Photos: HBO/Fox/Syfy

America's Most American Americans

Picking the three most undisputedly American characters in recent television history.

It's Patriot Week! And that means it's time to salute the most American characters in the history of television. Well, the history of the last fifteen years or so, anyway. Because let's face it, nobody wants to read my treatise on the importance of The Burns And Allen Show.

Stringer Bell

The Wire is a gritty show set in the iconic American city of Baltimore, Maryland. And it features an unabashed individualist who embodies the true pioneer spirit of America. No, not Jimmy McNulty. I'm talking about the capitalist: Idris Elba's Stringer Bell, the ultimate self-made man.

Stringer Bell, like his comrade in drugs Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris), grew up on the streets with nothing. But he took stock of what he had and put together a powerful organization. And when it became powerful enough, he tried to transition it from its original illegal roots over to respectability. You know who else pulled that off? Joseph P Kennedy Sr. In this country, as long as you can become incredibly rich, your path to respectability is easy. Look at Andrew Carnegie! And by getting so close to becoming legit, only to fail, Stringer Bell is basically The Great Gatsby, except more fun.

Dr. Gregory House

An essential American trait is rugged individualism. American revere anyone who forges his own way and knows when he's right. That's why the second-most American character is Gregory House, M.D. (Hugh Laurie). He's a brilliant genius who's constantly having to struggle against fools who don't listen to him. In this analogy, House is the United States foreign policy, and the fools are the rest of the world. Sure, House will nearly kill his patient three or four times, but he'll get to the solution in the end.

As House, Hugh Laurie infuses his character with independence and grit. He doesn't fulfill all of the tenets of Boy Scout Law, but that's only because he's not helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, or reverent. When it comes to trustworthiness, loyalty, bravery, and cleanliness, he can't be equalled. I mean, the loyalty isn't always on the surface, but he did a few nice things for Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) here and there. I'm going to leave thriftiness off either list, because we didn't see him go shopping all that often.

Lee Adama

Family is very important in the United States. We rejected the monarchy, but our sixth president was the son of our second. In addition to the Adamses, we've had two Roosevelts, two Bushes, and two Harrisons. (We also had the same Cleveland twice, but he doesn't count.) Americans absolutely love it when they have a national hero who has a son who can also be a hero. Like Ken Griffeys senior and junior. Or Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber), the crack spaceship pilot on Battlestar Galactica.

Lee flew around and fought many Cylons. I think. To be honest, the ending of that show bugged me so much that it wiped at least the last two seasons from my memory. But I'm pretty sure he was great. Except for that one episode with the prostitute and the black market. That was awful. But isn't the occasional prostitution scandal also a sign of a great American? Look, Jamie Bamber played a great character, and I'm pretty sure Lee is a spiritual descendant of the All-American guys in Top Gun.


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