Monday, May 12, 2008

Made for TV: The Small Screen's Preeminent Roles

As of late, television has hardly hit a dry spell, when you consider awe-inspiring shows like Friday Night Lights and Jericho have either met its demise or is in the process of reaching extinction. As luck would have it, television audiences of the twenty-first century have been blessed with a plethora of remarkable characters, some of whom will not be making this list (Dwight Schrute from The Office, Dr. Bailey and The Chief from Grey's Anatomy, and Nancy Botwin from Weeds). The following list is dedicated to the best characters created for modern-day television (apologies to the Tony Sopranos of the small screen: the roles adopted here are for shows that currently manufacture fresh episodes). The envelope, please....

5. How I Met Your Mother's Barney Stinson

"This is gonna be LEG-END-...wait for it...-ARY!"

Everyone has a soft spot in their hearts for Doogie Howser, M.D., but Neil Patrick Harris flipped the script by (1) portraying a coke-head version of himself in Harold and Kumar and (2) playing the ladies' man every guy wants to be, even at the expense of 'suiting up' for the smallest of life's tasks. Barney is the consummate wingman and casanova, even if he does suffer from Peter Pan-syndrome (admit it--you'd attempt to bring back laser tag too, if it were fashionable). Convincing your wife to get a pimp pad like Barney's is as elusive as the search for the Holy Grail, but how kick ass would a Manhattan apartment be, fit with a statue of a stormtrooper guarding the entrance? Barney: the life you lead is every man's fantasy, even if the man portraying you is in fact gay (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Dr. Cameron: Men should grow up.

Dr. House: Yeah. And dogs should stop licking themselves. It's not gonna happen.

House's persona brings to light the age-old question: would you rather have a doctor with impeccable bedside manner (sans the know-how) or a physician who always gets things right, even if it means berating you Shakespearean-style? House is a character whose brusque facade betrays his emotions; there isn't an episode in the series where you are not left riveted and appalled, and it has everything to do with Hugh Lawrie's outstanding portrayal of the doc whose caustic wit keeps you coming back for more.

3. LOST's Benjamin Linus

"Karl. Now if you're gonna sleep with my daughter, I insist you call me Ben."

I'm just going to go out there and say it: Benjamin Linus is the best villain created for a television series. Ever. And with LOST's most recent turn of events, his actions force you to sympathize with his cause to keep the island safe. You questioned his motives as Henry Gale and by season three, Benjamin reared his ugly head as the villain above which all lesser villains cower in fear.

2. Entourage's Ari Gold

"Let's hug it out, BITCHES."

The immaculate asshole agent. Jeremy Piven compiled several Emmys in the name of Mr. Ari Gold, a character who gives you substantial reason to re-up your subscription to HBO for the autumn season. Conduct a YouTube search on Ari and you'll bust a gut through all the incessant laughter you've just put yourself through. Piven owned the film PCU, but completely comes into his own through all his character does for the sake of Vinny Chase and his hilarious sidekick Lloyd. Here's hoping Medellin didn't pan too badly.

1. Dexter's Dexter Morgan

"Blood. Sometimes it sets my teeth on edge, other times it helps me control the chaos."
I tore through the 24-episode, two-season-long gorefest that was Dexter, all for the sake of the nuances behind the program's title character. What ideals did Harry wish to inculcate on his adopted son? Has Dexter fully lived up to Harry's code of ethics? Is Dex the sex-hungry killer after a piece of Lila or a misunderstood vigilante after Rita's heart? These questions merely scratch the surface regarding television's most complex character. Do yourself a favor and sign up for a subscription to Showtime--it'll be worth your while for the savoring of Dexter's character alone.


Michael said...

Dexter all the way. But in support of Ari:

voodooviking said...

Ari should have been first. He's got the emmys to prove it. He owns the show and can pull off making fun of his Gay and Asian assistant. And no Dwight? Shame.

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