Thursday, August 24, 2006

You will not be able to resist

Edited at 8 p.m. (because I really couldn't hold the list to 10 - plus, Gunn and Whedon listed 25 characters)

After reading this post at Pop Candy (which is now also in the podcast business - Mistress Distraction, thy name is Whitney Matheson), I had to join in the fun. Following the lead of most excellent screenwriters/directors James Gunn and Joss Whedon, who took the time to list their favorite TV characters, here are the fictional creations that I could watch over and over again. Oh, if I could ever create anyone as good as these fellas, I would die a happy writer.

Looking at the list (which I kept to 10 characters), I see that most of my favorites are from current or relatively recent shows. So I either have a problem with my long-term TV memory, or I agree with's Heather Havrilesky, who asserts that we are now living in a golden age of television.

George Costanza - Seinfeld. Shouldn't "Seinfeld" have really been titled "Costanza"? So many of the stories revolved around him. I shouldn't admit this, but I think George is the closest thing to me that I've ever seen on TV. A guy who gets mad because someone ordered a big salad, yet only paid for a small one? Yes, I'm afraid I've been that guy.

Frank Pembleton - Homicide: Life on the Street. Again, maybe I'm dealing with poor long-term TV memory, but Detective Pembleton is the first character I remember who showed me just how good dramatic television could be. His intensity blazed out of the screen when he interrogated a suspect. And watch out if you pissed him off.

Al Swearengen - Deadwood. Ready for some hyperbole? Swearengen is the greatest TV character ever created. He's ruthless and cold-blooded; he'd cut your throat without a moment's pause. But he also has a deviously strategic criminal mind. And what makes him most complex is that he has a set of principles. When he's pushed, you see what he truly cares about.

Dr. Perry Cox - Scrubs. J.D. Dorian is the main character, but if he wasn't constantly striving to impress his mentor, and if Dr. Cox wasn't frequently beating him back down in an attempt to make him the best doctor he can be, Scrubs wouldn't be much of a show. And no one - no one - can go on a rant about societal ills and pop culture ("... and Hugh Jackman!") like Perry Cox.

Tommy Gavin - Rescue Me. He's a recovering alcoholic, cheats on his wife, abuses drugs, steals from his fellow firefighters, and generally treats most of the people in his life like $#!+. Yet Tommy's also lost a son, a brother, and several cherished friends in 9-11. I tune in for the whole mess every week, because I want to see what happens next.

Dr. Doug Ross - ER. The term "man crush" was completely foreign to me until I saw Dr. Ross kick ass and take names at Cook County General. George Clooney became a star in the pilot episode when he reprimanded a mother for abusing her baby. Oh, the way he wobbled his head when he tried to charm someone. A bit self-destructive, though.

Jimmy McNulty - The Wire. Everything you need to know about Detective McNulty is shown at the beginning of an episode late in The Wire's second season. After smashing his car into a pillar while driving drunk, McNulty tries to figure out the angle on the turn. He then gets back in his car, makes the turn again... and totals his car. You see the persistence that makes him such a good detective, along with the self-destructiveness that's killed his career.

Sam Seaborn - The West Wing. Josh Lyman and Toby Zeigler stuck around the show longer, but Sam is the one that really made me feel like, "Man, wouldn't it be great to work in a White House like that?" He relished batting around big ideas that could change the country positively. And best of all, he truly loved crafting a masterful speech.

Gregory House - House. I think I see a pattern in most of my favorite characters. Unlikable, but very good at what they do, and a redeemable quality underneath the @$$hole exterior. House is an equal opportunity hater, and cuts anyone and everyone off at the knees with his razor wit. But deep down, he cares about helping people. (Or maybe he cares more about solving problems and being right. But the end result benefits his patients.)

Trixie - Deadwood. I told myself I wasn't going to pick more than one character from the same show, but I can't help it. Plus, I just noticed I don't have any females on the list. So we have the whore with the heart of gold, except it's not that golden. She pushes each of the men in her life (lovers, ex-lovers, friends, friends of friends) to be their best and live up to their responsibilities, albeit not always kindly. Don't #@$% with her.

Okay, so who did I miss? Too many cops? Too many doctors? Too many unlikables? If you know me, bring on the "I thought you loved "__________"? Where's ________?!" If you have a blog, I hope you post your own lists. And if not, please leave some of your favorites in the comments. I'd love to read 'em.

The Honorable Mentions...

Christina Yang - Grey's Anatomy
Johnny Drama - Entourage
Seth Bullock - Deadwood
Dan Rydell - Sports Night
John Munch - Homicide ("Don't you ever lie to me like I'm Montel Williams.")
Elliot Reid - Scrubs
Woody Boyd - Cheers
Mal Reynolds - Firefly
Byron "Buster" Bluth - Arrested Development
Sonny Crockett - Miami Vice
Jennifer Melfi - The Sopranos
Christian Troy - Nip/Tuck
Jim Halpert - The Office (U.S.)
Lester Freamon - The Wire
Pinky - Pinky & The Brain