Top 10 Presbyterian TV and Movie Characters

Not even sure how I got inspired to do this – maybe this Top 10 Jewish Characters post – but a few weeks ago I posted the following status update and received a flood of responses.

Bruce wonders about random things late at night. This night he is wondering about Presbyterian movie and TV characters. Top 10 to follow if we can name enough.

By the end there were not only TV and Movie characters, but actors, politicians and more.  But I shall stick with the rules and as promised have put together a list.  I judged them based on a highly scientific matrix called, “Let’s see who I like today” . . . yep Price Waterhouse would be proud ;-)

I also eliminated actors playing real people who were real Presbyterians so that knocks out all the movies about actual Presbyterian pastors.  I figure since they had a movie made about them, they already have received enough love.  Squabble if you like, just felt like that was cheating.  Make your own list.

Lastly, I didn’t take the time to fully vet all of the entries, so I have no real proof of truth except from Facebookers submitting names.  They can be trusted, right?  So, yes, if I am spreading lies like some prince from the country of _______ who wants to transfer money to my bank account after I pay a $1000 transfer fee . . . I am sorry.

Anyhoo, my TOP 10 List of Presbyterian TV and Movie Characters.

NUMBER 10 - North Avenue Irregulars - I have absolutely no idea who they are, but someone said they were Presbyterian from some obscure Disney Movie and I will just go with them at number 10 because we all need to learn something new each day.

Hope,jpgNUMBER 9 - Hope Murdoch Steadman played by Mel Harris on Thirty-Something - Staying on the, “huh, didn’t know that” theme and in order to give a shout out to a show that was made back when TV was TV, Hope gets the nod at number 9.

NUMBER 8 - Mr. Big played by Chris Noth from Sex in the City - You gotta love a guy who takes his mom to church.  You remember the episode, Carrie is suspicious of Mr. Big so she follow him and BOOYAY, he is going to church.  I THINK it is 5th Avenue PC in NY, but not sure.

NUMBER 7 - Debra Barone played by Patricia Heaton on Everybody Loves Raymond -   Anyone who puts up with Ray’s CRAZY family deserves a spot on any and every list.

PotterNUMBER 6 - Col Sherman T. Potter played Harry Morgan by on M.A.S.H.If I were in the Army, this is who I want to lead me – close second is Bill Murray from Stripes or the guy from 300 – so he gets number 6.  He always lead with fairness and compassion.  I am sure there are some gems of clips from this show – albeit a comedy set in a war context –  that could be used today.  I still remember his goodbye episode as well as the final episode, must have been over 25 years ago.  Oh Hawkeye how we miss your snark.  Does anyone have a tissue . . . sob.

NUMBER 5 - Rev. Mclean MacLean played by Tom Skerritt in A River Runs Through It - While I am not sure he did much for the whole stayed, “presbyterians clap on the inside” persona we have, he is one of the most well known Presbyterians pastors of the movies.

NUMBER 4 - Pam Beesley and Daryl Philbin played by Jenna Fischer and Craig Robinson from The Office - Easily the two coolest, thoughtful and talented people on The Office, so kudos to the writers for not giving us ________.  Though if you want to send me a FB Schrute Buck, I would turn it away.

NUMBER 3 - The Electric Mayhem Band played by the mind of Jim Henson - Really not much to say about this one.  Colorful, fuzzy, hippy rock band.  Pretty much like every Presbyterian Church I have ever seen ;-)

NUMBER 2 - Mary Richards played by Mary Tyler Moore, Mary Tyler Moore Show - I would argue after NUMBER ONE on this list, this is the best portrayal of a person who is Presbyterian on TV.  I just happened to watch and episode of this not long ago and was blown away by the wit, insight and humanity it portrayed during this time of our culture.  

MrrogersNUMBER ONE - Mr. Rogers played by Rev. Fred Rogers, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood  - Yeah, while that was his real name, I am going to make the call that he was more playing a character on a Children’s TV Show.   It was not like it was a talk show or was supposed to be REAL . . . remember King Friday, not real.  Sorry.  Needless to say, arguable one of the most influential people in American culture AND a Presbyterian.

I guess the final thing to do is to lay down the challenge to our other denomination friends.  The Presbyterians have brought it so time to step up!

