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Small Name Big Ego: Live-Action TV
aka: Live-Action TV
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show:
    • Ted Baxter, the former Trope Namer. Baxter was a newscaster who considered himself incredibly popular, while everyone else in the newsroom thought he was an incredible bore and something of a Ditz to boot, but were (usually) too polite to tell him to his face. Randomly selected from his many blunders: When a broadcast runs short, Ted stands silently in front of the camera until someone hands him a fluff story which he presents as an important news bulletin — and even repeats in the same tone of voice.
    • Phyllis Lindstrom and Sue Ann Nivens have some of these characteristics, as well.
  • Herb Tarlek, WKRP in Cincinnati. Justified to an extent; as the station's advertising and sales representatitve, a big ego comes with the territory. Herb also seems to know what he's doing as the station sells plenty of advertising slots (very corny local advertising spots are frequent gags on the show) and compared to some of his clients Herb does have some standards.
  • All the title characters in Black Adder, particularly Prince Edmund from the first series. Edmund is cowardly, sniveling, conniving, incompetent and all-around unlikeable. He spends most of his time taking credit for his much more clever squire's ideas, usually only after he's tried his own dunder-headed plan and failed miserably. The other three Blackadders at least weren't idiots, but they spent most of their time insulting everyone around them despite having few, if any, accomplishments to their name.
  • The Brady Bunch: All six kids have episodes at some point in the show where they deal with swelling egos, only to learn a lesson in the end about humility and keeping things in perspective. In addition, there was at least one episode where a guest character had a huge ego. In the case of "Quarterback Sneak," it is downplayed; Tank Gates, Carol's high school boyfriend, was legitimately talented and had many accomplishments on the gridiron, but he over-inflates his accomplishments.
  • Sam Malone, Cheers. He was a former pitcher for the Red Sox who got drummed out due to alcoholism. While he was very charming and quite the Handsome Lech, he still managed to be rather full of himself, dedicating much of the later seasons of the show pursuing Rebecca because she was immune to his charms.
  • Tim Taylor, Home Improvement. However, he is quite good at what he does — when he can put away his ego.
  • Dan Fielding, Night Court, especially as time went on. A slight divergence in that he actually was generally as successful with women as he expected to be when they were extras. He was also a pretty good attorney, and would generally behave with at least some amount of dignity and aplomb when presenting his side of the case. He was likely relegated to the night court because of his personality, not his skill.
  • Harcourt Fenton "Harry" Mudd, a recurring comic foil to Captain Kirk of the original Star Trek. Primarily a Con Man — who dabbled in human trafficking, pimping, drug dealing, grand theft starship, smuggling and petty thievery — who used his bravado and gift for gab to further his various "enterprises".
  • Quark, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Quark, however, wasn't an egotist, he was simply an incredibly canny con-artist. Quark is, however, notably successful and an important aspect of the Small Name Big Ego is that they are disliked and don't believe the negative criticism they get. Quark takes being told that he is a conniving backstabber as a compliment, since in Ferengi society, being called a "conniving backstabber" is a compliment. He also developed a good relationship with the Grand Nagus. While he may not be as good as he likes to think he is, he's still pretty good.

    Whenever Quark gets his own episode, he routinely pulls off quite impressive cons. These often involved his own acknowledgment that he lacked traditional heroic traits. One of his most memorable was winning a fight by throwing away his weapon. He has even gone into long boasts about his more successful (and generally shady) business negotiations. If the Klingon Chancellor refers to you as "a brave Ferengi," you're doing something right.

    This is lampshaded in "Civil Defense". When Quark and Odo (who consider each other Worthy Opponents at the best of times, and nuisances at all times) are trapped in Odo's office while the station is about to self-destruct, Odo (who later says he was just trying to be nice since he thought they were going to die) calls Quark "the most devious Ferengi I've ever met" — a compliment. After the danger has passed, Quark is outraged to find that Odo's real opinion of him is "a self-important con artist who's nowhere near as clever as he thinks he is." Quark's mother has an opinion of her son that mirrors Odo's. It's particularly galling to Quark that she's far smarter and sneakier than he is, which gives favored son Rom great satisfaction.

    In another episode, Quark and Odo get shipwrecked while the latter is transporting the former to an important trial involving a criminal organization called Orion Syndicate. He gets a big laugh when he learns that Quark is not a defendant in the trial, he's an informant. Despite all his boasts about his criminal activities, Quark wasn't considered good enough to join the Syndicate.
