Monday, January 9, 2012

The Winner! TNRLM's Favorite TV Characters of the Year: The 2011 Contest Results

Thanks for playing along, everyone. For the third consecutive year, no one identified every single character on the collage, but we do have a winner. As always, I was worried that I made this year's too easy, but it turns out this was the most difficult contest yet. In 2009, we had a winner with 24/25. Last year, we had a photo finish (tie broken by timestamp) with 20/25.

This year's winning entry, submitted by reader Sara, correctly identified 19 of 26 -- the highest total of all the entrants. Sara will be receiving an HD episode of Game of Thrones (if available; individual eps not yet in the iTunes store) or Doctor Who. Congratulations, Sara, on spending as much of your life in front of the boob tube as I do!

Every character was identified by someone, so even though no one ran the table, I feel good that I didn't make it TOO challenging.

All that said, here are your answers. First, the images:

And now, the characters:

1.    Idris (AKA The TARDIS, AKA “Sexy”), Doctor Who. Well, this was the “cheat” I referenced, in that there was an “embodiment” of the TARDIS in only one episode (the sensational “The Doctor’s Wife”), but obviously, the “character” of the TARDIS has been omnipresent in Who. This beautiful, touching, funny, haunting episode was one of the recent season’s highlights, and the personification of the Doctor’s “wife” was played for all it’s worth by the mesmerizing Suranne Jones. I’m not sure what to make of my attraction to a big blue box.

2.    Gavin Q. Baker, The Closer. Mark Pellegrino has been doing fantastic character work on a number of shows for quite a while. He seems to show up for an arc on shows like Dexter, Supernatural, Lost, and Being Human, completely own it, and then move on to the next thing. Here he’s playing a high profile attorney defending Brenda, and doing some of the most interesting work of his career. He’s smart, bitchy, flamboyant and working a completely different rhythm than the rest of the cast, which serves to keep his character, and the characters he’s bouncing off of, strategically off-balance.

3.    John Luther, Luther. Luther is like a British Mickey Spillane protagonist, played with coiled (and uncoiled) intensity by the always riveting Idris Elba. We didn’t have enough Alice in this latest go round for my tastes, but Luther was absorbingly pulpy and always moving, thanks to Elba.

4.    Opie, Sons of Anarchy. Not a good year for Ope. Split with his wife. Felt outside the fracturing club. Had his dad murdered in cold blood. Enacted part of his revenge on the man responsible for that (and the murder of his previous wife!), only to be stopped by his best friend. Ryan Hurst does so much with his physicality under the cap and all the hair, yet we never fail to see exactly what Opie is feeling.

5.    Victoria Grayson, Revenge. Oh, Madeleine Stowe, how I’ve missed you. (though she did show up a few years ago in a little-seen Jeff Goldblum vehicle called Raines that I loved). I was a big fan of her work back in the day (she’s superb in flicks like 12 Monkeys, Last of the Mohicans, and Closet Land), and she’s just as beautiful now as she was then, without looking like she’s been tucked and injected within an inch of her life. Her ice queen Victoria is a major part of the charm of guilty pleasure soap Revenge, so much so that I’m almost rooting against our main character. How can you not love someone who can deliver this line so deliciously: “Every time I smile at you from across the room, or we run into each other at a luncheon, or I welcome you into my home, let that smile be a reminder of just how much I despise you. And every time I hug you, that warmth you feel is my hatred burning through.”

6.    Gary, Alphas. Mr. Nigel Murray was always my favorite squintern on Bones, so I was happy to see Ryan Cartwright cast on Syfy’s new superhero show. The show was so much better than it had a reason to be, given the network and its typical budget issues. All the roles were well-cast (led, of course, by David Strathairn, who seemingly can’t give a bad performance), and Cartwright took what could have been a cliché – an autistic with gifts – and made Gary a real person and valuable member of the team. He established a touching connection to a potentially villainous character, bonded with his peers and made me laugh with and at him throughout. Respect the badge!