36 comments

  • Hailey  

    Mr. Big’s church is Central Presbyterian on Park Avenue, not 5th Ave Pres. (WHY do I know this?? PC(USA) and Sex in the City– my two great loves…)

  • Diana  

    I read all the comments and didn’t see Ralph Waites (of ‘The Waltons’ and ‘NCIS’ fame) on the list. He was ordained to the ministry and served a church before giving it up to become an actor. According to his recent obituary, he floated in and out of the church for a while, but had been attended Church of the Desert in Palm Springs, CA at the time of his death.

    • Diana  

      Oops! That’s Ralph WAITE. And he lived in Palm Desert, CA. Should’ve checked my sources first.

    • Bruce Reyes-Chow  

      Didn’t know that, but was listing characters identified as Presbyterians, not the actual person. Mr. Rogers is borderline, but I still consider him playing a roll. It would be interesting to have a list of entertainers who are Presbyterians. I have heard of quite a few, but have never seen a list.

  • Susan Wallace Moriarty  

    Also Robin Roberts on Good Morning America and her family are all Presbyterian. Her mom has served on various ministries at GA.from what I have heard. But Robin has mentioned her faith many times on GMA, and that she and her family are Presbyterian.

  • Susan Wallace Moriarty  

    And I served churches in the Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery, and attended a few workshops with Fred Rogers. A Wonderful man, and he was who he portrayed. A Gentle soul.

  • Susan Wallace Moriarty  

    He did say Tom Skerrit in “A River Runs Through it.” And my favorite line in that one was, “Oh, Methodists are just Baptists who can read!” I love to tease my Methodist friends of that line! :-)

  • Ed McNulty  

    Mark, you are right on. When I served a church in the Pittsburgh area I visited Fred a number of times for interviews for various magazine articles. I rememeber him saying a couple of times, “I am not an actor.” and, “The person you see on TV is me, even though much of the show is make believe.” From what I saw in situations in which he interacted with adults and children, this was true, including his relating to two of my children who accompanied me on different occasions. Much of this I included in an article that I wrote in his memory at the time of his death for Visual Prables. Should anyone like to see a copy, she/he can reach me though visualparables.net.
    Ed McNulty

  • Ed McNulty  

    This is a fun list. Coincidentally, I hav been asked to come up with a similar list (film, howvere, not TV)for a future issue of Presbyterians Today, so I was delighted to find this through Google. Was especially happy to be reminded of the 31 year-old film NORTH AVENUE REGULARS.
    Ed McNulty

  • Ed McNulty  

    No, Charles Shultz was a lay preacher in the Church of God
    Ed McNulty

  • Ed McNulty  

    The film about a Presby. minister recruiting his Women’s Assoc. to combat a gambling ring, though not very good, gave some good publicity for Presbyterians. It was based on a real minister and his anti-gambling campaign.
    Ed McNulty

  • John Allen Bankson  

    North Avenue Irregulars was set at the very real North Avenue Presbyterian Church in ATL. Nice detail: they had conspicuously placed copies of The Hymnbook (1955) in the sanctuary.

  • Toby Brown  

    You really missed the boat here, leaving out a big one: The family in “A River Runs Through It” (book and movie) are Presbyterians!

  • Deborah Hollifield  

    Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows (she was born in China to Presbyterian missionaries); David Letterman (I think his mother was a Presbytery moderator once); Roy Rogers and Dale Evans; John Wayne; Sam and Helen Walton; Ross Perot; Lucille Ball; Condoleeza Rice, Karen Hughes, Britney Spears

  • NateDawg  

    Kang and Kodos from The Simpsons are Quantum Presbyterians. Or do we not count them because they are schismatics?

  • Barbara  

    I should have checked Wikipedia first–Charles Shultz was raised Lutheran and worshipped in Church of God and Methodist–guess he can be on their top 10 lists.

  • Barbara  

    Wasn’t Charles Shultz Presbyterian? That would make my number one: Snoopy. or Linus.

  • Gospel  

    I would want to echo Andy here – I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Rogers shortly before he died, and, from what I’ve heard, and what I’ve seen, there’s very little distinction between the man and the “character.” Mr. Rogers was Mr. Rogers, I think in his whole life. At least I’d like to think so.

