Wednesday, December 7, 2011

#49 -- The Top 10 Best And Worst Characters On TV In 2011

ONE THING TO NOTE: A more complete version of this article, and all of our other reviews, can be found on our new official site:

"The gold-smeared half-Gollum / half-Joker steals every scene he’s in and reminds us why Robert Carlyle is a Secret Genius. . . look, if the show is a critical darling and beloved by its zealous fans, and the other Thursday comedies around it do well, maybe your problem isn’t with the show, NBC, it’s probably with your marketing department."

The Top 10 Best Characters of 2011

1) Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones -- Do you want me to go into this? Okay, but first, you need to go slam your hand in a hot oven door if you need to have Tyrion, and all of his glory, explained to you. Tyrion, the charming playboy-dwarf of the Lannister clan -- who are kinda / sorta the bad guys as of now in Game of Thrones -- is the closest thing to an audience-surrogate we have on the show. But at the same time, not at all. The other characters assume Tyrion is just a casual observer while he secretly is a silver-tongued political-acrobat that navigates all this mixed-up monarchy motherfuckery with such aplomb that we will willingly worship his snarky one-liners on bended knee. When your parents ask you what hip TV shows they should be watching, tell them Game of Thrones. When they ask you why, don’t mention the snow-zombies or dragons, just mention the Emmy-winning little person.

Hail, Dinklage the victor!

2) Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation -- He can't clip his toenails. They're too strong. He has to use a metal file. He once ordered "all the eggs and all the bacon" a restaurant had when his steak proved inadequate. Ron does not consider fish to be meat, it’s practically a vegetable. He survived a gunshot to the head. Normally, burritos are too ethnic of a food for him to eat, but he was persuaded to eat one once because it was called "The Meat Tornado." The fact that The Meat Tornado once killed a guy was just icing on the cake. In Ron Swanson’s mind, there are no curse-words, except for one: "taxes." He was born ready and he knows that old wooden sailing ships are beautiful.

3) Abed Nadir, Community -- Community probably began life as a Joel McHale vehicle (Did it? I know Joel is a huge fan of the site, so if you can comment, Joel, please do!), but McHale's Zen-narcissism and hyper-snark didn't draw me in at first -- no, for me, it was Community's meta-icon, Abed. Abed may or may not know he’s on a sitcom in the best way possible, continually commenting on how their show-world is, well, like a TV show. Acting simultaneously as the level-headed judicator and quote-spouting madman, he dresses up like Batman, a xenomorph, Clint Eastwood, and Jesus, among others, and he finds his place in the show as the beating nerd-heart inside all of us. Some think he has mild Asperger's, but in reality, he's completely un-diagnosable. Abed, don't change. NBC, don't cancel the show.


4) Daryl Dixon, The Walking Dead -- Since all the other characters on the show are self-pitying, neurotic, desperate, or depressed, it didn't take long to chose the best character on AMC's zombie-walker-drama. Daryl has developed into the character that has people saying, "That’s exactly what I would have done if I had a crossbow and there were zombies walkers everywhere." Increasingly humanized and always resourceful, he’s the second person on this list that’s been shot in the head and survived, and therefore your arguments against him being the best character on the show are invalid.

5) Frank Reynolds, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia – Did you ever have a friend that was a terrible influence on people that were already kind of awful? Maybe somebody's dad that would buy you wooden crate of fireworks after dismissing your bottle rockets as inadequate? Frank Reynolds is the devil that sits on the devil’s shoulder, adding even worse ideas into the Gang’s plans on Always Sunny, corrupting the already pitiable Charlie even further. Frank once combined food and booze into one item when he invented rum-ham, which is exactly what it sounds like, and his hair has been getting increasingly psychotic-looking, probably signifying how many times he has cheated death. If only every sitcom has a character like Frank that could take terrible ideas and make them evil. Earth would be better for it.

6) Gus Fring, Breaking Bad -- The best character on arguably the best drama on the air right now. (SPOILERS): Gus is a fantastic villain. He's probably killed more people than he's spoken complete sentences and he has a Terminator-caliber clairvoyance to sense threats against him. Despite being physically unimposing, he is entirely fearless, killing a Mexican drug cartel's leader with poisoned tequila (which he himself later vomited back up (like ya do (like a BAUS!!)) over a territory dispute. If you've seen the season 4 finale, then you, like me, probably shouted: "How did he live through that?!" at the TV. He is a drug-dealing, fried-chicken shilling, vegan mega-murderer, and therefore, he is on the list.

7) Snow White / Mary Margaret Blanchard, Once Upon A Time -- Basically, this show is about Snow White’s baby being put in a magic cupboard to avoid an evil queen’s curse that sends the fairytale kingdom to a horrible town called Storybrooke, and the baby avoids the curse and grows up in Phoenix, AZ, and the baby has a baby, and that baby is adopted by the evil queen’s evil alternate-reality manifestation in. . . Maine? Is the show about amnesia? Or magic? Look, I missed the pilot episode and I’m still enjoying the bejeezus out of this show.

Once Upon A Time is drinkable yogurt. It's schlock and adorable and rarely dull, but the best character is the schoolteacher / princess-rogue Snow White. Played as a nervous pixie in the real world and a troll-slaying huntress in the fairytale flashbacks, she has believable chemistry with every other character and a desperately-charming love story that anybody with a beating heart will root for. #CharmingAndSnowFTW

8) Rumpelstiltskin / Mister Gold, Once Upon A Time -- The gold-smeared half-Gollum / half-Joker steals every scene he's in and reminds us why Robert Carlyle is a Secret Genius. This show is run by some Lost alumni, which means there are going to be some oily creepers manipulating things in the background, and the downright frightening Rumpelstiltskin chooses to operate in plain view because he has things people need. He’s evil to the heroes’ faces and they just have to deal with it, the mark of a great villain (see: Iago, 'Othello'). With an unclear motive outside of greed and narcissism, Rumpelstiltskin, and his real-world alter-ego Mr. Gold, are fast-tracked for wicked success.

9) Jess (New Girl) and Jess (True Blood) -- Whereas other sites would insist that one of these Jesses is bestest, we don't. They're both equally-good. Zooey D's Jess Day validates New Girl's existence, making nervous goofiness charming, and making "adorkable" a word. On the darker side, there's Jess Hamby, who I want to give the Most-Improved Award, beginning life as an obnoxious vampire prodigy on True Blood before developing into the only good character in all of season 4's mudfucking witch-shit. Also, I pity Deborah Ann Woll for having to weep blood constantly. It looks uncomfortable.

10) Roger Smith, American Dad! -- Seth MacFarlane gets a bad rap, deservedly so sometimes. That said, do not write-off American Dad!, his first post-Family Guyshow that has completely surpassed its predecessor, and the best character on the show is Roger, the gray, duck-footed alien that lives in the Smith family's attic. Roger possesses a Hobbesian (as in Calvin & Hobbes) quality to dress up in disguises that nobody but the family can see through, letting him walk freely out in the world. Hijinx ensue and there's not a Conway Twitty or cutaway gag to be found.

This is one of the strongest animated shows on TV, along with South Park and The Venture Bros., so if you happen to notice on [adult swim], give it a watch.

Top 10 Worst Characters of 2011

1) Baby Eric Northman, True Blood -- Grraaaaahhhhhh! Graaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!! No, no, no, no, no, no! Everything no, forever, no! And it was made even worse that they decided to restore his amnesia for the last two seconds of the season and. . . and, just, no. Look at the sentence you just made me write, Eric! No amount of decapitations or mockingly sucking blood out of a heart through a ventricle can redeem the fact that he was a complacent vampire-pup for the first twelve episodes of the season. Nice mesh shorts.

2) Prince Joffrey, Game of Thrones -- Nothing is crueler than a child, except maybe the King of Children. No, Prince King Joffrey is not a "bad character," in fact, he's effectively the most hated villain on television, but for the sake of the list, he gets plonked on the "worst" list. He's essentially what would happen if you gave your fifteen-year old brother the power over all life and death in a medieval kingdom, at which point, he cuts off your dad’s head and threatens your sister with bad sex. Joffrey coming into power is the sort of thing you dread happening, a wormy, over-entitled, emotionally-unstable, sycophant, and it shows Game of Thrones' courage to go with these consequences so deftly. I cannot wait to see this insufferable he-bitch get his comeuppance, but until then, we have YouTube clips.

3) The NBC Network heads failing to promote Community correctly, Network TV -- So, look, if the show is a critical darling and beloved by its zealous fans, and the other Thursday comedies around it do well, maybe your problem isn't with the show, NBC, it's probably with your marketing department. I'm going to use sarcastic, small words and mean-spirited back-talk to express how I feel about this, since that's apparently what the American public identifies most with:

Oh sure, great idea, NBC, you bunch of dummies. You'll probably eat salad with butter on it, because you are fat, and you have uncontrollable eating urges! Remember that painful memory when you were embarrassed?

God, I can't even do it. Fine, cancel Community. I don't want to live on this planet anymore, anyway.

4) Lori Grimes, The Walking Dead -- Morning-after pills don’t work like that, Lori.

Alright, we can go deeper on this. Lori, you messed up, you backpedaled, you want the world, but the world is dead. Lady, listen, if anybody, you should trust yourself to protect a newborn baby in the post-zombie walker world. She was fucking Shane after the plague showed up and now she’s whining about bringing a kid into the world? What did she think was going to happen? You're going to need kids in New Post-Apocalyptica. Lori wants to live in the old world (which may or may not be gone, she’s been tramping around in the Georgia back-woods for a few months) but can’t summon the wherewithal to adapt to her circumstances. Die, Lori, you cowardly, whiny, self-pitying butthole.

