Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Also, Plans for June

I have decided to make June my own official Month of Bond. Why June? Because July is all about America, dammit, and Bond is not American.

But also, my love affair for James Bond began in the month of June, the summer between eighth grade and High School. Here's the story:

I was first introduced to James Bond in fifth grade, when Andrew Avitan had a birthday outing to see The World is Not Enough, followed by playing GoldenEye on the N64. GoldenEye was awesome, of course, and I still believe it is the greatest video game ever.

This guy is winning; he is obviously not me.

The World is Not Enough, however, I was not thrilled by. It was a different time, of course. I was a prude and a nerd, and the idea of SEX just bothered and scandalized me. I couldn't follow the plot very well, either, though I eventually learned that the why and the wherefore in a Bond film is the last thing on anyone's mind. Also, this is the one where Denise Richards famously played a nuclear physicist.


Flash forward to eighth grade.

I was the eighth grade champion in the spelling bee, beating Casey Scharf, a classmate with whom I had a fierce rivalry. He didn't know it, and I don't exactly know why I chose him to compete with, but suffice to say that it was one of my greater achievements that year. (The GREATEST was hitting on the hot librarian on the morning announcements and getting away with it). Anyway, I won, and so we were supposed to have a final competition between me and the champions from the sixth and seventh grade. The winner of that would represent our school in the district competition. High-fives were exchanged with my parents.

Except that it never happened. At the last minute, they were unable to hold a final competition, and a name was drawn out of a hat on the morning announcements. The decision left to horrible chance (horrible, awful chance), I watched as my dreams of being the Grand Master of Spelling Things were dashed, and some girl in seventh grade went instead.

Well, my father was not having any of that. Siding with me on the whole "drawing a name out of a hat is stupid" thing, he called me in sick the day of the District Spelling Bee. Instead, we had an OUTING. Yes, a wonderful, air-conditioned outing to the local mall, where I could pick out one item to own forever and ever. So we went to the music store, right? And I looked through the movie soundtracks, and there it was -- The Best of Bond, featuring twenty-two tracks of music to spy to.

And this is what it looked like.

Now, keep in mind, I had yet to see any Bond film but The World is Not Enough, and I still had memories of the burning hatred I felt for it. Fortunately for me, my English teacher at the time was Mr. Kimmel, a die-hard Bond fan. He happened to have a copy of The Best of Bond himself, and he would play it every so often during writing exercises. I really didn't remember any songs per se, but I remembered not hating it, and I kind of looked up to him at the time, so what was good enough for him was good enough for me. I bought the CD.

And my life changed forever.

I like to think everyone remembers the first time they heard "boom boom, wha-WHAAAAA-wha". We all know what that is. The first time I really heard those notes was in my bedroom that afternoon, laying on my stomach by the CD player, flipping through the cover booklet. It was here that I first learned of the James Bond books. "Well," I resoned to myself, "mayhaps the books have something the movies failed to give me."

I got a copy of Doctor No from the library. It seemed to make the most sense to start with that one. I was still a novice, you see, and I figured that since it was the first Bond film, it must have been the first Bond book as well. I went to my grandparents' house in Boca Raton, sat out on the beach, and started reading.

And that's the edition I read. It's like you're there!
I finished reading it that evening. Without question, it was one of the most exhilirating novels I had ever read. Dr. Julius No was an amazing villain, and this James Bond was so manly, the epitome of what I always wanted to become but never felt I could measure up to. Here, at least, I could imagine Bond any way I wanted to -- he could even be me! Suave, sexy, with a "hump 'em and dump 'em" attitude, Bond was also a dark, melancholic figure that intrigued and haunted me. I was eager to return to his world of sex and danger.

So it is that I consider June to be the start of the true love, for it was not until the Summer months that I read Casino Royale, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Moonraker, back to back to back. Each girl -- Honeychile Rider, Vesper Lynd, Vivienne Michel, Gala Brand -- became a different girl of my acquaintance (even at a young age, I liked to cast willy-nilly). At the same time, I felt myself becoming more enraptured with the villains. Hugo Drax was an especial favorite of mine, though I would eventually come to pledge allegiance to Blofeld as well.

