LOS ANGELES TIMES: Notwithstanding the dozen years of hosting “Star Search,” a role in the 1997 Tom Arnold sitcom “The Tom Show,” a high-profile Cash4Gold ad during the last Super Bowl and all that knocking on people’s doors in the name of the Publishers Clearing House, McMahon was a professional sidekick, a less-than-equal partner in an enterprise of which he was nevertheless a vital part: Thinking of Johnny, one proceeds quickly and naturally to Ed, who by dint of association was almost as famous as his boss — I say “almost” to include that fraction of the world that may have seen or heard of Carson but never watched his show.
It’s easy to underestimate his accomplishment — or even to wonder whether it should be called an accomplishment at all. We live in a nation of aspiring quarterbacks, pitchers, lead singers and presidents, where we are told to dream big and have it all. (The vice presidency of the United States is regarded as a rarefied form of failure.) But in a world where everyone is innately a star, what does it mean to settle for life as a mere moon?
And yet, just as the moon plays upon the Earth, animating its tides and its werewolves, the sidekick is not without power of his (or her) own. His very presence is the proof that his presence is required. He may come as a straight man, a stooge, a teacher, an apprentice, a servant or pal, but he completes the star-hero in some way to their mutual advantage — as a counterweight, an anchor, a witness, a frame for the picture, a setting for the stone. Like Jiminy Cricket, a conscience. Who is Prince Hal without Falstaff, Don Quixote sans Sancho Panza? Little John and Robin Hood, Horatio and Hamlet, Friday and Crusoe, Watson and Holmes, Tinkerbell and Peter Pan, Ethel and Lucy, Barney and Fred, Barney and Andy, Ed and Ralph, Rhoda and Mary, Willow and Buffy, and all those traveling companions to Doctor Who — unequal, perhaps, yet inextricable. MORE