of the Central Perk coffee shop. Apparently, Tyler still gets paid for his role even now. Friends was and is so very popular that he and all the other actors still get residuals.

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5. Lieutenant Columbo, Columbo

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Peter Falk brought Columbo to life in a way that nobody else could have done. He provided the shabby clothes for the character, gave him the famous squint, and constantly ad-libbed his lines. So iconic did Columbo become that there’s even a statue of him in the middle of Budapest.

4. Screech, Saved by the Bell

Dustin Diamond’s Screech was a pretty integral part of the original Saved by the Bell show. Unfortunately, fans of the character are unlikely ever to see him again. Diamond has been estranged from the rest of the cast for a long time, thanks to arrests and a tell-all book. In fact, he wasn’t asked back for the reboot.

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3. Dylan McKay, Beverly Hills, 90210

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Luke Perry won the hearts of millions of girls when he played Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills, 90210. Tragically though, just a few days after a revival of the show was announced, he passed away from a stroke at the age of just 52. The writers announced at the time that they would work a tribute to the character into the new show.

2. Dr. Doug Ross, E.R.

The character of Dr. Doug Ross caught people’s eye for one very simple reason… he was played by George Clooney. And the role kickstarted the famously handsome actor’s career. Before the show began, Clooney was almost an unknown actor. Now, he credits it with giving him the life of a massively popular A-lister.

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1. Uhura, Star Trek

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When she first came on screen, no-one had ever seen a character like Uhura before. She was a black woman in a position of power aboard a spaceship. Her actress Nichelle Nichols became disillusioned at one point and wanted to leave the show, but none other than Martin Luther King, Jr. met up with her and requested that she stay.

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