For some reason, people think that just because I’m a librarian, I only read books and don’t watch any TV. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not true. I love books. I love reading. There is nothing I would rather do than sit outside on a nice day and read a good book. But, I do love my television shows (sometimes a little too much). No, I don’t let TV dictate my life. (Well, not all of the time). But sometimes on a nice relaxing evening, or when the weather is terrible, or I have a cold, or I just want to be lazy, I love to revisit with some of my favorite TV characters. And what’s great is that I can get the DVDs featuring these characters from the library.
Now, keep in mind this is a list of my favorite TV characters. This is not necessarily a list of the best TV characters of all time or the most groundbreaking. You can find plenty of lists like that. These are the characters which bring me great joy to watch. So, without further ado, are my top 15: (link on the show title to request the DVD)
15. Deacon Palmer
King of Queens
portrayed by Victor Williams
This was a very funny sitcom, which was often overshadowed by its parent show, Everybody Loves Raymond. Personally, I would rather follow the ridiculous lives of Kevin James’s and Leah Remini’s Doug and Carrie Heffernan and their equally nutty friends and family than Raymond’s Barone family. Among those friends is Doug’s co-worker and best friend, Deacon. Although Deacon often appears to be the voice of reason among the group, he can get just as ridiculous as his buddies (if not more so). Williams really showed off his comedic skills during King of Queen’s run. However, he also showed he can be serious by beautifully portraying Deacon’s heartbreak when his wife left him.
14. Lady Marjorie Bellamy
portrayed by Rachel Gurney
Before there was Downtown Abbey or Gosford Park, there was Upstairs Downstairs. Produced in the early 1970’s and taking place over a period of 27 years, Upstairs Downstairs was the story of the English Bellamy family and their servants, including the butler, Mr. Hudson and the cook, Mrs. Bridges. The female head of the Bellamy family, Lady Marjorie, provided the wealth, and was the most interesting member of the household. Daughter, Elizabeth, was a brat, son, James, never could find himself, and husband, Richard, was too nice. Marjorie, however, was the most well rounded person in the family. She could be extremely condescending to her servants. She changed the name of her new maid to Sarah because she didn’t like the woman’s real name, and also sent the same maid away to her family’s estate when Sarah became pregnant with James’s child. Yet, she could also be kind. She sat with Sarah after she returned to give birth, and mourned with maid, Rose, when Rose’s mother died. Lady Marjorie also proved to be quite passionate when she embarked on an affair with her son’s best friend. Unfortunately, for the viewing audience, Rachel Gurney decided to leave the show, and so, like most characters in books, movies, or TV shows taking place in April 1912, Lady Marjorie ended up booking a one way trip on the Titanic.
13. Abby Fairgate Cunningham Ewing Sumner
portrayed by Donna Mills
Abby was not your typical 1980’s prime time soap villain. Sure, she could be downright nasty. She did, after all, break up Gary and Valene Ewing’s marriage, and she planted drugs in her daughter’s boyfriend’s locker at Lotus Point, and she may have inadvertently caused Val and Gary’s twins to get kidnapped. Then there was the time she tricked her ex-husband into a wedding ceremony so that she could serve him with a restraining order. But, Abby also was a resourceful business woman who cared about her children and her nieces and nephews. She was nervous but she was willing to go through risky surgery in order to donate her kidney to her niece. And she made sure to do whatever it took in order to get her daughter, Olivia, off drugs. We all may have loved to hate Abby’s one time brother-in-law, JR Ewing on Dallas but some of us actually loved to love Abby. After all, she really did feel bad about accidentally causing Val and Gary’s kids to get kidnapped.
