Thursday, October 15, 2015

My All-Time Most and Least Favourite Television Characters

The medium of television has given us some gems in the form of tv shows over the years. Many of the modern dramas can easily rival Hollywood's best releases in terms of their immersive and cinematic style. Unlike a movie which is only a few hours long, TV shows run for an extended period of time (some spanning several years) so the connection to the characters is far more deep and personal. TV characters, more than movie characters are tricky to get right. But when they do, they become familiar and never wear out their welcome. On the other hand, if a character is not embraced by fans, it can even sever a long-standing love affair with the show.

I compiled this post just for laughs so if I come across as too intense, it is not because I can't separate reality from fiction! I just happen to be an emotionally involved tv viewer. I can both love and accept a flawed character but not when it gets past my level of tolerance. My picks for most favourite and least favourite characters are from dramas and sitcoms that cater to my interest and obviously from those I have watched till date. There are several acclaimed shows that I haven't watched yet (and hence you may feel certain characters are missing) but this post will be updated when I come across characters that I feel need to be included. I have a lineup of shows that I have yet to watch  - Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Office, House and The Sopranos. By the time I'm done with them, there will be a whole lot more to watch - a never ending cycle of entertainment! 

What makes a character a fan favourite? Most of the time, it is a combination of the actor's talent along with the amount of depth that the show's writers and creators were able to bring to the character consistently over the course of the series. Some characters are so memorable that years after a show has ended, they still play in the hearts and minds of the public. These are the characters that shape the culture that we live in. The best tv characters are the ones who you find fascinating, you want to see more of and/or the ones you want to be friends with (although not necessarily).

These are some of the characters that help me stay hooked on to a television series from start to finish. Note that these are in no particular order of preference.

Most Favourite

1. Chandler Bing (F.R.I.E.N.D.S)


Could he be any more awesome? Chandler's mannerisms and one-liners make him one of the most loveable characters on this unforgettable sitcom. Actor Matthew Perry injected life and humour into this character and I couldn't imagine anyone else as Chandler.

A messed up childhood, the middle name 'Muriel', a humdrum job, no luck with the ladies and a third nipple didn't stop this sweet and goofy character from stealing our hearts. I'm sure I speak for a lot of people when I say that his sarcasm-laced comments were reason enough to watch every episode of every season over and over again.

The Chandler-Joey bromance had viewers addicted and it was no different for me. Be it pioneering the art of greeting, making manly entrances, expressing their approval/disapproval in unison, ogling at the babes of Baywatch, coming up with interior decorating ideas, sharing important parental decisions for the well-being of their chick and duck and many more.....these two were a laugh riot! 

2. Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother)


Okay....this one is a no-brainer. The character of Barney Stinson is my most favourite character of ALL TIME. I love Neil Patrick Harris - loved him in Doogie Howser (back in the day) and loved him all the more in HIMYM. He was the only reason I watched the sitcom. Although I started off loving the show, towards the last two seasons it kind of started to suck. And the finale literally had me in tears (and not in a good way).

On the show, Barney is a pathological womanizer, loves expensive suits, laser tag, alcohol and is known for his catchphrases, including "Suit up!""Wait for it" and "Challenge accepted!".

Here are some of Barney's famous quotes. Pompousness aside, how can you possibly not like the guy?!

1. “It’s gonna be legend-....wait for it....and I hope you’re not lactose intolerant because the second half of that word is DAIRY!”

2. “When I’m sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead. True story.”

3. “Dude.. where's your suit? Just once, when I say "suit up" I wish you'd put on a suit.”

4. “I’m sorry….I can’t hear you over the sound of how awesome I am.”

Barney is the star of the HIMYM and it's no wonder he is considered the show's breakout character.

He will go on to be, in his own words ‘LEGENDARY’

3. Sawyer (LOST)


With his smirking, scheming and nicknaming, Sawyer (James Ford) wins the LOST battle for my favourite character and charmingly struts his way into my list of all-time favourite characters.