To make a long story short...

"Too late."

It took me only a year to finish the Ian Flemings, and I soon moved on to the other authors. I watched all the movies (except Octopussy and A View to a Kill), bought a number of the individual soundtracks, bid on action figures on eBay, had marathons with friends, the works. I am an official Bond obsessive now, and saw the last two at midnight showings. And yes, I am firmly on Team Craig.

A blonde Bond? It's like looking into a mirror!

This is all a long way of saying that in June, a number of Bond-related things will occur.

ITEM THE FIRST: My roommates and I will plan and host a James Bond party, in which guests will come in costume (at least, they better) and Bond movies will be on all TVs.

ITEM THE SECOND: Five weeks of Bond Casting Coups. Yeah, you heard me. I'll be recasting five James Bond books from the Ian Fleming years (hopefully, provided I have the time). It's a challenge, but someone's got to do it.

ITEM THE THIRD: Obviously, Top Ten Lists of Bond Girls and Bond Villains.

By the by, take a look at my first Bond Casting Coup from this past summer.

That's the long and short of it. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to attend to a lady friend. She's just dead.

Don't Waste the Moon

Holy crap, holy crap, excerpt from my new favorite song from Carrie: The Musical:

All we ever do is park,
Then for hours you grope me in the dark.
We would go bowling if you really cared.
You don't.

I do.

You don't!

Hey, be that way.
Good girls go to Heaven, so they say,
But bad girls, they go everywhere.


How long do you think it took to come up with that? Two hours? Less?

Shall I make this the fourth Casting Coup for the month of May? Readers -- what say ye?

Julie & Julia Trailer

It's here it's here IT'S HERE!!!

It looks like adorable, harmless fun. Amy Adams and La Streep will always get my butt in the theater, so I'm already there. And please, let's not discuss "golden" opportunities this film may have; let's wait until September for that.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The SMACKDOWN Arriveth

I still don’t know if I should have given Shelley Winters the edge over Juanita Moore. Maybe it would have been more honest to keep them at a tie. But if I did, does that give Juanita five stars or Shelley four?

I had a lot of fun doing this first smackdown. Two limited roles, two Mommas, two sets of great gams, two ladies from Imitation of Life. They liked having it a certain way, I guess. And it’s hard for me to believe these came out at the same time as Ben-Hur. I mean, Pillow Talk? Competing at the Oscars? With Ben-Hur? So strange.

Now, if this whole category was a Casting Coup, subject….

Fran Drescher as Petronella Van Daan
She actually does quite well in drama. Her voice and mannerisms would help with the annoying aspects of the performance. She is also still attractive, so that we can hear remembering the boys and know what she’s talking about.

Loretta Devine as Annie Johnson
I love Loretta. There is a sweetness to her that I think few other actresses of her caliber have. She can play the good-natured Annie good-naturedly, but you bet that she would also pack a wallop in that final scene with Sarah Jane.

Sarah Parish as Elspeth
She can sing, she can do cockney, she can play subtle drama. And it would be a hell of a cameo.

Lily Tomlin as Alma
can certainly toss out a line like nobody’s business, and there is this harder edge to her that would serve the character well. But I also think she would remember to keep it interesting and within the screwball comedy dynamic.

??? as Sarah Jane Johnson
I ain’t even touching that one.

For more awesomeness, trip on over to StinkyLulu's blog.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Another Angel Called Home

Beatrice Arthur (1922 - 2009)

This comes just on the heels of my post describing Dorothy Zbornak as my second favorite TV character of all time. I feel like a schmuck for having never watched Maude, but to me, she'll always be Dorothy and Vera Charles (Mame). She was much more of a star on stage and TV than in films, but she was excellent in Lovers and Other Strangers and the film version of Mame, in which she reprised her stage role as Mame's boozy actress friend.

According to the AP: "She was 86...Arthur died peacefully at her Los Angeles home with her family at her side, family spokesman Dan Watt said. She had cancer, Watt said, declining to give further details."

She was a marvelous talent and will be sorely missed. But at least Ma and Pussycat are together again.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ooh, A Clip!

