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Television Characters Like 'Scandal's Olivia Pope and 'The Blacklist's Ray Reddington Are The New Prime Time Heroes

by Cate Meighan   Sep 7, 2014 14:11 PM EDT

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Young celebrities and artists perform for Arthur Ashe Kids' Day in New York

Have you ever really thought about the characters that we fall in love with on television? I don't mean just rattling off a bunch of names but actually think about it. If you're like me then I'm going to bet that several of those fictional people that you adore you would also run like hell from in real life. How many of us would really pull for someone like Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) - Scandal's official fixer, when she's not too busy banging the married president or Ray Reddington (James Spader) who spent the majority of his life killing for fun before deciding it was time to help the agents that he eluded for decades over on The Blacklist?

It seems that when it comes to pop culture we like our hero's to be a bit tainted, doesn't it? That 100% do-gooder tends to be annoying and almost unrelatable because well, the last time I checked everyone tuned in to prime time television is human and so ultimately we have flaws—just like the most evil characters that great actors breathe life into. It's interesting how on Scandal when Liv and Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) are hooking up randomly the audience as a whole pulls for it to happen. Aside from the feeling that they actually belong together it also means that as viewers' we're likely to be entertained by more drunk Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) moments as The First Lady struggles to deal with her collapsing marriage on a daily basis. That's a pretty big bonus because few scene-stealers are better than Young.

Show runners have really paid attention to what their audiences want in the last several years and because of that the scales between good and evil have become so evenly balanced that the flawed and truly messed up characters somehow are emerging as our current idea of what a television hero looks like. The Blacklist's Reddington would appear nothing but heartless if not for his connection to special agent Elizabeth Keene (Megan Boone). Is he actually her father? Who knows and the truth is almost secondary to the fact that the connection between the characters is what actually has made this show a trailblazing hit.

Vanilla in prime time doesn't work and neither does non-stop happiness. Things are generally complicated and real life is tricky so in order to be distracted or really entertained these shows have to up the ante and be more insane then whatever our current reality is. If nearly everyone on Orange Is The New Black can survive prison and the cast of The Leftovers can claw their way through non-stop despair then maybe getting up and going to work tomorrow isn't such a bad reality for us, right?

Perhaps that's the real secret to most of these shows, not only do we end up seeing the humanity in the seediest of characters but we also walk away a little more grateful for our own reality. What characters have caught your eye and ripped your heart out before handing it back to you lately? Tell us in the comments below!

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