My eyes hurt. I have spent the past five weeks watching Supernatural, Grey’s Anatomy and Californication (an odd assortment, I know) on DVD. I’m addicted. When a box set arrives in the mail, I tend to bunk down and watch it from start to finish. We don’t have M-Net (the South African pay channel that carries all the good shows), so I am generally a season behind everyone else, but I like being able to watch my favourite characters go through 12 or 22 episodes without advertisements or seven-day waiting periods.
This viewing festival got me thinking about the small-screen men I have followed in recent years. I don’t usually do Top 10 lists, but I think one is warranted in this case, in honour of the testosterone brigade I have loved, and loved to hate.
Played by Scott Foley in Felicity
The series tracked university student Felicity Porter (Keri Russell) as she battled love, life and learning in New York. Foley played student adviser Noel Crane, who lusted after Felicity as their relationship moved between friendship and love during the four seasons. For me, he was instantly likeable as the nice guy next door, the knight who didn’t need armour, the cuddly bear who looked out for everyone around him. I always wanted Felicity to end up with Noel – I never liked Ben Covington (Scott Speedman) as the lost boy who stole the heroine’s heart.
Felicity: “You know that stuff will kill you.”
Noel: “Something will… Might as well be cheese spray.”
Felicity: “What are you doing?”
Noel: “Do you use powder or something? Because, honestly, the way you smell is making me forget things I learned in high school.”
Played by Michael Weatherly in Dark Angel
Dark Angel was groundbreaking – and not only because it was created by James Cameron. Jessica Alba as the genetically enhanced X5 soldier Max Guevara made hearts flutter around the world, and Weatherly’s portrayal of the mysterious, if slightly nerdy, cyberjournalist with a cause won him many fans. I liked the way his skills as a computer expert were teamed with Max’s athleticism to deliver a potent combination of action and social commentary week after week.
Logan: “If I just had my ass handed to me by a size three, I’d be inclined to mind my own business.”
Max: “Don’t hold up the world on my account.”
Logan: “The world will still be broken in the morning.”
Logan: “I always knew that underneath that bioengineered, military-issue armour plating there was a beating heart.”
Logan: “Isn’t it against the superhuman code to use your powers to take advantage of us mere mortals?”
Played by James Spader in Boston Legal
The brilliant lawyer from Crane, Poole & Schmidt is known for his bedroom strategies as much as his courtroom ones. Alan Shore is extremely clever and incredibly passionate, but he tends to adjust his moral compass depending on the situation at hand. He never apologises for this ambiguity, and seems to revel in the fact that his outlook on life is anything but black and white. His witty one-liners, cunning comebacks and pithy putdowns light up the screen.
Alan: “Those who do not like you fall into one of two categories: the stupid and the envious.”
Alan: “I’m a man of principles… or not. Depends on the situation.”
Alan: “My filing system isn’t that difficult. I throw everything out.”
Alan: “The law says if you shoot somebody with a shotgun mistaking him for a quail, you really should call the police. We’re cowboys, judge. We do what we want, whether it’s starting wars or changing daylight savings time. We like to play it fast and loose in this country, making it up as we go along.”
Played by David James Elliott in JAG
The crisp military uniform, the rugged good looks, the all-American-hero personality… What’s not to like about JAG lawyer and flyboy Lieutenant Commander Harmon Rabb? I miss this show – Friday nights have not been the same since Rabb and his lady love, Major Sarah MacKenzie, tossed the coin that would decide their future. There were nine seasons of life, love and courtroom justice – and I watched them all.
Harm: “You know, when the Admiral first told me he was partnering me with a Marine major, I had these visions of a tattooed jarhead challenging me to arm wrestle at lunch.”
Sarah: “Well, I do have a tattoo, I’m a pretty good arm wrestler, and although I don’t like the term, I am technically a jarhead.”
Sarah: “A car is strictly transportation to me. I don’t need it to define my sexuality.”
Harm: “Well, otherwise you’d be driving a Humvee.”
Harm: “Not all women in the Navy feel the way you do about having a lover. Thank God!”
Played by Zachary Levi in Chuck
Self-confessed underachiever and Nerd Herder Charles Irving Bartowski, aka Chuck, unwittingly enters the world of international espionage after government secrets are downloaded into his brain. His subsequent struggle to balance his personal life with the demands of being the geekiest spy in history provides excellent entertainment, but the relationships he has with his best friend and fellow Buy More slave Morgan Grimes (Joshua Gomez), his CIA handler Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) and his NSA handler John Casey (Adam Baldwin) provide the nuts and bolts of the show.
Chuck: “Sarah and Casey are right inside. One girlish scream from me and they go into combat mode.”
Chuck: “I know that grunt. Yeah, that’s a number seven, right? Sceptical with a side of cynicism?”
Chuck: “What are we doing for tunes tonight? I can make a stakeout mix.”
Chuck: “If I had a blog this would be a very big day for me – do my laundry, check; save my sister’s life, check; save my own life… final entry.”