7.    Myka Bering, Warehouse 13. Syfy really had a good thing going with their Monday night lineup. Eureka, Warehouse 13, and Alphas all in a row, with each offering their own unique tone. Warehouse 13 was situated schedule-wise, and tone-wise, right in the middle. We could have our share of wacky hijinks to be sure, but we also had some straight down the middle drama we could take seriously. This year, I think the W13 MVP should go to Joanne Kelley’s Myka. She was brought back into the team’s fold after leaving at the end of the season, and deftly balanced her conflicted feelings with the typical artifact-related shenanigans.

8.    Monroe, Grimm. Grimm has turned out to be a more fun than expected guilty pleasure. I didn’t have high hopes based on early reviews, and the leading man certainly isn’t doing the show any favors, with his “Brandon Routh stripped of all acting range” performance. But every time the reformed, zen werewolf (er, “Blutbad”) Monroe shows up, the show crackles to life.

9.    Hardison, Leverage. I included Parker on a previous year’s list because to me, she’s the show’s breakout character. However, Hardison comes a close second. He diverges from the typical “geek” stereotype, and makes hacking, video-gaming and love of all things nerdy just downright cool.

10.    Carrie Mathison, Homeland. My, our Angela Chase has all grown up, hasn’t she? Not only has she grown up, she’s gone off her meds. Homeland was one of the year’s best surprises, a real, adult political thriller anchored by three nuanced and superlative performances (Damien Lewis and Mandy Patinkin being the other two). Danes is sure to be an Emmy nominee, if not the outright winner, and she was fantastic throughout the season, making us feel Carrie’s dogged determination to stop a terrorist attack and her tenuous grip on her sanity. “The Weekend” was one of the year’s best drama episodes (along with “Baelor” from Game of Thrones and one of several from Breaking Bad), and Danes is fantastic in it, just as she was in later episodes where the character necessitated a “showier” performance.

11.    Britta Perry, Community. Gillian Jacobs’ performance this year certainly wasn’t “Britta’d.” What started out on season one as a typical, if abrasively strident, love interest for Jeff has now turned out to be a wholly original creation: the slightly hypocritical do-gooder filtered through the prism of a complete party mop. Love her.

12.    Lincoln Lee, Fringe. Fringe is filled with wonderful characters and actors (particularly the core three), so it takes a lot to get noticed on this show when so much good acting is happening amidst all the sci-fi and multiple universe craziness. But Seth Gabel has turned in remarkable work as all three versions of Lincoln Lee: the hard-charging agent from “over there,” the “what the hell is going on” newbie of “our world,” and the “eyes open but rolling with it” version where Peter is now.

13.    Jackson Brodie, Case Histories. Not many people caught this three part series on Masterpiece, and if you didn’t, you really should make time to seek it out. The always good Jason Isaacs portrayed the central character, a former policeman, now a detective, struggling through a divorce who gets deeply involved in cases that all seem to have more strands and connections to them than is initially suspected. Brodie is by turns soulful and bull-headed, and even though the mysteries are fairly tight, it’s the well-paced character work that keeps you coming back.

14.    Woody the Coroner, Psych. Kurt Fuller is usually cast as an asshole authority figure or bureaucrat (most recently as dickhead angel on Supernatural), so what fun it was to see him playing a slightly demented (and really, really funny) coroner. On most episodes, he’s there to steal a scene or two and give some truly off-kilter line readings or spout non-sequiters, but he’s also been a valuable addition to plots where he’s more centrally involved (like The Hangover riff).

15.    Holder, The Killing. Yes, the writing was bad, and the master plot was just an unearned case of blue balls. And yes, perhaps they destroyed the character with the silly reveals in the last 5 minutes of the season finale. But there’s no denying that Joel Kinnamen was just “killing” it as Detective Holder through much of the season.

16.    Constance, American Horror Story. AHS had to have a very large budget for set design, because Jessica Lange chewed ALL THE SCENERY. In a show that reveled in camp, nobody was better than Lange’s honeydripping, straight outta Tennessee Williams next door neighbor Constance. In every scene with her, you didn’t know whether to cover your mouth in horror, gasp at her politically-incorrect diatribes, or slap your thigh and laugh out loud. Usually, it was all three at once.

