Print Story best tv characters of all time
My list is biased towards more current shows, but that's because older shows suck in comparison to the best of shows today.


• Anya (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

At the top of the list for a good reason. Her peripheral character stole nearly every scene she was in, and made the last few seasons of BtVS bearable. Attitude: been there for 1000 years and thus seen it all, stunningly literal, comically absurd fear of bunnies, and a healthy dose of self-interest to boot.

• Hiro Nakamura (Heroes)

Hiro enters our view as just another bored cubical dweller, but manages to distinguish himself through hope and childlike enthusiasm. Who didn’t stare at a clock and want it to stop time? Hiro did too but he made it work… and we love him for it. It would be far too easy for this character to be cliched or dull, but Hiro makes it all seem fresh and enjoyable.

• Captain Mal (Firefly)

I had said for years that Han Solo deserved his own show, smuggling things from one dingy port to another with his band of colourful cohorts. Firefly brought my dream to light for a period of time ever so brief. Malcom’s survival instinct drives his character and is why he is still alive, but he still cares about doing the right thing when it doesn’t contradict his self interest.

• Atia of the Julii (Rome)

Conniving, backstabbing, manipulative, vindictive, ruthless, and downright evil. Atia takes the term “bitch” and kicks it up to a whole new level. And she does it with such grace and style that she somehow avoids being hated for it, even though she clearly is the worst of villains.

• Lt Columbo (Columbo)

Everyone’s favourite mumbling bumbling detective whose skills puts Sherlock to shame. Columbo throws ‘em off guard with his demeanor and beats the murderers at their own game. Even though he has to learn something pretty niche to do it, he’ll get you. Just one more thing: he’ll get you to confess too, sucker!

• Dominic Da Vinci (Da Vinci’s Inquest)

Millions of shows have tried to portray a noble determined do-gooder in a position of authority, and usually fail to resemble anything realistic. None have surpassed the character of Dominic Da Vinci on his little known Canadian television show. Da Vinci oozes charisma as he treats people from all walks of life with respect.

• Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: TNG)

Why was TNG so much better than its Trek successors? The shortest answer lies with a certain French starship captain with a suspiciously British accent. He brings Shakespearean seriousness to the scene in a way that isn’t corny or forced like so many imitators. There are four lights. Seriously.

• Lennie Briscoe (Law & Order)

Lennie rules. It is no coincidence that Law & Order has been in steady decline since his untimely departure. Lots of cop shows deliver corny one-liners, but with Lennie it was just plain awesome.

• Nancy Botwin (Weeds)

Suburban housewife trapped by unfortunate circumstance… sounds like the plot of a very routine and predictably dull show. But Nancy has such an energetic and free spirit that her character seems refreshing instead. Also attractive is her sense of fearlessness in the face of extremely difficult and dark situations.

• MacGyver (MacGyver)

Put MacGyver in a prison cell with a paper clip and some peanut butter, and he’ll make a grenade launcher, stop the evil baddies and save the day as well with time left over for the damsel in distress. I mean c’mon, how cool is that? Ingenious inventions to get out of tight situations, it’s shocking there have been no successors to his throne.

• House (House MD)

Acerbic and spiteful, House excels at his job and that’s about his only character trait. His tell-it-like-it-is attitude is combined with brazen deceitfulness when faced with obstacles. House is better than you, you know it, he knows it, his boss knows it — and thus you put up with his entertaining shit.

• Bubbles (Trailer Park Boys)

Bubbles is an innocent misplaced in a sinful world full of criminality. This is not to say that he’s above the law, but he means well and maintains his naivety while everyone around him strives to make it big. Best seen in contrast to his alter ego Conky, Bubbles brings morality sorely missing from his cohorts.

• Tobias Funke (Arrested Development)

In a cast of standouts, Tobias managed to stand out. Everything about him was just awesome, from his cutoffs to his marriage to his parenting skills to his jobs. Everything he did, said, and acted out was funny and witty and awesome.

