by Preston Tolliver
“Game of Thrones” has mastered the art of tricking its viewers (or readers, if you were into that sort of thing before the books stopped for the long winter) into thinking that the characters who matter least matter most. It’s why we were shocked when (spoiler alert) Ned lost his head, or when Robb got stabbed a thousand times in some serious “Et tu, Roose?” fashion. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that as the show barrels toward its end, its two main protagonists – or those who have seemed over the last eight seasons to be its main protagonists – are the least compelling characters headed into the final episodes.
Still, they deserve a bit of credit getting us to where we are, through the Great War and to the last one. But while they’re in the top five, they’re not the best characters (they didn’t even crack the top three). Their stories kept us interested for years but fizzled out with a few yards to go to the end zone. Others, though, – the top three, specifically – have run the distance.
10. Bran Stark
Bran’s story hasn’t gotten the airtime it deserves (it was even left entirely off one season), but his influence on the world cannot be understated. Ever stoned, he is the know-all be-all Three-Eyed Raven and could be much more interesting than showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss have let him be.
9. Ned Stark
The hero we thought would carry us through the series, who had his capa detated in the ninth episode of the first season.
8. Jamie Lannister
“The things we do for love.” It’s no easy feat that a guy who hooks up with his sister and pushes a kid out of a window (and that’s just in the first episode!) is one of the more beloved heroes of the story headed toward its end, yet here we are.
7. Tyrion Lannister
The quick-witted imp who drinks and knows things. Despite all the dragons and ice zombies and giants, Peter Dinklage made dialogue the most exciting part of the show.
6. Petyr Baelish
Chaos is a ladder: without Littlefinger, none of this happens. Gendry probably gets the Iron Throne after Robert dies, Cersei and Jamie and their beautiful, blonde-headed incest children are cast out of King’s Landing and all of Westeros is happy. That doesn’t sound quite as good.
5. Daenerys Targaryen
“Game of Thrones” has been largely about the destines of two people: Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow. Fire and Ice. Daenerys’ character arc is an example of what happens when reality gets in the way of destiny. Who started as the Breaker of Chains and could become the carpet-bomber of King’s Landing (not that that wouldn’t be understandable), and Emilia Clarke has captured that transition perfectly.
4. Jon Snow
The mystery surrounding Jon Snow’s lineage was the most compelling story in all of “Game of Thrones” until it was answered. Everyone’s suspicions of who his parents were and what that meant for the Seven Kingdoms was answered (albeit long after everyone watching had figured it out), and the payoff flared out quicker than a firecracker tossed in the river. The prince we were promised since the beginning – the one we’ve long thought, anyway – went from main dude to main dude in the last season-and-a-half, but still, the character of Jon Snow deserves credit for keeping us invested in the story for as long as he did.
3. Sansa Stark
The “little bird” turned Lady of Winterfell has survived the worst of Westeros and has become stronger in spite of it. A child in the beginning who wanted nothing more than to be a princess or a lady, who found tortured throughout the series by most of the people she was surrounded by, Sansa has now become the moral center of the show. Daenerys has seemed destined for the throne, but she’s also vengeful; Jon has seemed like the savior of mankind, but he’s kind of dense; and yeah, Arya’s cool, but she’s also a psychopath. Amidst the chaos of the world and the people around her, there’s Sansa Stark, using the lessons she learned – for better or worse – to be the leader Daenerys should have been.
2. Arya Stark
“Game of Thrones” has had its share of inconsistencies in the last few seasons, but one constant has been the growth of Arya Stark, from young tomboy to no one to savior of all of Westeros. Each of the main protagonists have undergone a transformation throughout the series, but none more so than Arya, and while the story has often seemed like it was about the identities and mysteries and destinies therein of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, it’s always been the story of the never-lady of Winterfell.