Sawyer is one of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 that crashes on a mysterious island. A conman and heartbreaker who spends most of his life seeking out the man who destroyed his childhood, Sawyer is the quintessential bad boy. But over the course of the show his sporadic random acts of kindness made the viewer wonder if there lay a good guy underneath it all.

The character of Sawyer with his Southern drawl and snarky comments provided the light-hearted moments in an otherwise intense drama. His wisecracks livened up the show and I for one, looked forward to the episodes that featured more of him.

I actually have three favourite characters from LOST. One is Hurley, the second Desmond and the third is Sawyer. Sawyer scores just a little higher because of the serious 'man candy' quotient. So I'm superficial....big deal! hahaha 

4. Jesse Pinkman (Breaking Bad)


Whenever the subject of Breaking Bad comes up, the name Walter White (Bryan Cranston) will inevitably get top billing in the discussion that follows. Rightly so, considering the character's incredible metamorphosis from morality to depravity that occurs over the course of the 5 seasons.

But the character who left the most profound impact on me was in fact Jesse Pinkman. This one comes as a surprise even to me because Jesse is an accomplice to each and every despicable deed masterminded by Walter.

Jesse starts off as a high-school dropout and junkie. With little to no redeeming qualities, he isn't remotely likeable to begin with. But as the seasons go by, the viewer is offered several insights that suggest that there is more to Jesse than meets the eye. Aside from the crystal-meth cooking, swearing (he says the word "bitch" a lot!) and being an accomplice in crimes masterminded by Walter, at his core, Jesse is actually a decent guy. And this is in stark contrast to Walter who is initially portrayed as the respectable, educated, family man but it later emerges that Walt always had a Heisenberg lurking within him, long before his foray into the world of crime.

As the series came to a close, Jesse was the only character I championed for. 

5. Cosmo Kramer (Seinfeld)


The name says it all doesn't it? Cosmo Kramer. You just know that this is going to be one blisteringly funny guy!

Seinfeld, which showcases the mundane day to day life and social interactions of four unabashedly single Manhattanites (Jerry, George, Elaine & Kramer) took a while to grow on me. The show about 'nothing' didn't seem entertaining to me for the first two seasons but I persisted and gave it more time. By the time I reached the last season, I had become a fan.

Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards), is commonly referred to as 'Kramer'. He lives across the hall from Jerry Seinfeld who he keeps pestering on regular intervals. Bursting with manic energy, he is freakishly tall, has an unique upright hairstyle, wears vintage clothes and loves cuban cigars. He has been described as a 'hipster doofus' much to his chagrin.

Kramer exhibits conflicting personality traits - on one hand he can be shallow, obnoxious and tactless and on the other he can be friendly, caring and compassionate. Kramer appears to be unemployed although he doesn't seem to have any shortage of money and as wacky as he is, he manages to garner a fair share of female attention. He often comes up with "creative" (more like crackpot!) investment ideas to rake in the moolah which are hilarious. Kramer's has a signature way of making an entrance by dramatically bursting into a room sliding in.

I remember watching an episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer did/said something that was so comical that in a fit of laughter, I fell off the couch with a painful stitch in my side! True Story. 

6. Jesse Katsopolis (Full House)


Full House was a popular sitcom during the 90's. It was one of the shows that I used to watch along with other shows like The Wonder Years, Doogie Howser, The Nanny, Different Strokes, Who's The Boss, Sabrina, Bewitched & Small Wonder. Now that I think about it, I used to watch a lot of TV as a teenager!

The highlight of Full House was undoubtedly the adorable Olsen twins who took turns to play the character of Michelle Tanner. But my favourite character was Jesse Katsopolis (John Stamos) who I freely admit was my small screen childhood crush *bats eyelashes*

Initially portrayed as a rebel, his character matures over the years. He comes across as a motorcycle aficionado and a music lover. Jesse's famous catch phrase throughout the series is "Have mercy!" and "Watch the hair!," (because of his obsession with his hair). He proved to be the super cool uncle by helping to take care of his three young nieces - D.J, Stephanie & Michelle and making it look like fun. Later in the series, he falls in love with and marries Rebecca Donaldson (Becky) and has twin boys, Nicky and Alex thus sending his likeability factor soaring even higher.

