This list isn't a definitive study but it's a start: Fifty characters - or groups of characters - that we love, from Lucy Ricardo to Stewie Griffin to Cliff Huxtable and everyone in between.
The list - in no particular order - starts on the next slide.
It's not possible to single out a favorite on the "The Cosby Show," led by Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable.
Cliff may be the first person on television who said what parents felt. In the pilot episode, he told Theo (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) to get good grades or else: "I brought you into this world and I'll take you out."
Photo: "The Cosby Show" cast from left: Sabrina Le Beauf (Sandra), Tempestt Bledsoe (Vanessa), Bill Cosby (Cliff), Keshia Knight Pulliam (Rudy), Phylicia Rashad (Claire), Raven-Symone (Olivia) and Malcolm-Jamal Warner (Theo). Not pictured is Lisa Bonet as daughter Denise.
The "Mary Tyler Moore Show" began as Mary Richards left her fiancee, relocated to Minneapolis and told her future boss her personal life was none of his business. And that was just the first 10 minutes of the first episode.
Oh, and the show is really funny, too.
Photo: Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards in a scene from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli
On "Happy Days," Arthur Fonzarelli, better known as The Fonz, could whack a jukebox and make it play a record, he always had a date and he had an office in a men's room. He was so cool he even helped Mrs. C compete in a dance contest.
Photo: Clockwise from left, "Happy Days" co-stars Ron Howard, Anson Williams, Henry Winkler as The Fonz, Al Molinari and Tom Bosley.
Credit: AP Photo
Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney
They were a couple of goofs whose attempts to meet guys always seemed to sputter, but that didn't matter; they were best friends navigating their early 20s together.
Laverne was the tougher one with a grim (for a sitcom) outlook on life and Shirley was the bright-eyed optimist who could always put a positive twist on any trouble the two of them got into.
Photo: Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall as Shirley Feeney and Laverne DeFazio from "Laverne & Shirley."
Lucy Ricardo desperately wanted to get into show business and even had the perfect in, her husband, Ricky. The problem was that she didn't have any talent as a performer.
In one of Ball's most memorable performances as Lucy, she finagles a live commercial gig only to get drunk during rehearsals because the product, Vitameatavegamin, is 25 percent alcohol and she's required to try some on camera. She then wanders onto the set during the live broadcast and Ricky has to carry her off stage.
Photo: Visitors watch Lucille Ball in the "Vitameatavegamin" episode of "I Love Lucy" during an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the show, July 13, 2001, at the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Credit: David McNew/Getty Images
In the game as set up by HBO's "The Wire," there were cops, crews, addicts and lawyers. And then there was Omar.
Drug dealers feared him because he stole their wares, money and then killed them when it suited him. Cops mistrusted him because he interfered - directly or indirectly - with their investigations (and they could never seem to pin anything on him).
He played the game and feared nothing, which is what ultimately gets him killed.
Photo: Michael K. Williams as Omar Little, Baltimore's most-feared stickup artist, on the HBO cable television series, "The Wire."
Credit: AP Photo/HBO, Paul Schiraldi
According to "The Simpsons," in the dictionary under "Homer," you'll find that he's an American bonehead, and that to "Pull a Homer" is to succeed despite idiocy.
And what makes it into the dictionary? The important stuff.
Photo: Homer Simpson.
Credit: AP Photo
Neil Patrick Harris plays Stinson as a send-up of the New York banker type who utters such lines as, "He fell on his sword so she could fall on mine." He's a womanizer with daddy issues, a corporate shill and, of course, he secretly has a heart.
Photo: Neil Patrick Harris poses in the press room at the 2006 Creative Arts Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on Aug. 19, 2006, in Los Angeles.
Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Special Agent Dale Cooper
The hero of David Lynch's "Twin Peaks" seemed simultaneously one step ahead of the goings-on in the town and always trying to catch up. But he was prepared to deal with forces he didn't initially understand, even if it got him stuck in the Black Lodge.
Plus, he really loved the coffee in Twin Peaks.
Photo: Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Dale Cooper
In the debut episode of "Chappelle's Show," Dave Chappelle and his writers let the viewers know they were in for something different when they offered up Clayton Bigsby.
In a spoof of "Frontline," we meet Bigsby, a blind - and black - white supremacist. Because he's blind, he doesn't know he's black. Even after he learns he's black, he continues on with the cause. It was funny and also showed the insanity of racism, a subject Chappelle and "Chappelle's Show" returned to many times.
Photo: Dave Chappelle speaks with the press at the TCA Press Tour Cable at the Century Plaza Hotel on July 21, 2004, in Los Angeles.
Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
The General Lee
The only reason to watch the insipid show "The Dukes of Hazzard" is because the car, known as The General Lee, performs insane acrobatics, such as jumping river beds or Roscoe P. Coltrane's squad car.
Best part? The drivers, usually Bo and Luke Duke, never suffered for not wearing seat belts.
Photo: A 1969 Dodge Charger, dubbed "The General Lee" from the TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard," is displayed during the 37th Annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Cars auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., Jan. 16, 2008.
Credit: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images
She was self-obsessed, whiny, manipulative and on-again, off-again with her boyfriend. In other words, a normal teenager. She just had a better wardrobe than most kids, even though she never seemed to work (except for the one episode in which she worked at a clothing store with a terrible boss).
Photo: "Beverly Hills, 90210" original cast: Brian Austin Green, Jennie Garth, Luke Perry, Shannen Doherty as Brenda, Jason Priestley, Tori Spelling, Ian Ziering, Gabrielle Carteris and Douglas Emerson, from left, Sept. 1, 1990.
Maybe it's cliche, but the more we learn about Don Draper the less we know about him. Just when we think he's becoming more honest - telling Dr. Faye Miller, whom he's dating, that he's really Dick Whitman - he proposes to his secretary.
But maybe that's what we like about Draper. There were two Americas back then, the "Leave it to Beaver" America that Draper and his cohorts sell in the ad world, and the "Mad Men" America, in which everyone drinks, smokes and screws their brains out.
Photo: Jon Hamm as Don Draper.
Everybody loves a gangster, but Tony Soprano was bigger than that. He could kill a guy - while touring colleges with his daughter, no less - but he was more introspective than any gangster who came before him.
He dealt with typical gangster problems in an atypical way: therapy. And he also had a mundane existence that most people could identify with, regardless of the highs and lows of being a criminal.
Photo: James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano in the first season of "The Sopranos"
Her husband, Archie, may have called her a dingbat, but she was the heart of "All in the Family" and the human voice when everyone else in the house was so angry with each other they were nearly coming apart at the seams.
She didn't stand up to Archie often, but when she did, it was big - like the time she slapped him for placing bets behind her back.
Photo: Clockwise from left, Sally Struthers as Gloria, Rob Reiner as Michael, Jean Stapleton as Edith and Carroll O'Connor as Archie in "All in the Family."
On "The Wire," the other cops say Lester Freamon is "pure police." He could follow a cold lead and find answers and knew how the game was played.
He got into trouble when playing along with McNulty's crazier schemes but always managed to avoid terrible problems himself, probably because he'd been in so much trouble before the series begins. Even when he's forced into retirement, it's more or less on his owns terms.
Photo: Clarke Peters, left, as Lester Freamon and Dominic West as Jimmy McNulty on "The Wire."
Credit: Paul Schiraldi
Mulder gave voice to everyone who thought unexplained phenomena could be explained and he did it all while being very cool.
Photo: David Duchovny as agent Fox Mulder from "The X-Files."
His friends call him "Fat Ass," and that's probably the kindest thing they'd say about this loud-mouthed, foul-mouthed, angry, selfish kid. He also says the worst things that his audiences wishes it could say, too.
No, he doesn't have a good side.
Photo: From left, Kenny, Cartman, Kyle and Stan from "South Park."
Joe Friday wanted nothing but the facts. In fact, that was his catchphrase: "Just the facts."
Created by its star, Jack Webb, as a radio show, "Dragnet" had several incarnations as TV series, a movie and an incredibly bad comedy film in the 1980s.
Friday's influence can be seen in every no-nonsense cop on TV and film since, from Lt. Castillo on "Miami Vice" to Horatio Caine on "CSI: Miami."
Photo: Jack Webb as Joe Friday from the TV series "Dragnet," Aug. 1, 1956.
She was from a tiny town in Minnesota, she was naive and she started stories that she couldn't finish. As played by Betty White, Rose Nylund was a something of a goofball, but a lovable goofball and the soul of "The Golden Girls."
Photo: From left, Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur and Betty White from "The Golden Girls."
Capt. James T. Kirk
The captain of the starship Enterprise grew up in Iowa and made his living in space. He fought Klingons, regulations and his own ego. He proved to be such an adept captain - and the youngest ever in Starfleet - that he was made admiral and then reduced in rank to captain because Starfleet wanted him commanding a ship.
Photo: William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk from "Stark Trek."
Lean, mean (not really) and green-blooded, Spock was the calmer, more rational side of Enterprise's officers. In addition to being Kirk's most trusted adviser, he was Kirk's good friend. When Spock dies in "Wrath of Khan," Kirk goes searching for his soul in its sequel, "The Search for Spock."
