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TV Shows With Supporting Casts So Good, They Overshadow The Main Character

October 29, 2020 443 votes 67 voters 1.8k views13 items

List RulesVote up the ensemble TV casts that completely overshadow the main character.

If you've watched enough TV, you know there are a lot of supporting casts even better than their shows' main characters. That's just the way the cookie crumbles for shows loaded with stellar actors, whether they're goofing off on shows like Community or giving it their all on Boardwalk Empire. If there's a downside to stacking a show with great actors, it's that they pull focus from the show's lead.

Realistically, it's nearly impossible for a strong supporting cast not to steal the spotlight from the lead actor. Characters like Jeff Winger or Joel Fleischman have to carry a show as its moral center - and that's not always fun. On the other hand, the supporting cast gets to take part in hijinks until they're blue in the face, and that's what we love to see.

The main characters on these TV shows aren't necessarily bad - it's just that they're completely overshadowed by their supporting cast. Vote up your favorite ensemble casts that support the protagonist almost too well.

  • Photo: Netflix

    At its onset, we cling to Piper in Orange Is the New Black the way we would anyone in an unfamiliar situation. She's the main character in a very scary situation, but once we get to know her full backstory and meet the rest of the women in Litchfield, it becomes clear that she's far from the most interesting character.

    Not only do characters like Red, Nicky, Pusey, Taystee, and Suzanne have far more interesting lives and backstories, but once the audience gets to know everyone, they're simply more interesting and entertaining to watch on screen. This is nothing against Piper. She holds the show down in the way a main character has to, but it's clear by Season 2 that even the writers are more interested in telling stories that aren't related to her in any way.

    One of the most heartbreaking stories on the show is Nicky's. Throughout the series we watch her struggle with addiction and attempts to stay clean until she becomes one of the matriarchs of the prison ecosphere. Hers is just one of this groundbreaking series' great stories - one among many.

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  • Photo: Fox

    When New Girl debuted, it was clearly a star vehicle for Zooey Deschanel, but seeing her adorkable main character, Jess, at the forefront of every episode was exhausting. The series really took off when it turned into an ensemble piece. Starting in Season 2 and zooming straight to the finale, when the weirdness of Winston, Nick, Schmitt, and Cece bled into the main storyline, the show was at its best.

    It's all well and good for Jess to try and find a job as an assistant principal, but it's even better for Nick and Winston to work as chaperones for an eighth grade dance. It's clearest that Jess is overshadowed by the rest of the cast when she's missing from the show in Season 5 for a string of episodes (Deschanel was pregnant), and it's barely noticeable. The curse of having a great supporting cast is that it's sorta bad for the lead actor, even if it's great for the audience.

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  • Photo: CBS

    Sure, How I Met Your Mother is all about Ted Mosby's journey to falling in love and having a couple of kids, but he's the least interesting person on this show. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with Ted - he's totally fine - but he's surrounded by a group of hilarious crazy people that are so much more fun to watch.

    Every Mother head has their favorite cast member, but Robin and Barney vie the hardest for the audience's attention. Robin's extreme Canadian-ness is the source of some of the funniest non-sequiturs on the show, and Neil Patrick Harris is electric as Barney Stinson. He's creepy but also kind of charming; it's total whiplash in every episode, which is why he's so fun to watch. Thankfully, audiences don't have to choose when it comes to the cast on this series, because they spend so much time together. But no matter what's going on in Ted's love life at any given moment, it's hard to take your eyes away from the supporting cast.

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  • Photo: NBC

    He's a stand-up comedian, he loves Superman, and he always finds a reason to break up with whatever new young woman he's dating. That's pretty much the only thing we know about Jerry Seinfeld from nine seasons and 180 episodes. If the series that bares his name were a solipsistic one-person show, it wouldn't have become the rerun juggernaut that it is, but thanks to a cavalcade of supporting characters, it's impossible to stop watching this series.

    Elaine, George, and Kramer are fascinating enough in their own right, but the additon of parents, Soup Nazis, and egomaniacal mail carriers takes this series from a sitcom where nothing happens to one of the most mind-boggling explorations of humanity that's ever aired on television. It's not that Jerry is uninteresting - he's just extremely normal while everyone around him acts like they're from another dimension.

    It's no wonder the series ended by bringing back as many ancillary characters as possible - they deserve to be celebrated.

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