The 11 Best Supporting Characters on TV

What would this world be without a Ron Swanson in it?

For every Will & Grace, there is a Karen & Jack. For a Buffy or Angel, there is a Xander or Cordelia. Often we tune into TV shows not for the title or lead characters, but for the sidekicks, the guest stars, and the supporting cast. Here are my picks for the best supporting characters on TV shows currently on air.

Pam, Archer
When we first meet Pam she’s a seemingly straight-laced human resources manager for the spy agency, ISIS. As the seasons progress, we learn she is a pansexual, underground-ring-fighting, pot-smoking, hard-alcohol-drinking woman who uses her position to spread office gossip. With trademark sayings like “sh*tsnacks” and “sploosh,” her scenes are often the reason this hilarious animated show is profoundly NSFW.


Sue Heck, The Middle
You wish Sue had been your best friend in high school. No matter how often she tries (and fails) to make the team or the squad, she never loses her impenetrable positivity. No matter what’s going on in her life, she drops everything to help a friend in need. Played by Eden Sher, who never allows the character to become cloying, Sue is quirky and sweetly naive—and absolutely hysterical whenever she hangs out with her superbestfriend (and ex-boyfriend) Brad.


Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation
Who is Ron Swanson? He has disdain for almost everyone and everything. He loves buffets, meat and woodworking. He is anti-government but is a government worker. He has two ex-wives and a mother named Tammy. He has an incredible moustache. And he is, unquestionably, one of the greatest sitcom characters of all time.


Donna and Tom, Parks and Recreation
“Treat yo’ self.”


Amy Farrah Fowler, The Big Bang Theory
TBBT finally clicked when Amy became one of the girls. Not just a female Sheldon (socially awkward, mentally superior), she provides opportunity and storylines for Penny, as well as giving Sheldon much needed depth and warmth. All the while delivering some of the funniest moments on the show.


Dowager Countess, Downton Abbey
What more is there to say? Maggie Smith is an international treasure.


Maw Maw, Raising Hope
Whether it’s just for a sight gag or simply to deliver a zinger, any time Cloris Leacham’s Maw Maw appears is reason to rejoice.


Ralph Wiggums, The Simpsons
After all these years, the shine has all but vanished from The Simpsons. Yet Ralph—the simple son of Police Chief Wiggums—continues to make us laugh. (Like during the opening title of the movie, when he sings along with the 20th Century Fox theme.)


Joan Harris, Mad Men
Joan personifies the ambiguity of the Mad Men decade: stuck in the past but grasping for the future. She was a mistress to her boss, then strived to be a perfect wife. She is the consummate office manager, but longs for more responsibility. And though her inner turmoil and struggles continue to grow, she hides them behind a stoic demeanor. That way, even when she’s abused (physically and mentally) by her husband, she can still be the perfect hostess. And entertain guests playing the accordian.


Daryl Dixon, The Walking Dead
He rides a motorcycle. In a zombie apocalypse.