3. Jerry Seinfeld
Best-known episode: "The Voice"
The popularity of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the resulting awareness that the George character was modeled after David's neurotic rudeness, has caused a lot of second and third generation Seinfeld fans to undervalue Jerry's role. It never mattered that the "IRL" Jerry Seinfeld was kind of a terrible actor, or that he sometimes couldn't read his lines without cracking a smile. Even when he was having trouble keeping a straight face, Jerry was still the perfect straight man. Elaine and George and Kramer may be the more enduring, iconic characters, but Jerry was the firmament of the show — the axis around which all the other characters orbited. In "The Dog," Elaine and George try to hang out sans Jerry and find that he is the only thing they can find to talk about with each other. ("Wait, have you ever seen him throw up?")
His obsession with what Elaine calls "the excruciating minutiae of every single daily event" is the soul of the show — without which, a "show about nothing" could never have remained so compelling for nine years and 180 episodes. And then there's Jerry's need to blow tiny flaws in the women he dates way out of proportion. From "Man Hands" to "The Two Face" to the woman he dumps because her mentor is dating Kenny Bania, he became the archetypal too-picky dude. In "The Voice," a girlfriend gives him an ultimatum: stop pretending her belly button has a funny voice ("Helloooooo… La la la") or stop dating her, and naturally he chooses the voice. When he nearly settles down with Jeannie Steinman (played by Janeane Garofalo), it feels like a cheat. The Jerry we love will never be satisfied — and we can relate. JENNY ELISCU