    • Dr. Julian Bashir, who was all of 27 years old and a recent Starfleet Medical graduate, spent almost the entire first season never shutting up about how brilliant he was and that he could have had any job he wanted, but chose Deep Space Nine because he wanted to get his hands dirty and practice "real frontier medicine". He even went so far as to call Bajoran space "the wilderness", right to Major Kira's face!
      • He also mentioned numerous times that the only reason he was second in his class instead of first was that he mistook a preganglionic fibre for a postganglionic nerve. Medical experts who watched the show had a field day pointing out that the two have nothing to do with each other, and therefore no serious medical professional would ever confuse the two. Possibly justified in that it was later revealed that Bashir was genetically enhanced and unnaturally intelligent, therefore likely having thrown his test in order not to draw too much attention to himself. However, that doesn't jibe with the "look at me, I'm so brilliant" persona from the first two seasons.
  • The Todd, from Scrubs. He's actually a very competent surgeon, with Turk even jealous when the Todd actually outdoes him. And to his credit, the Todd gave Turk his full support over being Chief Surgeon. His ego instead stems from his sex drive. He thinks he's a sex god, but he's more of an idiot and a pig.
  • Several characters in the US adaptation of The Office: Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute, and possibly Andy Bernard (though the latter did apparently go to Cornell). Ryan Howard as well, especially after he's promoted to the executive level.
  • David Brent in the UK version of The Office is absolutely convinced that he's the life of the office and is a world-class musician, philosopher and stand-up comedian. Everyone else he comes into contact with thinks different. He does however seem to be at least partially aware that he isn't as great as he thinks he is, given how he reacts to people pointing it out, or otherwise not treating him as he feels he deserves. For example, when he tried giving Tim career advice which was rejected out of hand, he grew quite agitated, angry and dismissive. Many of David's own illusions about himself are, of course, stripped away by the end of Series Two.
  • One Villain of the Week of an episode of Being Human was the ghost of a serial killer who called himself "The Toyman" and murdered seven young mothers in the '70s. He sees himself as a Magnificent Bastard and vicious killer. While he is truly evil, he's nowhere near as good as he thinks he is, and his fairly obvious manipulations only worked on the protagonists because of how severely screwed up they all already are. When he introduces himself to Tom and Hal, they clearly have no idea who he is. What makes it particularly funny is he's boasting about a body count of seven to Tom, a lifelong vampire slayer who's staked at least fifteen vampires onscreen, and Hal, a centuries-old former monster whose entire life has been a cycle of bloody rampages interspersed with brief (for vampires) periods of grief.
  • A rare female and Soap Opera example: Patricia Fernandez from Yo soy Betty, la fea. Prides herself of her beauty, her rich family and ex-husband and her "Six semesters on Finances in San Marino U". It's soon pathetically obvious that, if certainly she is pretty, she is also shallow, vain, and a self-absorbed over-spender. Her own family wants nothing with her, and its implied that her ex filed the divorce just to get rid of her leechy self. She soon becomes the Butt Monkey of the office because of her antics and the official Chew Toy of the Bettyverse.
  • Hank Kingsley in The Larry Sanders Show. Played with in that Hank is more than aware of — and deeply resents — his status as the office laughing stock, but is a little too stupid, vain, incompetent, deluded and ultimately pathetic to do anything about it.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • Major Frank Burns.
    • Played with for his replacement, Charles Winchester. The man is indeed a hyper-qualified surgeon (unlike Frank), but his skills were best used in a regular hospital. He finds himself unprepared for the "meatball surgery" the camp has to utilize, which gives his ego some much-needed de-flating.
  • Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother thinks his exploits are legen—wait for it—dary! However, this womanizing ladies' man has been repeatedly been shown as lame during several episodes in the series.
  • The IT Crowd:
    • Mercilessly mocked in the person of Denholm Reynholm.
      Reynholm: I hope it doesn't sound arrogant when I say that I am! The greatest man! In the world!
    • His son Douglas is even worse, as demonstrated at his father's funeral.
      Douglas: UNHAND ME, PRIEST! Where is your god? WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW? FAAAAATHEEEER!!!
      (sobs melodramatically before seeing Jen)
      Douglas: Well who's this? Hi, I'm Douglas, what are you doing after the funeral?