Found this on In Contention. It is a short clip, just forty seconds, from Woody Allen's latest, Whatever Works. Evan Rachel Wood intweegs me...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Diary of Anne Frank

There are some movies that are better suited to a more intimate setting. A movie theater, say, or a living room with your girlfriend and/or best friends. A viewing station in the middle of the library is probably not the best choice -- at all -- but beggars can't be choosers, and they wouldn't let me check it out. Suffice to say, I found myself trying to avoid public hysterics while working through the emotional impact of The Diary of Anne Frank.

I trust we are all familiar with her story. Anne Frank was a girl in 1940s Holland who, being Jewish, hid away with her family in an attic. Having received a diary at the age of thirteen, she chronicled life in the hiding place for the two years she, her parents, her sister, a family of three, and a dentist stayed there. It was adapted for the stage and, eventually, the screen.

So, I know this is going to sound odd, but I was kind of reminded of Night of the Living Dead. A claustrophobic setting, a handful of refugees, uncertainty of the outside world. I know, I know -- this is fact, Night of the Living Dead was fiction, but still, it was interesting to see how in both cases, the inhabitants still get into major quarrels over the silliest of things. Or how fierce an unassuming mother can become. Or how young people still find time for romance. Or how, no matter how horrifying the situation, people can still cling to hope.

The film is quite tastefully done, never sensationalizing the story, shying away from melodrama. Millie Perkins has the title role; I've seen people play Anne Frank as a kind of contemporary Joan of Arc, but Perkins, fortunately, remembers that Anne was thirteen, and fills the character with the precociousness and confusion and "wisdom" of that age. Mind, she was about twenty during filming, so that she was able to take the role so seriously as to not take it seriously is quite an achievement (I find actors of that age group tend to "ACT" rather than play it as it lays).

She also happens to be incredibly beautiful.

I think I like the last bit the most. Anne and her beau Peter Van Daan (Richard Beymer, who afterwards met a girl named Maria) are upstairs, and she has just delivered the famous line about people being good at heart, when we hear the sirens getting louder and the Nazis busting in. And without hesitation, she and Peter kiss passionately for what they know will be the last time. God. I must have looked a mess.

It was for this movie that Shelley Winters won her first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. And I gotta tell you here and now, I love Shelley Winters. I had a mild crush on her when I saw The Night of the Hunter at the age of ten (or thereabouts). I own Alfie and Lolita. I saw The Poseidon Adventure in sixth grade just for her (well, OK, for Grandpa Joe, too). The Winters and I, we're palsies.

Which means I'm fully aware that she is a "shrill" actress. The woman is loud and brassy. She is typecast in the role of the whiny woman, the demanding mother that no one can stand. Watching her in Alfie is just bizarre, of course, but every time I see her on screen, I always think of her at breakfast with Sue Lyons ("Keep your table off the, ugh, ELBOWS OFF THE TABLE!") And truly, Petronella Van Daan could easily be another one of these. There are times when it seems she is about to do the Shelley Winters thing, going big when she needs to go small.

Which also means that, despite my love for The Winters, I often underestimate her.

There is a scene at the beginning where she talks to Anne about boys. Anne asks her if she had a lot of boyfriends growing up, and although Mrs. Frank (Gusti Huber giving the Greatest Performance of a Mother Ever) admonishes her, Petronella replies, "No, I don't mind." AND SHE DOESN'T. By which I mean, Winters' eyes light up at the question, and she goes into details of her youth, and you can see her actually going there. Her nostalgia is both charming and sad, tinged the realization that she is not the woman she used to be. And as she shows off her great legs, there is a cry of desperation for a compliment, a glance even, anything! That Winters can combine both humor and sadness in one scene is miraculous, and so subtly done, too.

Petronella's mink coat gives us two great scenes. One is where Petronella lets Anne try it on, gushing about how it was a gift from her father. It is clearly the most precious thing the Van Daans own, and Winters glows with pride. When Anne spills milk on it, SNAP goes Petronella, and Lord have mercy, I had no idea anyone could that fast. And instead of playing it angry or bitchy, you can actually hear Winters' Petronella choking back tears as she runs foggily upstairs.

