fictional characters The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History  

Ranker TV
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39.7k votes 3.1k voters 45.8k views 100 items

List Rules Vote up the best breakout TV characters of all time

When a television show first starts, the writers of the program already have the star in mind. They write for the characters they think the audience will relate to and like the most and design the show around those characters. However, once the show hits the airwaves, the viewers don’t always agree. Sometimes the true star of the show is the unlikeliest candidate. The breakout character is usually a character who was introduced as part of the supporting cast, but for one reason or another became a fan favorite. This list of the greatest breakout characters in TV history includes characters from both comedies and dramas and has been ranked by the community.

The breakout character on a TV show usually becomes the most discussed and most loved part of the show. He or she has the funniest lines, the best stories, and is portrayed by the favorite actor. After a positive audience reaction, these breakout characters suddenly start to get more screen time and story lines. Characters like Fonzie and Ben Linus were never meant to be huge parts of their shows, but after their introduction, it was inevitable that they’d become pivotal to the show’s success. Some breakout characters, like Frasier Crane, even go on to star in their own series.

Who are the greatest breakout characters on TV? Vote up the best breakout television characters below or add the best breakout star if he or she isn't already on the list.

list ordered by

1
928 486
Ron Swanson is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Ron Swanson Parks and Recreation

2
853 505
Daryl Dixon is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Daryl Dixon The Walking Dead

3
652 408
Dwight Schrute is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Dwight Schrute The Office

4
836 527
Sheldon Cooper is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Sheldon Cooper The Big Bang Theory

5
773 443
Barney Stinson is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Barney Stinson How I Met Your Mother

6
578 411
Spock is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Spock Star Trek

7
531 444
Fonzie is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Fonzie Happy Days, Joanie Loves Chachi

8
815 461
Spike is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Gandarla86 added Spike Buffy the Vampire Slayer

9
545 340
Janitor is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
The Janitor Scrubs

10
475 355
April Ludgate is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
penguinmayne added April Ludgate Parks and Recreation

11
501 421
Cosmo Kramer is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Cosmo Kramer Seinfeld

12
546 460
Stewie Griffin is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Stewie Griffin Family Guy

13
438 422
Steve Urkel is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Steve Urkel Family Matters

14
352 185
Jesse Pinkman is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Mia W (SweetLilMzMia) added Jesse Pinkman Breaking Bad

The Best Re-Casting of Famous TV Roles

15
400 373
Michael Kelso is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Michael Kelso That 70's Show

16
334 353
Barney Fife is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Barney Fife The Andy Griffith Show

17
475 364
Castiel is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Castiel Supernatural

18
413 378
Frasier Crane is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Frasier Crane Cheers

19
413 346
Karen Walker is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Karen Walker Will & Grace

20
261 380
Abed Nadir is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Abed Nadir Community

21
315 335
Alex P. Keaton is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Alex P. Keaton Family Ties

The Funniest TV Shows of All Time

22
162 168
Bart Simpson is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
teddybear1029 added Bart Simpson The Simpsons, The Tracey Ullman Show

23
328 290
Bobby Singer is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
wawwhite1 added Bobby Singer Supernatural

24
158 99
Charlie Kelly is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
swirlyt added Charlie Kelly It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

25
172 119
Suzanne
swirlyt added Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren Orange Is the New Black

26
175 209
Butters Stotch is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Tom Islava added Butters Stotch South Park

27
230 315
Saul Goodman is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Saul Goodman Breaking Bad

28
156 115
Crowley is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Lilahjk added Crowley

The Creepiest Characters in TV History

29
174 186
Niles Crane is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Mia W (SweetLilMzMia) added Niles Crane Frasier

30
320 319
Mr. Gold is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
wawwhite1 added Mr. Gold Once Upon a Time

31
291 363
Nick Miller is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Nick Miller New Girl

32
322 373
Angel is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Angel Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

33
179 191
Lafayette Reynolds is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
wawwhite1 added Lafayette Reynolds True Blood

34
305 419
Sue Sylvester is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History

35
168 202
Pam is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Pam True Blood

31 Times You've Seen The Walking Dead Actors Before

36
147 107
Schmidt is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
swirlyt added Schmidt New Girl

37
131 170
Patrick Star is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
CheckinaCoulibaly added Patrick Star SpongeBob SquarePants

38
230 401
Randy Marsh is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Randy Marsh South Park

39
206 394
Elmo is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Elmo Sesame Street

40
101 129
Mike Ehrmantraut is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Brodka added Mike Ehrmantraut Breaking Bad

41
60 20
Arya Stark is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
gallifreyankhaleesi added Arya Stark Game of Thrones

42
116 170
Brooke Davis is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
JVall14 added Brooke Davis One Tree Hill

The Most Beloved Grumps in TV History

43
110 151
Radar O'Reilly is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Lisa DeLong added Radar O'Reilly W*A*L*T*E*R, M*A*S*H

44
64 74
Winston Bishop is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Winston Bishop New Girl

45
128 199
Stiles is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
wawwhite1 added Stiles Teen Wolf

46
195 362
Andy Bernard is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Andy Bernard The Office

47
267 297
Lex Luthor is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
BartMark added Lex Luthor

48
130 200
Michael Westen is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
RoryCholewczynski added Michael Westen Burn Notice

49
108 162
Rebekah Mikaelson is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Neobule added Rebekah Mikaelson The Vampire Diaries

50
157 349
Vinnie Barbarino is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History
Vinnie Barbarino Welcome Back, Kotter