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Posted at 1:54 PM ET, 06/ 1/2010

Revising the list of 100 greatest pop culture characters

By Jen Chaney

Homer J. Simpson: According to Entertainment Weekly, the greatest character of the past two decades. (Reuters)

Entertainment Weekly is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Of course, such an occasion can only be commemorated in classic magazine fashion: with a mega-list.

That's why the cover of this week's EW is devoted to the 100 greatest characters of the last 20 years. Entertainment Weekly hasn't posted the full list on its Web site because they want readers to do this old-fangled thing called subscribing or buying a copy off the -- What's that weird thing called again? Oh yeah -- newsstand. As a consequence, Live Journal has published the full list because that's what happens on the Web when you don't publish the list; someone else does it for ya. (Seriously, though, you should subscribe to EW; it is a fine magazine even if it does occasionally keep some of its best content off the Internet.)

The list is like most lists usually are. Most entries are spot-on (Homer Simpson, Harry Potter, The Dude, Cartman), some are questionable (Hancock??) and a few omissions are glaring.

Here are the five characters that should have been dropped, and five pop culture icons that should have been added to EW's master rundown.

Should have been dropped off the list:

Harold and Kumar: Sure, those two names have become the default synonyms for the modern-day stoner. But were they among the most well-drawn, memorable characters of the past two decades? I think not; the main thing I remember about watching their trip to "White Castle" was the part where they picked up Neil Patrick Harris. And yes, I was dead sober at the time.

Hancock: I know I said this already, but really?? This wannabe blockbuster was probably the most uneven Will Smith effort ever. I mean, if someone showed up at a Halloween party dressed as Hancock, would you even realize that's who he was dressed as? Enough said.

Rachel Green: "Friends" certainly should be represented on the list, but it was such an ensemble piece that it seems odd to single out any one of the six as a "greatest character," even if she did sport the shag that every women coveted in the mid-'90s. Either replace Rachel with the whole Central Perk crew, or if only one can get a slot, then give it to the Friend with the quirkiest sensibility and the good sense to marry Paul Rudd: Phoebe Buffay.

Wilhelmina Slater: Vanessa Williams certainly played the snippy-but-vulnerable Mode editor with panache, but because of the timing of "Ugly Betty's" arrival on the airwaves -- a few short months after the big screen adaptation of "The Devil Wears Prada" -- the character seemed a bit familiar. Meryl Streep's Miranda Priestly is on the list at No. 69, by the way, which makes Slater's No. 95 appearance seem even more been-there, done that.

Tim Riggins: I love "Friday Night Lights." Like, seriously love it. And the sight of Taylor Kitsch in the role of the aimless former Dillon Panther running back always gives me a feeling that I'll refer to politely as, um, great joy. But is Tim -- as opposed to FNL's Coach Taylor, or Tami Taylor, or even Landry Clarke -- one of the 100 greatest characters to arrive on the pop culture scene since 1990?

Should have been added to the list:

Dora the Explorer: Kiddie characters like Elmo and Spongebob Squarepants made the list, and rightfully so. But Dora -- who may be more popular than Spongebob with the under-8 set, if my son's daycare classmates are any indication -- belongs here, too, with map in hand and Boots by her side.

Nemo: The EW staff undoubtedly tried to represent each pop culture phenomenon with a solo entry so that the list wouldn't get taken over by a single film/actor/studio. Their Pixar representative is Woody from "Toy Story" at No. 25. But I think they should have broken their rules to wedge in Nemo -- the adorable runaway, star of Pixar's highest-grossing movie ever and a character whose name has pretty much replaced clown fish as a scientific classification.

Agent Dale Cooper: I obviously have a special place in my heart for "Twin Peaks," but name another TV detective who regularly spoke to a woman named Diane via tape recorder, had weird nightmares involving dancing little people and attempted to solve crimes while discussing Tibet. You can't. And that's why this damn fine character (along with his damn fine cup of coffee) should have been on the list.

