As the end of another year approaches once again, it’s hard not to look back and reflect on the year that was. With more streaming services and TV series available than ever before, looking back at it all can seem like quite a daunting task. No matter how avid the viewer, there’s simply no way to catch and watch it all. However, there’s still nothing better than when you do watch a show and discover a deep love and connection with its characters. Those characters are what makes you want to spend time with a certain TV show, and the characters are what make the stories truly relatable.
Looking back at all the TV that was in 2019, it soon becomes clear that not all characters are created equally. There are just ones, the truly special ones, that have me looking forward to and welcoming them into my home each week. I find myself eager to spend time with these characters, unwind with them after a long day of work, or find comfort in a struggle they are going through. While not always on the most critically acclaimed shows or out there winning all the awards, these are the characters that help me escape. These are the characters that bring me the most joy.
So in no particular order, I give you my list of the Most Enjoyable TV Characters of 2019.
Fleabag – Fleabag
If you’ve watched Season 2 of Fleabag, then you probably now pray at the altar of Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The Amazon comedy series was sheer perfection in its second time out, as Waller-Bridge’s titular character fell in love with Andrew Scott’s “Hot Priest.” As Fleabag found herself caught in an unusual love triangle with the man upstairs, Waller-Bridge ascended to new levels as both a writer and actor. Fleabag was used to self-destructive ways, and so it was an absolute joy to watch her find love, spirituality, and redemption. As viewers, we never felt more alive than when Fleabag turned to the camera, spoke straight to us, and let us in on her innermost thoughts and feelings. By the end of it all, as Fleabag looked back and told us to stay, we’re somehow as certain as she is that despite everything, she really will be alright.
Maeve Wiley – Sex Education
I came to Sex Education for Gillian Anderson. As a completely wild surprise, I ended up staying for the teens at the heart of the Netflix series. Every single teen character on the show was so much more than the stereotypes we’re used to seeing over and over again. That’s a statement that applies to no one more than Emma Mackey’s Maeve Wiley. Over the course of the first season, it soon became clear that Maeve was so much more than your standard rebel girl from a troubled home. With her pink hair streak and awesome attitude, Maeve seems like the loner who is too cool for everyone else, but it soon becomes clear she’s so much more. Mackey’s performance as the bold, intelligent, unapologetic Maeve is truly wonderful. She gives layers to Maeve that make it clear how vulnerable she is and watching those walls break down is a true treat for viewers. Thankfully, Maeve and the rest of the Sex Education gang will be back in the new year for Season 2!
Casey Gardner – Atypical
Throughout three seasons, the Netflix series Atypical has grown into a very charming series about the Gardner family. Casey is a little sister constantly playing the big sister role for her brother Sam, who is on the spectrum. She is sarcastic and quick-witted and never treats Sam as anything other than her brother. But perhaps the best thing to come out of Atypical’s third season was Casey’s storyline of struggling with her identity. She’s a star athlete who spent much of last season adjusting to life at a new private school, and after finally feeling comfortable there, her personal life started to get very complicated. Casey soon found, that despite being in a seemingly perfect relationship with her nice boyfriend Evan, that she was attracted to her best friend, Izzie. It was the perfect showcase for Brigette Lundy-Paine to display their skills as Casey dealt with all the angst and confusion that came from her new feelings. Lundy-Paine has settled nicely into Casey over the years and it showed time and again during Season 3.
Jenny Cooper – Coroner
Upon first glance, it may seem that CBC’s new drama series Coroner was just another procedural that would follow Dr. Jenny Cooper (Serinda Swan) as she worked to investigate suspicious or unnatural deaths in Toronto. However, it soon became very clear that showrunner Morwyn Brebner and the Coroner team valued character above anything else. Thanks to great writing and an especially great portrayal by Swan, Jenny was a character that felt real right out of the gate. Viewers got to see her go through one relatable struggle after another, as she was far from perfect, especially when it came to her struggles with anxiety. By shining a lot on this issue, Coroner and Swan showed Jenny struggle in a way that many viewers can relate to, and in the process, helped make mental health much less of a taboo topic. There were no quick fixes to Jenny’s problems, and thankfully we will get to see her continue her quest for the truth come January in Season 2.
