Top five television characters on shows that are currently airing, in definite order:
5. Louis C.K. as Louis, Louis
There are definitely cringe-worthy moments on the show (particularly during some of the stand-up interludes, but that may be related to my misgivings about stand-up in general), but there is something really endearing about the main character. His flaws make him human and vulnerable, and ultimately totally lovable.
4. Toni Collette as Tara Gregson, United States of Tara
Despite being created by Grrl Nerd favorite Diablo Cody, this show is also not perfect. We encounter the same old representations: what ‘crazy’ looks like, what ‘motherhood’ looks like, what ‘disability’ looks like. Collette as Gregson does amazing work in mitigating the damage of the same ole representations by making some of the…facets (?)…really remarkable. Somehow, the character of Tara reads less like a woman defined by severe mental illness and more like a woman who is enhanced by the multiple personalities that should plague her.
3. Danny Pudi as Abed Nadir, Community
All hail Abed. The somewhat disjointed character serves as a fascinating storytelling device in episodes. Occasionally acting as the narrator, sometimes positioned as the antagonist, watching Danny Pudi bring Abed Nadir to life is fun. Early episodes nodded towards a strong likelihood of ethnicity playing a defining role in his character, but writers seemed to grow tired of the easy grabs. If you are a coldhearted person who can’t handle the nerd speak, at least give credit for the end of each episode, which often features Abed and Troy acting adorably goofy.
2. John Noble as Walter Bishop, Fringe
I will probably always love me some mad scientist. Walter Bishop is part comic relief and part narrative device in explaining The Crazy that pops up in nearly every episode, but he is 100% heart. The story arc of rebuilding a relationship with his son (Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop) is critical to the humanity of the show, and the hilarious and usually nonsensical quips keep me laughing.
1. Tina Fey as Liz Lemon, 30 Rock
Disclaimer: Tina Fey is a life muse. Maybe I was destined to love and admire Liz Lemon because of idolization of Fey. Regardless, I’ll be the first to admit Lemon is a flawed character, rich with problematic constructs. She reflects the notion that career women will never be satisfied if they aren’t mothers, regurgitating the antiquated notion that femininity = motherhood. She reflects the body/weight obsession that plagues our culture. She reminds the viewer that nerdy women will very rarely be the crush object. These widespread and indoctrinated constructs ultimately make Lemon so lovable – we can see ourselves in every foot-in-mouth moment and low self-esteem decision and guilty food binge. And whether you love her or hate her, Fey and Lemon are a lightning rod for feminist issues that somehow, someway get a prime-time soapbox on a network show. This in of itself is laudable.