12 January, 2014

Eli's 20 Favorite TV Characters of All-Time

Assuming anyone reads this or gives a darn what I think, this list is sure to anger some people. Do me a favor and save your outrage that I left off your favorite character from your favorite TV show. Because while I'm a huge loser addicted to television, I don't watch every show out there. You and I have completely different tastes, so deal with it. Make your own damn list, people.

Limiting this to just 20 characters wasn't easy. And there's a good chance I forgot about some that I'll regret later. Here are the ones that just missed my cut...

HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order): Richard Castle ('Castle'), Larry David ('Curb Your Enthusiasm'), Barnie Stinson ('How I Met Your Mother'), Jeff Winger ('Community'), Harvey Specter ('Suits'), Hank Moody ('Californication'), Bobby Donnell ('The Practice'), Logan Echolls ('Veronica Mars'), Sloan Sabbith ('The Newsroom') Sam Oliver ('Reaper'), Alex Moran ('Blue Mountain State'), Jim Longworth ('The Glades'), Louis Litt ('Suits'), Gob Bluth ('Arrested Development'), Zack Morris ('Saved by the Bell') , Leon ('Curb Your Enthusiasm'), Ted Mosby ('How I Met Your Mother'), J.D. Dorian ('Scrubs'), Will McKenzie ('The Inbetweeners'), Pete ('The League'), Malcolm ('Malcolm in the Middle'), Alan Harper ('Two and a Half Men'), Kate Reed ('Fairly Legal'), Joey Potter ('Dawson's Creek'), Sheldon Cooper ('The Big Bang Theory)

Now on to the real list...

20. EMILY THORNE (played by Emily VanCamp on 'Revenge')

She's devious. She's bad-ass. And she's incredibly stunning. The show itself may be a train-wreck half the time, but it's still great watching her in her quest for vengeance. With a cool back-story, multiple identities and loads of wealth, she's a unique female character that you want to watch destroy everyone in her way. We all have revenge fantasies, so we get to live vicariously through her.

One Emily Thorne draw-back: her annoying soliloquy's at the beginning of each episode. They drive me crazy.

19. ALEX KERKOVICH (played by Elisha Cuthbert on 'Happy Endings')

R.I.P. 'Happy Endings'. And R.I.P. the greatest comedic eater on television. Many shows have the token idiot in the cast, but no show did that better than 'Happy Endings' did with Alex. She was also hilarious whenever she danced and was great with physical comedy. Pretty damn great on the eyes, too.

Speaking of which, I maintain that no girl in history has ever been hotter than Elisha Cuthbert was in 'The Girl Next Door'. Ever, ever, ever.

18. NICK MILLER (played by Jake Johnson on 'New Girl')

Obviously Nick Miller is hilarious, but that's probably not entirely why I love him. I love him because he's just like me: crotchety, jaded, an old soul, cheap, a conspiracy theorist and a complete lazy failure. We differ in that he's a complete drunk, but his drunken shenanigans never fail to deliver.

Despite all of that, he somehow manages to be a complete delight. 

17. COSMO KRAMER (played by Michael Richards on 'Seinfeld')

You have to admire a guy who never works a day in his life and who is amazed by the sight of a cinnamon raisin bagel. He was the king of physical comedy, the king of great entrances and the king of hilarious noises. I don't think any character I've ever seen made me laugh as consistently or as wildly as Kramer did. He didn't have the range that many of the characters on this list had -- but when you are that hilarious, you don't need it.

16. DANA SCULLY (played by Gillian Anderson on 'The X-Files')

Growing up, Sunday nights were my favorite. Watching 'The Simpsons', 'Malcolm in the Middle' and 'The X-Files' back-to-back-to-back was the highlight of my week -- even if I had to go to school the next morning for the dreaded beginning of the school week. A big part of my love for that night was Dana Scully, perhaps my first real crush as a kid.

That show was just so unique and special -- and a tough, attractive female FBI agent was just too hard to resist as a young teenager. Kids grew up wanting to be Fox Mulder and be with Dana Scully. She was smart, beautiful and could play dramatic and action adeptly. All these years later, I still think she has to be considered one of the greatest female characters in TV history.

15. WILL SMITH (played by Will Smith on 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air')

I'm always jealous of people loaded with charisma. His character on 'Fresh Prince' was my first exposure to it and I loved every minute. He was funny, different, refreshing and smooth with the ladies. I don't remember, but I bet when I was a kid I wanted to be just like Will.

The next time I make a cool friend, I'm going to try to convince him/her to make this our greeting. That would be awesome. You know what else was awesome? His inside-out jacket. I want one.

