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Give me your assistants!
May 29, 2012 8:26 AM   Subscribe

Help me make a list of assistants/valets/right-hand people in pop culture.

For example: Smithers, Mr. Belvedere, Alec Baldwin's assistant on 30 Rock. Extra points if the assistant person is portrayed as being smart and on top of things and kind of the only one who really knows what's going on.
posted by missjenny to Media & Arts (58 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Jeeves
posted by xingcat at 8:29 AM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jeeves, from P.G. Wodehouse's 'Jeeves' stories.
posted by Nick Jordan at 8:29 AM on May 29, 2012


Mr. Bates.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:30 AM on May 29, 2012


Jeeves. The archetypal omniscient servant.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:30 AM on May 29, 2012


Also:
Benson, from "Soap" and then his own spinoff show (where he was no longer a butler).
Florence, the sassy maid of The Jeffersons.
posted by xingcat at 8:31 AM on May 29, 2012


Alfred Pennyworth and (less so) Pepper Pots.
posted by The Bellman at 8:32 AM on May 29, 2012


Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson) WKRP in Cincinnati
Jane Hathaway (Nancy Culp) The Beverly Hillbillies (although sort of clueless, really.)
Miss (Jane) Moneypenny James Bond series
posted by Ideefixe at 8:32 AM on May 29, 2012


Relevant TV Tropes article (named after Jeeves, natch.)
posted by griphus at 8:33 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's almost certainly a TV Tropes page that has already covered this; you could start with Number Two or Beleagured Assistant and see if that helps.
posted by bcwinters at 8:33 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


RADAR O'Reilly, M*A*S*H. Agent Coulson, recent marvel comics movies incl Avengers. Pepper Potts, Iron Man I&II, Avengers.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:33 AM on May 29, 2012


Also (since, amazingly, someone or three already thought of Jeeves) Alfred, Bruce Wayne's 'butler.'

Also Archie Goodwin from the Nero Woolfe mysteries, though he's not omniscient he's no schlub.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:34 AM on May 29, 2012


Josh Lyman in The West Wing
posted by crocomancer at 8:34 AM on May 29, 2012


Joan Harris runs SCDP.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:34 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, this is somewhat obscure, but that sort of relationship (clueless boss/assistant keeping things together) is implied between Jonathan Steinbloom (Bob Balaban) and his assistant in Christopher Guest's A Mighty Wind.
posted by griphus at 8:35 AM on May 29, 2012


This list of fictional butlers may also be of help.
posted by xingcat at 8:36 AM on May 29, 2012


Miss Foxhill in "Suddenly Last Summer" is Violet Venable's assistant, she delights in tasks such as supplying the household Venus flytrap with fresh prey.

Don't forget Jane Horrocks as Bubble in "Absolutely Fabulous." Not smart, but somehow seems indispensable.
posted by hermitosis at 8:36 AM on May 29, 2012


Sam Gamgee qualifies, I think. He's not a butler, but he's definitely a devoted servant in the English model.
posted by alms at 8:37 AM on May 29, 2012


Josh Lyman in The West Wing

I was actually thinking Donna—or even better: Mrs. Landingham.
posted by General Malaise at 8:37 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, now that I've gone and posted Mr. Bates, you could argue that Mr. Carson or Mrs. Hughes are the Jeeves of Downton Abbey.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:38 AM on May 29, 2012


Also, Mary Reilly in the Valerie Martin novel (and execrable movie adaptation) "Mary Reilly."
posted by hermitosis at 8:40 AM on May 29, 2012


Kif Kroker on Futurama
posted by sexyrobot at 8:43 AM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Farnsworth Bentley? Former assistant of P. Diddy and supposed authority on manners and... style?
posted by ohmy at 8:48 AM on May 29, 2012


The protagonist (I forget the name) in The Devil Wears Prada.

Arguably, Melanie Griffith's character in Working Girl.
posted by mippy at 8:52 AM on May 29, 2012


Homer's assistant Karl.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:53 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Arthur's Hobson in 1981 and 2011.
posted by humph at 8:54 AM on May 29, 2012


This might be too specific/meta but Without a Clue was an interesting inversion of the Holmes/Watson dynamic. (Holmes as bumbling doofus who gets all the credit, Watson as the long-suffering genius detective.)
posted by usonian at 8:55 AM on May 29, 2012


John Hooker from Mad Men. April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:57 AM on May 29, 2012


Charles Foster Offdensen
posted by Lucinda at 9:01 AM on May 29, 2012


I think Arthur qualifies as Larry Sanders' right-hand man on the Larry Sanders Show.
posted by Lorin at 9:02 AM on May 29, 2012


Mrs Danvers in Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca.
posted by humph at 9:03 AM on May 29, 2012


Audrey Taylor from Barton Fink is a more unusual example.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:04 AM on May 29, 2012


Sebastian Cabot as Mr French on the late 60s TV show "Family Affair" helping Uncle Bill look after Cissy and Buffy and Jody.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:04 AM on May 29, 2012


Not to quibble with General Malaise, but just to explain. I was thinking specifically of this quote from the series: You want to know the difference between you and me? I want to be the guy. You want to be the guy, the guy counts on. --- President Bartlet
posted by crocomancer at 9:05 AM on May 29, 2012


From Larry Sander's show, his assistant Beverly plus Hank's PA's , Darlene and Brian.

Passepartout from Around the world in 80 days.
posted by canoehead at 9:11 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pepper Potts, Tony Stark's assistant from Iron Man.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:15 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jarvis. In the Iron Man film series, he's an AI character.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:20 AM on May 29, 2012


Baldrick
posted by kagredon at 9:36 AM on May 29, 2012


TV tropes has a bajillion possibilities, with a lot of different nuances: Beleaguered Assistant, Girl Friday, The Jeeves, Hyper-competent Sidekick.
posted by skye.dancer at 9:42 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hazel the maid
posted by jgirl at 9:45 AM on May 29, 2012


Hermione Granger
posted by effluvia at 9:45 AM on May 29, 2012


Why, Jafar fits.
posted by Sayuri. at 9:53 AM on May 29, 2012


Woodhouse is Archer's valet, and essentially raised him a la Alfred & Master Wayne. Archer doesn't treat him very well, however. His name is a tip of the hat to P.G. Wodehouse's 'Jeeves' stories.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:25 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Uncle Charlie in My three Sons
Astrid on Fringe
posted by Gungho at 10:28 AM on May 29, 2012


Gromit the dog from the Wallace and Gromit animated series.

Wybe from Coraline (Henry Selick/Neil Gaiman)
posted by effluvia at 10:30 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Scarves and Water Man to Elvis, Charlie Hodge
posted by luckynerd at 10:36 AM on May 29, 2012


Bunter from Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.

Ianto Jones from Torchwood.
posted by nonasuch at 11:07 AM on May 29, 2012


It's probably pretty much past the cultural consciousness, but this was basically the premise of Remington Steele, which launched the career of Pierce Brosnan. The character in question is Laura Holt.
posted by mkultra at 11:34 AM on May 29, 2012


Gary on Veep is the new Charlie on the West Wing (body men to the veep/president).
posted by acidic at 12:11 PM on May 29, 2012


Tyrion Lannister as the Hand of the King - Game of Thrones (tv)/A Clash of Kings (book)
posted by ThisKindNepenthe at 12:55 PM on May 29, 2012


Daphne on "Frasier"
Niles on "The Nanny"
Missy on "Up All Night"
Dwight on "The Office" (he's Assistant Regional Manager or Assistant to the Regional Manager, depending on who you ask)
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:34 PM on May 29, 2012


Cato in the Pink Panther movies. Kato in the Green Hornet (I think, though my only real familiarity with that is the terrible movie that came out recently, where they play up Kato's competence gap very very heavily)
posted by furiousthought at 2:53 PM on May 29, 2012


TV's Frank from Mystery Science Theater 3000. He would not qualify for those extra points, however.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:05 PM on May 29, 2012


Alice from the Brady Bunch
Dexter from Silver Spoons
posted by SisterHavana at 8:37 PM on May 29, 2012


Ed McMahon
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 9:10 PM on May 29, 2012


mkultra: "It's probably pretty much past the cultural consciousness, but this was basically the premise of Remington Steele, which launched the career of Pierce Brosnan. The character in question is Laura Holt."

I wouldn't describe his character as an assistant. He was a front man. The premise was that, while uber-talented, like the three "top cops" in Charlie's Angels Ms. Holt wouldn't be taken seriously as a woman; ergo, she created a male pseudonym/fake boss. Pierce showed up and assumed the role of that boss (don't recall now if she hired him, or he just conned into the role). Anyway, he was never her assistant per se.

But it was an interesting premise, if only that it said so much about that pivotal point in US society's view of professional women.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:03 PM on May 29, 2012


furiousthought: "Kato in the Green Hornet (I think, though my only real familiarity with that is the terrible movie that came out recently, where they play up Kato's competence gap very very heavily)"

Kato was his butler, so it very much fits. The heavy-handed depiction of Kato as being the only competent part of the team is an homage to how Hollywood used and underrated Bruce Lee in the original series. He later proposed the idea for the series Kung Fu; they stole it and inserted a white guy in the lead, instead of Bruce.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:05 PM on May 29, 2012


IAmBroom: "I wouldn't describe his character as an assistant."

I didn't. The Laura Holt character is the "butler" in the show.
posted by mkultra at 5:08 AM on May 30, 2012


mkultra - Ooh! I missed your point! Good one!
posted by IAmBroom at 6:57 AM on May 30, 2012


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