1. Cersei Lannister
Cersei Lannister isn’t a despicable villain in the way that her son or Ramsey Bolton were. Where they became drunk on the power they were given and rushed to their barbarity, Cersei holds her liquor a little better. She’s still impulsive, but methodical. There’s a rationality to her irrational crimes against the people of Westeros, a psyche to be delved into beyond a character who just wants to rule (whether that be over a single subject or an entire people). Getting the Iron Throne – or in her case, keeping a grasp on it – is a game that Cersei has played unafraid to sacrifice every other piece to keep the queen on the board.
by Aprille Hanson
As the nerd comedy “The Big Bang Theory” gets ready to wrap up, it’s a final goodbye to an incredible cast that’s made us laugh for 12 seasons. The main characters have all changed significantly since the show began -- here’s how they rank:
8. Stuart Bloom (Kevin Sussman)
Stuart, the owner of the comic book store, is a character on the outskirts of the main friend group, but seems to always pop up here and there, trying hard to fit in. He’s that character who is easily forgotten, but he has provided that laughable Charlie Brown-esque attitude to the show once Raj stepped up in confidence. While not an important character by any stretch, it’s been nice to see him get some wins.
7. Bernadette Wolowitz (Melissa Rauch)
A tiny spitfire with the squeaky voice, Bernadette packs a punch. If you go back and watch the beginning of the series, you’ll see just how much of an immature pig Howard was and his transformation is almost solely because of his relationship with Bernie. Her character added such a nice balance to the show, making Penny not the lone gorgeous wolf in the nerdy bunch. She is not only beautiful, but smart and is the one woman on the show that seemingly has it all -- a great job, husband, kids, career and an amazing group of friends. She went from waitressing with Penny at the Cheesecake Factory to pay off graduate school debts to being a microbiologist with a Ph.D at a pharmaceutical company. Her character not only provided more humor, but really added to the show.
6. Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar)
In the beginning of the series, fans were introduced to the nerdy Indian scientist Raj, who had a complicated issue -- he could not talk to women or around women. Then, they found out he could when he was drunk. I don’t know if the creators intended it to be this way throughout the series, not realizing how big of a hit the show would be and how long it’d last, but eventually, that storyline fell away. He soon became the character who couldn’t make a relationship work. He became the one character that seemingly couldn’t catch a break in the girlfriend department -- hell, even Stuart landed a comic-loving lady. Raj’s character went from a neurotic weirdo to a confident, suave scientist and while not one of the best characters, he’s certainly beloved.
5. Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg)
Oh short, piggish Howard Wolowitz who wanted nothing more than to get into the pants of any girl that would let him -- and there were few. All the characters have been transformed, but if you had told me at the beginning of the series that this magic-loving tiny man would become this loving husband and father, I would have been shocked. I love how the writers evolved his character because he could have easily remained one dimensional. But instead, we watched him find love with Bernadette that turned him into a man, heartache when his mother passed and seeing him become an astronaut.
4. Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik)
The robotic awkwardness of Amy Farrah Fowler when her character debuted was so perfect for Sheldon, it was pretty magical. But like Sheldon, she has evolved into a more confident friend and now wife. The way Amy handles Sheldon with both love and at times tough love is something to admire. She truly was the girl that waited for not only Sheldon to catch up to her level of love for him, but did eventually demand the respect she deserved. For a long while, it was hard to watch their relationship because, as so many in her life did, he seemed to walk all over her. Her character added another dimension to the show -- not the gorgeous one, but an intelligent woman who could go to toe-to-toe with any of the science-driven guys. She’s a beautiful-hearted neurobiologist who I hope gets that Nobel Prize.
3. Penny Hofstadter (Kaley Cuoco)
In the early episodes, Penny was the stereotypical ditzy blonde, who dates the hot guys and is pursuing an acting career while working as a waitress. Everything changes for her when she moves across the hall from two nerds. Fans have watched Penny grow into a strong, career-driven, hilarious woman, leaving behind the dumb guys for her husband Leonard. From someone who used to be the popular girl, she’s the odd-man out on paper in this group of friends, but still fits right in. As one of the original three, she’s one of the most beloved and unique characters in the cast and by far the most relatable. It’s nice to see a pretty girl naturally end up with a genius and not have it seem like a big joke anymore.
2. Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons)
Sheldon Cooper is the most unique character on “The Big Bang Theory.” In the beginning, he was a socially awkward genius there to provide the sidekick humor to the main love story of Leonard and Penny. Even in the pilot, he delivered one of the best lines of the series –
“Leonard: Our babies will be smart and beautiful; Sheldon: Not to mention imaginary.” He was kind of the genius version of Barney Fife to Leonard’s Andy Taylor.
