From Bran Stark to Boris Johnson: TV heroes and villains of 2019

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From Game of Thrones to BBC Parliament via a fascist Emma Thompson, there were champions and tyrants aplenty on our screens this year. Here are the best and the very worst

Heroes:
Princess Anne, The Crown

The royal family didnt exactly cover itself in glory in 2019, but salvation came from a most unexpected place. Princess Anne (previously portrayed in The Windsors as a sort of terrifying vampire) turned out to be the breakout star of The Crown. Played by Erin Doherty, she was funny, sardonic and exactly the right character to counter the dreary poshos that make up the rest of her awful family even if they did miss out the (surely intrigue-heavy) kidnap attempt against her.

Nadia Vulvokov, Russian Doll

Natasha
Natasha Lyonne in Russian Doll: the role she was born to play. Photograph: AP

The role that Natasha Lyonne was born to play in the show she was born to star in, Russian Dolls Nadia is a walking, talking wall of scar tissue. The only thing that can soften her up are several traumatising deaths and rebirths. But the miracle of Nadia is that even this isnt a complete success. By the end of the series she has changed, but remains still just as knotted and grouchy as before. What a concept. What a character.

Ebenezer Scrooge, I Think You Should Leave

The story of Scrooge traditionally ends with him embracing the spirit of Christmas and asking a boy to buy him a turkey. But only I Think You Should Leave showed the true heroism at the heart of the man. In the bizarre Netflix comedy, Scrooge was then visited by The Ghost of Christmas Way Future, who came with a dark warning about the future of humanity. By Christmas 3050, Skeletrex and his bone brigade have enslaved the human race. Only Scrooge, with his newfound sense of Christmas cheer, can defeat the bonies by smashing their brains out with his cane. Possibly the one real hero in all of television this year.

Jennie Gresham, Alan Partridge

From
From dismissal to fear to disgust … Jennie Gresham (Susannah Fielding) deals with Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan). Photograph: Colin Hutton/BBC/Baby Cow/Colin Hutton

Arguably the television performance of 2019, Susannah Fieldings Jennie Gresham felt more strongly about things than any other character this year. She veered from dismissal to fear to disgust to fury to something that briefly approximated seduction, all hidden behind a 6ft blast door of practised BBC cheeriness. Her emotions seeped out only through the sort of involuntary twitches and glances that tend to occur when you sit next to Alan Partridge. A complete professional.

Dr Manhattan, Watchmen

Although the finale ended up doubling as a critique of the man a god who lost interest in humanity Dr Manhattan was still the lynchpin of Damon Lindelofs Watchmen reboot. He spent decades exploring the universe until he came to see existence as little more than an abstract. But, still, at the moment of his death, he chose to replay the memories he made with a woman he loved. His last act of selflessness springs the story into exciting new territory.

Suzie, Stranger Things

A largely unseen presence who for the majority of the season we assumed was invented, it was Dustins long-distance girlfriend who ultimately saved the world from destruction. She knew Plancks constant, which was the key to defeating the giant blood monster. But she only gave it up on the proviso that Dustin first agreed to perform a duet of Never Ending Story by Limahl in its entirety with her. This is a woman with an appropriate sense of perspective.

Hamster, Seven Worlds, One Planet

Only in 2019 could an act of wanton grave desecration count as heroism, but there we are. Of course, it helps that the figure doing the desecration was a chubby cheeked Austrian hamster, carefully bobbing across a graveyard on its way to eat a meal of flowers and candle wax. But as ever, there was a moral to be found. If youre going to eat candles, be prepared to get your head stuck in a jar.

Bran Stark, Game of Thrones

Living
Living like a king … Bran Stark through the ages. Photograph: AP

All hail the king. While the final season and, in particular, the final episode of Game of Thrones looks set to go down as a historic misfire, at least we have Bran Stark to look up to. A weird little boy who did nothing to help anyone and ended up ruling the world anyway, Bran is everything we should aspire to. May his reign be fruitful and, more importantly, untelevised.

Villains:
Mitch Kessler, The Morning Show

The big bad on Apple TV+s The Morning Show looked and acted like a friendly dad. Mitch Kessler played by Steve Carell at the exact midpoint between Michael Scott and John du Pont was the anchor of a beloved breakfast TV show. The series started at the moment when his world began to crumble at the hands of #MeToo allegations, but it was only as the series progressed that you began to realise what a vile, grasping, self-obsessed monster he really was. Yuck.

Viv Rook, Years and Years

A
A slow and insidious rise to populist power … Emma Thompson as Viv Rook. Photograph: Guy Farrow/BBC/Red Productions

For the majority of Russell T Daviess apocalyptic drama, Viv Rook was a figure on TV; her slow and insidious rise to populist power playing out in tandem to the real action. But the scariest scene came when a character came face to face with her, and Emma Thompsons politician revealed herself to be nothing but a dimwitted mouthpiece an empty vessel for larger and darker forces. As with everything that Years and Years offered up, it was only frightening because you suspected that it was true.

Logan Roy, Succession

Logan Roy (Brian Cox) spent the second series of Succession huffing and raging like a Shakespearian monster. Once absolute, his power was starting to slip between his fingers, and he reacted with supreme cruelty. A villain so mighty that he happily used his own children as collateral damage, Logans barbarism came to a head with the unquestionable act of abuse that was Boar on the Floor, a game where he forced his family to crawl around begging for sausages. May his comeuppance in season three be swift and violent.

Prince Andrew, Newsnight

Only
Only an oafish moron would use such an alibi … Prince Andrew interviewed by Emily Maitlis. Photograph: Mark Harrison/AP

The gall of the man. The sheer bumptious idiocy. Only somebody as fundamentally stupid as Prince Andrew would agree to be grilled by one of the countrys most dogged interviewers about the sexual accusations made against him. Only a lumbering berk like him would suggest holding it in the countrys most comically out of touch room. Only an oafish moron would use an alibi (that he doesnt sweat) that would immediately trigger a race to disprove him by every picture agency in the world. And only an unremitting fool like him would come out of it thinking that hed done quite well.

Daenerys Targaryen, Game of Thrones

What a baddie. What a dictator. What an all-round awful person. Daenerys curdled hard this year, kicking out whenever her brittle grasp of power was questioned until she spent most of one episode literally destroying the world. Good riddance to a thoroughly nasty dragon queen and, er, Starbucks fan.

Mary Louise, Big Little Lies

Was Mary Louise really that bad? After all, she was the mother of a dead man, trying to work out who murdered him. However, in the hands of Meryl Streep, she became an absolute tyrant. Her worst move ripping Celestes children away from their mother came shrouded in faux goodness. Again and again she repeated that she only wanted what was best for everyone, but again and again she pushed everyone perilously close to the brink. May we never have to hear the clatter of her false teeth again.

Boris Johnson, Nowhere

The easy thing to do here would be to compare Boris Johnson to Viv Rook (see above), but at least Viv Rook agreed to be on television. Sidestepping almost every opportunity for proper televised scrutiny, Johnson instead turned his back and fled and he won. Not everyone can make Andrew Neils miraculous cloud of hair judder with rage, but not everyone is quite as much of a swaggering baddie as Boris.

Anthony the hairdresser, Fleabag

Hair-raising
Hair-raising … Claire (Sian Clifford) with pencil haircut. Photograph: BBC

He made Claires head look like a pencil and then refused compensation. Yes, sure, she asked for that exact haircut, but that isnt the point. Hair is everything, Anthony!!!

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/dec/20/from-bran-stark-to-boris-johnson-tv-heroes-and-villains-of-2019

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