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The 10 Greatest TV Characters of 2010

by Bob Sassone, posted Dec 29th 2010 10:00AM
RubiconThere are a lot of characters on television, but there are only a handful that can be considered "great."

They're the ones that add a lot to the show they're on. The characters we can't imagine not existing in their show's universe. The characters that stand out because of that magical combo of good writing and a unique performance by the actor playing the character.

This is a list of the greatest characters from the tube in 2010. They're probably not the only great characters on their shows, but these are the ones that made the most memorable impact.

Note: you will not find Snooki on this list.

Truxton Spangler/Kale Ingram ('Rubicon'). It all starts with the names. Whoever came up with the names "Truxton Spangler" and "Kale Ingram" is probably some sort of genius. At the very least they're thinking outside the box when it comes to TV character names, and kudos to them for doing that.

But actors still have to inhabit those roles, and Michael Cristofer made Spangler the most interesting character of the year. He was weird and quirky and unpredictable, and then turned out to be evil and creepy. But in between all that he was also...good? OK, maybe "good" isn't the right word to use for someone who would bomb an oil tanker and do other evil deeds for decades, but when Spangler ordered a hit man to kill Will and then talked to Will as if nothing happened, it didn't seem weird. You really believed that in his own weird way he actually didn't want to hurt people like Will but just had to, you know?

And Kale (Arliss Howard): We thought he was a bad guy and then started helping Will (well, in his own way). Then we found out he was gay, and it wasn't made into one of those big deals it is sometimes made into on shows. It just made the character more complex.

It's going to be fun to see where these characters go in the second season. Oh, wait...

Human TargetGuerrero ('Human Target'). When we first met Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley), we thought he was going to be the nerdy helper guy on 'Human Target.' Yes, he'd be vital to the team, but he'd be desk-bound. The guy who knew a lot about computers but would shy away from a fight and couldn't be menacing, with that slight build, rumpled clothing and round glasses. But then we found out that he can actually be a cold mother. A guy who wouldn't think twice about crushing your windpipe or shooting you in the back.

He's the geeky enforcer.

The fact that Guerrero is both a killer and the one who provides a lot of the comic relief on the show just makes the character that more interesting, dude.

Moz ('White Collar'). The Neil/Peter duo is one of the great teams on TV right now, but I always get a smile on my face when I see Moz (or Mozzie) come on the screen. In a way, Willie Garson is the MVP of this show. He's one of the those characters that was great on the sidelines, coming in once in a while to help Neil on a case or help him find Kate. But then he started to get involved in all the stories and then actually met Peter and Elizabeth too. That's a balancing act, because sometimes a minor character can get to be unwelcome if he's suddenly in every episode. But Garson makes it work, and the character is minor no more.

Moz was shot in the mid-season finale and he didn't look too good, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Moz is going to be just fine when the show returns in January.

Sherlock Holmes ('Sherlock'). It's obvious that Sherlock Holmes is a terrific character (good job Arthur Conan Doyle!), but how would he play in modern times? Pretty damn well, it turns out, with Benedict Cumberbatch doing a fine mix of the intellectual, the arrogant, and the odd.

John Locke ('Lost'). What else can be said about Terry O'Quinn? In this last season of 'Lost,' O'Quinn somehow found new ways of making sure John Locke remained one of the great characters in TV history. He had to not only play Locke, but he had to play Smokey pretending to be Locke, which surprised all of us. Even in the episodes that didn't quite work you still said to yourself, "wow, O'Quinn is so good, isn't he"? (and yes, it was hard not to include Michael Emerson here. He was great too!).

Mad MenBertram Cooper/Mrs. Blankenship ('Mad Men'). Oh, I could have just put "every person on 'Mad Men' here, because all of the characters are great and so are the actors who play them. But both Cooper and Blankenship were so fantastic when they showed up, even if they didn't show up that much.

We might not see Robert Morse as Cooper again (he left the firm this year) and we definitely won't be seeing Randee Heller as Blankenship again (sob), but what an impression they both left. It was funny seeing Cooper walking around the office without shoes or just sitting on the couch in the background reading a magazine, and the more Blankenship hung around smoking and saying odd things the more we found out about her (she slept with Roger?!?).