After the first season, things evolved and Sheldon, because of his beloved bluntness, became the main character, even spinning off a series “Young Sheldon.” What made his character truly lovable though was when he asked Amy Farrah Fowler to marry him. It’s something that never would have happened in season one. The writers did a phenomenal job with his painstakingly slow progression toward love that never once betrayed who he was or made me as a fan think, “Oh, they made him move too fast,” from dating Amy, to their first kiss, to sleeping together. Everything was slow moving and it was beautiful to watch it unfold. The final season has really been the best time for his character because for so long, he truly treated Amy terribly and while the laugh track would play on, I just didn’t find it funny. Now, his love is so effortless and Parsons has handled this progression with Sheldon flawlessly. From “Bazinga” to “soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur,” Sheldon Cooper has become a part of pop culture and TV history.
1. Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki)
OK, calm down and put away the proverbial pitchforks, i.e., your fingers ready to type in angry comments about how it’s insanity that Sheldon Cooper is not ranked No. 1. I get it. But let’s remember that “The Big Bang Theory” began as a love story -- a pretty girl moves in across the hall from two nerds and one, Leonard, instantly falls in love with her. Galecki played this nerd trying desperately to show how much he cared for Penny so wonderfully that all the fans were rooting for this David in a string of Goliath boyfriends Penny wasted her time with. I remember at each point in their up and down relationship how much I rooted for Leonard. I wanted him to not just win Penny’s love, but to see the two of them be on equal respectful footing. And it happened -- it’s not so much the nerd marrying the pretty girl, but two people who are genuinely good together. Their love story is just more impactful and endearing to the show than even Sheldon and Amy. Leonard’s character has balanced Sheldon’s over-the-top neuroses with smart humor and has just been the most consistently hilarious character throughout the show’s run. He will not be remembered as the most popular character on the show for most, but he is the best all around.
by Julian Spivey
For seven seasons HBO’s “Veep” has been one of the funniest comedies on television and it’s done so while being the most callous, vile and mean-spirited political satire we’ve ever seen. This is probably why it’s been so successful because it’s dared to show the dirty side of politics that you rarely ever saw, at least when the show began in 2012.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ stellar six-time Emmy-winning performance as Vice President, turned President, turned Presidential candidate Selina Meyer has always been that of somebody who would go to any lengths and do whatever it takes to achieve her dream of being elected President, stabbing all the backs along the way. Meyer may be one of the nastiest characters we’ve ever seen on television, but the performance is so strong and the writing of the series and character so perfect you can’t help but enjoy every second of it, even if she’s a character you may not actually root on to succeed.
In the finale on Sunday, May 13, Meyer proved she would do just about anything to become President, of which she would first have to win her party’s nomination (the show did an excellent job for seven seasons never divulging what party she was a part of, which seems incredibly hard to have done, but had allowed the show to take aspects of both American major political parties and compile them into one candidate). She’s been television’s worst mother for years, but what she ultimately does to her daughter Catherine (played by Sarah Sutherland) just to receive another candidate’s endorsement is truly unforgivable – though not unbelievable to actually see in the real world. She goes against many of her political advisers who’ve had her back through all the good and many, many bad times at the convention by naming the incredibly buffoonish Jonah Ryan (played brilliantly by Timothy Simons, who I’m amazed hasn’t been nominated for an Emmy for this performance) as her Vice President.
To be honest, I was almost certain “Veep” would end with Jonah winning the presidency as his character and his campaign were the most Donald Trumpish of any of the characters and storylines on the show, especially in its final season, which was the first for the series since the very early days of Trump’s presidency.
Ultimately, the show opted for a better ending though by having Meyer win her party’s candidacy by any means necessary. The harshest thing Meyer does in the finale, and likely the series as a whole, is to turn her back on the one guy who’s never had anything bad to say about her – her bagman Gary Walsh, two-time Emmy-winner Tony Hale. It’s probably the most fitting way this story could’ve ended because it’s a moment – while not surprising – really shows the depths Meyer will go to to get what she wants. She’s a monster. One of television’s all-time greatest villains. And, this moment is the cherry on top.