  • Robert  

    Morgan says that Bree from Desperate Housewives and her family on the show were Presbyterian. Apparently there was an episode about it.
    Also, from back in the day, Doogie Howser and his family were presbyterian. There was an episode where Doogie said something like “but we are Presbyterian” and his dad retorted with something like “we can’t all be perfect, son.”
    I think Neil Patrick Harris (the actor that played Doogie Howser and can now be seen on How I Met your Mother) actually grew up Presbyterian. Not sure if he still is a member though…

  • Lauren  

    I must add Steel Magnolias to the list. Remember Shelby’s wedding at what they called “the Presbyterian Church?” She had everything in the church draped in pink…

  • Listing Straight  

    I remember the North Avenue movie! From when I was little! I’ve been trying to remember the specifics for ages…
    Great list!

  • rick Hanzlik  

    This is from the Hope evangelical Lutheran church site. http://hope-elca.com/famous/
    Erika Alexander, actress whose credits include the Bill Cosby show.
    Loni Anderson (b.1946) celebrity, thespian, and author. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota and raised in the Lutheran Church, Loni was for a time a Sunday School teacher. She is perhaps best known for her role as Jennifer Marlowe, secretary to the oft-befuddled Gordon Jump (“The Big Guy”) in the popular sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982). Since WKRP, Loni has worked regularly on the small screen, appearing in many movies made expressly for television. For the big screen she loaned her vocal talents to the character of Flo in the animated feature All Dogs Go to Heaven, which helped answer the profound theological question, “What happens when my pet dies?” Her autobiography My Life in High Heels (Morrow, 1995) details her rise to international stardom as well as her marriage to (and subsequent divorce from) fellow actor and celebrity Burt Reynolds (who, to his great credit, was also featured in All Dogs Go to Heaven).
    Brice Beckham, actor who played Wesley Owens in the ’80′s sitcom “Mr. Belvedere”; also, his father is a Lutheran pastor.
    Beau Bridges, actor
    Jeff Bridges, actor
    Gary Cole, actor; recently well known for his portrayal of Mike Brady in the “Brady Bunch” movies.
    David Hasselhoff (b.1952) actor, producer, recording artist. Perhaps best known for his role as Mitch in “Baywatch” (once the world’s most popular television program, with over one billion viewers a week!), David also starred as Michael Knight in the hit 1980′s series Knight Rider (along with a really cool talking car) and in the soap opera The Young and the Restless.
    Annabeth Gish, actress whose film credits include Oliver Stone’s Nixon (1995), Scarlette (1994), Mystic Pizza (1988), and “The X-Files”.
    William Hurt (b.1950) critcally-aclaimed actor whose many film credits include The Big Chill (1983), Broadcast News (1987) Children of a Lesser God (1986) and Lost In Space (1998).
    William H. Macy (b. ? ) Oscar award winning actor who starred in, among other films, Fargo and Mystery Men. Once was quoted as saying “I am Lutheran down to my socks.” Presently rumored to be in the new “Jurassic Park” movie.
    Ann-Margret (b.1941) actress, singer, and all around entertainer. Born in Valsjobyn, Sweden, she has twice been nominated for an Academy Award. Her many film credits include Grumpy Old Men (1993) and its sequel, Viva Las Vegas (1964) and Bye Bye Birdie (1963). She is also one of the very few Lutherans ever to have dated Elvis.
    Christopher Orr, actor whose credits include Disney’s The Mighty Ducks films. Later converted to the Orthodox Church.
    James Rebhorn, popular Hollywood supporting actor whose film credits include Independence Day (with Will Smith), The Game (with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn), Fatal Attraction (with Michael Douglas and Glenn Close) and Seinfeld (with, well, Seinfeld). Mr. Rebhorn is a 1970 graduate of the ELCA’s Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio.
    Andy Richter (b.1966) actor and original sidekick on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Andy also appeared in Chris Elliot’s motion-picture comedy Cabin Boy (along with former NBC Late Night host David Letterman).
    Kevin Sorbo (b.1958). Kevin first rose to fame as the title character in the syndicated television series Hercules. He later parlayed that success into the big-screen adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s classic hero King Kull in Kull the Conqueror.
    David Soul (born David Richard Solberg, 1943) actor; director; producer; recording artist; starred in “Here Come the Brides” with teen heartthrob Bobby Sherman; played Detective Hutchinson in the television police drama “Starsky and Hutch” (1975-1979). David’s father was Dr. Richard Solberg, who served as Senior Representative for Lutheran World Federation.
    Sally Struthers – Perhaps best known for her portrayal of Gloria on the popular sitcom “All in the Family”. She is also known for her work for children’s charities in impoverished areas of the world.
    Liv Ullman (b.1939) Norwegian actress of international renown, especially noted for the nine films she made with Ingmar Bergman. Three-time winner Best actress, New York Film Critics (1972, 1974, 1976).
    Bruce Willis (b.1955) actor, recording artist, restaurant entrepreneur. Born on a military base in Germany (the heart of the Reformation!), the future movie star moved to Carney’s Point New Jersey, where he attended (and was later confirmed at) Trinity Lutheran Church. Active in theater at New Jersey’s own Montclair State College, Bruce’s breakthrough role came in 1985 with the hit television show Moonlighting.Making an astonishingly successful transition to the silver screen, a full six of his films have grossed over $100,000,000: The Sixth Sense (1999),Armageddon(1998),Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), Pulp Fiction (1994), Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990), and Look Who’s Talking (1989). As a recording artist, his 1986 album The Return of Bruno spawned the hit Respect Yourself, which hit number 5 in January of 1987. With fellow action-hero icons Arnold Schwarzengger and Sylvester Stallone, Bruce co-founded the famous restaurant chain Planet Hollywood. Although his current denominational affiliation is unknown, our confirmands can take comfort in this: even a world-famous action hero like Bruce Willis once had to learn Luther’s Small Catechism.
    Steve Zahn (b.1968) Steve appeared as a member of the (fictional) pop band The Wonders in the Tom Hanks feature film That Thing You Do! (1996), and in the Ben Stiller feature Reality Bites (1994). Before embarking upon his acting career, Steve studied for a year at the ELCA’s Gustavus Adolphus College in his home state of Minnesota.

