30 Rock's Top 20 Recurring Characters

By Katey Rich 2013-01-31 10:34:38 discussion comments
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#4: Dennis Duffy (Dean Winters)
No character better sums up Liz Lemon's insecurities, her willingness to settle and her aversion to making tough decisions than Dennis, her on-again, off-again boyfriend and Beeper King and former To Catch A Predator perp. There's nothing immature and ridiculous that Dennis won't do, and he even uses a moment of genuine heroism-- rescuing a man from in front of a speeding train-- to promote himself and try to get back at Derek Jeter. There's something inherently New York in Dennis's obnoxious bravado, and you can kind of see why Liz would keep coming back to him-- but also why the woman he eventually married, loudmouth Megan, is even more perfect for him. Mazel tov, dummies.

#3: Colleen Donaghy (Elaine Stritch)
Colleen has become a surprisingly important part of 30 Rock's final episodes, as Jack copes with her death and the revelation that was actually happy, which just goes to show how invaluable she was the entire time. Her terrible actions from the past-- blaming JFK's assassination on Jack, leaving the dog in the street to die-- are somehow actually matched by what she does on the show, like trying to tear apart the Lemon family at Christmas or telling Jack "his mother loves himů but not in a queer way!" But Jack's love for his mom was one of the show's earliest threads of real heart, and it concluded itself nicely at Colleen's funeral, where Jack gave the greatest eulogy of all time-- right down to Kermit the frog. Colleen probably hated the Muppets for some reason, but the thought counted.

#2: Dr. Spaceman (Chris Parnell)
It's almost cheating to include Dr. Spaceman on this list-- he's the sole reason I included characters who have appeared 25 times instead of just 20. But it's impossible to imagine the show without Leo, who's an excellent physician and a pretty good dentist, and who shows up to treat everyone at TGS for everything from the flu to diabetic coma to giving birth. It's amazing that a character this rich and bizarre started essentially as a punchline, when Tracy is calling for "Dr. Spaceman" and Liz assumes he's hallucinating until seeing the name on his prescription bottle. With Parnell's deadpan delivery the character somehow fits right into this world, and it's kind of inspiring, really. A guy with a degree from the Ho Chi Minh City School of Medicine and a dream has managed to become America's Surgeon General. That's a series wrap for Dr. Leo Spaceman, suckers!

#1: Angie Jordan (Sherri Shepherd)
How do you rank any recurring 30 Rock character above Dr. Spaceman? It was a hard choice, but just like the Ham Council, I can't resist the way Angie says "ham"-- or pretty much anything else about this amazing character, whose freaky and probably too affectionate relationship with Tracy is probably, no joke, one of the best TV marriages ever. The show clearly knew they had a breakout star when they crafted the "Queen of Jordan" episode around Angie, but Shepherd and company completely delivered on that one, proving Angie was enough of a rounded character to hold her own story. Angie gets more of the show's best lines than some of the actual main characters, and Shepherd nails every single one of them. It's not easy for a comedian who's very well-established on her own to slip so seamlessly into another show, but Shepherd made Angie not just a standout, but a crucial part of the 30 Rock ecosystem. If a Queen of Jordan spinoff is our consolation prize for 30 Rock going off the air, we'll take it.
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