Who is the Greatest HBO Character Ever?

A March Madness-style tournament to determine who is the greatest HBO character of all time: Tony Soprano, Stringer Bell, Larry David or someone else?

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In honor of Curb Your Enthusiasm returning for it’s ninth season I thought it made sense to revisit Giddy Up America’s Greatest HBO Character of All Time Tournament, which originally ran back in March of 2013. The tournament has seen a couple revisions and updates since then, but the tournament’s original final four has remained the same, as has the final two, and most importantly, the tournament’s winner. At this point, it would take a remarkable final season of Game of Thrones and/or Veep to really alter the final’s landscape. It’s possible, but unlikely.

The original tournament was spread out over multiple posts, almost a dozen of them. But this was back in 2013; a simpler time. Now I realize that that’s a big ask of people, for them to stick with something for so long. There is a lot going on the Internet; a lot to grab people’s attention. So with that in mind, I decided to put the updated tournament, reflective of changes made over the years and with one or two more recently made, in one post. The whole tournament from start to finish.

Before we get into it, a reminder of how winners are determined, brought to you by the good folks at liquor stores. Liquor stores, where the only looks you’ll get, are the good kind.

How will winners be determined?
Personal favoritism
– The character’s role on their show
– Their length of time on their show
– Cultural significance
– Memorable quotes and/or scenes

And now the field of characters.


The four number one seeds are Tony Soprano of The Sopranos, Tyrion Lannister of Game of Thrones and Jimmy McNulty and Stringer Bell of The Wire. Tony Soprano is the number one overall seed.

We’ll start with Tony Soprano’s bracket.

The Don’t Stop Believing Bracket

1. Tony Soprano (The Sopranos) vs. 8. Richard Harrow (Boardwalk Empire)

In the original tournament, Soprano dispatched Sookie from True Blood easily. Not really much of a contest unfortunately. Sookie really didn’t stand a chance.  You could even make the case that Sookie wasn’t even the best character on her show. Either way, she was replaced by Boardwalk Empire’s tortured WWI vet/expert marksman and thumping heart Richard Harrow. Unfortunately Harrow doesn’t stand a chance either.  I will say, Harrow was part of one of Boardwalk’s best sequences.

Having him ranked in the top 32 is respect enough, though.

Winner: Tony Soprano

4. Bubbles (The Wire) vs. 5. Flight of the Conchords (Flight of the Conchords)

Okay, this is more like it. Our first interesting match up. Bubbles was the Shakespearean fool of The Wire and his heart-wrenching journey from hopeless drug addict to hopeful recovering addict was one of the few stories in The Wire you could walk away from feeling good about. Meanwhile, the Conchords, Bret and Jermaine, had a brilliantly funny and amusing sketch comedy show that while only lasting two seasons, left a handful of great songs stuck in your head.

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But please, Bubbles kicked a crippling drug addiction! I’m sorry Conchords, but you barely kicked an addiction to hair gel.

Winner: Bubbles

3. Kenny Powers (Eastbound & Down) vs. 6. Al Swearengen (Deadwood)

Two strong as bull, tough-talking alpha males. One (Swearengen) was a pimp and saloon owner in the old west. The other (Powers) was a washed up ball player on a quest for redemption. How to pit these two against each other is a tough one. How can we measure up two powerful dudes known for their metal on metal rhetoric and demolishing bombastic style?

Let’s go to the tape.

First, some pick me up advice from Swearengen.

Now, some words of wisdom from Powers.

Hmmm…that didn’t really help. Granted I’m inspired now, but still undecided.

Bottom line is that Kenny Powers rocked corn rows for half a season while living in Mexico and betting on cock-fighting before returning to the states, living it up in Myrtle Beach, fathering a child and becoming a sports talk show host. Al Swearengen only lasted three seasons and never rocked corn rows.

Winner: Kenny Powers

2. Nucky Thompson (Boardwalk Empire) vs. 7. Gillian Darmody (Boardwalk Empire)

Nucky was the star of the show and the show revolved around him. Even when it looked like Boardwalk was drifting away from him in season 2, it still ended up coming back in his direction. It was ultimately his story, for better or worse.

As for Gillian, she was way more important in that show than we all thought. Yeah, even you. Admit it. You didn’t see that coming. I don’t think anyone did. Unfortunately for Gillian her importance didn’t become apparent until the end, whereas Nucky was there from the very start.

Winner: Nucky Thompson

1. Tony Soprano (The Sopranos) vs. 4. Bubbles (The Wire)

I think it’s a safe assumption that everyone knows who Tony Soprano is. Even if you never saw The Sopranos, you know who Tony is. That’s because during the show’s run he became such a force of cultural significance that it was damn near impossible not to know who he was. You probably even know that he may or may not have died in the last minute of the show’s finale.

What makes this a tough match up for me is that Bubbles isn’t nearly as well known as Tony and while this isn’t a popularity contest in the broader sense of the word, it is a personal popularity contest, meaning that who I like the best is taken into account. However, another factor is cultural significance. So before even starting anything, Tony has the upper hand in that one.

Bubbles was the one junkie on The Wire that we, the audience, really cared about. Hold on, let me say that again with the proper emphasis- Bubbles was the one junkie on The Wire that we, the audience, really cared about. As was previously stated, Bubbles was the Shakespearean fool of the show, providing commentary about life on the street that cut between the police and drug dealer story lines. Goddamn we wanted him to get clean (which (SPOILER) he did by the end of season 5.) He tried the first time to get clean in season 1 and he came so close before breaking our hearts and falling apart again. This led to three more seasons of Bubbles hi-jinks, which were great from an entertainment stand point, but a massive bummer from the perspective of caring about a character’s well-being. Throughout his journey of trying to get clean, we were able to see just how much of an uphill climb a junkie like Bubbles faced.

Bubbles was the heart and soul of The Wire. He was also the comic relief and at times, the voice of reason. He was all over the place and through him we got such a better view of the grim world the writers were trying to show us. The Wire was a show of a layers and Bubbles allowed us to see those layers in a lot of the scenes he was in. He was a tour guide in that respect.

But in the end, and this is going to break my heart, I just can’t have Bubbles beating out Tony Soprano here and I’ll tell you why. Bubbles was a passenger on the bus whereas Tony was the driver. Bubbles was at his best when giving observant asides. Tony gave us monologues and entire scenes that propelled the show forward. This is kind of like how so many baseball nerds say each year that a relief pitcher or designated hitter shouldn’t be able to win the MVP- they only contributed to a part of the game, not the whole thing. It’s just like that.

Bubbles contributed to parts of The Wire, Tony contributed to all of The Sopranos.

Winner: Tony Soprano

2. Nucky Thompson (Boardwalk Empire) vs. 4. Kenny Powers (Eastbound & Down)

As for Nucky and Kenny, the argument made in the Tony Soprano/Bubbles match up doesn’t apply here. On both of their shows, Powers and Nucky were the bus drivers. But I think where there is a difference is the magnitude of the show they are driving and what’s required of their character.

Nucky Thompson was a complex dude, someone who openly straddled the line between politician and gangster and over the course of the show’s run thwarted uprisings from his mentor, his prodigy, his brother and a wildly deranged asshole from New York among others. Nucky was comfortable for about half an episode before everything started to turn to shit. He killed his wife’s first husband, saw his brother get thrown in jail and later whisked away to hide out in Chicago and made a nice little trade with the Irish – guns for whiskey.*

* Guns for Whiskey would be a great name for a band.

Boardwalk Empire was a well-dressed hurricane of a show from start to finish. It wasn’t great, but it had it’s moments. Through it all Nucky was there, the grimacing, pained, tortured eye of the hurricane.

On the other hand, Kenny Powers is hilarious and in terms to anti-heroes, i.e. dudes we begrudgingly root for, both Powers and Thompson fit the bill. Powers was a little more original than Thompson was, though. Thompson felt familiar, Powers felt like a space alien.

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You will always get points for originality in my book.

Winner: Kenny Powers

1. Tony Soprano (The Sopranos) vs. 4. Kenny Powers (Eastbound & Down)

If we’re giving out points for originality, it’s hard to grab more points than Soprano. You could make an argument that if there’s never a Tony Soprano, there probably isn’t a Kenny Powers.

Advantage, Soprano.

Winner: Tony Soprano

The Natural Police Bracket

1. Jimmy McNulty (The Wire) vs. 8. Murray Hewitt (Flight of the Conchords)

Here’s what Murray has going in his favor: every scene he was in on Flight of the Conchords was hilarious, you can make the argument that his presence on the show is what made Flight of the Conchords a better show than Tenacious D, his nickname, Ginger Balls, inspired a drink I took to when I was living in Philly- Red Bull & Gin, i.e. Ginger Balls., it literally never got old how he started his band meetings, he appreciates the rock ‘n roll lifestyle.

But unfortunately Murray is going up against McNulty and while I’m not going to sit here and list the numerous reasons why McNulty is great (there will be time for that later) I’ll just point out the following: McNulty once crashed his car while driving drunk and then proceeded to reenact the crash several times as he investigated why it happened.

That’s the kind of rock ‘n roll lifestyle that Murray respects so much.

Winner: Jimmy McNulty

 4. Jon Snow (Game of Thrones) vs. 5. Larry Sanders (The Larry Sanders Show)

I only know what I’ve heard about Sanders and not what I’ve seen. I’ve heard he was hilarious and that his show was a trail-blazer for HBO. That’s dope; absolutely fantastic. It’s why he comes in now as a five seed.

But he’s an old head and he’s not beating Jon Snow, certainly not now with Snow on the come-up. Jon Snow means business. He has a man bun and not for fashion purposes, but for straight-up business purposes. Jon fights off White Walkers. Jon hooked up with Ygritte in a super sexy cave. Jon climbed up The Wall. Jon died. Jon came back to life. Jon won the Battle of Winterfell. Jon is King of the North. Dude, Jon is a Targaryen. Homeboy is kind of like, King of Westeros.

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He also hooked up with his aunt, but I guess it’s okay because it’s Game of Thrones and all things considered, that’s like, minor incest.

Sorry Larry Sanders, but it’s Jon Snow.

Winner: Jon Snow
3. Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones) vs. 6. Vern Schillinger (Oz)

Schillinger was a cold-blooded, murderous psychopath who ruled Oz with an iron fist. With that being said, when it comes to Cersei even Schillinger would bend the knee. Games recognizes game.

Winner: Cersei Lannister

2. Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm) vs. 7. Ali G (Da Ali G Show)

For pulling this off…

Ali G will live forever in our hearts.

But you know, it’s Larry David.

Winner: Larry David
1. Jimmy McNulty vs. 4. Jon Snow

Some context, originally, back when I first did this, Jon Snow was a seven seed and was knocked out in the first round by Omar, who was a two seed. At the time, Jon had been captured by the Wildlings and was at the height of Emo Jon Snow territory. My cousin, Joe Nixon, got understandably fired up when I even asked him about.

“Jon Snow versus Omar? Are you actually asking that question? Jon Snow isn’t my favorite character at the best of times and Kit Harrington has about one facial expression: dim-witted pout. People always say, “You look confused, Jon Snow.” He always looks like that! Omar. Is. The. Shit.”

Okay. But then fast forward and when it was time to change things up, Jon Snow was in the process of giving us a glimpse of what he would eventually become. He moved up and found himself as a four seed and in a different bracket. Yet even then, he lost to McNulty. Of course there was a built in caveat to the victory and it was a pretty big one – McNulty’s body of work was finished, Jon’s wasn’t.

Since then, Jon’s body of work keeps getting more and more impressive and he now finds himself at the center of the action on Game of Thrones, on the short list of unkillable characters, and let’s be honest, he’s probably going to win the whole damn thing.

This is where things get tough. I mean, this is McNulty we are talking about. McNulty! Damn it. McNulty was the heart and soul of The Wire.

But you know, we have to be honest with ourselves here. We have to admit once and for all that Jon Snow is the real deal. I mean, I feel like we’ve already admitted this, but at this point it bears repeating. For as great as McNulty was and for how instrumental he was to The Wire (remember, from a story stand point, he basically got the ball rolling on investigating the Bell/Barksdale drug ring in the show’s very first episode,) he still was MIA for season four, which is arguably the show’s best season. It’s not a knock, but it kind of is. The show was able to function without him. We missed him, but other characters came in and filled the void, specifically the four kids who were at the center of the season.

Now flip it and look at Jon Snow and Game of Thrones. When he was killed at the end of season five, everyone had the same reaction when we were asked if we thought he was really dead.

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Why did we think that? Because it had already reached a point where it was inconceivable to think of Game of Thrones continuing without Jon effin’ Snow.

That settles it.

Winner: Jon Snow
2. Larry David vs. 4. Jon Snow

We’ll make this quick. Jon Snow – he’s great. He’s probably some sort of mythical savior who will save all of mankind. He died, came back. He might die again, maybe will get brought back again.

Awesome.

No question.

But it’s Larry David and I can’t bring myself to have Jon Snow beat Larry David.

Winner: Larry David

The Imp Bracket

1. Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones) vs. 8. Nate Fisher (Six Feet Under)

I’ve never seen a second of Six Feet Under. But unless Fisher, one of the show’s main characters, somehow managed to top one of the following things during Six Feet Under’s run, then there isn’t much of a decision to be made:

  1. killing a guy with a shield
  2. destroying the majority of an invading navy with only one arrow
  3. hilariously befriending a bad ass sword for hire who might kind of hate him
  4. killing his father with a crossbow while he was sitting on the shitter
  5. going from being on the run, to being a slave, to surviving a brief stint in the fighting pit circuit, and eventually becoming the Mother of Dragons’ Hand

I’m pretty sure a guy running a funeral parlor did none of those things.

Winner: Tyrion Lannister
4. Hannah Horvath (Girls) vs. 5. Eric Northmann (True Blood)

Was Eric the best character on True Blood? He might have been. Remember there was that time when he had amnesia or something or wasn’t himself? That was a bummer. But it’s also irrelevant. You can’t sleep on the culture significance of Girls, especially when it first came out. Hannah was at the center of it all, from start to finish.

Winner: Hannah Horvath
3. Ari Gold (Entourage) vs. 6. Johnny Drama (Entourage)

No. Not against Ari, buddy.

I don’t think history has been all that kind to Entourage. The movie probably didn’t help. But still, Entourage was really a lot to fun to watch, especially early on. It made you want to make deals and talk on your cell phone and end calls without saying goodbye. Cool stuff like that. Johnny Drama was an appetizer on the show; nothing that would you fill you up and would only tide you over.

Not so for Ari Gold. That dude was the real deal, multiple phones, endless expletives and sexually abusive comments and all.

Winner: Ari Gold
2. Omar Little (The Wire) vs. 7. Jimmy Darmody (Boardwalk Empire)

There was a moment there, in the early going of Boardwalk Empire, where it looked like like a very real possibility that the show was Jimmy’s story, not Nucky’s. Of course, things change.

That was the end of season two. Boardwalk Empire still had a ways to go. Jimmy had a good run, but it was a short run. An unfortunate short run because I’m of the opinion that a show built around Jimmy coming up in the world, surrounded by baby gangster versions of Al Capone and Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lanksy would have been a much more interesting that the version of Boardwalk we eventually got. When the show first came out, this idea of seeing legendary crime figures before they became the versions we most commonly associate with them was a main selling point. Baby gangsters – their phrasing, not mine. The tag line of “you can’t be half a gangster” was a good one, but if it was in reference to say, Jimmy’s moral dilemma with dabbling in a life of crime, I think we would all look back at Boardwalk Empire a little differently.

Winner: Omar
1. Tyrion Lannister vs. 4. Hannah Horvath

I for one lost interest in Girls sometime around season 3 or 4. I don’t remember. I heard it ended pretty strong and had a good last season. Hannah had a baby, right? Cool.

Tyrion has slipped a bit in the past season or two of Game of Thrones, but he’s still one of the show’s most important characters and like Jon Snow, sitting pretty on that unkillable list. I think we’re going to be looking at one of two things whenever the show comes back for it’s eighth and final season: a Tyrion comeback or a Tyrion heel turn. Either way, dude will turn things around.

But even if he doesn’t, Tyrion would still advance.

Winner: Tyrion Lannister
2. Omar vs. Ari Gold

The argument for Ari is that he made Entourage entertaining, even when it wasn’t. He had some great lines, was force of nature and was cool under pressure

Entourage was on for eight seasons…yes, eight seasons, that’s not a typo. I had to look it up because I didn’t think it was more than six. How is that even possible? Sidetracked, re-focus.

Okay, so yes, Entourage was on for eight seasons and Ari Gold was essentially the same Ari Gold he was when it started and when it finished. Sure he went through some career changes and a personal hiccup or two, but ultimately, that dude was the same dude when that show ended. He was a little more successful, but he was still loud, brash and brashly loud.

Now I could go off here, maybe make some bold and wild comparisons between Ari and Omar along the lines of how they were both warriors, beholden to a code and unafraid to storm into an especially dangerous situation if they needed to. But that doesn’t feel right. It feels kind of cheap and dirty. And you know why? Because it’s a disservice to Omar. Why is it a disservice to Omar? Because while Ari was an enjoyable, entertaining character, Omar was a effin’ great character.

Winner: Omar
1.Tyrion Lannister vs. 2. Omar

For as long as I can remember I have loved Life cereal. I honestly don’t remember when it started, but I can say that one of my earliest Life-related memories was back when I was a young Ryno in the kitchen of my grandparents on the O’Connell side up in Brewer, Maine. Granddad had a thing for Life and I remember it being in one of the cupboards. Other cereals have drifted in and out of my life, but Life has been a constant. My wife has started pushing organic cereals on me but Life will not be deterred.

So naturally, you can imagine how I felt when they introduced Cinnamon Life. It felt awesome, totally awesome. Now I had two favorite cereals- the old stand by and the new kid on the block. I loved them both equally and I consider it a good day when grocery stores have deals where you can get boxes of both- 2 for $5. Man, and you add some Honey Nut Cheerios to the mix and baby, you ain’t got a stew, you have something so much better. I have never been able to answer which one I like better and I waffle between the two. I just like them both. Equally.

Why am I bringing this up? Because my love of Life and Cinnamon Life and my inability to choose between the two is the easiest way I can sum up how I feel about this match-up.

This is terrible.

You’re right, Andy. It’s horrible.

Well that seems a bit excessive.

Maybe not everything, but my brain definitely does.

And so is trying to pick between Tyrion and Omar.

I don’t even know where to start with this one. Just like with Life and Cinnamon Life, I love both Tyrion and Omar. Omar is Life, Tyrion is Cinnamon Life. I can’t pick between which cereal I like better, what makes me think I can pick which character I like better?

Facebook, help!

“Tyrion. Noseless dwarves who get more play then I do will always win.” – Dimitry

Okay, but that seems a little subjective.

“Omar. The cheese stands alone.” – Jammer

Noted. And great The Wire reference.

“I truly love both characters, but I’ll say this: Both scene-stealers (are) in series where beloved characters die unexpectedly, I think Tyrion is going to survive where Omar could not. Tyrion is too savvy to let his emotions get the better of him in the end. Plus he really makes the limp thing work for him (this was a problem for Omar).” – Krista

Hmmm. Interesting. Although Omar didn’t really die because of his emotions.

“I’m still leaning Omar, but man is it a close one. This might come down to the unfairness of spending only two seasons with Tyrion versus five with Omar, but we saw the full tragic arc of Omar’s story and we’re just at the beginning of Tyrion’s. Then again, the fact that it is so close after only two seasons means that Tyrion has a higher degree of difficulty, which could push him ahead. Damnit, now I’m thinking Tyrion for the upset. Can’t there be a tie?” – Joe

No. Ties are for blogs on Blogspot and businessmen.

“It would make things a lot easier if you can take into account the reality and totality of Tyrion’s character based on the books. Where we actually can compare 5 seasons of Omar vs 5 books with Tyrion. It wouldn’t even be a fair fight at that point as any of you who actually read the books can attest to.” – Dimitry (again)

Save your book talk for libraries, sir.

“So true. My response may have been biased since I read the books. Also, my future husband’s commentary was ‘Omar’s the Man. Tyrion’s the Half-Man.’ Do with that what you will.” – Krista (in response to Dimitry)

I will take that into consideration because that’s awesome.

“I was thinking about this last night because I couldn’t sleep. I am leaning Omar but it would be ironic if Omar won this tournament. The tag line for The Wire was “all the pieces matter.”McNulty was great but only because he had the Bunk and Freeman as his moral and professional jimminy crickets. Bubbles was great but we cared deeply about him only after we were introduced to his family. Omar is the man but only because of how we felt about Avon, Stringer, Prop Joe and Marlo. Without them being the great threats and foils that they were it’s hard for me to imagine that we’d have the same feeling about Omar. Omar can win this tournament, but if he does we should look at is a win for the entirety of The Wire. All the pieces matter.” – Frankie

Okay. But Omar has such a relationship with Avon, Stringer, Prop Joe & Marlo because of his chosen profession: stick up man. While I’m not sure my response makes sense (in my head it does) I think my point is that it’s the difference between situation and role. Omar had a role that deemed it necessary to interact with the drug dealers (and the cops, but don’t tell anyone.) McNulty’s role was cop, but he was in a situation that required counter-balances: Lester, Bunk, Greggs, etc.

“I’d go with Omar, but it’s real close. I think about it in the following irrational manner: put the characters into situations the other encountered. Tyrion is a master of talking his way out of impossible situations; Omar survives impossible situations. However, I think Omar would be just as able to get himself out of all the situations Tyrion gets into. Tyrion definitely doesn’t survive jumping out of a fifth floor window. I think Omar might have made it if they had thrown him out of that sky pit in season 1 of GoT. Plus, I’m assuming Stringer also advances, so you can have a rematch in the next round.” – Phil

Okay, so Phil brings up an interesting point. Both Tyrion and Omar are fringe characters in each of their shows and operate on their own, outside of established groups. If anything Omar is slightly more of a fringe character because he has no allegiances, unlike Tyrion who has now sworn his loyalty to Daenerys. Both play by their own rules, live by their own code and both do what they need to do to survive. Tyrion has his words, Omar has his shotgun and each use them to survive. You can’t even say one has it easier than the other. They are both surrounded by wolves (or in Tyrion’s case also dragons, deer and a litany of other animals.)

So shit man, how the hell do we decide?

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On the one hand, it’s easier to recall Tyrion’s brilliance because it’s fresh in our mind and still happening. But that same rationale makes it harder to judge him because as Joe points out, Omar’s story has already been told, while Tyrion’s is still being told. This has been an issue in other match ups. It’s not fair. But neither is life. So we take it for what it is. If life was fair, then that thing that happened to Omar in the middle of season five of The Wire wouldn’t have happened and Tyrion would get his just deserved (or deserts) for his role in the Battle of Blackwater.

Let’s ask Erin, my sister. She’s good at answering questions.

“Omar. Fearless. No character like him. Never know what to expect. Driven and guided by the rules of the game. Sawed off shotgun.”

That’s a solid vote for Omar.

Hmmm…President Obama loves Omar. That should count for something.

This is lose/lose, man. Both characters are awesome. Both characters were and are important to their show. Both characters have cultural significance. But I think when it really comes down to it, it’s gotta be Omar. I’m not totally sure why and I can’t even say that I feel good about.

Hold on, let me ask my wife because that’s what good husbands do.

“I want to say Tyrion, but my heart says Omar.”

Wife says Omar. President Obama says Omar. Even Tyrion would probably say Omar.

There’s always next time, Half Man.

Winner: Omar

The 40 Degree Day Bracket

1. Stringer Bell (The Wire) vs. Barb Henrickson (Big Love)

Barb is in this tournament because I felt Big Love needed at least one person to represent the show and I felt she would be a stronger representative than Roman Grant or Bill Henrickson. There was a time there when Big Love was a great show. It went from that creepy show about Mormon polygamists to a wildly entertaining and brutally intense drama before losing it’s way and petering out in it’s final season. But throughout the entire run of the show Barb was the rock and as much as possible, the moral center of the show. I feel she was the one character the audience sympathized with and boy did I want her to leave Bill. But nope, she never would. She stuck by her man and the other ladies her man married. It was twisted and admirable- much like the show itself.

Unfortunately the best Barb is going to do in this tournament is the above paragraph because she stands literally no chance against Stringer. I’m not really sure who in this tournament does to be honest.

Winner: Stringer Bell
4. Carmela Soprano (The Sopranos) vs. 5. Carrie Bradshaw (Sex in the City)

Bradshaw, like Barb Henrickson, is in this tournament because I felt Sex in the City needed some love and Carrie was the logical choice. Carmela is in because of her role on The Sopranos, which can’t be ignored and probably too often is. You could totally make an argument that HBO tends to favor strong male characters when it comes to them building their shows (especially the hour long dramas) and I wouldn’t argue against that one bit. These two ladies brought it though, but I’m just not sure how to stack one against the other.

“Carmela will fight dirty but don’t put it past Carrie to use a pair of her Jimmie Choo’s in battle.” – Cousin Kristen

I have no idea what Jimmy Choo’s are, but I’m assuming they’re shoes. That’s fine and all, but Carmela had no problem running around her house carrying a Bushmaster M 16 when she thought someone was breaking in (it was Meadow and she was sneaking out- damn teenagers.) I also think that you have to give Carmela points for kicking Tony out of the house and trying to live a life without him.

The Sopranos was a boys’ club, but besides Tony, there really wasn’t a character stronger than Carmela.

Winner: Carmela Soprano
3. Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones) vs. 6. Christopher Moltisanti (The Sopranos)

Originally these two were switched, Christopher was the three seed, Danys the six seed. Danys won, pulling off the upset. At that time, her dragons were but little dragon pups, but that was enough to knock off poor Christophah. There is literally no way that would be any different today.

Winner: Daenerys
2. Selina Meyer (Veep) vs. 7. Rust Cohle (True Detective)

A year after originally doing this tournament, both of these characters were still on the outside looking in. When they did get in the mix, Selina was a five seed and Rust was a seven seed. Selina made it to the second round, but Rust was quickly eliminated by Ari Gold. Fast forward a year and Rust is still a seven seed, but Selina has moved up. She was now a two seed and thus the match-up currently presented.

But let’s be real folks, Meyer isn’t going to jump from five to two and then be knocked out by Cohle, a seven seed. I kind of feel like she’s not just crashing the boy’s club of high brow television, but straight up kicking down the door. Veep is easily the funniest show on television and it all revolves around Meyer, who drops an f bomb with the passion of a thousand splendid suns. But her range is also incredible, especially as her presidency stumbled and fumbled to an end. I can’t decide what version of Selina Meyer is better- the swagger-filled one or the zero eff’s to give one.

Rust Cohle was cool and all, but I don’t think anyone was itching to see him beyond True Detective‘s first season. Yet I missed Meyer the minute the season finale ended. It’s hard to rival Game of Thrones in terms of my anticipation level, but Veep is getting close.

Rust was a fun fling, but Selina is relationship-material.

Winner: Selina Meyer
1. Stringer Bell vs. 4. Carmela Soprano

To borrow a popular Stringer-ism, Carmela Soprano is a forty degree day. In the end, there just isn’t much to talk about. There isn’t much to complain about. There isn’t much to be happy about. It’s just forty degrees.

Winner: Stringer
2. Selina Meyer vs. 3. Daenerys

Ok see, this one is a little tougher. How do you even judge Daenerys? She’s up, she’s down, she’s up again…literally, flying around the world on a dragon. She’s freeing slaves and dropping mics, she’s kicking around an old pyramid talking about entitlements and what is rightfully hers, she’s hitting the shores of Westeros triumphantly, then with a resounding thud as one plan after another falls apart. Consistency isn’t her strong suit.

Maybe let’s just look at the both of them solely as rulers. Selina Meyer is fierce and feisty. Danys is definitely fierce, but I wouldn’t call her feisty. She also seems to lack the political flexibility Meyer has, although I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Do we want our leaders to bend, but not break, or not bend at all? Shit man, this could get heavy. Maybe we should look at this another way and see how it goes if we judge them via the rules set in place when this tournament started.

  • Personal favoritism
  • The character’s role on their show
  • Their length of time on their show
  • Cultural significance
  • Memorable quotes and/or scenes

Personal Favoritism

Who do I like more? Well Daenerys is frustrating, Selina isn’t. I don’t care to be frustrated. I like Selina more.

The Character’s Role on Their Show

Both play important parts, although based on the difference in size and scope, it seems like Selina plays a bigger one. You could make an argument for Danys, though. I wouldn’t challenge it.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-10978-1380726078-23She’s the lead on Veep, whereas Danys is one of the leads on Game of Thrones. And even though there’s still one season of Game of Thrones to go, I can’t see that changing.  Selina gets this one too.

Their Length of Time on Their Show

Draw.

Cultural Significance

Ask a stranger if they know either one, I bet more would know Danys. Game of Thrones is a cultural phenomenon. It’s more than just a television show, it’s a lifestyle choice, like being vegetarian.

Veep is a great television show, but not the supernova that Game of Thrones is. I think we’ll appreciate Selina Meyer more the closer it gets to the end of Veep, but for now, Danys gets this one.

Memorable Quotes and/of Scenes

Danys is currently making a living rocking the shit out of killer scenes, most of which involve either fire, slaves or slaves by a fire.

game-of-thrones-dany-fireBut wait, this is part of the problem with our dear Danys – she has these cool moments, but she can’t back them up. Danys has a scorcher of a scene in one episode and spends the next four talking about it. She’s all snazzle and shazzle and shimmer and shammer, a flashy wide receiver on Game of Thrones while Selina is the quarterback on Veep. Anyone who watches football or watches people on ESPN talk about football will tell you that quarterback is the most important position. And not just in football, but in all of sports.

Selina moves on.

Winner: Selina Meyer
1. Stringer Bell vs. Selina Meyer

Stringer Bell losing?

zWuBeKH

Yeah, I’m not sure about that. I feel like if Selina did win, recency bias would be a huge factor. However, remove the threat of such a bias and replace it with the reality that Selina Meyer is becoming somewhat of an iconic character in her own right and the match-up seems infinitely more even. She might not have the name recognition a character like Stringer Bell has, but she’s getting there.

Wait, doesn’t that make the case for Stringer then? I’m basically saying there’s a certain level, a status, and Stringer is there, Selina isn’t. Hmm. Kind of seems that way.

Let’s take a call.

“I’m going to go with Selina Meyer. JLD is the eye of the storm, everyone in that ensemble (an amazing group, by the way) orbits around that narcissistic walking ego. It’s just how the show is constructed and it’s fantastic. As awesome as Stringer Bell (and Idris Elba) is, he’s not the Crux of the whole thing. I guess this handicaps him a bit but I think it’s revealing that as much of a nightmare as Selina is, you still kind of root for her in a weird way. I don’t know, that’s my take, maybe it’s just been too long since I’ve watched The Wire.” – my cousin Joe Nixon

See? Recency bias. Maybe it’s not intentional, but it’s there.

Joe makes a good point, but so did my friend and podcast partner Elyse when she dismissed the whole damn thing and said Stringer. Her reasoning was that the cast makes Veep and Selina is a part of that. And while I don’t remember what else she said, I get what she was saying. Now does that actually make the case for Stringer, though? Hard to say and would probably be easier if I remembered everything. Kind of the story of my life there.

Image result for shrug gif

I’ve made a decision.

Stringer.

Why? Because Stringer Bell is at that level and Selina Meyer isn’t. She might be in a year or so and if that happens, we’ll revisit this. But for now, case closed.

Winner: Stringer Bell

The Final Four

1. Tony Soprano vs. 2. Larry David

By the book, by the letter of the law.

Personal Favorite

I have to think about this one, because I want to make sure I answer it rationally. It’s been a few years since we watched The Sopranos so it’d be easier to answer Larry David, especially because the last couple of seasons of Curb were the strongest in my opinion. So great, so funny, so wrong, so amazing.

Tony on the other hand…well it’s Tony Soprano. Tony was the cats pajamas on HBO before cats even started wearing pajamas. Cats slept naked or with just boxers on. Then Tony came along and just like that, cats are wearing pajamas and it’s so revolutionary and innovative, the phrase cats’ pajamas became a compliment. And who better to bestow such a compliment on other than Tony Soprano.

But still, I like Larry better.

Why?

He makes me laugh. And also, in a weird way, he’s easy to relate too. I’ll get into this more when discussing cultural significance, but there’s times when I feel like I am Larry David. I never feel like I am Tony Soprano and I even live in New Jersey now.

Personal Favorite: Larry David

The Characters Role on the Show

On both shows these characters are the main character. Each show is about their lives. However The Sopranos is a much bigger world and as a result, stories and plots exist that don’t even include Tony. That doesn’t happen as much on Curb Your Enthusiasm. And even when it does, like when Jeff and Suzie’s dog was sick, Larry somehow still gets involved. Curb is the world through Larry’s experiences, The Sopranos is Tony’s experiences in the world. That’s a big difference. Neither show would exist without either one, but you can at least somewhat picture The Sopranos without Tony. You can’t begin to picture Curb without Larry.

More Important Role on Their Show: Larry David

Their Length of Time on the Show

This one is a tie, as both characters have been on their shows from start to finish. So instead of talking about how this is a tie, let’s watch this clip of an man playing with nun-chucks in a grocery store parking lot in Richmond, Virginia.

Who Was on Their Show Longer: Tie

Cultural Significance

Another tough one because basically, it’s neck and neck when it comes to the significance both Tony and Larry have from a cultural stand point. Think about how quotable Larry David (the character, not the person) has become during Curb’s run. Things like the chat & cut and pretty, pretty good have become staples in our daily life. It’s part of the genius of David that he is able to both verbalize and stage situations that we all go through and experience and on top of that, make them so incredibly funny. Larry David is like playing fantasy football. We all think we can run a football team, but we can’t. Playing fantasy football lets us pretend that we can. We run that fantasy through the vehicle of fantasy football. Larry David is such a vehicle. He says what we wish we could and does what we wish we could do. He’s an every man with carte blanche.

There were times when Tony Soprano was also an every man, but it was rare. There were tidbits we could relate too, mostly the family stuff, and if you’ve ever been in charge of anything, managing people. Yet what makes Tony Soprano so strong from a cultural significance stand point is the general essence of his character and how it felt so large – larger than life, large on screen. Also, he was one of the very first anti-heroes out there and definitely one of the most popular ones, even in the wake of Walter White, Don Draper and others.

A lot of critics point out the fifth episode of The Sopranos‘ first season, “College,” as the one that announced what exactly the show would become. That episode showed both sides of Tony- the family man and the mafia man. But it was also the first time we saw Tony kill someone.

Up until that point, any violence that Tony was involved with was minimal (although he did chase a guy down with his car in the first episode- but come on, who hasn’t done that.) With the strangling of Febby, a former wise guy turned snitch, our relationship with Tony became increasingly complex. The dude was a killer. Yet we liked him. We liked a killer. It felt weird, but we went with it.

The Sopranos ended with the famous cut to black and the start of the endless debate as to whether or not Tony died or not. How did his story end? I remember I felt conflicted. It seemed like he should go to jail and that made sense. It also seemed like he could be killed and that to made sense. Yet it also seemed his life would continue, which both made sense and made me happy. We didn’t want Tony to die and we didn’t want him to go jail. We also didn’t want him to go straight and quit the mafia because what fun is that. Since The Sopranos, HBO has made a cottage industry out of shows that revolve around characters like Tony, shows like Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Deadwood, Big Love, Eastbound and Down and more.

He was the first, though. Larry David is funnier, but Tony is more important.

The Character with the Greater Cultural Significance: Tony Soprano

Memorable Quotes and/or Scenes

I’m going to defer to YouTube for this. If you search “Larry David Curb Your Enthusiasm” on YouTube, pages upon pages of clips come up. Each one is hilarious and each one is amazing. That’s not the case with Tony and that’s what this category comes down to: the YouTube Legacy of each character. Tony’s actual legacy might be greater, but not his YouTube legacy.

Better YouTube Legacy: Larry David

Final Score:
Larry David: 3 wins, 1 loss, 1 tie
Tony Soprano: 1 win, 3 losses, 1 tie

Related image

Okay then.

Winner: Larry David

Larry David moves on, Tony Soprano doesn’t. This whole may post may have just been confirmation that an idiot, but I’m sticking to my guns.

2. Omar Little vs. 1. Stringer Bell

If picking between Omar and Tyrion was the equivalent of me trying to pick between regular Life and Cinnamon Life, then trying to pick between Omar and Stringer Bell is like me trying to pick between Life and Honey Bunches of Oats. Yet on a related note, I may have just stumbled upon an idea for a bracket for next March- best cereal. Oh and for the record, I fully realize that if I’m using a cereal analogy when discussing Omar, then Omar should be Honey Nut Cheerios, but I need to be true to myself. I do love me some Honey Nut Cheerios, but it’s an accent piece for me. They’re like ice cubes or brown rice- there for assistance only. Omar is not an accent piece. Not at all.

With that being said, that scene, the Omar/Honey Nut Cheerios scene, was my first introduction to Omar. I took somewhat of a curious route down The Wire hole, having started with season four. When I moved to Philly, we magically had free HBO. I didn’t ask any questions, I just rolled with it as you’re supposed too. Season four of The Wire started around that time and I was curious, wanted to check it out. I didn’t want to jump in mid-stream but a buddy from Maine had said you could start with four and be okay. My buddy’s nickname was Lightning because when he screwed up, he screwed up. It was like lighting striking something.

Regardless of track records, I watched season four and was hooked. When that was over I went to Hollywood Video and tried to rent season one because this was “back in the day” and “back in the day” we went to places called video stores. They didn’t have disc one though. But they did have disc one of season three. Jonesing and needing a Wire fix, I went for it and watched season three. That was when I learned who Stringer Bell was. I also learned a lot more about Omar. After finishing season three, I then watched season one, then season two, then seasons three and four again and then waited patiently for season five.

So to recap:
1. season four
2. season three
3. season one
4. season two
5. season three
6. season four
7. all four seasons again
8. season five

Every junkie has a story and that’s mine. It might not be pretty, but it’s true.

I think the best way to do this will be using the same approach I used for the previous match-up of Larry David versus Tony Soprano.

Personal Favoritism

I started thinking about this one last night because I wanted to make sure I was one hundred percent behind my decision. I didn’t want to rush to judgement. It’s baseball season, time to take things easy, time to let things develop.

This essentially comes down to which one of these dudes are my favorite character on The Wire. That’s a lot of pressure. I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned this before, but The Wire is my favorite show of all time. Would that then make my favorite character on my favorite show my super ultra favorite character?

No. Well, maybe.

My Top 5 Super Ultra Favorite TV Characters (listed in no particular order):

Michael Scott (The Office)
Gob Bluth (Arrested Development)
Zack Morris (Saved by the Bell)
Coach Eric Taylor (Friday Night Lights)
and the winner of the Stringer/Omar match up
Honorable mention: Tami Taylor (Friday Night Lights,) Charlie Kelly (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,) Tobias Funke (Arrested Development,) Hurley (Lost,) Dylan McKay (Beverly Hills 90120,) and Kelly Kapowski (Saved by the Bell)

So who would I feel comfortable putting on that list? Whoever doesn’t make it is definitely included in the honorable mention, but that’s not what this is about. This is about more than that. Is it? No, not really. But it’s fun to pretend it is.

No more beating around the bush. It’s Omar. I love Omar. Everyone loves Omar. There has never been a character like Omar and there will never be a character like Omar.

Personal Favorite: Omar

The Characters Role on the Show

This is only hard because The Wire was so vast and sprawling that it’s hard to say whether or not one character was more important than the other. You could even make the argument that one (Omar) couldn’t exist without the other (Stringer) and vice versa. But I would counter with the fact that Omar seemed to exist just fine once Stringer was dead. Oh sorry, spoiler alert: Omar and Brother Mouzone kill Stringer at the end of season three. In all fairness, you kind of saw it coming. He just didn’t understand how The Game was played. Oh and he killed D’Angelo. Kind of burned the bridge with Avon with that one.

I would say this one is a tie. When it comes down to it, both of these gentlemen were extremely important to The Wire.

More Important Role on Their Show: Tie

Their Length of Time on Their Show

This one has a more definitive answer than yesterday when it was tie between Larry David and Tony Soprano. It’s actually pretty simple.

Stringer Bell died in season three…

…and Omar died in season five…

 …and while it’s true that math is not my strong point, I am able to say with 100% certainty that five seasons is longer than three seasons.

So with that being said…

Who Was On Their Show Longer: Omar

Cultural Significance

I did an informal poll here in my office at the end of last week- and by “informal poll,” I asked one person. I asked this individual who they thought should win, Stringer or Omar. They replied that even though they had never watched The Wire, they did know that Omar’s comin’. I felt that was a telling sign. Omar has become one of those characters that reach a certain kind of cult status, but in a totally widespread kind of way. One name says it all- Omar. Two words: Omar’s comin, say even more.

