1. Scooby Doo
Hanna-Barbera cartoons in general were a major, beloved part of my childhood (and yes, they still are as an adult) but it was Scooby Doo, whose cartoons were one of the anchoring programs of holidaying programming on the one and only commercial TV channel available to me, that ruled supreme. I loved his goofiness, his charm and the way he and Shaggy only ever contributed accidentally to the eventual success of any investigation … amd oh yes how much he loved Scooby Snacks!
I have watched a great many sitcoms in my life but Frasier stands near the top of the heap – sublimely and intelligently well-written with beautifully-fleshed out characters acted by insanely talented actors, and an eye for the absurd and the gently satirical. Even now, years after its cancellation, when many other lesser sitcoms have dated, Frasier remains as funny and clever as ever.
I’m not sure if it’s my exuberant personality or the fact that it took me years of repressing who I really was – both sexually and extrovert-wise – but I identified deeply, utterly and completely with Dharma, one half of the opposites-attract coupling of Dharma & Greg, whose joie de vivre, who gives a stuff about convention and you only live once ethos were everything I wished I could be.
Looney Tunes were the other great animation love of my childhood (and as with Hanna-Barbera of my adulthood too) with the cartoons often used as fillers between TV programs when they ran short (now of course those precious spots are filled with ads). I happily watched all the cartoons but my favourite ones starred sassy, clever Bugs Bunny who got away with SO much, and Daffy Duck, who amusingly did NOT. They were a fine pair of antagonists that gave these cartoons much of their intellectual oomph and fun.
When people mention Disney, thoughts usually turn to Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck; in my case though they turn to Goofy and to Chip and Dale, who though not hogging as much limelight as their more famous cohorts, have a lot going for them. Goofy is sweet, silly, and lots of fun to watch, while Chip and Dale have that irascible mischievous vibe going on making them highly enjoyable to watch especially when they’re annoying the heck out of good old Donald Duck.
6. Agaton Sax
I have long had an affinity for everything Scandinavian. I have no idea what triggered it exactly but Agaton Sax, a whimsical detective created by Swede Nils-Olof Franzén, would likely be close to the head of the queue (fairly sure ABBA trump him somewhat!). I clearly remember borrowing all the books about him in English from the Alstonville Public Library, then housed in the community centre, and wishing that Franzén had written 10 times than number. The books were witty, clever and had the sort of mysteries that a young reader, especially this (then) young reader loved. And as an adult I’ve gone out of my way to collect the 10 books in hardcover, the sort of effort that few other authors have inspired.
7. Paula Myo
One of my favourite characters out of Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth sci-fi book series. She’s smart, capable, unwavering and manages to outwit pretty much everyone she comes across. What’s not to like?
I love these guys – verging on the goofily surreal, Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky had a bundle of fun and fronted a TV program full of grand, fun adventures. And that theme song? Best. Thing. Ever. Always makes me smile.
I know you’re not supposed to play favourites with Peanuts so everyone is so ridiculously loveable in their own way, but I always closely identified with Charlie Brown since my teasing-blighted childhood (it really was lovely otherwise) so closely resembled his; not so much the kites in trees and mis-kicked footballs as the wanting to be liked and wanting to get things done and not quite getting there. And as for Snoopy – he rocks in every way.
What is it with me and comic strips with smart, sassy, sweet anthropomorphic animals? Ah who cares. Earl and Mooch are just delightful with Patrick McDonnell who draws the comic strip in which they’re featured, investing them with all the most perfect dog and cat attributes you could want.
Darby Conley has gifted us with one very clever comic strip centering on a long-suffering owner Rob Wilco, and his two pets, an hilariously snarky and selfish Siamese Cat, Bucky and a sweet mixed-breed dog, Satchel. (Are you picking up a pattern here when it comes to the comic strips I love?) The characterisation is beautifully-realised, the humour deliciously farcical and the dialogue so well-written you could quote it. As a comedy team, these three are comic strip gold.
