We all know, and can’t get enough of, Jack Bauer, Tony Soprano, Liz Lemon, Walter White, and other icons of television’s new Golden Age.
What about the other characters on those shows, the ones who make everything better, funnier, more entertaining?
The following 11 characters do just that. They’re not lavished with the attention given to the main characters, but they deserve credit for making today’s TV as mesmerizing as it is.
This list is by no means complete given the crush of stellar shows created over the past 20-plus years, so feel free to add your choices in the comments section.
Mickey Donovan, “Ray Donovan”
It’s not a stretch to say Jon Voight’s conservative politics cost him an Emmy or three for his work on this Showtime series.
How could his turn as Ray’s irredeemable fah-ther not have netted him endless Emmy nominations, if not a few outright wins?
That’s a theft even Ray Donovan couldn’t solve, apparently.
Voight’s Mickey is a singular delight, a crook whose biggest con is pretending he cares more about family than himself. It’s always about Mickey, something his friends and family learn as the show progressed.
Still, no one could charm quite like this ex-con. As played by Voight, Mickey turns ordinary moments into the stuff of TV legends. He’s seductive and silly, bubbling with a new get rich quick scheme every other episode.
The Oscar-winner’s body of work speaks for itself, but his “Ray Donovan” performance could be his finest achievement.
Boyd Crowder, “Justified”
Every law and order story needs a villain, but they often let their actions speak for them.
Not Boyd Crowder. Heck, if you listen to him long enough you might just join his gang or be his getaway driver. Walton Goggins’ sociopath is that persuasive, powered by a wit that’s always a few paces ahead of Johnny Law.
Raylan Givens begged to differ, of course.
Boyd’s skirmishes with star Timothy Olyphant gave the show its crooked heart. We always rooted for Raylan to prevail, but a small part of us hoped Boyd would wriggle free in the end.
Teddy, “Bob’s Burgers”
He’s the poorly shaven soul who wolfs down a burger a day at the eponymous restaurant. In between bites, he’s a capable handyman, but that’s where his skill set abruptly ends.
In short, Teddy’s a mess, but a lovable one you can’t help rooting for on the long-running sitcom.
“Bob’s Burgers” creatively limped into its current season, no. 11, but the show picks up every time Teddy graces the screen.
Gob Bluth, “Arrested Development”
The celebrated sitcom stuck around too long thanks to a Netflix-powered extension. Still, those first three seasons proved magical, especially when failed prestidigitator George Oscar “Gob” Bluth dropped in.
Will Arnett’s deeper than Johnny Cash on a bender voice, paired with that idiotic grin, made Gob the best character in a show teeming with outsized figures. David Cross’ is-he-or-isn’t-he shtick proved hilarious, but Gob’s incessant plotting trumped all the Bluths.
Gemma Teller Morrow, “Sons of Anarchy”
You had to be tough, really tough, to survive seven seasons on this brutal FX series. Katey Sagal’s Gemma qualified, and then some.
The brawling matriarch made life interesting for Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) and everyone else in the motorcycle club. Gemma loved as hard as any of them and had the emotional scars to prove it. She also protected her brood with a fury that took our breath away.
Eleven, “Stranger Things”
Some shows sock the zeitgeist square in the jaw. This Netflix series did just that with its lovable young cast, ‘80s vibe, and patient creature reveal. Young Millie Bobby Brown tied it all together as Eleven, the nearly bald girl who might just save the town … and beyond.
That’s plenty of weight to place on an unknown child actor, but Brown never buckled. Eleven’s charming bond with Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and a budding father/daughter subplot with Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) made her an indelible Netflix presence.
Leon Black, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
You may start laughing at J.B. Smoove before he opens his mouth on the HBO series. That’s the kind of comic energy Smoove first brought to the show when his Leon Black character joined the series in season 6.
Leon makes Larry David’s blunt anti-hero look polite by comparison. Leon lacks any kind of filter – his critiques flow without a thought to how they may land.
He’s not spouting anti-P.C. bromides, just unvarnished truths according to Leon. That kind of unhinged character needs a master’s touch to pull off, and Smoove is up to the task.
Jack Donaghy, “30 Rock”
Alec Baldwin’s many off-screen missteps should have gotten him canceled from Hollywood years ago. Still, he’s a considerable talent who can shift from comedy to gritty drama like few of his peers.
His Jack Donaghy character on Tina Fey’s NBC sitcom offers a prime example of the star at his best. Sure, “30 Rock” used Jack’s conservatism to mock the right, but Baldwin had so much fun in the role it felt like the joke was on the writers, not the character.
The same proved true 30-odd years ago when “Family Ties” introduced us to a young Alex P. Keaton.
It helped that early “30 Rock” episodes similarly teased liberal sensibilities, an even-handed approach no network show would attempt today.
John Short, “Life in Pieces”
The sly CBS comedy lasted four seasons, all under the massive shadow of ABC’s “Modern Family.” “Pieces” deserved a better fate, if only for its superlative cast.
We could praise Zoe Lister-Jones, who played the family’s hard-edged Jen, or perennial stand-out Dianne Wiest, a Woody Allen regular comfortable with comedy.
What about James Brolin’s puzzled patriarch? The handsome star forged a career from playing straight, sturdy leaning man types. Who knew he could also deliver a sozzled ex-pilot trying to keep tabs of his brood?
Brolin’s John stole so many moments it’s hard to tally them all. If you doubt his comic chops, try watching his experiment with puppetry, yielding the ghastliest dummy in recent memory … Cheeto.
Phil Dunphy, “Modern Family”
Like “Life in Pieces,” this Emmy winner boasted a killer cast that makes selecting just one supporting superstar a chore.
Nah. It’s Ty Burrell in a walk.
The chatty real estate salesman could crush us by sucking up to his father-in-law (Ed O’Neill) or pretending he’s the next great stand-up.
He hit his stride when flirting with his on-screen wife, Claire (Julie Bowen), especially when the couple attempted some role-playing romance. Burrell’s bumbling attempts at seduction gave the show its funniest moments.
Daryl Dixon, “The Walking Dead”
It’s not Norman Reedus’ fault the zombie show won’t die, even after losing its grip on pop culture long ago. “TWD” shuffles on until 2022, but Daryl will team with co-series regular Carol (Melissa McBride) for their own anthology horror yarn.
The franchise cannot be killed. Oh, the irony.
Still, there’s little debate over Daryl’s role in “TWD” lore. His hardscrabble hero, a guy who’s tough to love, but impossible to kill, gave the series its swagger.
Daryl’s ill-tempered brother Merle (Michael Rooker) epitomized how Hollywood too often portrays Southerners in Season One. Daryl quickly shook off his brother’s hate to become a full-bodied character in his wake.
BONUS: Fleabag, “Fleabag”
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s character is the star of the show, not a supporting player, but in every other way she’s like a scene-swiping addition.
The unnamed character, dubbed Fleabag in the credits, is rude, hyper-sexual, and brave in her own weird way. Waller-Bridge, the show’s creative force, wisely ended the series after two short but razor-sharp seasons. Fleabag’s tics may be best consumed in small, scabrous portions.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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