Played by David Duchovny in Californication
Hank Moody falls into my “love to hate” category, because if I came across a man like him in real life, I’d probably punch him in the face. That said, though, Duchovny as the sex-obsessed writer in the throes of a self-indulgent midlife crisis is endlessly entertaining. His quick wit, flirty one-liners and no-holds-barred conversations are what make the show. The dialogue is the best part of the show, actually, and I bow down to the writers who give Duchovny the raw material for his brutally honest portrayal of a man on the edge. To quote Hank’s daughter, Becca Moody (Madeleine Martin), from S1E12: “You’re tragically flawed, dad, but you’ve got a good heart.” That, in a nutshell, is Hank’s problem – and I like watching him try to solve it.
Hank: “I love women. I have all their albums.”
Hank: “It’s not your fault. I’m like fly paper for the emotionally disturbed.”
Hank: “Women know within the first few seconds of meeting a guy whether they want to marry him, f*ck him or kill him.”
Hank: “I love you Karen… And I want to spend the rest of my life annoying the sh*t out of you.”
Played by Patrick Dempsey in Grey’s Anatomy
Dr Derek ‘McDreamy’ Shepherd is a respected neurosurgeon with just enough character flaws to keep him interesting. He is charming, handsome and friendly – and he operates on human brains at Seattle Grace Hospital. That’s enough to make any woman swoon, right? I think series creator Shonda Rhimes stumbled upon a goldmine with this character… There are so many avenues to explore because he is ultimately a good guy who is also capable of the worst human emotions when faced with a particular set of circumstances – and I believe Dempsey’s seamless navigation through this minefield of drama is what earned him two Golden Globe nominations.
Derek: “It’s a beautiful day to save lives. Let’s have some fun.”
Derek: “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that we managed to stop the bleeding. The bad news is that we gave your penis to the cops.”
Derek: “About you and me… It is not the thrill of the chase. It’s not a game. It’s… it’s your tiny ineffectual fists. And your hair. It smells good. And you’re very, very ballsy. It keeps me in line.”
Derek: “I am not mentally challenged.”
Derek: “I like the kissing. I’m all for the kissing. More kissing, I say.”
Played by Jensen Ackles in Supernatural
Dean Winchester and his brother Sam (Jared Padalecki) battle demons, spirits and other supernatural bad guys as they travel across America in a black 1967 Chevy Impala that can safely be called Dean’s first love. Some critics have written off the show as cheesy, pop-culture drivel that does little more than provide 45 minutes of eye candy for female fans. Yes, Jensen is devilishly easy on the eyes, but he also has the acting chops necessary to keep a tried-and-tested ghost-busters formula from becoming old. I reckon five successful seasons, with a sixth in the works, is proof of that fact. Plus, Dean Winchester has shown that he’s ready to go to hell and back for his family, literally. That’s a character trait I can relate to. It’s also one of the reasons I keep watching.
Dean: “We know a little about a lot of things; just enough to make us dangerous.”
Dean: “I’m not gonna die in a hospital where the nurses aren’t even hot.”
Dean: “You fudging touch me again and I will fudging kill you!”
Dean: “The secretary’s name is Carly. She’s 23, she kayaks and they’re real!”
Dean: “For your sake, I hope you’re lying. ‘Cause if it’s true, I swear to God I will march into Hell myself and I will slaughter each and every one of you evil sons of b*tches, so help me God!”
Played by William Petersen in CSI Las Vegas
As the night shift supervisor and forensic entomologist at the Las Vegas crime lab, Grissom was something of a father figure to his team. His extensive scientific knowledge made him very good at his job and his keen observation of human nature gave him tools for his role as mentor. I enjoyed his sharp wit, his dedication to the pursuit of truth and his determination to see justice done. Grissom is, for me at least, the only CSI team leader worth watching.
Grissom: “I’m wrong all the time. It’s how I get to ‘right’.”
Grissom: “What you do on your time is your business. What you do on my time is my business.”
Grissom: “Amazing how the sight of blood can clear a room.”
Grissom: “The rich are just as depraved as the poor.”
Grissom: “I tend not to believe people; they lie. The evidence never lies.”
Played by Roy Dupuis in La Femme Nikita
Ah, Monsieur Dupuis… My all-time favourite leading man from the small screen. The French-Canadian with the jaw carved by angels fascinated me with his portrayal of the coldly efficient Section One agent with a chequered history. Part man, part master of deception, he was infinitely more intriguing than the female lead played by Peta Wilson. Their chemistry was great, though, and the relationship between Michael and Nikita was almost as dark and twisted as the plot.
The best part about Dupuis playing Michael was the restrained performance he gave episode after episode. I remember seeing an interview once in which the actor said his warrior-like alter ego was all about discipline and the ‘maintenance of his mask’. “He doesn’t talk for no reason, he doesn’t move for no reason,” Dupuis explained. Watching Michael’s gradual shift from an automaton to a flesh-and-blood man again, with Nikita’s help, was what drove the show from season to season.
Michael: “I don’t know what love is anymore… but the only part of me that’s not dead is you.”
Michael: “We fight all the time just to stay alive. Let’s not fight what’s between us. Let’s take what we can get.”
Michael: “You know a lot about me, Nikita, but not everything. There are things that have to remain hidden. And it has nothing to do with how I feel about you.”
Michael: “Come with me.”
Nikita: “I can’t.”
Michael: “Is that what you want?”
Nikita: “I don’t love you. I never did.”
Michael: (Takes a knife from his belt and carves a tear of blood into the corner of his eye)
The title of this post is borrowed from the lyrics of Coffee And TV by Blur. Find the song on amazon.com