12. Everyone on Parks and Recreation
This is one of those sitcoms that started out promisingly but not altogether convincingly in season 1 but came out of the gate racing from season 2 onwards. Suddenly the not-entirely-likeable-at-first protagonist Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) gained some much needed emotional intelligence to go with her ambition, the insanely-talented wonderful ensemble cast were allowed to run free and do their thing in what turned out to be one of the most delightful surreal and ridiculously funny shows on TV.
I have adored Sesame Street from the moment my small young hitherto TV-denied eyes – television was not big in Bangladesh back in the late 1960s when I grew up there – clapped eyes on it in the very early ’70s. My favourite Muppet of the crew was, and remains adorable, well-meaning, bighearted Grover but close behind come Ernie and Bert, largely because Ernie reminds me of, well, me – curious, and exasperatingly silly at times – and Bert does his best to cope with his friend’s shenanigans. Did I learn stuff from them? Absolutely! Did I laugh while I did so? Yes indeed which made the learning so much fun.
The Muppets are a joy no matter how you slice it – warm, sweet, loyal, silly, naive, crazy, fun, surreal; essentially everything you could ever want in on-screen “friends” and chief among them are enthusiastically goofy Fozzie Bear and mad, off-the-wall crazy Animal. I will happily watch them do anything.
Amelie is a delight, a purely, confected, whimsical French delight, a sweetly-earnest heart-of-gold woman who created a magical world around her and in the lives of those fortunate enough to meet her. How could you not be charmed by this most wonderful of people?
16. The Moomins
Continuing my enduring love affair with Scandinavian children’s literature, The Moomins by Tove Jansson are a book series and a comic strip set in a magical world called Moominvalley, filled to fabulous bursting with curiously-unusual, most well-meaning characters. Disappearing into their child, whether as a child or now as an adult, continues to be one of the inestimable joys of my life.
17. The Famous Five
I read pretty much everything Enid Blyton wrote but my favourites were the Famous Five who went on grand adventures, the kind that a wide-eyed wondering kid like me longed to join them on. I couldn’t of course in reality but in the pages of Blyton’s escapist fancies. And yes I even loved the parodies.
Tigger is me and I am Tigger – bouncy, flamboyant, fun-loving, exhaustingly full-on and prone to crash-and-crash-through enthusiasm-wise. But still well-loved and cared for. No prizes for guessing why I love him – it’s like watching me get animated!
I have loved Sandra Bullock in pretty much every move she’s been in – the less said about Speed 2 and Two If By Sea the better – but it’s as the impromptu bus driver Annie in Speed and Lucy in While You Were Sleeping than I adore the most. No wonder does sweetly vulnerable like Sandy B and they’re my two go-to films when I need some cinematic escape from the everyday world.
These guys are way too cool. An intergalactic Laural and Hardy for the space age, they added some much needed Vaudeillian humour to the Star Wars saga, heroic yes but also hilarious when bickering about what to do next.
I actually discovered Nickolodeon’s Rocko’s Modern Life sometime around my late 20s and I adored its anarchic, surreal, silly, subversive, colourful fun … and the fact that Rocko was wallaby who’d moved to the US? “That was a hoot!”
22. Francis Ha
Noah Baumbach’s literate, insightful films are a treat for any film lover or student of the human condition, and Frances Ha, played by the writer/director’s real life partner Greta Gerwig, is one of his most engaging, whimsical, all-too-human, uncertain and ultimately, meaningful characters.
Pixar is quite simply the best maker of feature film animation ever. Big claim yes, but well supported and it was Woody and Buzz Lightyear, enemies then best of friends with big egos and even bigger hearts, from Toy Story (1995), the studio’s first feature film, that really made their name … and stole my heart.
UP is a beautiful film on so many levels – it’s near impossible to watch the first scene featuring the bittersweet memories of Carl Fredricksen without shedding a tear and wanting to go out and carpe diem the hell out of life! – but it’s sweet, loveable, very dog-like, enthusiastic Dug that made the movie for me. If anyone needed a friend it was him and he made sure he got them! “I have just met you and I love you.” And I love you right back Dug.