Photo: Leonard Nimoy as Spock from the TV series "Star Trek."
While the rest of "The Wire" was about the drug war, Bubbles' story was about his struggle with drugs and the toll it took on him, his family and friends.
His struggle with addiction is heartbreaking - the guy wants to do what's right and struggles and fails over and over - but ultimately his story ends happily, one of the few on "The Wire" that does.
Photo: Andre Royo as Bubbles on HBO's "The Wire."
He was bad. So bad. But we loved him. We loved him so much that when he was shot in a "Dallas" season-ending cliffhanger in April 1980, we demanded, "Who Shot J.R.?" all summer.
Photo: Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing from "Dallas"
The cast of "Seinfeld"
"The Contest." "The Yada Yada." "The Soup Nazi." "The Outing." Those episodes are just four reasons why Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer are stamped in our collective consciousness forever.
Photo: The cast of "Seinfeld," Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards, from left.
Since "Mad Men"'s premiere, Peggy Olsen has advanced from secretary to second-in-command creatively at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
Though initially soft-spoken, she gains confidence with each career advancement and begins speaking out about the way women are treated poorly in business in the 1960s.
Her complicated relationships with Don Draper, Pete Campbell and Joan Holloway are another reason people want to watch Peggy week after week.
Photo: Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olsen in a scene from "Mad Men."
Alex P. Keaton
How did the son of hippies living in a college town end up a disciple of Ronald Reagan? Probably because it was in the script.
Alex P. Keaton as portrayed by Michael J. Fox wanted to be smarmy, underhanded and proud of it, but he always managed to do the right thing no matter what the political bent.
Photo: "Family Ties" cast members celebrate their seventh and final season. Scott Valentine, Meredith Baxter, Michael Gross, Brian Bonsall, Michael J. Fox, Justine Bateman and Courteney Cox, from left, May 1, 1989.
Credit: W. Alan Greth/AP
George Jefferson has been called the black Archie Bunker and that makes sense; besides being an intolerant, bigoted schemer, he first appeared as Archie's neighbor in "All in the Family." (They didn't like each other.)
George owned several successful dry cleaning stores in Manhattan, making him one of the first affluent black lead characters on television. And he was funny.
Photo: Isabel Sanford and Sherman Hemsly as Louise and George Jefferson in scene from "The Jeffersons," Sept. 24, 1977.
Stewie, the youngest Griffin, is bent on world domination and matricide and speaks with a strange English-accented madman voice. He's a master of physics. He loves/hates Brian, the family dog. He kills himself in "Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story," therefore negating the entire story that the audience just watched. What's not to love?
Photo: Clockwise from left, Chris Griffin (Seth Green), Peter Griffin (Seth MacFarlane), Lois Griffin (Alex Borstein), Meg Griffin (Mila Kunis), Stewie Griffin (Seth MacFarlane) and Brian (Seth MacFarlane) of "Family Guy."
The cast of "Friends"
Since the series ended it's been acceptable to rip on "Friends" as a show that was trite and silly, and maybe it was.
But you know what? You watched it every week. We all did. And when Rachel got off the plane, you know you were thrilled.
Photo: "Friends" cast: Matthew Perry as Chandler, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe, David Schwimmer as Ross, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel, Courteney Cox Arquette as Monica and Matt LeBlanc as Joey, left to right.
Private detective and Vietnam vet Magnum protected Robin Masters' estate, learned to love its caretaker, Higgins, cracked a bunch of cases and called in every favor he was ever owed. He also killed Ivan, his tormenter in 'Nam. He usually needed his buddies Rick and T.C. to rescue him at some point, which was part of the fun. Great car. Great mustache. Great guy.
Photo: Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum from "Magnum, P.I."
Her father's an idiot. Her brother's a jerk. Her sister doesn't speak and her mother's a worrywart. Lisa Simpson sometimes seems as if she's in the wrong family. She's bright, pragmatic, kind and thoughtful.
That's why it's funny when she occasionally does break character, whether it's rebelling against authority or sneaking out to jam with her idol, "Bleeding Gums" Murphy. As voiced by Yeardley Smith, Lisa is also often the audience surrogate.
Photo: "The Simpsons," Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Marge and Homer, from left.
Credit: AP Photo
The most underhanded and scheming of all the underhanded and scheming Bluths on "Arrested Development," Gob (pronounced "Jobe") was angry that the family lost its money and angrier he wasn't in charge of trying to get it back.
He used his Segway to get around (and knock people over) and actor Will Arnett used his husky voice to give Gob the appearance of menace he didn't actually possess. The guy was a (bad) magician after all.
