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Best Characters of the 2000s

Posted by Christopher Moltisanti on December 13, 2009

It’s that time. The end of the decade, which calls for lists, lists and more lists. Over the next few weeks we’ll be giving you our take on the best TV characters, actors, actresses and shows of the 2000s. A few ground rules before we begin, however. Obviously, some TV shows started in the 90s and ended in the 2000s, so we’re only going to count the shows who’s most notable years were in this decade. For instance, shows like “Frasier,” “The X Files” and “The Practice” are 90s shows even though they ended in this decade. “West Wing,” on the other hand, which started in 1999, is a 2000s show. It’s not a science, but between the three of us you should get a pretty good sense of the best of the best for this decade.

Without further ado, here we go. First up: characters.

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano

1)    Tony Soprano – The Sopranos

With Tony Soprano, David Chase has done what the world’s best realist authors did time and time again: place a well-known character type into a world of complexity (aka the real world). Prince Andrei in War and Peace was a heroic warrior on a quest for personal glory who struggled to cope with the smallness of everyday responsibilities. Similarly, Tony is the classic mafioso thrust into the confusing, humorous and unpredictable world of modern American family life. The result is a powerful, albeit painfully insecure man, who struggles to live up to the expectations of his character type.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper

2)    Don Draper – Mad Men

Don Draper is one of the richest, most multilayered characters I’ve ever seen on television or in film. In a vacuum, he’s compelling as a suave ad man living as anonymously as he possibly can with a wife and two kids. But, as a stand-in for an America with a fragile identity coping with wracking societal changes, he’s one of the best and most fascinating characters of the decade.

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer

3)    Jack Bauer – 24

Say what you want about 24, but it’s undeniably compelling entertainment. At the center is a character who in less capable hands could have turned into a paper-thin Steven Seagal-like action hero. Instead, Jack, who most definitely is an action hero, is one grappling with not only physical pain, but also intense emotional anguish. Kiefer Sutherland is riveting in this role, and the character is a perfect adaptation of the noble hero to the messy times we live in. Instead of being a white knight, Jack is forced to get his hands dirty, skirting moral lines and making impossible choices. But he always answers the call and accepts the consequences. He’s a character everyone wants on their side, even if it’s not PC to admit it.

Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano

4)    Carmela Soprano – The Sopranos

It came down to her and Moltisonti for the last Sopranos spot, and as much as I wanted to give my namesake his due, Carmela is the more complete character. Like Tony, she has ideas about how things should be, but struggles to make things fit tidily in a world filled with arrest warrants, cheating husbands and troublesome kids. She’s a good mother with ambition, but she’s held back by social expectations and her own personal limitations. Still, she attempts to break out of her confines in various ways throughout the series. Her development over six seasons is subtle, but fascinating.

Glenn Close as Patty Hughes

5)    Patty Hughes – Damages

Give Glenn Close credit for this one. This is a character that could easily have become a caricature. But, Close, by subtly revealing Patty’s human and even vulnerable sides, gives us a well-rounded portrayal of the most chilling character of the decade.


3 Responses to “Best Characters of the 2000s”

  1. Jorczak said

    You cannot do any list about television in the 2000s without watching The Wire. Omar Little should be on every best character list ever.

  2. CJ Cregg said

    Well I guess our lists will be totally different.

  3. Christopher Moltisanti said

    You’re right, I haven’t seen The Wire. It is a point of shame for me. I’m planning to add that caveat to my best shows list so people understand that I’m not just ignoring it. I recognize that it is most likely a top 5 show of all time, and once I watch it, I’ll be sure to amend all my lists if I think it falls in the top 5.

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