There are entire shows I have been charmed by based on one character alone (see: Blair Waldorf and Gossip Girl below) and there are others with an entire group of well-developed, interesting, and watchable characters (see: The West Wing, The Office). So, it’s no small feat to pick the best tv characters to ever appear on the small screen (even if it’s just in my opinion!). It’s downright hard, in fact, but these are the things I do for my job: talk about tv. Life is tough.
In no particular order:
1) Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl. It’s safe to say this show is the definition of a guilty pleasure, but there is actually one aspect I find award-winning and that’s Blair Waldorf, Upper East Side Queen Bee. She is unapologetically self-absorbed while showing real grace and vulnerability under pressure. It seems the rest of the cast just can’t keep up with her, and it’s why the best scenes of the show, hands down, have her in them.
(Confession: I actually think she and Dan have great on-screen chemistry. Maybe not romantic chemistry, but I often think about the writers should pair them together for scenes more often.)
2) Emily Gilmore from Gilmore Girls. Oh, Emily Gilmore. The character we loved to hate and hated to love. Sometimes in the same episode. There were moments of pure surprise when Emily was on screen and then there were those zingers we came to expect (and appreciate) from her, such as my personal favorite: “Lorelai, when a woman has a crack baby, you do not buy her a puppy” (“Wedding Bell Blues,” 5-13).
When I re-watch this show–a series I’ve seen in its entirety more than once–Emily’s scenes still stand out as my favorites.
3. Nancy Botwin from Weeds. She’s a mess. She’s a horrible mother (and not in a self-deprecating, endearing way, but in a wow-you-are-not-fit-to-parent way). She’s frustrating, too, because her bad choices are bad in the moment, not just in hindsight. She knows they’re bad as she’s making them and, yet, I root for her. I feel for her. I like her, even, on some level, and you just have to admire her ability to survive whatever catastrophe she’s plunged herself into.
At Comic-Con, Mary Louise Parker said that Nancy puts off feeling guilty about the things she does, and I thought that was such a fantastic way to sum up her flaws. It’s not that she’s unfeeling or stupid, she’s just a master avoider.
4. Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights. Leah’s already mentioned that Friday Night Lights is my favorite show (inching slightly ahead of Veronica Mars after the last season), and if I’m choosing a favorite character, it’s Tami. She’s strong, she’s smart, she’s original. She feels like the rock of her family and the rock of her school. Her character is proof, to me, that you can write characters for television that are both entirely admirable and fascinating to watch.
5. Dexter Morgan from Dexter. I struggled with this last one because while Dexter is just pure brilliance, the character of Dexter is sort of … obviously fascinating. I mean, a serial killer whose side you’re usually on? That’s fascinating! Who can argue with that!
But what sealed the deal for me was listening to Michael C. Hall talk about the character and show at Comic-Con. This man is not Dexter (I mean in terms of physicality, as clearly Michael C. Hall isn’t a serial killer). His mannerisms are so subtly opposite you almost don’t realize how incredible his portrayal really is. Hall has a quiet confidence that Dexter doesn’t. Even his voice and tone are different. It makes you appreciate the character that much more when you realize it isn’t just about delivering lines well, it’s about physically becoming someone else that looks exactly the same as you.
My honorable mentions would be: Ari Gold, Leslie Knope, Pacey Witter, George Costanza, and, well, Veronica Mars, of course.
I know this list is missing a few of the more widely-accepted answers–Tony Soprano, Homer Simpson, GOB Bluth–so feel free to argue your case in the comments.
Who’s your favorite tv character? Or give us your top 5!