• Butters (South Park)

Bubbles from TPB transplanted into the South Park world. The main difference in South Park being that the delightfully innocent Butters ends up being the recipient of the other kids torment. Also like Bubbles has a swell alter-ego (Dr Chaos) who acts out the aggression which Butters represses. Butters is all too often too naive to understand the actions of everyone around him.

• Chloe (24)

I’m sorry, but you have to respect someone who turns the act of pouting into a cornerstone of their character. Chloe, the queen of pouting, manages to sustain grumpiness and grudges while everyone around her is trying to save LA from being assassinated with a presidential terrorism nuke. Or whatever it is they are facing that day. They can kill off anyone on that show, hell –even Jack, but they cannot kill off Chloe.

• 9th Doctor (Doctor Who)

I never liked Doctor Who, but when the series re-emerged a few years ago I gave it a chance. And I loved it, the 9th Doctor had such energy and zest for life and the universe through time. To him, everything was cool and exciting and every adventure was full of life. At the same time he was detached from day-to-day events because of his unique perspective on the universe as only he knows it.

• David Brent (The Office UK)

He’s a self-absorbed idiot who thinks he is much funnier than he is… and yet is still somehow loveable because he really does mean well. He’s the boss who is so terrible that he that makes our own look great in comparison — a pretty good accomplishment all by itself.

< Cryptic diary | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >
best tv characters of all time | 50 comments (50 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Yuo teh fails == it!!! by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #1 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 05:45:53 PM EST
I'm sorry...for not mentioning Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks, you can no longer be my friend.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
hm by theantix (2.00 / 0) #7 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 07:33:36 PM EST
That's one of the few shows I have not yet watched.  I think I will remedy that at some point!
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.
[ Parent ]
It's a great show. by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #26 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 02:17:55 AM EST
One of the best-ever IMO, but I don't expect everybody to share that opinion (sadly, ana is one who doesn't). If you like David Lynch's movies, though, you'll most likely enjoy the show, and Dale Cooper will certainly earn a place on the list.
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If you don't get a Bonnie, my universe will not make sense. --blixco
[ Parent ]
First season was great by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #27 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 02:25:51 AM EST
Second was, well, better than most TV. But not great.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
FBI Agents by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #33 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 06:45:28 AM EST
Next time you see an X-Files episode, realize that David Duchovney had a bit part on Twin Peeks...Fox Mulder was an imitation. Imagine if he were weirder and less annoying. That's Dale Cooper.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
heh by theantix (2.00 / 0) #36 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 07:08:48 AM EST
Funny you should say that -- X-Files is the show we are currently working our way through.  So the next time will be tonight.  :-)
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.
[ Parent ]
\m/ GORDON COLE \m/ by MohammedNiyalSayeed (2.00 / 0) #17 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 08:21:25 PM EST

The Deaf Mr. Magoo, Having Come To Life.


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You can build the most elegant fountain in the world, but eventually a winged rat will be using it as a drinking bowl.
[ Parent ]
He's still in by blixco (2.00 / 0) #32 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 04:16:04 AM EST
the red room, waiting.
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"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin
[ Parent ]
Did you know? by ni (2.00 / 0) #2 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 06:17:40 PM EST
A certain persimmon's email is teh bouncing!


"Not of this world..." -- 256, on the subject of the New Jersey Turnpike
odd by theantix (2.00 / 0) #8 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 07:37:09 PM EST
email or pm me the address that is bouncing and I'll look into it.
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.
[ Parent ]
Dear Sir by joh3n (2.00 / 0) #3 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 06:24:02 PM EST
Since you have a) neglected to note that I appeared as a co-host to the wonderously successful 'Wampuu Weekend' show on public access television in Seattle and b) have neglected to thusly include me in your list, I have but no choice but to remove you from my christmas list.

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I am a crime against humanity
-theantix

oh noes! by theantix (4.00 / 1) #9 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 07:40:45 PM EST
Let's see.  Last year your xmas gift was the rusted out door from a  1973 Ford Pinto.  The year before that, a glass jar full of powdered sugar labelled "this is not anthrax".  And the one previous to that was the severed head of mrgoat on a pike.

