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The Greatest Breakout Characters in TV History

Updated October 27, 2020 38.0k votes 3.8k voters 50.2k 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
    936
    438

    Ron Swanson

    Parks and Recreation

    ActorNick Offerman

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  • Daryl Dixon2
    806
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    Daryl Dixon

    The Walking Dead

    ActorNorman Reedus

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  • Spock3
    593
    357

    Spock

    Star Trek

    ActorLeonard Nimoy

    OccupationScientist

  • Dwight Schrute4
    731
    371

    Dwight Schrute

    The Office

    ActorRainn Wilson

  • Barney Stinson5
    790
    407

    Barney Stinson

    How I Met Your Mother

    ActorNeil Patrick Harris

  • Spike6
    671
    432

    Spike

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    ActorJames Marsters

  • Sheldon Cooper7
    786
    511

    Sheldon Cooper

    The Big Bang Theory

    ActorJim Parsons

  • Jesse Pinkman8
    465
    215

    Jesse Pinkman

    Breaking Bad

    ActorAaron Paul

  • Fonzie9
    525
    380

    Fonzie

    Happy Days, Joanie Loves Chachi

    ActorHenry Winkler

    OccupationMechanic

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  • April Ludgate10
    512
    340

    April Ludgate

    Parks and Recreation

    ActorAubrey Plaza

  • The Janitor11
    519
    326

    ActorNeil Flynn

    OccupationJanitor

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  • Castiel12
    455
    335

    Castiel

    Supernatural

    ActorMisha Collins

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  • Cosmo Kramer13
    479
    370

    Cosmo Kramer

    Seinfeld

    ActorMichael Richards

    OccupationActor

  • Stewie Griffin14
    523
    407

    Stewie Griffin

    Family Guy

    ActorSeth MacFarlane

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  • Arya Stark15
    171
    64

    Arya Stark

    Game of Thrones

    ActorMaisie Williams

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  • Barney Fife16
    353
    303

    Barney Fife

    The Andy Griffith Show

    ActorDon Knotts

    OccupationPolice officer

  • Frasier Crane17
    389
    325

    ActorKelsey Grammer

    OccupationPsychiatrist, Psychotherapist, Radio personality

  • Bobby Singer18
    318
    272

    Bobby Singer

    Supernatural

    ActorJim Beaver

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  • Steve Urkel19
    410
    371

    Steve Urkel

    Family Matters

    ActorJaleel White

    OccupationStudent, Inventor, Scientist

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    #402 of 737 The Most Annoying TV and Film Characters Ever#16 of 142 The Best TV Characters of the 1990s

  • Karen Walker20
    377
    313

    Karen Walker

    Will & Grace

    ActorMegan Mullally

    OccupationBusinessperson, Socialite, Personal assistant

  • Alex P. Keaton21
    326
    289

    Alex P. Keaton

    Family Ties

    ActorMichael J. Fox

  • Crowley22
    194
    148

    Crowley

    Supernatural

    ActorMark Sheppard

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  • Bart Simpson23
    221
    199

    Bart Simpson

    The Simpsons, The Tracey Ullman Show

    ActorNancy Cartwright

    OccupationStudent

  • Daenerys Targaryen24
    104
    58

    Daenerys Targaryen

    Game of Thrones

    ActorEmilia Clarke

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  • Winston Bishop25
    186
    110

    ActorLamorne Morris

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