17.    Andy Dwyer, Parks & Recreation. Dim, earnest and sweet is hard to pull off appealingly over time (perhaps last done as winningly by Woody Harrelson’s Woody on Cheers), but Chris Pratt has done a fantastic job with P&R’s Andy. The writers made a smart decision going all-in with the April and Andy relationship (his big doofus creates a perfect alchemy with April’s bone-dry cynicism), and “Fancy Party” showcased that perfectly.

18.    Gus Fring, Breaking Bad. It takes quite an actor (and character) to go toe to toe with Bryan Cranston/Walter White, but there’s no doubt Giancarlo Esposito’s Gus Fring was a worthy opponent. A great reminder that stillness can be terrifying, and a master class on how to do a lot with a little.

19.    Mags Bennett, Justified. The Emmy was well-deserved, y’all. Like Gus, another case of a show’s antagonist forcing everyone to up their games.

20.    Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones. If you’ve read the novels, then you know why Tyrion is a fan favorite. If you came to the tale via the HBO series, that shouldn’t change. This is a case of absolutely dead-solid perfect casting (which happened across the board on GoT, luckily) and even though Dinklage’s accent is a little shaky, he truly gets and conveys what the character is all about. Another rare case of the Emmys getting it right.

21.    Pam, True Blood. This season of True Blood was a fucking mess, and one of the few things that kept me tuning in was just waiting for one Pam’s appearances. I mean really, who else could deliver this line: “Holy Shit gentleman, do no tell me you’d put our entire species at risk for a gash in a sundress.” Please don’t ever change, Pam.

22.    Malory Archer, Archer. Picking a favorite Archer character is like asking a parent to choose their preferred child. They are all equally damaged, depraved and funny (the Archer characters. Not your children. Or maybe not. I know nothing of your genetics or parenting skills). So while I could have gone with Kreiger, Lana, Cheryl, Pam, Cryil, Ray or Woodhouse, I opted for Jessica Walter’s Malory, who is every bit the mother as her Lucille Bluth, only with more pixels.

23.    Daryl, Walking Dead. The show hasn’t done a lot to deepen its characters, with the possible exception of Shane, but they have at least made a few strides with Daryl. Some of the rough edges have been sanded off the redneck, crossbow-wielding killing machine, and Norman Reedus has risen to the occasion.

24.    Max, Happy Endings. For some reason, I was late to the Happy Endings party, even though it’s structured the way I like my sitcoms (not about kids, or characters who want kids). But I was glad I caught up, as this show cribs openly from the Friends playbook, and does it with an exceptionally talented cast (they’re even figuring out how to give the ostensible straight man/woman -- and least experienced comic performers, Dave and Alex -- their own idiosyncrasies and funny material). The whole show clicks, but what I like most about Adam Pally’s Max is that, yes, he’s the “gay” character, but they haven’t saddled him with the stereotypically swishy and tired sitcom shtick of a “gay” character. He’s a little dim, a bit slovenly and self-absorbed, and 100% laugh out loud funny.

25.    Wilfred, Wilfred. A possibly imaginary, morally bankrupt canine, realized as a drunk, weed-smoking, unshaven Aussie in a head to toe shaggy dog costume? Of course Wilfred has to be here.

26.    Evil Queen, Once Upon a Time. Once Upon A Time’s ambitions often overshoot its grasp, but they have created an interesting and fascinating dual world that keeps me watching. I wavered between choosing Rumpelstiltskin or The Evil Queen here, but at the end of the day, Lana Parilla is much hotter in campy goth attire than Robert Carlyle. Parilla nails the heartless evil really well; I just wish the writers would give her more comedic edge to play (like another “Mayor” we all know and love from Buffy).

So, that's it kids. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to play along, and if you didn't win this year, just keep watching TV and we'll see ya here again at the end of 2012 for another edition of the contest. Feel free to sound off in the comments about your favorite characters of the year, and whether or not you agree with my choices.