10 Best Current TV CharactersFrom "Alias" to "The West Wing," a look at the ten best
characters in prime-time
By Amy Amatangelo
Right now there are some
colossally bad characters on television.
A click across the dial and you
can run into the ever-annoying Lucy Camden Kinkirk (I'm convinced that "7th Heaven" has some sort of subliminal hypnosis going on and
that's why I continue to tune in each week), the perpetually randy gang on "One Tree Hill" and, as mentioned last week, practically every
single female character they've added to "The West Wing" since season one.
But 'tis is the season
of giving and presents and candy. "Summerland" is back in February and there will soon be a second
season of the Ashlee Simpson show, how can we not be joyful? So let's not fret
about the worst characters. Won't you join me in my reindeer game of celebrating
the ten best characters currently on television.
great writing fuses with a brilliant performance to form a perfect television
character. The character pops off the screen and commands our attention. They
can make a mediocre show good (witness Topher Grace on "That '70s Show"), a good show great (where would "The Shield" be without Vic Mackey?), and a great show
exceptional ("24" would be nothing without Jack Bauer).
on my list are from network television shows that are at least in their second
season and I stuck to the rule of only one character per show (if I didn't, the
residents of Stars Hollow would make up half the list). This season has offered
up some terrific characters (a very special shout-out to Bree on "Desperate Housewives" and Sawyer on
"Lost." We'll probably see you guys
next year) but great characters evolve over time. To make room for some NKOTT
(new kids on the TV), I've entered Dennis Franz's fabulous Andy Sipowicz on "NYPD Blue" into the TV Gal Hall of Fame. He has set the
Here are my picks for ten best characters currently on
prime-time network television:
1. GOB on "Arrested Development": With
his deadpan voice and ever-solemn expression, Michael's older brother GOB is the
funniest member of the Bluth family (and that's some tough competition). Whether
he's magically spilling pennies or ripping off his "stripper" pants, Will Arnett's brilliant portrayal is hilarious
because GOB takes everything so very seriously. I honestly don't know how he
plays the character without completely cracking up.
2. Dr. Cox on
"Scrubs": He's the proverbial
character with a heart of gold taken to a whole new level. John C. McGinley easily whips out his rapid-fire,
positively hilarious dialogue with a sneaky charm and a sly smile. But every
snarky diatribe belies a man who cares about his patients and his students. An
intense character like this could have easily gone the wrong way (think Phil on
"Ed"), but McGinley's innate appeal and obvious understanding of
his character has made Dr. Cox one of the more complex characters in a TV
3. Emily Gilmore on "Gilmore Girls": You already
know one of my favorite things about "Gilmore Girls" is ability to have multiple
story lines that cross generational lines. And yes it is hard to pick just one
character out of this great show. But Kelly Bishop has the unique ability to be both
humorous (witness her scheming to set Rory up) and heartbreaking(witness her
sobbing after her date). As the impeccably controlled and society oriented Emily
Gilmore, Bishop is a woman who knows she's made mistakes and is still
desperately trying to connect with a daughter she'll never fully understand. Of
all the relationships on "Gilmore Girls," it's Lorelai and her mother's that I
consistently find the most gripping.
4. Sydney Bristow on
"Alias": It's been a tough fall
without television's butt-kicking heroine. Seriously, could this woman do
anything that we wouldn't believe? Skip ahead two years in time. No problem.
Speak every language we've ever heard of and some we haven't -- sure, we believe
it. Fly all over the world and never look jet-lagged. Why not? Create a costume
out of duck-tape and felt-tip marker? Of course she can. In this fantasy world
of spy mommies and daddies, spies who love Sydney and spies who don't, Jennifer Garner has succeeded in making Sydney as
ordinary as the proverbial girl next door (you know if the girl next door had to
consistently go undercover in a rubber dress) Even last season when the show
lost its mojo (you know how I felt about the face masks), our Syd was still
5. Donna on "The West Wing": Donna is the
grounding force in the fictional Oval Office. In between hilarious banter with
her boss and consistent concern for him, Donna has blossomed into great modern
female character -- a his girl Friday for the new millennium. But if they don't
put Josh and Donna together soon, I'm going to be in a fight with "The West
6. Ephram on "Everwood": As the series'
protagonist, Ephram is still dealing with his mother's death, forging a
relationship with his previously distant father, and navigating the thrill of
first love. And I simply adore this kid. Confident in his awkwardness, unsure of
his life-long goals, devoted to his sister, self-deprecatingly funny, Gregory Smith has shaped one of the best teenagers
ever to hit prime time.
7. Maxine on "Judging Amy": Often
exasperated, always overworked, and never knowing when to quit, Tyne Daly's Maxine Gray is the consistent thread to
the series. And Daly is an obvious pro. Like I feel about Dennis Franz, Maxine
could go an entire episode without saying a word and we would still know exactly
what she was thinking.
8. Jack on "Without a Trace": It's not
easy to stand out on a show that is a procedural drama. And an actor not as
experienced as Anthony LaPaglia may not have been able to balance
the missing person of the week with Jack's personal trials (his divorce, his now
shaky friendship with Vivian). LaPaglia gives a world-weary depth to Agent Jack
9. Joan on "Joan of Arcadia":
Joan Girardi is moody, irrational, self-centered and unpredictable. She's prone
to whining, stomping of the feet, and slamming doors. Sound like any teen you
might know? Even though she talks to God and has a divine mission of the week,
Joan may be the most realistic teen on TV. This season Amber Tamblyn has deftly handle the death of a friend
and the trials of first love. She's perfect in her
10. Seth on "The O.C.": The gangly Adam Brody effortlessly delivers his hilarious and
sweetly sarcastic lines. He's positively delightful and brings a level of humor
not often seen on prime time soaps. Heck, even his wardrobe is a hoot. Although
I'm getting a little concerned this season because clearly Brody and the rest of
"The O.C." gang are aware of how everyone just loves Seth. And Seth is much
cuter when he isn't cognizant of how cute he is.
Where Have I
Seen Them Before?
Michael Durrell, Donna Martin's dad on "90210," was
the councilman Maxine was trying to track down on "Judging
Quotes of the Week
"You know if this were
'Survivor' we would have voted Lucy off the island days ago." Ruthie about her
sister on "7th Heaven." True that, Ruthie, true that.
"I could be your
friend. We don't have to do each other's hair on anything like that." Charlie to
Claire on "Lost."
"I tried to Google
myself and ended up crashing the entire computer network." Julie to Jimmy on
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but Kelso nailed your
sister." Eric to Hyde on "That '70s Show."
Seth Cohen Quotes of
"He enjoys sunset walks on the beach, punching people
and not smiling." Seth pitching Ryan to Alex on "The O.C."
"She used to
be my shorty, but she got served." Seth about Summer on "The