100 Most Memorable Female TV Characters
by Kim Potts, posted Mar 2nd 2011 12:00PM
March is Women's History Month, which makes it the perfect time for our countdown of the 100 best female TV characters in prime-time history.
Don't agree with some of our picks? Then sound off with your own selections in the comments.
100. Sue Sylvester
'Glee' (2009-present) | Played By: Jane Lynch
The enthusiastic manner in which she embraces her role as McKinley High villain alone makes the show worth watching. Sue's motivation in her anti–New Directions plotting is the continued success of her Cheerios, the school's cheerleading squad, but no matter what her reasons, her trademark track suits, brilliantly biting quips, and devotion to sister Jean have made her one of the most compelling (and quotable) characters on TV these days.
99. Daisy Duke
'The Dukes of Hazzard' (1979-85) | Played By: Catherine Bach
Waitress at the Boar's Nest, object of affection for deputy Enos, and as skilled a driver and sharpshooter as either of her male cousins Luke and Bo, Daisy will still always be most associated with the short shorts forever known as Daisy Dukes.
98. Nancy Botwin
'Weeds' (2005-present) | Played By: Mary-Louise Parker
What's a soccer mom to do when her husband unexpectedly dies and leaves her to raise two rambunctious sons on her own? Launch her own drug business, of course. Not content to simply sling weed to her fellow suburbanites, Nancy's business has taken her to some strange, near-death places, two more marriages, another baby and, looming next season, likely jail.
97. Flo Castleberry
'Alice' (1976-85) | Played By: Polly Holliday
The red bouffant-wearing, gum-smacking, man-chasing waitress at Mel's Diner wasn't exactly the best slinger of hash in Phoenix, but she was a fun and sassy, always ready with a flirtatious greeting for the customers, a helping hand for pals Alice and Vera, and a snappy comeback for grumpy Mel, most famously telling her boss to "Kiss my grits!"
96. Dee Reynolds
'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' (2005-present) | Played By: Kaitlin Olson
Though she's as wacky, selfish and ethically ambiguous as the rest of The Gang, "Sweet Dee" is often the butt of their jokes. A lesser female would crumble under such treatment -- which includes constant references to her alleged bird-like appearance and taunts about her failed acting career and mysterious pregnancy -- but Dee simply meets Dennis, Charlie, Mac and Frank's unchivalrous behavior with unladylike, but deserved, reactions of her own.
95. Abby Sciuto
'NCIS' (2003-present) | Played By: Pauley Perrette
Is her goth dress and vast knowledge of all things death-related a contradiction to her upbeat personality and general happiness with her job? Only if you believe in stereotypes. Besides, what's not to love about a woman with a farting toy hippo named Bert?
94. Sam Carter
'Stargate SG-1' (1997-2007) | Played By: Amanda Tapping
She was an astrophysicist and pilot whose efforts helped bring the Stargate program into existence and who actually led the Atlantis adventure for a year, prompting Stargate leader Jack O'Neill to refer to her brain as a national resource.
93. Brenda Walsh
'Beverly Hills, 90210' (1990-2000) | Played By: Shannen Doherty
Whiny, self-obsessed and flighty, Brenda was a teen both envied by real-life teens -- partly because she was surrounded by hunky boyfriend Dylan and equally hunky twin brother Brandon -- but also so hated that she inspired the creation of the "I Hate Brenda" fan newsletter.
92. Chrissy Snow
'Three's Company' (1977-84) | Played By: Suzanne Somers
The quintessential dumb blonde character, Chrissy (real name: Christmas Snow) kicked the stereotype up a notch, dishing out double entrendres and malapropisms on a regular basis, wearing her hair in pigtails and adopting a girlish voice and demeanor. She was also the frequent subject of attention from men, even after they'd heard her laugh, which could only be described as "snorting."
91. Chloe O'Brian
'24' (2001-2010) | Played By: Mary Lynn Rajskub
Other women and other co-workers had come and gone (sometimes in a permanent manner) in Jack Bauer's life, but Chloe was a bright, talented, somewhat antisocial (some fans believed she had Asperger's) CTU analyst and eventual agency head whose expertise and willingness to challenge authority was directly responsible for saving the hero's life on more than one occasion.
90. Pepper Anderson
'Police Woman' (1974-78) | Played By: Angie Dickinson
Hollywood sex symbol Dickinson projected a much less glamorous, grittier image as Pepper, a Los Angeles police detective who often went undercover to solve the most brutal crimes. Pepper was one of primetime's first female drama series stars, and applications by women to police departments across the country reportedly shot up after the show's first season.
89. Miranda Bailey
'Grey's Anatomy' (2005-present) | Played By: Chandra Wilson
Nicknamed "The Nazi" by her Seattle Grace co-workers, Bailey is a blunt leader who, nonetheless, has provided much hand-holding for her fellow medical professionals, too, and has shown her own vulnerability in her rocky relationship with her ex-husband. She has also balked at her nickname, offended that her co-workers focus on her demeanor without acknowledging the emotional toll her tough public persona hides.