  • Mark Baker-Wright  

    Your rules, and all that, but I’ve gotta say (as a life-long Mister Rogers fan), by pretty much all accounts (and I’ve read/seen/heard many), the Mister Rogers you saw on the show was no character, but was pretty much who the Fred Rogers was in real life. Other stuff (such as the Neighborhood of Make-Believe you pointed out, but not just that. Mr. McFeeley comes to mind, too) was definitely “an act,” or the people were “characters,” but not Mister Rogers himself.

  • Jacob Douylliez  

    I have to say, I think this list is incomplete without the great Jimmy Stewart :-)

  • Andy  

    Concerning Mr. Bret Hart, there might be a technical distinction between the actor and the character he played (a grey zone occupied by Mr. Rogers).
    To settle the dispute, Mr. Hart and Mr. Rogers could face off in the ring. I realize that, techniclly, Mr. Rogers is no longer with us, but, given the powers of Make Believe . . . and the legedary manoevres of his sidekick X the Owl . . .

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow  

    Clay – Done. Don’t want to offend any Missoulians. Heck if only of my group choices could be received with such care ;-)

  • Stushie  

    I thought that WWF Wrestler Bret Hart and his family were Presbyterians from Calgary, Alberta in Canada…maybe I’m wrong.

  • Clay Allard  

    One quibble. In the movie, Rev Maclean makes a big deal about changing the spelling of his name as you have– “Now everyone will think we are lowland Scots.” Before he rises up and gives you the cold stare of judgment, spell his name right. It apparently meant a lot in Missoula, Montana ;-)

  • Maggie  

    Gosh, except for Mr Rodgers, I never knew any of these characters were Presbyterian! and I loved Thirtysomething!

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow  

    Dan – Yeah, must confess a slight TV crush on Pam. Then to find out she is Presby, nice.
    Andy – That is freaking hilarious. From parts unknown, weighing in so light she can walk on water . . . “The Baptizer”

  • Andy  

    You know whats missing, a Presbyterian WWF pro-wrestler. As far as I know, none exists, but the upside is huge. The wrestler would be famous for letting his/her opponent go in the last second, “Its all about grace!” And, at the closing credits, the commentators would have to say, “She really stole the show.”
    Now, back to that sermon I’m avoiding working on.

  • Dan Boles  

    Awesome list. Thanks for sharing. My favorite has to be #4. I heart The Office.

  • Linda Lotspeich  

    The anal-retentive Bree character on Desperate Housewives is Presbyterian… :)

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