RIP to Eddie Haskell of 'Leave it to Beaver,' One of the Top 10 Sitcom Side Characters of All Time

Source - Ken Osmond, an actor best known for his role as troublemaker Eddie Haskell on "Leave It to Beaver," has died, his rep Bonnie Vent confirmed to CNN. ...

No cause of death was given, though Lane said the actor had been in ill health for some time. 

Osmond, 76, played the iconic character, who was a frequent tormentor of Theodore "the Beaver" Cleaver, for the duration of the TV series, which ran from 1957-1963. ...

Osmond's also become a motorcycle officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, something he told the Chicago Tribune in 1992 had been a dream of his since he was a child.

Osmond said he was proud of his now iconic role.

''Everyone knows an Eddie Haskell,'' Osmond told the publication. ''He's the guy who you can blame things on when they go wrong."

I think it's important that I say right off the bat that "Leave it to Beaver" predates me. These balls might be old, but they're not that old. They are old enough that reruns of the show were an after school staple in my house. And for show that came from an era of bland, safe, milquetoast, Caucasian suburban entertainment, I gravitated to "Beaver" because it had a slight edge to it. Something almost (though not quite) subversive to it. And that edge was personified in the best sitcom side character most people under the age of 30 have probably never heard of: Ken Osmond's Eddie Haskell.

To say that Eddie Haskell was an icon is a gross understatement. You know a fictional character has become part of the culture when his/her name us used as a verb and an adjective. And make no mistake, "Eddie Haskelling" and "pulling an Eddie Haskell" were definitely things when I was growing up. 

Like that Supreme Court's justice's commentary on pornography, Eddie Haskelling was hard to define, but you knew it when you saw it. It basically meant pretending to be polite and respectful around authority figures to hide you're really up to no good. Whether it was a teacher, a cop, the parents of the girl whose pants you're trying to get into. There wasn't a kid alive who didn't get the reference or not understand exactly what you were accusing him of when you called him an Eddie Haskell. In fact, we all copped to it at one time or another. 

In Eddie's case, it was invariably Mrs. Cleaver. The running gag was that he would come over to the Cleaver house and shower her with compliments and lies about how he was interested in joining Glee Club or whatever, when his real intention was psychologically torturing Beaver or convincing Wally to join him in some scheme that was going to probably get them both into trouble. In that way, he was almost Punk Rock, at least by the standards of late '50, early '60s network sitcoms. And a precursor to generations of side characters with few redeeming qualities from Cosmo Kramer to Dwight Shrute to Dennis Reynolds. 

I wish YouTube had more to offer on the subject, but Twitter - bless it - has stepped up to illustrate what I'm talking about. 

His game when it came to scamming Mrs. Cleaver:

Punking the little kids:

Corrupting Wally:

Getting punked himself:

And then the sort of meta-running joke that the Cleavers were onto his shenanigans all along:

Oddly enough, there were a lot of conspiracy-type rumors around "Leave it to Beaver" in the pre-Google era, everything from Jerry Mathers who played Beaver was killed in Vietnam and that Ken Osmond grew up to be Alice Cooper. And another that he was actually an LA motorcycle cop, which seemed just as bizarre, but obviously turned out to be true. There aren't many people who can say they created an indelible, iconic American pop culture character and then went onto a career in law enforcement. In fact, he's got to be the only one. Fans of his won't cry because he's gone, we'll smile because he was here. To those of you too young, I feel sorry for you for missing out. Go find the show now. You can thank me later.