On January 10, 1999, a bathrobe-clad Tony Soprano first bent over to pick up a Star-Ledger in his driveway — and TV changed forever. We’re celebrating this new Golden Age of Television by paying tribute to our favorite TV characters who’ve debuted since The Sopranos premiered. No reality TV here, folks: just the 99 richest, most fascinating fictional characters from both comedies and dramas to grace the small screen over the past decade and a half. We love TV… and these people are the reason why.
9. Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights
It’s a little weird to talk about Tami without her other half, Eric, because part of what makes both characters so great is how they interact with each other. But for herself, Tami deserves her spot on this list for her unbending loyalty to her husband, children, and students; the staunch integrity she shows against bullying boosters and close-minded parents; and the strength of mind and heart to ask for her turn after years of being Mrs. Coach. Plus, nobody has better hair, and she can throw back wine like nobody’s business. She’s a keeper, y’all. — Kelly Woo
8. Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones
An underdog that would cut your throat for even suggesting he was an underdog, Tyrion was raised in the nest of vipers that is the Lannister family and has the cunning and quick reflexes to show for it. But it’s impossible not to root for a guy who has so much going against him and still manages to come out on top. Of course, when he does? His bastard nephew takes credit for his success. Tyrion has the brains we all wish we had, without any of the advantages we take for granted. — Robert Chan
7. Michael Scott, The Office
How did the “World’s Best Boss” of Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch manage to outrank his U.K. inspiration, David Brent? By showing us a sweet, sympathetic side to go along with the bumbling boss routine. Sure, as a manager, Michael was a HR nightmare with shockingly poor people skills and even worse jokes. (We won’t even mention the song parodies.) But beneath all the immaturity and selfishness, he just wanted to be loved… and we can all relate to that, right? By establishing lasting friendships with employees like Dwight and Pam before leaving Scranton to marry his equally goofy soulmate Holly Flax, Michael turned out to be an even bigger man than we imagined. (That’s what she said.) — Dave Nemetz
6. Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls
The mom so many moms would like to be — which is to say, more like a sister. Lorelai liked nothing more than sitting around with daughter Rory, eating junk food, watching old movies, and talking about their lives in a chatty, frank, affectionate manner. It was a case of parenting in reaction to the way you were parented: in Lorelai’s case, the more stiff, formal upbringing and tense relationship with her own mom, Emily. With Rory, Lorelai established an unbreakable bond. — Ken Tucker
5. Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report
The man who presented himself on The Colbert Report was an arch-in-every-sense conservative, a patriotic zealot who despises the weakness of liberalism, a devout worshipper at the shrine of Blll O’Reilly (whom he reveres as “Papa Bear”), a seeker of truthiness. Combative and eager to ridicule the pieties of political correctness and permissiveness, this Stephen Colbert also, quixotically, admired talents as various as Stephen Sondheim, Captain America, and Maurice Sendak. Go figure. — KT
4. Omar Little, The Wire
A man’s got to a have a code. Omar didn’t just say it… he lives it. In a world where you played or got played, he was a master of the game. Yes, he was a thieving, violent thug, but he only robbed and killed drug dealers and their cronies. He was also an outwardly gay man in a culture hostile to homosexuality, but was still one of the most feared figures on the street. Many liken him to Robin Hood, but Omar was more like a Wild West cowboy: a maverick, an outlaw, a legend. Omar’s coming (and leaving) on his own terms. — KW
3. Don Draper, Mad Men
At first glance, Sterling Cooper’s alpha-male adman seems to have it all: matinee-idol looks, supreme self-confidence, a picture-perfect family in the suburbs. But look a little more closely, and you start to see how hollow that shell is. “Don Draper” is just a construct, an identity stolen by orphaned farm boy Dick Whitman to escape his shameful upbringing. The man who makes his living selling products is selling himself every day. Brought to life with formidable charisma and aching vulnerability by Jon Hamm, Don is one of the most captivating mysteries the small screen has ever given us to unravel. — DN
2. Walter White, Breaking Bad
Bryan Cranston’s performance as the family man-turned-meth kingpin earned four Emmys and a fan letter from Anthony Hopkins, and still that somehow seems underwhelming as an appreciation for Walter White, the most deliciously complicated, selfish, arrogant, and eventually unlikable TV character that none of us could ever really manage to hate. Walt’s quest to secure his family’s future in the wake of his terminal cancer was certainly relatable, and so were the reasons the milquetoast teacher eventually broke beyond bad and straight into evil. Most surprising: His egomaniacal crime spree aside, Walt never had us wishing for anything but more time with one of primetime’s most complex men. — Kimberly Potts
1. Liz Lemon, 30 Rock
We’re not going to pretend it was easy deciding who should take the No. 1 slot on this list. The Yahoo TV staff debated the same question many of you have posited in the comments over the last two weeks: Can anyone beat Breaking Bad's Walter White?
As it turns out, yes.
Elizabeth Miervaldis Lemon is comically hapless and socially inept to the point of absurdity, but she’s also truly, painfully relatable. Who among us hasn’t sat on the couch in a slanket eating off-brand cheese puffs while watching Oprah? Or tried to solve real-world problems using life lessons gleaned from the Star Wars trilogy? Or gotten so angry at an inanimate object — a stray plastic shopping bag, perhaps — that we swore to take revenge?
While we watch Walter White’s thrilling Mr. Chips-to-Scarface transformation as spectators, at one point or another, we’ve all been Liz Lemon — loyal friend, effective (if sometimes harsh) leader, and stressed subordinate who longs for the same thing we all want: the freedom to sit in peace and eat a sandwich. #nightcheese — Kristen Baldwin
The 99 Greatest TV Characters Since Tony Soprano: #99-90
The 99 Greatest TV Characters Since Tony Soprano: #89-80
The 99 Greatest TV Characters Since Tony Soprano: #79-70
The 99 Greatest TV Characters Since Tony Soprano: #69-60
The 99 Greatest TV Characters Since Tony Soprano: #59-50
The 99 Greatest TV Characters Since Tony Soprano: #49-40
The 99 Greatest TV Characters Since Tony Soprano: #39-30
The 99 Greatest TV Characters Since Tony Soprano: #29-20
The 99 Greatest TV Characters Since Tony Soprano: #19-10