Characters I Love
Topping the list of beloved characters this year is one that I am so enamoured with that I was eager to compose this list just so I could put her on top of it. Anna (Downton Abbey) is the epitome of a woman who loves quietly, deeply and genuinely. Ever since she and Bates began their hushed courtship in season one, it seemed as inevitable as a sunrise that they should be together, but then Bates got sent to prison for allegedly murdering his ex-wife, leaving Anna alone outside the bars. One would think that someone as gentle and kind as Anna would have been broken by those events, but in season 3 she exhibited the incredible strength not only to keep Bates’s spirits up but to pursue any and every lead in an effort to exonerate and free her husband. Never a more lovely definition of “stand by your man” could be found.
I don’t know how many people actually watched this show, since its first season came and went in the blink of an eye (and it had such a terrible name), but if you enjoyed Bunheads, you would have gotten to know a group of really interesting female characters: kids learning to dance ballet at a California dance school run by a grouchy-flaky matron and a former cabaret dancer named Michelle. The series, from the creators of Gilmore Girls, has the same kind of rapid-fire dialogue that quickly adds dimension to the characters who speak it. Michelle’s life was turned upside down in the first episode when an admirer whisked her away to a quaint coastal town, married her, then died, leaving her alone in a close-knit community of strangers with her new mother-in-law. Michelle was a wonderful fish-out-of-water, herself pretty messed-up but pulling things together to be a role model and mentor to the young girls at the ballet school. Her demeanour was always no-nonsense, but she never misses the opportunity for a sarcastic quip or clever joke that only she (and often the audience) will get. While practically every character on this series is charming, quirky and fun, Michelle makes a great, off-balanced centre for them all to whirl around.
Misfits is a totally off-the-wall British drama about young-offenders doing community service. The twist is that everyone has some kind of super-power, and with each season things get more and more bizarre in this community. After the gang lost their original jokester character, they replaced him with Rudy: a tall, skinny working-class guy whose ability is to split up into multiples of himself. Rudy is crass, selfish, horny, and totally insensitive, but he’s also funny as hell. He says the most inappropriate things at almost any time, and he’s almost always looking out for himself, especially in the getting laid department. He’s got that look that straddles the line between dorky loser and murderous psycho, but he’s actually a laugh-riot and ends up being kind of likeable. With new characters coming on who are actually kind of bland, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Rudy’s now the heart and soul of this show.
In the first few seasons of Parks and Recreation, I really didn’t like the character of April. She was a sour, grouchy, mean post-teen who seemed to just make things unpleasant by being around (not that she ever wanted to be there). I didn’t understand why everyone (including the show’s protagonist, Leslie Knope) felt that April had potential that she just need to live up to. I didn’t think she was worth a dime. After marrying hapless teddy-bear Andy, the two of them seemed doomed to a life of hopeless irresponsibility. Colour me surprised to find that April’s actually grown up a lot on the show. She seems capable and smart, almost clever (even about things that are not pranks or mean jokes). Even though she still has that eye-rolling demeanour, it’s clear that she’s got some substance and a lot of heart to back it up and that makes her attitude all the more refreshing. All that snarkiness and sarcasm that used to bug me now makes her a fun character to watch. Plus she’s a wonderful balance for the still-super-naive Andy.
Each year my love for Modern Family continues to grow, and I add one member of the great ensemble cast to my “characters I love” list. This year the honour goes to Jay. It was Jay’s year because he’s really growing as he learns to be a stepfather to Manny. It’s wonderful seeing him look after a stepson who could not be any less a chip off of his block. Now his wife Gloria is pregnant as he approaches his golden years and he’s got to learn how to be a new father all over again! I love how this is softening his curmudgeonly personality and bringing out the aw-shucks humour in him. His confidence always seemed to be around his knowing how the world works. Now that’s all changed, and I think we’re in for some fun times with Jay as he fumbles through it all.
