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Little People on the Small Screen: Their Biggest Roles

They say there are no small parts, only small actors. But this year, there are actually plenty of big roles on TV for little people -- at least, there are on HBO. Peter Dinklage has a major role in HBO's medieval drama Game of Thrones, while Ricky Gervais begins filming Life's Too Short, a sitcom starring Warwick Davis as an egomaniacal dwarf talent agent, for the network in May. And that's not even counting the numerous reality shows on the air about bakers and dog trainers who also happen to be little people. Considering how rare it is that we see actors with dwarfism on television in significant recurring roles, this double news item got us thinking about the last time a little person was on our TV on a regular basis. Then, once we remembered how bad The Cape was, we decided to look back further. Here are the best and worst.

Best: The Wizard (1986-87)
In the 1980s, David Rappaport was all over the TV, as he popped up in guest roles on shows ranging from Mr Belvedere to L.A. Law to Hardcastle & McCormick. But he took center stage as The Wizard, a genius inventor who retired and became a toymaker, but still uses his creations to help people and stop bad guys. Describe this show to anyone who hasn't seen it, and they will assume you are crazy or high. Its cancellation after 19 episodes and lack of a DVD release don't help matters.

Best: Scrubs (2001-2009)
Martin Klebba became a recurring character on Scrubs in the third and fourth seasons, as he joined the janitorial staff and occasionally helped Janitor torture J.D. A stuntman as well as an actor, Klebba did all of his groin-punching.

Worst: The Cape (2011)
We were initially taken with the idea of Klebba as a circus strongman who also happens to be the circus dwarf, but then we watched more than five minutes of this show, and realized that a terrible, terrible mistake had been made somewhere along the line. It almost made us wish that Knee High P.I. had gone to series.

Best: Jack of All Trades (2000)
Erstwhile Mini-Me Verne Troyer is by no means a good actor, but noted ham Bruce Campbell did enough acting for an entire cast in this historically inaccurate, but hysterical period sitcom. And casting Troyer as a three-foot Napoleon Bonaparte was yet another example of the show's over-the-top ridiculousness.

Worst: Shasta McNasty (1999-2000)
A TV show about a rap-rock band is already pretty dated, but this show was repellent even when rap-rock was a thing, thanks to creepy Jake Busey in the leading role and Verne Troyer as a frequently belittled friend of the band. Even a Gary Busey cameo couldn't make up for all of the episodes centered around dwarf boxing, dwarf football and eating tortilla chips out of a dwarf's sombrero. Comedy!

Best: The Wild Wild West (1965-69)
How the brilliant Mexican dwarf Dr. Miguelito Loveless, played by Michael Dunn in the TV series, became a wheelchair-bound Southern general played by Kenneth Branagh in the movie, we have no idea. But then, that movie raised a lot of questions.

Best: Seinfeld (1989-1998)
When Kramer got the acting bug, he started off as a stand-in, where he befriended fellow stand-in Mickey Abbott, played by Danny Woodburn. Of course, being friends with Kramer has its dangers, and at one point Abbott finds himself ostracized from the dwarf community thanks to Kramer's bad advice, but that didn't stop him from appearing in five more episodes.

Worst: Special Unit 2 (2001-02)
Few remember this Buffy knock-off about a secret organization that monitors the mythological beings who live in Chicago, but those who have seen it don't soon forget Woodburn's role as the hard-to-kill klepto gnome, Carl. Because gnome make-up combined with tracksuits is really weird-looking.

Best: Fantasy Island (1977-84)
Tattoo may have been on the show mainly for comic relief, with his excited plane-spotting and go-kart driving, but it's telling that this show went off the air shortly after they fired Hervé Villechaize. Tattoo removal: not always a good idea.

Worst: Conan the Adventurer (1997-98)
Danny Woodburn may actually be the best thing about this sword-and-sorcery series starring Ralf Moller, which manages to be both a third-rate Conan the Barbarian as well as a second-rate Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, which is pretty hard to pull off.

Best: Nip/Tuck (2003-10)
Before his one-off appearance on 30 Rock as a potential love interest for the socially awkward Liz Lemon, Peter Dinklage had a seven-episode run on Nip/Tuck as the nanny (and muralist) for Sean and Julia's son Conor, who has lobster-claw hands. He also has an affair with Julia, thereby bringing the story away from accepting people's differences and back to marital infidelity, where this show belongs.

Best: Twin Peaks (1990-91)
He was only in four episodes (and the movie prequel), but considering that he spoke all of his dialogue backwards, was a key player in Laura Palmer's murder and comes from a realm of pure evil, that earns Michael J. Anderson's Man From Another Place A-list status.

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