Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 10: Best New Characters of 2011

10. Lemon Breeland  Hart of Dixie
I almost didn't put Lemon on this list because A) She is on Hart of Dixie and B) It reveals that I have seen Hart of Dixie.  (Hey, I can't help it.  I keep waiting for it to turn into Gilmore Girls.  It hasn't).  In a show where all of the characters are huge annoying stereotypes and the lead is a winy gnat who couldn't be a believable doctor if doing so would actually save a life, Lemon stands out.  Played with an underlying subtlety by Jamie King, Lemon appeared at first to simply the rich southern belle who was engaged to the lovely lawyer that our lead wanted.  But as time went on, we learned a lot about Lemon.  She loves her fiancee but also loves the town's Mayor, was abandoned by her mother at a young age and has since bared the responsibility of helping to raise her sister and being the poster child for the town. She's a young southern Bree Van De Kamp, but with a secret soft side.  And she often can make Hart of Dixie almost bearable to watch.  Almost.

9. Lee Fallon The Big C
A lot of people don't like The Big C, and I suppose I can understand why Kathy's cancer journey doesn't appeal to everyone.  How one deals with illness is extremely personal, and many feel unable to relate to her particular journey.  It's why I'm so incredibly grateful that they introduced Lee this year, to provide a different perspective on being a person with the big C.  Lee was everything Cathy wasn't.  He was a young gay male who believed in a minimalist lifestyle, few attachments and the enjoyment of strong goals and a fine wine.  Typically blissful, he called Cathy on her shit and got angry when the occasion called for it .  Oh, and did I mention he was played by Hugh Dancy?  Yeah, that had a lot to do with why I liked him too.   Lee's death, though incredibly telegraphed, was truly sad to watch and I will miss his character terribly.  He was a great one season friend, and the show will be a little worse without him.

8. Caleb Rivers Pretty Little Liars
It's kind of strange that a year ago, Caleb was not a part of Pretty Little Liars.  But in fact, the town's resident bad boy didn't appear until January of this year, shaking up Hanna Marin's life as well as the show itself.  Prior to Caleb's entrance, PLL was a rarity in being a show for gals that had very few good male characters.  Once Caleb popped up on canvas all of that changed.  A poor foster kid who took money to get close to Hanna before actually falling for her, Caleb represented that sweet angst that made him ultra appealing to the opposite sex, and sent the show runners in a tailspin to recreate that magic with other male characters (Hence the recasting of Jason DiLaurentis).  Played with broody hope by Tyler Blackburn, Caleb and Hanna became THE storyline to watch.  Pretty Little Liars was a better show for having Caleb on their canvas. (For More Caleb, check out today's post by The Angst Report)

7. Carrie Mathison Homeland
As far as characters go, Carrie is a great one.  She's totally committed to her job in a way that forced her to wreck every relationship she has, is driven by both passion and insanity and believes so certainly that she is always right even when she knows that her mental illness means that she may not be.  She's a great manipulator of man, to the point where I'm not sure how often she even believes herself.  The one problem with Carrie is that all of the things that make her a great character can often also make her an unlikeable one.  She's fun to watch, but from time to time you kind of want to slap her across the face.  This is the only reason that she hasn't made it higher on my list when someone that she knows well has.  Being the protagonist gives you more weight to carry and that is her burden as well as blessing.  Still, I'm  still invested in what she may do next, which makes her ripe for this list.

6. Tyrion Laannister Game of Thrones
Confession time.  I've only just started Game of Thrones which is sad as I suspect it may end up doing much better on these lists as I make my way through the season.  Still, in the short time I've been with it there is no doubt in my mind that Tyrion is a fantastic character.  He's accepted his dwarfism and instead of letting it control his life chooses instead to own it.  Peter Dinklage manages to play the role as somehow being the wisest person in the room and yet also the one having the most fun.  There's a reason that Dinklage won the Emmy this year, and I think it is one of those moments where a great actor gets a juicy character and magic simply happens.