I’m really enjoying Happy Endings as the newest replacement for Friends on my TV roster. One character in particular stands out as someone I both love and hate. Max is the slovenly, lazy goof-off that cracks me up every time with his crazy antics (everything from his all-male Madonna cover band, to his unlicensed limousine tour service). He is selfish and insensitive, but he says the most hilarious things. He’s like that friend in a group who you love so you tolerate him, but he can be so frustrating at times and he can really take advantage of the friendship until it pushes you to the breaking point. However, he’s also the heart of the group because everyone cares about him and he seems kind of proud, yet kind of needy. (Only as I write this now did I notice that this paradoxical kind of character is becoming a trend on television. If that’s true, Max is the poster boy for a character like this that I both love and hate.)
Characters I Hate
My Hate list is usually the longer of the two, so this year I’ll try to keep the revulsion to a minimum. I actually think this year wasn’t too bad. There are very few characters that I can’t stand to watch (at least not on shows that I actually still watch). The leader of the pack is definitely Nick, the psychopathic estranged husband of The Good Wife‘s Kalinda Sharma. I have no idea what the point of this character was. At the end of last season when Kalinda was waiting for his arrival with weapon in hand, I thought he was going to be some kind of serious villain. Instead, he’s like a petty thug writ large. He’s always scowling at Cary and Alicia as they try to help him with his bid for a government contract, but it’s like he feels indignant that they might be suspicious of him. He’s like a walking ball of hot tension and he makes you immediately want to leave the room when he arrives. When he had his men beat up Cary just because he thought that he might have something going on with Kalinda, that was so ridiculously villainous yet completely predictable that I had to roll my eyes into the back of my head! (I can’t believe I actually felt sorry for Cary. I used to hate him (see an earlier Love/Hate list) I can’t wait until they dispose of this character and allow us to forget that he ever existed.
A similar character who seems malicious and spiteful for no good reason is Kitty, the cheerleader, on Glee. We get that she’s supposed to be the new Quinn Fabray, but she’s seen us one Quinn and raised us a Santana (at least from before she came out and mellowed out). She’s cruel and mean for no reason (yes, supposedly she’s taking revenge against Marley for stealing her man, but seriously? Giving her an eating disorder and losing the season for the glee club is far beyond the pale). We get it, she’s the queen bee-otch, but still. At least have her do this all for Sue’s dastardly plan, not just to be mean. I realize that without villains, Glee would descend into a rainbow-filled pit of saccharin, but I think they need to give Kitty some dimension (and maybe some allies). Spread the hate around!
Another mean girl that I hated this year was Rebekah, the centuries old prima donna from The Vampire Diaries. I never understood why these “originals” who’ve lived for countless years would bother to get involved with all the teen melodrama on this show. Even regular humans who have lived merely 20 to 30 years grow out of that stuff. Can she really care about flirting with some blonde jock or be eternally spiteful over Elena’s betrayal of her? You’d think she’d have developed more sophisticated schemes and goals for her life now that she’s awake again. She should be queen of the vampires (and I don’t mean “prom queen”, either). I guess that’s the problem with having a show where all the main characters are teenagers. If Rebekah’s any example, becoming a teenage vampire keeps you trapped in that level of immaturity for eternity. Let’s just stake her out of her misery.
Finally, my list of hated characters ends not with a bang but a whimper. Last year, the new series Revenge brought me the top candidate for my Love list in Victoria Grayson. This year takes me from Emily’s nemesis to her paramour, Aiden Mathis. I hate him not because of what he is, but what he isn’t. As Emily’s ally, he was poised to be a thrilling rogue, a Han Solo of the Hamptons. Instead, he isn’t charming, interesting, dangerous, or exciting in any way. He’s super-dull and seems just to be in the way. He and Emilly have no chemistry and I am disappointed that I actually long for the good old days of Emily and Daniel, false as they were. I don’t even feel like he is much of an emotional support for Emily. In a lacklustre season 2, Aiden could have been a great standout character. Maybe he needed a bit more time honing his skills back at the dojo.