Iconic status? That sounds like some serious cultural significance to me.

The Character With the Greater Cultural Significance: Omar, yo

Memorable Quotes and/or Scenes

This one piggy backs off of the cultural significance argument because  when it comes to Omar, that dude had some memorable scenes and definitely had some great quotes. Stringer has a few great scenes as well and two of the best are when he’s talking about how no one gives a (expletive deleted) about a forty degree day and his final scene with his partner in crime, Avon Barksdale, which is one of The Wire’s most memorable. But I’m sorry String, it’s hard to beat Omar. Isn’t it, Omar?

A man’s gotta have a code. That was Omar. The game’s out there. And it’s either play or get played. That simple. That too was Omar. Come at the king, you best not miss. Also Omar. Money ain’t got no owners…only spenders. Omar again. And finally- boy, you got me confused with someone who repeats himself. That’s just some of Omar’s quotes.

As for scenes; Omar has some of the show’s greatest hits. Shit man, any scene with Omar walking down the street, shotgun in tow, was a doozy. As were any of his scenes with Prop Joe and any of the other drug dealers, as well as the few scenes he had with Bunk and when he went to trial to testify against Bird for the Gant killing.

Omar owned scenes like I own seasons of The Wire on DVD.

Image result for omar comin gif

The Scene Stealer and Quote Machine: Omar

Final Score:
Omar: 4 wins, 0 losses, 1 tie
Stringer: 0 wins, 4 losses, 1 tie

Sorry, String.

Winner: Omar

The Championship: Omar Little vs. Larry David

It’s Omar.

It was always Omar.

Before I even realized it was Omar, it was Omar.

When I started this tournament in 2013 I thought Tony Soprano was the front runner. I didn’t think he could be beat. He meant so much from a cultural stand point and was essentially the trail blazer for so many other great HBO characters. Tony Soprano was patient zero for the run of complicated antiheroes that followed and The Sopranos was the show that kicked the doors open for shows like The Wire. Tony would win, I thought. Nucky Thompson could be a challenge, as would Kenny Powers, Jimmy McNulty, Jon Snow and Larry David – all characters that could potentially stand in his way en-route to the championship, but it seemed clear, he was a shoo-in for the finals. However, I didn’t see Larry David coming.

As for Omar, Tyrion Lannister would be a tough out. Technically Omar beating Tyrion was an upset because of seeding, but in actuality, it was a minor upset. McNulty and Stringer Bell were contenders for the crown as well. Stringer more so than McNulty. I had an eye on Omar, but wasn’t convinced. He was probably the strongest two seed in the tournament.

It was always Omar though. I think I knew it, even though I didn’t.

Props to Larry David, though. He made it much farther than I thought he would and when he made it to the Final Four, I assumed that was the end of the road for him. It wasn’t though, and beating Soprano was a well-deserved win. He didn’t stand a chance against Omar however. Not at all. Some people will say Larry David was jobbed. To those people I have a simple message: thanks for reading, tell your friends.

I don’t even know how I came to the conclusion that Omar was the winner. I just know I did. I think it was something I wrote when choosing between Omar and Stringer Bell in the Final Four- there has never been a character like Omar and there will never be a character like Omar. I genuinely believe most of the things I think and 80% of what I say. That statement about Omar is something I believe to be true.

Larry David did get some consideration, but it was fleeting. I wanted to figure out how could I make it a fight. I thought of comparisons, things like the fact that Omar and Larry David are two characters in a world full of people giving a shit who flat out don’t give a shit. They are role players in that respect. They allow us to envision a world where we could say or do anything we please. We can’t, though. That’s why we hold Larry and Omar so close and place them on pedestals. We can’t settle our disputes with a shotgun and we don’t have the chutzpah to casually use the phrase “pussy rash.” We don’t identify with these characters- we aspire to be them. They are super heroes whose super power is bravado.

Yet you can’t make the call based on who gives less of a shit. It’d be a draw.

Omar is just so much more transcendent than Larry is. He’s bigger than Larry. Omar is bigger than the entire Curb Your Enthusiasm world. While I would agree with you if you said that Larry was bigger because his role on the show is bigger, I would agree. But that’s not what everything this tournament is based on. It’s one of the things, but not the only thing.

Remember, these were the things taken into account when picking a winner:

  1. Personal favoritism
  2. The character’s role on their show
  3. Their length of time on their show
  4. Cultural significance
  5. Memorable quotes and/or scenes

Larry David is the main character on his show. Omar is one of many leads on The Wire. Is he even a lead? Is he supporting? Shit, if he was just a supporting character then that makes him all that more impressive. But I don’t think he is. Bunk or Lester or even Wee Bay were supporting characters on The Wire. Omar, along with Stringer and McNulty, were the show’s main characters from start to finish- even though Stringer didn’t make it past season three. So we put that to bed- both Omar and Larry David meant a lot. That too would be a draw.

But come on, it’s Omar.

It was always Omar.

I did not plan any of this. Decisions in this tournament were made on the fly. I had irrational arguments with myself. I enlisted friends and co-workers. I talked myself in and out of things sometimes in the span of just one paragraph; sometimes even within the span of one sentence or one thought. This tournament was the furthest thing from science since Fox News came in to existence. There were no givens. No certainties.

But in the end however, there was one certainty.

A gay, shotgun-wielding stick up artist cruising the fringes on one of the best television shows ever. A quotable son of a gun and merciless scene stealer who was taken out by a youngin, but still, people on the street weren’t convinced he was dead. Governed by a code and the mantra- it’s all in the game. The Sunday truce, keeping civilians out of it, pulling some Spiderman shit and jumping off of a four (or five) floor balcony and walking away with just a bum leg.

Money ain’t got no owners, only spenders.

Valiant effort by Larry David and if we do this again sometime down the road, best of luck to anyone who has to go up against any of the big dogs in Game of Thrones.

But this tournament?

This one belongs to Omar.

It always did.

 

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