Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The 100 Greatest TV Characters (Part 9)

60: Seinfeld: George Constanza (Jason Alexander)
Although not a Jew, no one character has done more to nail down the persona of Jewishness since Woody Allen’s golden years. George was a neurotic guy, selfish and insecure to the point of dementedness, and the word stingy could well have been invented for him. Despite this, he was one of the most loved characters on one of the most loved TV shows ever made, and even today the impact of his character resonates on other shows – Friends, Will & Grace – any show where some of most of the protagonists are self-absorbed has some debt to pay to George Constanza. Based off of Larry David, the character grew in idiocy as the show went on, becoming lazier and better at lying in order to get himself out of the increasingly ridiculous situations he got himself into. He was so stupid and neurotic, it is hard not to give in and simply go along with him. It’s more fun.

59: LOST: James ‘Sawyer’ Ford (Josh Holloway)
There was nothing drastically different about the character of Sawyer. To anyone, he seems to be the typical antihero with a heart of gold, a rough former con-artist who has to make good when he crashes on the island or risk expulsion from the group. What makes him different and therefore noteworthy is that none of the other characters on LOST come anywhere near to matching his level of roughness. Whilst Locke and Sayid are both incredible badasses who shoot, knife, and neck-snap their way around, both of them do it according to a strict moral code. Not so for Sawyer, who is out for himself almost the whole time. That’s what made him so memorable.

58: Coupling: Jeffrey Murdoch (Richard Coyle)
In this superior British variation on ‘Friends’, six friends talk about sex a lot whilst getting into ludicrous scrapes with indecent results! And Jeff was the best character of the lot, narrowly beating out vapid-brained Jane to strike his name into the list. Jeff is absolutely obsessed with sex, and has composed theories and lists for practically every aspect of reproduction that you could imagine. It was in his obsession with sex that the show got most of its milage – whenever he was in the room, you could see that any moment he would explode from the conversation into a series of crude mimes, or break at length to discuss the practical use of ribbed condoms. His best moment came in the form of “the giggle-loop”.

57: Arrested Development: Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman)
In the midst of the insanity that was the Bluth family, Michael Bluth was the most normal-seeming and sensible of the lot. He was hard-working, rode a bicycle to work, and tried to do what was best for his son. Of course, this all proved to be a fa├žade which was revealed to the viewers as Arrested Dvelopment went on. Michael was just as mad as the rest of them: but in his case the madness was his obsession with his family, even though he claimed to hate them. For as much as he denounced them, it became clear that Michael needed to be around his family in order to feel superior to someone, and this superiority complex is what ultimately messes him up and keeps him with the most dysfunctional family ever seen on television.

56: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar)
The universal truth for television would be that the main character is never the most interesting. It’s the reason why Will & Grace was fundamentally about the pairing of Jack & Karen instead of the characters of the title, and why nobody cares much about Peter from Heroes (that and the rather poor writing, of course). Buffy is mostly the same; a boring know-it-all who thinks she is far better than she really is, but has – as one character memorably put it to her – an inferiority complex about her superiority complex. She is the slayer, and vitally powerful, but it’s only thanks to her friends that she remains alive for the course of the show. Why is she in the list, then? Because she’s one of the first strong female leads in Television, and that should always be recognised. Buffy changed a lot of people’s minds about how television should be made, and Sarah Michelle Gellar’s title character was a strong part of that.


  1. "as one character memorably put it to her – an inferiority complex about her superiority complex."

    That was Buffy who said that about herself

  2. Nuh-uh, sister! She said she had a superiority complex, but it was friendly undead member Holden Webster who theorised that she had an inferiority complex about said superiority complex.