Though my Tuesday Top Ten list has been on hiatus for awhile, what better reason for a pop culture junkie like me to resume than to talk about some of my favorite TV characters? With the new fall season upon us, it seemed like an appropriate time to discuss ten of my favorite reasons to watch TV. If you’re not already, you should definitely be watching the shows that feature these characters (or, for shows no longer on the air, you should probably drop everything and have a wildly unproductive TV marathon).
(1) Schmidt, New Girl:
Though we’ve only had one season’s worth of Schmidt shenanigans, he is such a fantastic character that he easily snagged a spot on my list. In my book, Schmidt takes New Girl from being a good show to being an absolutely-can’t-miss show. There are so many classic Schmidt moments: his Parkour moves, his sense of style (croquet cleats, anyone?), and his desperate attempts to woo Cece (Indian things he loves include Slumdog, Ben Kingsley, anyone named Patel, monsoons, and mango chutney. Well, any type of chutney, really). Plus, I love how the show has hinted at why Schmidt is the way he is: as a formerly fat kid, he’s desperate to be loved. I hope the show explores that idea more, without letting Schmidt lose any of his delusional swagger.
(2) Tim Riggins, Friday Night Lights:
On a show filled with complicated characters, I always loved Tim Riggins because he was the most surprisingly complex of all. At first, you think he’s just something of a gigantic loser: a guy whose life will inevitably peak with his high school football career. But over time, he reveals a lot more complexity: his difficulty dealing with Jason’s injury, his willingness to help his brother at any cost, and his relationship with Lyla. Plus, on a shallow note, is there anybody who looks better with long hair? I vote “hell, no!”
(3) Chandler Bing, Friends:
I will be honest: I chose Chandler because, of the six Friends, I am Chandler – sarcastic to the max but still (I like to think) highly lovable. There are so many great Chandler Bing moments that it’s hard to narrow them down, but to name a few favorites: Chandler in a box (waving his finger goodbye!), Chandler attempting to “seduce” Phoebe, Chandler retelling the jellyfish story (“Sometimes, at night, I can still hear the screaming”), and Chandler’s reaction to Joey’s friendship bracelet (“I pity the fool who wears this bracelet! I pity the fool!”). As if that weren’t enough, do you remember how utterly awesome it is when Chandler attempts to dance?
(4) Jack Bristow, Alias:
One of the reasons I loved Alias was because of the complex relationship between Sydney Bristow and her father. While he initially seemed like a jerk, over the seasons, Jack revealed himself to be a wonderful person and a great father. The quiet little moments when he would subtly reveal something about himself – about his past, about his struggle to connect with Sydney – always got to me.
(5) Jim Halpert, The Office:
I’m pretty sure that, for a sizable percentage of American women my age, Jim Halpert is the perfect man. Granted, we all know that the Office itself has grown stale over the years, but Jim Halpert remains perfect. His goofy facial expressions, his love for Pam (and all the impossibly sweet things he’s done for her), his Halloween costumes (the three hole punch!), and his pranks on Dwight – these are just a few of the many reasons we adore him. And then there’s this. If you can watch that and not get teary-eyed, then…I don’t even want to know you.
(6) Lucille Bluth, Arrested Development:
I’m almost certain I have mentioned this before, but Lucille is, hands down, my favorite member of the Bluth family. I love her blatant disdain for nearly everyone (“I don’t care for Gob”), her excessive drinking, her twisted relationship with Buster, and her version of the chicken dance. My favorite bit of Lucille dialogue (among many strong contenders) is this gem, which I am determined to work into a casual conversation one day.
(7) Mary Crawley, Downton Abbey:
I know this is an unexpected choice; after all, isn’t Mary kind of a bitch? But think: you probably would be a tad cranky too if you were born into a super rich family and then told you couldn’t inherit anything simply because you were female. Bitchiness notwithstanding, Mary is super smart and shrewdly aware of her limited position as a woman in early 20th-century England. She’s an intelligent schemer, and I admire that. Plus, she has moments (like most of her interactions with Carson) where you can see that she is a good person. Plus (part two), she wears beautiful dresses and gets to hook up with cousin Matthew. Both very good things, in my book.
(8) CJ Cregg, The West Wing:
The West Wing (particularly circa seasons one and two) was a show filled with richly drawn characters, impossibly intelligent and well-spoken people with such strong political ideals that it was hard not to want to be them (despite your lingering certainty that nobody in politics is actually that noble). My favorite of all was CJ Cregg, because she combined smarts with a ridiculousness that I could totally relate to. Think about it: one moment, she’s delivering a scathing smackdown to the press corps; the next, she’s bumbling through a date with that reporter dude or facing ridiculous scenarios like having to pardon a turkey. Also, remember the time Toby came to offer her a job and she fell into a pool? Totally something any awkward gal among us might do one day.
(9) Phil Dunphy, Modern Family:
The brilliance of the Modern Family ensemble is that, on any given week, any of the six lead actors could give my favorite performance. However, overall, I think Phil Dunphy wins my heart. I love how he’s hilariously geeky yet, underneath, you know all he really wants is for his kids to love him and his family to be happy. Awww!
(10) Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation:
As with Modern Family, it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite character on Parks and Rec; Leslie Knope and Tom Haverford were also close contenders. But I have to go with Ron motherf&$*ing Swanson. The unapologetic steak eating. The cornrows. The pyramid of greatness. The two ex-wives and mother all named Tammy. The fact that even though he’s gruff, you know he has a heart of gold. Yeah, Ron is the best.
Who are your favorite TV characters?
(Images sources: Schmidt via The TV Geeks, Tim Riggins via The Good Life, Chandler Bing via Nutty Squirrel, Jack Bristow via Michael May, Jim Halpert via So It Must Be True, Lucille Bluth via Robert David Sullivan, Mary Crawley via The Telegraph, CJ Cregg via The Guardian, Phil Dunphy via Boy Greets World, and Ron Swanson via Buzzfeed)