11/12/2014 05:06 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Television's 5 Greatest Sad Sack Characters

Murphy explains to us, anything that will go wrong, will. Unlike most universal laws, Murphy's Law does not require any fancy mathematical formulas or complex theorems. No, all that's required to codify Murphy's famous epigraph is to watch one of television's most underappreciated archetypal characters, the sad sack, in action.

The sad sacks of the world strive to prove that, yes, in fact, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong and when it goes wrong, it really goes wrong. Luckily for us, though, their pain is our Schadenfreude. Television's humble and beleaguered sad sacks have languished in obscurity for far too long. Here, we'll attempt to rectify this inequity with the most venerable and distinguished of honors that our nation can bestow: the animated gif and paginated list.


Ted Buckland

Theodore "Ted" Buckland of Scrubs is perhaps television's quintessential sad sack. Ted, expertly played by actor Sam Lloyd, inhabits all of the telltale signs of sad sack-ery. He serves as Sacred Heart's chief counsel and chief punching bag. Ted's the kind of guy who, in his 40s, still lives with his mother -- and may very well share the same bed with her. Ted suffers from severe "flop sweat" issues, he went bald in 8th grade and his only friends are the hospital's manipulative janitor and his fellow a cappella band mates (red flag), the appropriately named "Worthless Peons."

Saddest Moment: Ted surprises the audience by revealing that he was once married. But, in true Ted fashion, he then immediately reveals that is ex-wife is now dating his brother.


Bill Dauterive

You may not recognize his birth name of Guillaume Fontaine de la Tour D'Haute Rive, but I'd be willing to bet you know the man (barely), the myth (questionably), the legend (definitely not) of King of the Hill's most famous and lovable sad sack, Bill Dauterive. Bill is voiced by the amazing Stephen Root, who, not-so-coincidentally, played the famous film sad sack of Milton in KotH series creator Mike Judge's 1999 cult classic film Office Space. Bill embodies all of the most important elements of sad sack-ness: Balding? He has more hair on his back than on his head. Overweight? When he broke his only plate, he ate spaghetti off of his counter and drank the pasta sauce like a chunky can of Coke. Emotionally needy? He can't sleep without first crying gallons of tears. Failing career? Score one for Bill here, as he is a sergeant in the army... but go ahead and take that point back, because he's only the army's barber (no offense to hair stylists). Like all of TV's finest sad sacks, there's an inherent likability and humanity to Bill Dauterive.

Saddest Moment: Bill is bizarrely relieved to find that his weight, awful body odor, baldness and grotesque body hair may be the result of an army experiment called Operation: Infinite Walrus. Believing his many maladies to not be his fault, Bill becomes overjoyed... until it is revealed that Bill was actually given a placebo and all his problems are of his own making.


Jerry Gergich

Jerry Gergich might be television's least respected character, and that includes Nancy Grace. In fact, Jerry is so unrespectable that no one is even quite sure of what his actual name is, maybe not even Jerry (Larry?) himself. In one of Parks and Recreation's funniest running gags, we see Jerry's first name transform over the show from Jerry to Garry to Larry (and possibly even Terry) and his last name changes from Gergich to Gengurch. Garry's dedicated work ethic and complete earnestness is often negated by his seeming incompetence and extreme clumsiness. Jim O'Heir is so convincing as bumbling Larry that if I saw him walking down the street, I'd attempt to give him a conciliatory hug.

Saddest Moment: In a rare moment of triumph for Jerry, Larry's boss unexpectedly comes to Garry's defense by proclaiming the unutterable, "Larry is my friend!" Jerry, clearly touched, tearfully thanks his boss... but this causes him to trip over a trashcan, which prompts another famous "Larry fart" (although nothing quite tops Season 5's fart attack).


Wade Bailey

Wade Bailey is certainly the most unrecognizable name on this list. Wade is the best friend of the protagonist in HBO's criminally underrated cringe-comedy, Hello Ladies. Of all of the characters on the list, Wade, played by the equally underrated Nate Torrence, is the most recognizably human. At the beginning of the series, Wade's beloved wife leaves him for a trial separation. As the series progresses, Wade tragically never gives up on his doomed marriage. Many of Hello Ladies' most brutal and funny moments come from Wade's desperately earnest attempts to re-woo his estranged wife. Although the series has been officially cancelled, HBO just announced a Hello Ladies movie that will conclude the series.

Saddest Moment: In a very misguided attempt to win back his wife's affections, Wade enters the call center where his wife works, hoping to whisk her away a la the famous scene in An Officer and a Gentleman. Predictably, tragically and hysterically, his plan backfires in the most truly spectacular way: his wife requests a divorce.


Moe Szyslak

Moe Szyslak is a different type of sad sack, but certainly no less pathetic. Unlike most sad sacks, Moe, Springfield's resident bartender and owner of Moe's Tavern, is not a nice guy who happens to be besieged by bad luck, questionable decision-making and a crippling lack of self-respect. No, Moe, by contrast, is short-tempered, quick to violence, (unsuccessfully) conniving and morally dubious, and all of these characteristics come to life via the incredible talents of Hank Azaria. While Moe's personality may be radically different than his sad sack compatriots, his fortunes certainly are not. Moe is respected by no one, his bar appears to perennially be on the edge of bankruptcy, and he has zero luck with the opposite sex. Moe is one of The Simpson's most popular side characters, which highlights our appeal for sad sack characters, even if they're not nice guys.

Saddest Moment: Moe has his number blocked from a suicide hotline for having called them too frequently.