Mr. Coogan\'s So-Called Television Column- My Top 25 TV Characters of the last 25 years- Part II

I don”t have to be Bud Bundy explaining everything to Kelly here, do I? If you”re interested in reviewing the gimmick of this column or reviewing numbers 25-13, feel free to … click on over… at your leisure.

In the mean time, I shall resume:

12. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (“WWE RAW” ” USA/Spike TV ” 1993-Present) ” I will readily acknowledge that I am not the wrestling expert that many people here at Inside Pulse are, but what I will say is that I still think the “Austin v. McMahon” storyline runs neck and neck with the initial “N.W.O. v. the World” storyline as the greatest in the history of nationally televised wrestling. It allowed “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (I think his real name is still Steve Williams), the hardcore ass kickin”, beer drinkin”, nasty, unpredictable, yet astonishingly intelligent wrestling character to come out in full force. He wildly entertained WWF/E fans for more than five years, as the industry entered the new “Attitude” era. Forget how influential he was because that”s not necessarily what this list is about. The point is, when he was at the top of his game, he was fun to watch. He wasn”t anyone”s friend, but he hated the same characters the fans hated and when that aspect was combined with the drinking red neck trait, and the “What he could he do next?” quality about him, he greatly contributed to me enjoying the WWF/E so much in the late 1990s.

11. Al Bundy (“Married… with Children” ” Fox ” 1987-97) ” I admit that the “world is against me” gimmick got pretty old with poor Al (Ed O”Neill). As far as I”m concerned, it became painful to watch the show because it was obvious Al was never going to come out of the situation at hand. I suppose it could be said that the same way family sitcoms ended with the problem being resolved and everyone being happy, “Married… ” always had the same, predictable ending: Al losing. Nonetheless, I loved Al so much for two reasons. First, he always had a snappy answer for everyone who had something negative to say to him first. He always reminded Peg (Katey Segal), Marcy Darcy (Amanda Bearse), and the fat women in the shoe store (played by many) that while his life sucked, so did theirs for one reason or another. He was the guy that could always come up with the one-liner right then and there without thinking about it 12 hours too late like many of us do. Also, while it never worked out for Al, there was always a point in an episode that he thought it was going to work out and often was happy and confident. It rarely lasted, but it was always fun to see him chase after happiness, whether it was honest or not.

10. Tobias Beecher (“OZ” ” HBO ” 1997-2003) ” Of the entire ensemble cast on “OZ” Beecher (Lee Tergesen) always captivated me the most. Of all the regulars on the show, he was one of the very few that was not a career criminal, so he had to enter prison not really knowing what he was getting into. Unfortunately, he discovered the harsh realities of prison very quickly and it led him to unhealthy addictions to heroin and sex with other men before breaking down and becoming a completely different person that didn”t seem to care about himself or anyone else. By the end of the series, however, he managed to rehabilitate himself into that same caring, forgiving person that he was before entering prison to begin with. The series didn”t end well for him, but the transformation was very interesting to follow.

9. Robert Barone (“Everybody Loves Raymond” ” CBS ” 1996-Present) ” Of all the characters in this ensemble, Robert (Brad Garrett) annoys me the least and makes me laugh the most and that”s really what it boils down to. I often grow tired of the “Raymond is clearly better than me in everyone”s eyes” shtick, but at the same time he”s often so caring, giving, and sweet, that it”s hard NOT to root for the guy. Of all the 190+ episodes of this show, seeing Robert and Amy finally get married and begin their life together despite all the family meddling was far and away my favorite. It also showcased one of the best traits about Robert: sheer confusion. Just when he thought he couldn”t possibly b e more embarrassed or flabbergasted, it always seems to happen and the looks he gave were simply hilarious. It”s hard to make light of others” misfortunes, but when they”re television characters, it”s a lot easier to do.

8. Seth Cohen (“The O.C.” ” Fox ” 2003-Present) ” The show was supposed to primarily be about Ryan Atwood (Benjamin Mackenzie) and his new life in California”s Orange County after his mom essentially ditched him in a significantly less well-off part of the state. However, something completely different happened: Lovable loser, Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) stole the show and became the “it” character of the show. From the very beginning, he struck a chord with the viewing audience, not only as the teenager without any friends, but as the kid who pined over a girl in high school he probably never would have ever dated if it wasn”t for the “Ryan situation.” Not only did the audience root for him to do well, but his sweet, soft, loving, giving personality also began to shine through making it even harder not to love this kid. Oh yeah… and he”s funny too! Quotes written for him are posted everywhere on the Internet because they”re sharp, relevant, and laugh-out-loud funny. It makes it a lot easier to like a kid when you think he”s funny.

