Based, of course, on the shows I know and love, but I suspect you know and love a lot of them, too...
Game of Thrones
“There are no men like me. Only me.”
Full disclosure: the Kingslayer gets on this list because he is my favorite character in the books. Had I just watched the show, I would still like him, but my favorite spot would either go to Tyrion (typical) or Theon (not so typical, but I defy you to tell me that he is not a well-drawn character). Anyway: Jaime. Jaime is a witty asshole, but unlike most witty assholes on TV, he actually is a bad person, or at the very least has some real badness in him. Most other characters like him (think Sawyer from Lost) have a “dark past.” But their dark past includes crimes whose victims tend to be more evil than they themselves, or angelic loved ones they were unable to save despite their best efforts. Jaime’s dark past includes regicide, incest, and attempted child-murder… but you still very much get the sense that there’s more to him, and that he can be redeemed. (No? Just me?) Also, I am convinced that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Peter Dinklage got together ahead of time to figure out how they were going to play the roles—because their turns of phrase, mannerisms, delivery, etc. are all remarkably similar.
"I think my subconscious fears and budding sexuality are getting all mixed up, so I think I'm being attacked by zombies and I start screaming, "You want to make out?" and I make out with it."
Never before have I seen a character who is simultaneously so awkward yet so unapologetically secure and honest in who she is and what she wants. Truthfully, any one of the Belchers could have made it on this list. Bob’s Burgers is a fantastic show and everyone has an incredibly authentic, earnest feel to them. But between Tina’s awkward (and constant) groan, her monotone enthusiasm, and her butt-centric erotic friend fiction, she wins.
“The soul? There's nothing but chemistry here.”
Monsieur says that saying Walt is your favorite Breaking Bad character is like saying Leonardo is your favorite ninja turtle—obvious and boring. But you know what? Fuck that guy. Bryan Cranston is probably the most versatile actor out there (how are Heisenberg and Hal from Malcolm in the Middle the same guy?!), and watching Walt’s transformation over the past five years has been incredible. We still don’t really know if he’s corrupted or if he has simply become unfettered by the constraints that once held him back. The layers of nuance, pathos, and calculation we’ve seen in Mr. White are heart-stopping. Yes, Heisenberg: I will say your name…
Dowager Countess Violet Crawley
“Lie is so unmusical a word…”
I could write two words and end this justification before dropping the mic and walking off—Maggie Smith—but I shall continue to lavish praise upon this remarkable character before moving on. Smith’s Dowager Countess is the cranky, conniving old lady we all imagine ourselves becoming one day. I don’t think I have met anyone who watches Downton who does not count the Dowager Countess among their top three favorite characters. I’ll be honest: like so many characters on the show, Violet is a trope. Her snippy quips and disdain for anything middle class traverse well-trod territory. But how amazing that we can have such a familiar character done in a way that always makes us laugh in surprised amusement. Hats off to you, Countess Violet.
“Bloody Mary full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death... which I hope is soon. Amen."
Archer is a study in contradictions: a cripplingly insecure egotist; a matricidal mama’s boy; a well-read jock; an inept, brilliant spy; and highly functioning alcoholic. Imagine if James Bond and GOB Bluth somehow had a baby—that’s Sterling Malory Archer. While there’s absolutely no way he would be “the world’s most dangerous spy” if his mother didn’t run a spy agency, he is inarguably incredibly good at his job. Archer is probably the biggest prick on TV, but when we are able to see his more human side it’s surprisingly touching—his personal conflicts and psychological hang-ups are quite real, despite his cartoonish buffoonery.
“Bear claw! Rawr!”
The Human Resources director at I.S.I.S., Pam is a fat, bisexual farmers’ daughter who is an under-ground street fighter and race car driver, with an insatiable appetite for food, sex (she’s the best man-whore Archer has ever had), drugs, and liquor. (She has, in this past season, added “I.S.I.S. field agent” to her resume.) While older seasons depict Pam as sex starved and desperate to be loved, she has more recently appeared self-assured with an irrepressible joie de vivre. Needless to say, I am aching for the Pam/Archer fuckbuddies storyline to be revived (it was weirdly and entirely dropped after their romp in outer-space… …I realize if one hasn’t seen the show that’s a weird thing to read, but trust me it works); I live in hope if not optimism.
“I'm not a solution to your problems. I'm another problem.”
Joan makes my heart skip a beat every time she comes on the screen. Your first mistake would be assuming that it’s simply because she’s the most beautiful character on TV—I think this is probably a mistake most of the characters on Mad Men make when dealing with Joan. Up until this past season, Joan Harris (maybe she’s back to Holloway by now?) was an enigma among the women on Mad Men (all fabulous characters—among the strongest of the series). We knew Betty was unhappily stuck in her housewife role and we knew Peggy was on the rise. But Joan? Joan was a character who seemed caught between two worlds—she was a woman who took pleasure in her career, but whose main goal nevertheless appeared to be primarily to settle down as a traditional housewife. She married Greg and soon discovered that this goal may have been a mistake, and we waited with baited breath to see if she could reverse her decision. She’s a partner (and working mother) at Sterling Cooper Draper Price now, though even the origins of her partnership add complexity to what exactly Joan’s role will be in the future.
The Colbert Report
““I’m the frosting on America’s cake, and tonight I’m willing to let you lick the bowl.”
I feel weird about this one. On the one hand, Stephen Colbert absolutely has a place on this list, but on the other hand I feel like I’m betraying some sort of code by acknowledging that “Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report” is a character. As a huge fan of Strangers with Candy and The Daily Show, I’ve admired Colbert’s sharp writing for years, but it is his work on The Colbert Report that highlights the man’s Swiftian brilliance as a satirist. If you do not ruefully laugh every few minutes while watching “Colbert” in action then you probably don’t get the joke.
The Walking Dead
“No. And no more bullshit. You wait here. That's how we get it done.”
I am putting Michonne on this list not for what she has done, but for what I believe she can do. The little we have seen of this woman makes me long to see more: she had pet. motherfucking. zombies. And the other zombies out there in the world? She takes them out with a motherfucking. katana. She is one of the few characters whose actions don’t make you stand up from your couch (Goldfish crackers and upset kitty flying from your lap in the process) and scream “WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?! WHY DID YOU JUST DO THAT?!” No. Michonne is smart and acts properly and without hesitation. But for the love of god, Walking Dead writers: give her something more to do! Let her talk! Let her kick some more ass. I’m hopeful for the next season, but I’ve got my eye on you.
“Asking questions is a good way of finding things out!”
If you don’t know who Alan is, it’s because you stopped watching Sesame Street before 2004. Frankly: I feel sorry for you people. I began tuning in again after Le Petit Comte reached an age where we needed (needed) him to sit still for, like, 30 god-damn minutes. I have to tell you that Sesame Street makes being a parent more fun. I find myself tearing up frequently because it is such an honest, smart, simple vision for what the world can and should be. Alan in particular is a cast member whose warmth and approachability touches even my cold dark heart when he comes on screen. He is helpful, open, kind, and gives me hope for the show moving forward. That same pedigree of performer that brought us beloved characters like Maria, Bob, Gordon, Gloria, Luis, and Linda—will continue to populate Sesame Street, and I for one am pumped.
Okay. So who did I forget?
(Originally published on http://salonlacomtesse.blogspot.com/)