90: Ally McBeal: John Fish (Peter McNicol)
David E. Kelley has a genius for creating loveable eccentrics, and John Fish, who owned the law firm the heroine worked for was certainly one of those. He was also a prime example of the slow reveal: first Fish was a mental; then we learned that he was obsessive compulsive and had a fascination with his toilet; then we found out that he had a secret room behind the bathroom stalls; then we found out, right at the end, that he had been in love with Ally the whole time, only he knew it would never have worked. Talk about slow burn! It was his eccentric habits that made him a highlight of each episode. Ever the voice of reason, he’d seek the resolve any situation in his own idiosyncratic way, the joy was that more often than not he’d succeed.
89: Diagnosis Murder: Mark Sloan (Dick Van Dyke)
Mark Sloan has a strong following, in part due to the fact he’s portrayed by the legend that is Dick Van Dyke. On paper his character is very simple – he’s a doctor who helps solve mysteries in his spare time via a combination of deductive reasoning and helpful plot contrivances. Although nothing special, the fact that it’s Dick playing him means that the role instantly becomes an extension of the actor playing it. He completely takes over the role, and is as likeable and good natured as he is charming and funny. And that’s all that needs to be said.
88: Men Behaving Badly: Tony Smart (Neil Morrissey)
Some people just can’t help but say the wrong thing, and innocent but sex-obsessed Tony was a classic example of this. Spending most of his time in the pub or on the sofa, his childlike obsession with Kylie or some other woman – most likely his dreamgirl Debs – would start off nice but gradually wind up in a dirty, dirty place nobody could have expected. Clinically dim, it was the fact he clearly didn’t have a bad bone in his body that made him so likeable, and when Debs finally gave in to his persistent proposals a nation of beer-drinking lads cheered.
87: Firefly: River Tam (Summer Glau)
There is no absence of mentals in this list, although perhaps none are quite as disturbed as young River Tam. Abducted by sinister government figures, her brother Simon rescued her, and they took off across space as fugitives. However, it was soon clear that River was a very different girl to how she used to. She was prone to wandering the ship, scaring the fellow crewmates with her off-kilter conversations, and she later managed to shoot three people without even looking up at them. Sadly, the cancellation of the series meant we never got to see a full explanation of River’s problems on television, although the subsequent film filled in a lot of the gaps. It’s a shame, because it would have been fascinating to find out more about her past.
86: Footballer’s Wives: Tanya Turner (Zoe Lucker)
Tanya Turner was a secondary character who quickly became a monster. Very suddenly the show was taken over by Ms Turner, who went from husband to husband and hopped from bed to bed and illegal drug to illegal drug, causing havoc and wrecking countless lives as she went. Sadly, we never found out the fate of Tanya as the show was cancelled, but for three seasons she was Queen Bitch. She ruled the rest of the WAGs, with her twitching eyes and quivering cigarette, and anyone who tried to get in her way would inevitably be destroyed. It’s a shame there aren’t more characters like Tanya out there, but at the same time - it’s a bit of a relief.