7. Dr. Perry Cox and 6. Dr. John Dorian (J.D.) (“Scrubs” ” NBC ” 2001-Present) ” Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) and J.D. (Zach Braff) have a certain chemistry that can”t be matched by other characters on television today. As much as Dr. Cox gets annoyed by J.D., often calling him female names or yelling at him for the most foolish reasons, they get along quite well because J.D. considers Dr. Cox a solid mentor and a person he can really learn from. Meanwhile, behind his rough, unafraid-to-offend exterior, Dr. Cox appreciates J.D. and what he has to offer just as much as he appreciates what he brings to the table as an experienced doctor. It”s always fun to see the two characters learn from each other and to see their relationship grow ever so slightly. It”s even better when J.D. has his dopey fantasies and Dr. Cox is putting someone down in his quick talking ways.

5. Kelly Taylor (“Beverly Hills, 90210″ ” Fox ” 1990-2000) ” If this poor woman (Jennie Garth) were alive in real life, she”d probably be locked up in an institution after all she went through between 1990 and 2000. She became addicted to diet pills and cocaine, years apart. She dated heroin, cocaine, and gambling addicts (and mind you, they were three different guys). She was raped, shot (which led to amnesia), burned alive in a house fire, and kidnapped in a bizarre Single, White Female type storyline. Her best friend”s boyfriend cheated with her and when that same best friend”s brother was dating her, he cheated on her with someone who was slightly psychotic. Let”s see… what else? Oh yeah, she briefly joined a cult, had a miscarriage and was told her reproductive system wasn”t in the best of shape and had a washed-up model of a mother that was about as stable as a water bed after I plop my fat ass on it. She”s one of the top characters of the last 25 years because I can”t imagine anyone who endured as much as she did and still manage to end the decade with a smile on her face… and dating one of the addicts from her past, despite the fact he left town for several years. Seriously, I implore you to tell me what television character went through more in a ten year period. This is when television can truly be marvelous. Only in television could this much happen to one woman in such a short period of time. Thank you Aaron Spelling!

4. Homer Simpson (“The Simpsons” ” Fox ” 1989-Present) ” Homer (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) is simply the hilarious, lovable, wonderfully lazy D”OHpe for the last decade. The show”s writers made the mistake of focusing many of the important storylines on the very quotable son Bart for the first few years of the show. It was a lot easier to sell t-shirts to kids with Bart saying “Don”t have a cow man!” than Homer choking the poor kid. However, thankfully, the writers decided to focus more on Homer and the ridiculously funny, yet puzzling stories that better suited the adults, both on the show and those watching. Once that happened, Homer began to shine and become the star of the show. Personally, I still find it hilarious that Homer ever won a Grammy Award. It”s that kind of zaniness that makes him one of the best characters in the last two-and-a-half decades.

3. Alan Shore (“The Practice” ” ABC ” 1997-2004, “Boston Legal” ” ABC ” 2004- ) ” OK… so, we”ve only seen Alan Shore (James Spader) for one season on “The Practice.” However, that was one hell of a season and essentially brought the series back from the dead before ABC decided to cancel it in favor of an Alan Shore spin-off. The guy was simply mesmerizing though. He was another character that almost played the “Robin Hood” role in that he was very willing to steal from the rich or commit crimes against the rich in order for the protect himself or his friends, or the clients he felt sorry for and wanted to help. To put it more simply, he did what he want when he wanted and didn”t care who he hurt in the process, unless it was someone he actually did care about. Again, I”ll point to the fact that the character was blatantly unpredictable and it became evident that the audience wouldn”t be able to figure out what direction he was going in. And in addition to this being true, he also managed to always remain the epitome of composed and amazingly unflappable no matter what kind of potentially difficult situation he was in. The bottom line is I loved watching this guy work and I”m looking forward to him working some more on the series essentially designed for him, “Boston Legal.”

2. Jackie Harris and 1. Dan Connor (“Roseanne” ” ABC ” 1988-97) ”
And here they are, my top two characters of the last 25 years. I”ve left the matriarch of the show, Roseanne out of my list on purpose. Yes, she had a big hand in creating the series and in the creative direction it went, but the bottom line to me is that she was often cold, callus, and simply annoying. Yes, that”s the way she operated, but that doesn”t mean she was an outstanding character. Instead, I found her on-screen husband Dan (John Goodman) and sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) to be much more enjoyable to watch.

Looking at Dan first, he was experiencing just about all of the same hardships Roseanne was dealing with on the show. But, Roseanne was mean and rude while trying to be funny and Dan was also funny, but in a way that involved a lot less screaming and many more slick, humorous, and off-the-cuff comments with facial and physical reactions that were priceless. He cared about his family and friends but didn”t feel the need to be in control or yelling unless it was absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile, Jackie was absolutely hilarious primarily because of her physical expressions and speech patterns. Everything was completely overdone, but it all lent to the comedy. It made watching her considerably more enjoyable because seeing her react to certain situations was fun and comically brilliant. Like Dan, she was able to maintain her humor without being forced to belittle other people or scream at them and that made her a lot more pleasant on the eyes (and ears).

