The 2011-12 TV season has almost faded to snow and the dust has settled from the cancellation carnage. Looking back, I’d say it was a very good season for characters. That’s why I’m resurrecting my formerly annual top 10 favorite TV characters list.
I’ll stick with shows that are currently airing or that will return in the fall, but just allow me one quick shout-out to Bridget Kelly from “Ringer” (the more sympathetic of the twins wonderfully played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Faye Chamberlain (Phoebe Tonkin) from “The Secret Circle” (the zestiest of the witches on a show where the writing unfortunately lacked zest).
They’ll be missed, but this list of 10 great characters — seven males, three females, suggesting that there’s still a gender gap on TV (give us some more great female characters, please) — eases the pain considerably.
10. Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann) on “Revenge” — While everyone else takes things a bit too seriously, Mann knows he’s on a guilty-pleasure prime-time soap. In a world where everyone’s a bit shifty, Nolan looks shifty, yet he’s somehow clearly the one person Emily can trust as she pursues her revenge scheme, and not just because she has no choice.
9. Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) on “Parks and Recreation” — The ambitious yet fragile Tom is in tune with the sitcom’s smart/silly vibe, yet he’s also his own man (I think the comic stylings of Ansari have a lot to do with this). I’m totally rooting for him to make it work with Ann. Also adding to Tom’s cachet, there’s this website.
8. Haddie Braverman (Sarah Ramos) on “Parenthood” — The arc where Haddie and her parents have a falling out and she moves in with her grandparents is an honest treatment of the emotions of “teen rebellion.” I could easily watch a spinoff that follows Haddie to college on the East Coast. As it stands, I hope her college journey doesn’t minimize her screentime next season.
7. Walter Bishop (John Noble) on “Fringe” — Walter is a perfect contrast to all the cold, kooky science thanks to his “quirky old guy” traits of not quite getting Astrid’s name right and eating licorice while performing autopsies. Even though he’s almost been responsible for the end of the world a few times and he’s certainly responsible for Olivia’s inconvenient superpowers, Walter is about as lovable as a mad scientist can get.
6. Nick Wagner (Joe Dinicol) on “The L.A. Complex” — The CW’s Canadian import is packed with sharply written characters, but Nick has snuck up on me as the guy I most relate to. Although not particularly shy (he endures heckles at his night job as a struggling comedian), he just can’t click with women, so he just flat out asks one what he’s doing wrong. Then he puts her advice into action, and that doesn’t work either. Oh so true. When he and Abby kissed in the latest episode, I found myself cheering for him.
5. Chloe (Krysten Ritter) on “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23” — She’s completely selfish yet not at all mean-spirited (the same can be said for her best pal, James Van Der Beek, humorously played by James Van Der Beek), and while this wouldn’t be appealing in the real world, it works in the weird reality of “Apt. 23.” I like how Ritter brings a natural approach to all her roles, as if acting is easy and fun.
4. Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) on “The Walking Dead” — Characters are not the strength of “The Walking Dead” (I’d say the mood, the style and the overarching mystery of how the zombie plague started are the main hooks). Yet it’s easy to pick out the best character. There’s nothing like an undead apocalypse to reveal a person’s true colors. As law-and-order good guys Rick and Shane crack under the pressure, scary biker dude Daryl emerges as a hero. I’d like to see his no-good (but beloved) brother Merle return and go after T-Dog (now Daryl’s friend); it’d be a fascinating conflict.
3. Schmidt (Max Greenfield) on “New Girl” — Like most guys, I originally tuned into “New Girl” for Zooey. But I’ve stuck around for the dudes, particularly Schmidt, who has a heart of gold yet can be verbally uncouth (hence the need for a “d—–bag jar” in early episodes). His burgeoning relationship with CeCe is the heart of Season 1, and I always get a kick out of Schmidt’s turn-ons (such as a clean apartment, fresh linens and a crisp new pair of slacks).
2. Asajj Ventress (voiced by Nika Futterman) on “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” — She has the most clear character arc going on “The Clone Wars” at the moment. Originally a sworn enemy of the Jedi (particularly our heroes Obi-Wan and Anakin), we’ve more recently seen her betrayed by Dooku, leading her to throw in her lot with bounty hunters — and even the Jedi, when they take on Darth Maul. Ventress’ endgame will no doubt be a showdown with Dooku, and whenever it happens, it should be worth the wait.
1. Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) on “The Killing” — There’s never been a TV police detective quite like the baggy-jeans-and-hoodie wearing Holder, who is good enough at his job that he can get away with being himself, yet he’s far from perfect. I love the way he calls Linden’s kid “Little Man” and has some bright spots in his life (he loves his nephew and is on the road back from drug abuse), yet an air of melancholy hangs over him nonetheless. Holder is the personification of everything that’s moodily great about “The Killing,” yet none of the show’s weak points seem to rub off on him (even his stint as a “bad guy” only lasted for one episode, although it seemed longer due to the summer break). Some characters are on this list due to the actor, some due to the writers; the Swedish-American Kinnaman is obviously the one who makes Holder tick, and he’ll be worth keeping an eye on as his career takes off.
What are your favorite TV characters of the moment? Share your thoughts in the comment thread below.