These were two fun, instantly-classic characters.

Burn NoticeSam Axe ('Burn Notice'). Any character played by Bruce Campbell is cool by default, and Sam Axe is no exception. He drinks too much beer, has problems with women, and gets Michael and Fiona in trouble sometimes. But he's also very talented and fiercely loyal to his friends.

Sam could have been the cliched sidekick, but Campbell makes him a lot more.

Hank Dalworth ('Terriers'). There's always a realistic scruffiness to the characters Donal Logue plays, characters who have screwed up lives (either in the past or the present), and Hank was no exception.

I say "was" because, like AMC did with 'Rubicon,' FX has decided not to give this show a second season.


Walter Bishop ('Fringe'). John Noble is one of those actors where you say to yourself "hmmmm, that was an interesting acting decision he made there."

Bishop is off-kilter and odd but also smart and emotional. The things that Bishop says and the way he says them to people, you really believe that he's a scientist who was once in a mental institution and happened to steal his son from an alternate dimension.

ChuckGeneral Beckman ('Chuck'). It must be hard to just be a character who says her lines on a screen that the other characters are looking at, but Bonita Friedericy somehow makes the character three dimensional.

It was also fun to see Beckman finally leave her office and actually mingle in the outside world and at the Buy More with Chuck and Casey and the gang. Who knew she had a lower body? We found out a lot more about this woman this past year.

Her first name? Diane.

Who do you think were the greatest TV characters this past year?

[Follow Bob on Twitter and at his web site.]

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Just when we found a show that catered to an intellegent couple who are tired of reality shows, violent shows, cop shows..they go an cancell it! Wtith TVO today and being able to watch one channel and tape another..SO WHAT that it only received 1.4 million viewers..thats alot of diappointed people that will really miss this show. It was well written and kept me riveted each week to see what was happening next. The writers did a great job, as well as the actors. I hope they change their mind. It sure would "make my day"!

July 08 2011 at 6:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

simon - misfits
river song - doctor who
archer - archer
taco - the league
tesla - sanctuary

January 10 2011 at 12:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Cara, the Mord-Sith from Legend of the Seeker. A very complex character who goes throug a lot, and really changes by the end of the season. Played brilliantly by Tabrett Bethell.

January 04 2011 at 10:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i have to say charlie humman from sons of anarchy he plays jax teller, hands down one that is perfectly caste. also from sons, kim coates as tig, he is so beleiveable and he is perfect for his part also.
i also think ian sommerhander form both lost and vampire daries is another one who you cant decide if he is acting or is he really this person

December 30 2010 at 11:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Walter from Fringe definitely but Olivia and Fauxlivia are very worthy mentions from Fringe too.

December 30 2010 at 6:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've only heard of one of those shows and that is Chuck, but I've never watched it. Mostly all I ever watch is CBS, NBC, and PBS.

December 30 2010 at 4:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Raylan Givens from Justified...absolutely great character.

December 30 2010 at 4:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Excellent call on Walter Bishop and John Locke! John Noble and Terry O'Quinn are fabulous actors, two of my favs!!!

December 30 2010 at 4:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Love your list. I would add Detective Dan Stark on the Good Guys as played by Bradley Whitford.

I mourn the loss of both Terriers and Rubicon and understand that the Good Guys' future is also not good.

December 30 2010 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Denise F of Staten Island

G.W. Baily and Tony Dennison from "The Closure" TNT Network. Without these two veterans actors I don't think the show would have survived. Even with great acting and always endearing pressence of Kyra Sedgwick, Miss Sedgwick could not pull the show off without Provenza and Flynn charactures. Also the cast of "Blue Bloods" (Tom Sellecks endeavor), this is solid show with a solid cast. Thanks to Mr. Selleck's keeping the production reins on this show otherwise it would have be cancelled or went to the cable graveyards.

December 30 2010 at 3:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Denise F of Staten Island's comment

You mean "The Closer"

January 04 2011 at 2:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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