What I'm saying is, I think I'll be okay being off the list.
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.

[ Parent ]
the severed head of mrgoat on a pike! by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #28 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 02:28:38 AM EST
But that was my gift from you last... You regifted that head!

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
+1. FP by MohammedNiyalSayeed (2.00 / 0) #4 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 06:41:25 PM EST

Contains Bubbles, Columbo, Lenny, and Butters. 'Nuff said.


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You can build the most elegant fountain in the world, but eventually a winged rat will be using it as a drinking bowl.
I nearly posted this instead of a blurb for lennie by theantix (4.00 / 2) #13 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 07:48:59 PM EST

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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.
[ Parent ]
Abby Sciuto (NCIS) by FlightTest (2.00 / 0) #5 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 06:54:07 PM EST
She rocks.

Interesting by theantix (2.00 / 0) #10 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 07:41:54 PM EST
I had never considered that show worth watching.  It's like a crime show, but with military jazz etc?
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.
[ Parent ]
It's a CSI clone by FlightTest (2.00 / 0) #18 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 08:50:13 PM EST
Actually doesn't really have much, military stuff. The only real military tie-in is that all (or at least nearly all) of the cases involve murdered or missing service members. Most of the investigations are not on military bases. I think it's currently better written then CSI, and the Mrs. and I get a kick out of Abby's character.

Note that by CSI I mean the original Las Vegas one. I've only watched enough of the other variants to know I don't like them.

[ Parent ]
I still love Xander more than Anya by R343L (2.00 / 0) #6 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 07:12:16 PM EST
But that's a good list.

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot
Please explain in two paragraphs or less by theantix (2.00 / 0) #11 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 07:44:13 PM EST
...why Xander is worth being on a top list.  I mean, I've always considered him as the everyman of the Buffyverse -- basically Joss Whedon transplanting himself into a character.  With no special skills or quirks, I never really thought anything profound of him.  So I'm respectfully curious as to why you disagree!
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.
[ Parent ]
just that I liked him more than Anya by R343L (4.00 / 1) #12 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 07:46:49 PM EST
In other words, I am disputing Anya being better than other characters on that list. Not for any specific reason, just that I didn't find her that awesome most of the time.

But Xander may be the everyman, but he is the guy who always comes thru (best he can) even though he is completely not able to. Super-courage, despite the jokes about cowardice.

Or I just think he's cute.

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot

[ Parent ]
AAACCK!!!! by theantix (2.00 / 0) #15 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 07:54:38 PM EST
That was three paragraphs!!! you broke the rules!

In my mind, Xander's shining moment was in the episode where he saved the day while everyone else was off fighting another crisis. 

However, I have a special enjoyment of characters who stand out, either though strong personality traits or amusing quirks.  Xander didn't really have either... I have nothing really against him, he just wasn't that special.  From the buffyverse I also quite like Andrew and Harmony, but they are even more peripheral than Anya so I didn't include them for this list.
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.

[ Parent ]
rules? there were rules. by R343L (4.00 / 1) #16 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 07:59:58 PM EST
Oh well.

And yeah, you're right, Xander doesn't stand out. I still like him. But saving the world and no one noticing? That's Xander. He does what he does because that's what he does, not because of anyone else.

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot

[ Parent ]
Super-courage, despite the jokes about cowardice. by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #29 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 02:30:02 AM EST
Precisely why he was my favorite scooby.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
so by persimmon (4.00 / 1) #14 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 07:53:39 PM EST
I heard this guy put a certain option in the poll just for his wife.

I'm sure you would know nothing about that, though.
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"Nature is such a fucking plagarist."

WIPOs by yicky yacky (2.00 / 0) #19 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 09:39:07 PM EST

3/5ths of the characters of 'The Wire'; ditto 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'; ditto 'Larry Sanders'.


