For the past few weeks, Mad Men has been all about Roger Sterling. From his and Jane’s fateful acid trip to the amicable end of their marriage that followed to Roger’s subsequent re-evaluation of his life, Matthew Weiner is showing us yet another middle-aged man in a transition that may well build into a crisis. In the most recent episode, we saw the full range of Roger’s good and bad qualities: One minute, he was charmingly entertaining Sally Draper at her dad’s awards banquet, and the next he was inadvertently corrupting the poor kid by slipping off for some illicit sexual contact with her step-grandmother. Among other things, the moment got us thinking about TV characters we love and hate in equal measure, from the lotharios of advertising to pawns in Game of Thrones.
Roger Sterling, Mad Men
He’s slick, he’s decadent, and he’s full of pithy quips — Roger is basically a party in a three-piece suit. But, like Don Draper, he’s always hopping from wife to mistress to new wife, with little regard for the emotional wreckage he leaves behind. What makes Roger a bit more irritating is that he doesn’t even seem particularly talented at his job; as he reminded us this week, he’s never earned a single thing he’s gotten, and without the Lucky Strike account, he’s basically dead weight at the office. Then again, after spending last season dictating his self-satisfied memoirs, his experimentation with LSD seems to have woken him up to his general uselessness. Plus, he’s still so charming. Sigh.
Hannah Horvath, Girls
Oh, Hannah. We know how you feel — like you’ve spent your entire life training for a future that’s never going to happen because your goddamn internship, where you’ve spent a year working for free, pretty much laughs in your face when you inquire about being hired as a real employee. That humiliating non-relationship seems kind of familiar, too. But do you have to do terrible, privileged, self-absorbed things like stealing the tip your parents left for the hotel housekeeper or telling the doctor at Planned Parenthood that you sort of wish you had AIDS, because it would be helpful for guilt-trip purposes?
Chris Traeger, Parks and Recreation
Don’t get us wrong — like his Pawnee city government colleagues, Chris is a great character, portrayed perfectly by Rob Lowe. We think his and Ann’s romance is adorable. But here’s the thing: We’ve known people like Chris, and they’re not nearly as lovable in real life. Obsessed with rules and efficiency, blinded by perfectionism and a narcissistic need to be the best at everything, deluded into thinking that they’ll live forever just because they drink protein shakes and run half a marathon every day, and so self-satisfied they’re basically a human smirk. You’ve got to love their idealism, though, right?
Shirley Bennett, Community
Shirley is the sweetest, kindest, most nurturing character at Greendale Community College. Unfortunately, she’s also a conservative Christian who wholeheartedly believes that everyone who doesn’t share her beliefs is going to hell and does sneaky things like trying to baptize her Jewish pals. This, despite the fact that her behavior doesn’t always qualify as godly (remember when she hooked up with Chang?).
Robert Crawley, Downton Abbey
We’re pretty clear on our feelings about most Downton Abbey characters: Matthew, Mary, Sybil, Bates, Anna, Carson? Yay! Thomas, O’Brien, Sir Richard? Boo! But last season’s most fascinating member of the Crawley household was its patriarch, Robert, the Earl of Grantham. Plagued with guilt over his minimal involvement with the war effort and increasingly aware of the British aristocracy’s precarious future, he started acting a little crazy — most notably, chasing after a maid while his wife was at death’s door. At the same time, though, he’s remarkably open-minded for someone who’s got the Dowager Countess for a mother, and we were touched to see him finally bless the union of Sybil and Branson.
Sansa Stark, Game of Thrones
There’s no denying that Sansa Stark is in a shitty situation — she’s betrothed to a sadistic boy king who, despite her desperate plea for mercy, gleefully executes her father as a traitor. Forced to pledge fealty to Joffrey and repeatedly denounce Ned and her brothers, Sansa is basically being held captive in her future husband’s castle. But let’s not forget that this is partially a prison of her own making. It is against her family’s wishes that she agrees to marry Joffrey, and at one point she memorably sells out Arya to remain in his good graces. We like — and sympathize with — Sansa more every week, but we can’t deny that her social climbing ambitions bear some of the responsibility for her current fate.
Nicholas Brody, Homeland
Sgt. Nicholas Brody is a mess — and understandably so. A soldier captured by al-Qaeda and held for eight years as a prisoner of war, he returns home culture shocked, traumatized, and potentially brainwashed into becoming a terrorist himself. Although we have a good amount of insight into where his loyalty lies by the end of Season 1, it’s more complicated than that. Brody’s neither a hero nor a villain, and his experiences while in captivity have shaped the way he sees the world. He isn’t sure what’s right or wrong anymore, and as a result, it’s difficult to either blame him or embrace him.
June Colburn, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23
Just as Apartment 23‘s Chloe is a mean girl we secretly love, June is kind of a nice girl we secretly hate — or at least feel ambivalent about. Sure, it sucks to move to the city, face major professional disappointment, and get stuck with a con artist for a roommate. But you know what you do? Instead of allowing her to manipulate you into raising a teenager she adopted on your behalf, you get the hell out of there and don’t look back. We understand that such a decision would destroy the entire premise of the show, but even so, June’s decision to tolerate Chloe can’t help but undermine our sympathy for her.
Davis McAlary, Treme
Obsessed with the music of New Orleans, from jazz to bounce, and outraged at the city’s political corruption and post-Katrina fate, DJ Davis has his heart in the right place. But let’s be honest: he’s also annoying as hell.
Blair Waldorf, Gossip Girl
She’s a mean girl, that’s for sure. Beautiful, spoiled Blair Waldorf spends most of her time scheming to ruin her enemies, whether they be rivals for the Queen Bee crown or ex-lovers like Chuck Bass. And yet, she’s done a lot of growing recently (at least, as much as you can reasonably expect from a Gossip Girl character). These days, Blair realizes that it’s more important to be happy than to be a real-life princess, and has opened her mind to the romantic possibilities of precocious authors who grew up in Brooklyn. We’ve also never been able to resist her professional ambition, or the way she idolizes other powerful women.