Category: tv character names
When the actor James Gandolfini died recently, TV watchers around the world mourned the simultaneous passing of one of the best-named characters of all time.
Sure, Tony Soprano was so much more than his name. The character was both rough and smooth. Affable and violent. Powerful and weak. But don’t all those qualities also describe that name?
It’s not every day you stumble upon a brilliantly named TV character. I’ll tell you why in one word: legal.
By Linda Rosenkrantz
Let’s face it—most TV character names are predictable and dull. It’s almost as though the screenwriters close their eyes and stick a pin into a list of what seem like age-appropriate monikers—Jim for Grandpa, Jack for Dad, Jackson for Son or Betty for Grandma, Beth for Mom and Becca for Girl.
But luckily there are some exceptions, the creative minority that shine out from the others like glistening gems. The names below are drawn from the character lists of current shows or those that have recently expired—running on a bewildering number of channels—network, cable and online. Reality and animated shows not included.
I’ve starred the names that have already seemed to have had an influence in the real world.
If you don’t have a beloved Gran of your own to name your baby after, how about looking for some outside inspiration from a pop culture Nana? Here’s a list of TV grandmothers, from the maternal to the monstrous (looking at you, Livia Soprano), the chic to the crotchety, whose names were seen as elderly at the time of their shows’ creation—from the 1950’s to the present—but which have become totally baby friendly today.
Here, the Nameberry picks of the 20 best Grandma TV baby names:
Thanks in large part to the single-named British singer, Adele popped into the Top 1000 last year at Number 627 and we expect to see it ranking considerably higher on the new list to be released next month. Molly Ringwald used it for her daughter in 2009.
At last, at last, the third season of Downton Abbey has finally launched, a further opportunity for those of us who love vintage British names to spend time with the Crawley clan et al. We’re now lucky enough to have had two recent TV period imports with great examples of character names, both for the aristos upstairs and the servants below. The time frame of both Downton Abbey and the recently updated Upstairs, Downstairs is the early decades of the twentieth century: Downton now picks up in 1920; the second series of Upstairs in 1936, six years after the initial one ended.
And if there seems to be a preponderance of girls’ names, it’s because so many of the male characters, both upstairs and down, have such common names as Thomas, Robert, Matthew, William, Joseph and John.
Here are some of the most interesting names in both series; and it’s worthy of note that the British TV names that are being revived today come equally from both social strata, as in, for example, Isobel and Ivy, Edith and Elsie.
Some of those characters eventually have fictional children of their own. Mad Men couple Pete and Trudy just welcomed daughter Tammy. 90210’s Jen has a brand new son called Jacques. In honor of the two new arrivals, here’s a look back at some notable small screen births.
Everyone was watching I Love Lucy when Ricky and Lucy welcomed Enrique Jr. – Lil’ Ricky – in 1953. The show was a sensation, but Richard was already a Top Ten mainstay, and even Ricky was in the Top 100 before the baby’s arrival.
The first influential television baby probably came from 1964’s Bewitched, a sitcom with a supernatural twist. Bewitching wife Samantha’s name caught on, as did daughter Tabitha, who arrived in the show’s second season.
There’s more than one way to add a child. The Brady Bunch’s six kids became seven when Cousin Oliver came to stay during the show’s final season. While his name is the height of fashion today, it didn’t catch on until decades later. The character did lend his name to Cousin Oliver Syndrome – the phenomenon of adding a younger child to revive a fading show.