I wasn’t entirely sure I loved the TV adaptation of Roland Emmerich’s breathtakingly clever sci-fi show about a series of gates that connect the universe in the most extraordinary of ways in the first season. It didn’t quite gel but there was enough to keep me hanging till the most excellent season 2 and a lot of what kept me watching were Jack O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson), Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping), Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) and Teal’c (Christopher Judge). They had great chemistry, teamwork, had each other’s back and some truly great lines. I’d adventure through the galaxy with them any day!
26. Laurel and Hardy
When I was kid, our national public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, used to broadcast Laurel and Hardy’s short films (34 silent, 45 sound) as a filler between programs around the middle of the day. I was besotted by them – they were sweet, funny and didn’t rely on nasty humour but rather character and farce-based humour. I loved the fact that they were firm friends off-screen too.
In contrast, Abbott and Costello didn’t get along at all well off-screen but in their case I wasn’t too troubled. Bud Abbott played the composed, irritated straight man to Lou Costello’s goofy, easily skittered and confused funny man and it was a dream, highly combination I couldn’t get enough of.
28. The Goodies
Oh my lord these guys were silly, in all best and most eccentric of British ways. Their humour launched off in crazy over-the-top angles and featured giant kittens, scone fights and delightfully weird riffs on Black Beauty and Evita, among many other madcap elements. They even used social commentary to critique pertinent issues of the time such as apartheid.
While all the other kids were reading superhero comics, I was reading British comics such as Whizzer and Chips, Krazy and its spinoff Cheeky. The jokes were, at best, “Dad joke” quality but I laughed and laughed at them, snuggled as they were among some fun work. Plus Cheeky’s cast of comic strips companions were a delight.
Kimba believed in “doing good and “doing right” and often put his own wellbeing on the line to look after the animals he led as the king of the jungle in “deepest darkest Africa”. In a series produced by Fuji TV and based on a 1950s shōnen manga, he was placed in all kinds of peril from aggressive animals who didn’t believe in his idealistic values to raging fires. But he came through unscathed every time.
31. Astro Boy
Another product of the boundless, brilliantly extravagant imagination of the Japanese, Astro Boy was also a hero but of the robotic kind. Modeled on his creator’s dead son, he was rejected and ended up being looked after Dr. Ochanomizu, the kindly head of the Ministry of Science. he came out on top usually but not without a great deal of struggle and often quite a lot of existential angst.
32. The Wombles
These guys and gals were adorable. They lived under Wimbledon Common, collected all the rubbish left behind by wasteful people and did some pretty cool stuff with it. They were the sweetest most caring creatures ever and yet in early in primary school I wrote a rather warped story about one of them “going postal” and killing all the others. How I didn’t end up at a psychiatrist I will never know!
33. Basil Brush
“Ha Ha Ha! Boom! Boom!” Basil Brush was loud, hilarious, cheeky, fond of bad jokes, speaking in a posh voice and telling stories like no other. He was, in short, the best extrovert fox I’d ever come across! SO. MUCH. FUN.
A wizard who dropped into the modern day from 1066, Catweazle, played by Geoffrey Bayldon was a fantastically magical creation. While he was desperate to escape the 20th century and return to his own time, he was fascinated and astounded by modern inventions like the telephone and electricity and his jittery take on a man out of time was a treat to behold. Pity the show only lasted 26 episodes.
Were ever a couple as lovely as Paul (Paul Reiser) and Jamie Buchman (Helen Hunt)? I say no. Sure they went through some tough times, like any married couple does but they also laughed a lot and loved being with each other and they’re slightly kooky friends and family and so consequently we loved being with them.
36. Murphy Brown
What a great lady! Acerbic and snappy sure but warmhearted, intelligent and able to put someone in their place quicker than you could say “Please put them in their place.” Quite simply the best character in one of the best workplace sitcoms.
Sure they moved really slowly – marionettes will do that you know – but I loved the Tracy family, their selfless commitment to saving people and their cool planes and gadgets especially Thunderbird 2, the toy of which I swapped a forgotten toy for from Geoffrey Bates in Grafton and played with it till it fell apart.