The final flash-forward of the episode was a nice touch to get to see where all these characters are many years into the future – people really don’t change, do they? Of all of the flash-forward moments the funniest was without a doubt Catherine’s.
While Louis-Dreyfus and Hale get most of the headlines (and awards) for their exquisite performances in the series, “Veep” truly had the best ensemble cast of any comedy on television since “30 Rock” went off the air. The work of Anna Chlumsky, Gary Cole, Simons, Kevin Dunn, Sutherland, Clea DuVall, Reid Scott and Sam Richardson was all stunning throughout. It was also nice to see great turns from long-time recurring characters played by Hugh Laurie and Dan Bakkedahl – proving that the stunning writing and fully-fleshed out character didn’t just stop at the main cast.
If I had a couple minor complaints about the final season of this great show the first would be the brevity of it only having seven episodes, whereas most series (all but the eight episode first season) had 10 episodes to more flesh out the storyline. The other complaint kind of has more to do with what’s happened with our real-world politics. For the show’s first five or six seasons it was obviously a satire of politics and felt more fun for it. But, especially in the final season the show became a bit more of a parody taking actual moments from the real world, especially the 2016 election cycle, and basically copying them straight-forward, specifically when it came to the Jonah character.
by Julian Spivey
The most recent episode of “Saturday Night Live” (May 4) was an episode many of us longtime ‘SNL’ nerds never thought was going to happen … former cast member (and hall of fame one if such a thing existed) Adam Sandler was returning to the show to host.
Sandler was a cast member on the long-running, legendary sketch comedy show from 1990, when he joined as a 23-year old stand-up comic, until 1995 when he was let go as part of truly the last complete overhaul of a ‘SNL’ cast when the show once again received the infamous “Saturday Night Dead” nickname that’s been used too much during “down times” (it’s in quotations because everybody seems to have a differing opinion on these – for some the show has been in a down time since John Belushi left the show in the late ‘70s for instance) of the show’s run.
While Sandler wouldn’t make my 10 greatest ‘SNL’ cast members of all-time list (and potentially not even top 20) he had enough iconic moments on the show for me to form a 10 best moments list and still leave off some notable moments (sorry Canteen Boy). Him hosting was a moment we’d never thought we’d see because he’s no longer the huge box office star he was in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s and surely, he’d been asked a time or two before and turned it down. It’d gotten to the point where he and Eddie Murphy were the two most famous ex-cast members to never return to host an episode (though Murray actually (and controversially) hosted once while still a cast member in the early ‘80s when his “48 Hours” co-star Nick Nolte had to cancel last minute due to illness).
Because Sandler’s return to host the show 24 years after leaving it I had the highest expectations I believe I’ve had for any episode this season and likely in a long time. Ultimately, the show didn’t quite live up to those expectations, but there were certainly enough highpoints throughout to make it worthwhile and maybe even one of the best episodes of the season.
The show began on an interesting cold opening in that it wasn’t a political sketch – though it wryly faked being one with a C-SPAN bumper at the beginning – and instead turned out to be an ‘Avengers’ versus “Game of Thrones” episode of “Family Feud” with Kenan Thompson reprising his frequent impression of Steve Harvey (perhaps for the final time, as Thompson is likely leaving the show at season’s end). This, and the show’s lack of political humor all night, surprised many – especially given all the news surrounding attorney general William Barr during the week – but I wasn’t surprised at all for a couple of reasons. I didn’t think the show would be very political in an episode hosted by Sandler who seems about as apolitical as a Hollywood star comes and likely has a mass conservative fandom as a result. It’s also not a bad idea to capitalize on the current pop culture supernovas that are “Game of Thrones” and “Avengers: Endgame.”
