Close, but not my actual favorite.

I’ve explained before that I don’t watch a lot of television.  And, over the last several years, I have picked up more by watching it on DVD or streaming and not when it originally aired.  We watch a bit more than we used to because of a wealth of good shows on cable channels.  In fact, this year, for the first time since 1990-91 and only the third time ever, I actually watched, as they aired, multiple nominees for Best Drama Series at the Emmys (Stranger Things, Westworld).  There was a stretch in the 80’s when I actually watched four of the five Emmy nominees for Best Comedy, but that was because they were all on the same channel in a row (The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, Night Court), and I must admit, as much as I enjoyed Night Court as a kid, it’s kind of appalling that it was nominated three times (and that it lost to The Golden Girls) while Sports Night was never nominated.  The only Comedy nominees I have watched as they aired in the same season it received an Emmy nomination since Seinfeld went off the air was one season of Malcolm in the Middle and the most recent two seasons of Modern Family.

So, there’s not a lot of range for this post.  But it doesn’t matter, because it has a definitive answer, one that couldn’t possibly have any other answer no matter how many television shows I were to watch.

By the way – a quick note.  For the most part, I don’t take to heavy television Dramas.  I went through the first season of The Wire because it was on the TSPDT long-list but it was too dark for me to continue.  With some rare exceptions like Broadchurch, I just don’t watch them (and I watch that because of David Tennant; I would watch Tennant in anything; hell I’ve even seen the St. Trinian’s sequel and The Decoy Bride).  So, while I appreciate all comments, don’t bother with “I can’t believe you’ve never seen (insert well-received drama I’ve never seen here like NYPD Blue, West Wing, The Sopranos, 24, Six Feet Under, Lost, Deadwood, Dexter, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights, Homeland, Downton Abbey, House of Cards, True Detective)”; the Dramas I watch are for specific reasons or specific actors and because I focus on films, not television, so no matter how well-received or loved it is, it won’t get me to go watch it.

When I was a kid, I think my answer for this post would have been Cookie Monster.  I suppose there might have been competition from Kermit and Ernie, but Cookie was always my favorite, especially the way he eats all his attempts to contact Santa in Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.

Taking a quick look through the 1980’s, I would say my favorite television character had to be MacGyver.  There’s no question that I was addicted to the show and I longed for the damn Monday Night Football season to end every year so that MacGyver would have a regular spot in the schedule again.  I watched a variety of shows, some because they were funny (The NBC Thursday night line-up), some I sneaked peeks at because the show was so terrible but the girl was so cute (think Alyssa Milano).  But mostly what I watched were re-runs of Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, so my favorite television characters at the time were probably Spock and Sheeba.  I loved Wonder Years, but I was more interested in the narration than in Kevin Arnold’s actual life (which is probably why I so love Arrested Development and Twenty Twelve / W1A).  I did love Colleen McMurphy (the first two times I was watching two Emmy nominated Dramas involved China Beach both times) but a lot of that was a serious crush on Dana Delaney.  In the 90’s, I would watch Seinfeld and The Simpsons (pretty much all I watched in college other than sports) but neither had any particular character I loved (again, like Arrested Development, since almost all of the characters are so flawed).  A high contender on any actual list would be Dan Rydell, my favorite character on what might be my favorite show of all-time, Sports Night and the character who said one of my favorite television lines of all-time (“We’ll bring you the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat, and because we’ve got soccer highlights, the sheer pointlessness of a zero-zero tie.”).  Even Scrubs, which became the go-to show for Veronica and I for several years doesn’t have a specific character that I really love – it’s just the show itself.

For a long time, I think I would have said my favorite television character of all-time was Daria.  After all, I wrote an entire piece about the show and talked at length about how she was the girl I wish I could have dated.  So why isn’t she the answer?  Because I wished I could have dated her.  Trust me, this will make sense.

Over the last few years, V and I have really turned towards cable shows, which is helped by the shorter seasons (it’s a lot easier to watch 62 hours of Game of Thrones than say, 162 hours of West Wing).  True Blood was always more Veronica’s thing (“Hey, Erik, Anna Paquin has a sex scene!”) but we both really loved Penny Dreadful but every character is again, so badly flawed in some way, that there’s not a particular character that I love more than any other, though Vanessa comes close.  We have gotten really into Game of Thrones, which I always knew would eventually happen and I desperately love Arya Stark and of course Tyrion Lannister is a perfect model for my personality.  So, they are high up on any sort of actual list I would make but neither is the answer.

There are, of course, the British Dramas we watch and it’s tempting to pick a Doctor (my favorite is Troughton, of course) or a companion.  Or to pick Sherlock or John Watson.  But none of those are the answer.

The answer is also not Daredevil or Jessica Jones, though they helped provide the actual answer.

Though I have long been a comic book reader, I have rarely actually watched live action comic book shows.  I enjoyed Batman as a kid in re-runs (though it is painful to watch it now as will be clear in a few months) and remember watching Wonder Woman.  But I only watched a few episodes of the live action Superboy and Flash and never got into Lois & Clark or Smallville.  When the Arrowverse began, I thought I might eventually watch it, but at this point we’d have 10 full seasons to catch up on.  We did watch the first season of Supergirl but the constant drama of her work life seemed a bit too “cutesy-romance”, so we’re waiting for the second season on DVD.  Likewise, when Agents of SHIELD began, I skipped it.  But Daredevil had such good reviews and it was on Netflix which allowed it to be a bit more violent and interesting, so we decided to give it a go (plus, V really wanted to watch Jessica Jones and I insisted we had to watch Daredevil first).  And we loved it.  Just simply loved it, everything about it, from the performance by Charlie Cox to the way it makes Foggy so much more an interesting character.  But it was so dark and violent, that we needed a break after it.  So, every night, after it was done, we would unwind by watching W1A.

Now, W1A was an easy choice to make.  We had loved Twenty-Twelve and we really like British Comedies, from Monty Python to Fawlty Towers to Spaced.  Hugh Bonneville’s Ian Fletcher would be a contender for any actual list, though what we love more than anything is David Tennant’s narration.  This got a bit weird when we were still watching W1A after we started Jessica Jones and we would watch psycho Tennant, then unwind with hilariously droll Tennant.  But watching Jessica Jones, which was even darker than Daredevil made us realize we could only watch one episode a night (one night V suggested that nothing could be darker than the episode we had just watched, so we could watch another one and boy was she wrong) and that we needed some comedy to unwind afterwards.  So, we continued to do that, with shows like A Young Doctor’s Notebook and the Netflix version of A Series of Unfortunate Events.  But all of those are fairly short and by the time we started Stranger Things (brilliant!) and Iron Fist (not so much), we needed something new.  So we decided on a longer-lasting comedy, one that we had heard great things about and some of whose stars we had started liking in films like Guardians of the Galaxy and The To Do List.  After Iron Fist, we were supposed to start The Crown, but we detoured into Game of Thrones, so we could get it watched before the new season started.  Then we were supposed to start The Crown and we should have had a couple of seasons left of our new comedy left to watch each night afterwards.  Instead, we plowed through the last two seasons of our comedy in just a couple of nights before going to California and then a couple of nights after getting back.

Now, I’m a lot of Ben Wyatt, that nerdy guy who loves Fantasy, who’s good with numbers (poor V sits there trying to calculate T’s carbs and I just walk up and tell her what they are).  I’m also a lot of Ron Swanson, not a person on Facebook, always using my real name for things, avoiding meetings at all costs, being frank with my opinions (“Dear frozen yogurt, you are the celery of desserts. Be ice cream or be nothing.” is an opinion I will gladly concur with as is “Skim milk is water that is lying about being milk.”), although, of course, I heartily disagree with his libertarianism.

Can you see where this is going?  Because if you don’t, you don’t know Veronica.  That’s why Daria is not the answer to this post.  Because I would have loved to have dated Daria.  She was the dream girl I had hoped for.  But I married Leslie Knope.

We sat there and watched the show and we fell in love with it.  We fell in love with it for the humor, we fell in love with it for the characters.  But I didn’t have to fall in love with Leslie Knope.  I’ve been in love with her since I met her.  In September of 1999.

Leslie is passionate about everything.  She believes firmly in what she does.  She talks about how much she loves the meetings she has, about how she has pre-meetings, about what can get done in those meetings, what is kept in the minutes for those meetings.  She makes binders for everything in life.  She always believes that she is right and she usually is (“I have the most valuable currency in America: a blind, stubborn belief that I’m 100% right. “).  I can’t count how many episodes I would pause so I could turn and look at Veronica because we both realized that Leslie was having another moment that was straight from our lives.  When she makes the sign full of puns for the farmer’s market?  That’s exactly what Veronica would have done.  Veronica was once in charge of the staff picnic when she worked at DePaul and damn was that picnic organized in a way that Leslie Knope would have envied.

Relationships on television shows are a tricky thing because you have to maintain the drama.  Of the very few dramas I watched at the time they were nominated for the Emmy, two of them (Moonlighting, Northern Exposure) never really recovered properly after the main characters finally slept together.  I watched That 70’s Show hoping that Eric (who I shared a name with and many characteristics) would end up forever with Donna (who was a gorgeous redhead), partially because it was like rooting for myself.  But it was vitally important to me in Parks & Rec, that Leslie end up with Ben.  And it was the best choice when they had them get engaged and then married without anything actually getting permanently in the way.  It worked for the show because the characters were genuinely compatible and they could create drama and conflict elsewhere and keep them happy together, even when she’s acting a bit insane and he’s trying to be the voice of reason.  Something that happens with us, by the way.

There have been a number of television characters over the years that I have enjoyed.  Some because they were funny (Cookie Monster, Norm and Cliff, Basil Fawlty, Brisco County Jr, Gob Bluth), some because they reminded me of me, both the good (Eric Forman, Malcolm, Ben Wyatt) and the not as good (Perry Cox, Tyrion Lannister), some because they were the heroes I wanted to be (Rick Hunter, McGyver, Hiro Nakamura) and some because I had a massive crush on them (Sheeba, Colleen McMurphy, Maggie O’Connell, Dana Scully, Supergirl).  But there is no question that of any show I have ever seen, of all the thousands upon thousands of television characters I have ever watched, my absolute favorite is Leslie Knope.  And with her wit, her charm, her insecurities, her occasional totally insane ideas and her boundless enthusiasm she should be yours too.  But I already married her, so find your own.