Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Top "100" List of Greatest TV Characters of the Last 20 Years (Well, The Top 38 I've Finished Ranking So Far)

A few months ago, when Entertainment Weekly published their list of 100 greatest characters of the last 20 years, I started making my own list of best TV characters.  I had to stop because I got so bogged down in my own grading system that I found it too hard to narrow down to 100 and then properly rank them -- without driving myself crazy.  When I last left off, I had only nailed down the top 38.

Now, the TV Guide Network has assembled their top 25 greatest TV characters, but you have to watch to learn who they picked.  So, I thought I'd publish my list, even if it's not finished yet.  I don't have 100 ranked yet, but I have more than TV Guide.  So, below is my top 38 all-time best character list.  Maybe, I'll actually finish the list some day.  And, if I do, I can't guarantee the top 38 will still be in this same order.  But, for now (and yes, I am a geek)...

38.  Ranger Marcus Cole  (Babylon 5)
37.  James "Sawyer" Ford  (Lost)
36.  Attache Vir Cotto  (Babylon 5)
35.  Chief of Staff Leo McGarry  (The West Wing)
34.  Attorney Douglas Wambaugh  (Picket Fences)
33.  Detective George Francisco  (Alien Nation)
32.  Colonel Jack O'Neill  (StargateSG-1)
31.  Dr. John "J.D." Dorian  (Scrubs)
30.  Benjamin Linus  (Lost)
29.  Hugo "Hurley" Reyes  (Lost)
28.  Admiral William Adama  (Battlestar Galactica)
27.  Rory Gilmore  (Gilmore Girls)
25.  (tie)  Judge Henry Bone  (Picket Fences)
25.  (tie)  Dr. Juliet Burke  (Lost)
23.  (tie)  Dr. Jack Shepherd  (Lost)
23.  (tie)  John Locke  (Lost)
22.  Press Secretary C.JCregg  (The West Wing)
21.  CIA Agent Chuck Bartowski  (Chuck)
20.  Detective Vic Mackey  (The Shield)
18.  (tie)  Dr. Sam Beckett  (Quantum Leap)
18.  (tie)  Attorney Ally McBeal  (Ally McBeal)
17.  Captain Malcolm Reynolds  (Firefly TV series / Serenity feature film)
16.  Dr. Gregory House  (House, M.D.)
15.  Attorney John Cage  (Ally McBeal)
14.  Attorney Allan Shore  (The Practice & Boston Legal)
13.  Lieutenant Worf  (Star Trek: The Next Generation & Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
10.  (tie)  Lieutenant Commander Data  (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
10.  (tie)  Constable Odo  (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
10.  (tie)  Luke Danes  (Gilmore Girls)
09.  Commander Susan Ivanova  (Babylon 5)
08.  Security Chief Michael Garibaldi  (Babylon 5)
07.  Captain John Sheridan  (Babylon 5)
06.  Captain Jean-Luc Picard  (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
05.  President Josiah "JedBartlet  (The West Wing)
04.  Lorelai Gilmore  (Gilmore Girls)
03.  Ambassador Delenn  (Babylon 5)
02.  Ambassador Londo Mollari  (Babylon 5)
01.  Ambassador G'Kar  (Babylon 5)

And, without listing the individual characters, the remaining candidates for a future top 100 will likely come from the following additional shows:

Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Commander-in-Chief, Crusade, Fringe, Highlander: The Series, Jericho, Leverage, Men In Trees, Moonlight, The O.C., The Practice, South Park, and The 4400.


So, who do you think are the best TV characters???  Where do you agree or disagree with my list?  Let me know.


And, in case you're wondering what my overly-analytical, super-neurotic grading system is...

Using Apple Numbers (the Mac version of MS Excel), I kept a spreadsheet of my list of characters, the shows they were in, my grading categories, etc...

 - I listed the total number of TV seasons in which each character appeared in one or more shows
 - I listed the number of TV movies and/or feature films in which each character appeared in a separate column
 - I graded each character on a scale of 1 to 13 in the following five categories (with 13 = A+, 9 = B, 5 = C-, 1 = F, etc.)

  • Significance:  How significant was the character to the overall concept and/or story arc of the show.
  • Depth/Eloquence:  How "deep," emotional, multi-faceted, and/or articulate was the character.
  • Character Development:  How much did the character grow, change, improve, evolve, devolve, cope with, or have their backstory revealed.
  • Performance:  How well did the actor/actress play the role.
  • Like-ability:  How likable, cool, relatable, honorable, or humorous was the character.