I heard a while ago that John Stamos is reprising the beloved character Uncle Jesse on the Netflix series Fuller House. I can't wait to get my hands on it!

7. Frank Barone (Everybody Loves Raymond)


There should be no reason to like Frank (Peter Boyle) but I just do. He is cheap, rude, sexist, racist, uncouth, cantankerous and outright despicable at times. But everything said, he is undoubtedly one of the funniest characters on Everybody Loves Raymond (which happens to be one of my favourite sitcoms). I've lost count of the number of times I've watched each episode. It never gets old!

Frank doesn't have any problem relaxing comfortably with his pants undone in the armchair in his son's living room, or else at home, sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper while barking orders at his wife to prepare his meals. The way he habitually mocks people around him, particularly his overbearing wife Marie is just hilarious. He is also severely homophobic and passes derogatory comments against his sons when he feels they do not live up to his standards of what it takes to be a man.

His trademark "Geezaloo" and "Holy Crap" can be heard throughout the nine seasons of the show.

It's a good thing the sitcom ended its run after the death of Peter Boyle. It never would have been the same without him. 

8. Niles (The Nanny)


Niles is the English butler & chauffeur at the Sheffield residence. He is clever, trustworthy, kind, devoted to the Sheffield household and especially loyal to the nanny, Fran.

With razor-sharp wit, a penchant for eavesdropping/snooping and the habit of periodically antagonizing his boss's business partner C.C Babcock, Niles was such a delight to watch! 

When I found out that the actor Daniel Davis who plays the part of Niles is in fact American, I was stupefied! The accent and mannerisms seemed so authentic that I could have never guessed that he wasn't English. A job well done indeed.

9. Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory)


I come from the field of science so I have a soft spot for Sheldon Cooper. And when I say science, not the String Theory kind of geeky science but you get my drift right?

As the theoretical physicist who shares an apartment with his best friend Leonard, Sheldon is overly intellectual, hooked onto comic books and science fiction, hopelessly dependent on routine and obsessive regarding hygiene. True he has several obvious flaws such as being neurotic, arrogant, socially inept and insensitive but there is just something about the guy that you can't ignore. All credit to Jim Parsons for getting into the skin of Sheldon Cooper so brilliantly. Thanks to him, Sheldon Cooper is one of the most compelling characters on television today. Aggravating his friends beyond belief and his 'bazingas' aside, the interaction between Sheldon and Leonard's on-again-off-again girlfriend Penny makes for rib-tickling entertainment.

Although I am not a die-hard fan of The Big Bang Theory (and thereby have not followed every single episode of each season like a hawk), it does make for fun viewing after a long day.

A great character essayed by a great actor....now that's a winning combination! 

10. Stewie Griffin (Family Guy)


Family Guy is a hilarious show revolving around Peter Griffin, his family and friends and their seemingly normal life in Quahog, Rhode Island. Peter is a stupid clumsy oaf who loves his family but loves his beer and racist humor just a bit more. He goes to work, he hangs out with his motley crew at the local pub and comes home each night to a loving wife, an anthropomorphic dog, an unbelievably dumb older son, an evil-genius younger son and whatever the hell Meg is.

You can't help but love the diabolical Stewie Griffin, the youngest child of Peter and Lois Griffin. I can't put my finger on whether it is his British accent (voiced by Seth MacFarlane), his designs of world domination, fantasy of matricide or his sarcasm-laden banter with his dog Brian that makes him such a fascinating character. He is the main reason Family Guy fans keep coming back for more (me included).

This tyrannical baby will go down as one of the greatest (and littlest) small screen villains of all time! 