Later on, her husband (Lou Jacobi) goes to take the coat to sell, and Petronella tries to fight him for it. She loses, and sinks on the bed in defeat. Bam. That's it. That one shot of The Winters sitting with her head bowed is enough. Throughout the film, we see the woman go through all sorts of humiliating moments, but for me, this is the one that sticks out. The love of her father and her own pride were both wrapped up in that stole, and in many ways, it was the only thing she had left of either. When it goes, so, too, does much of her hope. She even looks smaller.

I love the little moments like that. I love when Anne comes back from Peter's room, having received her first Real Kiss. She kisses everyone in the living room good night as she floats to her bedroom, pausing even to kiss Petronella, Peter's mum, on both cheeks. And in reply, Mrs. Van Daan gives a little smirk: "Uh-huh." And that's all anyone says or needs to say. Winters' delivery of that line is so incredibly perfect.

Really, in moments like that one, or in talking about the boys, she reminded me of my roommate's mother, who is like my other mother (but not the Coraline kind). And I feel that if you can watch a performance and say, "Holy crap, that is SO whats'ername" then the actor has done their job. They have given you a real human being. So, Shelley Winters, here's to you.

THE MOVIE: **** (out of 4)
THE PERFORMANCE: ***** (out of 5)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Goodness, A Schedule???

I shan't do them now, but I've got a number of bees in my bonnet concerning upcoming Casting Coups. As in, the ones coming in May. So, be on the lookout for these wonderful little gems next month:

Soon to be remade as a drama, so I might as well, eh?

Jesus Christ Superstar
Same as above, except for the "drama" part.

The Phantom Tollbooth
Aw, I'm an old softie, it's true.

Monday, April 20, 2009


The costumes. Spanning four decades is no easy task, but Catherine Marie Thomas eases us into the transition gracefully.

The production design. From splendor to squalor. Amazing.

Jessica Lange as Big Edie. An intriguing portrait of a woman whose loneliness and pride traps her in a decaying Xanadu. Her "Tea for Two" is haunting. Gives the best performance of the film.

Drew Barrymore as Little Edie. Finally, proving to everyone else what I've known for years: Drew is une actrice formidable. A haunting portrayal of a woman who has missed out on life, but still craves the spotlight. Remarkably, she fares better as an older Edie than as a young one, although her scenes in New York are stellar.

The score. Rachel Portman, I love you so much.

Great movie. Some qualms here and there, as it is very apparent that Michael Sucsy is a first-time director, but overall a wonderful film. The chemistry between Lange and Barrymore is unbelievable, though there are also some good performances from Jeanne Tripplehorn and, of all people, Daniel Baldwin! Highly recommended, and I need the score pronto.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Grey Gardens premieres tonight at 8:00 EST on HBO. The most beautiful woman in the world is finally getting a chance to prove herself as a serious actress (though why is there such a stigma against rom-coms? she does great work there, too). And she gets to do it in period costumes!


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Imitation of Life (1959)

Douglas Sirk recently came into my life thanks to one of my film classes. We spent one week watching All That Heaven Allows, starring Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman, and Far from Heaven, an homage starring Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid. While I adored Far from Heaven, I just couldn't see the appeal of All That Heaven Allows. I certainly didn't think Sirk was anything more than a director of soap operas, one who later clung to the revisionist appreciation fellow Germans like Fassbinder fastened onto him. I love a woman's weepie as much as the next person (assuming the next person effing LOVES women's weepies), but I don't believe in giving someone auteur status without earning it.

As luck would have it, when I volunteered to take part in StinklyLulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown for 1959, not one, but TWO of the actresses nominated came from Douglas Sirk's last Hollywood film: Imitation of Life, a remake of a 1934 flick with Claudette Colbert, which itself was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture. This version is a Technicolor dazzler, with Lana Turner as a widow struggling to make ends meet, Juanita Moore as the woman who comes to be her maid and best friend, and Sandra Dee and Susan Kohner as their respective daughters.