Sandler’s monologue was one of the real highlights of the show and something I’d been anticipating for about a month since his return to host was announced. Unsurprisingly he did it as a song, but maybe surprisingly about how he left ‘SNL’ when he and most of the cast at the time was fired at the behest of then NBC President Don Ohlmeyer (a real tool of a guy if you don’t know about him and this particular show). The monologue featured Sandler’s friend and former co-worker on the show Chris Rock, who was frankly underutilized on ‘SNL’ and became a massive star in the years following his departure. It wasn’t the only former ‘SNL’ cast member cameo, but surprisingly was the only former co-worker of Sandler’s to appear on the night. I was certain close buddies David Spade and Rob Schneider would show up – I would’ve liked to have seen Spade, but we likely dodged a bullet with Schneider.
The absolute worst moment on the episode appeared early on when Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett did their typically odd collaboration with a song called “Holes,” about how clothes are basically just holes for our bodies – yes, it was exactly as stupid as that sounds. I’ve never been on the Mooney train and continue to be annoyed by anything that has his “created by” stench on it.
One of the “should’ve seen it coming” moments during the episode was when Sandler played himself attending a Sandler Family Reunion and all of his family members essentially did the playful, child-like imitation of him we frequently see. This sketch featured cast members just doing their best Sandler impressions with Mikey Day and Melissa Villasenor doing the best jobs before the cameo by former ‘SNL’er Jimmy Fallon showing up. Fallon has the best Sandler impression I’ve ever seen. The sketch also featured a surprising return from Kristen Wiig, who would appear again later in the show to better use.
Wiig would appear in Kate McKinnon’s recurring sketch featuring her character Sheila Sovage, a trashy bar patron who always hooks up with random, equally trashy men as last call. The man in the sketch, as always, is played by the week’s host and Wiig plays Sandler’s wife in the sketch as they’re interested in Sheila for a little ménage a trois. It makes perfect sense for Wiig to join McKinnon in this sketch as Sheila is akin to some of Wiig’s most memorable recurring characters from her time on the show, accept McKinnon’s character is funnier. Sheila is one of McKinnon’s most popular recurring characters, but the sketch always gets more laughs from the sheer disgustingness of it more so than anything else – this time Sheila and her swinger partners partake in three-way tongue kissing with McKinnon, Wiig and Sandler all getting to know each other a bit more than previously.
There were two things I wanted to see in particular from Sandler during his return to host – one of his memorable characters, preferably his best Opera Man, and one of his comedy songs. We got both, though I’m a bit surprised Opera Man was the only character Sandler and the writing staff (which included an old favorite Robert Smigel specifically for this episode) chose to reprise.
It was great seeing Opera Man return to Weekend Update, his first appearance since February of 1995 not counting a brief appearance during the 40th anniversary special and a memorable non-‘SNL’ appearance in a post-9/11 benefit concert. It was hilarious seeing Opera Man take on today’s biggest news stories like the ending of “Game of Thrones,” current Democratic politicians running for President, the handsiness of Joe Biden and all the members of President Donald Trump’s administration who have been fired or quit.
Perhaps the biggest highlight from Sandler’s return to ‘SNL’ was the teary-eyed tribute in song to his good friend and former cast mate Chris Farley, who’s now been gone for more than 21 years. The ‘SNL’ appearance wasn’t the debut of this song, it originally appeared in Sandler’s stand-up shows and on his Netflix special “100% Fresh,” but it was the first time it’d been seen by many watching the show, including myself, and was certainly an appropriate place for the performance. The song was the perfect mixture of full-hearted love from one friend to another and humor. It’s obvious Farley meant an awful lot to Sandler and the song is the most touching thing I’ve ever seen from Sandler. It was the perfect way to end what essentially was Sandler’s homecoming to the show after two-and-a-half decades.
by Julian Spivey
Adam Sandler is often considered one of the greatest cast members in “Saturday Night Live” history and has arguably been the biggest to never return to host the series, which he left/was let go of in 1995, that is until this Saturday (May 4th) when he makes his hosting debut.
Here are his 10 greatest ‘SNL’ moments:
10. That's When You Break
There has always been ‘SNL’ cast members known for breaking character and cracking up during sketches over the show’s great run and Adam Sandler is among them. For the show’s 40th anniversary special in 2015 Sandler combined with Andy Samberg, who’s often been compared to Sandler because of the gift both have for comedic songs, for a Digital Short Video (Samberg’s lasting legacy at ‘SNL’) paying tribute to all the moments of cast member’s breaking character. The best part of it was the ribbing of Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz who seemingly couldn’t be in a sketch together during their tenure on the show without breaking character.
