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March 23, 2015

Return of the Top Ten: TV Edition!

-- Identifying the best of TV's best, according to Blogger's worst

TV is fantastic.

My blog ideas are not.

Lacking creativity, yet seeking to record the ranks of the recently Netflixed, a familiar idea comes to mind: the ever reliable Top Ten List!  I combed TV shows from every era of my life in search of the finest of the fine, and these are they: my favorite ten characters of all-time.  Criticize, applaud, skim -- whatever route you take, please enjoy.

A note on the rules: apart from a couple of critical exceptions, only one character per show is allowed on this list.  Sorry George. 

For previous Top-10 Installments: 
Top 10 Video Games
Top 5 Video Game Annihilations
Top Dunk of all-time

10. Liz Lemon

Had I known then what I know now -- that Tina Fey is a goddess of humor; that her TV-baby 30 Rock would crack my top comedies; that 40-year olds can indeed be babes -- I wouldn't have just waved like a doofus at the jumbotron when Tina Fey was found in the crowd.  No, I would've walked all levels of the stadium, keying on sections fraught with laughter until I tracked down the Funny Girl That Wasn't Fat and shared my feelings with her.

"Hey Tina, guess what?  I'm a Yankees fan too!"

I'm not really;11.  Although this is one of my favorite baseball memories. I don't have a favorite pro baseball team but I'd say anything to strike up conversation with the person who brought Liz Lemon into the world.  For it was Liz Lemon who once chugged a pizza, Liz Lemon who mistook a 7-year old for her midget boyfriend, Liz Lemon who first made bi-curious footwear a style to be admired.

It had been cold and boring that night in New Yankee stadium.  Announcers praised the fans who withstood the rain, Nathan looked for me on TV, while the men in pinstripes managed a sleepy five hits.  According to the post-game write up, not a single Yankee even passed first base that night.  Despite being the closest I may ever come to meeting someone on this list, sadly neither did I.

9. George Oscar Bluth (GOB)

The points of interest surrounding the life of the Bluth firstborn are numerous.  Consider: GOB drove a segway, lived on a yacht, owned a puppet named Franklin, dated a Mexican soap opera star, invented the Mr. Bananagrabber cartoon, married a person who trained seals for work, hired strippers to increase his friend count and ran the family company despite sporting a business skill rating of zero.  Yet even if we were to dismiss all his priors there remain two facts that demand GOB be included on this list.

Fact 1 - He was a professional ... turned disgraced ... turned wanna-be magician.

Fact 2 - He goes by GOB(!), an awesome name of its own accord made even more awesome due to its composition – George plus Oscar – and its misleading spelling, which often resulted in botched pronunciations (the name should be pronounced like the unlucky Bible fellow Job, is often mistaken as gob or job).

I’m not sure what else to add here.  Every time GOB accidentally shot pennies from his sleeves I laughed.  His, ‘I’ve made a huge mistake’ face is money.  The slow reversal on the segway is how I wish to stage all my exits. You may be a sad-sack magi Gob, but take pride, for at least you've made this final countdown.

8. JD and Turk

Call it a rules violation if you must, but these two were always a package product.  On their own they held some value -- JD rocked the hairmet and you can't beat the name Turkleton22.  True his last name is technically just Turk, but I always enjoyed hearing Turkleton more. -- but like Stockton and Malone, it was the combination that made these two so very great.  I daresay comical bromance has never been done finer on TV, though Troy and Abed did offer a commendable three-year effort.

This Hall of Fame kinship became manifest when Turk snuck JD along for his honeymoon and was confirmed over and over as the duo's finer moments were revealed: there was the sharing of a bed, 'Find the Saltine', this dog, some above-average nicknaming, an accidental groping, hospital hide and seek, plus a moped gang that I tried my best to recreate via bicycle on the paths of the quad.

Remember as well, dear reader, that without JD and Turk we never would have known the World's Most Giant Doctor, or his second cousin, Multi-ethnic Siamese Doctor.  And just how many kids did JD save from smothering?  To these gentleman we all owe thanks, plus a spot on this list.

7. Serena Freaking Van Der Woodsen

The timeline of my TV girlfriends is presented for reader consideration:

Age 11 - 14  --  Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Age 15 - 19  --  Rachel Green
Age 19 - 22  -- (What's TV?)
Age 23 - 26  --  Sarah Walker
Age 26 - 29  --  Hanna Marin
Age 29 ...      --  Serena van der Woodsen

Believe it or not, her voice was the first thing I noticed about SVDW;  I couldn't decide if I hated the marbles-in-the-mouth twang or loved it.  Time flew by, or maybe it was just episodes that flew by, and next thing I knew I had become a convert to the accent and more.  SVDW was a terrific character: flawed and fiery, a druggy at times and a do-gooder at others.  She was a sucker for nearly any moving male,33.  Oh, to have lived in New York during her reign!    dabbled in modeling and jail time, and boy could that girl do stuff with her hair.  And did I mention the two seasons of school uniforms?  What a world.  I love TV.

For the sake of manliness I'd like to say that minus SVDW the Gossip Girl experience would've been a torturous marital requirement, but who am I kidding, I love anything Josh Schwartz pumps out.  SVDW just made it that much better.44.  True or false: it helped SVDW's ranking that her last name reminded me of Kyle Van Noy?  True.  Obviously.   XOXO, forever.

6. Ross Gellar

Ross and I share some similarities.

Ross is a professor.  I wish I were a professor.
Ross loved Rachel Green.  I loved Rachel Green.
Ross got a couch stuck in a stairwell.  I got a couch stuck in a doorway.55.  It only took 20 minutes of Devon Smith performing hanging power kicks to get the couch to tear through the frame.
Ross turned his GFs into lesbians.  I turned my GFs into missionaries.
Ross never really liked Phoebe.  I never really liked Phoebe.
Ross had big hair.  I had big hair.
Ross started an amateur band in college.  I started an amateur podcast in college.