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Vacuity abhors a vacuum.
I'm convinced by theantix (4.00 / 1) #47 Fri Jul 20, 2007 at 02:25:32 PM EST
After I'm done with Six Feet Under and X-Files, I'm going to start on The Wire.

I couldn't stand Enthusiasm though... I find Larry's antics to be terribly annoying instead of charming.
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.

[ Parent ]
Re: Larry by yicky yacky (2.00 / 0) #48 Fri Jul 20, 2007 at 03:03:21 PM EST

I think you're supposed-to. If someone found the character completely endearing, I'd be worried about them. He's meant to be double-edged, IMO. Most of the humour comes from watching an entirely selfish and self-absorbed character interacting with the real, more compromised, world around him; together with the recognition that those levels of self-absorbtion exist in all of us to an extent (whether we recognize them as such or not) and manifest themselves in different, idiosyncratic ways. It's also that Larry's self-justifying logic has a certain kind of pure rationality to it, but there's an implicit acknowledgement / demonstration that it really carries no weight at all in interpersonal relationships.

Compared with other series, 'The Wire' is a real slow-burner and gives little in the way of instant gratification, but, over a series, it more than makes up for it. More discussion (with almost no spoilers [they're clearly marked]) in an old diary of Theo's.


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Vacuity abhors a vacuum.
[ Parent ]
Yeah by theantix (2.00 / 0) #49 Fri Jul 20, 2007 at 08:09:39 PM EST
I understand the character, I mean it's basically the same character that Jason Alexander played on Seinfeld.  But for some reason, I could accept George on that show whereas I'm totally put off by Larry's character.
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.
[ Parent ]
Addendum by Merekat (2.00 / 0) #20 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 10:23:59 PM EST
Benton Fraser, from Due South. But only in the first season. Apparently too innocent for big city life, yet somehow wins through, to the bafflement of his streetwise sidekick.

Gob was funnier than Tobias by 256 (2.00 / 0) #21 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 11:30:47 PM EST
-nt-
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I don't think anyone's ever really died from smoking. --ni
It's a touch one by theantix (2.00 / 0) #35 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 07:04:09 AM EST
I love Gob too, when I was making this list I was struggling to choose between the two. I could probably be convinced to switch Tobias to Gob, but my bias towards David Cross is likely what pushed him over the edge.   Gob was more of a spectacle in everything he did, Tobias was more of a subdued form of absolute ridiculous.
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.
[ Parent ]
Yet more unpaid Wire hype by R Mutt (2.00 / 0) #22 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 11:30:50 PM EST
Stringer Bell (spoilers).

What About Tony Soprano by jump the ladder (2.00 / 0) #23 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 11:38:04 PM EST
A kind of every man of middle management and your average angsty schmuck but an evil ruthless killer at the same time.

not middle management by theantix (2.00 / 0) #39 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 09:13:06 AM EST
As the head of his family, Tony is upper management.  He may be small potatoes compared with the New York families as a whole but he's definitely in the upper echelon.

Regardless, Tony's character was a lot more interesting in the first few seasons when a lot of the focus was on his angst and mother issues.  Since then it has become more obvious that he is simply a sociopath which is substantially less interesting.  I still liked the show, but the peripheral characters like Paulie and Silvio were way more more interesting to me.

Season 1 ep 1 though, where Tony drives down that guy and breaks his leg in open daylight... that was fucking fantastic.
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.

[ Parent ]
WIPO: by Horatio Hellpop (4.00 / 1) #24 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 12:50:09 AM EST
Dr. Perry Cox. A fine role model, IMHO.

"You can't really know something until you ruin it for everyone." -some guy who used to have an account here

too repetative. by garlic (4.00 / 1) #34 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 07:00:22 AM EST
the janitor is the best character in that show. SQUIRREL ARMY REPRESENT!