14. STERLING ARCHER (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin on 'Archer')

An immature, selfish, crude, complete piece of shit. He's such a rotten individual that it's impossible not to like him. Whether he's going on a rampage, fooling people with his douchey fake voicemails, complaining about people's phrasing, being hilarious, talking about being in the danger zone, or just being awesome, he's the best animated character on TV. Granted, this is the only animated show I watch, but I stand by my assessment.

On a side note, be sure to check out the Best Archer Drinking Game out there.

13. SHAWN SPENCER (played by James Roday on 'Psych')

This is one of those characters that you either love or hate. Considering he's #13 on my list, you can probably figure out where I stand on this one. I find him funny. You may find him annoying. I find him charming. You may find him slimy. I enjoy his sarcasm, his wit, his silly catchphrases and nicknames, and 'The Mentalist' found his crime-solving so much fun that they stole it for their own show.

Shawn is also brave and a closet romantic and his relationship with Juliet was one of the few on TV that I've ever really cared about.

12. CHARLIE CREWS (played by Damian Lewis on 'Life')

I've never been a big fan of cop shows or procedurals. While 'Life' didn't live up to the potential I felt it had, that's no knock on its main character. By far my favorite cop ever on TV, Charlie Crews was one of the most unique (and unlucky) characters I've seen.

His study of zen and his quotes were always amusing, as was his affinity for fruit, his cluelessness of technology, talking to himself, and pulling over his ex-wife's current husband. His relationship to his fancy cars were consistently funny and he was a complete bad-ass (both physically and mentally) when he needed to be -- despite his zen principles. He also had a quality I've always wished I possessed: doing and saying whatever he wanted and not giving a shit what anyone else thought. It's a real shame we only got two seasons worth of Charlie Crews.

11. MOZZIE (played by Willie Garson on 'White Collar')

I might be overstating it, but this has to be one of the most likeable characters on TV. He's a tiny, aging and awkward bald man -- yet somehow he's charming in his quirky little way. He's the ultimate non-conformist and conspiracy-theorist and a criminal you want to see get away with everything.

He's also fiercely loyal, and one of the greatest sidekicks on TV. He's always full of great quotes from famous literature and always armed with great one-liners. He steals every scene he's in and he always leaves you wanting more -- because his character is still a bit of a mystery even after all these seasons.

10. NEAL CAFFREY (played by Matt Bomer on 'White Collar')

Con-men fascinate me. So do pick-pockets, lock-pickers and forgers. So do people that are great at art and at seducing beautiful women. So yeah, I pretty much think that Neal Caffrey is the coolest guy I've ever seen on TV. The man is good at EVERYTHING.

I think most of us love a good heist movie, and this show and this character do a great job in recreating that type of genre. Watching Neal weave in and out of trouble and manipulating people to get what he wants is a treat. If I could be any character on TV, I would unquestionably be Neal -- even though he has to wear a tracking device with a two-mile radius. He's just that cool.

9. GEORGE COSTANZA (played by Jason Alexander on 'Seinfeld')

There's nothing I can say here. You either watched 'Seinfeld' and loved Costanza or you didn't watch the show because your sense of humor is terrible. He is one of the great characters of all-time, and the best way to display that isn't by talking about him -- but instead by just showing you some of his greatest hits (here and here).

8. FOX MULDER (played by David Duchovny on 'The X-Files')

The truth is out there, and the truth is that he still has to rank as one of the greatest characters in history. I use hyperbole way too often, but I think this one is certainly justified. I'm not a sci-fi fan, but I think it's safe to say that 'The X-Files' and Fox Mulder both had gigantic influences on the popularity of that genre today.

Fox was mysterious, enigmatic, fearless and relentless. He was everyone's favorite conspiracy theorist, but what made that extra special was that he was usually right. I wish I could properly articulate what made Mulder so special, but I can't. But whatever it was, it was great enough to get me to watch (and love) a show that I normally would want nothing to do with.

7. JESSE PINKMAN (played by Aaron Paul on 'Breaking Bad')

Normally I'm not a big fan of drug dealers and/or murderers. As you could probably tell, I don't have any of those famous 'anti-heroes' (Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Walter White) on my list. I prefer the good guys, and even though characters like Neal Caffrey and Jesse Pinkman have done plenty wrong -- they have another side to them that endears them to us.

And it was hard not to feel badly for Jesse, who was under the spell of Walter. We saw Jesse endure so much -- from falling in love, to losing Jane, to getting clean and falling back off the wagon. He had a good comedic side in season 1 and Aaron Paul played the emotional moments so incredibly well. All of these actors on this list are supremely talented and grew their characters into something special -- perhaps none of them did it as well as Aaron did with Jesse.