Steve Stifler: I would argue that the modern era of frat boy comedies and bromances really got kick started by the success of 1999's "American Pie." And I would further argue that Steve Stifler -- the utterly recognizable, arrogant jokester of a jock -- is the greatest character to emerge from the franchise. Should have been on the list.

Bart Simpson: Homer Simpson ranked No. 1 on the list. I have no problem with that. But, like Pixar, "The Simpsons" is a pop culture entity that has earned the right to more than one entry. And Bart should be it. When "The Simpsons" debuted, it was Bart -- with his smart alecky attitude, spiky hair and then-shocking-for-TV language ("Eat my shorts") -- who immediately shot to pop-culture icon status. He's Bart Simpson. Where the hell is he on this list?

Agree with my breakdown? Or do you have other suggestions about how to modify the EW greatest character list? Weigh in with a comment (or several) below.

By Jen Chaney  | June 1, 2010; 1:54 PM ET
Categories:  Pop Culture  | Tags:  Lists, Pop Culture  
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Definitely agree with Jen re Coach & Principal Taylor (over Riggins) on FNL.

From TV I'd also have chosen:
Lennie Briscoe, L&O: Mothership
John Munch, Homicide: Life on the Street and L&O: SVU
Forrest Bedford (indelibly portrayed by Sam Waterston), I'll Fly Away
Roseanne Conner, Roseanne
Patrick Jane, The Mentalist
Sheldon Cooper, Big Bang Theory

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 1, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

The abbreviation of Entertainment Weekly is an apt description of the quality of its content:


Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | June 1, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Hey Sas, has Billy Willard found you yet?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 1, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I'd add:
Cliff Huxtable, Cosby Show
Duckie, Pretty in Pink
Horatio Cane, CSI Miami
Kermit the Frog - or at least one of the muppets

ps to Nosy Parker - Rosanne is on the list already

Posted by: sjcpeach | June 1, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

sjcpeach, thanks for the heads-up. I skimmed the list in haste (darn work has a way of interfering with my celebritology studies at times).

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 1, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I tend to judge lists like this on how far I get before I don't get the reference. In this case, that's #26, Kavalier and Clay. I know they're from a novel, but I have no concept of their impact on pop culture. Am I just an uneducated rube?

I do agree with the list-poster, who asks, "Where the [heck] are Liz Lemon and Daria?"

Posted by: northgs | June 1, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

northgs, while I know that Kavalier and Clay is the title of a novel by the over-hyped Michael Chabon, I don't know the characters' impact on pop-culture is. How about we adjourn to the uneducated-rube corner of the Tiki Bar for an post-holiday chilled beverage?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 1, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Let's try this again, this time with proofreading:

northgs, while I know that Kavalier and Clay is the title of a novel by the over-hyped Michael Chabon, I don't know what the characters' impact on pop-culture is. How about we adjourn to the uneducated-rube corner of the Tiki Bar for a post-holiday chilled beverage?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 1, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Nosy, I keep dropping clues, but Billy Willard can't decipher them.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | June 1, 2010 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Clues, or just droppings?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 1, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

On Kavilier and Clay:
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a 2000 novel by American author Michael Chabon that won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001. The novel follows the lives of the title characters, a Czech artist named Joe Kavalier and a Brooklyn-born writer named Sam Clay—both Jewish—before, during, and after World War II. Kavalier and Clay become major figures in the nascent comics industry during its "Golden Age." Kavalier & Clay was published to "nearly unanimous praise" and became a New York Times Best Seller,[1] receiving nominations for the 2000 National Book Critics Circle Award and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. In 2006, Bret Easton Ellis declared the novel "one of the three great books of my generation",[2] and in 2007, The New York Review of Books called the novel Chabon's magnum opus.

Posted by: cjbriggs | June 2, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

The Kavilier and Clay entry was from Wikipedia, by the way.

I would like to see added:

Wallace and Gromit

Maggie or Dr. Joel (or one of the many memorable characters from Northern Exposure)

Posted by: cjbriggs | June 2, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

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