8 Memorable TV Uncles

Emma McIntyre / Staff / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images
Emma McIntyre / Staff / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

Extended family members always seem to figure more prominently in TV-land than in real life; in this first part of an occasional series, we take a look at some of the more memorable uncles who have graced our airwaves.

1. Uncle Joe

Prolific character actor Edgar Buchanan is probably best remembered as the gravelly-voiced Uncle Joe, who was always movin' kinda slow on Petticoat Junction. Uncle Joe Carson was one of a handful of Hooterville residents who also made semi-regular appearances on Green Acres. Buchanan was born in Missouri but moved to Oregon at the age of seven. He graduated from the North Pacific Dental College and ran a successful oral surgery practice in Altadena, California, until (at age 36) he finally gave up his spit sink and succumbed to the acting bug that had first bitten him back in college.

2. Uncle Bobby

If you were a kid in Canada during the 1960s and 70s, chances are you watched The Uncle Bobby Show (most likely you were home for lunch and just waiting for The Flintstones to come on). Uncle Bobby was Bobby Ash, who was born in Staffordshire, England, in 1924 and began acting on stage at the tender age of five. He emigrated to Canada after reading an ad for a new TV station starting up in Toronto that was looking for talent. The Uncle Bobby Show aired from 1962 to 1979 on CFTO and was also syndicated across Canada. Sadly, Uncle Bobby always remained something of a second-string children's TV host in a market that included the Friendly Giant and Mr. Dressup, and he had to moonlight as a school bus driver in order to make ends meet.

3. Uncle Bill

Family Affair's Uncle Bill (portrayed by Brian Keith) was almost more of an indulgent grandpa than the bewildered uncle who was unexpectedly made the guardian of his nieces and nephew when their parents were killed in a car accident. Of course, as a successful consulting civil engineer living in a luxurious penthouse apartment on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, swinging bachelor Bill Davis could afford to be benevolent. Basic care and feeding (as well as discipline) of Cissy, Buffy and Jody were all left to his gentleman's gentleman, Mr. French, to handle while Uncle Bill was off overseeing a construction project or dating a socialite. Uncle Bill's idea of parenting was to open his wallet in case of any emergency (such as the time he hired a baby elephant to entertain Buffy at home in the family living room when she was depressed over her broken leg).

4. Uncle Jesse

TV viewers (particularly the moms in the audience) can't resist a man who goes gooey over children, so it's no surprise that heartthrob John Stamos as Uncle Jesse lured as many fans to Full House on Friday nights as did the Olsen twins. Darkly handsome, long-haired, brooding Uncle Jesse rode a motorcycle and was a staunch Elvis wannabe. When such a "bad boy" gave up his carousing ways in order to help take care of his deceased sister's daughters, what red-blooded female wouldn't swoon? During the first season, Stamos' character was called "Jesse Cochran," but by Season Two Stamos had enough clout to ask the producers to change his name to "Jesse Katsopolis" in recognition of his own Greek heritage (Stamos' original family name was Stamotopoulos).

5. Uncle Charley

William Demarest was hired to portray Uncle Charley, the chief cook and bottle-washer, on My Three Sons after William Frawley ("Bub") became too ill to be insured. Demarest was no youngster by the time he joined the Sons cast "“ he'd appeared with Al Jolson in the first talkie, The Jazz Singer, back in 1927. Crotchety Uncle Charley was definitely the antithesis of easy-going Uncle Bill; he was famous for threatening the Douglas kids with things like the "Watusi red ant torture" if they didn't straighten up and fly right.

6. Uncle Junior

 Uncle Junior of The Sopranos was not as warm and fuzzy as your typical TV uncle, but he did have a soft spot in his heart for his nephew, Tony Soprano. In the final episode of Season Three, Junior starts singing along with a guitarist in the restaurant where the family has gathered for a post-funeral meal. It is an old Italian classic, originally written for Enrico Caruso, and the mourners are visibly moved. Uncle Junior continues into a medley of sentimental favorites, and subtly re-establishes his status as boss (even if temporarily) of the family. Dominic Chianese, who portrayed Junior, had been singing on Broadway since 1965, and music has always been his first love, so it's no wonder he was able to evince such a range of emotions in one scene via song.

7. Uncle Fester

When the bald, hunched man in the black coat appeared in Charles Addams' cartoons, he had no name. Addams himself christened the character "Uncle Fester" when his macabre family was turned into a sitcom in 1964. On the TV series, Fester was Morticia's maternal uncle, but in the subsequent films he was Gomez Addams' brother. Uncle Fester was played by Jackie Coogan, who first gained fame as Charlie Chaplin's sidekick in the 1921 silent film The Kid. Young Coogan's image was used to merchandise everything from peanut butter to dolls, and he earned an estimated $4 million before he hit his teens. Sadly, his mother and stepfather spent most of his fortune on luxuries for themselves, and when Coogan turned 21 he found that his bank account was nearly empty. An ugly legal battle ensued, with one result being the California Child Actor's Bill, which safeguards a portion of the earnings of juvenile performers.

