What do an unemployed New Yorker, an Atlantic City gangster and an English countess have in common? They all made my list of the top seven television characters.
I’ll qualify this list by admitting that it is completely biased and not in any way exhaustive of the history of television. But I know what I’m talking about, ‘kay?
George Costanza, “Seinfeld.” It’s the miserly, hapless George (Jason Alexander), not Jerry, who is the heart and soul of the greatest sitcom ever written. It’s impossible to sum George up in a few sentences, so I’ll just give you a few words: Vandelay Industries. Shrinkage. Cashmere. T-Bone. Moops. Okay, you get the idea…
Benjamin Linus, “Lost.” A huge ensemble cast made it challenging for some Losties to be truly memorable, but Michael Emerson made Ben, the leader of the mysterious Others, stand out in every episode. Underneath Ben’s scheming intelligence and misdeeds was a terribly wounded soul, and by the end of it all you couldn’t help but cheer him on.
Nucky Thompson, “Boardwalk Empire.” Steve Buscemi is perfectly cast as the Treasurer of Atlantic City in 1920 who also happens to be a powerful and ruthless bootlegger. His razor-sharp quips and surprising soft spot for the innocent, Irish single mother Margaret combine to form an anti-hero who is at once terrifying and completely human.
Carrie Bradshaw, “Sex and the City.” Single gals, unite! Never have the highs and lows of finding love come alive as fully as in the escapades of jaded yet romantic Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker. She’s the friend millions of women would kill for, and from Aidan to Berger to Mr. Big, her romances were both more entertaining than our real-life love lives and flawed enough to be painfully realistic. Poor Carrie was even dumped via Post-It, for crying out loud.
Jack Donaghy, “30 Rock.” Alec Baldwin’s Jack consistently gets the biggest laughs in every episode of Tina Fey’s brilliant satire of network television. Functioning as a parody of Republicans, network executives, the wealthy and even Irish Catholics, Jack is the combination of sinfully funny writing and deadpan delivery.
Dowager Countess of Grantham, “Downton Abbey.” Anyone catch PBS’ miniseries from across the pond about an aristocratic family and the servants who wait on them? Anyone? Watch it on Netflix or look out for Season 2 if for no other reason than to see Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter) play the tough, impatient, traditionalist Countess of Grantham. A scene in which she struggles to make sense of a newfangled swivel chair is the stuff of legends.
Michael Scott, “The Office.” Dunder Mifflin/Sabre will not be the same without the World’s Greatest Boss (played by Steve Carell, who better win an Emmy this year). Michael’s social faux pas and deluded idea that his coworkers were his best friends may have driven us up the wall, but in terms of comedy, he always kept us satisfied. That’s what she said.