    • Douglas is at least slightly aware of his failures, though. He's just too rich and dumb to stop himself. He is shown to be occasionally successful, which doesn't help, but then stuff like this happens:
      Lawyer: Sign here, here, here—
      Douglas: Look here, I think I know by now where to sign a sexual harassment settlement.
  • Mrs. Oleson from Little House on the Prairie. She thinks her gossip and braggadocio and extravagant gestures make her the true power in the town. In fact, it's probably only affection for her long-suffering husband that keeps the rest of the town from lynching her. Somewhat subverted in that she actually can be quite effective, for a time, but usually in the most vicious situations possible, and after, her stock drops even more.
  • The 2006 Robin Hood TV series:
    • Marian. She tells Robin that "I do exactly what you do, only with more intelligence." Considering she's saying this while lying wounded after breaking into Guy's house, trying to steal his money, getting stabbed and having to be rescued by Robin, this claim is dubious.
    • Her Replacement Scrappy was even worse. In her first episode as an outlaw, Kate makes judgment calls on a perfect stranger, snaps at Much for making a nervous comment before battle, argues with Robin about his orders, and is generally rude and snippy to everyone, all while contributing zilch to the team-unit. And the writers wondered why the audience hated her....
    • Robin has these moments as well, mostly towards Much, whom he seems to take for granted (technically not his ego so much as the "legend" he's building for himself goes to his head and he ignores good advice).
    • The sheriff Vaisey also has moments of this, though not to the audience but to other characters. In fact his ridiculous dickery and Jerkass personality was what made him so endearing. But he seems to think he could run the entire kingdom better than the king, even though all he's shown us is he's exceptionally good at backstabbing people and inventing creatively fun tortures. The show's full of them!
  • Take a shot every time you see one of these in a Disney Channel show (example: Joe Jonas in Jonas). Oh look, now you have alcohol poisoning. (Exposure to Amy Duncan from Good Luck Charlie is a particularly high risk.)
  • The Young Ones:
    • Rik repeatedly claims to be extremely popular and intelligent, even when people tell him to his face that he isn't. In one episode he actually bets money with the housemates that they like him, because they've just told him that they hate him. Subverted in that Rik seems to know he's an unpopular loser, but buries it under several layers of self-aware denial and bravado. Hell, he canít even say his own name without sounding like a complete idiot due to his Elmuh Fudd Syndwome.
    • Played straighter with Mike, who repeatedly insists he is a suave and sophisticated ladies man, even though everyone outside of the main cast seem to hate him as much as they hate the others and he is later revealed to be a virgin. The other housemates swing between actually treating him like "the boss" and treating him as if they're just playing along with his delusion.
  • Rik Mayall would later play other even more extreme Small Name, Big Ego characters by the name of Richie in both Filthy Rich & Catflap and Bottom.
  • Peep Show:
    • Jeremy. He thinks he's a talented musician and sponges off his Heterosexual Life Partner Mark because he won't settle for anything less than a job in the music industry (which no sane person would give him). Despite him being an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist, it's easy to see that this actually comes from his insecurity as much as anything else.
    • Super Hans also counts though he is far more self-confident than Jez. He is equally untalented and pathetic but is often able to get Jeremy to follow Him out of sheer confidence though Jeremy is also able to outthink him quite easily.
  • Rimmer on Red Dwarf continually insists throughout the series to be far more capable and popular than we know him to be. The sad thing is, considering Ace Rimmer (What a guy!), a dimension-jumping Ace and Alternate Universe version of Rimmer, we know he could become as popular, capable and friendly hero, if he just got rid of his bad qualities. And possibly does so, as he eventually becomes the new Ace Rimmer. Multiple episodes show that though he may insist this, he actually has a lower opinion of himself than probably anyone else.
  • Dr. Rodney McKay from Stargate Atlantis. True, he is brilliant and competent; but NOBODY can be as brilliant and competent as Rodney thinks he is. He mellows out a bit by the first season, but is horribly like this in his first appearance on SG-1. Though his reputation as this trope still hangs over his head back on Earth. In the episode "Brain Storm", Rodney goes to a convention where he meets several Real Life scientists who are well aware of his bloated ego, and they chalk up his warnings about the problem of the week as him trying to act smarter than everyone else as usual.

