We looked at Wilson, Nanny, and 10 other TV personalities everyone knows, but nobody recognizes.

 

George Steinbrenner, Seinfeld 

Many of TV's never-seen characters serve as omnipotent gurus whose baritone voices provide much-needed wisdom, like explaining to Tim why his wife's mental health is more important than the Detroit Auto Show. But nobody in Seinfeld's twisted New York was this rational -- not Jerry's neurotic best friends, not the fascist soup proprietor down the street, and certainly not the show's resident unseen force: New York Yankees owner (and boss of George Costanza) George Steinbrenner, whose nasally, scratchy voice (provided by series co-creator Larry David) offered George less advice, and more endless diatribes on the best place to sit in a hot tub and the many virtues of the calzone.



Vera Peterson, Cheers, and Maris Crane, Frasier

Cheers and its spin-off Frasier were different shows with different sensibilities, but sometimes they told the same joke. Norm and Niles both had unseen wives whose beastly appearance were the butt of many jokes, and the descriptions became so epic and beastly that casting someone became impossible. Perhaps both shows had writers who were unsatisfied with their wives and they needed a punching bag to take it out on.



Dr. Claw, Inspector Gadget

By remaining hidden in the shadows, Dr. Claw became one of animation's most mysterious and intriguing villains. So you can imagine how upset Jean Chalopin, Andy Heyward, and Peter Sauder (the creators of Inspector Gadget, duh) must have been when someone at the action figure factory decided he could define what Dr. Claw looks like. The beautiful women and insane power Chalopin, Heyward, and Sauder were no doubt awarded for giving the world Inspector Gadget were likely but a small comfort.



Wilson, Home Improvement

Not so much unseen as never-fully-seen, Tim Taylor's sage-like neighbor Wilson has nevertheless emerged as the Pablo Picasso of anonymous TV characters -- popularizing a once obscure art as 20 million Americans a week squinted through his trademark fencepost, desperate for a glimpse at what was network television's biggest pre-Lost mystery: actor Earl Hindman's chin.



Tino, My So-Called Life

Two words: Tino. Tino was literally too cool for school. Like, he was never there. He existed as the abstract personification of clique-bridging coolness that every high school wishes it had. Whether he was spreading the word about a Buffalo Tom concert, supplying Rayanne with off-campus dining options, or maintaining his role as the raucously invisible lead singer of Residue (formerly Frozen Embryos), one thing is for sure: he's still more famous than the guy who played Brian Krakow.



Stan Walker, Will & Grace

Stan, Karen's husband, is more mythical creature than human - an unbelievably wealthy whale-of-a-man who somehow won the black heart of Karen Delaney. Considering that the couple divorced twice, once after he faked his own death, Walker arguably drives the plot more than any other unseen character on a TV show..



Charles "Charlie" Townsend, Charlie's Angels

Charlie is arguably the grandfather of the anonymous TV character. From the confines of a mustard-colored telephone speaker, Mr. Townsend's disembodied voice introduced the case of the week to his trio of sexy private eyes, like the world's most boring phone-sex caller. Charlie's anonymity created not only the "unseen character" gimmick, but a whole new world of TV clich