Voting closes today at midnight for our Favorite TV characters poll. We asked you readers to name their personal top 10 and after voting closes this Friday we’ll be compiling the results and publishing the Top 50 rankings later in the month.
So far thousands of votes have been cast, and many of you have shared your choices in the comments. It might just sway other people’s voting by pitching your favorites both here in the comments and via Twitter and Facebook.
Every day this week we’ve been posting a top ten TV character selection from an AE staff member. Dennis gave you his list, then we heard from snicks, and Louis, and Brian and now it’s my turn. My choices are in random order, and reveal a dark window into my soul.
1. Brian Kinney (Gale Harold), Queer As Folk
Brian is simultaneously the most loved and hated character on Queer As Folk. So many people love the evolution of the character, willing to sacrifice everything in later seasons for other people. And I can agree that there was some interesting growth there that was plausible and almost remarkable in the plotting.
But for me, I actually adored Season One Brian, unapologetically drugging and screwing his way through Pittsburgh without any sense of responsibility to anything or anyone other than himself. A proud hedonist was new to me, and there’s something to be said for that shell he wore like a suit of armor, even if it had a few cracks in it.
2. Gilligan (Bob Denver) Gilligan’s Island
Almost at the opposite end of the spectrum from Brian you can find the innocent Gilligan, bumbling through life as best he could, and eager to please. I have no idea why I was so drawn to him, but I couldn’t miss a rerun of the show, even once I’d seen them a dozen times.
Gilligan just wanted to make the people around him happy, and was in a loving, dysfunctional relationship with Skipper. He may not have been able to function in the wider world, but he was the heart of that island.
3. Julia Sugarbaker (Dixie Carter) Designing Women
At different points in my life, I’ve left West Virginia and ditched my southern accent with a great deal of effort, but then I come back and it returns with a vengeance, with most people guessing Georgia or Alabama. But a southern accent is a useful thing, disarming, and still sharp and cutting.
Julia Sugarbaker used her voice to defend the helpless and destroy the haughty. She could deliver a cutting speech on gay rights, AIDS or her friends that left you sitting in your living room applauding. I’ve always aspired to delivering verbal beat downs like Julia, but never come close.
4. Karen Walker (Megan Mullally), Will & Grace
In so many ways, Karen is the gin-soaked mutant love child of Julia Sugarbaker and Brian Kinney. A tough shell of personality wrapped around a fierce, fearless woman who would do anything for her friends. Sure, she spent most of her time enabling bad behavior, but one has to wonder if Jack (Sean Hayes) would have been able to afford to eat or drink without Karen as his best friend.
Quick with the insult, but still able to take her licks, I’d like to think Karen could hold her own with some of the broads (used lovingly) of the big screen.
5. The Doctor (David Tennant), Doctor Who
I know I can’t please some of the Brits by singling out David Tennant’s version, but in many ways he’s definitive for me, even beyond the old PBS reruns. The Doctor represents the best in the universe, while carrying the burdens of having done the worst in the universe by destroying his own race. Yet he still manages to approach history, with everything he’s seen, with a kind of wonder and joy. After 900 years of life, that’s something of an accomplishment.
Of the modern era of Doctor Who, Tennant stands out as capturing the wonder and joy, while maintaining the steel spine required to play a Time Lord. At times I find Matt Smith too manic and Christopher Eccleston too dark.
Plus, you have to give bonus points to a character than can live beyond the individual actors that have played him through the decades.
6. Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) Friends
Again, I’m thinking of the original character, not what he morphed into later in the show. I can’t imagine a more unlikely trajectory for the original Chandler than marrying Monica (Courtney Cox).
Chandler was absolutely a geek in the beginning. He had a real job, in an office, shuffling papers, but he was constantly trying to be to cool guy in a group with artists – actors, chefs, and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow). In some ways, even Ross was cooler than him because of the dinosaurs. But Chandler just strived to shine, with silly ties and catch phrases that never quite worked, a lot like a closeted gay guy trying to find his way and not understanding why he was lost.
And that’s really it, isn’t it? The young Chandler pinged in so many awkward ways that the more matured Chandler didn’t. The dissonance between them never quite worked for me and ultimately led me to quit watching the show.
7. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce (Alan Alda), M*A*S*H
To this day, M*A*S*H remains the mac’n'cheese of television for me. Infinitely comforting and appropriate for any mood. I can laugh, cry, and get social commentary that’s still relevant today. And despite his skill as a surgeon, Hawkeye was the everyman that was the center of the show, the lens we viewed the chaos of war through. He made his own gin, chased nurses, saved lives, and played pranks. He laughed and he cried with equal pride.
He took on Major Burns (Larry Linville) for a gay soldier 20 television years and 40 real world years before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was even passed, and remained grounded in small town Maine values that would serve him well to this day.
8. Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) Family Ties
Confession time: I was a young Republican. I was fascinated with Wall Street and business as a teen in a way that most were fascinated with baseball. And so was Alex. It wasn’t cool, his very liberal parents didn’t quite get him, but they loved him even as they felt he was going to the dark side of big business, back when the idea that big business was the dark side was becoming a trope.
So kudos to Alex for the politics, the debate club, and everything that I did in school. You gave me something to point to when my fiercely Democratic parents wondered what they’d done wrong.
9. Phineas Flynn, Phineas & Ferb
To this day, I love my cartoons, but mostly older cartoons. Most modern shows just lack heart for me. But there are highlights, like Animaniacs that Louis mentioned, and now Phineas & Ferb on Disney.
Phineas and his brother Ferb see the world as one of infinite possibilities, and each day to be seized and made the most of, by building a giant roller coaster across the city or making ice cream on the moon. Theirs is the world of the possible, and the dreamer, and those are the people that change the world. Maybe we don’t all have a platypus secret agent as a pet or the ability to have industrial weather balloons delivered underwater to the lost city of Atlantis, but we’d all be better off if we woke up saying “I know what we’re going to do today!”
10. Mister Rogers (Fred Rogers) Mister Rogers Neighborhood
Running for an astonishing 31 seasons, Mister Rogers Neighborhood raised millions of children to be upstanding adults and influenced how we dealt with the world. Airing five days/week, the show was often in repeats, and my mother still tells the story of him signing off on a Tuesday with an old episode taped for a Friday, saying he’d be back Monday, and I’d burst into tears.
Mister Rogers taught us how to share, tie our shoes, how to deal with death. He took us to the world of Make-Believe on a trolley with kings and tigers. Just the sight of him changing into a cardigan can comfort me to this day.
Well, that’s it for my selections.
Hey, if you haven’t voted yet, form is below. Remember, voting closes this Friday at midnight.
Feel free to encourage your Facebook friends and Twitter followers to weigh in too!