My 11 Favorite Television Characters of All Time

The folks over at AfterElton.com are doing a really fun rundown of their favorite television characters of all time (no Kanye).

So I figured, why not make my own list? So I did.

Check it out after the jump.

Dwayne Wayne from A Different WorldDwayne Wayne (A Different World)

Even though Dwayne became insufferably self-righteous in the later seasons, he remains one of the best characters ever on television. He was a black nerd who was a little corny, a little girl crazy, and also a little cool. And as a kid, I used to like math, so Dwayne was a fine role model.
Favorite moment: The episode where he tutors Denise in Season One. 

 

Bodie Broadus from The WirePreston “Bodie” Broadus (The Wire)

I loved J.D. Williams on Oz, but it was his portrayal of the fatalistic Bodie on The Wire – otherwise known as the best television show ever made – that hit me in the gut. I’ve known so many Bodies in my life that at first I didn’t really like his character. He just hit a little to close to home. Bodie was a corner boy who couldn’t see further than the end of the block and didn’t seem to think that he should. He was great at his job and took pride in it. And by the end of his arc on the show, he had become my favorite character.
Favorite Moment: His conversation with McNulty in Season 4 about being pawns on a chessboard

 

Toni Childs from GirlfriendsToni Childs (Girlfriends)

There had never been a black woman like Toni Childs on television before. She was selfish, rude, egotistical, materialistic and a terrible friend. She was also deeply insecure because she’s dark-skinned, wounded from growing up with an alcoholic mother, and incredibly needy. In short, she was a flesh-and-blood black woman. It is really hard to make a character like Toni Childs three-dimensional, but Jill Marie Jones’ work is extraordinary here. And her comic timing is so different from the other women on Girlfriends and yet it totally works.
Favorite moment: When Toni gets botox in Season Three.

 

Maxine Shaw from Living SingleMaxine Shaw (Living Single)

I loved how Maxine was always eating. I liked her bravado. I liked the way her relationship with Kyle evolved over the course of the series. I love her catchphrase – “ride the maverick!”  Man – I love me some Maxine Shaw. She was the show’s most consistently funny character and Erica Alexander’s atypical line readings and comic timing melded to create a winningly unique comic creation.
Favorite moment: When she tells Kyle that he’s being played by Nia Long’s character.

 

Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire SlayerWillow Rosenberg (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

This was a no-brainer. Willow has always been my very favorite Buffyverse character. Alyson Hannigan had me enthralled from her first awkward conversation with Buffy in Season 1 all the way through to her becoming powerful enough to make all potential Slayers into full-fledged Slayers in Season 7. She broke my heart when she was sad and and made me laugh more consistently than any Buffyverse character not Anya.
Favorite Moment: Willow as Vamp Willow in “Doppelgangland.”

 

Piper Halliwell from CharmedPiper Halliwell (Charmed)

I started watching Charmed because I have a strange fascination with Shannen Doherty. But I kept watching it because of Holly Marie Combs’ work as Piper. I love her evolution from terrified witch pining for a normal life to a sarcastic, short-tempered witch pissed off at the entire universe for denying her a normal life. Piper turned into a total fuckin’ badass and still could break your heart. And I loved every single twist and turn.
Favorite moment: Her duel with Cole when they are both invincible in Season 5. That line – “Wait” – is one of the finest one-word line readings I’ve ever seen.

 

Simon Adebisi from OzSimon Adebisi (Oz)

Adebisi was a sociopath unlike anything I’d ever seen before and he was riveting every single time he was onscreen. The arc in Season 4 where he and Kareem Said become two sides of the same coin is some of the best stuff that I think any black actors have ever been given to play. In fact, I so loved Adebisi that I threatened to stop watching Oz after his character was killed at the end of Season 4.
Favorite moment: The final fight between Adebisi and Said. 

 

Vince Howard from Friday Night LightsVince Howard (Friday Night Lights)

I wasn’t initially very moved by Vince. I never thought Friday Night Lights did a good job of dealing with race (the Season 1 episodes with the Smash character are annoying liberal fantasy), so the ex-bad boy saved by the virtuous white teacher (in this case, coach) storyline irritated me at first. But the show found really interesting ways to upend my expectations of the story. And Michael B. Jordan was so good in the role, never making the obvious choices with the character, that I fell in love in spite of myself.
Favorite moment: Vince’s father telling him about when a young Vince climbed a tree in Carroll Park in Season 5.

 

Clair Huxtable from The Cosby ShowClair Huxtable (The Cosby Show)

Watching The Cosby Show was, for me, about watching Clair Huxtable. Clair was like every single woman in my family so I always felt like I was watching family. She was classy, but a little hood. She was intelligent and beautiful. She was no-nonsense and the family’s enforcer. And she was funny, so very very funny. Re-watching the show now, I’m struck by how well-rounded she was at a time when sitcoms didn’t build any characters – let alone black ones – in three dimensional ways.
Favorite moments (tie): When Clair tells off Elvin in Season 2 and when she asks for her money for Sondra’s education in Season 4.

 

Teri Joseph from Soul FoodTeri Joseph (Soul Food)

Soul Food had the burden of being the only black drama on television and so the writers often burdened the stories and characters with boring, unbelievable “positivity.” Except when it came to Teri Joseph. They just kept finding interesting layers to the Type-A lawyer who can’t keep a man. Her anxiety attacks. The way she wouldn’t let the men – white and black – that she worked with in various law firms treat her differently than they would a man. The way her judgemental, class issues were really just a mask for deep insecurities. And, most especially, the way Nicole Ari Parker could mine deep deep wells of emotion to bring this fascinating woman to life.
Favorite Moment: That moment when she comes to Damon’s house in Season 1 to tell him exactly how scared she is of being in a relationship with him.

 

Phoebe Buffay from FriendsPhoebe Buffay (Friends)

I love kooky, unconventional Phoebe. I liked that she had a horrible life, but she was pretty much an optimist too (though with a cruel streak that was often quite funny). That was so very refreshing. Like many of the performers who brought my favorite characters to life on this list, Lisa Kudrow’s comic timing and line readings are so totally her own that you just marvel at it. Her reading of a line as simple as, “oh no!” slays me every time.
Favorite moment: When Phoebe makes Ross apologize to her mother, who is in a cat. 

 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Chloe Sullivan (Smallville)
  • Wallace Fennel (Veronica Mars)
  • Michael Novotny (Queer As Folk)
  • Darlene Conner (Roseanne)
  • Lafayette Reynolds (True Blood)

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