Lastly, the Overall Weighted Score for each character was, rounded to two decimal places, the sum of the following:
  • 6 X Significance
  • 5 X Depth/Eloquence
  • 4 X Character Development
  • 3 X Performance
  • 2 X Like-ability
  • 1 X Longevity  (square root of # of TV seasons plus square root of # of movies, rounded to 2 decimal places)

I let Pages do the calculating & sorting for me.  All I had to do was plug in the numbers.

Ambassador G'Kar from Babylon 5 got a perfect score of 13 in the "big 5" categories and a decent 3.97 in Longevity, for a total of 263.97.  I made him the standard bearer because there was no way he wasn't going to be in the #1 spot.

Lead characters (Pres. Bartlet, Vic Mackey), "captain" type characters (Picard, Sheridan, Mal, Adama, O'Neill), and characters for whom a show is named (Lorelai & Rory Gilmore, House, Ally McBeal) automatically got a 13 in Significance.  Because they each represent the culture of an entire race, I also gave 13s to the three main alien ambassadors from Babylon 5.  Usually, if a non-lead character was part of an ensemble but in the opening credits for most seasons, they got somewhere between 10 & 12 in Significance.

In Depth/Eloquence, only G'Kar and Boston Legal's Allan Shore got 13s.  Londo Mollari, Delenn, Lorelai Gilmore, President Bartlet, Captain Picard, and Judge Bone all got 12s.

In Character Development, only G'Kar and Londo got 13s.  Delenn, Sheridan, Worf, Luke Danes, Odo, Locke, Jack, Sawyer, Rory Gilmore, Willow Rosenberg (Buffy:tVS), and Duncan McLeod (Highlander: The Series) got 12s.  And, yes, I struggled with whether to give Worf a 12 or 13.  With his other categories high, a 13 in Char Dev pushes him into the top 10, which I felt was crowded enough already.  But, part of me thinks he still deserves it.

For Performance by the actor/actress that played them, I gave 13s to G'Kar, Londo, President Bartlet, Ben Linus, Juliet Burke, House, Allan Shore, and Admiral Adama.  I gave 12s to Delenn, Lorelai Gilmore, Vic Mackey, Ally McBeal, Picard, Data, John Cage, Emily Gilmore, Sam Beckett, Capt. "Mal" Reynolds, and Judge Bone.

For Like-ability, I only gave 13s to G'Kar and Dr. Juliet Burke (in retrospect, I may have had Lost fever at the time), and I gave way too many 12s to list.  (If I ever try to finish the top 100, this may be the category I need to go back and tweak the most.)  Characters meant to be obnoxious, annoying, morally ambiguous, or downright villainous got low to mediocre scores in Like-ability, but characters like Sawyer, Douglas Wambaugh, Ben Linus, Vic Mackey, House, and Londo Mollari still made top averages thanks to high scores in other categories.

And, the winners of the Longevity Score were:
5.32  Lt./Lt. Cmdr. Worf  (7 seasons ST:TNG; 4 seasons ST:DS9; 4 feature films)
4.74  Cartman, Kyle, Stan, and Stan's dad from South Park  (14 seasons; 1 feature film)
4.73  Capt./Major/Lt. Col./Col. Samantha Carter  (10 seasons Stargate: SG-1; 1 season Stargate: Atlantis; 2 DVD movies)
4.65  Most of the cast of Star: The Next Generation  (7 seasons; 4 feature films)
4.61  Kenny from South Park  (absent one season compared to the other boys)
4.58  Teal'c from Stargate: SG-1  (same as Samantha Carter minus the year on Atlantis)
4.45  Dr. Beverly Crusher from ST:TNG  (same as others except absent in season 2)
4.41  Dr. Daniel Jackson from Stargate: SG-1  (same as Teal'c except absent in most of season 6)
4.00  Captain John Sheridan from Babylon 5  (4 seasons; 3 TV movies; 1 DVD movie)
3.97  G'Kar, Delenn, Garibaldi, and Dr. Franklin from Babylon 5  (5 seasons; 3 TV or DVD movies each)
3.83  Col./Gen. Jack O'Neill from Stargate: SG-1  (8 seasons; 1 DVD movie; not counting the Kurt Russell version from the feature film that started the franchise)
3.74  Leopold "Butters" Stotch from South Park  (14 seasons)
3.65  Londo Mollari from Babylon 5  (5 seasons; 2 TV movies)
3.61  Tweak from South Park  (13 seasons)
3.46  Chief Miles O'Brien  (5 seasons ST:TNG; 7 seasons ST:DS9)

No comments: