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Big Pink's Top 10 TV Characters of the Last Decade

Dec. 12th, 2009 | 06:06 pm

Noted: I have watched far too much television in the last ten years. They've been a very, very good ten years.

10. Declan Giggs, Brotherhood
The criminally underrated Brotherhood time and again used a massively talented cast to reveal the myriad layers of Rhode Island corruption and crime, from the Irish mobs to the halls of the legislature. Throughout it all, cop and erstwhile friend to boyhood criminal pals, Det. Declan Giggs walked the fine line between hero and loser. Played to hangdog perfection by Ethan Embry, Declan got my sympathy even as he exploded in alcohol-fueled rages. His quest to redeem himself in the eyes of his beloved girlfriend gave a series that defined the notion of 'grey area' one character that I completely wanted to win. (2006-2008)

9. Josh Lyman The West Wing
Something about twitchy Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) made my heart sing. Arch, frustrated, all artifice and all heart, his decision to be kingmaker redeemed a series that I thought had lost its way. If a character can single-handedly save a show, this one is it. (1999-2006)

8. Bubbles, The Wire
Crack addict and informant Bubbles spent five seasons on the verge of getting whacked. At the end of each episode, I said a little prayer for him. I’ve since seen actor Andre Royo in other things, and he’s healthy, buff and, well, easy on the eyes, which makes his transformation into the addled but kind addict close to fearless. When Bubbles came up from his sister's basement, tried the door to finally find it unlocked, I bawled my eyes out. (2002-2008)

7. Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights
She can cut a person to shreds with a polite, "Why, thank you." Tami has in her arsenal deadly weapons such as an arched eyebrow or a well-placed smile tight as a drawn rubber band about to let loose a projectile. Loving and so loved. The Principal, the Coach’s Wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed, Tami (Connie Britton) falls apart and she pulls herself together. Steel magnolia? Not quite. More than that. Better than that. Her dance with Coach Taylor is a thing of beauty. (2006- )

6. The Doctor, Doctor Who (Chris Eccelston)
Props to Eccleston, who played this hoary overbaked character with such vim and zest and vigour that I fucking CHEERED. Loony, inspired, dangerous. Everybody lives, indeed. (2005)

5. Carmela Soprano, The Sopranos
What's not to love and hate about Tony's not-oblivious wife? She reaps what she sows, in spades. I give her a standing O for her manicures alone. Never overplayed by the dynamite Edie Falco, Carmela is downright scary when either cornered or trying to get her way, be it by a priest or a school administrator. Her almost-affair with Furio was one of the most magnificently tense bits of television I've ever seen. (1999-2007)

4. Don Draper, Mad Men
The most enigmatic television character of the last ten years, hands down. Vulnerable at the strangest times, both capable and totally falling apart. As played by Jon Hamm, Draper’s abrupt grasp of his own future at the end of season three is literally breathtaking. The lines, "Close the door. Have a seat." have never sounded so much like a call to battle. (2007- )

3. Seth Bullock, Deadwood
It's hard to decide just who from the fantastic Deadwood deserves special mention: from the spectacularly foul-mouthed Calamity Jane to the hapless, canned-peach-loving Johnny at Al Swearengen's bar, each and every character should have a place on my list. However, the way Timothy Olyphant kept Seth Bullock on an exquisitely slow boil episode after episode propels Deadwood's seething sheriff to the top. (2004-2006)

2. Joan Holloway, Mad Men
Her growth from season one to the end of season three is palpable, but never overdone. As the va-voom office manager, Christina Hendricks's Joan is ruthless, caring, canny, smart. She has glimpses through the glass ceiling above her. She begins the series assuming her sexuality is her power, but between marital setbacks and professional snubs, this is turning to something quite different. I wonder where she'll go next; I love it that I don't know. Can't wait for next season. (2007- )

1. Omar Little, The Wire
As the heated heart of the best show of the decade, Omar Little is unpredictable, unstoppable, nothing like anything you've ever seen on television before. A gay robin hood, cold as stone. When he wraps his torso with a phone book while in prison, knowing that he's about to get knifed, Omar is already planning his next move. He's five steps ahead of you, and probably breathing down your neck at the same time. In a series with a huge and talented cast and plotlines intricately woven throughout an entire city, viewing rewards were often measured in tiny increments: the audience was never spoon-fed pat answers or instant payoffs. Plots sometimes took years to play out. In this milieu, Omar is able to slowly grow on you. On the one hand, Omar, as Michael K. Williams played him, is utterly despicable, but he has a code and he lives by it. When it comes to a showdown with Marlo Stanfield that finds Omar disappearing from a high-rise apartment building, we were as confused as Marlo, if not quite as pissed off. I was on my feet. The clock is always ticking with Omar, but you never know what the countdown is to until it explodes right in your face. A delight from beginning till toe-tagged end. (2002-2008)

Honourable mentions:

Debra Morgan, Dexter
Wild Bill Hickock, Deadwood
Det. Lester Freamon, The Wire
David Brent, The Office (UK)
Sgt. Brad 'Iceman' Colbert, Generation Kill
Lucius Vorenus, Rome
Jemaine, Flight of the Conchords

Go on...tell me what I've missed. Or, better yet, do one of your own.

ETA: And, obviously, it's been awhile since I've html'd. Sorry!

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