Imitation of Life is an interesting film, bursting at the seams with PLOT! and DRAMA! Lana wants to be an actress, but her agent MAKES A PASS AT HER. She falls in love with John Gavin, BUT SHE WANTS TO BE STAR! Juanita Moore loves her daughter Susan Kohner, BUT HER DAUGHTER PASSES FOR WHITE! Sandra Dee FALLS IN LOVE WITH HER MOTHER'S LOVER! One of the women has a HOLLYWOOD ILLNESS, and one of the daughters BECOMES A SHOWGIRL!

It was pretty neat, actually. Melodramatic, but it still tugged at my heartstrings. I hate the men in Sirk's films, though -- they're always so controlling. Eh, anyway, Lana Turner is beautiful and wonderful in her role, and Juanita Moore...well, let's get to it.

Juanita Moore is incredible. Her Annie appears first as all smiles, eager to please, the perfect Negro housemaid -- she doesn't even require payment! But subtle touches here and there put her above the stereotype this role could have been. There are two specific scenes in particular that absolutely won me over.

First, there is a scene in 1947 where she discovers that her daughter has been passing as white, denying both her mother and her heritage. The entire sequence is heartbreaking. Moore's Annie Johnson puts her best face forward: she tries to remain strong, saying that her blackness is "nothing to be ashamed of". But that hurt on her face just KILLS ME. The way she says, "It's a sin to be ashamed," trying to remain proud while knowing that that very pride alienates her from her daughter. Even approaching it from a religious point of view is of little help, as the doubt on her face shows. And that telling line: "How do you tell a child that she was born to be hurt?" That delivery is brilliant.

The second scene comes up an hour later. Annie is telling Lora of her dream funeral, one with all of her friends. After twelve years with this woman under her roof, Lora says, "It never occurred to me that you have friends." The look on Annie's face when she says, "Why, Miss Lora, you never ask," says it all. So subtle, in that she still has her good-natured face on, but there is the trace of a wince, a shade of doubt. She's hurt, but she knows she can't show it. As John Gavin's character says, Annie's the rock.

In these two scenes alone, Juanita Moore provides so much depth and history for Annie. She is absolutely brilliant in the role. Not to be outdone, of course, is Susan Kohner as her daughter, Sarah Jane.

It seems, at first, that Kohner is going to do the Angry Daughter routine. Cross, belligerent, hateful. Fortunately, that's not what the screenplay gives her, and that's not what she plays. SJ is a gal ashamed of who she is, but at least she's living in a sort of reality -- everyone else tells her race isn't a problem, but society clearly feels another way. She notices that Annie is little more than the live-in maid, that despite Lora and Suzy's protestations of familial love, they still call the whites "Miss Lora", "Miss Suzy", and "Mr. Steve." And surely, if she can pass for white, why shouldn't she? It certainly makes life easier.

There's one scene in particular that wins me over for Kohner's performance. She tells Suzy (played by an exasperating Sandra Dee) that she has a secret boyfriend, to which Suzy replies, "Is he colored?" SJ's response isn't just disgust at the thought, but offense at the presumption. For surely, if it doesn't matter, why shouldn't she be able to date a white boy? Why does Lora assume automatically that she's with the chauffeur's boy? Kohner plays this with the right balance of anger and self-protection, so that we can disagree with what she's doing while still understanding the motives.

In fact, Kohner's performance almost mirrors that of Lana Turner's. Both are hard-luck women who want to get ahead in life. For Turner's Lora, that means a life on stage; Kohner's Sarah Jane pursues a similar career as a showgirl. She even "acts" the role of a plantation slave, which I suppose we're meant to condemn, but honestly, I can feel for her. The white people are so subconsciously...well, not prejudiced, but "traditional". They take Annie's presence for granted, and while what Sarah Jane does is uncouth, I certainly do not find it to be without some justification. And I really think a lot of that comes from Kohner's winning performance.

Great gams, too.

Two solid performances in one great film. After a glorified cameo and an underused Thelma Ritter, this was a breath of fresh air.

The Movie: ***1/2 (out of 4)
Juanita Moore's Performance: **** (out of 5)
Susan Kohner's Performance: **** (out of 5)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Room at the Top

Room at the Top is one of those odd little treats, an independent British film that somehow managed to hit it big with critics, audiences, and awards groups in 1959. It starts off kind of odd, but after about fifteen minutes, I found I could not tear my eyes from the screen.

