Now, I’ve been contemplating how to go about talking a little about my favourite characters that are currently on television. It came to this, a list that will undoubtedly exclude some favourites of both mine and yours, but at the end of the day will be a list of what I, personally, feel are ten of the best modern television characters. I don’t watch every show on TV, obviously, so there will probably be some glaring omissions here (eg: Arrow, The Flash, Sherlock, Hannibal, Veep, House of Cards, Homeland), characters that you adore and cannot fathom not being on the list, and in that case, it is likely that I am just yet to visit that show. Still, I welcome you sharing thoughts in those moments. Be aware, here, that with me naming characters currently on their prospective shows, it may count as a “spoiler”. As for characters from shows no longer airing, keep your eyes peeled for that list in the (not-so-distant) future, but until then, let’s do this. If you disagree or want to share what YOUR favourite characters on television right now are, then leave a comment below or tweet me @writerccummings.
1 – Donald Draper: Mad Men (Jon Hamm)
The inspiration behind me wanting to do this article and this list, Don Draper is one of, if not THE best character on television right now, in my view. Mad Men is one of those lightening-in-a-bottle shows that only comes around once in a lifetime. Something special, Jon Hamm breathed Draper to life and brought layers to a character that truly shines every time he is on the screen. In a television show jam-packed with vibrant wonderful characters, it takes a lot for one of them to stand out, and Donald Draper really does stand out.
Honourable Mad Men-tion: Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss)
2 – Daryl Dixon: The Walking Dead (Norman Reedus)
A beloved part of the uber-popular The Walking Dead, Daryl is one of those characters that, if killed, would cause social media to explode and fans of the show to cry buckets. Shooting an endless stream of arrows into the heads of the walkers while carving out relationships that make him one of the most surprisingly emotional characters in the show, Daryl has become the unlikely hero of the show, the guy who you’d lean on if you needed a loyal co-hort.
Honourable Mention: Michonne (Danai Gurira)
3 – Piper Chapman: Orange is the New Black (Taylor Schilling)
The prison drama with a black comedy zing thrown in for good measure, OITNB became one of my favourite shows in 2014, and Chapman, the flawed and conflicted protagonist, became one of my favourite television characters of all time in the process. Beautifully acted by the beautiful Taylor Schilling, Chapman brings so many different sides to the character and gives it guts, heart and soul, making it completely un-ignorable.
Honourable Mention: Crazy Eyes (Uzo Abuda)
4 – Tyrion Lannister: Game of Thrones (Peter Dinklage)
From the first season of this amazing show, Tyrion Lannister has been one of the standout characters, and as time has passed and more and more characters have wandered on (and off) our screens, he remains one of the most intriguing in the Game of Thrones world. A little man with a big set of balls and a bigger heart, he is an unlikely hero in world where big and brash seem to win. Dinklage brings a sarcastic wit and an intelligent attitude to the screen too. The show wouldn’t be the same without him.
Honourable Mention: Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie)
5 – Sheldon Cooper: The Big Bang Theory (Jim Parsons)
He’s won Emmy’s, he’s received plenty of praise, and the show has been around for a while now, but the fact of the matter is that Sheldon Cooper is a memorable character that will go down as one of the best in television comedy history. The mind of Drax the Destroyer in the body of Pee Wee Herman, Sheldon is the Television King of the Nerds, whether Parsons wants to admit it or not. Jim himself brings a physical comedy and brilliant expressions to a character that has shown longevity and solidified the fact that, if he weren’t in the show, there would be no show.
Honourable Mention: Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik)
6 – Ron Swanson: Parks & Recreation (Nick Offerman)
The manly-man with a fantastic moustache and the jawline of an oxen, Ronald Swanson is everything you want in a male character. He has a musky odour that brings to mind forests and grilled game, he has hair that falls where it may yet still looks absolutely immaculate, his office smells of wood, lacquer and scotch whiskey, and his handshake offers a grip reminiscent of a bear grasping a salmon with its virile mouth. Offerman is dead-pan brilliance here, and he almost makes one wonder, while watching Ron Swanson on screen, whether he’s been there, somewhere, all our lives.
Honourable Mention: Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt)
7 – Gemma Teller-Morrow: Sons of Anarchy (Katey Sagal)
Did you ever hate a character so much that you began to laugh when they did heinous things, because they were so evil it was difficult to express disgust? Gemma borders on that. She’s a poisonous witch of a woman who throws anyone under the proverbial bus if it means staying true to whatever it is she is currently loyal to. Sagal’s performance over the course of seven season’s has been nothing short of incredible, and with Gemma, she delivers arguably the greatest female antagonist in television history. Brilliant. Hideous. Yikes.
Honourable Mention: Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam)
8 – Charlie Kelly: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Charlie Day)
I questioned whether or not I should include the rat-stick swinging weirdo, Charlie Kelly, in this list, but decided, due to my strange love of this show, and Charlie being my favourite character of the degenerate bunch of Irish-pub owners, that it made sense. Charlie Day brings a chaos to his namesake character and a dirty peculiar stinky wacko that you have to know to love. Amidst the group, all of whom put him down and call him names constantly, Charlie is naïve and stupid, bringing an oddball charm to what is, undoubtedly the craziest show I’ve ever watched.
Honourable Mention: Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito)
9 – Nick Miller: New Girl (Jake Johnson)
The grumpy-cat of mainstream sit-com television, Nick Miller is the everyman who we kind of want to have a beer with, if we can pull him away from his couch. Anti-social, angry and awkward, Nick’s friendships with his roomies has been a joy to watch over the shows few seasons so far. Johnson has that likability to him that is tough to put your finger on.
Honourable Mention: Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel)
10 – Dr. Spencer Reid: Criminal Minds (Matthew Gray Gubler)
He’s a genius and he tracks down, with his co-workers, the most heinous and brutal of killers and criminals. Spencer Reid is not your average crime television character, he throws in an eccentricity and nerdiness that, while not necessarily relatable, is absolutely entertaining to watch. His fish-out-of-water dialogue with the more street-smart members of his team make for some humorous scenes, but he is also the youthful heartbeat of the show, and someone who has become one of the must-see parts of this long-standing crime series that remains one of the best on TV today.
Honourable Mention: Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness)