The truth behind these faceless TV characters

While most memorable television characters spend a whole series getting the close-up treatment, there are a select few favorites whose faces we never even saw. When it came to these small screen personas, viewers instead relied on clever camera angling, offscreen voiceovers, and sometimes pure imagination to get a hint of the speaker. In the case of these faceless characters, though, there was a lot of thought and purpose that went into keeping them relatively anonymous.

Dr. Claw: Inspector Gadget

Inspector Gadget's central villain, the M.A.D. Agency-running Dr. Claw, was aptly named–the only part of him viewers ever got to see was his metallic mitt, as he stroked his sleepy kitten and punched his chair arm in anger whenever Gadget and Penny foiled his latest evil schemes. In every episode it seemed like the goofy Inspector might finally catch his man and unmask Dr. Claw, but it never happened in the show's original run.

Co-creator Mike Maliani explained in a retrospective on the show that we were supposed to believe Claw would finally get a face each new episode: "You always think you're going to see Claw. … All the stories, you have to think … this is the episode that we're going to reveal who Claw is." That's when Claw's signature catchphrase "Next time, Gadget!" would come along as he flew away with his identity preserved. It wasn't until several years after the show came to an end that an action figure of the character was released to finally reveal his face. But there was a catch: the box for the product had a sticker over his mug so that kids who wanted to finally unveil Dr. Claw had to cough up the loot and buy the doll to get a look.

Nanny: Muppet Babies

On The Muppet Babies, animators went to creative lengths to ensure that the kiddos' caregiver stayed headless throughout the series. Usually, all we saw of her was her green-striped socks and A-line pink skirt, but every once in a while, another angle came into play to show her backside or arms. Even so, her face was never revealed. What we did know about Nanny was that she was voiced by Barbara Billingsley and always came along just in time to settle down the baby Muppets during their wildest moments of imagination.

In a flashback moment, it's revealed that her former job was as a '50s car hop waitress who had to wear roller skates to attend to customers, and in the third season, her sister "Aunt Fanny" (whose sock preference was more of the pink-purple persuasion, while she preferred shorts and sneakers) was introduced as a back-up babysitter while Nanny went on vacation.

Wilson: Home Improvement

Tim Taylor's trusty next-door neighbor Wilson W. Wilson (played by Earl Hindman) was almost always in his backyard, just waiting for the Toolman to turn to him with the latest familial dilemma, and he had a rich history of worldly experiences and knowledge to pluck from for any given subject. Throughout the duration of Home Improvement, the bottom half of Wilson's face was always concealed, even when he did occasionally venture away from the protective fencing that usually separated him from the Taylor team.

The character was reportedly inspired by a real-life "hidy-ho neighbor" Tim Allen had growing up, when he was too short to see over the fence and catch a glimpse at his full face. Trick shots throughout the show mostly kept his mug under wraps, but there were occasional slips that showed more of his moneymaker than usual, and Wilson debuted his full face in the show's finale episode.

Maris Crane: Frasier

Niles' former wife Maris was never meant to be concealed from viewers in perpetuity. Co-creator David Lee told Yahoo that the showrunners originally intended to give the character a face to avoid borrowing too much from their mother show Cheers, which never showed Norm's wife, Vera. After a few teaser episodes where viewers were kept in the dark as to her appearance, though, it was too late to go that route. "Two or three episodes in, she was already so bizarre she was uncastable. So we just went, 'Well, we're never going to see her.' Although we did see a shadow of her behind a shower curtain once," he explained.

Maris was described as rail thin, pale, snobby, and self-conscious, and her personality was said to be "like the sun, except without the warmth" — which is to say that Frasier preferred her from a distance. Although many of those descriptors could also apply to Niles' other ex-wife, Mel, Maris' face was never shown in the show.

Mrs. Wolowitz: Big Bang Theory

Debbie Wolowitz, mother to Howard, was voiced by late actress Carol Ann Susi, who was well-liked by her co-stars on The Big Bang Theory, but her face never made it into the program except for in a few background pictures plastered on Howard's wall and an overhead shot of her standing at Howard's wedding ceremony. Her boisterous voice was supposed to be enough of a presence to fill in the visual gap, but she's also described as a large woman with a mustache and curly black hair, which wasn't in keeping with the appearance of the actress who voiced her. Constantly affected by physical ailments and stunted by the abandonment of her husband, the character notoriously infantilized Howard — much to wife Bernadette's chagrin — and passed away on the show when her voice actress counterpart died in real life.

Ugly Naked Guy: Friends

The Friends neighbor who caught their unwanted attention–and once was poked by a rubber-banded batch of chopsticks from their balcony–was also mostly concealed from audiences … and not just because this was a family show where a naked man would be prohibitive to ratings. Never given a name, the character lived across the street in a parallel apartment and was given something of a backstory during one of the flashback episodes, when he went from cute and trim to ugly and obese. He was shown from behind and the side, sipping on a Big Gulp soda, in the episode when Ross attempts to sublet his apartment.

Dandy's therapist: AHS: Freak Show

There are many American Horror Story fans who believe that Dandy Mott's faceless therapist in AHS: Freak Show eventually became Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto) aka "Bloody Face" in AHS: Asylum, but that theory hasn't been confirmed. What we do know is that he tried to warn Dandy's mother that her safety was in jeopardy after speaking with her depraved loon of a son and that he couldn't determine whether the man was a genius or not. He also had nervous hands and a nice watch.

George Steinbrenner: Seinfeld

It's a tricky line to walk for a show to impersonate a real-life person, especially on a scripted sitcom that isn't traditionally considered a parody. So with Seinfeld, when George Costanza came into the employ of the real-life Yankees guru George Steinbrenner, the approach was simple: show him from behind, with actor Lee Bear appearing as the back of his head and creator Larry David doing the vocals for the role.

Even though Steinbrenner was regularly a butt of the show's jokes, he apparently quite enjoyed the inclusion and even taped an unaired cameo on the series in which his face, at last, would be shown. But the seventh season clip, in which he pressured George to get him a date with Elaine, never aired. All we were left with on the original airing was his ramblings about calzones and pita pockets; the DVD version finally debuted the nixed scene.

Stuart Hughes: Veep

Most often referred to as simply POTUS, the 44th President of the United States in HBO's Veep has been intentionally concealed throughout the show's run, favoring instead the presence of the Vice President-turned-twice-sworn-in-POTUS Selina Meyer. The scandal-plagued President's face has never been shown, and even his name was kept out of the equation until later in the show when he abdicated his position due to his extreme unfavorability and familial woes. The effect of never revealing his appearance on the show has been to dimune his importance relative to the titular Veep, but during his term in office, he did endeavor to saddle his second in command with the lowliest of Oval Office-related taskwork before tendering his resignation. So, who really got the last laugh, we don't know.

Stan: Will and Grace

The oft-talked about husband of Karen Walker, Stan, was known to be an imprisoned tax evader who took a mistress while jailed, but somehow he always had the crooked key to Grace's assistant's heart. Thanks to his phony riches, Karen never even had to cash her paychecks while working for Grace Adler, and he faked his death to hide out at the expense of Uncle Sam, while Karen kept up with his children, Mason and Olivia. Though he was never shown in full, we did learn that he was a hefty fellow who had good relationships with major fast food chains and eventually did die. Ultimately, the never-seen character was just a device for Karen to be as kooky and spoiled as she pleased without any real romantic obligations to her spouse.