The film revolves an accountant at the Town Hall, a Mr. Lampton (Oscar-nominated Laurence Harvey), with dreams of shucking his life as a working class schmuck in favor of a life of riches. This leads him to pursuing Susan Brown (Heather Sears), daughter of a city councilman, the richest man (best-in-show Donald Wolfit) in the county. At the same time, he falls for a woman in the community theatre, a married French lady named Alice (Simone Signoret, who won the Oscar for her role). And, of course, it's the struggle between the classes and love and all that jazz.

But it is a very intriguing piece. It's very talky, and it really is a very basic plot. It kind of reminds me of the work of Nathanael West, in that it is simple, angry, pessimistic, and kind of episodic. And yet, it is suspenseful. I know I'm into a film when I'm watching it on the computer, by myself, and I still shift everything around so I can sit on the edge. Will he pursue the girl? Leave with the wife? Gain the trust of Mr. Brown?

Everything unfolds in a rather realistic style. There are so many moments when it could become melodrama, but the restraint of the director and actors keeps it real. Simone Signoret especially is dazzling to watch as the tragic Alice, a performance that breaks your heart and makes you fall in love. You can see the attraction Lampton would have for her, despite her being ten years his senior.

I liked how flawed Mr. Lampton was, too. I wanted him to succeed, certainly. I kept rooting for him to save his honor, but to also pursue his heart. All this despite the fact that, in all honesty, he's a bit of a dick. Like, big time. Logically, there is no reason why anybody should like this guy, what with the chip on his shoulder, forward manner, and moral hypocrisy. I think it speaks to the power of the performance and the screenplay that we still care.

That's all very well and good, but what of the Supporting Actress Nominee from the film? Hermione Baddeley holds the record for shortest nominated performance, ever: 00:02:32. Let me repeat that. Hermione Baddeley was nominated for an Academy Award for appearing on screen for two and a half minutes. That is 2% of the film's total running time. Geez, and I thought Thelma Ritter's Pillow Talk nom was bizarre. This is barely a cameo!

Baddeley appears four times, the bulk of her performance taking place in her first scene. She plays Elspeth, who lends her apartment to Alice and Lampton for their rendezvous. Elspeth is a music teacher, I believe, and we first see her as she sweeps into her apartment, apologizing to the lovers before settling herself in. She seems boisterous, your typical cockney lady, until she sits at the piano. Out of earshot of Alice, she expresses concern to Mr. Lampton, asking him not to hurt her friend. "She loves you," she proclaims. "She doesn't know it, yet, but she does."

I love this scene. It is such a short exchange, with dialogue we've heard a hundred times before in other films, but I love Baddeley's delivery. I love that she gets up close so we can see the lines in her face. I love how weary she looks as she's talking. I love that she already foresees disaster and is just going through the motions.

The rest of her scenes are the basic stuff: Supportive friend at the piano, screaming at Mr. Lampton at the end, her reactions at the wedding. But it's that first scene that has all the meat. A worthy performance. It's just a shame that they couldn't nominate Heather Sears, whose portrayal of Susan is exciting to watch. She seems like a sweet, innocent virgin, but if you try to cross her -- WATCH OUT. And (SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT) her afterglow after her first time is magnificent. "I don't feel any different. Do I look different? I don't feel different."

Anyway, Baddeley gives a brief turn, but it's effective. In just two minutes, we see the sad history of disappointments that Elspeth has experienced, as well as the weariness that comes with being Alice's bestie for the restie. And that final breakdown -- screeching cat one moment, confused little lady the next. Powerful stuff, making more out of her two minutes than Thelma made with her six or seven.

The Movie: *** (out of 4)
The Performance: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Top Ten Television Characters

Facebook has this new thing where you can pick your Top Five in several categories. Recently, I put up a list of Top Five Television Characters, and no one was surprised at all: 1-4 was the cast of The Golden Girls, with David Suchet's immortal Hercule Poirot at 5.

