In my mind there are a lot of elements which define a truly entertaining television program; solid concepts that have not been tread over thousands of times before, talented writers who are capable of breathing life into said concepts, a network who believes in what the creators are trying to achieve… The list can go on and on. As far as I’m concerned, the most important factors in a truly entertaining show are enigmatic characters and actors with the capability of bringing them to life. The marriage of character and actor can make or break a story. There is something special about watching a great character develop on T.V. Television has a luxury that film does not; the chance to slow cook a story. In film you have two, perhaps three hours to tell your story, which limits the time needed to develop characters. On television you can take much more time and, when utilized properly, this can add great depth to a story. It is no coincidence that all of my favorite shows feature the bulk of my favorite characters. Programs whose characters engage or amuse me, on some level, are the ones I continually tune into on a weekly basis… until the show is cancelled.
So, for your enjoyment, I have compiled a list of my top-ten favorite male characters on television. Please keep in mind that this is MY list so you may not agree with some of my picks. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you disagree with my picks, you are wrong.
10. Al Bundy
While most good television characters are imbued with great depth and complexity, there are a few who entertain due to a complete lack of those characteristics. Al Bundy is one such character. Perhaps some of my love for Al is derived from Married With Children being a cultural touchstone of my childhood. I would offer, however, that Al is just plain, fucking funny. There is something do be said for the comedic dimwit, and Ed O’Neill simply shines in the role of Alphonse Hercules Bundy. Sure, the entire show is almost always the same dumb sexiest, classist, pooh-pooh jokes over and over again. However, in the hands of lesser actors with weaker grasps of the finer intricacies of comedy, the show certainly would have been more insulting than funny. The cast of Married With Children, and more specifically Ed O’Neill, repeatedly pulled it off. I was tuning in weekly to find out just how they were going to make taking a dump funny, yet again.
9. Albert Rosenfield
From what is quite possibly my favorite television program of all time, comes Albert Rosenfield. In the world of Twin Peaks nearly all of the characters are just a tick on the quirky side and Albert Rosenfield, as portrayed my Miguel Ferrer, is no exception. When special agent Dale Cooper of the FBI is called in to help with the investigation of Laura Palmer in the small town of Twin Peaks, he soon calls on “Albert and his team” for some additional support. As a forensics expert for the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Albert is man who has no doubt been hardened by the things he has seen. He “does not suffer fools gladly” and has a singular, down to business focus. However, as his character develops, we soon come to find that Albert just might have a heart beating under that crisply tailored suit. Unfortunately, Albert’s screen moments are precious few on Twin Peaks, but when he is within range he chews the scenery in a most glorious fashion.
8. Hank Moody
The only reason that Hank Moody, the central character of Showtime’s Californication, isn’t higher up on the list is due to the programs relative newness. David Duchovney really gets the opportunity to showcase his comedic chops in the roll of the creatively blocked, over sexed writer Hank Moody. In previous rolls, Duchovney was able to offer laughs in a more subtle manner. Here, the comedy is certainly more overt. I am always a sucker for the inexplicably lovable, sarcastic asshole and, as far as I am concerned, no one has ever done it quite as well as it is being done here. In addition, it didn’t hurt my opinion of the show when it dawned on me that all of Hanks books share titles with Slayer albums.
7. Gomez Addams
John Astin is without a doubt one of my favorite comedic actors of all time, and when I started this list there was no doubt in my mind that Gomez Addams would have to find his way on to it. John Astin’s work as Gomez Addams was an exercise in subtlety. There was far more to the roll than the corny, “look how strange they are!” jokes. John Astin is one of those actors who can do more for a moment with his eyes than most can do will there whole bodies. My favorite part of any episode of The Addams Family is when Gomez is not even speaking. Watching him react to two other characters speaking to each other is always incredibly entertaining. Aside from the subtle comic moments that Astin creates, I have always enjoyed the boundless passion he expresses for Morticia. Seeing Gomez lose control of himself and begin to ravage Tish is an entertaining and endearing bit of characterization that most shows of the time did not have the guts to portray. As the good-hearted, almost childlike patriarch of The Addams Family, Gomez and Astin carved out an indelible niche in television history.
6. Omar Little
Like quite a few of my favorite programs, I jumped on The Wire bandwagon a bit late. I didn’t start watching it until the last season was airing. The Wire is one of those programs that NPR correspondents constantly gush over, which usually means that the show is too smart for its own good. Many of the people I had talked to about it, complained that the show was too slow - that nothing ever happened. It’s certainly true that The Wire is a slow burn, but it is one of the greatest shows to ever hit the airwaves. It is a great example of how television can use the advantage of taking more time to tell a story. Aside from excellent story-telling, one of the things that make theshow so compelling is excellent characters, and there is no better example of that than Omar Little. Omar is a quintessential bad-ass. As a stick-up man working the West Side in Baltimore, he walks around confidently in his trench coat, brandishing a shot gun and whistling “The Farmer in the Dell.” Much like that bar in Boston, everyone knows his is name. But unlike Norm, Omar will not hesitate to blow your face clean off. On top of that, his quips are far more entertaining than that fat guy at the corner of the bar with the milk-bone underpants. Like all my favorite bad-asses, Omar lives and works by a code. He is a cold-blooded killer, but he only trains his gun on those in the drug trade. He will not put citizens in danger. There is not a single character on The Wire that I don’t love. However, I consistently find myself waiting to see Omar.