This will be a just for fun post after my recent trend of serious thought. I love talking about my favorite characters from different shows and I’d like to pay tribute to some of my favorites from my favorite shows. Because this is a Top 10 post, it naturally can’t encompass every great character on every great show, so just because one doesn’t show up doesn’t mean anything. Also, in order to be fair, I’ve decided that I can only include one character per show to avoid Buffy the Vampire Slayer from ruling all 10 spots. One last disclaimer, these are my personal FAVORITES, which means I won’t necessarily be arguing that the character is the best developed or written or anything else. Without further ado, let’s jump in!
10. Mike Weston- The Following
To be perfectly honest, I ran out of TV shows I consistently watched and I had to google popular shows before I found this one. I’d completely forgotten, which no reminds me I have to go back and watch season 3! Anyway, this show got terminated way too early! I loved this show regardless of how “believable” it was. Joe Carroll leads a cult of serial killers through his book and correspondence, and it’s up to Ryan and Mike to stop him. Personally, I think Mike is just a better person. He’s kind of like a dog in the sense that he’s the loyal sidekick. He balances Ryan’s conscience and is usually the one stable thing in Ryan’s life amidst all the chaos and mayhem. If you haven’t seen this show yet, go watch it! It’s on Netflix!
Runner Up: Ryan Hardy
Ryan is a little more frustrating to watch because he makes all the dumb mistakes. He’s a semi-recovering alcoholic, and now that I’ve seen a lot of House, he kind of reminds me of House. He’s stoic and stubborn, but he’s relentless in his pursuit of the madman responsible for causing so much death and heartbreak. Sometimes it’s unclear whether he continues for love or revenge, but no matter how angry he can make you with his refusal to let others help and making dumb decisions, you can’t help but root for him. But mostly you stick around to see Mike.
9. Amy Farrah Fowler- The Big Bang Theory
This is always a toss up between Amy and Sheldon. Amy is the female version of Sheldon with the added benefit of actually expressing emotions outwardly. Truthfully, I find her to be the funniest character on the show with her not-so-subtle hints at having a crush on Penny to repeatedly being turned down in her sexual desire for Sheldon. Her bluntness and willingness to say whatever pops into her head, whether insulting or otherwise, make her just a hair funnier than Sheldon.
Runner Up: Sheldon Cooper
Lets face it, Sheldon is hilariously obnoxious. His insistence on correcting every mistake someone makes, his finnicky, quirky, and OCD nature, his devotion to all things nerdy, and his hilarious disregard for the feelings of others make him one of the most iconic characters of modern television. With the addition of Amy to the cast and Penny’s persistent presence, Sheldon has gradually grown out of his shell surprisingly far while still maintaining his uniqueness. He’s even gone so far as to have coitus. What would the world be without Sheldon’s presence? More boring, that’s what.
8. Lily Aldrin/Erikson- How I Met Your Mother
I don’t know how much of my love is directed towards Lily as much as it is towards Alyson Hannigan, who plays Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. One of my all time favorite actresses, she perfectly embodies Lily and brings her to life. I love how she cares for the group like a mother and is, in a way, the glue holding the group together. While not the funniest character on the show (though she still kills me), what makes her my favorite on the show is her sentimentality. She offers wisdom to Robin, Barney, Ted, and Marshall too. She is everybody’s best friend. Call me crazy, but I love it when a character can make me cry, and Lily does that a lot, though Alyson Hannigan slays crying scenes. She’s just so good at it. I have a rule that every time Alyson cries, I want to cry. Plus, her and Marshall are just adorable. Can’t get enough Lilypad!
Runner Up: Marshall Eriksen
He’s the Chandler Bing of HIMYM. He’s like the male version of Lily, able to be hilarious and sentimental. I really admire that he’s also a sort of moral compass on the show, with Lily. Everything I said about Lily applies to Marshall to a lesser extent, except for the Alyson Hannigan stuff of course. He has some of the best gags (Beercules!, lawyered, etc.) and just overall makes everyone smile, in the show or out of it.
7. Titus Andromedon- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Do I really need to say anything with that picture? I dare you not to laugh just looking at him. “Titus is a very very sweet boy. A little crusty on the outside, but a soft heart, like a wonderful French roll, but black. It’s gonna be wonderful for him to have a roommate because he’s very isolated, but so talented, but disillusioned, but a genius and he’s single, but very gay.” He’s maybe the most quotable character on the show and everything out of his mouth is one of three things: a complaint, a pop culture reference, or bad wisdom. Sometimes all of the above! He’s just hilarious. Seriously, this show isn’t popular enough, go watch it immediately! Titus is great.
