Everyone knows about Fonzie, Laverne and Shirley, and the whole crew from That ’70s Show, but there’s a whole slew of lesser-known characters with deep fictional roots in the land of cheese and beer. Here are a few notable mentions:
1) Roz Doyle, Frasier
Frasier — the greatest sitcom to ever grace this cruel planet — has a Wisconsin connection through Frasier Crane’s radio producer Roz Doyle, who grew up in Bloomer. Although she left Wisconsin for Seattle, she expresses her unabiding love for the state with many classic one-liners, such as “The plane ride to Wisconsin is four hours, which is longer than most of my relationships last.” One episode even finds Frasier flying to Bloomer for Roz’s family reunion.
2) Chris Traeger, Parks and Recreation
Another sitcom classic, Parks and Recreation, brings us a stellar Wisconsinite: City Manager Chris Traeger. Played by sparkling ball of effervescent energy Rob Lowe, Traeger is an exceedingly positive Midwesterner trying to keep the city government of Pawnee, Indiana, from falling apart. He’s a fitness fanatic, an ambitious do-gooder, an optimistic charmer and all-around amazing person. In summary — the average Wisconsinite.
3) Richard Harrow, Boardwalk Empire
To take an abruptly dark turn, Richard Harrow, the disfigured veteran-turned-bootlegger-bodyguard-assassin on Boardwalk Empire was a born-n-bred Wisconsin man. He lost half his face fighting in World War I and wears a plaster mask to hide the scars, which has left him cripplingly reserved at the beginning of the series. Harrow’s arc is one of the best parts of this HBO drama, and we personally believe it has a lot to do with his wholesome midwestern roots.
4) Alison Parker, Melrose Place
Wisco gets its representation in soap opera too — just look at Alison Parker from the soapy classic Melrose Place. Parker is one of the crew of young, beautiful people living in an LA apartment, frantically sleeping with each other, drinking excessively, falling in and out of comas and occasionally murdering people. It may not be the most sophisticated show to feature Wisconsin, but it is the most … excessive.
5) Harry Crane, Mad Men
Even the legendary prestige drama Mad Men has a Wisconsin connection. No, we can’t claim Don Draper, but his co-worker Harry Crane is a proud alum of UW-Madison, and although he’s not exactly a great person, he’s really not much worse than all the other men on that show. Also, he has pretty cool glasses. Although this has no connection to Harry, one of the final episodes of the show includes an extended trip to Racine, proving beyond a doubt that Wisconsin is the best place to set show-ending emotional catharsis.
6) Lars Lindstrom, Lars and the Real Girl
Ryan Gosling packed on some significant weight to play Lars Lindstrom, a lonely, troubled Wisconsin man who believes that a life-size doll is his actual, living girlfriend. Now this may not be the most flattering portrayal of the Wisconsin man, but Lars and the Real Girl is a touching film, and Gosling plays absolutely against type.
7) Jack Dawson, Titanic
I’ve never seen Titanic, and I don’t really plan to, but Leonard DiCaprio’s character is from Wisconsin. Apparently he’s a big part of the movie. Something about a floating door that clearly could have fit both him and Kate Winslet. Anyway — this list, like my heart, will go on.
8) Ryan Bingham, Up in the Air
Up in the Air shows George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, a businessman flying around the country firing people and never settling down to a meaningful life. But by the end of the movie, we learn that Ryan was once a young Wisconsin boy who grew up frolicking in the fields, as we often do. This is Wisconsin at its Oscar-nominated best.
9) Phil Coulson, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Marvel, for better or worse, is dominating the movies right now. My desperate attempts to find a Wisconsin connection among the fictional superheroes were coming up short (Mark Ruffalo is a real person, so he doesn’t count). But it turns out that in one episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson — who you’d recognize from Iron Man, Thor and The Avengers — says he was born in Manitowoc. Take that, Queens! You guys may have Spiderman, but we have Phil Coulson.