I briefly flirted with the idea of writing a piece on my favorite TV shows of 2018, but decided that was boring. Later, I decided that it might be fun to approach the topic through a certain filter, like my favorite TV characters in 2018.
What makes a good TV character? I’m not sure it is any one thing. Sometimes it is the appearance of an actress who is past her popular prime and is carving out new creative space for herself in a way different than before. Sometimes they are so far removed from the bland conventionally attractive faces we so often see. Some characters retain their interesting edges, not having everything sanded smooth. Sometimes they play against type, sometimes they are the vulgar jester who pokes holes in the pretense of a main character.
There’s something refreshing about these characters, you look forward to their appearance in a scene. There’s an X-factor quality, you just can’t take your eyes off of them.
Point is, there isn’t any one trait that defines a great TV character (although, in my case I do tend to be drawn towards the supporting cast).
In no particular order, here are my favorite TV characters from TV shows I watched in 2018.
Kenny West from Sick Note
Sick Note is a British black comedy and Kenny West is a foul-mouthed American with all of the cliched American traits cranked up to 11. Don Johnson is having a blast playing this part. He’s vulgar, brash, egotistical, and a walking hard on. He’s also hilarious and brings a different kind of energy to the show.
Sandy from The Leftovers
Brett Butler was riding a career high in the 90’s, a brash comedic persona, her own sitcom, and a career on the rise. She battled depression and substance abuse and took time away to work on herself before coming back in the 2000’s. She still has the same captivating, raw, energy that demands your attention. Her role in The Leftovers was minor but I was so glad to see her when she showed up.
Otto from Sneaky Pete
Sneaky Pete is filled with great characters and actors. Of all of them, my favorite is the patriarch of the family, grandpa Otto. He’s tough and lovable and loyal to those he loves.
Kyle from I’m Sorry
I couldn’t find a good image of Kyle from the show so you’ll have to make do with this photograph of the actors themselves. Kyle is Andrea’s writing partner and their scenes together are brilliant. Which makes sense, because Jason Mantzoukas and Andrea Savage have worked together a few times over the years and have a natural and easy chemistry. His character isn’t a big part of the show but those moments when he is are gold.
Ray from Vice Principals
Vice Principals is another show filled with great characters. Somehow, in this show filled to the brim with anarchic mayhem, it is the sweet and grounded Ray that became a favorite. Partly, this is a great character because it plays against type. He is a step parent but he is never played as evil or other, just a nice guy who wants best for the girl he loves and her birth father.
Crate and Barrel from Bosch
I’ve long maintained that Crate and Barrel are the unsung heroes of the department. Bosch is tooling around town being broody and these two are in the office looking at hours of tape. One of these is closer to a real depiction of the grunt work that can go into solving a case.
Dan from Fortitude
Dan is the sheriff of a small polar town and he’s a fascinating take on a well worn trope. He’s the town’s sin-eater, he’s an old west type lawman, and he’s riveting.
Poe and Samir from Altered Carbon
Poe was designed to be a memorable character and it totally works: an old AI building with a strong instinct to protect its only guest. Samir is tougher to pin down. He’s a minor character but he has strength and gravitas. I chalk up liking Samir to the actor playing the role and subtle tweaks to a well worn trope.
Memaw from Hap & Leonard: Mucho Mojo
My pitch for season 2 of Hap & Leonard was simple, come for Hap & Leonard but stay for Memaw. Memaw will immediately draw you in, will make you laugh, and, by the end, will make you cry.
Hank from The Ranch
Hank is a background player at best on The Ranch (hence the poor quality image). He’s a regular at the bar and is intended to be comic relief, interjecting himself into a conversation or a situation to make a crack about something, usually involving beer. But the actor playing him is mesmerizing and steals every scene he’s interrupting.