88. Lois Wilkerson
'Malcolm in the Middle' (2000-06) | Played By: Jane Kaczmarek
Her sons would have described her as mean and stifling, but mother Lois had learned early in motherhood that being wishy-washy with her kids was only a detriment to their development (and her sanity). And that was a realization that served her particularly well as the only female in a family with five sons, including genius Malcolm and trouble-prone Francis and Reese.
87. Jessica Tate
'Soap' (1977-81) | Played By: Katherine Helmond
The matriarch of the wealthy Tate clan, Jessica had it all, including a closet full of skeletons and a serially cheating husband in Chester. But she also remained blissfully ignorant of some of the realities of life around her (and stuck her head in the sand for others), which allowed her to charge ahead eternally optimistic, even when, in the series finale, she stood in front of a firing squad after being kidnapped.
86. Patty Hewes
'Damages' (2007-present) | Played By: Glenn Close
A power player in a male-dominated world, litigator Patty is willing to go to a lot of ethical and legal far corners to win her cases, including ordering the murder of a dog and of the protégé who she'd developed motherly feelings for. Hey, remember, this isn't a list of the most likable female TV characters, but the most memorable.
'V' (1984-85) | Played By: Jane Badler
The very intense and committed leader of the aliens known as The Visitors escaped Resistance capture several times after the first attack on earth, and despite the efforts of many on Team Resistance, she evaded recapture long enough to launch the Second Invasion of Earth.
84. Suzanne Sugarbaker
'Designing Women' (1986-93) | Played By: Delta Burke
She was a rich, selfish former beauty queen and southern belle, which often led her to butt heads with her far more pragmatic sister Julia. But Suzanne didn't need anyone's help in defending herself from Julia or the outside world, thanks to her feisty personality, her ability to give as good as she got and the fact that she's a pistol-packin' member of the NRA.
83. Sun Kwon
'Lost' (2004-10) | Played By: Yunjin Kim
An heiress who fell in love with her father's employee, Sun became unhappy with her new husband, Jin, as he devoted himself to moving up in the company and the two were unable to conceive a child. She planned to leave Jin, but the two reconciled after the Oceanic plane crash, and the pampered Sun became a physically and emotionally tough survivor who gave birth to their daughter and was reunited with her love briefly, before their tragic demise in a submarine.
82. Sue Ellen Ewing
'Dallas' (1978-91) | Played By: Linda Gray
A beauty queen raised by her mother with the sole intent of marrying a wealthy man like J.R., Sue Ellen put up with years of J.R.'s tomcattin' ways while falling further into her own self-destructive alcoholism. But after finally accepting that J.R. would never change, Sue Ellen eventually emerged as a stronger woman, who got her demons in check, ditched ol' J.R. and moved to London.
81. Jill Munroe
'Charlie's Angels' (1976-81) | Played By: Farrah Fawcett
She was the breakout beauty of the 'Angels' bunch, but Jill was also a tomboy-ish athlete who left behind a police desk job to join Charlie's undercover team of agents. And when even that didn't prove to be exciting or daring enough, she left the Townsend agency (when Fawcett left the show after one season) to become a race car driver.
80. Betty Suarez
'Ugly Betty' (2006-10) | Played By: America Ferrera
Her Mode magazine cohorts liked to make her plain Jane appearance an issue, but confident, informed, hard-working Betty stuck to her guns, and her values, and relied on her skills and intelligence to lead her through the backstabbing, cutthroat environment as the fashion mag.
79. Jaime Sommers
'The Bionic Woman' (1976-78) | Played By: Lindsay Wagner
A former tennis pro and teacher, Jaime's life was saved with the government's bionic body part replacements when she was injured while skydiving with love Steve Austin. Jaime worked for the government to repay the debt, but also remained wedded to the idea of having a life outside the Office of Strategic Science, which she did in future 'Bionic Woman' reunion storylines by becoming a doctor.
78. Willow Rosenberg
'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' (1997-2003) | Played By: Alyson Hannigan
A shy teen with little confidence when she was introduced, Willow begins to gain more self-assurance as she begins to perfect her magical skills. A brief foray to the dark side gave way to a more mature Willow, who understood the real power of her magic and its effects on others.
77. Brenda Leigh Johnson
'The Closer' (2005-present) | Played By: Kyra Sedgwick
She can come off as a sweet Southern woman with a major candy jones, but don't let the exterior fool you. She's also a clever, exacting, patient interrogator and a workaholic, meaning there are few things in her life, including, to his chagrin, husband Fritz, that come between the Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief and solving a case.
76. Morticia Addams
'The Addams Family' (1964-66) | Played By: Carolyn Jones
The cultured, refined matriarch of the Addams clan, Morticia kept her family in order, arranging beautiful vases of flowers (well, the stems; she cut off the roses) for their home, raising flesh-eating plants, keeping hubby Gomez in line with her vampy ways and, like any good mom, making sure her family kept living life the Addams way, no matter how creepy, kooky or altogether ooky that may have seemed to everyone else.