12. Cliff Barnes
portrayed by Ken Kercheval
Speaking of JR Ewing, where would he be without his loser nemesis, Cliff Barnes? Carrying on a feud started by their fathers, Cliff and JR were constantly trying to undermine the other with JR often getting the best of Cliff. One would think that Cliff’s sister, Pam, marrying JR’s brother, Bobby, would ease the tensions between the two families, but no such luck. While Cliff occasionally would commit despicable acts, he was nothing like the villain JR was. While viewers were pretty sure that JR was plain evil, viewers could also be reassured that underneath Cliff was probably a fairly decent person. This became clear when upon the disappearance of Pam, Cliff made peace with Bobby and Ewing matriarch, Miss Ellie. He also became a devoted uncle to Bobby and Pam’s son, Christopher. Unfortunately, Cliff is not slated to be a major character in the upcoming Dallas series on TNT, but rumor has it that he’ll be making a few key appearances.
11. Gunther Toody/Francis Muldoon
Car 54, Where are You?
portrayed by Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne
While most sitcoms become dated over time, the police officers of New York City’s 53rd Precinct still bring the laughs. Ross and Gwynne had perfect chemistry as patrol partners, with Gwynne often being the straight man to Ross’s nonsense. Rounding out the pair were their co-workers and family members who were every bit as wacky as they were. Aside from being one of the funniest shows to come out of the 1960’s, Car 54 was also one of the first sitcoms that showed African-Americans and Caucasian characters working together in equal positions, and not making a big deal out of it. While this would hopefully not phase anyone today, this was quite remarkable for the time period.
10. Gracie Allen
The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
portrayed by Gracie Allen
Another sitcom that has stood the test of time, the Burns and Allen show featured the comic talents of married couple, George Burns and Gracie Allen. Gracie provided most of the laughs with her dimwitted antics as her exasperated husband talked to the audience. While Gracie didn’t appear too bright on screen, it should be noted that only someone who was brilliant could have pulled off what she did.
9. Emerson Cod and Olive Snook
portrayed by Chi McBride and Kristin Chenoweth
Pushing Daisies is an example of a show that was canceled too soon. The story concerned a pie maker, Ned, who can bring people back from the dead with one touch, with serious consequences. The entire cast of this imaginative series set in a cartoonish world is amazing. Chi McBride’s private investigator, Emerson Cod, and Kristin Chenoweth’s lovestruck waitress, Olive Snook, really steal the show, however. McBride’s facial expressions just add humor to Emerson’s already funny one-liners, and his ongoing banter with Olive.
8. Sheldon Cooper
The Big Bang Theory
portrayed by Jim Parsons
The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon may not understand humor but he certainly elicits a lot of laughs. His deadpan responses to his friends’ comments and his condescension to anyone less brilliant than he is always sound fresh. His chemistry with co-star, Kaley Cuoco has worked to create one of the funniest love/hate relationships on television.
7. Levar Burton
portrayed by (oddly enough) Levar Burton
Not technically a character, I realize, but Mr. Burton is one of the reasons that I became a reader and a librarian. Premiering in my early days of reading, Reading Rainbow was a wonderful and simple show demonstrating the wonders of reading. What made it so wonderful was Levar’s narration and genuine enthusiasm for the places he visited each episode. His sweet introduction to the children who gave book reviews, (”But you don’t have to take my word for it”) still makes me smile. Levar Burton will always be remembered for his amazing acting in Roots and his memorable role on Star Trek: The Next Generation. For me, though, he will always be the one who taught me that it was cool to love books.
6. Helen Chapel
portrayed by Crystal Bernard
Wings was a sitcom that never got the love it deserved. Wings was the story of two brothers, Joe and Brian, who owned a Nantucket based airline, and their airport co-workers, including childhood friend, Helen Chapel. Helen, a frustrated musician who owned the airport lunch counter and loved Joe, was an independent smart woman and was also a bit of a neurotic mess. (As was everyone on this show). Crystal Bernard made Helen’s broad and outrageous lines completely realistic. It’s a testament to her comedic chops that the character still stayed funny even after Helen got together with Joe. (This was normally a kiss of death on most sitcoms).