38. Liv from iZombie
Olivia Moore aka Liv (Rose McIver) is quite a protagonist – once human, now zombie, who must eat brains to stop from going full The Walking Dead zombie. Fortunately she works at the medical examiner’s office where there are plenty of brains on top but the big side effect? She gets the deceased’s memories, using them to help solve crimes. Amazing;y brave and funny and oh so cool.
No one can defeat the Romans, people would cry! Oh yeah – have you met the plucky Gaul and his best friend Obelix and an entire village of people fuelled by a superhuman fuel that makes temporarily all but invincible? And the puns and the jokes and the visual gags? So many and so wonderful.
The creation of Belgian cartoonist Hergé, Tintin (pron tɛ̃tɛ̃ in French) was a fearless, kind and inquisitive reporter who travelled the globe with his faithful dog Snowy on grand epic adventures where he solved mysteries with ease. The art and the writing were superb but most of all Tintin was a good guy and you want to read all about him.
41. Nurse Jackie
I love a flawed protagonist. None of us is perfect and it make my heart glad to see someone so awesomely not in control and yet so good at being her and a nurse; it made me feel like I was seeing a real person do their thing in front of me. Plus she and the show she was in were funny, crazy hilariously funny.
What a great guy. A cat-loving alien – OK he wanted to eat them but he didn’t so that was good – who managed to make a life for himself with the Tanner family who grew to love him, as did we. And the cheesy wisecracks. Pure ’80s but a joy to watch even now.
Hanna-Barbera period means the world to me. I know they may not have been as technically brilliant as Warner Bros’ finest but there was something about the silly characters, the sense of fun and silliness, yes even the repeat storylines that attracted me. Being a fan of Get Smart, it made sense that I’d love Secret Squirrel (Mel Blanc) and Morocco Mole (Paul Frees) who parodied the life out of the James Bond franchise in particular. They were fun, capable and suave as hell.
44. Cattanooga Cats
Man these (literal) cats were so cool; groovy even! A band that travelled the country, performing songs and being perennially chased by Jessie the “Autograph Hand”, they were the lead cartoon act in a Hanna-Barbera ensmble show that also featured It’s the Wolf! (with the incomparable Paul Linde), Around the World in 79 Days and Motormouse and Autocat.
It took my housemate 2 seasons to convince to try The Walking Dead. I’d argue I hated zombies; he’d counter with it’s great drama featuring dramas. Finally I watched and the rest is history. My favourite character is Michonne – tough, sweet, tells it like it is and kills zombies like no one’s business. She’s the best thing about a brilliantly good show.
46. Tyrion Lannister
Easily the best thing about Game of Thrones, which is not short of compelling characters, engaging plots and plotting and intrigue. He’s smart, sensitive, more capable than anyone really gives him credit for and insanely funny. If I had to be in a land ruled by naked lust and power then I’d want this guy by my side.
Running for the most of the early ’60s, the same decade in which I was born, Rocky and Bullwinkle were part of an enormously clever, brilliantly well-written show with great supporting segments including Dudley Do-Right, Peabody’s Improbable History and Fractured Film Tales. Amusing, clever and endlessly imaginative – who could ask for more?
48. The Boxtrolls
Based on a wacky, surreal and thoroughly inventive book Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow, The Boxtrolls were a delightful discovery. Living below ground, and reviled, erroneously by the population above – there’s a nice little study in racism at work here – the cardboard-box wearing Boxtrolls are the best of humanity but we’re too busy hating on them to notice. Don’t worry, it all ends happily (well for most people)
At her height Meg Ryan in her various romantic comedy personas was dubbed “America’s Sweetheart”, thanks largely to her ability to be sweetly vulnerable, funny and yet able to look after herself all at once. The perfect rom-com protagonist, she made films like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Kate and Leopold, and French Kiss such an escapist pleasure to watch.
What a delight! Sure she could be snooty, overly posh and frightfully condescending but she was also warmhearted, silly, girly and a lot of fun when she let her guard down. Which wasn’t often but it happened enough to make her classic British sitcoms well-rounded, compelling characters you didn’t just want to laugh at but more importantly, wanted to be with over and over again. (Kinda handy when you want to keep a show on the air.)