“Roseanne” was probably one of the best sitcoms in the last 25 years. It broke new ground in terms of what television families were supposed to be all about and, at least in part, helped redefine what could be funny on television. For that, we can thank Roseanne and the vision of the creative and production teams she worked with over the year. I know I still enjoy watching the show anytime in comes up in syndication. The jokes are still funny and the stories they told are still interesting and relevant to follow despite being off the air for close to a decade.

While all that is true, Roseanne was never a great character because she relied on being mean and yelling. Meanwhile, Dan and Jackie played vital parts in the series, maintained their humor, and continued to develop as interesting people themselves. A lot happened over that time and they managed to stick it out until the end. Well, Dan until he died and Jackie to the end of the show anyway…

THAT”S why I think they”re the top two prime time television characters of the last 25 years. They were real, funny, and considering the situations even had a little bit of that unpredictability I like so much. Roseanne just yelled a lot…

Notable omissions

Yeah, yeah… I know… Chances are, you don”t agree with many of the characters that I put into the top 25 here. Well, I will say that there were some tough decisions and I had to narrow the list down from where I had it previously. However, I did want to pay some sort of tribute to the characters (or groups of characters) that didn”t make my Top 25.

* The Griffins (“Family Guy” ” Fox ” 1999-2002, 2005-) ” Yes, we all know this show is hilarious and the characters all bring something unique to the table, but let”s be honest. This show depends a lot more on the jokes than it does in any sort of character development. Sure, Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa haven”t really “developed” over the years, but I feel like I know them a hell of a lot better than I know the Griffins.

* The “Seinfeld” cast (“Seinfeld” ” NBC ” 1989-98) ” Again, it”s widely accepted that the show was hilarious, but I always found the characters to be wildly self-centered and irritating. Kramer (Michael Richards) is definitely my favorite of the bunch. I will say that much. He seemed to be the least self-centered of the group, but then again look how much he stole from Jerry over the years. It wasn”t pretty.

* The “Friends” cast (“Friends” ” NBC ” 1994-2004) ” I am sure everyone has their favorite “Friends” character or the one the one they most identify with, but I came to two conclusions when thinking about the characters for the show. First, as such a successful ensemble cast, one character really wasn”t meant to stick out over the others. They all had their moments and had their quirks, but they were never designed to overshadow each other. Second, all of them had some sort annoying trait that made them less attractive to watch. Monica (Courteney Cox-Arquette) was too obsessive compulsive for her own good; For someone with a Ph.D, Ross (David Schwimmer) was often really dopey; Sure, Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) was quirky, but that was real irritating at times too; Chandler”s (Matthew Perry) preoccupation with being funny was just a bit too weird sometimes; Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) seemed a little too needy to me; As far as Joey (Matt LeBlanc) goes, I just can”t imagine anyone who”s really that dumb.

* The male triumvirate of 90210 (“Beverly Hills, 90210″ ” Fox ” 1990-2000) ” Brandon (Jason Priestley), Dylan (Luke Perry), and Steve (Ian Ziering) each brought a lot to the table during the run of the show and either caused their fair share of trouble or bailed out those who were in their own trouble. However, through it all, Kelly had been through the most and the others just took a back seat.

* Michael, Amanda and Billy (“Melrose Place” ” Fox ” 1992-99) ” Michael Mancini (Thomas Calabro), Amanda Woodward (Heather Locklear), and to a lesser degree, Billy Campbell (Andrew Shue) really led “Melrose Place” into prominence during their tenures on the show. They all were very emotional people and excelled when the stories were written for them. The audience took them and it was probably these characters that helped keep the show on the air as long as it did. As true as that is, in my opinion, the characters just couldn”t make my Top 25 cut.

* Archie Bunker (“All in the Family” ” CBS ” 1971-79) ” Archie (Carroll O”Connor) barely makes the cut since his show went off the air at the end of the 1978-79 season, but he does have to at least be considered. He was a significant character when considering the history of television characters. Also, he was a lovable, huggable racist guy. That”s something in his favor… I guess…He”s important and most of the show”s , but he just didn”t make my cut.

* Agent Dana Scully and Agent Fox Mulder (“The X-Files” ” Fox ” 1993-2002) ” Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) were definitely deep, interesting characters that always got into their work, whether they believed in extra terrestrial life or not and should definitely be recognized. However, most of their situations revolved more around the individual stories in each episode much like “Law & Order” and “C.S.I.” does. So, the characters didn”t develop as much as they could have and didn”t make me laugh enough to make my list.

And there you go… I”d love some feedback. Hell, if I get enough, I”ll devote an entire column to it. Make sure you click the link at the bottom of the page…

Thanks for reading…

— Coogan