Television is constantly filled with memorable characters. Some of these characters are highly likable, such as Charles Ingalls, and some are characters you love to hate, such as Mr. Burns (excellent). Some leave you questioning the government, like Jack Bauer, and others leave you wondering who shot them, like JR Ewing. Then, there are some character who are completely unparalleled. No matter how many times we change the channel, they won’t ever be forgotten.
The following is our list of the top ten television characters of all time.
Cliff Huxtable, The Cosby Show: Dr. Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable was the father we all wanted. Funny, smart, and filled with a youthful playfulness, Bill Cosby fitted this character to a tee. He helped set a new standard for primetime television, catapulted NBC’s Must See TV, and left every child in America wishing they too were one of the Cosby kids.
Al Bundy, Married With Children: On the opposite end of the spectrum sat Al Bundy, the bitter, defeated shoe salesman whose greatest accomplishment in life was his stint as a Polk High football star. Played to absolute perfection by Ed O’Neill, Al Bundy wasn’t the same kind of father as Cliff Huxtable, but he was highly original, adorably pathetic, and incredibly funny. Whoaaaaaaaaaaa Bundy!
Phoebe Buffay, Friends: The quirkiest of the Friends’ characters, Phoebe Buffay was drowning in obscurities: her real-mom-turned-fake-mom committed suicide, she had a twin sister whom she rarely talked to, she grew up on the streets, she sang a song about a smelly cat, and, of course, she gave birth to her brother’s triplets. In a show where the entire cast was strong, Lisa Kudrow made Phoebe Buffay stick out like a loveable, and eccentric, thumb.
Karen Walker, Will and Grace: Megan Mullally obtained a feat similar to Lisa Kudrow’s: she set the bar on a sitcom where everyone was great. Playing Karen Walker, the drunk, sharp-tongued, condescending, hardly working assistant to Grace, Megan Mullally took this show to a new level. The duo of Jack and Karen was unforgettable as was the love/hate relationship Karen and her maid Rosario perpetually shared.
Dr. Perry Cox, Scrubs: Take a dollop of ego, a dash of narcissism, a sprinkle of heart, sauté it in sarcasm and you have Dr. Cox. Played by John C. McGinley, Dr. Cox serves as the mentor of J.D., the main character on Scrubs. He’s cruel, he’s arrogant, and he has a penchant for calling his employees by demeaning names, but, in all fairness, Dr. Cox is hilarious. He also tends to shed his tough exterior and reveal humanity at the most appropriate, and poignant, moments.
Newman, Seinfeld: While Wayne Knight’s portrayal of Newman didn’t do much for the stereotypes attached to postal workers, it did make us laugh. As Jerry Seinfeld’s nemesis, Newman was the sugar on top of an incredible show. Whether he was cooking up hair brained schemes with Kramer or foiling one of Jerry’s endeavors, a scene with Newman was always great. Hello, Newman.
Archie Bunker, All in the Family: Before Archie Bunker came along, the term “lovable bigot” seemed impossibly oxymoronic. But, Carroll O’Connor proved it could exist. A blue-collar man with outspoken views, Archie Bunker was portrayed as being biased, but he was also portrayed as a man whose views were formed by the era in which he was raised and not by an evil heart. Ultimately, as the series went on, Archie Bunker became a more decent person. Filled with audacity ahead of his time, this character changed television forever.
Dr. Tobias Funke, Arrested Development: Arrested Development was filled with oddball characters that all added flavor to the show, but Tobias Funke was particularly appealing. A psychiatrist turned actor who was both an overzealous braggart and swimming in oblivion, Tobias Funke was a man conflicted by a never nude syndrome and a homosexual laden vernacular. All of this worked together to make his character ridiculously funny; when he mirrored the plot of Mrs. Doubtfire by dressing up as Mrs. Featherbottom, he went from ridiculously funny to tear-in-the-eyes hysterical.
Tony Soprano, The Sopranos: I didn’t put him on this list for fear that exclusion would leave me sleeping with the fishes; I simply did it because Tony Soprano was one of the greats. Played by James Gandolfini, Tony Soprano allowed us to see everyone, even mob bosses, have problems. Forced to juggle his personal life, his family, and his penchant for whacking people, Tony Soprano made crime families human and, oddly enough, even likeable.