Harry Potter may be king of the pop-culture book-sales world, but when it comes to the entire universe of modern-day showbiz characters, nothing beats a Simpson. Homer, to be exact (sorry, Bart).
For the most part Entertainment Weekly did a pretty fine job of putting together their list of The 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 years. But that doesn’t mean there’s not some room for dissent.
The pick of Homer Simpson as the best character over the last 20 years is fitting: he’s actually been around for 20 years. Sure, diehard fans will tell you “The Simpsons” isn’t what it once was, but for a single character — particularly an animated one — to sustain such a presence in popular culture over such a long time is truly remarkable.
There’s not a lot to debate in the top 10. It’s hard to argue with iconic names such as Harry Potter, Tony Soprano and Carrie Bradshaw (Okay, maybe Edward Scissorhands, who comes in at number 7, is ranked a little too high.)
Working down the list, the choices become more questionable. Yes, “Glee” is the popular TV-show of-the-moment. No question about that. And no one is at all doubting the comedic genius of Jane Lynch. But, it may be a bit premature to rank the Machiavellian cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester, all the way up at 18. “Glee” is just finishing its first season and, as of this writing, has aired the relatively low number of just 20 episodes. If this list were created in 2003, would Seth Cohen from “The O.C.” (the “Glee” of its day) be on the list? This is not to say Sylvester shouldn’t be on the list at all, but ranked higher than Roseanne Conner, Stephen Colbert, Jack Bauer, John Locke, Don Draper and Ally McBeal? Sue herself might even snarl at the implausibility of it.
Then there are the characters that have no business being on the list at all. It’s hard to believe Will Smith’s Hancock is the 91st best character of the last 20 years, period. But is it even the 91st best character Will Smith has portrayed in last 20 years? And, really, Hancock ranks higher than Lisbeth Salander of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”?
Also, even though “Battlestar Galactica” fans were not entirely happy with the ending, it would seem that that its female protagonist, Starbuck, deserves a higher ranking than 72. Seriously, she’s behind Molly Shannon’s Mary Katherine Gallagher? Come to think of it, of all the “SNL” characters, why is she the only one ranked instead of Wayne Campbell (who is mentioned on the page)? Just as a comparison of their importance to popular culture, Mary Katherine Gallagher’s movie, “Superstar,” grossed $30 million compared to “Wayne’s World”‘s $121 Million.
Not to say the list is all bad. Far from it. In fact, it’s quite refreshing to see some of the choices EW made. Gob Bluth from the canceled, cult-classic “Arrested Development” is a welcome sight. And thankfully, they chose Neil Patrick Harris’ Barney Stinson from “How I Met Your Mother” over his arguably better-known role as Doogie Houser. Including one of the most unusual sketch comedy creations ever, Dave Chappelle’s Clayton Bigsby, is laudable. As was picking Ricky Gervais’ original, UK “Office” manager, David Brent, over the more familiar and almost (almost!) equally deserving, Michael Scott, portrayed by Steve Carrell. But, really, not one character from the American version of “The Office”? Wither Dwight Schrute?
That’s one major flaw with lists such as these: once a character is chosen from a particular show, the rest of the cast seems to be off limits (unless chosen as a pair). Cosmo Kramer from “Seinfeld” gets the nod, so, no soup for you, Elaine Benes and George Costanza (or, for that matter, Larry David from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”). Jennifer Aniston’s “Friends” Rachel Greene is listed, so Chandler Bing is left out.
Then again, this is an arbitrary list, which means any arguments are quite arbitrary as well — and fun. So, thanks, EW, for starting the debate.