Runner Up: Lillian Kaushtupper
I didn’t know who exactly to include in the runner up slot because the entire cast is great, but Lillian has to be it. She’s just so bizarre and doesn’t really have an excuse like Kimmy. She is this super ghetto woman who wants her neighborhood to be terrible. She takes pride in things being grimy and dangerous, and she’ll go through great effort to keep it that way. Plus, her catchphrase, “Run Lillian!” is easily one of the most hilarious things that ever comes out of her mouth. Seriously, this show is an undiscovered gem.
6. Niles- The Nanny
I could watch this man stand still and laugh. He’s my creator in the sense that I made it my goal to be funny like this guy. I don’t know many people who have seen this show and even fewer who like it, but this is my favorite sitcom. I wish so badly I knew of a place to watch it. Anyway, Niles has some of the best one liners ever written and everything he says is dripping with sarcasm. He’s simply the best.
Runner Up: Fran Fine
Her voice is NA-SAL-LY!!! Most people don’t like that, but I think it’s hilarious. She is all at once a diva, dumb, street smart, and 90s pop culture savvy. One of my favorite scenes in all of television belongs to her. I’ll post it below. But seriously, this show is so funny, and half of it is because of her.
5. Phoebe Buffay- Friends
Holy cow, this woman can make me laugh like none other. She’s as quirky as Sheldon but in an entirely different way. Her street cred, her strange opinions, and her songs especially really make her shine. Friends is filled with great characters and awesome jokes, but none is more iconic to me than “Smelly Cat.” I even have a “Smelly Cat” mug. Another character who is very direct and blunt, her humor is just intoxicating.
Runner Up: Chandler Bing
We’re all a little like Chandler, but nobody is exactly like Chandler. He’s the funny guy and all of his jokes are sarcastic. I love sarcasm, so he is quite potent at tickling my funny bone. Plus, he’s just so fantastically awkward and dorky that he’s either busting my gut or making me go, “Awwww,” for one reason or another.
4. Carol Peletier- The Walking Dead
Finally a character not in a sitcom. I love sitcom characters, but all I can usually say about them is they’re funny! Well, I love Carol for a completely different reason: she’s complex, and she’s a freaking badass. Her development is so well done and so drastic that current Carol and season one Carol are barely recognizable as the same person. From abused and timid housewife to ruthless and pragmatic killer, Carol is an unstoppable force. Watching her scenes is hypnotic because Melissa McBride is just SO good at acting. Carol can adapt to ANY situation. She can make up lies and stories on the spot to get out of trouble and in a split second fashion a weapon out of anything and kill any person or walker who gets in her way. She’s one of the originals, and she’s still around. Seriously, such a fantastic character.
Runner Up: Maggie Greene
Maggie’s transformation has been almost as fun to watch as Carol’s. At first she was a meek farm girl who had a pretty forced relationship with Glenn. Now, she’s married to him and expecting a child, all while taking on leadership positions in the community and becoming a mini Carol. She’s one of Rick’s most trusted friends, and she’s come a hell of a long way. She’s sweet, she’s dangerous, and she’s a beacon of hope in this apocalypse that maybe SOME good things do still happen. Here’s to hoping it isn’t Maggie that got batted by Negan.
3. April Ludgate- Parks and Recreation
Fabulously dark and twisted, April is the embodiment of sassy, sarcastic, and deadpan humor. My favorite kind of humor. While being one of the funniest characters to me, she’s also uniquely sweet. Her relationship with Andy is adorable and perfect because they’re polar opposites, but completely alike at the same time. She grows to take on leadership positions and actually care for people, all while maintaining the persona of dark and crazy. I can’t say much more than I love her and she’s my spirit animal.
Runner Up: Leslie Knope
Amy Poehler is a comic genius. Leslie is the other half of my spirit animal. Though I have a lot of spirit animals… Anyway, I feel like I’m a LOT like Leslie. I have a very selective taste in things and I will talk your ear off about them. I try to be optimistic and cheerful, and I have a lot of values that some consider idealistic, but I stick to them anyway. Leslie is just a delightfully funny, charming, charismatic, and inspiring character.
