The Manofesto is now taking requests!! lol
My pal Don, who has been amongst the most interactive & encouraging citizens of The Manoverse since its inception, enjoys my ranking/list posts and asked me if I’d ever considered writing about great television characters. The answer to that question is “yes I have”, but I had always talked myself out of it. Why?? Well, while I have been an avid television viewer (especially in my younger years), the fact is that there are many things that I haven’t watched. A plethora of superb shows aired for three decades before I even became aware of television in the late 1970’s. I developed interest in some when they were broadcast in syndication throughout my childhood & beyond, but numerous legendary programs don’t fall into that category. And as an adult there have been a ton of allegedly excellent shows that never frosted my cupcake. In some cases I gave it a whirl and just didn’t care for it, but occasionally I am dismissive immediately…without ever watching a single episode…because I know it’s not my thing. For these reasons an “all-time” kind of ranking of television characters felt intimidating.
Having said that, something occurred to me as I was pondering the issue. Nearly everything I have ever written here has been my opinion, based on my experiences & preferences, skewed by my generational place in the universe, & excluded that with which I am not familiar. I’ve always heard the old axiom “write what you know”, so I can’t really pontificate all that much about music genres I don’t like, books I haven’t read, places I’ve never visited, movies I’ve never seen, or television shows that I’ve not watched. That’s been the case since the very first blog post I ever wrote (on MySpace…because I’m old), and I’ve enjoyed the task anyway. I assume…I hope…that others have appreciated some of the things they’ve read here, especially if they share a vaguely similar pop culture viewpoint. At any rate, we’re going to move forward with the idea, and at the very least I know I’ll have fun doing it.
Now y’all know I’m not one for in-depth research, but after compiling a preliminary list I did hop online and scan a few comparable rankings. I was mostly seeking to jog the ol’ memory and make sure there weren’t any obvious candidates I wasn’t recalling, but I discovered something interesting. There are apparently no shortage of writers out there who are under the delusion that television was invented at the dawn of the 21st century. Several years ago, when writing about my 100 Favorite Movies, I opined that I was wary of any adult who says that their favorite film is something that just came out in the past few years. I am equally as irked by any list of great television shows or related ideas that are populated with names or titles that aired within the past decade or two. I immediately assume that the writer is a narcissistic, self-indulgent Millennial whose idea of a legendary actor is Matt Damon and believes that hip-hop is good music. We are all products of our environment and entertainment preferences tend to be generational, but if something is going to be called one of the greatest of all time in its category perhaps a writer for a national publication or website should dig a little deeper. For this reason I generally refrain from calling lists that I assemble the greatest or best of anything. I understand that my perspective is limited, that I haven’t experienced…for one reason or another…a vast array of greatness in many areas of life. Of the lists I ran across that weren’t so…narrow, I was pleasantly validated by many opinions that others apparently share with me.
Other than the various genres of television another division is clear to me. A lot of shows are built around a specific star. Maybe they were a successful comedian who has now been given their own sitcom. Perhaps they were in another well-regarded show many years ago and are now returning to television. Or possibly they were a notable movie actor who has decided to transition to the small screen. Whatever the specifics may be there is no doubt that the show is intended to be centered on that person. On the flip side is an ensemble. It could be a workplace comedy, a family drama, or a police procedural, but the cast is large and the plot may dictate that different characters are featured in each episode. It is always interesting to watch as a character breaks out from an ensemble, and even more intriguing when a supporting character emerges from the shadow of the purported star. You’ll find plenty of examples of both in my rankings.
I love sitcoms and usually prefer laughter over other emotions. My sister & I had a babysitter when we were children that got us hooked on soap operas that we still watch to this day. As great as they may be I’ve never really watched much of The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Leave It to Beaver, or Dragnet. More currently I have not or do not watch a whole bunch of ostensibly fantastic shows: The Wire, Lost, Mad Men, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Arrested Development, The Shield, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dexter, 30 Rock, Modern Family, Dr. Who, The Office, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, House of Cards. I’m not at all into cop shows, medical dramas, or zombies. I am not opposed to but somewhat tepid about sci-fi, spend much of my down time watching ball games & sports talk shows, and despise “reality” shows (though I enjoy documentary style “reality” like Pawn Stars & American Pickers). These are a few things that might be helpful to understand as we navigate thru the project.
So now you know how this list came to be. You know a little about me & my process. You have some idea of the methodology & logic used. All that remains is to dive in. I’m going to divide the list itself into four entries for the sake of readability. As always feedback is welcome in The Manoverse. It’s possible that I missed someone important. There is always potential that I could be convinced to give a second look to a series that I might have overlooked (intentionally or not), although I can be pretty stubborn. Relax, grab a snack & a beverage, and join me. It’ll be fun.