Nico – VIDA
While Starz’s VIDA centers on the complicated relationship of two sisters who return to their old L.A. neighborhood to take over their late mother’s bar, the Season 2 introduction of Nico (Roberta Colindrez) is when everything went to the next level for me. Queerness and multi-layered, complex LGBTQ characters have been central to VIDA from the beginning, but the moment Nico tipped her cowboy hat as best man at that gay vaquero-themed wedding, we were absolutely hooked. There’s a swagger and coolness that just radiates from Colindrez. Nico is confident and competent, and it’s soon clear why Emma, someone who never lets anyone in close, wants Nico nearby at all times.
Nadia – Russian Doll
The Netflix comedy, which brought us an updated take on Groundhog Day, delivered the Natasha Lyonne performance we all deserve. As Nadia was forced to relive her 36th birthday over and over again, the show spoke volumes on whether or not a person is truly able to change. In the process, Lyonne was provided with the perfect opportunity to be both heartbreaking and hilariously funny. With her raspy voice and straightforward manner, not to mention those awesome blazers, Lyonne made Nadia’s time loop gimmick feel fresh and exciting.
Val Szalinsky – Workin’ Moms
As the young children of Workin’ Moms get older, they’ve moved from Mommy & Me to Toddler Time and now preschool. Thankfully, the show has not left behind Val Szalinsky. Val, played by the hilariously wonderful Sarah McVie, began the series as the peppy and all too eager leader of the children’s play groups, but as shown in the trip to the cabin this season, has now fully embedded herself as part of the gang. Val may be a bit outrageous, and she’s delivered some of the best one-liners in series history, but McVie always plays her in a way that makes it clear how genuine Val’s big heart truly is. In Season 3, not only was Val around hanging with the ladies, but we got to explore her home life, meet her sons, and see her find a potential new love with her handyman. On a show that consistently depicts so many different kinds of women, I can always feel a smile break out on my face whenever McVie’s Val appears on screen.
Kendall Roy – Succession
In a series where every single actor is perfectly suited for their role, it was a bit of an impossible task to single out only one Succession character. The HBO drama about the fascinating and dysfunctional Roy family, who runs a global media empire, really got moving and excelled in a Season 2. With all four Roy children jockeying for position, Kendall’s mic drop (no, not that one) at the end of the finale pushed him onto the list. One of the most confusing things to face as a Succession viewer, is the fact that you’ll end up rooting for these awful people. Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) began Season 2 as a defeated man, in the lowest of spots, beholden to every single whim of his father Logan (Brian Cox). Strong made an art form out of making Kendall look like a sad, broken little boy. Often, without using any words, Strong’s Kendall became a wounded puppy that the audience wanted nothing more to protect. While Strong excelled at the dramatic, leading Kendall to one hell of a power move, I’d be absolutely remiss to not mention one of the series’ most iconic scenes — Kendall’s rap tribute to his father. Like the Roys, I still can’t quite believe that rap actually happened, and I don’t think I’ll ever be over it.
Detectives Karen Duvall and Grace Rasmussen – Unbelievable
Since they made such a wonderful team, it was only right to keep the Unbelievable duo together. Viewers everywhere exhaled signs of relief by the time Detective Karen Duvall (Merritt Wever) and Detective Grace Rasmussen (Toni Collette) were introduced in the second episode of the Netflix drama. Detectives at different stages of their careers, the women came together to solve the case of a serial rapist, helping to prove that young Marie Adler (Kaitlyn Dever) was telling the truth the entire time. Wever and Collette, both previous Emmy winners, allowed their skills to come through time and again. While Collette’s Rasmussen was more experienced and possessed a relentless determination, Wever’s Duvall had a real warmth and compassion that used a gentle and caring approach. She imbued Duvall with a quiet confidence that we don’t see enough of on screen. Together, the duo not only solved a case that everyone else dismissed, but they grounded a series that, because of its devastating look at sexual assault, was very hard to watch.
Barry Berkman – Barry
Somehow Bill Hader and co-creator Alec Berg found a way to make the second season of Barry, the tense, dark HBO comedy, even better, and with higher stakes than the first. All the while, the heart of the show was never lost. While most episodes of Barry are great, the choice by Hader and Berg to take a random middle of the season episode, and pit Barry against a taekwondo champion and his preteen daughter, was one of the weirdest and wildest episodes of the TV season. While many know Hader from his funny days on Saturday Night Live, he continues to prove himself a master of drama. In Barry’s second season, Hader was challenged to go deeper and darker than ever before. He responded at every turn, seemingly tapping into all sides of Barry with absolute ease.