6. VERONICA MARS (played by Kristen Bell on 'Veronica Mars')

Based on the five billion different detective shows (not an exaggeration), we must really love watching people sleuth on TV. And of all of them, I don't think there was anyone more enjoyable to watch than Veronica was. I wish I was one-tenth as cool as she was when I was in high school.

Veronica was ruthless (gotta love that taser!), smart, clever, bad-ass and funny. We cared about her -- her love life, her friendships, and her pursuit of figuring out who killed her best friend. 'Veronica Mars' has got to be one of the only TV shows ever to have a young female lead that wasn't in a stupid teenage soap-opera type show. And it was able to do that because she was such a fascinating character.

Best high-school character ever? I think she has to be.

5. ALAN SHORE (played by James Spader on 'Boston Legal')

Much like the billion detective shows, there have also been a billion law shows. And Alan Shore was the best lawyer of all of them. He was the king of a gripping closing argument and also the king of being a womanizing piece of shit. But you forgave him for it, because he was such an amazing lawyer, incredibly funny and had one of the greatest friendships (with William Shatner's character Denny Crane) ever seen on television.

This show was just so much different than all the other law shows, it so greatly straddled the line between being funny and being serious -- and it was able to do so because of Alan Shore. If you never watched the show, I strongly urge you to just watch one of his closing arguments. They were truly amazing.

4. ERIC TAYLOR (played by Kyle Chandler on 'Friday Night Lights')

Speaking of amazing speeches ... professional sports coaches/managers should take notice. Because no one did it better than the fictional Eric Taylor of the Dillon Panthers (ugh, fine, the East Dillon Lions too).

Coach Taylor was so fun to watch. An amazing leader and mentor, his locker room speeches inspired not just his fictional players but the people watching the show. If I owned a sports team, I would hire all the people who wrote those speeches for 'FNL' and order my coach to read from them verbatim.

As many critics often wrote, his marriage to Connie Britton's character was one of the best ever on TV (example HERE, HERE and HERE) and his relationships to his players were really special too. He was just a compelling character that, like many others on this list, you rooted for and desperately wanted good things to happen for him. And thankfully Kyle Chandler was rewarded for his amazing work.
3. MATT SARACEN (played by Zach Gilford on 'Friday Night Lights')

Yeah, 'Friday Night Lights' was pretty amazing. Two of my four favorite characters ever were on that show. And I'm not sure how to properly explain what made Matt Saracen so great. Maybe it was because he was the ultimate underdog. Maybe it was because of all that he went through -- between being the man of the house taking care of his adorable but difficult grandmother and between losing his father when he started to reconnect with him. And whenever things seemed to get better, another bomb would drop -- like when he got unceremoniously benched for Voodoo or for J.D. McCoy.

While Coach Taylor was the lead of the show, Matt was unquestionably the heart and soul of it -- just a regular kid who you desperately wanted to succeed and be happy. Zach's performance in Season 4s "The Son" was my favorite performance on TV, ever.

Here's to you, #7!

2. CHUCK BARTOWSKI (played by Zachary Levi on 'Chuck')

I feel like a broken record talking about likeable characters that are easy to root for. Was there anyone more likeable than Chuck Bartowski? We all liked him for his charm, goofiness and heroism -- but I think a lot of us loved him because we could all see a small part of ourselves somewhere in his character. This made it fun to envision what kind of hero we would be if put in the same position as Chuck.

His evolution from season to season from underachieving geek to bad-ass hero was such a great journey and we'll never care more about a fictional character's love life more than we did his.

Zachary Levi is the man..

1. SARAH WALKER (played by Yvonne Strahovski on 'Chuck')

I'm not going to claim that Sarah Walker was the most complex, dynamic or unique character ever on television. Because she wasn't. But I can say she is unquestionably my favorite character ever.

It doesn't hurt that she's perhaps the most beautiful woman I've ever seen, but I loved Sarah Walker for so many other reasons. Much like why I loved Dana Scully and Veronica Mars, Sarah Walker was a complete bad-ass. I mean, who doesn't love a beautiful woman with a gun?

Yvonne also played the dramatic and emotional moments so well and like Chuck, her character went through a progression and journey that we all loved watching.

Even if we don't all love the way that journey ended necessarily. But I bet most of you reading loved the way this list ended.

Seriously, who else could #1 have been?


  1. Interesting list.

    I'd be interested on your thought of the 20 worst characters of all-time.


  2. The title is misleading ie of All Time or you missed a lot of characters that predate like the 90s.

    1. It says "Eli's favorite TV characters of all time" how can that be misleading?

  3. Not only that, but I was born in 1986. So my level of knowledge of classic TV characters is non-existent.

  4. Time to watch some classic TV then. You may be surprised to see your list change.

    And be more representative of your 'All Time' moniker.

