Over the years TV has churned out a whole bunch of top quality characters that have lit up our screens with their charm, charisma and sense of humour. They have enlightened us, educated us and parodied our lives as well as offering entertainment and excitement in weekly instalments and at a regular time.
Here’s a list of the best characters TV has offered the world in my humble opinion…
10. Al Bundy – Married With Children (Ed O’Neill)
Al Bundy is a classic TV character as he embodies everyman’s biggest fears and carries them as burden through his doomed life. Al was prevented from playing college football by breaking his leg and soon after found himself married to Peggy after a mistaken and drunken proposal. His marriage is a succession of mishaps, mistakes and him suffering to support his wife’s spending habits and laziness. Now verging on middle age Al has two children, Kelly and Bud, both of whom are without any hope of a successful life and are another burden on Al.
Al also works at Gary’s Shoes and Accessories for Today’s Woman selling shoes to overweight women with bad feat and each day of work is a hellish nightmare destined to never end. Al and his family are constantly running into trouble, having hair brained schemes back fire on them and are doomed to live in a vicious circle of failure and misery forever more.
Al Bundy is such a great character because everyone can laugh at his misery and audiences feel their own lives are a little bit brighter after watching Married With Children. Everything that happens to Al from his college dream being snatched away to his mind numbing job are the exact things that everyman fears. In Al they can see their deepest fears and smile that they have a little more than him.
9. B.A. Baracus – A-Team (Mr T)
Almost every kid in Britain during the 80’s and 90’s loved B.A. and his no nonsense approach to his job – kicking bad guy’s arses. Add to that his Mohawk hairstyle, dungarees and more jewelry than Jimmy Saville and he became a character nobody could forget. As well as looking the part B.A. was also a mechanical genius and could build handy machines out of anything laying around and according to the show he had one of the worst conduct records in the military due to his fondness for slugging officers. B.A. Baracus is a TV legend and I pity the fool who can’t remember him or his catch phrase.
8. Homer – The Simpsons
With The Simpsons having recently reached their 500th episode no list of top TV characters could be complete without the big man Homer. Ironically named after a Greek genius who gave the world The Iliad and The Odyssey Homer Simpson has given the world the word ‘D’oh!’ and shown men what not to do at home, in work, in the pub, in public and all walks of life. The man is quite honestly a walking disaster and has gotten himself in all manner or scrapes through his lack on intelligence, but he is a good guy deep down.
Homer is another TV legend and embodies a lot of American stereotypes in him being lazy, overweight, clumsy, crude, drinks too much and is rubbish at his job, but he is a family man and puts them above all else. Eventually. Men all over the world can see a little of themselves in the hapless father of three and I think that’s why his character resonates with so many people.
7. The Fonz – Happy Days (Henry Winkler)
Through the 70‘s and 80’s Happy days was a big hit show and it repeated well into the 90’s, so children of all ages were familiar with the show and it’s characters. However, it wasn’t any of the main names and characters that caught most people’s eye. It was the background character that went on to dwarf his colleagues in the popularity poles and thrust himself towards the front of the show – The Fonz!
Everyone loves The Fonz because he’s the physical embodiment of cool. His slicked back hair, leather jacket, jeans an white t-shirt may be from a different era to many of the kids watching the show when it repeated, but he was still cool. He had cool things to say, had girls on his arm, always came out on top and never seemed to let anyone or anything hold him back. He was the kid from the wrong side of the tracks who was poorly educated and abandoned by his parents, but he was still a good guy and people loved him. Even now in my late 20’s I still want to be Fonzie.
6. Benjamin Linus – Lost (Michael Emerson)
The hit series Lost brought us a whole planeload of new characters that stuck around and made big impressions for many years, but it was one character that wasn’t a member of the doomed flight that crashed that sticks in the mind most. Benjamin Linus was already on the island and had been watching the survivors from afar before he got himself captured by the crash survivors and held prisoner so he could observe them up close. Ben was a character who at first appeared harmless, but soon it become very clear that he was a very nasty character that would do whatever it took in order to get what he wanted, despite his small frame and seemingly calm nature.
Very intelligent and always playing games Ben manipulated everyone around him to he could get what he wanted and his plans and tricks kept the characters and audiences of Lost tied up for years wondering what he would do next. Believing he was being guided by a greater power he was always supremely confident in what he was doing and that it would work out for him. Ben Linus is a great TV character as he embodied an evil genius in an average man’s body and was possibly a warning that those more intelligent than us may not be necessarily doing what’s best for us. A dig at politicians and bankers maybe?
