• 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.
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