11. Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Melissa Benoist), Supergirl — I don’t love the show — it feels too light and insubstantial to amount to much more than a cool show for teenagers — but Benoist plays the role with enough lightness, vulnerability, and confidence to pull it off. She’s basically a female version of the hopeful, high-spirited Barry Allen from The Flash, only with better superpowers. She also weirdly reminds me of a younger Anna Torv.
10. The Countess (Lady Gaga), American Horror Story: Hotel — I have no love for this season of Ryan Murphy’s series, nor am I a fan of Lady Gaga the musician, but even I have to concede that — acting talents notwithstanding — The Countess is captivating, and holds all the attention when she is onscreen.
9. Dean Sanderson (Rob Lowe), The Grinder — I didn’t think it would be possible to like Rob Lowe more after Parks and Recreation, but the comedy on The Grinder is unexpectedly unconventional for what appears to be a mostly conventional sitcom. That’s due mostly to Lowe, who plays a clueless, self-obsessed narcissist who manages to be lovable in spite of that.
8. Ash (Bruce Campbell), Ash vs. the Evil Dead — It’s not a new character, but he is new to television, and Ashley J. Williams is as good as ever: The man can deliver a campy one-liner better than anyone, and he always does so with a wry grin on his face and a wink at the camera. He’s a goddamn joy to watch.
7. Claire Robbins (Sarah Hay), Flesh and Bone — We’ve only got one episode, so far, with which to make an assessment, but Hay is very good as a ballet dancer whose strong determination and ambition belies her quiet, meek nature. She does a lot of nostril acting, and in that category, puts Charlie Hunnam to shame.
6. Jason Crouse (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), The Good Wife — Coming in as the ostensible character replacement for Kalinda, Morgan has been a delight as Alicia Florrick’s new private detective. In fact, he’s been the lone bright spot of the season, with his twinkling eyes, devilish smile, and easy charm. He’s perfect for the role of Negan on The Walking Dead, but I’m almost sad that it will take him away from The Good Wife..
5. Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend — Bunch is unlike any character we’ve really ever seen on television. She combines a daffy slapstick-y physial comedy with endearing neurosis and comically absurd musical numbers. Despite all her “crazy,” it’s easy to understand why two men on the show are vying for her.
4. Valerie Meyers (Michaela Watkins), Casual — Watkins seems to have spent her entire career up to this point preparing for this role, from sketch comedy to improv to Shakespearean stage acting. She is phenomenal as a mother going through a divorce with her husband and trying to get back into the dating world. It’s a sitcom premise, and there are some funny situations in Casual, but Watkins brings heavy-weight poignancy to every episode.
3. Effie Brown (Effie Brown), Project Greenlight — She’s a real person who has been edited into a character on Project Greenlight, but in spite of edits often designed to make it appear as though she and the Greenlight editor were always at odds, she got shit done and she fought for diversity and won (or at least, won by raising the issue). It’s not easy to make Matt Damon look bad, but Effie Brown succeeded in doing so by standing up for diversity.
1 (tie). Erika Murphy (Regina King), The Leftovers — Coming off an long-deserved Emmy win for American Crime, King has come into the second season and blown the doors off the barn. She is fantastic, and her powerful performance as a deaf mother dealing with the possible Departure of her daughter has transformed the HBO series from a very good show into a show that’s competing with Fargo for the best of the fall.
1 (tie). Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine), Fargo) — I’ll let Lord Castleton handle the duties here: “He is captivating. Captivating. The only way I can even begin to explain my excitement when he’s on the screen is that it’s somehow akin to sexual arousal. He’s that good. I can’t say it enough.”