    1. It is representative of his ALL TIME favorites. I'm not sure why this is confusing you.

    2. I am not confused. Just pointing out the inaccuracy of the article title.

      Putting an All Time moniker on something it indicates that he took the time to actually sample as much of the subject matter as possible.

      Not just the stuff he was around for.

      Saying it is his personal Fav List is more accurate.

    3. Eli's favorite... all time... Eli's favorite... Eli's... IT SAYS IT IS HIS PERSONAL FAV LIST.

  5. Breasts are a little too small for my liking, her hands are a little to manly, her legs are not the best (kind of gangly) and her butt needs to be a little less flat. Kate Upton is a younger and more perfect version of what Sarah Walker aka your most beautiful woman in the world should be.

    And yes I know I am banned for life!

  6. I agree with Eli about Elisha Cuthbert and the Girl Next door.

    I thought the two best decades for network television were the 1990s and 2000s.

    With only a few exceptions The 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s were pretty bleak for me regarding quality television.

    What's Eli going to do put Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor or Farrah Fawcett as Jill Munroe as his favorite television characters.

    1. The 50's to 80's was bleak for quality tv?

      Quantum Leap, St Elsewhere, MASH, All in the Familly, Cheers, Hill Street Blues.....do I need to go on?

      Is everyone these days a Barney Stinson? new is not always better or the only thing that matters.

  7. Yes, they were pretty bleak to me.

    As I said there were exceptions to that and you named most of them.

    My favorite show of the late 50s and early 1960s was The Twilight Zone and it was one of my all time favorites.

    However it was an anthology show and can't be included in this discussion because there wasn't any regular characters.

    I enjoyed some episodes of Gunsmoke and Bonanza but some episodes were terrible.

    I also enjoyed The Rifleman and I liked Lucas Mccain.

    In the 1970s Alias Smith and Jones was probably my favorite show.

    If I were making a list Hannibal Hayes and J.R. Ewing would have been on my list of favorite television characters.

    The shows I liked from the 1980s were Hill Street blues, The Cosby Show, Growing pains, Wiseguy and Star Trex: The Next generation, Quantum leap.

    I think on the whole network television had it's best decades in the 1990s and 2000s especially for drama.

    You can cherry pick certain shows from the 1950s thru the 1980s and say they were just as strong but they really weren't.

    I think also that television characters became more multi layered in the 1990s and 2000s as oppose to previous decades.

    The television characters in the earlier decades were portrayed as straight good guys that always did the right thing and they were goody two shoes.

    The good guy always won etc.

    1. Serialized television started with Cheers (Comedy - NBC) and Hill Street Blues (Drama - NBC). The key demo of 18-49 that every cable and broadcast network go on and on and on and on as being really important to the survival of quality TV started and use to bullshit advertisers with started with a program called St Elsewhere (and you better fucking guess it again if you have not done already.....NBC). The television of 90's and 2000's does not exist without what came before, they only exist because NBC cleared the way for them to do so and build on what they did.

      People including wanking critics that love to shit on NBC and forget the past.....do forget that NBC paved the way for their "Golden Generation" TV. They think Drama started with the Sopranos.....bullshit.

  8. Aren't we forgetting about The X-Files, NYPD Blue, Homicide life on the Street and ER.

    I wouldn't call Cheers serialized.

    1. I said it started the serialization for Comedies. Not that it was perfectly serialised or anything else....just that it was the first to attempt and do it. X-Files was the 90's. Homicide started in 93 as did NyPD Blue therefore they are shows from your beloved 90's.

      As I said before tv has had complicated characters who were not goody goody before the 90's. If they were not full on pieces of shot like Walter White or Tony Soprano they were a start.

      I know Sepinwall watches a ton of television but do not believe all his bullshit about the best TV starting in 1999. It suits him to say that because that is when his career started and when most of his book takes place....but it is kind of a self serving opinion and a false one at that.

  9. A couple of shows in the 1980s pointed to the direction television would take in the 1990s and 2000s.

    I would still say that the 1980s wasn't as good a decade for television though but that is only my opinion.

    I think network television is in a slump again right now with the best shows being on FX, HBO or Showtime.

    Network television could use a show the quality of The X-Files, Homicide: Life on the street, NYPD Blue, 24, Lost or Friday Night lights.

    1. Hannable did ok, The Good Wife is good, Person of Interest is very good, Parenthood has its moments, the Black List looks promising, Fringe was good while it aired, I loved Chuck.

      Broadcast tv do need some better shows that is true. But Cable also airs a lot of shows that's ratings just suck complete and utter ass.

  10. The 50's to 80's was bleak for quality tv?

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