Great Adorable Grumpy Old Guys

Fish (from Barney Miller): Fish is the ultimate ham. He complains about his health, his wife, and having to retire but never in a whiny way and, oddly enough, never in a way that leads you to think he doesn't actually adore his wife. One of my favorite lines from Fish is when he snaps, "Get away from me" at someone who is being particularly intrusive, such as Wojo. He really is the ultimate grumpy old guy who, no matter how grumpy he gets, you know has a heart of gold. Plus, he looks great in a gun.

Adam (from Law & Order): The D.A. of NYC, Adam is the guy who says it like it is. He is also the guy who waves his hands in exasperation when Stone wants to do something risky. Like Brass on CSI, he has a roguish twinkle and sardonic tone that keeps him detached and amused even when he is prophesying doom.

Luger (from Barney Miller): Luger is the raspy-voiced Deputy Inspector who shows up to complain about modern life versus the good old days. His delivery (of some downright outrageous lines) is so deadpan, he always brings down the house. Luger reminds me of Eugene's description: "an aging cold warrior adapting to modern times but not leaving the past behind," a supporting character who keeps a show from veering off into "a mush of shallow moralizing with strawman opponents."

Ducky (from NCIS): Ducky (played by David McCallum who doesn't look all that different from his Illya Kuryakin character despite the gap in years) isn't really grumpy. With that great accent and gentlemanly kindliness--not to mention all those interesting stories--he is absolutely adorable! However, he can be deadpan sardonic. Ducky represents old guy wisdom while Gibbs represents middle-aged guy terseness. Ducky is what happens when old guys accept that they are old guys.

Lionel yelling at some kids.
Lionel Hardcastle (from As Time Goes By): Lionel is grumpiness personified. He is also a die-hard romantic (as so many grumpy heroes seem to be!). He's rather pessimistic but not as misanthropic as the very funny Dr. Becker. Lionel actually quite likes people, and he's very happy in his life--just so long as he can be grumpy about it now and again.

Dr. McCoy (from Oh, You Know): A decade older than Nimoy or Shatner, DeForest Kelly took on the role of grumpy old guy who everyone goes to for advice. Sure, he complains ("I'm a doctor, not a therapist") but secretly he would hate it if he wasn't the voice of down-to-earth commonsense. In my opinion, Karl Urban did a decent job adopting that role.

James Earl Jones as the grumpy Darth Vader, the supposedly grumpy neighbor in Sandlot, and the grumpy writer in Field of Dreams ("Back, back, you're from the sixties!"). That gruff, melodic baritone is just so cool, it's hard to ever see Jones' characters as anything but attractive. I wouldn't be surprised if James Earl Jones was singly responsible for Darth Vader's redemption.

I should mention Doctor Sloan from Diagnosis Murder. Dick Van Dyke is the antithesis of grumpy old guy. Still, he is a treat to watch, and he can play grumpy old guy if he is really pushed to it.

And representative of young-guy-who-will-grow-up-to-be-an-adorable-grumpy-old-guy: Rodney McKay.

1 comment:

Kezia said...

I was initially surprised to see McCoy on this list; since I was so young when I first saw Star Trek, I filed all of the characters into one big 'grown up' category. I often forget that DeForest Kelley was that much older, but he was certainly the most grumpy.

My personal nomination would be old Bruce Wayne from Batman Beyond. Very grumpy and cynical, Bruce is an 80-something year old man living alone in Wayne Manor with only a dog for company at the start of the series. All of his old relations have either died (Alfred, the Joker, Jim Gordon . . .) or fallen out with him (both Robins, Batgirl). However, old Bruce has a lot of spunk left in him; he can still fight when he needs to and has a lot of great one-liners. There's a neat moment from a Justice League Unlimited episode where 30-something year old Bruce meets up with older Bruce and younger Bruce is forced to play the good cop.

(Older Superman shows up in Batman Beyond, too, but, as you might expect, he's not very grumpy.)