We know they're not real.
Of course when we watch a TV series we know it's make-believe. We know Burke is really not operating with a hand tremor. We know that Grissom and Sara aren't really having a clandestine affair. And we certainly know that Bree Van de Kamp didn't just actually fall in love with another homicidal man.
No person could survive what most TV characters endure. Seriously, if Veronica Mars were a real person, she would be institutionalized by now.
But sometimes great writing fuses with a brilliant performance to form a perfect television character. Ones who we so believe in that we're sad when they're sad, happy when they're happy, root for them to find true love as if they were our best friends, and are heartbroken for them when things don't work out as planned. Or it could be the complete opposite -- characters who we fear as if they were a real person. Would anyone want to spend any quality time with T-Bag? But he's the absolute epitome of a character we delight in disliking.
These characters pop off the screen and command our attention. They can make a mediocre show good ("Boston Legal" would be nothing without Alan Shore and Denny Crane) a good show great (Kyra Sedgwick is "The Closer"), and a great show exceptional (two words: Jack Bauer).
You know the rules by now. All characters on my list are from a television shows at least in their second season and still on the air (so I say a heartfelt goodbye to Bright on "Everwood" and GOB from "Arrested Development"). This season has offered up some terrific characters (Hiro is so turning out to be my hero) but great characters evolve over time. Perhaps, we'll see you next year, Kevin Walker and Betty Suarez. I also stuck to the rule of only one character per show (if I didn't, the castaways on "Lost" would make up half the list).
And don't forget that Dennis Franz's Andy Sipowicz, John C. McGinley's Dr. Cox (even with his bad hairstyle this season) and Kelly Bishop's Emily Gilmore are all in the TV Gal Hall of Fame. They have set the standard.
Once again I agonized over this list as if it really mattered. Would the boys of "Entourage" ever speak to me again if they didn't make the list? Will Old Christine truly know how much I've been enjoying her show this season if she doesn't make the cut?
But without further ado, here are my top ten characters for 2006:
1. Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Johnson on "The Closer": To Sedgwick, I say thank you, thank you so much for creating such a fantastic female character. Brenda is full of idiosyncrasies. Her lilting Southern accent can move in for a laser-sharp attack in the interrogation room. She has a love/hate relationship with processed sugar. Sedgwick's trick is that she makes all these eccentricities, even the exaggerated Southern drawl, work.
2. Sandra Oh as Cristina Yang on "Grey's Anatomy": Oh you know I have my frustrations with this show, but the show's absolute best moments this past year have come from Oh. Cristina's pain, her utter drive to succeed, and her fierce loyalty is palpable. It's a tossup between Cristina and Miranda Bailey - last year I picked Bailey -- but this was definitely Cristina's year.
3. John Krasinski as Jim Halpert on "The Office": With so many fabulous characters, it's hard to pick just one employee of Dunder Mifflin. Especially since this past year really brought many of the background characters to the forefront and introduced some great new office mates. With his deadpan looks and impish grin, Krasinski could go an entire episode without a line of dialogue and we would know exactly what he was thinking.
4. Jason Dohring as Logan Echolls on "Veronica Mars": What makes "Veronica Mars" is that every actor brings an unexpected complexity to his or her character. Weevil is more than just a thug. Mac is more than just a computer geek. And Logan is more that just a bad boy with a heart of gold. Played wrong, we would never want our Veronica with him, but my heart broke for Logan in last week's episode.
5. Neil Patrick Harris as Barney on "How I Met Your Mother": Suit up because his character is - come on, indulge me -- legendary. I've voiced my concern that the parts of this show are better than its whole, and Barney is the show's best part. Harris unabashedly embraces the role with an infectious zest. There's a danger that Barney could become too cartoon-like, but even amid his ridiculous behavior (loved finally seeing Barney's apartment), he never crosses over into the over-the-top preposterous.
6. Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer on "24": Sweetheart, listen to me: I'm going to go ahead and patch my list of top ten characters into your handheld. Don't let Karen Hayes see what I'm doing. Jack is "24." In what was arguably the show's best season, it truly was hard to pick a "24" character (especially when both Gregory Itzin and Jean Smart gave career-defining performances), but if I didn't believe Jack, I wouldn't believe the show.
7. Terry O'Quinn as Locke on "Lost": Trying to pick my favorite "Lost" character is a little bit of an exercise in futility. It changes from week to week - Sun is the best character. No, Sayid. Last year I picked Jin (he has my favorite backstory) so I'm just trying to spread the love around. Amid all the mysteries, the one I'm most curious about is, how did Locke end up in a wheelchair?
9. Sarah Wayne Callies as Dr. Sara Tancredi on "Prison Break": The only female character in TV's biggest boys club, Dr. Tancredi believably went into action-hero mode this season.
Those are my favorite television characters of 2006. Who are yours? Talk about it on the TV Gal Message Boards.
And don't forget -- coming the rest of this month will be the best shows, quotes and moments from 2006. But I need your help. E-mail me your favorite quotes and moments from 2006.
Quotes of the Week
"Great Scott." Hiro on "Heroes" after hanging up the phone on himself. Thanks to Jason, Ryan and Gav, who were the first three readers to submit the most popular quote of the week. As they all pointed out, this was a nice homage to "Back to the Future."
"Oh I can't. I'm expecting a call from 1983." Jack when Liz asks him to return the beeper he brought on "30 Rock."
"I don't think I quite measure up to the person you want me to be, and I just can't take feeling like a disappointment anymore." Logan to Veronica on "Veronica Mars."
"We all have convictions, Susan, and I believe Mike's last one was for manslaughter." Bree to Susan on "Desperate Housewives."
"Frankly I don't see why I should have to go around feeling bad that my life didn't turn out the way everybody wanted it to." Lorelai to Sookie on "Gilmore Girls." Um, do you think she was talking about me?
"It's always been me and him together being awesome while the rest of you walked two by two onto your arc of sexless boredom." Barney about his brother on "How I Met Your Mother." Thanks to Karen for the quote.
Where Have I Seen Them Before?
Carrie and Michelle recognized Emy Coligado was the pregnant woman with a piece of glass in her heart on "Grey's Anatomy." She was Francis' wife Piama on "Malcolm in the Middle" and Emmy on "Crossing Jordan."
Jennifer Aspen, Daphne on "Party of Five" and Trina on "Rodney," was the woman in love with the conjoined twins on "Grey's Anatomy."
All of this week's bonus points go to Diane, who recognized that Juliette Goglia was Amy, the pageant contestant who wants to keep Gabrielle away from her father on "Desperate Housewives." She was Little Girl God on "Joan of Arcadia" and Becca Jerome on "Vanished" this season.
Where Have I Heard Her Before?
That was Megan Mullally as the voice of Barney's mom on "How I Met Your Mother." Thanks to TV Gal reader DJ who was the first to notice this very fun cameo.
Highlights of the Week Ahead
All times listed are Eastern Standard Time for Dec. 4-10
TNT has a Christmas present for viewers. A special two-hour episode of "The Closer" airs Monday at 8 p.m. on TNT. In "Serving the King," Deputy Chief Johnson (the fabulous Kyra Sedgwick; see above) investigates the death of a CIA agent. The second hour of the episode was directed by Sedgwick's husband, Kevin Bacon.
If you've been watching "Gilmore Girls" (Tuesday, The CW, 8 p.m.) and wondering where the big Christopher/Luke fight they keep promoting has been, well it's finally here. So look for problems with all the romantic relationships. I hope they don't make Marty weird and obsessed since I always liked him.
Well there's no point in having fearless predictions if you're not okay with being wrong, and I was wrong, wrong, wrong with my theory that the rapist would be revealed as a woman on "Veronica Mars" (Tuesday, The CW, 9 p.m.). On the plus side, psyched to have Mac and Weevil back in an episode and the Veronica/Logan stuff continues to be heartbreaking. On the negative side, I wasn't shocked by who was revealed to be the rapists because I simply didn't care about those characters enough. I'm happy to move on to who killed the Dean mystery next year. In the meantime, if you missed this season's premiere, the CW repeats it this Tuesday at 9 p.m.
Conan O'Brien guest stars on "30 Rock" Thursday at 9:31 p.m. on NBC.
That's all for today. I'll be back next week with my picks for the ten best shows on television and to talk about "Grey's Anatomy" (Yay. They fixed Callie's hair), the Chrismukkah episode of "The O.C." and more. And don't forget - also coming in December, the best of everything television, the best moments and the best quotes of the year. So send me your favorite TV moments and quotes of 2006. Have a question, seen a familiar face, want to nominate a quote of the week? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.