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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #178: Lt. Frank Drebin

And stop calling him Shirley!

Someone's been swimming in raw sewage, and he's not the only one who loves it. I've mentioned before that parody films are a dicey business, and that far more fail than succeed. Even within the Naked Gun franchise there's more miss than hit, especially as both the actor and the premise aged. But when it was good, there was nothing funnier than Leslie Nielsen's bumbling, good-hearted Police Squad Lieutenant Frank Drebin.

Nielsen played Drebin straight, even as the world melted into lunacy around him, even as he found himself entangled in increasingly untenable situations that he usually helped to create. And yet he soldiered on, refusing to admit defeat despite his patent lack of the skills or intellect needed for the job. It wouldn't work without Nielsen's affable likability, without his sad-sack, sympathetic little-boy charm. Whether he was impersonating Enrico Pallazzo (and then, as Pallazzo, a major league umpire) or wrapping himself in a body condom or helping Priscilla Presley with her beaver, we rooted for Frank. This was our hill, and these were our beans.

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