Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jenn's Pick: Top 10 TV Characters I'm Thankful For in 2013

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, which means a time to bust out your sweatpants, carve a turkey, and eat so much pie that you begin to turn into one. It’s also a time to reflect on the things that we have in life that we are thankful for: things like family, health, freedom, happiness, and good friends. I’m thankful for a lot this year, to be quite honest. It’s been a pretty weird year in terms of my job and environment, but I have had more amazing things happen than bad this year. And I’m blessed with family and friends and my health so really, I have no right to complain!

There’s something else that I’m thankful for around this blog: awesome television characters to write about! As a self-proclaimed blogger and fandom nerd, there have been a lot of introductions this television season to new characters, re-appearances of old favorites, and “where did this person even COME from?” moments. So I thought that I would take the opportunity to write about the characters on television that I am most thankful for this year and why.

If you’re ready, grab that slice of pumpkin pie and settle in to read all about some of the great characters on television this year!

Honorable Mention: Alex Knightley (Emma Approved)

Okay, even though TECHNICALLY speaking, Emma Approved is a web series and not a television series, I just had to include the snarky, adorable and endearing Alex Knightley on my list. Though Emma Approved is, admittedly, a tad bit lacking in the plot/continuity/character development categories at the moment, Alex continues to be the highlight of this series. His quick wit, snark, and charm automatically made audiences fall for him. Brent Bailey does a fantastic job at bringing this dimensional character to life – someone who cares about Emma as a person, but who can also reason with her. Someone who wants to run a successful business but is also human and compassionate and level-headed.

And that is why Alex Knightley gets an honorable mention in this post. (Also, much like his character, Brent is charming and delightful. And he loves romantic comedies, so he automatically wins in my book.)

10. Jeff Winger (Community)

In a rather lackluster season of Community, Joel McHale still managed to shine as Jeff Winger (proving that it matters not what script he’s handed nor who’s at the helm of the show producing-wise, because he’ll knock whatever he’s given out of the park). Jeff has grown leaps and bounds since the pilot episode where he cared so little for the people in his Spanish study group that he ACTUALLY turned them against one another. Now – at the end of season four – there’s this large part of him that cannot come to terms with leaving his friends, his FAMILY, at Greendale. He tells them how much he loves them: that it’s larger than they could fathom, even when split seven ways. For the ways in which this character has grown and the ways in which he will (I hope) continue to grow in season five, I am very thankful.

I’m also thankful for Joel McHale but that’s a whole other blog post.

9. Jackie (Trophy Wife)

I’ll admit – I’m still not COMPLETELY aboard the Trophy Wife train, but one character keeps me interested week after week and also keeps me laughing hysterically: Jackie. Truly, there is no one like this character on television at the moment. She’s weird and wonderful and loving and more than a little bit crazy. She – as the cliché goes – marches to the beat of her own drum entirely and doesn’t rely on anyone else for self-assurance. Though she may not always garner respect because of her alternative, often hippie methods, Jackie never wavers in her confidence as a person. She knows who she is and is completely and utterly okay with being different from those around her. I actually quite admire that. In a society that tells you that being “normal” is the best route so that you don’t draw unnecessary or critical attention to yourself, Jackie breaks the mold. And that is pretty cool.

8. Danny Castellano (The Mindy Project)

Danny Castellano has really grown on me. In fact, The Mindy Project as a series has REALLY grown on me lately, and I think it’s because of the show’s attempt to make every character human but also redeemable. There’s a fine line that television shows walk, really: you want to make characters flawed, but you need to ensure that they don’t mess up to the point that the audience abhors them unnecessarily. But I’ve always liked Danny as a character. He’s got his own quirks, but he’s rather stable at this point in the series (he wasn’t always, of course). And let’s all be honest: Danny is about fifty times MORE swoon-worthy when he’s in scenes and looking at Mindy like this.

(I’ll pause so that you all can dreamily sigh.)

I truly am thankful that there’s a character like Danny on a sitcom, and especially that he’s heralded as somewhat of a male romantic lead opposite Mindy. Danny is kind, but also damaged. He’s snarky and gruff but he’s Italian which means that family and friends mean everything to him. He loves deeply, values his work, and is essentially one of the best characters on The Mindy Project. And, you know, Chris Messina has a killer smile so there’s that too.

