Bestow Thy Flickering Light Forever

Because I'm a slave to the memes that clog the tubes of the Interwebs, here's my very own list of my top 25 TV characters. (This was also born of a challenge to The Sis, so be sure to check out her list and see how many overlaps there are.) Rules: No guest stars, no miniseries. Also, I haven't numbered them. I've expressed my opinions before on the inherent flaws in actually ranking things, and I don't want anyone falling into the trap that, say, No. 7 means less to me than No. 4. But trust me, there are 25. I counted. Okay, here we go:Dan Rydell (Josh Charles), "Sports Night" — This is pretty much a given. "Sports Night" was the first TV show I ever truly loved, and though it's hard to pick just one character, I have to go with Dan Rydell, who was smart, funny, endearing, honest, and a fierce source of heart and soul for the ensemble. If you don't get even a little misty when Dan makes the on-air apology to his dead younger brother, you're a heartless thug. Great guy. Great character. Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff), "The West Wing" — This was another tough call, since the first four years of the show, under the guidance and pen of creator Aaron Sorkin, were some of the best TV in the past couple decades. But while Josh was eager to be loved and Sam was nothing but one gooey ball of sensitive, Toby's humanity was tempered with a caustic wit and an anger that grew from his frustration at the roadblocks that so often prevented the Bartlet administration from achieving its goals. A wreck of a man trying to get his life together. Dig the team-building speech he gives his staff in Season 3's "War Crimes" episode: "We win together, we lose together, we celebrate and we mourn together. And defeats are softened and victories sweetened because we did them together." Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas), "Battlestar Galatica" — I could go on at length about how this is easily one of the best dramas on TV but is overlooked because of it's genre, but I've done that already. Just know that Tyrol is a great character in an ensemble of great characters, acted with nuance and emotion by Douglas. Oh, Chief. Hang in there, buddy. Rube Sofer (Mandy Patinkin), "Dead Like Me" — Man oh man, what a great show. Young George Lass is killed and recruited to be a grim reaper, and one of her mentors is Rube. I had no idea Patinkin could actually act, having really only seen him before this in The Princess Bride and a video of him in "Sunday in the Park with George" when I was in high school, an experience no doubt weakened by my distaste for my 11th-grade English teacher Mrs. Heston, herself a bit of a man-hater who adorned her walls with frighteningly suggestive Georgia O'Keefe prints. Anyway: Rube is an amazing father figure to George. Great relationship. Great show. Hoban "Wash" Washburne (Alan Tudyk), "Firefly" — Hawaiian shirts. A 'stache in a flashback. A warm, wonderful character. Too bad those Reavers caught up with him. Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon), "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" — Another tough call, since he's one of an ensemble, but Xander was constantly entertaining, and played with grace and humanity by Brendon, especially after the high school years, when his friends ascended to greatness and he remained a carpenter of middling ambition. But "The Zeppo" is and always will be a classic. John Locke (Terry O'Quinn), "Lost" — Clarification: This is Season 1 Locke, who was mysterious and sad and burning with a fire of faith and learning. Once he found those damn numbers, things went downhill. Kind of like the show in general. Buster Bluth (Tony Hale), "Arrested Development" — So hard to pick just one. But Buster's cries to heaven of "I'm a monster!" as he plunges his hook into his bed put him over the edge. Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), "Veronica Mars" — Man, what's with the lack of chicks on this list? Veronica is a killer combination of strength and vulnerability, and so cute I could kill myself. "Veronica Mars" is also one of the best shows on TV right now, and you're not watching it because you're too busy watching "American Idol" and sniffing glue (I realize I'm directing my ire at a nameless, faceless Middle America, but I don't care). This show is top-to-bottom fantastic. Come on, Dawn Ostroff, leave this show alone. Veronica's also got the best father-child relationship on TV, which leads me to: Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), "Veronica Mars" — The best TV dad ever. Case closed. You say Dick Van Dyke? Pffft. Screw him. Keith wins. Keith always wins. Private investigator, single father, good man. Jack Bristow (Victor Garber), "Alias" — I guess I've got a thing for good TV dads. Next to the smoking hotness that is Jennifer Garner, Garber was the best thing about "Alias." Watch how many emotions go across that big potato-shaped head of his. Great actor. And even though, yes, Jack pretty much lied to Sydney every chance he got, he still cared, man. He's a secret agent. Cut him some slack. Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"/"Angel" — A great character that contributed amazing energy to the group dynamic. Then she transferred shows and eventually started getting really holy and martyrish, and the weels came off the wagon. Stephen Colbert (Stephen Colbert), "The Colbert Report" — This is stretching those aformentioned rules a little, but it's my list, so I'm okay with it. And Colbert's bloviating pundit is indeed a character, a satiric representation of the talking heads that are slowly killing the last shred of intelligence left in the forum of public debate. While Jon Stewart is the straight man who takes jabs from the outside, Colbert is a proud member of the idiotic elite, who can do more to take someone down a peg by wholeheartedly embracing them than you'd think is possible. He can insult the president while also appearing to support him. It's a beautiful thing. David Fisher (Michael C. Hall), "Six Feet Under" — Sure, Nate gets all the attention, and Claire's her own thing, and Ruth is just plain crazy. But David Fisher is a fascinating sketch of a man struggling to discover his sexual, religious, and familial identity. One of the strongest characters on a very strong show. Barney Stinson (Neal Patrick Harris), "How I Met Your Mother" — Suit up! The show isn't terribly original, and the lead is about as thrilling as dead grass, but Barney makes it worthwhile. Dr. Perry Cox (John C. McGinley), "Scrubs" — Bitter and funny and wounded and crazy. And awesome. David Brent (Ricky Gervais), "The Office" (U.K.) — How could this not make the list? Neal Schweiber (Samm Levine), "Freaks and Geeks" — An amazing show. I love this kid. Sometimes I think I am this kid. Then I take a step back and actually know I am this kid. George Costanza (Jason Alexander), "Seinfeld" — The eternal loser. Endlessly quotable, too: "It's the summer of George," "George is gettin' upset," as well as pretty much anything from Season 5's "The Opposite" episode. Just brilliant all around. Jim Halpert (John Krasinski), "The Office" (U.S.) — Great character, and a perfect straight man (this is easily the best thing Krasinski's ever done or had the chance to do). All the money in my pockets says that he and Pam will inevitably get together, then split up painfully. Marshall Flinkman (Kevin Weisman), "Alias" — A total nerd who, when called upon, springs into action to save the day more than once. Plus he pulls a guy's eye out of his skull with a spork. Great comic relief. Doyle (Glenn Quinn), "Angel" — " 'So don't lose hope. Come on over to our offices and you'll see that there's still heroes in this world.' ... Is that it? Am I done?" This episode, I am not ashamed to say, wrecked me for the rest of the day after the first time I saw it. Doyle was just wonderful, and you could see the way the story was starting to take shape, and then bam: So long. A funny, caring character who went out on a high note. Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon), "Reno 911!" — One of the funniest shows on TV. Dangle is greatness. Det. Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher), "Homicide: Life on the Street" — An amazing character on a truly great TV series that's easily one of the best cop shows of all time. The "Subway" episode from Season 6 is still one of my favorites. Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub), "Monk" — Honestly, this show has plenty of flaws: The cops are fairly inept, and the lieutenant is a staggeringly annoying moron. And some of the hour-long episodes feel like 90 minutes. But Shalhoub is a fantastic comic actor, probably better than the weak premise deserves. He skates the edge of irritating with his endless neuroses, but the character is also warm, and caring, and still reeling years later from his wife's death. Wonderful character. So that's 25. I really don't know what else to say here, except that it's obvious that I've watched a lot of TV, and will probably only watch more. Nothing I can do about that.