As 2011 draws to a close, the MTV News team has been looking back on our favorite moments of the year in music and movies — and now, it’s time to turn our attention to another obsession of ours: television.
The year brought us countless memorable TV turns from not just your favorite stars, but even some more obscure personalities you may not have heard about. To recognize those achievements, we’re happy to present MTV News’ Top 50 TV Characters of 2011!
Our list kicks off with a healthy mix of adventurous animated characters, impossibly hilarious comedians, reality stars worth their weight in laughs and gasps, and smug (but heroic) leading men.
50. Finn (“Adventure Time”)
At 26, I’m probably too old to be watching cartoons, but I can’t help but get transfixed and regress to an 8-year-old whenever Cartoon Network’s amazing series “Adventure Time” is on. Set 1,000 years from now in the Land of Ooo, “Adventure Time” follows Finn the Human (possibly the last of us) and his pal Jake the Dog. While Jake is his own ball of awesome and the Land of Ooo has a whole host of great characters, it’s Finn who comes in at #50 on our list. A 13-year-old boy, Finn is on a never-ending quest to discover how awesome the world is and to protect what is righteous by kicking evil’s butt. From his wholesome naiveté and endless curiosity to his never-say-die attitude and sweet skills as a warrior — not to mention his luscious blond locks and his crush on the fair (and older) Princess Bubblegum — Finn is more than deserving to be on our list. Hopefully, you’ll turn back the clock and get to know him too. -Steven Roberts
49. Louie (“Louie”)
In “Louie,” comedian Louis C.K. takes a page out of Larry David’s “Curb” playbook insofar as he plays a hyper-pathetic version of himself. But whereas Larry seems to be asking for it half the time, Louie is placed in the most painfully awkward situations as if by magic. Whether it’s sidestepping a charging homeless man who’s swiftly decapitated, sucking up to Dane Cook for Lady Gaga tickets or sheepishly hitting on everyone from a teen cheerleader to Joan Rivers, you still root for the guy. -Kara Klenk
48. Boston Rob (“Survivor”)
“Survivor” fans (yes, we do exist) waited a long time to see someone play the perfect game, and after 22 seasons, it finally happened. Granted, it took him a record four seasons to make it happen, but “Boston Rob” Mariano finally earned his “Survivor” crown during this year’s aptly titled “Redemption Island” season. From finding a hidden immunity idol without a single clue to commanding his tribe with all the ruthless efficiency of a mob boss, the Robfather played a flawless game of “Survivor” and delivered one of the year’s most entertaining TV performances along the way. -Josh Wigler
47. Andy Bernard (“The Office”)
Michael Scott’s shoes were destined to be hard to fill. When he left “The Office” earlier this year, it seemed like no one would be kooky enough to replace him as the head of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin. Enter longtime employee Andy Bernard: Always a bit silly, he has been the perfect guy to lead the charge but also rein in the zaniness. He has just enough heart and common sense. Since his promotion, “The Office” has regained the magic it seemed to have lost. -Jocelyn Vena
46. Stefon (“Saturday Night Live”)
If your idea of a fun night includes going to “New York’s hottest club” and partying with human fire hydrants, FUBU sleeping bags, twinks, puppets in disguise, germfs, puke people, a Teddy Ruxpin wearing mascara, black George Washington, Snoozin’ Lucci and Tranderson Cooper, then Stefon (played by Bill Hader) is the tour guide for you! Weekend Update’s city correspondent, Stefon Zolesky, is one shy gay club kid who makes it worth staying up to watch “Saturday Night Live.” -Kara Klenk
45. NeNe Leakes (“Celebrity Apprentice,” “Real Housewives of Atlanta”)
Nene probably wouldn’t like how low she is on this list, but that’s what makes her so amazing — her irony-free awareness and appreciation of her outrageousness. Whether she was clawing her way through Star Jones on “Celebrity Apprentice”; earning her independence from Greg this season on her launching pad, “Real Housewives of Atlanta”; paying cash for a car for her son (because she’s “rich“); or just mining feuds with fellow Housewives, we love Lenethia Leakes for all she’s become, and we brace ourselves for what’s to come. -Rya Backer
44. Doctor John Watson (“Sherlock”)
Sometimes the sidekick, the buddy, the right-hand man is more compelling than the main guy. Not that Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock isn’t a fascinating character, but his partner-in-crime-solving, Dr. John Watson, is the one we really root for. As an injured war vet newly returned to civilian life in London, Watson (played by future big-screen Bilbo Baggins, Martin Freeman) is as twisted and tormented as Holmes in his own way. And because he manages to tolerate — and keep up with — Sherlock’s highly unconventional lifestyle and investigative methods, Dr. Watson often proves to be just as heroic as his celebrated friend. -Tami Katzoff
43. Jeff Medolla (“The Bachelorette”)
Most contestants on “The Bachelorette” use cheap intimidation tactics and gimmicks to gain an edge on the competition. That’s not what Jeff Medolla did; he wore a mask. Insisting that he would rely on his personality instead of good looks to win Ashley’s heart, Medolla masqueraded through the first few rounds before the Bachelorette sent him packing. Unfortunately, the mask didn’t stop him from talking mainly about his divorce. -Kevin P. Sullivan
42. George Christopher (“Bored to Death”)
“MTV News has a list of the year’s 50 best TV characters? I want to be on that!” Your wish is our command, George. The Edition founder, veteran marijuana smoker and occasional assistant detective stands out as one of the funniest, finest and flawed characters not just of the year, but of Ted Danson’s whole career. Given his 40 years in the industry, that’s quite the accomplishment. -Josh Wigler
41. Richard Castle (“Castle”)
There’s a reason Detective Kate Beckett has the hots for crime novelist Richard Castle — many reasons, actually. How can you not fall in love with a character who’s smart, witty, adventurous, charmingly geeky, chivalrous, wealthy yet generous and undeniably handsome? And Richard Castle also makes a mean mug of espresso. This is a role that’s perfect for Nathan Fillion, who’s been roaming the TV universe since his soap-opera days in the 1990s. Is Castle his most iconic character to date? Probably not; that would be Captain Malcolm Reynolds on “Firefly.” But Fillion has inhabited Richard Castle longer than any other character he’s played — Castle’s stuck around because he’s just so damn lovable. -Tami Katzoff
MTV will reveal the best artists, songs and movies of the year. Come to MTV News each day to see more big reveals and check out more of MTV’s Best of 2011 music, TV, movies, and news coverage.