Least Favourite

And these are the characters who make me cringe whenever they show up on screen. Again, these are in no particular order of aversion. They are not villains but just characters that to me are like nails on a chalkboard. It could be their mannerisms, actions whereby they antagonize beloved characters, irrelevancy to the storyline or just that their character is not relatable. Some of them are mildly annoying whereas some of them make the entire series unwatchable purely by their presence. 

1. Dr. Izobel Stevens (Grey's Anatomy)


I started off genuinely liking the character of Izobel (aka Izzie) Stevens. She was introduced as a new intern at the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital. The girl from humble origins who dared to dream big and ended up as a surgeon after clearing her student loans through modelling made her inspiring. Her baking exploits and getting all excited about christmas was endearing too. But after the second season, her character just started to go downhill. Her smugness, sanctimonious nature, swaying love interests, irrational behaviour & emotional over attachment with her patients just started to get nerve grating. 

To make matters worse, she pulled the LVAD wire from a patient Denny (who happened to be her fiancé) in order to move him up on the heart transplant list. And wait.....there is more. After that debacle, she went on to break up her best friend George's marriage. She did redeem herself a tad when she donated a heck of a lot of money to open a free clinic and save the life of a deer (although that was kind of stupid). But then she started hallucinating and cavorting with ghost Denny which consequently made her go ballistic and made her annoying all over again. Her being afflicted by cancer did little to evoke sympathy in the average viewer because even then she managed to be an infernal nuisance. The last straw was her getting married and then getting fired and then pulling off a poorly explained disappearing act!

The writers have to be blamed primarily for the poor characterization and awful storylines involving Izzie. Katherine Heigl who plays Izzie Stevens is decent as an actress but she has failed to infuse any likeability into the character. This character should have been axed from the show  a long time ago.

I have one last thing to say and that is Ugh!

2. Jim (According to Jim)


According to Jim is a family sitcom about a regular middle-class guy named Jim (Jim Belushi), his wife Cheryl and their children. Cheryl's siblings Andy (Jim's best friend) and sister Dana (Jim's nemesis) are frequent house guests.

According to Jim is a show that will appeal to some but not the others. I didn't mind the show because it had its share of humorous moments particularly the comedic partnership of Jim and Andy & the instances where Dana is at odds with Jim.

Having said that, in my opinion, the character of Jim is just unbearable. And note that I am talking solely about the character and not the actor. Jim is a selfish, pompous, manipulative and insecure jerk. Oh and I forgot to mention....a slob too. He represents the typical guy you would despise to have as a colleague, friend or neighbour. It seems inconceivable that he could snag such a hot wife. The question on everyone's mind is: how could a human being endowed with free will have put up with his shenanigans for so long! He has everything a guy could want but it all seems wasted on him because he doesn't deserve any of it.

It is a bit disappointing that almost all the laughs in the show come from Jim being a bad husband, not-so-great father and a colossal ass. 

3. Michael Dawson (LOST)


"WAAAAAAAAAAALLLTTTTTTT! Where is WALT? Where is my son? Where have you taken my boy?" 

That just about sums up Michael's dialogues in the show. Like, seriously....I kid you not.

Michael's (Harold Perrineau) obsession with his son (whom by the way he doesn't even love that much as is evident from the actions of his pre-island life) is exasperating. I mean, the guy even kills two innocent women on account of his son. And it doesn't help that the character of Walt is pretty irksome too. While watching the show, whenever the father-son duo would show up on screen, I would just groan (and wish that I could swat them away like a couple of pesky flies).

This was a character I did not mind getting LOST

4. Alan Harper (Two and a Half Men)


As the hapless divorced chiropractor who moves into his brother Charlie's (and later best friend Waden's) lavish Malibu beach house with his son Jake, Alan Harper (Jon Cryer) makes me want to pull out my hair in frustration. His mother Evelyn has even more of a hideous personality but at least she is amusing!

Whiny, spineless, selfish, pitiful, lazy and someone with absolutely no self-respect.