    Comes back to bite him hard in another episode, where his overconfidence that he can fix a power source the Ancients themselves gave up on causes the destruction of a — no, 5/6 of a — solar system and the death of an expedition member. Although, the guy died before McKay played any real role in the thing. He also actually solved the issue the ancients couldn't figure out, which led to the destruction of the system.
  • 'Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge: Alan Partridge (Ah-HAAAAAH!) is convinced he belongs on the television, hosting a chat show. He doesn't. He really, really doesn't.
  • Deconstructed in Screenwipe by Charlie Brooker, in which he explores how the "Talent" usually become this in some form. He starts out as an ordinary person who reacts to having someone around to wait on him hand and foot with embarrassment and sheepishness, particularly when his assistant does things he doesn't want or need. Unfortunately, he becomes so used to being treated like this that he takes it too far and ends up becoming an egocentric bully.
  • Nathan from Misfits is a young offender on community service who remains cheerfully obnoxious and arrogant despite being financially destitute, unemployed, homeless, and loathed by everyone he meets. His friends can't stand him and his parents don't want him around, his sexual conquests almost always end in abject humiliation, and once his power is revealed to be immortality — or rather "resurrection" — he starts dying in increasingly ghastly ways at least once an episode, but always bounces back with a smile on his face. He is utterly convinced that everyone loves and admires him and that women find him irresistible, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
  • In later seasons the producers of Survivor have edited Ben "Coach" Wade and "Special Agent?" Philip Sheppard season-long arcs as a Small Name Big Ego. Part of the strategy is a sarcastic edition of the Fake Ultimate Hero, complete with heroic music, but we are ultimately lead to sympathize with the eye-rolling contestants as he goes on more than one Character Filibuster believing himself to be a sage and Warrior Poet, but really proving to be an irritating version of The Philosopher.
  • Just about any contestant on any competitive reality show which requires the contestants to do something, such as The Apprentice, Project Runway, American Idol, etc. American Idol in particular, which has entire episodes full of auditions by bad singers who will not be swayed from their belief that they are the greatest singers in history.
  • Community:
    • Chang, on the first season, rarely wasted an opportunity to brag he was a tenured professor, which he isn't even close to being.
    • Britta and Pierce both like to think of themselves as the Only Sane Man of the group, and they're both wrong.
  • The Fast Show featured the character of Colin Hunt, a loud, obnoxious man who annoys his co-workers with "hilarious" puns, practical jokes and slapstick comedy; and believes that everyone in the office finds this as amusing as he does. When it's pointed out to him that nobody thinks he is funny, he predictably reacts badly.
  • In Game of Thrones, Theon Greyjoy is a definite example of this, often for comic effect. Theon is an arrogant jerk who likes to boast about his skill as a warrior and being irresistible to women, as well as the greatness of his family (whose rebellion was recently easily crushed, which is why Theon is Eddard Stark's ward/prisoner in a Gilded Cage). The end result is that Theon is often the target of mockery from people of all classes in the feudal system. In the show at least. In the books, Theon is described as a handsome guy that Really Gets Around and doesn't have to pay, he occasionally comes up with clever ideas, is a great archer and fought at the front of Robb's vanguard where the fighting was thickest. Additionally, he's rarely mocked in the actual books. Certainly not by prostitutes.
    • In both the book and the series he is then completely and thoroughly broken.
  • Batley from Eureeka's Castle. He had such a big ego, one episode saw him singing a heartfelt ballad entitled "I Love Me".
  • Sylvia Noble from Doctor Who is an inversion. She really doesn't seem to have an over-inflated opinion of herself; she just has a really low one of everyone else. Sylvia has no understanding of the concept of tact, often insulting and belittling Donna and Wilf, her own daughter and father, respectively. She dismisses her daughter's disappearance in a flash of light while walking up the wedding aisle as Donna tricking everyone to demand attention. She has absolutely no respect or faith in her daughter, and isn't afraid to tell her so. She refuses to acknowledge her daughter's choices and actions, ignores the Doctor when he tells her there's danger. Fortunately, after Donna's actions in the finale, she seems to have realized her mistakes, and by End of Time, she's almost pleasant to be around.
  • Many customers on Pawn Stars, particularly guys trying to sell cars, often think they did a great job restoring it, but really destroyed the item. One guy removed the air filter so he could fit a larger engine than the car could normally hold. Rick and the Old Man were horrified at the result, and the bozo mechanic claims that they weren't real "car guys" who would applaud the work he'd done.
  • All the characters on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, with the possible exception of Charlie, fit this description, but Dennis really stands out. He believes himself to be an immensely charming, likeable person who is skilled at everything and liked by everyone. In reality, he is sociopathic, vulgar, rude, idiotic, runs a failing business, and has really only gotten as far as he has due to his family's wealth. Most episodes have him attempt a new venture and becoming completely confused and aggressively annoyed when others don't view him as being talented. Dennis may actually count as "no" name, big ego. It is revealed in "High School Reunion" that he doesn't believe that he has to do anything to earn the respect and admiration of everyone around him and that they should just automatically believe he is a "golden god" simply because he does himself.
  • Blanche Devereaux on The Golden Girls. She considers herself devastatingly beautiful and a "mankiller," but the rest of the women dismiss it as a bunch of fluff, rarely taking her stories seriously.
  • Albert Brooks often adopted this persona in his early Saturday Night Live short films.
  • Matthew on The Librarians has literary pretensions out of all proportion to actual talent.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Sheldon Cooper is a full-blown version of this trope and has traits of Know-Nothing Know-It-All and Insufferable Genius. Sheldon is an extremely smart individual who knows everything there is when it comes to physics, but that's where the positive qualities stop. Sheldon is convinced that he is so much smarter than everyone else that he lets them know it whether they want to listen or not. Sheldon will also go out of his way to correct people who don't have correct knowledge on video games and comic-book superheroes. Outside of Sheldon's comfort zone, he is pathetic and knows nothing about other types of sciences, such as biology. Because Sheldon would rather fight to the bitter end rather than admitting he was wrong, he comes off as completely arrogant and most people can't stand him. Sheldon's apologies are also forced and are mostly not genuine. If Sheldon was in the wrong and he is forced by someone to admit it, then he will make a half-assed attempt to say he is sorry. However, if Sheldon knows what he did was wrong, he will genuinely try to make amends, even if it comes out looking weird. More recent episodes have Sheldon admitting that he has limitations in social situations; that he often has to force himself to be polite or at least tolerate others; and that he is trying to work on the issue.
    • Howard Wolowitz, or at least the pre-Bernadette Howard, was also pretty much this trope: his turning point seemed to come when Penny lost all patience, gave him the big "The Reason You Suck" Speech, and punctured all his pretentions to the point where he could no longer pretend to be the great ladies' man he imagined himself to be.
  • Like Pawn Stars above, you'll always see the owner or head chef of a failing restaurant in Kitchen Nightmares act like they were the hottest thing ever. The pinnacle of this had to be Amy, co-owner of "Amy's Baking Company", whose Drama Queen attitude, combined with their other abhorrent actions, caused Gordon Ramsay to walk out without giving it a chance to turn the the restaurant around. With Amy, this behavior started well before her appearance on Kitchen Nightmares: Before appearing on that show, she was known locally for viciously, and adamantly, defending her restaurant from negative reviews on Yelp.
  • Married... with Children: Al Bundy is arguably the king of this trope. He was a high school football star who scored four touchdowns in a championship game, and is now a balding, starving, destitute loser 30 years later. Despite this, he still thinks that playing highschool football makes him a legend, and he thinks that people will be impressed by his accomplishments.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: Tom Servo is one of those few examples who doesn't get off very easily from this; soon after he displays any form of arrogance, Breakthe Haughty usually follows in quick succession.
  • House: Eric Foreman insists that he's head and shoulders above the rest of House's team, when he's an unexceptional doctor with nothing to set him apart from his co-workers. Chase even calls him out on this in Season 7.
  • Joan Callamezzo on Parks and Recreation is very egotistical, despite only being the host of a public access talk show. She runs her own book club, ŗ la Oprah Winfrey, and takes glee in humiliating people on her show.
  • Perceval and Karadoc, the two most incompetent Knights of the Round Table in Kaamelott. To the point that, on some occasions, they manage to brag about how they epically failed a mission as if it was a victory. Notably, they're convinced that the ridiculous "fighting techniques" they invented make them deadly combattants, while in truth they're utterly inept and usually flee at the first hint of danger. King Arthur beating them both singlehandedly (literally, with a hand behind his back) is insufficient to shatter their delusions. While Perceval sometimes acknowledges his own stupidity and has some heartwarming moments, Karadoc, on the other hand, has absolutely no excuses for bragging the way he does.


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alternative title(s): Live-Action TV
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