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The 11 Best TV Characters of Winter 2011

The most riveting personalities, from Kurt and Blaine on ‘Glee’ to Deena on ‘The Jersey Shore’

©2010 Isabella Vosmikova/HBO

Nicolette Grant is the second of three sister-wives in the polygamous Henrickson household(s), and like any middle child, she's desperate for attention — not to mention brimming with grudges. The attention Nicki gets, whether it's through her lacerating wit or unhinged revenge schemes (which motor the plots as nothing else on the show). Played with great sensitivity by the scary-good Chloe Sevigny, Nicki is voluptuous with need. Try taking your eyes off of her.

Nick Catucci

Watch It: Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO, starting January 16th

Patrick Harbron/USA Network

Dr. Hank Lawson, ‘Royal Pains’

This guy apparently went to the Magnum PI School of Medicine, but that just makes him the only remotely cool doctor on TV, as he cruises around town, hits the beaches, loves the ladies, and once an hour, heals the rich and pampered fools who line his pockets.

— Rob Sheffield

Watch It: Thursdays at 9 p.m. on USA, starting January 20th

ABC FAMILY/ANDREW ECCLES

A, ‘Pretty Little Liars’

Move over, Gossip Girl, there's a new clique town — and they even come with their own omniscient instigator. Pretty Little Liars follows Hanna, Aria, Spencer and Emily a year after their leader, best friend and — as it turns out — worst enemy Alison mysteriously disappears from their idyllic town of Rosewood, PA. Between all the boyfriend-swapping, teacher-humping and, oh yeah, murder, there's enough scandal to go around. But it's 'A' — the faceless stalker who threatens to reveal the girls' darkest secrets, the ones that only Ali knew — who steals the show. A's withering insults and campy catch-me-if-you-can text messages ("Lions and tigers and bitches, oh my! There's no place like homecoming. See you there") make Liars trash TV to die for.

— Abbey Goodman

Watch It: Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC Family

Deena, ‘Jersey Shore’

Anyone who can inspire the Situation to call her "audacious," which also means inspiring Vinny to ask "What does audacious mean?" is doing something right, and by "something," we mean "consuming more booze in one episode than Snooki could put away all season, stripping down to a cowboy hat, and yet somehow failing to seduce the Situation."

— Rob Sheffield

Watch It: Thursdays at 10 p.m. on MTV

Video: DJ Pauly D Previews Season Three of Jersey Shore

Justin Lubin/FOX

Kurt and Blaine, ‘Glee’

Chris Colfer's Kurt quickly rose to become the star of Glee's second season thanks to his impeccable fashion sense, penchant for old Broadway tunes and quest for acceptance as McKinley High's only openly gay student. He's the only genuine character in Glee's pool of over-the-top caricatures — and episodes like "Never Been Kissed" secured him a second Golden Globe nod and surely put him in the running for another Emmy nommination. When Kurt transfered to Dalton Academy last fall to join his smooth-voiced mentor (and crush) Blaine, millions of fans were left hoping for Kurt to finally get a boyfriend when the show returns next month. After a season and a half of struggling to belong, we definitely agree.

— Erica Futterman

Watch It: Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox, starting February 8th

Glee Star Darren Criss on the Future of Kurt and Blaine's Relationship: Will They or Won't They Pair Up?

Raylan, ‘Justified’

Still walking tall on the badlands of Harlan County, Kentucky! Still doling out cowboy vengeance! Still upholding the kind of frontier justice that only existed on TV in the first place! Still constantly shocked by the fact that American crime is so much uglier than his police training ever taught him to expect, which is why his adventures hit home.

— Rob Sheffield

Watch It: Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX, starting February 9th

Liane Hentscher/FOX

Walter Bishop, ‘Fringe’

Fringe's Walter Bishop (John Noble) is not like the other doctors you'll see on TV this spring. Before assisting his son and the Fringe division of the FBI, Bishop spent 17 years in a mental hospital. Before his stint in the looney bin he was the head of Biochemistry at Harvard. These days when Walter is not saving our universe from an evil alternative universe, we can find him still toiling away in his lab at Harvard — though he is often found baking sweets or self medicating with his own special strain of pot.

— Alison Weinflash

Watch It: Fridays at 9 p.m. on Fox, starting January 21st

Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

Creed, ‘The Office’

No regular character on The Office has fewer lines than Creed, but he still manages to be the funniest one on the show. Whether he's chewing on mung bean sprouts, showing off his four-toed foot to children or making wine with ketchup in a toilet, The Office's resident old weirdo consistently steals every scene that he's in. In real life (and on the show) Bratton was the guitarist in the 1960s folk-rock group the Grass Roots, though he languished in obscurity for decadesuntil 2005, when he landed a role on this show.

— Andy Greene

Watch It: Thursdays at 9 p.m. on NBC

Sixties Folkie to 'Office' Weirdo: Creed Bratton's Secret History
Video: Creed Bratton Performs 'Sure Sounds Good On You' Live at Rolling Stone

NBC

Leslie Knope, ‘Parks and Recreation’

It didn't take long for Amy Poehler's comic bureaucrat to go from a blatant Michael Scott/Ted Baxter knockoff to a sublimely twitchy TV neurotic for the ages. She started out as harmless and silly, yet the longer we watch, the more we relate to her on a human level which makes us very frightened indeed.

— Rob Sheffield

Watch It: Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on NBC, starting January 20th

Comedy Central

Butters, ‘South Park’

Leopold "Butter" Stotch has been sold by his parents to Paris Hilton, sent to an anti-gay deprogramming camp and nearly drowned by his own mother after discovering his father in a bath house. Through it all the towheaded fourth grader has uttered nothing more offensive than "oh hamburgers" and kept a smile firmly on his face. He was designed by Trey Parker and Matt Stone to be the anti-Eric Cartman: naive, gullible and cheerful. The result is a fan favorite and an increasingly central character on the show, even though recently he's shown some signs of growing — like in a recent episode where he began pimping out the girls in his class.

Andy Greene

Watch It: Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central

Monty Brinton/CBS

Paula Abdul, ‘Live to Dance’

As soon as she left American Idol, the show went straight down the tubes, proving that nobody messes with Paula and lives to tell the tale. So does that mean her new show can live up to her lofty standards for incomprehensible babbling, tearful meltdowns, and the occasional high kick? We can only pray.

— Rob Sheffield

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