Ross is basically the more successful version of me.  Sign me up for his class any day.

5. Morgan Grimes

He who was awoken by a slice of pizza.  Performer of the horizontal hug. Indiana Jones purist. Original Greenshirt.  Possibly raised by circus folk. Loyal comrade in all scenarios.  Codename: Michael Carmichael.  Spy technique: The Magnet.  Prom date: a pillow.  Thunderdome participant. Was not the worst she ever had.  Son of Bolonia.  Vlogger.  Gamekeeper of the urinal cakes.  Black Friday vet.  Originator of the verbal vs bubble dating theory.  Takes grape soda on the rocks.  Master chief of Master Chief.  One-time owner of the Delorean.  One-time doppelganger.  Benihana trainee. Half a sandworm.  Follicle evolutionary.  Not just for the ladies anymore. He who conquered the Mystery Crisper.

Morgan Guillermo Grimes.  Memorize it. 

4. Jerry Seinfeld

It's sad but true: of the superstar cast populating the Seinfeld world, George is who I am but Jerry is who I wish I were.  You see while Kramer is funny because he's insane, and George is funny because he's not human and Elaine is funny because she's different than the other three, Jerry is funny just because he's funny.  His voice, vocab, hair, mannerisms, apartment, parents, sneakers, thought process, bits, girlfriends, job, food, clothes ... it's all funny.

I love the entire Seinfeld crew, from Jay Peterman to Jackie Chiles, but I could spend hours watching a show just about Jerry, walking around New York solo, working through jokes in his head, breaking even everywhere he went, identifying the peculiarities of his surroundings all while never encountering another character I really care about. Wait a minute ... I do watch a show like that!

3. Jack Donaghy

And here we have the wordsmith.  TV-land is filled with memorable quotes and great quote givers, but in Jack Donaghy we see the LeBron of the craft. My two favorite Jack quotes?  I’m glad you asked.

Jack had other qualities vaulting him up this list of course -- a penchant for professionalism, prime membership in the capitalism religion --  but his constant Obi-Wan presence in Liz Lemon's life was actually his most memorable trait.  In lieu of taking the ‘will they/won’t they’ romantic route, 30 Rock made their living off of Jack and Liz’s mentor-mentee back and forth.  Lemon brought the problems, Jack inevitably brought the solutions and life never went stale.  In truth Jack was a mentor to Lemon and viewer alike, for did Jack not teach us all the art of negotiation, the tricks to bury your rival, the steps to corporate success?

In your name Mr. Donaghy, do we attempt all our reaganings.

2. Buffy Summers

Long before a random BYU grad made vampires cool, before Kristen Stewart proved greater than Christian Stewart and before making 3 books into 4 movies was a thing, there was Buffy.  And I loved her.  So much.  To any parents out there who worry about their son becoming gay, forget about strategically placing Victoria Secret catalogs throughout the house and just have the kid dial up this show.  To watch Buffy manhandle demons on a weekly basis is to fast track the hormones in the female direction.  Use this knowledge with caution.

While it's true Buffy monopolized all the crushes my 12-year-old body could muster, even sans looks there was greatness to this character.  A fast-talking, ball-busting, high schooler who could both take and deliver a beating?  An expert in weapons and comedy alike?  A soul so pure she could return a vampire to humanity just by hooking up?

Random Buffy factoid #1: I once had an EQ president who had the same face as a demon from the third season of Buffy.  This made for consistently disarming Sunday interaction.

Random Buffy factoid #2: Are you aware that there exists Buffy academia? The PhD dreams are restored!

1. Seth Cohen

If you've made it this far you've realized I’m not equipped to detail what makes great TV, or great TV characters for that matter.  I lack the education, I’m not Andy Greenwald, my favorite TV show ranks 534 on IMDB for crying out loud (and that’s without counting Survivor).  I know a couple things though; I know relationships are what ultimately drive a story to the Golden Globes or (gulp) the WB.

And Seth Cohen,66.  I would have pushed Jackie with full force towards naming our first son Cohen, but alas, this bread-loving nephew claimed it first. Fear not, through 7 years he does the name justice.  bless his soul, was my favorite part of my favorite TV relationship.

Seth and his ex-con, poolhouse roomate Ryan … this was TV’s best pair of besties.  Theirs was not bromance comical, like JD and Turk, nor bromance dramatic, like say Holmes and Watson.  These were just two guys who happened to cross paths at the exact moment that combining forces saved each other from never-ending misery.  Such tropes are the norm for TV, but surely mine wasn't the only heart that broke when Cohen decided to sail into the ocean when he thought he’d lost his best friend to adulthood at the end of Season 1?77.  Oh, mine was the only heart that broke? Well crap. 

Keep in mind Seth had greatness beyond his primary running mate.  He made magic with Summer as well, with his parents too and most naturally among his peers, the elderly. As a fan of Klosterman, Folds and Batman – “Hey Cohen, guess what?” – the chap certainly had solo skill worth mimicking, not to mention he's the funniest character on this list and have you seen the names on this list?

One more thing about Cohen: he was the original chic nerd; the person who buried Urkel and Screech as our prototype for lovable losers and ushered the Chuck’s and Leonard’s into the world, guys who were funny and weak AND could get the girl. Suddenly we all had a chance.  For Cohen it required turning down his shot at true love (working with George Lucas) to get truer love (being with Summer) and I guess that teamed with all his other acts won my love somewhere in the process. For years they called him Death Breath Seth, but believe me he was anything but.

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