5. Tracy Jordan – 30 Rock (Tracy Morgan)
Tracy Jordan is a character that has created more chaos than any other I have seen in along while. Simple matters and questions are blown out of all proportion and madness usually ensues very quickly after he arrives on our screens. Being a movie star brought in to save a TV sketch show from being axed he brings with him an unpredictable and highly erratic personality that embodies the arrogance of Hollywood stardom. Tracy’s mental health is constantly at question and the other characters tend to tred carefully around him as the wrong remark or request can lead to all sorts of madness. His character also parodies several stories of Hollywood stars going mad and he constantly gets arrested for all manner of things.
The great thing about Tracy is that he cannot manage to do anything normal or reasonably and gives everything his full undivided madness in order to bring hilarity to the screen. Tracy announced himself and his intentions in the pilot episode for 30 Rock by running down the middle of a highway in his underwear and carrying a toy lightsaber whilst shouting “I am a Jedi”. It was all downhill from there.
4. Del Boy – Only Fools and Horses (David Jason)
Del Boy Trotter is a British institution and has been bringing audiences laughs, smiles and the odd tear for about 30 years and this list would not be worth the effort without giving him a mention. Del is the London wheeler-dealer who ducks and dives the law, sells anything he can get his hand on and desperately wants to be rich and successful. Del is an example of every working class man out there that is striving towards making himself something, earning some money and becoming a someone. Although he loves his humble roots and his way of life he is always striving for more.
As well as being a great character Del has also given us some of the greatest TV quips and comments with his inability to speak French and his catchphrases. Despite the lines of morality and ethics being blurred whenever a business deal arises Del is a pretty good guy and looks after those around him. A family man who loves a good deal Del is loved by all manner of audiences in all walks of life and is definitely a great TV character.
3. Ari Gold – Entourage (Jeremy Piven)
Ari Gold is responsible for some of the best outbursts in contemporary TV and his short fused temper and inner rage has lit up screens for the passed 8 years. Ari is a super agent in Hollywood and despite being all about business he is still a loving family man and sees his biggest client, Vincent Chase, as his best friend. Despite him ruling over Hollywood with his own version of an iron fist, that includes blackmail and public embarrassment, he still isn’t in charge at home and his wife certainly wears the trousers. Ari may be the king in his office, but at home he doesn’t dare answer back to his wife and knows his place, which is an example of how even the most powerful still have to listen to their wives.
Ari Gold’ s foul-mouthed outbursts and furious rants are the reason why he lights up screens and some of his best quips include, “I don’t represent talent, I represent temperature and he’s not hot. All right.” There are a boatload of other beautifully crafted outbursts and rants, but most of which include a sprinkling of profanity. Ari Gold’s mouth and relationship with his wife make him a great TV character that always brings a smile to my face.
2. Tony Soprano – The Sopranos (James Gandolfini)
Tony Soprano is the mean, menacingly and cold hearted leader of the Soprano crime family in New Jersey, but he is also suffering from depression and attends sessions with a psychiatrist in order to conquer his demons. That’s what makes Tony so great – his complexity and contradiction. He’s meant to be the big man running all things criminal in New Jersey and his nerve should be unaffected by the actions of others. However, his own aging and frail Mother can give him a blackout with a few snide comments and a scowl. The big man struggles with the small family matters as well as the big business life or death decisions. And it’s great to watch.
Everything in Tony’s life seems to be a contradiction. He is meant to work via a code of conduct, but breaks it regularly. He’s a family man, but cheats on his wife as often as he can. He’s cold hearted and evil, but suffers from depression. Balancing his actual family and the crime family he runs takes its toll and as Tony breaks down, explodes with rage and tries to gently rebuild bridges before knocking them back down again he embodies the complexities of modern life and is a clear example that you cannot have everything.
1. Frank Gallagher – Shameless (David Threlfall)
Frank Gallagher is the foul-mouthed, alcohol riddled and drug fuelled father of a group of misfits living on an infamous council estate in Manchester. His attitude towards work, life and family are like that of a Jeremy Kyle guest and trouble is never far away.
Despite his shabby and drunken demeanour Frank does often quote Shakespeare, the Bible or other literary notables as well as seemingly being up to date with current affairs. His ability to express himself poetically separates him from your average drunken idiot, but then his actions take him further than most would be willing to go in order to get in or out of trouble.
Frank Gallagher has been a bully towards others and often his own children, he has conned a variety of good people out of beer or money and has led quite a despicable life to date, but still has a certain charm and character that warms all around him. Frank is a gem for some great quips too and possibly my favourite comment from Frank came when his daughter Debbie was badgering him about what he’s been up to and used some quite eloquent words. Frank replied ‘It’s like I’m being interrogated by the inventor of Scrabble’.
Frank Gallagher makes it to top of my list because he is articulate, hilarious, always blasted on booze and drugs as well as being a representation of the modern man who has decided he has had enough of society and life and believes that making an absolute beast of himself is the best way to get by.
This article was first posted on April 10, 2012