Television has always been the little sister of the movies with the braces, glasses and slight case of acne. As is often the case, however, the little sister occasionally shows up at a party fully equipped with the greater personality and outshines her older sibling who looks smashing in a backless gown but turns out to have nothing interesting to say. Such is the case relative to one very specific comedic character. When it comes to funny or eccentric coroners, television is so far ahead of the movies that the future seems likely to include an early night for big sis while little sis doesn't come home until early the next morning.
What's with this lag on the big screen? From "Picket Fences" to "Psych" the defining personality trait of the medical examiner has been one of that includes elements from creepy to enterprising but usually in a funny way. Carl Kolchak's coroner was played by the actor most famous for lending Pooh's friend Piglet his voice and, after all, how unsettling can a medical examiner be who sounds like Piglet? Even though she wasn't technically a coroner, even Dr. Dana Scully's ventures into the world of examining corpses or presumed corpses often provided "The X-Files" with an opportunity for some lightheartedness.
Truly, when it comes to dealing with the rather disquieting notion of what type of person chooses a career spent mostly in the company of cold, lifeless, naked bodies, Hollywood has made the assumption that, on the small screen at least, there must be something a little bit offbeat and darkly humorous within the psyche.
If pressed to come up with a single coroner character from the big screen that is as memorably funny, offbeat or eccentric as the most memorable medical examiners on television, could you do it? Could you come up with even one? When I tried this little experiment based solely on a memory of film that I guarantee is more encyclopedic than most, the only funny coroner that immediately came to mind was the diminutive fella who certifies that a house falling upon her did, indeed, officially result in the demise of the Wicked Witch of the East.
I'm sure there must be at least a few movie coroners out there who equal, without being just downright disturbing minus the viewer-friendly lightheartedness, the goofy guy in charge of autopsies on "Psych" or who embody just the right amount of pathos like Carter on "Picket Fences" to make his character's general weirdness endearing rather than off-putting.
Clearly, when it comes to funny coroners, the sultry quality of the big screen is no match for the quirky personality of its little sister.
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