The perennial poor regard with which some consumers hold the auto repair profession may be coming from some unrelated quarters. Like the popular notion that violence, incivility and downright rudeness all have their roots in the screen in our living rooms, did you ever think that attitudes toward the auto repair industry may have been shaped by exposure to sitcom mechanics.
For whatever reason, the auto repair guy has happened to be featured in a number of situation comedies. Unlike the Monster Garage you would never see any real wrenching taking place, but the idea was that repairs were happening off screen and that the guy responsible for them was a loveable person who was blessed with a good pair of hands.
With that in mind here is a list of the Top 5 Sitcom Mechanics. The rankings of course are not based on Nielsen Ratings but rather on their impact on the popular culture at the time the show aired. That should be vague enough to stir debate.
5) David Puddy: The on and off again boyfriend of Elaine in Seinfeld is portrayed by Patrick Warburton. He appears in eleven episodes in nine years and is probably best known for his debut appearance in season six. In that episode Jerry instructs Puddy in the use of a certain sexual technique known as “The Move”. Puddy starts out as a mechanic but eventually becomes a salesman at a dealership, a lateral career move at best.
4) Gomer Pyle: Shazam and Surprise, Surprise, Surprise became common ways to express exhilaration and feigned shock because of their use by Jim Nabors on The Andy Griffith Show in the early '60s. Gomer started out as lowly gas station attendant with few automotive credentials but became an accomplished technician with the mentoring of the boss Wally and his cousin Goober.
3) Chico Rodriquez: The show’s creator thought Freddie Prinze would be well suited to play this character in Chico and the Man which aired from 1974 to 1978 after seeing the actor perform stand up on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The action took place in a run down auto repair shop in East Los Angeles. In it Chico was a street wise Chicano kid with a glass half full attitude playing opposite Ed a hard edged widower who wasn’t beyond using racial slurs.
2) Latka Gravas: You knew that Andy Kaufman’s character was the mechanic because he always wore overalls. Kaufman won Golden Globe awards for best TV Supporting Actor in 1979 and 1981 for his work on Taxi. Gravas fixed the taxis but he probably never ordered the parts because his improvised accent was close to being unintelligible.
1) Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli: Henry Winkler’s character on Happy Days assumed a higher profile after the initial episodes. His real repair skills remain unknown since his most useful repair technique seemed to be snapping his fingers and exclaiming “aaaaayyyy” to emphasize a job well done.