Only my sister Gia called my bluff, pointing out that out of all the shows ever produced, the fact that I chose all four GGs was either a testament to the show's brilliance or evidence of my laziness. And while it is MOST ASSUREDLY the former (for The Golden Girls is the greatest show ever made, bar none), it got me to thinking. While a Top Five on Facebook begs for quick clicking and not enough thought, a Top Ten on my blog will allow more room for debate.

I made just one rule for myself: no Poirot, as he is not an original television character. And while this may be true of a few TV icons (Carrie Bradshaw, Buffy), Poirot has never appeared in a single original episode. Each was adapted from a novel or short story written by the great Agatha Christie. So, my dear Hercule, I disqualify you.

So, Gia, I hope you're reading this. Consider this my retribution.

10. Daria Morgendorffer, Daria (MTV, 1997-2001) & Beavis and Butt-head (MTV, 1993-1997)

Jodie: You realize your negative approach to everything is self-defeating, right?
Daria: Well, it's nice to know there's someone I can defeat.

One of my all-time favorite shows. Daria gave me my first real taste of sarcasm used as a weapon. Up 'til then, I had only see it used as witty repartee. She saw through everybody's bull, and used her biting wit to reveal others' follies to themselves. It rarely worked, but she was awesome.

9. Jane Lane, Daria (MTV, 1997-2001)

Jane: Some day the curators will look back on these and say they're from my 'art colonies suck' period.
Daria: Curators?

Daria's best friend. Jane was a relief on the show, a perfect match for Daria. Whereas Daria was stubbornly antisocial and cynical, Jane partied, went out with guys, and could see the good in others every now and then. To me, Jane was the show's conscience, the stable one, the one ready to bring us back to reality. And she was an artist, which was bad-ass.

8. President Josiah Bartlett, The West Wing (NBC, 1999-2006)

Abbey Bartlett: I'm going to the Residence. I'm taking a bath. I'm turning on Sinatra.
President Bartlett: How does Mrs. Sinatra feel about that?

The leader we all want. I've always had this weird fascination with old people, and Bartlett is just the cream of the crop, a brilliant scholar with a sharp wit. His simultaneous frustration and exultation of God is one I can identify with. Besides, it's Martin Sheen.

7. Jim Halpert, The Office (NBC, 2005-present)

I would save the receptionist.
Lord, I wish I could be as confident as Jim. And as boyishly handsome. I mean, I am, but less obviously so. A few friends say I'm more like Toby in HR, but to tell the truth, I've always felt a real kinship with Jim, especially in the first two seasons. Plus, Jim means Pam, and Jenna Fischer is

6. Niles the Butler, The Nanny (CBS, 1993-1999)

Fran: Come on Niles. You know all about that fancy-shmancy stuff.
Niles: Yes. I'm very proud of my command of both the fancy and the shmancy.
As a child, I looked up to the butlers for some reason. They were gentlemen, sophisticated, wise, and full of dry wit. And no one personified this image better than Niles. A loyal British manservant, he was full of sage advice, though he often insulted both his employer and the "nobles" around him. Niles brought class to The Nanny, and the relationship between him and the bitchy C.C. Babcock was always entertaining.

5. Niles Crane, Frasier (NBC, 1993-2004)

Her lips were saying "no," but her eyes were saying, "read my lips."
There are many reasons why we choose favorite characters. Some of them represent what we want to be (Jim). Others are parental types we can look up to (President Bartlett). A few remind us of our sisters (Daria & Jane). But the big ones, the ones you keep in the Top Five, are the ones you love because they are you. Though I do believe Niles Crane is the epitome of...well, me. His snobbery, his faux British accent, his love for Daphne. That's me to a T. He's awkward and nebbish, like a character from a Woody Allen play, yet he prides himself on being intellectually superior to those around me. Like me. To not include Niles would just be wrong.

4. Mr Humphries, Are You Being Served? (BBC, 1972-1985)

Captain Peacock: We can't burst into song every time the lift opens.
Mr. Humphries: What a pity; I was looking forward to being a counter tenor.