Villanelle – Killing Eve
Killing Eve got even better and even more intense in Season 2. Along the way, deadly assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and Sandra Oh’s Eve Polastri got even more obsessed with one another. After Oh won an Emmy last year, this year was rightfully Comer’s turn to take home the award for Leading Actress in a Drama Series. Villanelle may be a killer, and she may be very, very good at it, but it’s impossible for viewers to hate her. Comer brings a refreshingly fun performance to the screen, quickly going between the fun, playful, and adorable versions of Villanelle, and then switching on a dime to the chilling and frightening. With her impeccable sense of style and a captivating air about her, it’s impossible to look away when Villanelle is on screen.
Alex Levy – The Morning Show
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shocked that Jennifer Aniston’s The Morning Show character is on this list. I went into the AppleTV+ series with skepticism to spare, but Aniston turns in one of her best performances ever as the cheery TV host hiding a whole lot underneath her sunny facade. Alex is a woman with many insecurities, and she’s far lonelier than she lets on. She’s given up everything, including her family life, to get where she is, and she’s far more intelligent than anyone gives her credit for. Aniston seems to have jumped into the role of Alex with both feet. She gets to play a character that isn’t the most likable, and deftly conveys the sheer loneliness Alex experiences as she puts on a different face to confront everyone in her life — the public, the press, her co-workers, and even her daughter. Don’t listen to those mixed initial reviews because between Aniston and Billy Crudup’s Cory Ellison, The Morning Show is delivering some damn fine television.
Penelope Alvarez – One Day at a Time
The Alvarez family is one of my favorite families on TV, and there’s one woman at the center holding everything together. Justina Machado’s Penelope is a divorced, single mom, who never stops trying to make a better life for herself and her family. One Day at a Time doesn’t show Penelope the way so many sitcoms have in the past. She’s not perfect. She makes mistakes and she has problems. The realistic portrayal of Penelope’s mental illness, especially her anxiety and depression, is one of the most compelling things about her. She is relatable and proves that just because someone has things to work through, doesn’t mean they aren’t strong. In Season 3, it was especially rewarding to see Penelope use what she has learned through her struggles to support Schneider through his relapse with alcoholism. Thankfully, Penelope and the entire ODAAT crew will be back to keep warming our hearts in Season 4.
Dutch – Killjoys
While I often refer to Killjoys’ Johnny Jaqobis (Aaron Ashmore) as my idea leading man, it was no question that the space series’ final season belonged to its leading lady. Killjoys was always a show that put its ladies to the front, and none stood taller than Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen). An absolute force to be reckoned with since Day One, John-Kamen really blew us away in a Season 5 that proved just how confident and at home she felt as Dutch. Dutch not only had the biggest battle of her life against The Lady, but she worked through many of her relationship issues. She finally allowed herself to be happy with D’avin (Luke Macfarlane), and settled some issues with her father, Khlyen (Rob Stewart). As always though, it was the moments between Dutch and John that really showcased Killjoys’ best assets. Perhaps the biggest expectation Killjoys ever subverted was delivering one of the greatest love stories, albeit a platonic one, between Dutch and John. Whether it was fighting against double standards, or men who mistook her as “just another pretty face,” Dutch and John-Kamen always proved to be so much more. She will be missed. Tap my heart.
Jann Arden – JANN
It’s surprising to watch JANN and then think about the fact it’s Jann Arden’s first starring role. The Canadian legend is so wonderfully hilarious as a fictionalized version of herself. She always gives 110% to scenes, no matter how ridiculous, and she’s unafraid of looking plain or unglamourous. This fictionalized Jann is messy. She used to have fame and be a household name, but that’s no longer the case. Now she wants it again and must go about some unconventional means to get it back. In the process, Jann makes bad decisions and takes advantage of those in her life at times. However, thanks to Arden’s performance and some really great writing, we all are still rooting for her, wanting her to get that win. It’s just icing on the cake that JANN also gets serious and semi-autobiographical through on screen mother Nora’s (Deborah Grover) battle with dementia, much like Arden’s mother, Joan Richards.