Maurice the Hormone Monster from Big Mouth
I started watching Big Mouth late in 2018 and still haven’t finished season 1, but holy shit is the hormone monster a character unlike any other. He’s the vulgar personification of puberty, with no boundaries, who convinces you that it’s OK to jerk off to a cat clock that was a present from your grandmother. The vulgarity may be cranked up to 11 but it is, in some respects, an honest depiction.
Bruno and Charlotte from Babylon Berlin
Babylon Berlin is a wild ride that shines a light on a past era with parallels to modern times. I like Bruno because he inhabits the role of the broken in cop who knows the score and is exasperated with the young detective who believes he knows all. Then other facets of his character emerge, and other still. All with that WC Fields nose and cocked hat. The actor playing Bruno is fantastic. Charlotte becomes, over the course of the series, one of the most multi-faceted characters on the show. The treatment of women by crime fiction stories is an oft talked about subject (rightly so) and Charlotte rises above it all.
JC from Mosaic
Oh my god I did not know that I needed Paul Reubens as a salty old queen in my life until I watched Mosaic. Now I want JC in everything I watch. Thanks you Mosaic and Paul Reubens.
Heather from AP Bio
AP Bio, at times, struggles. As the cast of the show expanded, and got away from its initial revenge premise, it got better. The more great comedic characters there were to interact with each other, the better things were. The best part of the revenge premise is Heather, the student who is ALL IN to help out. You never know what she’s going to do or say next, but it is always worth it.
Darius from Atlanta
I watched season 1 early in 2018 and haven’t seen season 2 yet but man, Darius just stole every scene he was in. My favorite episode in season 1 was episode 4. Until that point, Darius was a great side character but he was finally given a place to shine.
Don Neto from Narcos: Mexico
For Don Neto, the appeal largely comes from the actor. He gives breadth and depth to the character. He has an worn and aged face. His is the face of experience.
Det. Janet Moss from Barry
Barry is another show with a ton of great characters. One of the things that appealed to me with the Det. Moss character, was that she was a fresh take. The detective trope is so done that it practically begs for tweaks. She has a great character arc with a devastating finish. Can’t wait for season 2.
Janet from The Good Place
The Good Place has a great ensemble cast with truly likable characters. And Janet has become the best of the bunch. An all knowing AI shouldn’t have character development, character growth, and be so damn funny, but Janet, as she learns what it is to be human, does and we love her for it.
Ruth from Castle Rock
Brilliant late period work from Sissy Spacek. Her work in the entire series was great but there was one episode in particular that was brilliantly acted, directed, and written, and it was a showcase for the great Sissy Spacek.
Tanis from Letterkenny
Letterkenny has quickly become a favorite in our house. And in a show filled with great characters, Tanis stands out. She runs her own crew, she’s one of the most formidable characters, she knows how to handle a Nazi, and she will become your favorite too.
Buddy from Ozark
Buddy is the weathered face of life and wisdom. In Ozark, I kinda hate the Marty Bird character, I kinda want him to get his comeuppance. But with a wildcard like Buddy on his side, that becomes a tough thing to do. On a personal note, when I was a kid, before he passed, my grandfather lived with us. He was a cranky and cantankerous salty old man with the mouth of a sailor, because he was one. Perhaps Buddy reminds me, just a bit, of him.
Ken and Eddie from Baskets
Again a show with so many great characters (sensing a theme yet, shows should have a deep bench!). Ken enters the show deeper in its run, kind of through a side door. But he’s kind and caring and good for Christine. They may be TVs unlikeliest couple but you want them to be TVs most successful. And what can you say about the marble mouthed Eddie? You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a half in the bag Eddie’s lament on how Willie Nelson is a dirty fighter.
Eric Bemis from Santa Clarita Diet
Eric is great as a nervous teen trying to be cool but figure some life things out at the same time. He awkwardly likes the girl next door and manages to take it in stride that her mother is a zombie (until he doesn’t).
Ok folks, how about it? Who were your favorite TV characters from 2018?