Jeff Winger, Community = Zack Morris, Saved by the Bell
What does a cocky, scheming high-school heart throb who hooked up with every girl on the cast and is always in trouble with the principal grow up to become? More likely than not, a cocky lawyer who fabricated his undergraduate degree and is currently scheming his way through community college, where he hooks up with every girl on the cast.
Victoria Grayson, Revenge = Blair Waldorf, Gossip Girl
These beautiful brunettes are the ice-cold queen bees of their respective moneyed scenes — in Blair’s case, the Upper East Side, and in Victoria’s, the Hamptons. Both have closets full of skeletons; Victoria’s are more serious, but we imagine Blair will have equally troubling secrets by the time she’s north of 40. Despite their manipulative natures, there is something vulnerable about each of these characters. We may resent their 1%er entitlement, but for some reason, we still empathize enough to hope they get what they want.
Lafayette Reynolds, True Blood = Rickie Vasquez, My So-Called Life
As tough, smart queer men of color, Lafayette and Rickie know a thing or two about using your wits to survive in a place that can be hostile to your kind, each enduring the kind of childhood that could scar you life. Both are flamboyantly, and sometimes even effeminately, stylish, and they also know how to rock some mean guyliner. The big difference? We’re pretty sure Rickie never had to worry about being possessed by the ghost of a murdered Creole woman.
Archie Bunker, All in the Family = Eric Cartman, South Park
They’re loud, they’re opinionated, they’re pleasantly pudgy — they’re Archie Bunker and Eric Cartman, and we delight in watching them terrorize their more open-minded family and friends. Why must bigots be so much more fun on TV than in real life?
Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation = Lisa Simpson, The Simpsons
Sure, they can be a little intense with their obsessions, whether they be local government and waffles or saxophone and vegetarianism. But these overachievers are still undeniably lovable, tirelessly pursuing their dreams, inspiring their less-ambitious family or co-workers to become better people, and committing more random acts of kindness in a day than most of us manage in a year. We only hope that when Lisa grows up (never mind that she’s been eight years old since 1987), she finds a Ben Wyatt of her very own.
James “Toofer” Spurlock, 30 Rock = Carlton Banks, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Do we even need to explain this one? Carlton is a wealthy, snooty Bel-Air teen who exists primarily to be a foil for his streetwise, Philly-bred cousin Will. One of The Fresh Prince’s central tropes is that Carlton “acts white.” 30 Rock’s Toofer is Carlton about a decade down the road, with an Ivy League degree, a preppy wardrobe, and a well-founded disgust with walking stereotype Tracy Jordan. Frank frequently describes Toofer as a “black nerd,” but the title is equally suited to Carlton.
Don Draper, Mad Men = Dylan McKay, Beverly Hills, 90210
Yes, we already made this comparison once — but seriously, it bears repeating. Your favorite highbrow cable drama and your guilty-pleasure teen soap are basically the same show, if you ignore some tiny things like quality of writing and intellectual heft. Don Draper is a mysterious, philosophical, substance-abusing antihero who’s got the ladies wrapped around his little finger… and, how about that, so is Dylan McKay. Need we even mention their absent parents and resultant, rampant daddy issues?
Dowager Countess of Grantham, Downton Abbey = Margaux Kramer, Punky Brewster
You might think that no child could possibly be an equal to Downton Abbey’s nasty, spoiled, and yet somehow thoroughly gangsta Dowager Countess of Grantham. But think back to your own youth and you will recall Punky Brewster’s most annoying friend, Margaux Kramer. She was just as rich, just as bratty, and just as out of touch with the lives of common people. Her equivalent of Violet’s “What is a weekend?” is her equally classist all-purpose comeback: “Peasants!”