Here are my 10 favorite TV characters at the moment, as the traditional season winds down and the summer season begins:
10. Peyton Charles (Aly Michalka), “iZombie” – Formerly the star of the one-season wonder “Hellcats,” Michalka’s presence as the best bud of Liv and sometimes love interest of Ravi illustrates the depth of this cast. As a confident lawyer, Peyton could almost be the future version of cheerleader Marti Perkins, who was studying law.
9. Chick Hogan (Ryan Hurst), “Bates Motel” – Chick seemed like the asset the “Bates” writers didn’t realize they had, especially when Romero coldly guns him down a few episodes before the finale, and before he finishes his book about Norman. This off-the-grid loner puts friendship ahead of the fact that Norman is a killer, and as viewers who also sympathized with the troubled lead character, we understood his point of view more than we’d like to admit.
8. Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), “Riverdale” – In her first TV role, Mendes seems like a veteran as the confident, sexy third of the famous love triangle with good guy Archie and nice girl Betty. Helped by the wardrobe department, this fallen rich kid with an evil father and shifty mother isn’t exactly Riverdale’s resident bad girl, but Veronica definitely is the edgiest side of the triangle.
7. Andy Shalowitz (Dan Bucatinsky), “24: Legacy” – On a spinoff whose plot points hewed so closely to its parent series that it was hard to take seriously, Andy was one character we latched onto. Like a less socially awkward version of Chloe, he is a relentlessly competent CTU tech who draws the ire of his boss. When he’s thrown into the field with Carter (the spinoff’s answer to Jack), totally out of his element but still trying to get the job done, it’s a rare moment in the 12-episode season when we care about what’s happening.
6. Casey Rance (Hannah Kasulka), “The Exorcist” – Kasulka makes us care about her in a challenging role: First Casey is the straight foil for her presumably possessed sister, then she gradually lets the demon in and does monstrous and creepy things, then she’s back to normal but dealing with her re-possessed mother. To top it off, in the possession scenes she’s covered in the most disgusting makeup on network TV. Whew.
5. Jody Kimball-Kinney (Garret Dillahunt), “The Mindy Project” – Previously best known as the main Terminator in “The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” Dillahunt has surprisingly added a second memorable role to his resume as the new doctor at Mindy’s practice. As long as new actors embrace the absurdly outsized confidence shared by all “Mindy” characters, they can fit in, and Dillahunt does that as a born-after-his-time Southern charmer.
4. Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), “Gotham” – She feels underused through three seasons as the writers have focused on the Penguin and the Riddler, but – after being pushed through a window by Bizarro-Bruce and being surrounded by cats – Selina will soon undergo her Catwoman transformation. “Batman Returns” (to which Bicondova partly owes her job, since she’s a dead ringer for Michelle Pfeiffer) used supernatural elements to transform Selina into Catwoman, but this Selina is already cat-like, so it’ll be interesting to see what the writers have in mind.
3. Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Brian Tyree Henry), “Atlanta” – On the surface, he’s a stereotypical rap musician, but “Atlanta” isn’t a surface show. So we soon see Paper Boi is a sensitive guy who wants to be seen as a stereotypical rapper. But he’s too blown away by the absurdities of the world to totally embrace his place in culture, even though everything he does is to solidify that place. In the end, “Atlanta” has made a large, black, gun-toting, pot-smoking rapper into a universal audience surrogate.
2. Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon), “Fargo” – The franchise’s third small-town female cop – following Frances McDormand and Allison Tolman – manages to feel fresh, even though she is again the one sane person investigating an insane murder plot. To illustrate Gloria’s disconnect from the world, automatic-door sensors and hand-dryers don’t detect her. While she’s probably not literally a “Sixth Sense”-style ghost, the device does nicely and absurdly illustrate her disconnect – and not just in Minnesota; she’s a fish out of water in her visit to Hollywood, where her accent is mocked.
1. Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia), “This Is Us” – Like the aforementioned Dillahunt, Ventimiglia was firmly ensconced in one legendary role (Jess on “Gilmore Girls”) only to suddenly create a second classic character. As the only main character who appears exclusively in the scenes set in the past, Jack has an almost superhuman glow: He’s an EveryDad with a Hollywood polish, and also the most perfect Flawed Husband. His speech and wink to Rebecca (Mandy Moore) must be the most romantic scene ever filmed in a storyline about separating spouses.