7. Nick Miller (New Girl)

Nick Miller is one half of my favorite romantic pairing currently on television right now. I could write an essay about how wonderful he is as a character – how flawed and broken, but lovable and caring and goofy. Jake Johnson does such an amazing job as this character who, at the hands of any other actor, might come off as either too cartoonish or too broad. But throughout the latter half of New Girl’s second season and the first part of its third, Nick Miller has evolved from a curmudgeonly  bartender to a dimensional character who is struggling to put his life together but who is beginning to pinpoint priorities in his life, namely Jess. I am thankful for Nick Miller who is a character that is deeply flawed but who cares SO much about Jessica Day that he would do anything for her. He wants to be the best version of himself not because she demands it (this week’s episode reminded us that Jess loves Nick just as he is), but because everything about her just spurs him to action. He wants to be everything for her and that, my friends, is beautiful.

6. The Mother (How I Met Your Mother)

I’m finding the final season of How I Met Your Mother to be rather… underwhelming. Occasional episodes have been downright absurd and eye-roll inducing. But there has been one standout performance thus far: The Mother. We still don’t know the woman’s actual name, but we know – through flashforwards – that she does eventually become Mrs. Ted Mosby. And The Mother is everything that we would want for Ted: she’s quirky and adorable, smart and witty, nerdy but compassionate. She’s endearing, she’s sweet, and she’s already been a beacon for Lily and Barney… and that was before she even MET Ted.

Essentially, in a rather disappointing season, The Mother is the brightest shining star. And I hope, sincerely, that we get to see much more of her before our time with the series draws to a close.

5. Raymond “Red” Reddington (The Blacklist)

The Blacklist is an interesting new fall series. It is action-packed and suspenseful. It causes the audience to ask a lot of questions, but doesn’t quite provide them with answers. In spite of the irregularity of the season’s writing, I am thankful that it spawned the character of Raymond “Red” Reddington, portrayed by the flawless James Spader. Red is a criminal, and it would be easy to merely label him as “evil” because of that. But what The Blacklist does quite flawlessly is cause us to question everything we know about what “good” and “evil” truly mean. Red is no hero – he’s killed and cheated and lied and stolen and he’s been unapologetic about it. Elizabeth calls him a monster.

But that’s not all that Red is. Red is deeply loyal to and protective of Elizabeth Keen. He truly cares for her and though the reasons why he does are still cloudy, the series has proven that he will do anything it takes to keep her safe. Anything. He’s such a tragic character, Red is. He’s not good, but he does “good” things. And he’s not “evil,” either. So what exactly is he, then? He’s a character who is sassy and brilliant, who is nearly always right and smarter than everyone in the FBI on the series. He’s crafty and cunning, but he also truly loves Elizabeth. I enjoy never knowing whether I need to root for Red or demand his capture. And I am thankful to the writers of The Blacklist for creating such a dimensional and complex character.

4. Clara “Oswin” Oswald (Doctor Who)

Clara “Oswin” Oswald is a wonderfully magnificent companion on Doctor Who. I know that audiences have difficulties in regards to determining their feelings about companions. Some of us are loyal to one or two and mourn their departure so much that we feel no other companion can truly compare to them. I was always intensely fond of Rose Tyler. I respected Martha Jones. I absolutely loved Donna Noble. I thought Rory Williams was a delight and Amy Pond brilliant. And then, with the departure of the Ponds, I fell in love with a new companion: Clara “Oswin” Oswald. Clara is short in stature, but has an amazing spirit and spunk about her. She’s always inquisitive and though occasionally needs saving, is really quick-witted and able to save herself from perilous situations.

But why I am most thankful for Clara is because of her relationship with Eleven. The Time Lord cares deeply about Clara, and she him, but their relationship doesn’t stop there: Eleven trusts Clara intensely. He values her as a person and companion. When she cries, he doesn’t brush her off but asks why she is upset (see: “The Day of the Doctor”). She isn’t valuable because of what she can do; Clara is valuable because of WHO she is.

And I absolutely love her.

3. Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation)

Leslie Knope always seems to make it onto every list of mine that is good. This, of course, is because she is amazing and always has been. But this season of Parks and Recreation made me realize why I am thankful for a character like Leslie on television. The woman hasn’t had the easiest year – she was voted out of city council and is losing her best friend Ann and boyfriend Chris once they move to Ann Arbor soon. One personality trait of Leslie’s has always stood out to me above all others: resilience. Even in the face of adversity, Leslie does not back down. She is strong, kind, caring, and thoughtful. But above all, she is determined. She will not let a project go unfinished or an item on an agenda unmet. And she works as hard as she does not because she knows others will appreciate her. Leslie could truly stop caring about everyone and everything in Pawnee and it would be understandable. THEY voted her out, after all.

But that’s not who Leslie is as a person. She fights for others not so that she will gain their appreciation or respect in return, but because she knows it is RIGHT. I love Leslie because she messes up time and time again, but she always acknowledges her error. Moreover, those shortcomings never prevent her from continuing to reach her potential. And though she was voted out of city council, this is merely a small bump in the road for Leslie. I cannot wait to see what she accomplishes next.

2. Syndey Roberts, Zach Cropper, Andrew Keanelly, and Lauren Slotsky (The Crazy Ones)

I absolutely adore Robin Williams’ portrayal of Simon Roberts in the new hit comedy series The Crazy Ones. But the silver medal for thankfulness on this list is bestowed upon the rest of the advertising firm’s creative team: Sydney, Zach, Andrew, and Lauren. I’ve lumped these characters together because I genuinely CANNOT select which of them I adore more. Sydney is the typical type-A personality: she’s strong-willed and driven and by-the-book. But she’s also vulnerable and unsure of herself. Her father is respected and beloved, and I think that Sydney is constantly searching for perfection in her work because she’s afraid she’ll never measure up to the success that he was if she doesn’t. Zach is a charmer. He’s suave and good-looking and Simon’s right-hand man. I love when the two have stories together because you can tell that Zach isn’t a one-dimensional womanizer: he actually cares about his job and the people in it. Andrew is endearing in  his wit, sarcasm, and dorkiness. He’s sweet and talented, too. And then there is Lauren, who is kind of a wildcard. She’s rather unsuspecting, but is hilariously dark and slightly twisted in her sense of humor and antics.

Together, this team provides such a solid ensemble in The Crazy Ones that I genuinely don’t know which of the team is my favorite. What I love, too, about this series is that everyone on the show looks out for the interests of the others. They may tease and taunt, but at the end of the day they’ll pretend to be a snow globe for you and that’s more than enough to land them all on this list.

1. Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills (Sleepy Hollow)

It’s no surprise to anyone who follows me on Twitter that my new fall television obsession is FOX’s unanticipated hit Sleepy Hollow. I watched the pilot because I was skeptical and desperate in light of the cancellation of Smash (RIP #SmashBash) for a new “hate-watch” television series. What I was surprised to discover, of course, was an admittedly bonkers but intensely gripping, sassy, and scary little hit. Sleepy Hollow does a lot of things well. It manages to expertly navigate the tightrope that balances humor with heart and horror and sass. The series dives headfirst into insane plots and monsters, but it is unapologetic in doing so.

And it has the best male and female leads of this year in Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills. I contemplated separating these two characters on the list, but I believe that they deserve to share the number one spot because of how exceptionally well they function together as a pair. Ichabod is sassy, tall, and British. Abbie is logical and strong, but also emotional. She’s an amazingly resilient character. She has suffered tragedy and loss and though she mourns and grieves and breaks down, she continues to be the pillar of strength for those around her. Ichabod needs Abbie and she needs him. They have amazing chemistry together when they banter and Ichabod attempts to understand technology or 21st century life, but beyond that, their friendship and devotion to one another shines through.

I am thankful that Abbie Mills, a strong and self-sufficient female character, is portrayed on television week after week. And I am thankful that Ichabod exists because he is layered and flawed but so protective and gentlemanly and heroic (and pretty). Together, the pair is unstoppable, even amidst an upcoming apocalypse.

That’s MY list but what about you, dear readers? Which television characters are you  most thankful for this year? Hit up the comments below or tweet me with your thoughts and feelings. Have an amazing day, friends. And HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


Post a Comment