The Top Ten: Characters not originally the star


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The Independent Culture

This list started with Thomas the Tank Engine because, although his 70th birthday is being celebrated this year, he did not appear in Wilbert Awdry's 'Railway Series' until 1946. (A tank engine is one that carries its own water rather than pulling it in a tender.) Thanks to Philip Downer, who pointed out that Thomas was originally the Starr (Ringo, that is).

1. Elsa of 'Frozen'

Anna was originally the protagonist, but extensive rewrites – and the composition of "Let It Go" – changed everything. Thanks to James Ronicle.

2. The Fonz

Henry Winkler's character was meant to be a second-string role in Happy Days. Tipped by Angus Ramsay, Spinning Hugo, Simon HB, Simmy Richman and Stephen Murray.

3. Popeye

Didn't appear in Elzie Crisler Segar's "Thimble Theatre" comic strip until 1929, 10 years after it started in the New York Journal. Spotted by Stephen Murray and Bill Detty.

4. Ed Miliband

Very funny, Aaron Bell.

5. President Bartlet

The West Wing was originally going to focus on staffer Sam Seaborn, and Bartlet would have been mostly off-screen. Voted for by Harris, Stuart Ingham, Jem Stone and Joseph Colman.


6. Frasier

The character, played by Kelsey Grammer, was supposed to be in only a few episodes of Cheers, but his spin-off became as successful as the original. From AJK62, Jem Stone and Mr Memory.

7. Arthur Daley

Minder was devised as a vehicle for Dennis Waterman after his success in The Sweeney, but George Cole's character soon won equal billing. Thanks to Patrick Hennessy.

8. Phil Collins

Promoted by John Peters, who also nominated Robbie Williams.

9. Alan Partridge

The Steve Coogan character who started life as the sports presenter for On the Hour, a parody news programme.

10. Hannibal Lecter

"He was a mere cameo villain in Thomas Harris's Red Dragon" – the first of the series of four books (the second being The Silence of the Lambs), says Richard T Kelly.

Next week: Nouns that are always plural (including loggerheads and cahoots)

Coming soon: Towns everyone's heard of but can't place on a map. Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to