Are You Being Served?
started it all. I watched this show before I even started school, and oh how I delighted in the misadventures of the department store staff that was Grace Bros. And I felt a great affinity for Mr. Humphries of Menswear. He was undoubtedly the greatest salesperson on the floor, and would often comment stone-faced on the goings-on around him. Mr. Humphries also happened to be my first exposure to "girly men". Although Mr. Humphries' orientation was never confirmed on the show, he had a mincing step and effeminate air about him, but both the actor and the writers declared him to be more of a mama's boy than anything else, which I COMPLETELY identify with.

3. Rose Nylund, The Golden Girls (NBC, 1985-1992) & The Golden Palace (1992-1993)

Stop it all of you! What difference does it make that Lorraine's a little long in the tooth and Michael's a skinny white boy? Can't you see they love each other? We should be celebrating not arguing whether or not it's right. Now what do you say we all join hands and sing a chorus of 'Abraham, Martin and John?'
That joke's HILARIOUS when you know what she's talking about. Rose and I share a kind of naivete about some things. She much more so, of course, but there are times when she goes places that seem natural for me. And her St. Olaf stories are killer! Rose is always sweet and good-natured, no matter how poorly people treat her. Then we got to see crazy Rose, who would come out in a competitive situation, like coaching little league football, or participating in the bowling competition. She didn't often crack wise, but when she did, it was a hoot.

2. Dorothy Zbornak, The Golden Girls (NBC, 1985-1992)

Rose: The surprise is, you think it's a regular pie, like apple or cherry, but when you bite into it, it's herring!
Dorothy: Oh, what fun!

The sarcastic and most intelligent Golden Girl, Dorothy is how I imagine most of the women in my life will wind up in their 50s. Like, attitude-wise, not looks-wise. Dorothy always had the good ideas, although she was often led astray by her own determination. People say Sophia had the best lines, but no one could put as much character or pack as much punch into a line reading like Dorothy. Her signature, "Whoa" preceded Joey Lawrence by six years, and no one will ever say it quite like she did. And how can you not love a woman who loves her mother so -- and always knows when it's time to get the cheesecake?

1. Toby Ziegler, The West Wing (NBC, 1999-2006)

We're gonna see to all those things. In the meantime, at a time when the public is rightly concerned about the impact of sex and violence on TV, this administration is gonna protect the MUPPETS! We're gonna protect Wall Street Week, we're gonna protect Live from Lincoln Center, and by God, we are going to protect Julia Child.
The West Wing opened my eyes to this whole new world of politics. Before, I was but a follower of the Republican Party, blindly following the path my family was on. And The West Wing challenged me to think of a number of things I took for granted, and it was Toby who guided me. Toby, who with his acid wit and sullen face, reminded me of myself on my worst days. Now, turth be told, I am much more of a happy camper than Toby is, but goodness knows the man was my conscience. Like on gun control:
...if you combine the populations of Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Australia, you'll get a population roughly the size of the United States. We had 32,000 gun deaths last year, they had 112. Do you think it's because Americans are more homicidal by nature? Or do you think it's because those guys have gun control laws?
Or on foreign policy:
Toby: Have them send us two.
Mandy Hampton: Second of all, China is not inclined to give us gifts right now.
Toby: Then get us two regular bears, a bucket of black paint, a bucket of white paint, bam-bam. Next case.

On loyalty:
You're gonna lose, and you're gonna lose huge. They're gonna throw rocks at you next week, and I wanted to be standing next to you when they did.
On etiquette:
Sam: Toby, do you really think it's a good idea to invite people to dinner and then to tell them exactly what they're doing wrong with their lives?
Toby: Absolutely, otherwise it's just a waste of food.

On debate:
No, I'm disagreeing with you. That doesn't mean I'm not listening to you or understanding what you're saying - I'm doing all three at the same time.
And, of course, teamwork:
We're a group. We're a team. From the President and Leo on through, we're a team. We win together, we lose together. We celebrate and we mourn together. And defeats are softened and victories are sweeter because we did them together... You're my guys and I'm yours... and there's nothing I wouldn't do for you.
And even though they completely screwed up his character in the last season, I always remember the Toby I started out with. He was the greatest role model a teenager could have, and, clearly, the best character to grace the television screen.