The best characters on television don't always have top billing.
TV shows have a way of not conforming to their creators' original intent. Take those supporting roles that, weather by charisma or circumstance, become towering presences. Even a stellar ensemble like Mad Men has seen peripheral figures seize the spotlight - "and while we don't know who will break from the pack when the show comes back in April, plenty of other characters on TV right now already doing it." - Sam Stander
Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation
BREAKOUT MOVE: The accidental Fonzie
QUALITIES: Sometimes a character is just so damn likeable, the writers can't help but highlight them. All hail Pawnee's meat-loving, Tammy-hating, sax-playing department director!
SEE ALSO: Abed Nadir, Community; Bobby Cobb, Cougar Town
Richard Harrow, Boardwalk Empire
BREAKOUT MOVE: The Platonic ideal
QUALITIES: A character who so perfectly embodies a show's aesthetic as to become its mascot. The half-masked assassin is a gothic fusion of monster-movie imagery and nobility.
SEE ALSO: John Harris, Mad Man; Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones
Jesse Pinkman, Breaking Bad
BREAKOUT MOVE: The moral rudder
QUALITIES: Being the most grounded person in an unhinged universe can set you apart. Jesse was once slated for slaughter, but now it's hard to imagine the show without him as foil to Walter White.
SEE ALSO: Anna Smith, Downtown Abbey; Saul Berenson, Homeland
Schmidt, New Girl
BREAKOUT MOVE: The loose cannon
QUALITIES: Their actions make them fools, but their indefatigable upbeatness makes them loveable. How else could a guy who uses hair chutney become the great joy of the new Friends?
SEE ALSO: Dean Pelton, Community; Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother