It pains me to have to put together this list, surely something more wistful and somber than you have any right to expect right after the onslaught of family and fruitcakes. But with talks between the Writers Guild of America and the television producers at a standstill—not to mention news of the WGA refusing writing waivers for the Golden Globes—I felt it was only appropriate to take a minute to celebrate the TV characters and personalities I'll miss most in 2008. These are the voices that shaped my viewing in 2007, and without them around, it's going to be a long, cold year.
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert This is the loss I felt first, and the recent news that Stewart and Colbert will return to the airwaves—albeit without writing staffs—on Monday, Jan. 7, isn't enough to dull the pain of going without them for so long, or to make me forget their respective shows are the products of teams of writers and producers and not the accidentally perfect ravings of two gifted comedians. Granted, their screen personas on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are well established: Jon Stewart is a wonderful voice of the befuddled Everyman, the kind of wryly pissed-off outsider whose monologues about the inanity of the political system are always close to bubbling over with anger. And then there's Stephen Colbert, that brilliant man, that "gutly" ambassador of "truthiness," that swaggering satirist. I'll take what I can get from them, even if it means longer interview segments and no monologues, but I need this strike to wrap before next fall; I want Stewart and Colbert fully staffed come Election Day, or heads are gonna roll.
Bill Adama Battlestar Galactica is one of the most politically, religiously and socially relevant dramas on the air, and a lot of that comes from the brooding leadership of Edward James Olmos' Admiral Adama. The show thrives on moral complexity, and Adama is a fascinating character who encompasses the difficulties of keeping the last fragments of the human race from tearing each other apart.
John Locke Terry O'Quinn consistently turns in the best work on Lost as John Locke. Sure, naming major characters after Locke and Rousseau smells a little much of a freshman philosophy survey, but Locke rises above all that to become the series' driving force, a brokenhearted man willing to risk his life for a kind of salvation he thinks the island can grant him. His voyage to the edge of sanity has been riveting, and I'm going to miss watching the mysteries of the Dharma Initiative unravel around him.
Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy Easily the greatest comedic tag team working on TV today, Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin will be leaving a giant gaping hole in my heart every Thursday night. 30 Rock is the sharpest, quickest, wittiest comedy on the air, and the interplay between the insecure Liz Lemon and the swaggering Jack Donaghy is never less than stellar. Fey has always been a gifted humorist, but Baldwin is doing the best comedic work of his career.
Homer Simpson I sometimes forget The Simpsons is still on. That's probably not an uncommon thing to admit, since at this point the show and its syndicated reruns have been with us for so long they seem to exist simply in the ether. But every time I tune in, I'm reminded of just how great the show will always be. Even if The Simpsons will never regain the brilliance of its earlier seasons, knowing that I'll now be stuck with nothing but the reruns I've taken for granted is a bigger blow than I'd anticipated.
Tim Riggins Friday Night Lights won me over with its phenomenal first season, which is why I've been sticking with it during its somewhat rockier second year. (The sports-inclined among you could think of this year as a "rebuilding" one.) But of all the fantastic characters, I've most enjoyed the way Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) has developed from the bad boy with a heart of gold to a loyal friend who still makes the kind of casually destructive mistakes that come with the territory of being a teen. He may pound sixers before practice and drive a beat-up old truck, but he's never a caricature. Clear eyes and full hearts, Tim. Come back soon.