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The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History

Updated October 27, 2020 35.2k votes 3.8k voters 50.3k views110 items

List RulesVote 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.

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  • Ron Swanson1
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    412

    Ron Swanson

    Parks and Recreation

    ActorNick Offerman

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  • Daryl Dixon2
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    Daryl Dixon

    The Walking Dead

    ActorNorman Reedus

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  • Spock3
    553
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    Spock

    Star Trek

    ActorLeonard Nimoy

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  • Dwight Schrute4
    692
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    Dwight Schrute

    The Office

    ActorRainn Wilson

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  • Barney Stinson5
    744
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    Barney Stinson

    How I Met Your Mother

    ActorNeil Patrick Harris

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    Spike

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    ActorJames Marsters

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  • Sheldon Cooper7
    738
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    Sheldon Cooper

    The Big Bang Theory

    ActorJim Parsons

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  • Jesse Pinkman8
    435
    198

    Jesse Pinkman

    Breaking Bad

    ActorAaron Paul

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  • Fonzie9
    491
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    Fonzie

    Happy Days, Joanie Loves Chachi

    ActorHenry Winkler

    OccupationMechanic

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  • The Janitor10
    490
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    ActorNeil Flynn

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  • April Ludgate11
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    April Ludgate

    Parks and Recreation

    ActorAubrey Plaza

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    Castiel

    Supernatural

    ActorMisha Collins

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  • Cosmo Kramer13
    450
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    Cosmo Kramer

    Seinfeld

    ActorMichael Richards

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  • Stewie Griffin14
    493
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    Stewie Griffin

    Family Guy

    ActorSeth MacFarlane

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  • Arya Stark15
    162
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    Arya Stark

    Game of Thrones

    ActorMaisie Williams

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  • Frasier Crane16
    370
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    ActorKelsey Grammer

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  • Barney Fife17
    327
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    Barney Fife

    The Andy Griffith Show

    ActorDon Knotts

    OccupationPolice officer

  • Bobby Singer18
    294
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    Bobby Singer

    Supernatural

    ActorJim Beaver

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  • Steve Urkel19
    385
    349

    Steve Urkel

    Family Matters

    ActorJaleel White

    OccupationStudent, Inventor, Scientist

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    #2 of 97 The Greatest Geeks in TV History#15 of 142 The Best TV Characters of the 1990s

  • Karen Walker20
    351
    290

    Karen Walker

    Will & Grace

    ActorMegan Mullally

    OccupationBusinessperson, Socialite, Personal assistant

  • Alex P. Keaton21
    305
    269

    Alex P. Keaton

    Family Ties

    ActorMichael J. Fox

  • Bart Simpson22
    204
    181

    Bart Simpson

    The Simpsons, The Tracey Ullman Show

    ActorNancy Cartwright

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  • Crowley23
    177
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    Crowley

    Supernatural

    ActorMark Sheppard

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  • Daenerys Targaryen24
    100
    54

    Daenerys Targaryen

    Game of Thrones

    ActorEmilia Clarke

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  • Michael Kelso25
    354
    324

    Michael Kelso

    That 70's Show

    ActorAshton Kutcher

    OccupationWaiting staff, Student, Security guard, Police officer, Model