What is your favorite kind of television character? I used to think mine was a hotshot lawyer, the kind whose courtroom shenanigans infuriate judges and charm juries. Everyone from Jack McCoy to Saul Goodman, if you’re a lawyer on television and a cranky judge has threatened to hold you in contempt, I’m with you. I also like hotshot cops, too, the ones whose loose cannon shenanigans infuriate their antacid-chugging chiefs. I love hotshots and shenanigans. They’re my favorite.
Or so I thought. This year, I found myself drawn to a different kind of character, one I refer to as “the lovable doofus,” Doofus might not be a fair word. Not all of these characters are complete idiots. Some of them display a surprising amount of competence every now and then, often in one specific area. Sometimes their issues come from being stubborn, sometimes they’re just naive, sometimes their brain has been wiped by an evil robot in a futuristic theme park. But they are all charming in their repeated failure to comprehend or achieve and I love to watch them do it.
It’s not a particularly new category of character. The prototype here is probably Homer Simpson, who has been doing this kind of thing for close to thirty years now. There were a lot of them in 2018, though. My original plan was to rank all of them but I realized almost immediately that this plan was untenable. How can I possibly be expected to choose between my sweet boys? It’s not right. I won’t do it. It would hurt them almost as much as it would hurt me.
And so, instead of that, I will now present my favorites, unranked, in no particular order. Welcome to the year of the doofus.
Noho Hank, Barry
My favorite thing about Noho Hank (Anthony Carrigan) is what a great host he is. Yes, he was also the number two in a violent criminal organization. Sure, he ordered a few murders here and there. But know this: If you’re coming over to discuss one of these murders, Noho Hank will offer you a juice box or submarine sandwich before the meeting starts. He just wants everyone to be happy.
He was so necessary to the overall vibe of Barry, too. That show got dark in places, man. Bill Hader took his character through hell for most of the season. Parts of it were sad, parts were depressing, even a lot of the funny parts were heavy. Noho Hank was a damn burst of sunshine, sending emojis and Hang In There kitty cats with text messages about doing crimes, looking out for Barry when he shouldn’t, just being a swell guy. It turned the violent Eastern European or Russian mobster trope on its head and it paid off for him in the end. I am more excited about his story than anyone else’s in season two.
Jason Mendoza, The Good Place
How could anyone not love Jason Mendoza? The man is a simple Florida breakdancer and minor criminal whose only true loves are the Jacksonville Jaguars and throwing Molotov cocktails. His favorite restaurant is called Stupid Nick’s Wing Dump. His best friend is named Pillboi. He calls his father Donkey Doug. Between all of that and Manny Jacinto’s flawless bone structure, Jason is kind of like a Zoolander character who was plopped into a network sitcom about philosophy and ethics. This is, to be clear, the highest compliment I know how to give.
Do you think you would get along with Jason? In real life, I mean. I’m torn. A big part of me wants to say yes because he is such a nice but confused man. The bigger part of me, however, would probably get fed up with all the Molotov cocktails. “Dammit, Jason, you can’t blow up my car just because the Jaguars benched Blake Bortles! I have errands to run!” I would be so steamed. But then again… how can you stay mad at Jason? It’s impossible. It’s like being furious with a puppy.