The thing with being a TV show junkie is that some characters appeal to you way more than actual people do. But while we all love the Chandlers, the Tyrions and the Tony Sopranos, good television is not restricted to well-written leads.
Really good shows have exceptionally well-layered characters even when the plot doesn't revolve around them. Here's my pick from some of my favourite shows.
1. Louis Litt from Suits
There are people who like Suits for being stylish, slick, having a great soundtrack or perhaps just Harvey Specter. But I cannot imagine the show without the cranky always-so-full-of-himself Louis Litt, played by Rick Hoffman. If you've watched the show carefully, you might even catch a glimpse of Litt's talent and charm. Yep, I said it. Louis Litt is my favourite character from the show.
2. Cameron Tucker from Modern Family
Okay, so this show technically has no leads. But the one guy I feel the writers have really worked on is Cameron Tucker. He's unapologetic, he's fabulous, he's loving, and yet, he can be a tough son of bitch when the time comes. He played college football after all.
3. Niles Crane from Frasier
If you haven't seen Frasier, you're seriously missing out on one of the funniest sitcoms of our times. And in that, Niles Crane is equally amazing as his brother, the titular character.
4. Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones
There's nothing more I can say about Game of Thrones. I've written too many articles on it. All I'll say is this - how often have you actually rooted for a character who's actually raped someone on screen? (Even though this is not how it happened in the books)
5. Spike from Buffy The Vampire Slayer
There was a time when vampire-based fiction was actually worth watching. Yes, the Twilight and Vampire Diaries fanboys might hate me for saying that, but it's true. And in that scene, lived Spike, perhaps the grayest character ever-written in teen dramas. Is he a good guy? Is he bad? Oh, look he's killing someone! But his love for Buffy is true. Damn. Too many layers. But what a character!
6. Jayne Cobb from Firefly
Please tell me you guys have watched Firefly. Joss Whedon, who gave us Buffy and The Avengers films, is known for writing great assemble casts. Firefly was no exception. This tragically short-lived show had zero boring characters, and among them stood out Jayne Cobb
7. Galine 'Red' Reznikov from Orange Is The New Black
Like for almost everyone in OITNB, the flashback method is used to show us the layers of the characters in the show. The one that stands out the most for me is that of Red, an eager-to-please-and-also-fit-in immigrant who turns out to be one of the most powerful figures inside the cell block where the show is mostly based.
8. Steven Hyde from That '70's Show
9. Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation was a great show with a great cast. I feel, what also worked for the show was how the Internet lapped up the characters of Leslie Knope, April Ludgate, Andy Dwyer, and obviously, the manliest man of all time, Ron Swanson. But one of the best things about the show was Tom Haverford. Aziz Ansari nailed the role of the squeaky toy equivalent of humanity perfectly. Not much could bring him down, and yet, those rare moments where the guy showed some vulnerability, told us so much about him.
10. Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead
11. Quinn King from UnReal
12. Christopher Moltisanti from The Sopranos
It's very hard to pick a well-written character in post-Goodfellas mafia story. Often, depictions of the mob have fallen back to tried and tested bada-bing-bada-boom tropes what with all the over the top accents and whatnot. While The Sopranos doesn't really shy away from that (why should they? The show is as gritty as it gets), what makes it one of the best mob stories ever told is how they showed us what being a mafioso is really like in New Jersey. While Tony Soprano was the proverbial sun around which the plot revolved, you could say his nephew Christopher was the Earth in that mini solar system. He was the insecure wise guy with ambitions not restricted to the mob world. And his downward spiral was ironically one of the best arcs of the show.
13. Pierce Hawthorne from Community
Pierce was racist and insensitive, but he was genuine. Pierce was Community's version of the most interesting man and he played that role to perfection. The ups and downs he goes at the twilight of his life makes for some of the most honest moments of an otherwise laugh riot of a show.
14. Super Hans from Peep Show
There'll never be another show like Peep Show, and there shall be no other Super Hans. In a show that totally revolves around POV scenes featuring two other dudes playing the lead, Super Hans is the plot device that makes everything else look normal. A junkie, a self-proclaimed rockstar and a selfish-prick - yes, the character might not be too layered, but it still manages to steal the show and that too from comedy legends like David Mitchell and Robert Webb.