2. Angel- Angel
If you read any of my posts, I talk about Angel a lot, and for good reason. Part of why I like him so much is because I feel he represents me in a lot of ways. I like to say that if Angel and Anya had a kid, that would be me. Angel is one of the most complex and well developed and fascinating characters in the entirety of television. I could go on for hours, but Angel’s main mission in (un)life is to help the helpless. He struggles with a family that rejects him and becomes a vampire. He becomes the most vicious vampire in recorded history and suddenly he’s cursed with a soul so he can feel the weight of his actions. He spends about 90 years grieving and trying to find his place in the world, belonging neither to the demon world or the human world, until he sees Buffy. Upon seeing her, he decides to help her and become somebody. His entire character is built upon redemption and being able to choose your own destiny no matter what the world calls you. In reality, I look up to him as an inspiration, somebody I’d like to be like. Loyal, loving, sensitive, and driven. Just an amazing character.
Runner Up: Cordelia Chase
One of the things I love about Angel and Buffy is just how developed the characters are, and Cordelia is the poster girl for that. On Buffy, she’s a snobby, rich, popular girl who starts to grow into a helpful and loving person who helps the team. She shows depth and compassion and insecurity. Then she moves to Angel and takes it all further. Originally pursuing an acting career, she receives visions that depict people in need. She joins Angel on his quest to help people, originally only to receive a paycheck. Upon having her visions sent into overload by a demon so that she feels the suffering of every person in the world (nearly killing her), she has a change of heart and commits to helping those in need. Over the course of the series, the visions become more and more physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing, leading her to a choice to remove the visions entirely and change time so she has all her dreams fulfilled, or allow the visions to kill her. She experiences the perfect life and decides it’s not for her because it’s not fulfilling and she asks for the visions back. Ultimately, she becomes a champion for goodness. She becomes sweet, compassionate, and loving. She’s relentless in defending those she loves and helping those less fortunate, leading her to eventually become a deity. I love her character so much, I very nearly put her above Angel. Quick shout out to Wesley Wyndham Price and Winfred Burkle for being amazing as well.
1. Anya Christina Emanuella Jenkins– Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Never has a character made me so happy in my life. Buffy isn’t even a sitcom and Anya makes me laugh more than most sitcoms. She’s the epitome of sarcasm and dry humor. She won’t hesitate to say anything. She’s completely honest about everything, including sexual adventures with Xander. But even more importantly to me is her transformation and story arc. I wrote a paper about her for my English class. I came across a character analysis of Anya essentially stating that Anya wasn’t feminist enough for the show. Sure, she’s a powerful and more or less independent woman who doesn’t give into social norms, but throughout the series she’s always tied to a man. She finds her identity in men, and to the author of the paper, that wasn’t okay on a feminist show. However, I wrote my paper explaining why her lack of identity is completely feminist and integral to the character and the show. I argued that flaws in character are necessary to make a character believable, relatable, interesting, and entertaining. People aren’t perfect and characters shouldn’t be perfect either. Flaws are good things in characters! So I talked about the flaws in Anya’s character and how that makes Anya the best written character on the show. But what makes Anya so great is, again, her transformation. It’s true, Anya struggles with identity, and that’s part of why I love her so much. I struggle with identity and so does everyone else. Anya wants her identity to come from someone else. She wants to fall in love and live happily ever after so she never has to try to figure out who she is on her own. But when all is said and done, she is left alone and must create an identity for herself. By the end of the show, she does. She chooses to stand with her friends, her family, and fight the evil. She establishes herself as a hero, and that’s one reason I love her. Of course, I could go on, but lets go to the final runner up.
Runner Up: Buffy Summers
I almost put Willow here, but the show belongs to Buffy. Willow is amazing, and so is Buffy. I’ve never encountered a show that has so many incredible characters. I’m madly in love with Anya, but also with Buffy. She’s just a girl, a person, and she has to deal with so much. She grows into such a beautiful person by the end of the show. Every season has different tests for Buffy and overarching themes, so it’s hard to say how she develops and when, but she has to grow into so many different roles. By the end of season one, Buffy has accepted herself as the Slayer. In season two, she has learned about love and making difficult decisions; she’s put her job in front of her personal desires. By the end of season three, she’s discovered what it means to grow up and how her decisions can drastically affect her life. In season four, she’s found out what it means to be on her own and creating an identity for herself as a young woman in college. In the end of season five, she learns what her place in the world is as the Slayer. In season six, she battles depression and becomes a mother of sorts, and in season seven, she learns about good versus evil and where she fits in that spectrum. But along the way, she experiences so much tragedy and so many struggles that everyone can relate to her and fall in love with who she is. She’s powerful, she’s independent, intelligent, witty, funny, confident. But at the same time, she’s weak, fragile, emotional, imperfect. I wish I could go on, but this is long enough. Please, give this show a chance. It’s life changing.
And there you have it, my top 10 (or 20…) favorite characters from TV shows. Let me know what some of yours are!