5) In general, The Simpsons -- Please, just let it die. I love The Simpsons to death, but I can't be weeping over its casket anymore. The show hasn't been funny since season 6, meaning there are more than 3 times as many bad episodes as there are good episodes. Also, the show has become a grinning corpse ever since it moved to the 4-act format. No half-hour show does this and this really needs to end.

6) Josh Shannon, Terra Nova -- I was tempted to put "Everybody" on Terra Nova, but I'm still holding out hope for this show. I've said on a few occasions that a show with dinosaurs, time-travel, and magical math painted on Cretaceous rocks should not suck, but somehow, Terra Nova sucks in the most uncomfortable ways, the greatest offender being Josh, the oldest child in the Shannon family. He's a whiner, he's a thief, he's disobedient, lazy, fashion-dead, and he pines over his ex-girlfriend when he has Skye Bone-Jumper right there in front of him. Characters like Josh are more dangerous than any level of violence on TV because kids watch this show and think, "I should be an angsty twat if my parents punish me for teasing the brachiosaurus."

At least the kids in Falling Skies know how to wield the steel. Josh, please, taunt a carnivore.

7) Whitney, Whitney -– Ah, Whitney. The biggest setback in feminism since Bella Swan. Whitney, on Whitney, a show about a woman named Whitney, a television program I've never seen, makes the list because every preview I've seen involve Whitney being cruel to her boyfriend (fiance? husband? anybody that cares to correct me should). What the hell? Seriously, it’s all "Whitney makes a blue balls joke while playing squash," or "Whitney emasculates her significant other by teasing him about his cooking," or "I'm skinny and snarky and people enjoy my brand of slightly acerbic comedy because men are doormats and I remind women of the mean, popular girl in high school that they wished they could've been friends with. Producer credit, bitches!"

I promise you, this woman is a maladjusted bully, and she's probably really insecure about her eyebrows.

8) Carl Grimes, The Walking Dead -- Kid, dude, look, I know you got shot, and a large animal vet had to operate on you, and the world is overrun by zombies walkers that want to masticate on your brains, but damn, you're creepy. Maybe it's the moon-burn skin or his deep voice or his gigantic hat. I dunno. The poor kid is going to remain a child forever at this rate -- he doesn't just have the only crazy parents left in the world, he has the only parents left in the world. Sooner or later, his death will be their fault, because they will never allow him to grow up, lest he become an adult and, you know, learn how to survive in a world the adults fucking created and also know nothing about.

9) The judges, and everybody involved with, The X-Factor -- Hey, The X-Factor, how does it feel to be associated with Pepsi?

Now that we have the nastiest insult on the Internet out of the way, The X-Factor is like the biggest open-mic night in the world, except a man, and a woman, and some other humanoid-homonculi get paid to shout things at these emotionally-vulnerable, amateur performing artists. And they televise it with almost zero overhead costs. That's lucrative, low-risk entertainment right there. Reality TV is never going to die, is it? Look, I got sort of drunk on Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, and was down to the last bottle of prosecco, and completely out of orange juice, and I started watching House Hunters International and I was reminded that these kinds of shows show us people in an unenviable and stressful moment in life, like buying a house, and I still find myself hating them! No other type of television elicits that visceral and contemptible of a reaction, and The X-Factor is the biggest offender.

Then I flipped over to Nat Geo and watched Rocket City Rednecks for a spell and slipped into a gravy-dream.

10) Daniel Tosh, Tosh.0 -- This fae pixie and his expanding wardrobe of loose tank-tops has successfully marketed YouTube comment-trolling and made a show out of him getting into a slap-fight with civility in front of a green screen. Did you know it's a more highly-rated show than The Daily Show? Yes, televised laughing at the Internet is more popular than the most important news satire ever.

Daniel Tosh, you think you're from the Internet? You think you've channeled the spirit of morbid Web-dementia? Bitch, please. You've never waded out of the YouTube kiddy pool. You're a Central-Florida basket case that ran away to LA, just like every other self-fellatiating coward thirsty for fame. Kids, I'm going to reveal a secret: Tosh isn't actually a racist, homophobic, sexist bigot that pushes "the comedy envelope" -- he's an American with an Internet connection.

He isn't a terrible person. He isn't daring. He isn't a voice. He isn't reprehensible or compelling or admirable or intelligent. He's an American with an Internet connection and a passive-aggressive longing for people to stare into his immortal soul. For money.

Recommended related reading:
[Saints Row: The Third | * * * ½] by Ghost Little
[Dark Souls | * * *] by Ghost Little and Doberman
[Vanquish | * * *] by Doberman and Ghost Little (in that order)

-- Alex Crumb
on Twitter | @GhostLittle_WTF

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