I dare anyone who owns a TV or has access to the internet to disagree: television is where it’s at right now. It’s just better than basically anything you’re going to go see on the big screen (the exceptions are anything made by Pixar, written by Aaron Sorkin, or directed by someone from the Middle East.)
Yes, the writing, directing, and production value of most TV shows far exceeds that which is now found in film, but I think what keeps us coming back week after week is there are just some amazing characters to follow. And since I actively pretend myself into every show I watch (this explains why I go glassy-eyed during most social functions; I’m in the active state of pretending to be in Game of Thrones), I’ve broken down what makes these kick-ass characters just so very kick-ass. The rest of you can now pretend with me so see how many you can pull off!
NOTE: This is by no means an exhaustive list. Most of these characters are women (and it’s awesome that I have so many to choose from) and most of them are from comedies (What can I say? I like what I like.) This is just a starting off point.
OTHER NOTE: This post contains spoilers for the shows discussed.
1. Fight terrorists (“Carrie Mathison,” played by Claire Danes in Homeland). We’re all looking for that driving force in our lives - you know, the thing that gets us out of bed in the morning. And what would be better than single-handedly saving America from guys whose names we can’t pronounce? Sure, on the show, Carrie is a little-too-extremely crazy. But you don’t have to go as far as bugging a stranger’s house. Try being vigilant in smaller ways - always check your boyfriend’s search history to see if he’s purchased explosives. Squint at the slightly ethnic couple next to you when you’re out at dinner - if they start to sweat, you know you’re on to something. File a report if your neighbors come home kinda late at night - where were they? I’m just saying. The enemy could be anywhere.
2. Know how to sword-fight. (“Arya Stark,” played by Maisie Williams in Game of Thrones). Next to the word “scrappy” in whatever stands for a dictionary in Westeros, there has to be a picture of Arya Stark. She’s little, usually unkempt, and has stabbed people with her ironically named weapon. How could we not love her? Since it’s usually pretty impractical to keep a sword around the house these days, I recommend learning how to defend oneself with a crochet hook or a wine bottle opener, all while yelling “Winter is coming!!!” at the top of one’s lungs. You’ll probably never be harassed on the street again.
3. Cultivate a sweet accent. (“Gloria Delgado-Pritchett,” played by Sofia Vergara in Modern Family).I have a fair amount of respect for any woman who can greatly lengthen her husband’s one syllable name to “Edddddjjjjjaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiieeee.” It’s always satisfying to watch supremely beautiful women struggle with the English language, but it is a testament to both the writers of Modern Family and Vergara herself that Gloria never comes across as stupid - in fact, I would say that accent wins a lot of arguments for her. So even if you don’t look that good in a wrap-around dress, just try to sound awesome all the time. Pepper in words from another language, even if it’s one you don’t know. Speak loudly, and use more hand gestures than your Anglo-Saxon counterparts. I’ve noticed the more your grammar defies logic, the more people love you.
4. Be the next in line to an uncertain, confusing inheritance ( “Lady Mary Crawley,” played by Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey). I’ve come full circle on Lady Mary. When I first started watching DA, I was with the rest of you in thinking that the only explanation for her behavior was that she had a tea scone wedged up her ass. But by now, I love the whole “cool demeanor while standing up to her grandma while looking fantastic in heavily beaded gowns” thing she’s got going on. While you might not stand to loose a title, a house, money, or all three when your father passes on (I believe I’m getting all of my Dad’s “Smothers Brothers” comedy albums and I will ruthlessly cut anyone who tries to take them from me), you can still have a little Lady Mary going on by only crying in front of your butler, and maybe falling just a little bit in love with your cousin. Also, wear elbow-legnth gloves whene’er possible.
5. Be border-line mentally challenged (“Luke Dunphy,” played by Nolan Gould on Modern Family). I’ve said it before and I will say it again - if the son I someday have is not exactly like Luke Dunphy, I am returning him.
6. Know your way around a doctor’s office (“Dr. Leo Spaceman,” played by Chris Parnell on 30 Rock). I always assumed that I don’t have what it takes to be a doctor, but after watching Dr. Spaceman, I think I just might! I think all it takes is a white coat, one of those old-timey doctor hats where it looks like you have a pizza cutter strapped to your head, and the ability to speak in reassuring tones. You don’t even have to know your way around the doctor’s office - just set up shop in your living room and sell healing elixirs made out of flat Diet Cherry Coke and Epsom Salt.
7. Live two lives simultaneously (“Michael Britten,” played by Jason Isaacs on Awake). I think it’s safe to say that none of us have any idea what the hell is going on with Detective Britten. My personal theory? Everyone’s dead, except the two shrinks, who are ex-lovers and this is all a figment of their shared imagination as they try to out-diagnose one another. Whatever the case may be, its super-easy to lead two lives. Just have two groups of friends who don’t know the other exists and solve minor crimes in front of them! You’ll find yourself saying things like, “I just have this…hunch that it was…Jessie who took all the Splenda from the diner for her purse!” Okay, you might just end up making a bunch of weird accusations about things that don’t really matter. But the less you sleep, the better this is going to go, trust me.
8. Run an air-conditioning repair program (“Vice Dean Laybourne,” played by John Goodman on Community).The French Braid. Enough said.
9. Be an adorable drunk (“Nick,” played by Jake M. Johnson on New Girl). The author of this post intellectually understands that drinking all the time is not a great idea and would never recommend it for most people. But I want Nick on New Girl to drink all the time, and when I drink all the time (which is not that often) I want to be like him - offering loud one-liners and somehow sleeping with people who are younger and more attractive than I. Since it is difficult to control oneself when drunk (man, if they could just figure out how to get rid of that one side effect, am I right?) all I can say is go ahead and drink that bottle of SoCo, and just hope against hope that you come off as adorable as Nick.
10. Make pants-suits look cute (“Leslie Knope,” played by Amy Poehler on Parks and Rec). She is smart, motivated, hates libraries, and loves waffles. She’s the woman I’ve always wanted to be, and deep down in my heart, knew I was destined to become. So I’m going to go very blonde. I’m going to start keeping the company of gloriously mustachioed (sp?) men. I’m going to start a task-force to fight the raccoons that are actually kind of a problem in West Hollywood. It’s the brand new start of a whole new day.
Next week…I break down what it takes to be a crime boss!