Characters I Loved
I guess I’ve proven again that I just don’t watch TV for the characters, because this year I found fewer standout characters that I really loved (and the ones I did find were kind of secondary, side characters who are not fully fleshed-out). On top of that, most of you have probably not even had the pleasure of seeing them because they’re mostly from shows that people aren’t watching (including one from a show that even I’m not watching!)
Anyway, without further ado, let’s kick things off with a former villain who is now a reluctant ally to the Person of Interest super-team: Root (aka Samantha Groves). Everyone’s raving about Orphan Black‘s award-winner Tatiana Maslany (Go, Canada!), but actress Amy Acker could have pulled off all those character types and more. She has played everything from mousy Southern scientist turned pre-human demigod (on Angel); to doctor and formerly-psychopathic human doll (Dollhouse); to office gal-pal turned evil, enemy super-spy (Alias). Now she displays her versatility on another off-kilter, off-centre quasi-villainess who acts as the unholy arm of the Machine (an apparently omniscient communications super-network). As Root, she’s wonderfully calm, but we know that these are the moments just before the storm (mostly because she keeps telling us) and she’s able to kick butt with deadly accuracy (Two guns!). Her character is interesting but barely-developed and I am fully expecting her role to grow as this season’s story arc picks up.
Another side character who’s been around since the beginning of the series is Peter Florrick, the governor-husband of The Good Wife title character, Alicia Florrick. He has always been supremely self-confident, but it’s been great to see him really stick up for Alicia. He flexes his political muscles despite any potential blowback on himself (and against advice of his counsellors) and, even though he’s had some pretty big stumbles (including time spent in prison), he seems like the perennial winner who you want in your corner. Punching slimy attorney Mike Kresteva was just the cherry on top of Peter’s giant “Don’t mess with me” sundae.
If you watched sci-fi series Defiance, you’ll have seen a lot of stock frontier characters, but two really don’t fit within the post-apocalyptic town of Defiance, and that’s what makes them interesting. Scene-stealer Stahma Tarr, with her pale skin and vampiress’s elegance seemed hard to pin down at first. You knew she had Lady-Macbeth-level ambition, and you knew she was cunningly manipulative. However, as the season went on, she exhibited a vulnerability that seemed to come from being oppressed by her own husband and society. In the end, we learned that she was more conniving and cutthroat than we ever imagined. Dr. Yewell was another pale-skinned female with something to hide. At first we trusted her as a doctor and she seems interested in helping people. Despite (or maybe because of) her hard, sarcastic, almost “urban” bedside manner, she had many of the best lines. Then we found out that she’s got a history with the conspiracy going around and she’s up to no good (or is she?) and she becomes even more interesting. If only Defiance could put some of these icy cool characters to work in serving the main storyline, then the show just might take off!
In the comedy genre, funny side characters are bread and butter. However, the key is to be unique enough to stand out but not so broad as to be ridiculous or extreme. Hopefully, these characters are on their way to achieving that balance. Brooklyn Nine Nine (a new workplace comedy set in a police precinct) is full of funny, interesting characters, but my favourite (sorry, Rosa!) is Boyle. He is a wonderfully nice guy who idolizes lead character Det. Jake Peralta, and dreams of a relationship with fellow detective Rosa Diaz (who is his polar opposite — she’s scary and harder than nails).
Max from Sean Saves the World is another character you might not have seen, but if you did, you’d have noticed him. As the new owner of a struggling web retailer, he comes in with his three-piece suit, pseudo-Nazi moustache, and iron-fisted attitude and lays down the law without guff. Fun, eh? However, we all know that it’s more than totalitarianism that makes for an enjoyable character. While still being the boss from Hell, he has a lot of quirky ideas and opinions and a love-hate relationship with his employees’ lives. Plus the delivery by actor Thomas Lennon is something you’ve got to hear for yourself. Though he’s a two-dimensional caricature who’s unlikely to really grow (though he has been softening his harshness towards Sean), he actually keeps my laughter and my interest going more than the main characters do.
No one bears that burden more than Bert Stephenson, the adopted son (with his second wife) of the husband of the main character on Trophy Wife — a series which I admittedly don’t watch because I don’t care much about the other characters, just Bert. He is a cherubic, eight-year-old Chinese (Represent!) boy who is hilariously unfettered for a kid his age, but not too wise-beyond-his-years either. I wish he could appear on a show I do watch (maybe the Dunphys could adopt him when Trophy Wife gets cancelled.)
Finally, another show you probably don’t watch, Ground Floor, features a romance between Brody, an investment banker, and Jenny, a girl from the maintenance department. However, the rival-in-his-own-mind for Jenny’s affection is Harvard who hilariously tries to sabotage and undermine Brody at every turn. With his naive self-confidence and off-the-mark cleverness, he’s like a comedic villain in a bargain sweater.
Characters I Hated
Occasionally, someone on the “hate” list actually appears opposite someone on my “love” list as part of the same show. On Person of Interest, while I eagerly anticipate scenes with Root, I feel like the dark, dingy air gets let out of my tires when Sameen Shaw comes on the scene. Actress Sarah Shahi is gorgeous, and normally effervescent and full of energy, but as the former US Army assassin, she’s dour and robotic. The show tries to explain it away as some kind of psychological condition that makes her emotionless, but whatever the reason, she’s a total drag to watch. Her sister -in-sombreness is Agent Melinda May from Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. It’s not as if I love any of the characters on that series (which is a bleeding shame, really), but she is the most wet-blankety of the bunch. Yes, we get that she could probably kill a man with the flick of a paperclip, but lighten up, sister! (Now we’re supposed to care about some traumatic incident in her past, or her sneaking/sleeping around with fellow automaton Agent Ward?) Actress Ming Na deserves to have a role with a little more life.
Completing this trio of uninteresting-yet-tough women is Elizabeth Keen, the FBI special agent specifically selected by super-villain Raymond Reddington as his liaison on The Blacklist. Keen’s plastic expressions and unintelligent eyes make me miss Jennifer Garner’s Sydney Bristow so much it hurts. I’m enjoying the series, but everyone on the show (including her boss who basically does nothing) is far more interesting than she is. Her husband, a teacher who is a potential traitor and secret villain, is especially a much more fascinating character. What is it with Hollywood and stolid female agents? Too bad none of them got pointers from Agent Dana Scully on how to keep it smart and interesting.
My next victim is perfectly likeable, except I don’t like her. On Revenge, not only did it seem totally random that French heiress and magazine editor Margaux LeMarchal would choose to make her magazine’s head office (Are people still starting up glossy magazines these days?) in the Hamptons, but how is it that she gets involved in everyone’s life? It’s like she’s being positioned to somehow get in the way of Emily’s plans, despite her absolute ignorance of what is going on. I think she’s superfluous and pointless and they should just toss Margaux out the window and get back to focusing on Emily.
Finally, I hesitate to put this last gal on the list, but I cringe every time she shows up on my TV. Glee has had its share of unpalatable characters, but now they’ve gone and made a mentally-challenged cheerleader into a mean, little biatch. I applaud the creators of the show for not making Becky Jackson a preternaturally-wise little saint either, especially not just because she has Down Syndrome. However, the way she spouts off those mean, hurtful, too-much-slang tirades takes the worst parts of past McKinley High villains and smushes them all together. I also can’t believe that they have excused so much on her behalf — she brought a gun to school! Kudos for all the love for the disenfranchised and unpopular, but it’s time for Becky to go.
Just so we don’t end on a completely negative note, I have now started a list of characters who have reformed. They used to be hated, but now they are a little bit loved. I used to hate Cary Agos from The Good Wife, but now he has actually grown up a bit, embraced his former nemesis (Alicia Florrick) and opened a new firm together. Now they are partners in solidarity against their old firm and they actually make a pretty good team. To represent the Modern Family contingent, little Lily Pritchett-Tucker (the adopted daughter of Cam and Mitch) used to be very annoying, but this season she’s become kind of a funny antidote to her fathers’ histrionics. Some credit goes to the actress, Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, who is herself growing up and doing a much better job at delivering all those zingers and eye-rolls. Way to climb back over to my good side, guys!