I’ve been a fan of television since I was a young child. Nowadays, I try not to watch as much of it (and I’ve been failing miserably) because it’s counterproductive to my growth in important areas. In spite of that, I still have many shows and characters that I absolutely love. Here are my top 10, in no particular order.
Victor Newman, The Young and the Restless
This character, masterfully portrayed by veteran actor Eric Braeden has been a part of my life since I was four years old. Victor is a self-made multi billionaire who is at once ruthless and unreasonable, yet tender and highly protective of his family. He can be insufferable and vulnerable, and that interesting irony helps to humanize him in surprising ways.
Michael Knight, Knight Rider
This was likely my favorite character as a child. The television series, Knight Rider was must-see TV during its four season stint on NBC, both in first run and later in syndication. The futuristic Trans Am Firebird that served as the artificially intelligent K.I.T.T. is what captured my loyalty initially.
But the crime fighting ex-police officer Michael Knight, energetically portrayed by David Hasselhoff, was the one kicking everyone’s ass each episode. His trademark black leather jacket and jeans were legendary, as was his frequent flirtations with hot young women.
Jack Tripper, Three’s Company
Introduced on the series as an aspiring chef, Jack Tripper was always hilarious and charming and kept me laughing at all times. Portrayed with peerless precision by the great John Ritter, Tripper was an insatiable ladies man, but he endeared himself to me with his outright silliness and side splitting clumsiness.
Ritter’s brilliance in physical comedy shone through in every episode and in my opinion, was the difference in this racy show being decent and it being outstanding.
Charlie Harper, Two and a Half Men
I never paid much attention to Charlie Sheen as an actor, and I only occasionally watched him on the highly successful Two and a Half Men while it was in first run.
But during the past year or so, I have gotten very familiar with the series and I have officially fallen in love with Sheen’s Charlie Harper, a millionaire sex crazed womanizer, alcoholic and jingle writer with his own beach house in Malibu, California.
His sheer dedication to scoring new vagina early and often is awesome, and Sheen portrays the character with an outstanding comedic flair. He is probably so convincing in the role because it mirrors his actual life in many ways.
Pee-Wee Herman, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse
Saturday mornings in the late 1980’s were a great time to be a kid. I credit much of that to Pee-Wee Herman, a grown man with a 10-year old’s personality, behavior and fashion sense. He wears a very tight gray suit, white button up shirt underneath it with a red bow tie.
Comedian Paul Reubens brought this wildly immature and super silly character to life in live stage shows during the early ‘80’s, then took the childlike Pee-Wee to the big screen with 1985’s Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
But it was the September 1986 debut of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse on CBS that truly made my day. His imagination and eccentricities were fascinating and hilarious, as were the peculiar animatronic characters which populated the playhouse. So delightful!
Dylan McKay, Beverly Hills, 90210
Practically every one of the teen characters on this classic series had a certain level of snobiness to them. It would be easy to assume that it derived from living in snooty Beverly Hills, California, but Brandon and Brenda were born and raised in Minnesota.
Somehow, they had moments of entitlement too. Dylan McKay on the other hand, was not only never a snob, he was a nonconformist in general and seemed to thrive in that space. Portrayed with a James Deanesque flair by Luke Perry, Dylan was my favorite character on the series because of that rebellion as well as his badass persona.
It seemed that whenever trouble struck for any of the other West Beverly High kids, it was Dylan that stepped up and bailed them out. I even tried to model my sideburns after him during my freshman year of high school in 1991–92. Yes, he was that cool.
Sam Malone, Cheers
Blessed with its status of being one of the greatest and most popular television series of the 1980’s, and a universally recognized theme song, NBC’s Cheers had a lot going for it. In my opinion, the insatiable skirt chasing Sam Malone was chief among its assets.
Ted Danson portrayed the retired baseball player turned bar owner with chauvinistic chutzpah, but that was only on the surface. If you looked closely, you will have noticed subtle traces of compassion and decency.
But make no mistake, Sam Malone was mostly about the charm and machismo that fueled his relationships with Shelly Long’s Diane Chambers and Kirstie Alley’s Rebecca Howe. What mattered most to me was how smooth he was at getting broads out of their panties, and how hilarious he often was in doing it.
Benson DuBois, Benson
I know I know. This is the first black character on my list, but dammit, he is a great one. I found Benson to be a very funny character in the small role that he portrayed on the sitcom, Soap. But when he turned up on his very own series immediately after leaving that show, I couldn’t stop laughing.
Robert Guillaume was the hilarious mastermind of the butler-turned-lieutenant governor that was quick witted and fast thinking on the ABC series. Benson was always a couple steps ahead of everyone else on the show with his verbal takedowns as well as his handling of important situations.
But I must admit, nothing was more gratifying than watching his interactions with Gretchen Kraus, played by Inga Swenson. In my estimation, Benson is probably the most underrated character in the history of funny television characters.
Peter Griffin, Family Guy
This character is so unbelievably hilarious, that it doesn’t matter to me at all that he is animated, therefore not played by a real person. That is, unless you count Seth MacFarlane, the man who not only voices Peter Griffin, but also created the series.
And for good measure, MacFarlane voices several other key characters on the show as well. In my estimation, none of them are nearly as dim witted, scatterbrained, immature, destructive, idiotic, insensitive, and rude as Peter. And since he is a damn cartoon, those awful traits add up to a very funny guy.
The way that Peter talks down to his kids, especially Meg, as if they are just a group of degenerates is one of my favorite tendencies of the show. His simple minded ideas which are often ridiculous and ill advised are another favorite.
This reminds me of the episode of the show in which he wanted a mustache so bad, and soon grew one but treated it as though it made him a better, more capable man. “It’s a mustache kinda morning…,” Peter said as he marveled at the bright morning sun while sporting his coveted mustache. Beyond hilarious.
Daryl Dixon, The Walking Dead
Three months ago, no one could have paid me to believe that I would have ever given The Walking Dead the time of day. I never held an interest in zombie flicks or anything related to zombies. The closest that I had ever gotten to that genre was my worship of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the seminal short film from 1983 that featured MJ as a possessed zombie during its second act.
Other than that, I paid no attention to zombies. But leave it to my brilliant daughter to get me watching arguably the most popular zombie series in the history of television. What started as a promise to her that I would watch the series’ 2010 pilot episode, shockingly turned into a two month obsession of mine as I compulsively devoured all 131 episodes that comprised its first nine seasons!
The wealth of characters on that show was stunning, necessitated by the frequent deaths of ones that you can’t help but to grow attached to. With that being said, there were many to choose from in searching for a favorite but I have it figured out. Daryl Dixon, who started off as an obnoxious knucklehead in Season 1, morphed into arguably its most indispensable character, and that includes Rick Grimes.
Norman Reedus has done a superlative job as Daryl, a natural redneck and hunter who happens to be proficient in archery, hunting and just plain old surviving in an apocalyptic world. He served as the one of the key pillars of the main survivors, and never backs down from anything or anyone.
He seems like the ideal big brother and a man’s man to boot. And for me to pick this character from a show that I only began watching within the past couple months, the character and his portrayer must be truly something special.
That concludes my list of my top 10 favorite television characters, a list that I could easily make once again with another 10. Most of these characters have been in my life for decades, but all of them have impacted me in one way or another.