8. Uncle Leo

It took some serious talent to stand out as an oddball among the Seinfeld cast, since every character had his or her own set of neuroses, but Len Lesser as Uncle Leo was up to the challenge. Uncle Leo was certain that anti-Semitism was behind every perceived slight, he believed seniors could get away with shoplifting by pleading senility, and he gripped folks by the forearm when talking to them just to make sure they didn't walk away while he raved about his son Jeffrey, who worked for the Parks department. Lesser mentioned in a 2006 interview that total strangers still approach him on the street with open arms, shouting "HELLO Uncle Leo!" but he doesn't mind; after playing a multitude of "faceless" character roles since 1955, he's pleased with the recognition.

Any favorite uncles we've omitted? Feel free to suggest aunts and cousins for future columns, too!

10 Reusable Gifts for Your Eco-Friendliest Friend

Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
DecorChic/Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

By this point, your eco-friendly pal probably has a reusable water bottle that accompanies them everywhere and some sturdy grocery totes that keep their plastic-bag count below par. Here are 10 other sustainable gift ideas that’ll help them in their conservation efforts.

1. Reusable Produce Bags; $13

No more staticky plastic bags.Naturally Sensible/Amazon

The complimentary plastic produce bags in grocery stores aren’t great, but neither is having all your spherical fruits and vegetables roll pell-mell down the checkout conveyor belt. Enter the perfect alternative: mesh bags that are nylon, lightweight, and even machine-washable.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Animal Tea Infusers; $16

Nothing like afternoon tea with your tiny animal friends.DecorChic/Amazon

Saying goodbye to disposable tea bags calls for a quality tea diffuser, and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be shaped like an adorable animal. This “ParTEA Pack” includes a hippo, platypus, otter, cat, and owl, which can all hang over the edge of a glass or mug. (In other words, you won’t have to fish them out with your fingers or dirty a spoon when your loose leaf is done steeping.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Rocketbook Smart Notebook; $25

Typing your notes on a tablet or laptop might save trees, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling of writing on paper with a regular pen. The Rocketbook, on the other hand, does. After you’re finished filling a page with sketches, musings, or whatever else, you scan it into the Rocketbook app with your smartphone, wipe it clean with the microfiber cloth, and start again. This one also comes with a compatible pen, but any PILOT FriXion pens will do.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Food Huggers; $13

"I'm a hugger!"Food Huggers/Amazon

It’s hard to compete with the convenience of plastic wrap or tin foil when it comes to covering the exposed end of a piece of produce or an open tin can—and keeping those leftovers in food storage containers can take up valuable space in the fridge. This set of five silicone Food Huggers stretch to fit over a wide range of circular goods, from a lidless jar to half a lemon.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Swiffer Mop Pads; $15

For floors that'll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.Turbo Microfiber/Amazon

Swiffers may be much less unwieldy than regular mops, but the disposable pads present a problem to anyone who likes to keep their trash output to a minimum. These machine-washable pads fasten to the bottom of any Swiffer WetJet, and the thick microfiber will trap dirt and dust instead of pushing it into corners. Each pad lasts for at least 100 uses, so you’d be saving your eco-friendly friend quite a bit of money, too.

Buy it: Amazon

6. SodaStream for Sparkling Water; $69

A fondness for fizzy over flat water doesn’t have to mean buying it bottled. Not only does the SodaStream let you make seltzer at home, but it’s also small enough that it won’t take up too much precious counter space. SodaStream also sells flavor drops to give your home-brewed beverage even more flair—this pack from Amazon ($25) includes mango, orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Washable Lint Roller; $13

Roller dirty.iLifeTech/Amazon

There’s a good chance that anyone with a pet (or just an intense dislike for lint) has lint-rolled their way through countless sticky sheets. iLifeTech’s reusable roller boasts “the power of glue,” which doesn’t wear off even after you’ve washed it. Each one also comes with a 3-inch travel-sized version, so you can stay fuzz-free on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Countertop Compost Bin; $23

Like a tiny Tin Man for your table.Epica/Amazon

Even if you keep a compost pile in your own backyard, it doesn’t make sense to dash outside every time you need to dump a food scrap. A countertop compost bin can come in handy, especially if it kills odors and blends in with your decor. This 1.3-gallon pail does both. It’s made of stainless steel—which matches just about everything—and contains an activated-charcoal filter that prevents rancid peels and juices from stinking up your kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Fabric-Softening Dryer Balls; $17

Also great for learning how to juggle without breaking anything.Smart Sheep

Nobody likes starchy, scratchy clothes, but some people might like blowing through bottles of fabric softener and boxes of dryer sheets even less. Smart Sheep is here to offer a solution: wool dryer balls. Not only do they last for more than 1000 loads, they also dry your laundry faster. And since they don’t contain any chemicals, fragrances, or synthetic materials, they’re a doubly great option for people with allergies and/or sensitive skin.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Rechargeable Batteries; $40

Say goodbye to loose batteries in your junk drawer.eneloop/Amazon

While plenty of devices are rechargeable themselves, others still require batteries to buzz, whir, and change the TV channel—so it’s good to have some rechargeable batteries on hand. In addition to AA batteries, AAA batteries, and a charger, this case from Panasonic comes with tiny canisters that function as C and D batteries when you slip the smaller batteries into them.