[ Parent ]
Oooh, good one by theantix (2.00 / 0) #46 Fri Jul 20, 2007 at 02:21:57 PM EST
I agree that the Janitor is the best character on that show.  Nice catch.
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.
[ Parent ]
Nobody from Barney Miller? by lm (2.00 / 0) #25 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 02:12:52 AM EST
That's sad.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
How would you choose? by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #30 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 02:34:04 AM EST
It would be like choosing the best character from Taxi. "Reverend Jim" "Latka", yadda yadda yadda.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
Good list by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #31 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 02:36:04 AM EST
Another one is. Best Favorite TV shows. May have to diarize...

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Rodney McKay by muchagecko (2.00 / 0) #37 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 08:54:38 AM EST
He's predictable, yet he makes me laugh. Out loud. A lot.

Ferret face, aka Frank Burns, from M*A*S*H.

Adam from Northern Exposure. Hell, all the characters were great on Northern Exposure, but who could resist a misanthropic recluse who never wears shoes?

Perry Cox, seconded. Sarcastic and narcissistic, with a cruel wit - what more do you need in a character?

Det. Robert Goren, CSI Criminal Intent. Some would say he's a Columbo rip-off, but I see his performance as more of a tip o' the hat.

Sports Night's Dana Whitaker. We need more female characters like her. Dedicated to her career, in charge of everything but her lovelife.

Please don't forget Mimi Bobeck from the Drew Carey show.



The only people to get even with are those that have helped you.

*Great* additions. by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #43 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 12:34:56 PM EST
to an already excellent list. I forget, sometimes, when I'm in the midst of complaining about the dearth of decent television that there is and has recently been some absolutely superb tv - and some really interesting characters on even mediocre (IMO) shows.
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If you don't get a Bonnie, my universe will not make sense. --blixco
[ Parent ]
some agreed, some not by theantix (4.00 / 1) #45 Fri Jul 20, 2007 at 02:21:03 PM EST
Most of those I'm not familiar with, sadly.  Which is saying something considering how much tv I've downloaded/netflixed.

I agree with Goren, he was definitely a contender for my secondary list.   I wouldn't say he's a columbo ripoff, more that he's among a class of people who are Sherlock Holmes ripoffs: Columbo, Monk, Fletcher, and House being four other examples of this.  I love all of these characters, and probably should have included Goren as well.

Not sure I agree with Cox though.  I loved Cox in Office Space, but his Scrubs character is a bit too over the top for me.  Which certainly fits within the bounds of the show, but detracts from my interest level.  Of course, this could also just be my judgment on the show affecting the character ranking too much, but this isn't for money so no harm done eh?
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.

[ Parent ]
mmmm Atia by MillMan (2.00 / 0) #38 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 09:01:33 AM EST
I'd let her abuse me for a week. Maybe two.

Pretty good list. Brisco and Picard are my two all time favorites.

And I think I'm going to break down finally and rent firefly.

When I'm imprisoned as an enemy combatant, will you blog about it?

MM=Timon? by theantix (2.00 / 0) #40 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 10:32:04 AM EST
Firefly is one of the few things which actually lives up the hype.  The movie which followed it, Serenity, sadly does not.
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.
[ Parent ]
attention infidel by R343L (2.00 / 0) #41 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 12:18:32 PM EST
I own Firefly. They may be borrowed even.

But if you prefer to waste your netflix, who am I to argue?

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot

[ Parent ]
well *I* didn't know that by MillMan (2.00 / 0) #42 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 12:20:18 PM EST
bring them over post-haste.

When I'm imprisoned as an enemy combatant, will you blog about it?

[ Parent ]
now I'm going to pout by R343L (2.00 / 0) #44 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 02:03:33 PM EST
You haven't noticed regular firefly jokes. :_|

Or erm, since you haven't seen it, I guess that is understandable.

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot

[ Parent ]
House (House MD) by duxup (2.00 / 0) #50 Sat Jul 21, 2007 at 06:11:47 AM EST
The wife watches that show.  I skip it.  I have trouble watching a show where many of the obstacles that the main character has to overcome are of his own making.  When Homer Simpson is involved it is funny, House not so much.
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best tv characters of all time | 50 comments (50 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback