There are a lot of great TV characters, and it’s not surprising because the quality of television shows have just improved dramatically in the past 10 or more years. Television shows have reached the quality of big block buster films and now it seems like people demand more out of their TV shows. There are many great television protagonists, but I decided to compile a list of 15, I wanted it to be 10, but I just kept thinking of more TV characters that deserved to be on the list. So here it is folks, My Top 15 TV Protagonists split into three parts! Here is Part I!
*WARNING MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*
15. Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (The CW’s Arrow)
Billionaire play-boy turned vigilante hero, Bruce Wayne, *ahem* I mean Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is one of the coolest and most interesting TV characters. He starts out as a rich, spoiled pretty boy, with a very goofy haircut, and is kind of a jerk. Oliver uses women, and wastes his time just hanging out with his other rich friend Tommy Merlyn, and really doesn’t do anything productive with his life. Until one fateful day when Oliver decides to go on a sailing trip with his father and his current girlfriend’s sister, Sara. The ship known as The Queen’s Gambit ends up destroyed in a storm and Oliver is forced to fend for himself and learn how to defend himself on a mysterious island known as Lian Yu for 5 years. When Oliver is rescued and returned home, he is a changed man, and does not see the world the same way. He understands that criminals control his beloved Starling City and that someone needs to protect the citizens from criminals, especially the extremely dangerous ones. Oliver decides to start fighting against criminals based on a list his dad gave him right before he died. Oliver starts training and becomes “The Arrow,” a vigilante hero who wears a hood and is very skilled with a bow and arrow. From this point on, Oliver Queen is only concerned with protecting his city from those who try to turn it into a corrupt and crime controlled city. Much like Batman, Oliver Queen’s true identity is The Arrow, he only uses Oliver Queen as a cover for his real identity to keep up appearances.
When Oliver starts fighting crime as “The Arrow” he inspires the people of Starling City to take back their city from the corrupt. Oliver Queen has a life-changing experience that terms him into a hero and gives him direction and a purpose. He is a very complex character who believes that deep down he is a murderer, and vows never to kill anyone, unless it is absolutely necessary, much like Batman. He is constantly learning to be a better person and to do whatever he needs to protect those he cares about. His constant development and the fact that he is a layered and complex person are what make him a great TV protagonist.
14. Don Draper (AMC’s Mad Men)
Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is another complex character, who just is hard to figure out sometimes. Donald Draper starts out as an Advertising Executive at the prestigious Ad Agency Firm, “Stirling/Cooper.” He is married to Betty Draper (January Jones) and has three children and on the surface, everything seems fine. He has the perfect job, the beautiful wife, and three beautiful children, but not everything is fine. Don Draper has a dark past, and is a serial cheater (he constantly cheats on his wife) who treats women like property.
Don Draper is a very complex character, who deep down really hates himself, it doesn’t matter how much money he makes, or how many women he sleeps with, he does not like who he is. I think part of this can be attributed to the fact that he knows he is a fraud, he is not really Don Draper, his real name is Richard Whitman. He takes on the identity of a soldier named Lieutenant Donald Francis Draper after he returns from fighting in the Korean War as a tribute to the late Lt. Donald Draper, who he is responsible for letting die in an explosion from an artillery attack.
Don Draper can be arrogant, controlling and sometimes down right scary. Despite all of his faults, Don tries to be a good father and tries to be there for his kids whenever he can. He sometimes can be very difficult to root for and get behind because of the way he treats others and sometimes he is just a horrible person.
Don Draper is very unpredictable and you never know what kind of shenanigans he will get himself into next, making him one of the most interesting television protagonists.
13. Rustin Cohle (HBO’s True Detective)
Louisiana State Detective Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) is one of the most compelling characters ever to grace our televisions. He like the two characters I have already mentioned is also complex, he could be labeled a Pessimist for his views on religion, the afterlife and just life in general. However I think Rustin Cohl is more of a Nihilist, he says repeatedly that he doesn’t believe life has any meaning, and even makes fun of people who believe in preachers and faith healers, and religion believing they must have a very small I.Q. to believe in such nonsense.
Rustin has a very dark past and as a result has nihilistic views in regards to life, the afterlife and everyone’s role in the universe. He loses his daughter in a horrible accident, which ruins his marriage and his life too. He is a loner, and he cannot have a lasting relationship with a woman, and he never sleeps. He is a recovering drug addict from his days of going undercover to infiltrate a biker gang that was dealing narcotics.
He is very intelligent, perceptive and has an analytical mind that makes him a great detective. Rustin, despite his negative views about life and humanity wants to help people and wants to stop heinous criminals and it’s this determination that makes him a very good detective.
Rustin Cohle is a fascinating character who despite his nihilistic views, you can’t help but root for, which makes him one of the best protagonists on television.
12. Neal Caffrey (USA’s White Collar)
Career con man turned FBI consultant, Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) is an interesting character who despite being a professional liar by trade is a good person, who cares about people and would never resort to murder no matter the circumstances.
Neal is a very intelligent, confident, sauve, slick and perceptive person which makes him a great con man. After being caught by FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) when he successfully broke out of prison, Neal made a deal that made him an FBI consultant where he would help Agent Burke and his team track down and catch the worst White Collar criminals.
These different white collar cases, give us a chance to see Neal Caffrey in action and get an understanding of how good of a con man he really is. Neal’s experience being a con man allows him to be able to adopt an alias and create a whole cover story for that particular alias. He is a hopeless romantic, who enjoys fine wines, expensive suits and art. He is very skilled at forgery, being able to forge paintings, bonds, sculptures, and checks. Understanding how the most advanced security systems work, he is able to break into heavily guarded buildings and leave undetected.
Despite enjoying living the high life as a con man, Neal just wants to be free, not having to wear an anklet monitor and be under constant supervision from the FBI.
He is a sweet, kind, and caring man, who is very loyal, but because of his criminal past he is very hard to trust. Even though he is a career criminal, Neal abhors violence, murder and never carries a gun.
Neal’s skills and experience as a con man can make him a very valuable ally, but also a very dangerous enemy. He is shown to violate the trust of the FBI, especially his partner Agent Peter Burke, because he has put his trust in them and they have let him down on countless occasions.
Neal Caffrey is an unpredictable man, who because of his skills and experience as a con man can disappear in the blink of an eye, and is able to get himself out of some very stick situations. He is a very likable character who is unpredictable, which makes him one of the best protagonists on television.
11. Richard Castle (ABC’s Castle)
Crime novelist turned NYPD consultant, Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) is one of the most exciting characters on television. Richard Castle is a successful crime novelist and wealthy playboy, who enjoys living the high life. He can be a bit pompous, arrogant, and self-absorbed, but it becomes clear that this is just a facade. Castle is a very intelligent, perceptive and analytical person, who is able to use his experience as a crime writer to help the NYPD solve crimes.
Deep down Castle is a sweet, kind, caring, loving and thoughtful man, who cares about his daughter Alexis and his mother. He is shown to act very childish, loving to play laser tag with his daughter, and play videogames in his spare time. He is also somewhat of a nerd, loving comic books, science fiction and knowing lots of different things pertaining to pop culture.
Richard Castle is really just a little kid at heart, who enjoys life and loves to have fun and is shown to be quite a partier. He enjoys making various types of alcoholic beverages and loves to cook. His experience as a crime writer allows him to understand the mind of a killer and understand their motives as well. Richard likes to wear costumes and loves time periods like the Old West and loves to play poker with his friends.
Richard Castle is a funny, goofy, silly, lovable and intelligent character who says and does some of the most outrageous things, but he is fun to watch when he is trying to solve a murder and that’s why he is one of the best protagonists on television.
Well that concludes Part I of My Top 15 TV Protagonists! Part II will be up shortly!
What say you? Do you agree/disagree with my list? Who would you put on your list of the top tv protagonists? Whatever your thoughts let me know!