Hipsters on TV: A Retrospective from Fonzie to ‘Portlandia’

The oxymoronical has happened: Hipsters have gone mainstream. After two weeks on the air, it’s clear that NBC’s Two Broke Girls and Fox’s New Girl are ratings hits — attracting around 12 million and nine million viewers, respectively. What the sitcoms have in common is young female protagonists who (due to living in Williamsburg, baking cupcakes, and dating musicians or wearing glasses and being portrayed by Zooey Deschanel) could fairly be described as hipsters. And it looks like the trend is only just beginning: 25-year-old micro-budget filmmaker Lena Dunham is currently prepping a show called Girls for HBO, and MTV recently gave viewers a sneak preview of the pilot for the Wavves-scored I Just Want My Pants Back, about 20-something creative types living in Brooklyn. (Don’t worry if you missed out — it may well have been the worst half-hour of television we have ever watched.)

But just because they seem to be having a renaissance in 2011, that doesn’t mean hipsters are new to TV. In honor of an archetype whose roots stretch all the way back to the ’50s, we’ve compiled a retrospective of our favorite hipster television characters, from Happy Days to Portlandia. Since we figure you probably know about some incredibly obscure shows we wouldn’t have heard of, we hope you’ll assume your best elitist voice and tell us who we missed in the comments.

Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, Happy Days

The Fonz may not have been swigging PBR or discussing the finer points of chillwave, but rest assured that this greaser, created amid the ’70s mania for ’50s nostalgia, was an early hipster nonetheless — especially when you consider the prototype Norman Mailer presented in his 1957 essay “The White Negro.” A former teen gang member with a heart of gold, he is the sole leather-jacketed cool guy in a world of letterman-sporting jocks and geeks with Coke-bottle glasses. Hell, there’s even an xBxRx song named after him.