15. Dr. Perry Cox from Scrubs
He's sarcastic, bitter, wears a cruel wit on his sleeve and is a master at making JD's life hell in the hospital, and yet, despite his constant attempts at getting away from people with problems, he somehow finds himself in the middle of it all. But forget all of that for a moment - his full name is Percival Ulysses Cox. I rest my case.
16. Claire Underwood from House of Cards
If there's one person in Netflix's House of Cards that can affect Frank Underwood, it's his wife, Claire. And that's just a very small part of what this woman is about. The way she's unapologetic about her ambitions, how she's always weighing the pros and cons of her next step, and the way she understands the intricacies of 'the public image', makes Claire Underwood of the most interesting characters not just on the show, but on this list as well.
17. Murray Hewitt from Flight of the Conchords
A show about two folk artists from New Zealand trying to make it big in New York City, Flight of the Conchords is another reason why HBO is the best when it comes to original programming. Murray Hewitt, the cultural attache in the New Zealand embassy is also the band's manager. And every time there's a band meeting, you know the show's laugh meter is gonna rise.
18. Frank Reynolds from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia
Danny DeVito is an absolute legend. So when you see him as Frank Reynolds in It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, you know why they chose him to play the role. He might seem more 'sorted' than the rest of the gang at times, but that's just one part of him. A guy who has taken all sorts of drugs and has tried killing himself multiple times, might not be part of an ideal comedy plot, but Frank rocks it.
19. Samantha Jones from Sex and the City
Fans of the show will hate me for saying this, but Samantha Jones was the only good thing about Sex and the City, a show where the solutions to life's problem are more shoes, at least according to the protagonist. Jones was the one character who kept it real throughout the entire duration of the show.
20. Sameen Shaw from Person of Interest
I have a love-hate relationship with Person of Interest. I like the main plot, but then it has some really boring sub-plots. I like the women in the show - they're characters are actually pretty well-written, but the two main leads are kind of obtuse. Bear, the dog, has more character than John Reese. Anyway, coming back to the women characters, the three that really stand out are Root, Shaw and Control (yes, Control is pretty badass). My vote goes to Shaw, only because she's devoid of any emotions and yet, you can't help root (hehe) for her.
21. Adam Sackler from Girls
There's a reason why Adam Sackler, a character that started out as one of the least likeable ones on television when Girls came out, is now one of the definitions of man in today's generation. Yes, he's arrogant, twisted, insensitive and in more ways than one, a man-child, who plays the on-and-off boyfriend to Hannah, the show's lead. But at the same time, he's passionate, has shown more than once how much he cares for her, and is brutally honest. I'm not a huge fan of the show, but I love the way the wrote this character.
22. Karen Walker from Will & Grace
Not too many people talk about Will & Grace anymore, even though when the show started airing in '98, it was one of the most progressive sitcoms out there, with two out of the four regular characters being gay. While I was really tempted to include Will's BFF, Jack on this list, I can't help give the spot to Karen Walker instead. She was the epitome of sass and confidence in a world where many people still doubted themselves. She was unapologetic as fuck and will always be one of my favourite sitcom characters ever.
23. Harry Senate from Boston Public
How many of you remember this show? Perhaps the best show about the day to day business of an American public school, Boston Public was a brilliantly-written show with a superb cast. One of the stand-out acts of the first two seasons of the show was the character of Harru Senate, a renegade teacher who's assigned one of the most notorious classrooms in the school - the Dungeon, entirely comprised of the most troubled teens in the school. TBH, the show was never the same once Senate left.
24. Titus Pullo from Rome
Before there was Game of Thrones, there was Rome. Technically, Titus Pullo was one of the main characters in the 2-season long HBO show, but you could argue that the city and politics of Rome was the lead in Rome, and not Pullo or Vorenus. While Lucius Vorenus was a pretty straightforward character, his friend Pullo was a violent and yet lovable bloke. Before watching Rome, I had only seen Ray Stevenson in King Arthur. While that role didn't get too much screen, Stevenson showed massive acting chops on this show. No wonder, he also bagged the role of The Punisher shortly after this.
