9. 'Chico and the Man' (1974-1978)
A New York City kid who dropped out of high school during his senior year to pursue a career in comedy, Freddie Prinze rose through the stand-up ranks with shocking speed. He made his Tonight Show debut at the age of 19, an appearance which led directly to his gig as one half of this NBC sitcom's titular duo: Chico Rodriguez, a charming Chicano hustler who forms an unlikely bond with Jack Albertson's racist repair shop owner. Prinze, who was half-German and half-Puerto Rican, became the first Latino to star in an American TV sitcom since Desi Arnaz, though his cheeky humor and barrio-hipster image were far closer to Cheech & Chong than I Love Lucy. The role both fed off his streetwise stage persona and fit him like a glove.
Chico and the Man debuted in the top 10 in the fall of 1974, and Prinze was soon booking Vegas gigs and signing film contracts worth millions of dollars. Sadly, drugs, depression and a penchant for playing Russian Roulette brought Prinze's life and promising career to a premature end; just over a week after he'd entertained newly-elected President Jimmy Carter at his inaugural ball, the stand-up put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. He was only 22 when he died.