By most accounts, and by most I mean the two I found on the Internet- one on The A.V. Club and one on Grantland, the most recent Golden Age of Television is going to come to a close when Mad Men ends next spring. And it is the most recent Golden Age, as opposed to the Golden Age. A quick Google search will basically give you the impression that at some point during every decade since the 50’s, someone has declared a time during that decade to be the Golden Age of Television. Like with everything we consider the best these days, someone in another era already trumped us and laid claim to The Best, the Golden Age, the Greatest Game, etc. It’s all constant race for second place it seems.
I’m ignoring all that, though- the other generations, the other Golden Ages. Your personal connection to an era is where all judgement largely stems from. It’s why I think the early 90’s were the best times for music, the 2004 Red Sox were the best Red Sox team ever and why this most recent Golden Age of Television is the Golden Age of Television. Before The Sopranos came along and with it, the Golden Age of Television, I had a pedestrian relationship with TV. But that all changed and since 1999, some of my favorite things to ever come across the small screen have aired. And I get it. If you’re older than me, you might contend that the ’70’s were where it’s at. And if you’re younger than me, you might be inclined to believe the best has yet to come. I respect your opinions, but I disagree. Starting with The Sopranos, ending with Mad Men– that was the best run of television we’ve seen to date and will likely see for a very long time. Just look at some of the shows that aired during this time- The Wire, Friday Night Lights, the Office, Arrested Development, Lost, Breaking Bad, 24, among others. All of them are amazing, if not effin’ super amazing. The Wire might be my favorite, but the rest of those shows aren’t far behind. And you can’t leave out the shows occupying the coat tails of this Golden Age, still included, yet also still happening and are close to finishing up- shows like Parks and Recreation, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones. It’s all great, man. All of it.
But what about the characters on those shows. If the shows are all so top notch, than certainly the characters must be as well.
Who is the best, though?
With the 2014 World Cup set to start this week, I thought I’d find out by doing a World Cup-style tournament of my own. I wouldn’t be looking to see what country has the best soccer/football/futbol team in the world, though. I’d be trying to find out who is the best character to come out of the Golden Age of Television.
Step 1: Determine the time period
1999 through 2015, when Mad Men ends.
Step 2: How many teams are in the World Cup?
Step 3: Pick the 32 best characters
I would do so with some rules and guidelines, the main rule being that no show could be represented by more than three characters. The other main rule would involve what shows still airing would be eligible. In order for one of these shows to have characters be considered, a show needs to have more three seasons under it’s belt and/or be near the end of it’s run. This would make characters from Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Scandal, Parks and Recreation, Mad Men and the Colbert Report eligible. It would then exclude anyone from The Americans, House of Cards, Homeland and True Detective.
* Side note here: it is borderline amazing how few great, really stand out female roles there have been during this era. I struggled to find enough women to fill my unofficial quota. Kind of ridiculous.
Step 4: Once 32 characters are picked, select the top 8
That’s what FIFA does, they select the top 8 teams. So that’s what I would do.
Step 5: Create groups
There are 8 groups in the World Cup, so there would be 8 groups in the World Cup of Television. Each group would include one of the top 8 characters. The rest of the groups would be filled based on their networks. HBO and NBC had the most characters, so they would be split up first. Then the other networks would fill out each group.
The World Cup of Television would run just like the World Cup. Each group runs it’s own round robin-style tournament, meaning that each character would face off against the other three. The two characters with the best records at the end of group play would advance. From that point, the tournament runs bracket style and is single elimination.
Scoring would be done similarly to how I did scoring during my Greatest HBO Character of All Time Tournament. Characters would be judged on the following:
- Personal favoritism
- The character’s role on their show
- Their length of time on their show
- Cultural significance
- Memorable quotes and/or scenes
In the event of a tie, two factors will help determine a winner.
- Outside input
- Awards won
Don Draper (Mad Men)
Carmela Soprano (The Sopranos)
Jack Donaghy (30 Rock)
Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother)
Tony Soprano (The Sopranos)
Stringer Bell (The Wire)
Tami Taylor (Friday Night Lights)
Roger Sterling (Mad Men)
Walter White (Breaking Bad)
Jimmy McNulty (The Wire)
Dwight Shrute (The Office)
Olivia Pope (Scandal)
Michael Scott (The Office)
Nucky Thompson (Boardwalk Empire)
Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation)
Jesse Pinkman (Breaking Bad)
Eric Taylor (Friday Night Lights)
Kenny Powers (Eastbound and Down)
Gob Bluth (Arrested Development)
Nancy Botwin (Weeds)
Omar Little (The Wire)
Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones)
Peggy Olsen (Mad Men)
Waylon Givens (Justified)
Jack Bauer (24)
Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones)
Charlie Kelly (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)
Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report)
Liz Lemon (30 Rock)
Al Swearenegen (Deadwood)
John Locke (Lost)
Tobias Funke (Arrested Development)
Looking at it now, it definitely looks like Group B is the Group of Death.
Some notable match ups to look forward too…Don Draper vs. Jack Donaghy, Tony Soprano vs. Stringer Bell, Tami Taylor vs. Roger Sterling, Walter White vs. Jimmy McNulty, Michael Scott vs. Leslie Knope, Eric Taylor vs. Kenny F’n Powers, Kenny Powers vs. Gob Bluth, Peggy Olsen vs. Tyrion Lannister, Charlie Kelly vs. Stephen Colbert, John Locke vs. Liz Lemon
Some characters who just missed the cut: Tim Riggins (Friday Night Lights,) Jack Shepard (Lost,) Alicia Florrick (The Good Wife,) Frank Underwood (House of Cards,) Ryan Atwood (The O.C.,) Richard Harrow (Boardwalk Empire,) Jimmy Darmody (Boardwalk Empire,) Vic Mackey (The Shield.)
Right off the bat, I want to get this out there- I have never seen The Shield, The Good Wife or The West Wing. This should explain any omissions from those shows.
The tournament will start on Friday June 13th with Group A. I will do a group a day. I will regret doing this at some point. I will enjoy doing this at numerous points. I will be confused, bewildered, befuddled and reliant on outside opinions.
Let’s do this.