Finale season is upon us. As the 2011-2012 television season comes to a close, we bid a temporary farewell to our favorite returning shows and characters, and a permanent good-bye to those shows celebrating their series finales.
Every year, new shows come and go. Some catch on and some do not. What does a new show have to do to grab your attention and keep it? For most of us, it’s all about the characters; and we feel the best ones deserve recognition.
This being the inaugural installation of The UnderScoopFire TV Character of the Year, there isn’t much context to pull from. However, to lend some perspective- previous winners of this award would have included George Costanza, Sam Malone, Rose Nylund, Chandler Bing, Ron Swanson, Jack Tripper, Liz Lemon, Homer Simpson, GOB Bluth, Andy Bernard, Jack Bauer, & Al Bundy.
At the time, we recognized that each of those characters were incredibly entertaining and that the actors who portrayed them were immensely talented. I’ve come to the same realization about the character we reveal below.
The UnderScoopFire 2012 Television Character of the Year is:
New Girl’s Nick Miller
We said earlier that strong characters are what make a show great, and Fox’s New Girl is chock full of them. I wouldn’t argue against any of the main characters being chosen as someone’s favorite TV character of the year. New Girl was irrefutably TV’s best new show this season, at the head of its class in writing, directing, casting, and acting.
In December, we listed New Girl on our Best of 2011 List and that was quite possibly before the show really hit its stride. The development of the plot and character relationships was so strong that it’s hard to believe this show has only been around for one season. It typically takes 2 to 3 seasons for me to be able to relate to characters the way I do with this show. That was the key factor in our choice.
Image credit: The Fantastic Faces of Nick Miller
We Can Relate
The main reason Nick Miller is our favorite character of the TV season is his relatability. Before you hit the comments, I realize that ‘relatability’ is not a word, but it should be, and it would perfectly summarize the charm of Jake Johnson’s character.
If you’re into staggering statistics, do some light research on how many recent college grads are working in fields unrelated to the degree they earned. Dig a little deeper, and find how many are living with roommates, working part-time, and forgoing things like health insurance in favor of repaying student loans or filling their gas tanks. It’s a huge number, and it’s growing. The character of Nick Miller works so well because he’s in the exact same boat as all of these people.
Image credit: capturingnewgirl.tumblr.com
Misery Loves Company
Having no idea what you want to do with your life can be agonizing. Being single as you approach and reach your 30s while watching all of your friends pair off, get married and have children is downright terrifying. We have a very basic human fear of being left behind, and Johnson’s portrayal of Nick carrying this common fear is striking. To me, Nick Miller lept off the screen around mid-season when I realized- this guy is me and every one of my friends at some point in our lives.
From the embarrassingly low 200 credit score to the decision to play a pick-up tackle football game with no health insurance, Nick Miller is us. Fox couldn’t have wished for a better unintentional marketing scenario than when Jake Johnson was seen on camera catching a foul ball at a Cubs-Phillies game in April. Why? Because we like to think that the actors ARE the characters. We invest so much emotion into our favorites, and we want to feel like we know them. Where would Nick Miller be when not fraternizing at home with his roomates? Why, at a Cubs game of course! Nice catch, Nick!
Image credit: The Hollywood Reporter
“This is the only face I have!”
Nick embodies what I’ve come to think of as the “New Age straight man”. In television history, “straight men” existed to “put over” a more outrageous or eccentric character; basically to set up the jokes. In a comedic duo, it was thought that one of the two needed to “play it straight” for the other half’s jokes to effectively hit their mark (think Cousin Larry to Balki Bartokomous).
New Girl is devoid of an unfunny “straight man”. Each character is brilliant in every episode, as the cast members take turn stealing scenes. Where Arrested Development’s GOB or Buster Bluth needed an exasperated Michael Bluth trying to make sense of their whimsy, New Girl’s characters don’t need to play off of each other to work- but when they do, it’s even better.
TV in the Twitter Era
One thing that has completely changed our view of television characters and our perception of the actors who play them is Twitter. If you’re on Twitter, and you follow Jake Johnson, you’ve undoubtedly seen what I have- he’s a normal guy. He interacts graciously with fans (evidence below), he tweets funny observations, and he reinforces my theory that our favorite TV and movie characters are the ones where we get to see a little bit (if not a lot) of the actor’s real personality coming through in their portrayal.