Tuesday, August 22, 2006

And, lo, they did name the 25 best TV characters in history

First, James Gunn (screenwriter for the Dawn of the Dead remake and director of the excellent Troma throwback Slither) did it. Then Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy, Angel and Firefly) did it. And now, South Dakota Dark does it.

The best 25 characters in TV history -- no particular order.

The rules:

--No cartoon characters (otherwise, The Simpsons would be all over)
--No puppets (otherwise, the Muppets would be all over)
--No miniseries
--No reality shows
--Characters must be regulars
--No show you've worked on (ha!)
--One character per show (I added this rule, so don't feel you have to abide by it)
--You have to think it up as you go -- the first 25 that come to you.

So here we go.

1.) Jimmy James as portrayed by Stephen Root on Newsradio. This, pretty much, is who I want to be when I grow up -- rich, lonely and crazy as hell.

2.) Ted Baxter as portrayed by Ted Knight on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. This man is pretty much the reason I became a journalist. Okay, not really, but his fatuousness and stupidity were so perfect that they've never been improved upon. Sidenote: I know it's popular to go with Lou Grant, since he was on two very different shows and all, but Ted was funnier. Nyah.

3.) Willow Rosenberg as portrayed by Alyson Hannigan on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The original super-cool, geeky girl sidekick. The fact that she went from shy nerdling to super-powered lesbian witch (complete with dabble on the dark side) only makes it THAT MUCH BETTER.

4.) David Brent as portrayed by Ricky Gervais on The Office (UK). As much as I like the American remake, there's no one quite like Gervais, and there's never been anything quite as perfect as the original British series, cramming a lifetime of pathos and laughs into just eight hours of television.

5.) George Michael Bluth as portrayed by Michael Cera on Arrested Development. Okay. This is a crack ensemble, perfect in almost every way. But it really wouldn't work without Cera, the series' heart. He made the sheer, weird farce of the whole thing somehow bearable and believable.

6.) Don Knotts as Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show. I've seen only a handful of Andy Griffith episodes, but Knotts work in them has been perfect enough to garner a mention here. (Weird how sitcom heavy this list is so far for someone who prefers dramas!)

7.) Al Swearengen as portrayed by Ian McShane on Deadwood. What a performance! What a character! A ruthless, petty small-time tyrant who mellows over time into a consummate politician, wanting only what's best for the town. And, what's more, much of the time, he speaks in something approaching iambic pentameter.

8.) Jack Bauer as portrayed by Kiefer Sutherland on 24. Because who's gonna save the world? You?

9.) Reverend Jim Ignatowski as portrayed by Christopher Lloyd on Taxi. As you can probably tell, I watched a lot of Nick at Nite in junior high. But Reverend Jim took an already crackling ensemble and elevated it into one of the best in sitcom history. The character became the touchstone for burnouts all around the dial.

10.) Dana Scully as portrayed by Gillian Anderson on The X-Files. Always sensible. Always skeptical. Always caught up in the latest conspiracy or kidnapped by aliens or something.

11.) Tony Soprano as portrayed by James Gandolfini on The Sopranos. The Sopranos is surprisingly meditative for such a big hit. What made it a big hit was the central character, who's immediately recognizable and monstrous.

12.) John Locke as portrayed by Terry O'Quinn on Lost. No matter what avenues of oddness the show wanders down, no matter what terrible dialogue he is saddled with, Locke is the soul of Lost. Sometimes, the show only works because he wanders in and gives a creepy grin or something.

13.) Detective Frank Pembleton as portrayed by Andre Braugher on Homicide: Life on the Street. A volcanic personality that gave rise to a host of lead roles that just barely kept themselves in line. Vic Mackey has Frank to thank.

14.) Joel Fleischmann as portrayed by Rob Morrow on Northern Exposure. Sure, he got kind of tiresome as the actor wanted off the show, but he was the perfect fish out of water for so long on that show that I'm willing to overlook a lot.

15.) Bob Hartley/Dick Loudon as portrayed by Bob Newhart on The Bob Newhart Show/Newhart. If you've ever met me, you'll know that a lot of my sense of humor is just a stammer-y attempt to recreate how awesome Bob Newhart was/is.

16.) President Laura Roslin as portrayed by Mary McDonnell on Battlestar Galactica. Nerves of steel. If Hillary Clinton really wants to run, she should just watch this character on a constant loop.

17.) Lilith Crane as portrayed by Bebe Neuwirth on Cheers. Reading this list, you wonder about my taste in women, don't you?

18.) Joel Robinson as portrayed by Joel Hodgson on Mystery Science Theater 3000. No offense to Mike, who was great, but I am who I am because of Joel, who put it in my head that making random references to the most obscure things you could think of was a cool thing to do.

19.) Sydney Bristow as portrayed by Jennifer Garner on Alias. A show that went off the tracks, to be sure. But Sydney is the very definition of the woman you want to sleep with after she's done kicking your ass.

20.) Lorelai Gilmore as portrayed by Lauren Graham on Gilmore Girls. Scary smart, super hot AND a single mom? Sign me up!

21.) Sam Weir as portrayed by John Francis Daley on Freaks and Geeks. Meet me in high school.

22.) Jim Halpert as portrayed by John Krasinski on The Office (U.S.). Jim is the new embodiment of the working man for our generation.

23.) Edith Bunker as portrayed by Jean Stapleton on All in the Family. As with George Michael Bluth, this show wouldn't work without Edith.

24.) Wesley Wyndham-Price as portrayed by Alexis Denisof on Angel. Honestly, what I'm realizing is that characters I identify with in some way are all over this list. Wesley, the geek who first joins Angel, is who I probably am. Wesley, the suave British heartbreaker at the end of the show, is who I would prefer to be.

25.) Big Pete Wrigley as portrayed by Mike Maronna on The Adventures of Pete and Pete. Big? Check. Tall? Check. Gawky? Check. Narrates the life of himself and those around him? Check. Come to think of it, maybe I identify with HIM most of all.

I know I've forgotten a lot (how could I have left off someone from The Wire?!), but that's the nature of an exercise such as this.

Talk about what I missed or was stupid about in the comments.

1 comment:

Edward Copeland said...

I'll take the challenge: First 25 to come out of my head, in no particular order.

1. Frank Pembleton (Homicide)

2. Tony Soprano (The Sopranos)

3. Reverend Jim (Taxi)

4. Burt Campbell (Soap)

5. Maude Findlay (Maude)

6. Archie Bunker (All in the Family)

7. Hank Kingsley (The Larry Sanders Show)

8. Omar Little (The Wire)

9. Darlene Conner (Roseanne)

10. Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

11. Al Swearengen (Deadwood)

12. Mick Belker (Hill Street BLues)

13. Dr. Mark Craig (St. Elsewhere)

14. Columbo (Columbo)

15. Leland Palmer (Twin Peaks)

16. Sue Ann Niven (The Mary Tyler Moore Show)

17. Hawkeye Pierce (M*A*S*H)

18. Ruth Fisher (Six Feet Under)

19. Lindsay Weir (Freaks & Geeks)

20. Mr. Spock (Star Trek)

21. Dr. Johnny Fever (WKRP in Cincinnati)

22. Miranda Hobbes (Sex and the City)

23. Dr. Cox (Scrubs)

24. David Addison (Moonlighting)

25. Coach Ernie Pantuso (Cheers)