It’s all come down to this: Only 10 remain in our countdown of the Top 50 TV Characters of 2011, and the results might surprise you.
It goes without saying that one of our favorite “Jersey Shore” stars found her way toward the top of our list, but it’s a certain “Parks and Rec” administrator who took home all the bacon (and all the eggs while he was at it). Combine those characters with two nods for “Breaking Bad,” an Emmy-winning “Game of Thrones” actor and one comedian who risked his very life to bring some of the biggest laughs the small screen has ever enjoyed, and you’ll find yourself looking at our Top 10 TV Characters of 2011.
Stay tuned to MTV News for interviews with several of our top honorees.
10. Gus Fring, “Breaking Bad”
I’ve never smoked meth, but my guess is the effects are similar to the feeling shooting through my body when the crank kingpin — SPOILER ALERT! — exited the smoky scene of a suicide bombing, straightened his tie and revealed that in place of his face was a steaming mass of Fring-like goo. He was in death as he was in life: debonair, a spiller of blood and totally goddamn frightening. Contemplating a “Breaking Bad” without Gus makes us want to reach for the pipe. -Eric Ditzian
9. Constance Langdon, “American Horror Story”
Both television and the horror genre are no strangers to terrible mothers, but Jessica Lange’s deliciously dark Constance on “American Horror Story” truly takes the cake. How many moms have you known to allow their children to die in a house that keeps the dead’s spirits locked in our mortal realm for all eternity? The two-time Oscar winner marks her first regular television gig with “AHS,” and it’s a phenomenal debut. As awful as Constance can be, as mean and nasty as she gets, she’s impossible to look away from. And, so help us, you actually feel bad for this woman and her cursed womb. Only an actress of Lange’s caliber could make the ruthless Constance into someone you can root for despite yourself — and with only one season under her belt, we can only imagine the “Horror” Lange will bring in the future. -Josh Wigler
8. Fat Mac, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”
Remember Robert De Niro’s turn in “Raging Bull,” when he gained 60 pounds to play Jake La Motta? Of course you don’t; there weren’t any sparkling vampires in “Raging Bull.” Long story short, De Niro packed on the lb’s and subsequently won every award on the planet. Rob McElhenney, on the other hand, added a solid 50 pounds of fat to play Mac on the current season of “Sunny,” and he’ll be lucky to be nominated for a Blockbuster Entertainment Award. So let’s honor him here — not only for ruining his body for the sake of comedy, but for spoiling one of TV’s oldest tropes: As shows go on, characters don’t age, they get better looking. On the seventh season of “Sunny,” Mac looks worse than ever, yet his best moments — carrying around a trash bag filled with chimichangas, insisting he’s just “cultivating mass” — steal the show. Whether it’s method acting or some sociological experiment, you’ve got to appreciate McElhenney’s willingness to bust boundaries — and waistbands. -James Montgomery
7. Milania Giudice, “Real Housewives of New Jersey
“You have such muscular legs when you do gymnastics, sometimes you gotta rest your toes,” Gia sang to little sister Milania — both daughters of “Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Teresa Giudice — on her fifth birthday. The song is irrelevant to all the adorable little Milania represents, but I just love that line. Milania remained blissfully unaware of the drama her mother and castmates stirred up on “RHONJ” and instead delivered such irreverent pearls as “give me pizza, you old troll” to her father and climbed onto couches, into supermarket freezer displays and, most importantly, into our hearts. -Rya Backer
6. Phil Dunphy, “Modern Family”
In the sea of characters on “Modern Family,” the biggest one of all just might be Phil Dunphy, played by Emmy winner Ty Burrell . Prime time’s most well-meaning husband, dad and son-in-law, Phil lives his life with his own joie de vivre, blind to the fact that sometimes (when he lets his feet get off the ground) he borders on the ridiculous. He’s over-the-top and underappreciated, but at the end of the day, it’s his love for life, shenanigans and family that keeps audiences, and the Dunphy clan, coming back for more. -Jocelyn Vena
5. Eric Northman, “True Blood”
There are plenty of badass bloodsuckers littering vampire canon, so what makes Eric Northman (played by Alexander Skarsgård) of HBO’s “True Blood” so special? Well, have you seen the man? OK, in addition to his stunning Swedish looks, the hardened vampire sheriff let us see his little-seen soft side this season, thanks to a bout of witch-induced amnesia. It was a standout story line in an otherwise meh season. Here’s hoping that even though he has his memory back, Eric will still forget his shirt from time to time. -Amy Wilkinson
4. Tyrion Lannister, “Game of Thrones”
At first glance or read, Tyrion Lannister might seem the least compelling and least likely to live of all the formidable characters fighting for power and survival in George R.R. Martin’s brutal, twisted world. But upon further inspection and screen time, he becomes the most intriguing man — or half-man, as Tyrion would say himself — on the show. His greatest weapons are his intellect and fearlessness, and he uses them all too well to manipulate everyone around him. Not to mention the fact that he gets the best lines in the show — “every dwarf is a bastard, but every bastard need not be a dwarf,” for one. And who can forget his epic confessional monologue in the Eyrie? Not every TV character can say they once brought a jackass and a honeycomb to a brothel, then turn right around to admire his freshly earned Emmy Award. But Tyrion is a Lannister, after all — and a Lannister always pays his debts. -Kara Warner
3. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, “Jersey Shore”
The most non-guidette guidette (Snooki is a Chilean-born cheerleader adopted into an Italian household) started as the most-loathed member of the “Jersey Shore” “family.” Four seasons later, she’s the most beloved. Snooki makes up one-half of Team Meatball (the meat or the ball is up to you), and has always searched for love on the show. Openly into tanned and ’roided “gorillas,” Snooki has had trysts with fellow castmates Vinny and Mike “The Situation,” but the little nugget is smarter than she seems, creating a brand out of her outrageousness including clothing, accessories, novelty items and a planned spin-off with “Jersey Shore” bestie JWoww. -Natasha Chandel
2. Walter White, “Breaking Bad”
Based on no facts and all gut, season four of this AMC hit was the greatest season in the history of TV. That statement is no crazier than Walt himself, a wicked genius who left behind the last shreds of his former morality and went full Heisenberg on us, bragging to his wife that he’s a hardened criminal (“I am the danger!”), and — SPOILER ALERT, once again — poisoning a child to save his own hide. Like Jack Torrance and Dr. Evil before him, Walt is a bad man you can’t help but love, even as you kinda wish he gets the horribly painful death he deserves. But not yet. He’s too much fun to watch. -Eric Ditzian
1. Ron Swanson, “Parks and Recreation”
Mustachioed Ron Swanson loves steak, the great outdoors and making sure the bureaucracy of Pawnee, Indiana, doesn’t run as smoothly as it should. Ron (Nick Offerman), the Parks Department’s antihero, may be manly and tough, but he’s also got a lot of heart. It’s his ability to deadpan his way through life while still only wanting the best for the people he loves that makes him the best TV character of the year. Now if only he can find a way keep the Tammys out of his hair and Leslie out of trouble the same way he’s managed to hold down a job without doing any work, and we’re sure he’d be a little less grumpy. -Jocelyn Vena
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