Nuff said

5. Sue Sylvester (Glee)


When I started first watching Glee, I found the rag-tag bunch of awkward teenagers with a shared love for music endearing. But as the seasons progressed, the story-lines started to go haywire and the characters began to derail. Now, I have a whole lot of characters that I loathe on Glee - Rachel, Kurt, Unique, Becky, Tina and even the previously likeable Will and Marley. 

The character of cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) is probably the most complex ones you would see on tv. She is sharp-tongued, narcissistic, crass, stubborn and seems to have no sense of right and wrong. She even gets married to herself after she realises she is her own best match (beat that!). Her only redeeming quality is her compassion towards Becky and her sister. 

Don't get me wrong.....I agree that this character can occasionally tickle your funny bone but more often than not, you just want to crush her like a little bug. Some of the things she says are just cringe-worthy. This is a sad case of a hilarious antagonist turning into a nasty nobody. 

I'm going to stick to watching The Glee Project. 

6. Susan Mayer-Lynette Scavo (Desperate Housewives)


I loved the show Desperate Housewives (mainly due to the writing and narration) and I've watched each season at least three times.

The show chronicles the scandalous lives of four friends and neighbours - Gabrielle Solis, Bree Van de Kamp, Susan Mayer & Lynette Scavo who live on Wisteria Lane in the fictional town of Fairview.

My favourite housewife is the feisty Gabriel Solis but when it comes to the least favourite, it would have to be a toss-up between Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher) and Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman). The former is clumsy, misguided, needy and utterly brainless while the latter is an overbearing, emasculating, conniving, self-righteous shrew. 

Kind of hard to pick a winner right? I declare it a tie!

7. Miranda Hobbes (Sex and the City)


Who hasn't heard of Sex and the City? The six-season series about the social lives of four women (Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte & Miranda) in New York featured protagonists who were explicitly candid about their personal lives and put female friendship above everything else.

I'm not a fan of the series even though I've watched it and for some reason the movies too. I've never had a discussion with my girlfriends comparing which character from SATC we most closely resemble. Although I couldn't really relate to any of the characters personally (maybe it's an Asian thing), I did find them fun and cool at times.

My least favorite character was Miranda just because she was the most irritating of the lot. Her traits of being a workaholic, pessimist, having a far too cynical attitude about men, being nasty to people who were nice to her, having to be right all the time (ugh!) and a peculiar dressing sense coupled with bad haircuts did not go down too well with me.

But she did end up having a successful professional and personal life as opposed to being a cutesy, frivolous, man-crazy shopping addict. She was the most real one among them so I will grudgingly give some credit to her character. Still don't like her though!

8. Skyler White (Breaking Bad)


Let me get this straight. I think Anna Gunn who plays the role of Skyler White in the ground-breaking drama Breaking Bad is a good actress. But do I like her character Skyler? Not really.

As the wife of the main protagonist Walter White, Skyler starts out as the loving wife. But as her husband goes from a simple high school chemistry teacher to a meth kingpin, her character undergoes profound changes which is of course understandable. Not every woman would (and should) be all fine and dandy with her husband being a drug dealer. Nobody expected Skyler to be the "submissive good wife.” 

She is portrayed as a strong woman with a backbone of steel. One who is opinionated, takes a stand and has a definite sense of right and wrong. But despite being a mother and a victim of Walters misdeeds, she comes across as cold and hard. It is difficult to sympathise with her character. She isn’t interesting, tends to be melodramatic at times, is morally compromised & comes across as hypocrite when she initially Walter for his illegal activities and then goes on to willingly assist in his criminal endeavors.

She tells Walter that she is waiting for the cancer to kill him and she cheats on him as well – those are two main reasons that compelled me to jump on the anti-Skyler bandwagon.

That being said, I think the writers have written Skyler's character in such a way that it is not meant to evoke a whole lot of compassion in the viewer. Since Walter is the show’s main protagonist, there is a natural tendency to empathize with and root for him, despite his moral failings. So when Skyler tries to thwart Walt's attempts to pursue his criminal activities, she becomes the antagonist. This naturally makes her unpopular with fans of the show.