5. Rebekah The Vampire Diaries 
The Vampire Diaries does dudes well.  Nearly every male character on the show is filled with layers of angst, a greater meaning that drives them, a love (living or lost) that brings them meaning.  Female characters?  Yeah, not so much.  Caroline's great and the occasional visit from Katherine can be fun, but otherwise the girls on this show are a snooze.  Enter Rebekah, who should have sucked.  She was the temporarily sleeping sister to our main baddie Klaus (the weakest male on the show) who used to hook up with Stefan who we know only has eyes for Elena.  Then she showed up in town and instead of going all fun evil bad ass she joined the cheerleading squad.  Seriously.  But then, somewhere along the way, something changed.  We began to realize the baggage that Rebeka carried...a mother murdered (by her brother, we later found out), a family lost and an immortality devoid of any real connection.  She had everything stolen from her and just wanted a little bit of normalcy.  That's right.  Rebekah made girl angst possible.  While she's currently been neutralized and is ashing away with a stake in her back, I hope we see her again soon to bring some much needed awesomeness to the girls on TVD.

4. Constance Langdon American Horror Story
When I was in high school, I became a little bit obsessed with Blanche Dubois (I was a weird kid), the protagonist of A Streetcar Named Desire, who simply wanted youth, beauty and human connection.  A total liar, I was enthralled with the ways this aging southern blond could manipulate and entice until she finally cracked.  Ten years after first meeting Blanche, Constance Langdon popped up on my television. She's the epitome of the Tennessee Williams belle but with far more strength and determination.  Although she lead a tragic life (dead children, cheating husband, unsuccessful career), Constance refused to let anyone get in her way, sometimes choosing the wrong methods (murder, typically) to come out on top.  Played with brilliance by Jessica Lange, Constance is a character's character, and I have loved watching her steamroll over others week after week.  She will be missed but I have a feeling that the actor may get a little awards show love for making this character so much fun to watch.

3. Nolan Ross Revenge
Revenge is fun, but I don't seem to think that it's "Ohmygodthebestshowever" like many people that I know do.  I do, however, think Nolan Ross is the best new character on network television this year.  Not only does he provide the one real source of humor on the show, but he's also the smartest.  Couple that with him being the only true ally our lead had (if only she has willingly accepted it) and a true lonely little rich boy thing going on and he is utterly fascinating to watch.  He still remains a bit of a mystery (is he totally gay or just gay for blackmail?) which keeps him interesting.  Gabriel Mann has made Nolan the unexpected heart of the series and I can't wait to see what he does with him next.

2. Nicholas Brody Homeland
I wonder how Brody was first described to Damian Lewis when he got the part.  "You've been away from your wife and kids for eight years.  You were a prisoner of war.  You were savagely tortured.  You may or may not be a terrorist yourself".  How an actor can even begin to process how such a role should be played, I have no idea. But Lewis has done it with flying colors, making Brody one of the most compelling characters of the year.  He's fascinating to watch.  You don't want to trust him, but you do, you don't want to feel for him, but you do, you want to figure it all out, but you can't.  He's as complicated as complicated gets and so incredibly compelling to watch and  Lewis is simply killing it.  Television as a whole was better for having this unique character exist.

1. Tate Langdon American Horror Story
You know how you know you're a good character?  Set a man on fire.  Murder fifteen people in a school shooting.  Kill (and sodomize half of) a couple.  Rape your girlfriend's mother and get her pregnant with the Anti-Christ.  Now go on the internet.  If people still love you, are still making excuses for you?  You are a great fucking character.  Tate Langdon managed to be both American Horror Story's evil incarnate and it's teen heartthrob all at the same time.  He was hard to figure out (A psychopath?  Possessed?  Abused?) and fans had a ton of fun coming up with theories.  As the series went on, we seemed to find out more and more just how bad Tate was (yup, he's the notorious Rubberman) while the character simultaneously seemed to be falling in love and finding the one reason in life to finally be good.  Evan Peters proved to be an acting force by making the boy scary and dangerous while somehow also charismatic and sexy.  I fear that he will never properly be praised for his amazing work here, which is simply criminal.  Tate Langdon truly made American Horror Story what it was and made you rethink what made someone fascinating to watch.  He is by far and away the best character of the year and has set the bar for 2012 pretty damn high.

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