25. Gareth Keenan from The Office
Yes, I could have easily choses Dwight from the American version of The Office, but there would have been no Dwight if Gareth Keenan weren't there. One of the reasons why I prefer the original UK version of Gervais' show is that unlike the American one, this one was more unapologetic. The made no attempts to get the audience to like the characters - David Brent was cringeworthy, Gareth Keenan was a douche. No apologies.
26. George Costanza from Seinfeld
George Costanza is one of the whiniest characters to have ever lived. The world is unfair and everyone else is an asshole. That's Costanza for you. But he has some of the most relatable lines on the show, he's devious in his ways and he also [spoiler alert] accidentally ends up killing his fiancee. If you're not a fan of Costanza, we can't be friends.
27. Cassidy from Preacher
I've just started watching the show and reading the comic books. And I must say, Cassidy, the fast-talking Irish vampire is one hell of a character. But you know what? He's actually a good guy. So what if he drinks human blood regularly?
28. Jeff Murdock from Coupling
When it comes to the sexually frustrated deviants, Jeff Murdock is a god among mortals. Coupling was one of the funniest ensemble shows from the last decade and a lot of it is owed to how the writers wrote the character of Jeff Murdock. If America had its Chandler Bing, UK had Jeff Murdock. Not to start a petty fight or anything, but the latter was much funnier.
29. Richard Harrow from Boardwalk Empire
Boardwalk Empire is actually one of the best mafia period dramas ever written. It was a dirty time for law and order, and there were some men who made the most of it, while at the same time gunning for each other's throats. But amidst all of them, stood Richard Harrow, and ex-soldier and literally a broken man, for whom the chaos and the killing was nothing compared to what he faced during the war. While everyone else in the show was trying to make it big, he was a guy who was just trying to survive while the rest of the world treated him like a monster.
30. Peggy Olson from Mad Men
Mad Men is the story of people with ambitions realizing that just being creative or talented is not enough, at least not in advertising. You have to get your hands dirty, which makes it very difficult to actually root for most of the characters on the show. But then there's Peggy Olson, the girl who makes inroads into the boys club that was '60s Madison Avenue, and while I can't really say she comes out unscathed, she surely holds her own till the end.
31. Jared Dunn from Silicon Valley
If there were an award for the nicest character on TV, the winner would have to Jared Dunn from Silicon Valley. The one honest and straightforward dude in a show full of nerdy assholes, Jared is the epitome of purity in a morally corrupt world. Oh, and this guy fucks.
32. Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock
America loves the silly stuff, and it's up to nuanced writers like Liz Lemon (played by Tina Fey) to dumb it down and serve it to them. Enter - Tracy Jordan, the guy who saves the network and makes millions while he's at it. Even though he's probably the most ridiculous celebrity ever conceived. But that's the beauty of the character - you don't hate him, you root for his silliness, even though a tiny voice inside your head asks - "why am I laughing at this?"
33. G.O.B. from Arrested Development
The Bluth family is probably the most dysfunctional one ever seen on the small screen. And even within that, there's a black sheep, (among other slightly less black sheep) and that is George Oscar Bluth, Jr., the eldest son of the family. He's the social peacock and a professional magician. And he rides a Segway. But what makes him earn a spot on this list is his ever so obvious nature to prove his worth to everyone, all the while competing with his much-sorted younger brother, Michael.
34. Omar Little from The Wire
There are very few shows that make you look at the world in a whole other way. David Simon's The Wire is one of them. Technically, the show has no leads. Well, if you had to include one, it'd have to be the city of Baltimore. But within the world that Simon gave us, there were many characters who had more depth than some actors do in their entire career. I could have picked Bubbles, Bodie, Stringer Bell, Jimmy McNulty or even Snoop, who only shows up in the second half of the show's life. But I couldn't help it - had to choose Omar Little over all of them. That's not a bad thing. It only tells you why it's the best TV show ever.
So, there you go. Did I miss any of your favourite ones? Apologies, for I've only included shows I've actually watched. But we can never watch enough shows, right?