9. Cajun Man
Cajun Man was one of Adam Sandler’s classic frequent recurring characters on Weekend Update that made four appearances on the show, all in 1992, before disappearing for some reason for the remainder of his five year run on ‘SNL.’ It was a simplistic character, one in which Sandler just used a Cajun accident for punchlines to set ups given to him by Weekend Update anchor Kevin Nealon, but it provided ample laughs.
8. Cheap Halloween Costumes
One of the great bits you’re going to see on any ‘SNL’ Halloween special episode from now to the end of eternity is Adam Sandler’s Cheap Halloween Costume ideas for people who want to trick-or-treat but can’t afford to spend too much money on costumes. His ridiculous ideas like “Smiley Face,” “About-to-Sneeze Man” and “Crazy Newspaper Face” and his dedication to them really makes the bit.
7. Thanksgiving Song
If there’s a Holiday, there’s a good chance that Adam Sandler has a funny song to go along with it and when Adam Sandler noticed a big lack of Thanksgiving songs, he wrote one that will live forever. “The Thanksgiving Song” is an ode to loving to eat turkey. It’s such a dumb song, but Sandler’s full-force performance of it makes it a classic.
There’s no doubt that one of the greatest friendships and duos to come out of ‘SNL’ was that of Adam Sandler and Chris Farley and the two had many memorable sketches together on the show, many of which culminated in Sandler breaking character because of Farley’s outlandish performances and behavior. Their greatest recurring sketch together was Zagat’s where the old married couple of Hank (Sandler) and Beverly (Farley) Gelfand record a show of Beverly reading a cuisine guide and Hank responding to it with lines like “give me cancer now God!” while barely keeping it together.
Adam Sandler has never been known as an impressionist, but his Bruce Springsteen impression is fairly spot on and made a couple memorable appearances. The first was in 1993 when he as Springsteen sings a song about Thanksgiving that features such great lines as “eating turkey in my ’65 Chevy” and Weekend Update anchor Kevin Nealon giving a saxophone solo. The other great Sandler as Springsteen appearance came when “Friends” star Courtney Cox hosted a show in 1995 and mimicked the famous “Dancing in the Dark” music video in which Cox is brought upon stage to dance with Springsteen.
4. Red Hooded Sweatshirt
One of Adam Sandler’s most beloved comedy songs is “Red Hooded Sweatshirt,” an ode to his favorite winter garment, that he performed on Weekend Update in the show’s 18th season in 1993 around Valentine’s Day. One of the best parts of this bit is when Weekend Update anchor Kevin Nealon joins in with his deadpan style. The bit even features cameos by Paul and Linda McCartney.
3. Opera Man
Opera Man was probably Adam Sandler’s biggest and best recurring character on ‘SNL’ appearing on Weekend Update nine times between 1992 and 1995 doing operatic bits on the biggest news stories of the day.
2. Chanukah Song
Adam Sandler’s best and most important contributions to “Saturday Night Live” were his comedic songs, often celebrating holidays – and his most indelible one is his ode to Chanukah and Jewish celebrities giving Jews a Holiday anthem of their own in a Holiday season overrun with Christmas songs. The best line of the song will always be – “O.J. Simpson, not a Jew!” Sandler would add two more versions of the Chanukah Song over the years with ‘Part III’ appearing on ‘SNL’ in 2002, which has been until this weekend Sandler’s only guest appearance on the show not during an anniversary special.
1. Lunch Lady Land
Of all of Adam Sandler’s hilarious comedy songs the greatest of all-time would have to be “Lunch Lady Land,” an ode to the most underappreciated employees of the public school system. Sandler’s ‘SNL’ performance of these unsung heroes and their jobs was acted out on a 1994 episode with cast members playing lunch foods and Chris Farley giving a spirited dance as the titular Lunch Lady. It’s amazing how melodic “hoagies and grinders/hoagies and grinders/navy beans, navy beans” sounds. Also, how did the ‘SNL” costumes department find or make a liver and onions costume?
What is your all-time favorite Adam Sandler 'SNL' moment?