5. Wilhelmina Slater
portrayed by Vanessa Williams
Who knew Vanessa Williams would be so convincing being mean? Ugly Betty was technically a show about Betty working at Mode Magazine, but Creative Director, Wilhelmina (nee Wanda) Slater was easily the best character. She was driven and pretty awful at times, doing anything to become Mode’s editor in chief. I know we were supposed to root for anyone who fell victim to one of Wilhelmina’s plots, but I always was rooting for her. I never saw anything that convinced me that Daniel Meade made a better Editor in Chief than Wilhelmina.
4. Lucy Van Pelt
Various Charlie Brown and Peanuts specials
portrayed by too many people to list
Though originally a comic strip character, Lucy and the Peanuts gang are also well remembered for many of their TV specials. Lucy wasn’t a very nice friend, especially to Charlie Brown, an even worse sister, and somewhat of a stalker when it came to Schroeder. So why is she so popular? Well, there are several reasons. Who hasn’t been annoyed by their younger brother? And, who hasn’t suffered from unrequited love? And, despite the routine that she pulled with Charlie Brown and the football, she proved that she was a pretty lousy athlete herself with her exploits on the baseball field.
3. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy
Star Trek: The Original Series and Various Movies
portrayed by DeForest Kelley (Karl Urban portrayed him in the 2009 movie)
While Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk often make it on lists of greatest TV characters, the third member of the trio, Leonard “Bones” McCoy makes it on my list. True, Spock and Kirk represent a great fictional male friendship, but the relationship wouldn’t be half as interesting without McCoy. Whether it’s lending an ear or sharing a drink with Captain Kirk, or yelling at Spock about well, everything, Dr. McCoy got some of the best lines in the original Star Trek. (I have taken to telling people that I’m a librarian, not a bricklayer). His love/hate relationship with Mr. Spock is one that hasn’t been replicated in any of the later Star Trek shows. And, though McCoy often appeared to be exasperated with Spock, viewers knew that deep down, he really did care about him, as shown in one really touching scene towards the end of Star Trek III. (Yes, I did actually like that movie.) In addition to his friendship with Kirk and Spock, McCoy also proved to be brave, as evidenced in this scene with Ricardo Montalban. Who gives advice to the person trying to kill him?
2. Jack Bristow
portrayed by Victor Garber
I had a hard time choosing whether I wanted Dr. McCoy or Jack Bristow to be my second favorite TV character. After a lot of thought, I finally had to go with the man a Television Without Pity writer dubbed, “Spy Daddy.” Alias was the story of Sydney Bristow, who along with her father, Jack, was a double agent working for the CIA and a nefarious organization called SD-6. While distant at times, Jack would do anything for his daughter including murder and hiding some awful information about her mother. When Sydney disappears for two years and is assumed dead, Jack is the only one who (rightfully) believes that she is still alive. But, his affection for his daughter is never more clear than when Sydney’s love, Michael Vaughn, is revealed to be married, Jack says, “Michael Vaughn is nothing more than a boy who was never good enough for you anyway.”
1. Miss Piggy
The Muppet Show and Various Movies and Specials
portrayed by Frank Oz and Eric Jacobson
When I took French in middle school, I was delighted to realize that I recognized the French word, “moi”. No, this wasn’t because I had been to a French speaking country but rather because I was a fan of Miss Piggy, who not only talked about herself in the third person, but who liked to do it in French. Miss Piggy was the diva of The Muppet Show, always wanting to be the star and falling in love with its MC, Kermit the Frog. She was actually quite versatile, whether she was performing with Elton John, playing Princess Leia, or hosting an exercise video. In addition to her duties with the Muppets, Miss Piggy has written books, appeared on several talk shows, and is well trained on women’s self defense. Kermit may think he’s the star of the Muppets, but everyone knows it’s really Miss Piggy.
Other favorites: Eric and Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights; Pete Campbell, Mad Men; Kalinda Sharma, The Good Wife; Claire Huxtable, The Cosby Show; Marc St. James, Ugly Betty; Sophia Petrillo, The Golden Girls; Jean Pargeter, As Time Goes By and Jaye Tyler, Wonderfalls.
posted by Laura