9. Carrie Heffernan (King of Queens)


Okay so she isn't that bad but the hallmark expression doesn't help with the likability factor, does it?

Carrie Heffernan (Leah Remini) is one of the three central characters on The King of Queens. She is Doug Heffernan's wife and Arthur Spooner's daughter. Carrie is fierce (sometimes even physically abusive), a control freak and often comes across as selfish. She rarely has a kind word for Doug and has an acrimonious relationship with her father. But it is chiefly her bossy and overbearing nature that puts a dampener on the viewer's perception of her.

The awkward good-for-nothing husband with the attractive know-it-all wife is a tried and tested premise for a family sitcom. We have seen it on Everybody Loves Raymond, King of Queens, According to Jim and the likes of it. The husbands are real schmucks which can naturally get exasperating for the wives (and the viewers). But then again with the constant nagging, whining and 'I told you so' attitude, the wives can get even more annoying because let's face it, unless you are Hermione Granger, everyone hates an insufferable know-it-all. Debra from Everybody Loves Raymond is infuriating too but she has a lot more on her plate with a spineless husband, three kids, the entire responsibility of the household and excessively intrusive in-laws living right across the street so her persistent ranting and raving is a wee bit more justified.

Sorry Carrie....you narrowly win this one! 

10. Charlotte Grayson (Revenge)


Granted Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) has reason to be sulky, mistrustful and depressed. During the course of the series Revenge, she discovers that her dad Conrad Grayson isn't her biological father, that her biological father is David Clarke - a controversial suspected terrorist thought to be dead, her controlling and disapproving mother Victoria Grayson is involved in a plane crash, she has a half-brother she never even knew about, her boyfriend Declan dies on account of Conrad Grayson and she miscarries because of the stress of her Declan dying. Tough life? Yeah sure. Should I cut her some slack? Maybe....but I'm not feeling that large-hearted right now!

She is introduced as the poor little rich girl who has no identity of her own outside of the Grayson surname. Friendly, charming and charitable, she seems likeable at first but as the skeletons start tumbling out of her family's closet, she starts going down a dangerous path of self-destruction. She gets involved with substance abuse, acquires a loser boyfriend (Declan), becomes emotionally unstable, attempts suicide, goes into rehab, rebels against everyone and everything, tries to sabotage Emily and Daniel's relationship, attempts murder and basically turns into an unbearable meddler.

It is not that I have something against negative characters - Victoria is the most cold, ruthless and manipulative characters I have ever seen on television yet I love her because she has so much personality and is a fascinating character. Charlotte on the other hand, isn't smart like her half-sister Emily or cunning like her mother Victoria. She is just a waste of space who doesn't do anything useful or exciting. Whenever she appears on-screen it is time to yawn. Her boyfriend Declan was almost as maddening as her so I for one didn't miss him at all when he was killed off in season two.

Although Charlotte is the most naive and untainted character among the other schemers and plotters, I find her the most unlikeable on the show.

So, there you have it - my list of most and least favourite television characters. Do you agree with my list? Or do you have a character/characters that you love or despise that you don't see here.

Leave a comment to let me know!

Till next time....


Cheers,


2 comments:

  1. Among all listed above, I like Chandler the best. He so spontaneous and natural.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice variety in the blog entry. All 10 male characters in fav list, and 7 female characters in least fav list! Ahem *coughs* ;) btw did not know you watched family guy :D

    Looking at the least fav list by far Michael from lost is on the top there, I had always wanted someone to kill his character! There are some similar characters in Prison Break as well, aka whiny, superficially overly attached to family.

    Among characters that grow on you, Jessie Pinkman and Frank Barone were good. We were attached to few characters from the west wing series too. The Seinfeld characters each were funny in their own way, but Kramer does top the list!

    ReplyDelete

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