Meet 25 Extraordinary TV Characters Of All Time
From womanizer advertisers from the 60s to innocent family men turned drug lords and quirky blondes singing about smelly cats, TV is filled with iconic characters that are, in many ways, associated with different times in our lives and will forever live in our memories. Let's take a trip down memory lane to find out how many you still remember.
Phoebe Buffay — "Friends’
Phoebe was, without a doubt, one of the most interesting characters among the group of "Friends", the ultra-popular 90s sitcom. The quirky blonde, author of the top hit "Smelly Cat", had a huge heart and quite a fascinating life story. She spent a lot of time trying to pass on New Age and superstitious ideas to her friends.
Phoebe was played by Lisa Kudrow who, in real life, had a degree in evolutionary biology, a wee bit different from Phoebe, we might say. Despite the differences between them, Kudrow went on to win several awards for her role as the singing masseuse. Most recently you can see her as Linda in the show "Feel Good".
Carlton Banks - "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"
In addition to being slightly annoying and extremely cocky, Carlton, the Banks' oldest son, was also unlucky at love, extremely selfish and often seen sucking up to his dad (and hero), Philip. He was also responsible for one of pop culture's most popular moves, the "Carlton Dance", which usually went along to the Tom Jones' song "It's not unusual".
Carlton was played by actor Alfonso Ribeiro. In 2019, Ribeiro filed a lawsuit against the studio responsible for the videogame Fortnite, for copying his signature "Carlton dance" move. The US Copyright Office refused to register it since it wasn't unique enough, though. Apart from the courts, you can see Ribeiro as Darren on the show "Things We Do For Love".
Lucy Ricardo - "I Love Lucy"
The way Lucy constantly got herself into trouble, and her overall goofy attitude made her one of the most loved TV characters of all time. Her on-screen marriage to her also off-screen husband, marked the first time an interracial couple appeared on American TV. Lucy, bored by her stay-at-home life was constantly trying to get into her singing husband's act.
Lucy was played by iconic actress Lucille Ball. Lucille and her on-screen and off-screen husband Desi Arnaz got a divorce in 1960 and she went on to become a top TV executive by creating her own production company called Desilu Productions, and to star in the shows "The Lucy Show" and "Here's Lucy". She passed away in 1989.
Mary Richards - "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"
The independent, unmarried, funny 30-year-old associate producer Mary Richards, the main character in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, became a huge feminist icon in the 70s. Her people skills (boy, could she handle her hotheaded boss Lou Grant and pompous anchorman Ted Baxter) and professionalism made her the perfect asset at the WJM-TV newsroom.
After the show ended, Mary (Tyler Moore) kept trying to get back to TV, but, despite a few appearances, she never managed to land a role as successful as her previous ones. Mary did, however, went on to win a Tony Award for her role in Broadways's "Whose Life is it Anyway?" and an Oscar for the movie "Ordinary People".
Marcia Brady - "The Brady Bunch"
Yes, we know that there were 5 more children in the Brady's home, but who we most cared about was Marcia, the pretty and popular oldest daughter. Despite having everything going for her, she had her fair share of insecurities. And who doesn't remember the day she got it in the nose with a football and screamed: "Oh my nose!"
After the show got canceled, Maureen McCormick, the actress who played Marcia, had to deal with drug addiction, depression, and eating disorders. She did manage to do some guest appearances on a few shows and reprised her role as Marcia on "The Brady Brides" in 1981 and "A Very Brady Christmas" in 1988.
Don Draper - "Mad Men"
Don Draper was not exactly what you'd call the perfect man. The alcoholic, womanizer, homophobic and sexist advertising executive won over audiences for being the cool boss, who was known for defending his employees and keeping work as ethical as possible. He was also an absolute genius, delivering pitches that left clients begging to be taken on by his agency.
Draper was beautifully played by actor Jon Hamm, so much that he ended up winning multiple awards for his portrayal of the iconic advertising executive. Hamm has since appeared on a few movies such as "The Day the Earth Stood Still", "Million Dollar Arm" and "Baby Driver". Soon you'll be able to see him in the movie "Top Gun: Maverick".
Lafayette Reynolds - "True Blood"
The fact that he kept most of the time "hiding" in the kitchen of the Bellefleur's Bar and Grill, didn't take one inch of charisma from the flamboyant cook Lafayette Reynolds. His dark sense of humor and sassy attitude offered a special and essential touch to the show.
The role of Lafayette earned actor Nelsan Ellis several awards. The character's exaggerated feminine mannerisms were based on Ellis' own mother and sister. After "True Blood", the actor went on to appear on a James Brown biographical movie called "Get On Up". His last role was as Tyrik in "True to the Game". Sadly, he died in 2017 at 39.
Jack McFarland - "Will & Grace"
Although not one of the main characters of the show "Will and Grace", he is definitely one of the funniest. Jack, Will's wingman, captivates viewers with his hilarious attitudes and jokes that never fail to bring out a laugh. He never gives up his passion for acting and singing although everybody keeps on reminding him that he has no talent.
His role as the outgoing and over the top gay man Jack McFarland won Sean Hayes an Emmy and 6 Golden Globe nominations. Throughout his career, Sean appeared on several movies and guest-starred on many shows. In 2019 he made his debut on Broadway and won a Tony Award for "Promises, Promises". He owns his own television production company.
Willow Rosenberg - "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
Although not the main character on the show, Willow was definitely one of the favorites. Buffy's shy best friend, a founding member of the "Scooby Gang", ends up growing into a powerful and confident witch as the show progresses (actually, into the world's most powerful witch, if we're not mistaken!).
Willow was played by actress Alyson Hannigan from 1997 to 2003. The show opened up some doors into other subsequent teenage movies such as "American Pie" (1999) and all its sequels and "Boys and Girls" (2000). In 2005 Alyson landed another iconic role as Lily Aldrin in the hit comedy "How I Met Your Mother" which she played until 2014.
Rose Nylund - "The Golden Girls"
Hardly anyone can deny that, out of the 4 "Golden Girls", Rose was the one that stood out the most. The innocent and kinds, although not the brightest bulb on the porch, had this way of conquering audiences with her hilariously funny one-liners and her hard to believe crazy stories about St. Olaf, her hometown.
We doubt that the character would be this popular if it wasn't for Betty White. After playing Rose for 8 years, White, already a veteran actress by the time she appeared on "Golden Girls", went on to play recurrent roles and guest star on several TV shows. In 2010 she became the oldest person to ever host "SNL".
Fonzie — "Happy Days"
Let's face it: was there ever a cooler character than Fonzie? Despite his bad-boy image, greaser Fonzie (a.k.a. Arthur Fonzarelli) always made sure he treated everyone around him with the utmost respect. He was frequently seen on or around his motorcycle and, unlike his group of friends in the show, he was the epitome of cool. Thumbs up!
Henry Winkler played Fonzie for over 10 years. After the show ended, Winkler spent some time behind the cameras directing and producing shows like "MacGyver" and "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch". In the mid-90s and early 00s, the award-winning actor appeared on a few hit movies like "Scream" and "The Water Boy", that allowed him to re-establish himself.
Olivia Pope — "Scandal"
The fearless and powerful Olivia Pope is a character not to be messed with. The former White House crisis manager and chief of staff is the invisible hand that solves problems almost before they actually exist. She is the person people go to when they don't know where else to go and she always gets the job done.
The role of Olivia Pope got actress Kerry Washington 2 Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe for Best Actress. From "Scandal", Washington went on to appear as Mia Warren in the Mini-Series "Little Fires Everywhere" and to star in the 2019 movie "American Son". You'll be able to see her soon in the movie "24-7", currently in post-production.
Darlene — "Roseanne"
The sassy and sharp-witted Darlene, Roseanne's middle child, became one of the most progressive female characters of the 90s. The strong and confident young woman proved that it was ok to not obey to gender norms and to be herself no matter what others thought or felt about it.
After "Roseanne", Sara Gilbert (sister to "Little House on the Prairie" stars Melissa and Jonathan GIlbert) went on to appear on "The Simpsons" as the voice of Laura Palmers, "Will and Grace", "Law and Order: SVU" and as the sarcastic medical student Jane Figler on "ER". She went back to being Darlene on the 2018 "Roseanne" revival show.
Serena — "Bewitched"
The only thing Samantha and her cousin Serena had in common was the fact that they were both witches. Unlike Samantha, who spent her life trying to fit in, Serena was this progressive, hippie witch that truly embodied the 60s sexual freedom and counterculture. She thought her cousin and husband were too square but still approved of their marriage.
Elizabeth Montgomery not only played Samantha but also Serena, although she was credited as Pandora Spocks. After the show ended in 1972, Elizabeth appeared on several TV movies that got her Emmy nominations, such as "A Case of Rape" and "The Legend of Lizzie Borden". She dedicated her life to many causes she believed in like AIDS and Gay Rights.
Walter White — "Breaking Bad"
From family man to drug lord. Walter White's believable transformation throughout the show turned him into one of the most iconic characters of all time. Viewers couldn't believe that the man the loved at the beginning of the show, had turned into the one they hated by the end. White, a.k.a. Heisenberg was definitely "the danger".
After Breaking Bad, award-winning actor Brian Cranston went on to star on a few movies such as "Trumbo" (2015), "The Infiltrator" (2016) and Wakefield (2016). He's also lent his voice to several animation characters such as Titanium Rex in "SuperMansion" and multiple ones in "Robot Chicken". Most recently you can see him playing a judge in the show "Your Honor".
Jessica Fletcher — "Murder, She Wrote"
How could we not include Jessica Fletcher, the widow who spent her time writing crime novels and solving "real-life" homicide cases, on this list? Frequently seen riding her modest bicycle around the streets of the quiet Cabot Cave town, no one would ever tell she was one of the best unofficial detectives around.
Angela Lansbury played this role for more than 10 years, for which she earned four Golden Globes in 1985, 1987, 1990 and 1992. She went on to star on numerous movies shows throughout the years and was nominated for two Emmys for her roles in the TV movie "The Blackwater Lightship" and the show "Law & Order".
Jack Tripper — "Three’s Company"
The klutzy Jack Tripper, Janet and Chrissy's roommate on "Three's Company" entertained viewers for years while hilariously embarrassing himself in front of women. He can't help himself from getting into the funniest situations, which usually include him suffering some sort of accident. The character went on the reappear on the show's spinoff "Three's a Crowd".
The role of Jack Tripper ended up earning actor John Ritter a Golden Globe and an Emmy. After the show ended, Ritter appeared on several comedy movies such as "Real Men" and "Problem Child". On TV he had recurrent roles on the shows "Hooperman" and most recently "8 Simple Rules... For Dating My Teenage Daughter".
Archie Bunker — "All in the Family"
Who could forget the grumpy, conservative, intolerant Archie Bunker, the man of the house in CBS's "All in The Family"? Archie's comments on other ethnicities and races (which included his Polish son-in-law) are now seen as controversial but at the time, the character became so famous that he even got his own show called "Archie's Place".
Archie was played by acclaimed actor Carroll O'Connor who then went on to star on the television crime drama "In The Heat of The Night" and then on the show "Mad About You" as Jamie Buchman's father. His last acting role before passing away in 2001, was in the movie "Return to Me", starring David Duchovny and Mimie Driver.
Mary Ann Summers — "Gilligan’s Island"
The perky, upbeat and lovable Mary Ann was one of the viewer's most favorite characters on the show "Gilligan's Island". No wonder! Apart from being a great cook, she sensitive girl was also the most down to earth of all the women on the island. She also managed to do all the chores without messing up her cute ponytails.
Summers was played by Dawn Wells who later on confessed having received numerous letters from men proposing to her throughout the years she was on the show. Wells went on to reprise her role on the show's 3 TV movies and spinoff in 1982 called "Gilligan's Planet". Most recently you can see her on the show "Kaplan's Korner" as herself.
Robert Barone — "Everybody Loves Raymond"
We have to admit that Robert Barone frequently stole the show from his brother Raymond, the lead character. The NYPD officer living across the street from Raymond with his parents always felt like he was living on his brother's shadow which produced some pretty hilarious feuds between the two siblings.
After playing Robert Barone for almost 10 years, actor Brad Garrett went on to play the recurrent role of Diamond Jim Johnson on the show "Me, Eloise" and to appear on numerous movies throughout the years. He was also known for lending his voice to many animation characters such as Gusteau in "Ratatouille" or Chug in "Planes: Fire & Rescue".
Spock — "Star Trek"
Come on, could we really not include Mr. Spock on this list? His mixed human-Vulcan heritage and the impact it had on him while growing up led him to become obsessed with having logic and control in his life. His iconic Vulcan greeting will forever be remembered. Live long and prosper Mr. Spock!
Leonard Nimoy became a cultural icon after playing Spock for over 30 years not only on the original "Star Trek" show but also on its numerous spin-offs, movies, and adaptations. He did, however, play other recurrent roles on shows like "Invasion America" and more recently "Fringe". The actor passed away in 2015, at 83, from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Agent Dale Cooper — "Twin Peaks"
The special FBI agent assigned to investigate Laura Palmer's homicide ended up becoming one of the show's most iconic characters. The highly competent coffee-drinking and pie-loving agent gets temporarily replaced by an evil doppelganger while becoming trapped in an alternate reality. How David "Linchy" could this plot be?
The role of Dale Cooper won Kyle MacLachlan a Golden Globe and a few Emmy nominations. From "Twin Peaks", MacLachlan went on to appear on numerous movies and to play further recurrent roles in shows such as "Sex and the City" and "Desperate Housewives". He came back to his role as Cooper in the 2017 "Twin Peaks" revival.
Kelly Bundy — "Married… With Children"
The rebellious teenager Kelly Bundy was known for always being more focused on men and fashion than on getting good grades. The Bundy's eldest child fitted the dim-witted blonde stereotype perfectly. Who could forget Kelly reading out loud the "Garfield" comic strip while dreadfully mispronouncing the words?
Christina Applegate played Kelly Bundy for 10 years. From then on, Applegate became known for starring in numerous movies (many of which comedies) as well as playing recurrent roles in the shows "Samantha Who?", "Up All Night" and, most recently the show "Dead to Me". She won an Emmy for her guest-star appearance on the show "Friends" back in 2003.
Elaine Benes — "Seinfeld"
Every character on Seinfeld was special, but Elaine was definitely one of the funniest. Although she looks like one of the group's most normal characters, she ends up getting into situations that show she has just as many quirkinesses as George or Kramer. And who can forget her horrible but hilarious dance skills?
Julia Louis-Dreyfus will never be able to distance herself from her Elaine character but nevertheless, she has managed to continue building an impressive career, especially on TV. She went on to play recurrent roles in the shows "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (as herself), "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and more recently "Veep".
Isn't it amazing to remember all these incredible iconic characters? We have to admit they're impossible to forget! Which ones were your favorites from this list? Let us know all about it in the comments section and don't forget to share the article!