Robin Buckley – Stranger Things
Season 3 of Netflix’s Stranger Things introduced us to Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke), the coolest girl in Hawkins. Despite all signs pointing to Robin being Steve Harrington’s (Joe Keery) new love interest, Robin went against every single trope, and in the process, wound up being the standout in a very fine season. Look no further than the scene in the bathroom with Robin and Steve where she admits to not having a crush on him, but in fact, she’s insanely jealous of him. Despite all her new coworker’s charms, she’s not interested in him, but rather Tammy Thompson. Hawke is wonderful as Robin, with killer deadpan delivery and smartass charm to spare. Instead of just another tale of teen romance, Stranger Things instead delivered a new favorite relationship full of chemistry, albeit platonically.
Hope Mikaelson – Legacies
Hope (Danielle Rose Russell) is the only triad: vampire, werewolf, and witch. She’s also the main protagonist with a hero complex at the center of the CW series. Like Buffy, Hope is powerful, with supernatural strength, but also a strong sense of morality and doing what’s right. She defends others and cares so deeply that sometimes it even results in her own death. After sacrificing herself to stop Malivore, Hope came back in Season 2 and had to deal with what that sacrifice truly meant. It’s been heartbreaking and hard to watch at times, as Hope has had to watch everyone move on through life without her. Hope likes to keep her true feelings bottled up, even though she feels them very strongly, and through it all, Russell was stellar as that internal battle raged in Hope. Hopefully, now that everyone realizes who she is, the gang at Legacies will start to appreciate Hope for the true hero she is.
Rosa Diaz – Brooklyn 99
Try as she might to be the biggest badass around, Brooklyn 99’s Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) isn’t fooling anyone. Sure, she’s got a gruff exterior and CAN be very, very scary, but Rosa has one of the biggest hearts around. Time and again, especially through her friendship with Jake (Andy Samberg), Rosa’s loyalty to those at the 99 comes through in the end. So don’t let Rosa’s harsh, no-nonsense attitude fool you, she may be one of the most badass women on TV, but she’s also got a pretty gooey inside underneath all that snark.
Ava Sharpe – Legends of Tomorrow
Name a more lovable group of weirdos than the Legends of Tomorrow. Go on, I’m waiting… While there’s so much to love about Sara Lance and her Waverider crew, the most enjoyable Legends’ character for me this year wasn’t a true “Legend,” but rather Time Bureau leader Ava Sharpe (Jes Macallan). Highly skilled and calculating, Ava rules with a strict sense of what’s right and wrong. Oh, and did we mention the whole clone thing? Despite that and all of the complications, Ava and Sara’s relationship went to new levels in Season 4. They went through many ups and downs, but it was supremely satisfying to see both women ultimately end up just being in love and leading their respective teams. Ava is great at her job, confident, and ready to take charge. While we know she can be counted on, it was great to see some of those walls come down this year. In the process, Legends gave Macallan a chance to really show her range. Here’s to Ava kicking ass and taking many more names in Season 5!
Wayne – Letterkenny
Not only does he make a turtleneck look good, but Wayne (Jared Keeso) is so much more than the toughest guy in Letterkenny. While he slings Letterkenny’s incredibly fast and intelligent dialogue better than any of them, Keeso’s Wayne is so great because underneath his gruff exterior, he’s as vulnerable as they come. Wayne cares deeply for and constantly supports his friends and family. He cares about tradition and his small town, and he’s also really intelligent and thoughtful. Make no mistake about it, Wayne is the top dog around Letterkenny, but just like Gus, he’s supremely loyal and loves hard. We’d all be better off in life if we had a Wayne on our side.
Scorpia – She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
One of the great things about Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is that its villains are so well written and complex, that viewers find ways to sympathize with them. That was especially true in Season 4 with Scorpia (Lauren Ash). While we’ve always had a soft spot in our hearts for this princess, who never seemed fully aligned with the Horde’s evil ways, she absolutely broke our hearts this year. Scorpia has been nothing but a great and loyal friend to Catra, but sometimes even the best of friends hit their limit. As Catra continued to treat everyone around her worse and worse, and on the heels of banishing Entrapta, Scorpia took Emily and fled to Bright Moon. It was extremely satisfying for viewers to see this immensely kind character stand up for herself. In doing so, Scorpia got the chance to meet people who are actually kind to her, and who will appreciate her for her wonderfully kind heart.
Who are your most enjoyable TV characters? Did I leave out a favorite? Add them and your thoughts to the comments below!
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.