Buy it: Amazon

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15 Extremely Valuable Funko Pop! Figures That Might Be Hiding In Your Collection

In the 1990s, collectors salivated over Beanie Babies. In the 2000s, it was Pokemon. Today, the collectibles market is dominated by Funko Pops!, the ubiquitous vinyl figures that turn pop culture characters into block-headed, saucer-eyed cute bombs.

While Funko has a deep bench of licenses, many figures are exclusive to retailers, available for a limited time, or are otherwise hard to find. After perusing recent auction sales and Funko online price guides, we’ve excavated a few figures that are being bought and sold for stacks of cash larger than the toys themselves—and could be hiding in your very own collection. Take a look at 15 of the most sought after and valuable Funko Pop! figures that could net you a small fortune on the secondary market.

1. Ghost Rider Metallic Freddy Funko // $4210

The spirit of vengeance was unleashed as an ultra-exclusive variant edition that's a mash-up of the Marvel hero with Funko mascot Freddy Funko. Released in 2013, it was limited to just 12 figures. As a result, it’s a high-ticket item. The Pop Price Guide, which tracks Funko Pop! values and sales, estimates it at $4210.

2. She-Ra // $690

Funko

The warrior princess of the 1980s Masters of the Universe spin-off cartoon made a splash in 2013. The figure wasn’t a limited edition, but so many fans snapped her up that she’s hard to find.

3. Mike Wazowski Glow-in-the-Dark // $1960

The jolly green creature from 2001’s Monsters, Inc. was available in a limited glow-in-the-dark edition beginning in 2011, but collectors had to go on a scavenger hunt—only 480 were produced.

4. Reggae Rasta // $1200

Walmart

This Bob Marley-inspired figure has been sought after by collectors for sporting a limited-edition green outfit instead of the multi-colored one in the image seen above. That regular version sells for around $400.

5. Holographic Darth Maul // $5070

The horned villain from The Phantom Menace, 1999’s Star Wars prequel, got the glow-in-the-dark treatment from Funko in 2012. San Diego Comic-Con attendees had first crack at the variant, which was limited to 480 figures.

6. Master Chief // $650

Funko

The hero of the Halo 4 video game was a Blockbuster Video exclusive and commands $650 on the open market.

7. Ken Griffey Jr. Bronze // $3150

One of Major League Baseball’s most celebrated players got the Pop! treatment in 2018, with just 24 gold-finish variants made for fans at Seattle's Safeco Field (which was renamed T-Mobile Park in late 2018). The current market value is $3150.

8. Headless Ned Stark // $980

Funko

One of the most tragic and unexpected deaths on Game of Thrones was immortalized in this 2013 San Diego Comic-Con exclusive, which features the head of the Stark family and his detachable melon. The Pop Price Guide has valued Stark at $980.

9. Black Ranger Freddy Funko // $1850

This hybrid of Funko mascot Freddy Funko and the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was limited to fans attending the Funko Fundays event at 2017's San Diego Comic-Con. Only 24 were produced, which is why they’re extremely difficult to find, even on auction sites.

10. The Notorious B.I.G. Metallic // $1930

Funko

The late rap headliner got the deluxe treatment in 2011, with a metallic coat and hat version that was limited to 240 pieces. (The regular version is pictured.) Its listed value is $1930.

11. Batman Blue Metallic // $1400

The Dark Knight is looking a little more ostentatious in this 2010 San Diego Comic-Con offering, with a shiny blue cowl and accessories.

12. 1970s Elvis Presley Glow-in-the-Dark // $2170

Funko

A 1970s-era Elvis (above) comes in a special glow-in-the-dark version that has an estimated value of $2170. Another limited chase figure that depicts him at the height of his powers in the 1950s will run you as much as $1700.

13. Clown Dumbo // $5900

The ear-shaming of Disney’s 1941 animated classic Dumbo continues to strike a chord with people. The 2013 edition of Dumbo in clown make-up was limited to 48 pieces for San Diego Comic-Con attendees.

14. Planet Arlia Vegeta // $3500

Funko

The flame-haired Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z was exclusive to fans at the 2014 New York Comic Con and the Toy Tokyo store in New York City.

15. Bob’s Big Boy // $850

This iconic advertising character was a San Diego Comic Con exclusive in 2016. Only 1000 were made.

This story was updated in 2020.