Best moment? Anytime he did a chicken dance.
Photo: The cast of "Arrested Development": (l-r) Tony Hale, Alla Shawkat, Michael Cera, Jessica Walter, Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, Portia de Rossi, David Cross, and Will Arnett (as Gob Bluth)
In each episode of "Cheers" and "Frasier," Dr. Frasier Crane showed how it was possible to be everything at once, usually within the same episode: Smart, stupid, rational, insane, tolerant and inflexible.
He was at his best when parrying with his brother, Niles, and the many women in his life.
Photo: Grammer - as Crane - pauses a moment after the director calls "cut" after Crane read his final broadcast message in the show's radio station set, March 23, 2004.
One person could make Frasier Crane look downright normal: His brother, Niles. The other Dr. Crane had similar problems but dealt with them even more outlandishly. And like his brother, he was at his best when dealing with women, his off-screen wife, Maris, and of course, Daphne, his father's caretaker.
Photo: David Hyde Pierce and Kelsey Grammer as Niles and Frasier Crane from "Frasier."
Kermit the Frog
No matter how bad your day was, if you ever heard the phrase, "Hi-ho, Kermit the Frog here," you perked up.
The impossibly sunny frog and star of "Sesame Street" and "The Muppet Show" sometimes felt it wasn't so easy being green, but he found the silver lining in everything, even Miss Piggy's hot temper.
Photo: Kermit the Frog in New York, Nov. 11, 2008.
The emergency room pediatrician broke every rule Chicago's County General had, from performing a rapid detox without patient consent to stealing medicine and giving it to patients.
Ross put his patients' well-being ahead of his own and he left County General after one of his many scandals. George Clooney portrayed him with such warmth and conviction that audiences cheered Doug on even when he was doing something that could get him and his colleagues in big trouble.
Photo: George Clooney stars in the fifth season of "ER" as Doug Ross.
Bob Newhart parlayed his gift for playing the perfect straight man into a successful sitcom, "The Bob Newhart Show," in which he played Bob Hartley, a psychologist.
The jokes were mostly character driven and witty, and Newhart seemed content to let his supporting cast have the biggest laughs. Plus, he brought Hartley out of retirement in a clever way: At the end of Newhart's next sitcom, "Newhart," it was revealed that entire show had been a dream of Bob Hartley's.
Photo: Bob Newhart as Dr. Bob Hartley and Peter Bonerz as Dr. Jerry Robinson on "The Bob Newhart Show," from left.
Credit: Scott Stein/CNET
Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver
Beaver had the best intentions but always managed to get into some mild shenanigans that resulted in a mild reprimand from his parents, Ward and June.
It's hard to believe anyone could be so wholesome - especially when shows such as "Mad Men" show the adult, working side of a similar time period - but this is a show from a kid's point of view. And things always got interesting when Beaver's brother, Wally, and Wally's friend Eddie Haskell were around to mix things up.
Photo: Jerry Mathers as Beaver from the series "Leave It To Beaver."
Only one person could keep the gang at Cheers totally in line: Carla. She could get Cliff to shut up and make Norm call home. She was Sam's biggest fan and her love/hate relationship with Diane was the catalyst for many a fight.
Her own life was tough. Her kids were jerks, her ex-husband Nick was a deadbeat and her second husband, Eddie, was a bigamist. Still, she didn't let any of that stuff keep her down and she had a great one-liner for every occasion.
Photo: Rhea Pearlman played Carla on "Cheers."
Credit: CBS/The Early Show
Briscoe had a wisecrack for every occasion, and the occasion was usually a homicide. But he took his work seriously, took chances and was usually exonerated.
When he made mistakes - the recovering alcoholic fell off the wagon and got an ADA killed because of it - he admitted it and he always tried to make it right. He was a grinder, working at a job that he needed as much as it needed him.
Photo: Jerry Orbach as Lennie Briscoe on "Law & Order."
In HBO's "The Wire," some of the characters accepted their fates at the hands of Baltimore's drug war. Not Jimmy McNulty.
This cop broke every rule because he was convinced he was more right than everyone else, and he didn't care about other cops, crime victims or the system - and it was even more apparent when he was drinking, which was often. McNulty's wounded ego is the starting point for many of the show's intricate plots.
Photo: Dominic West as Jimmy McNulty, left, on "The Wire"
Credit: Paul Schiraldi
David Addison (played by Bruce Willis) was a quick-thinking private eye on "Moonlighting" who frequently bickered with his business partner, Maddie (Cybill Shepherd), and talked to the audience. He put Willis and his now-famous smirk on the map.
After David and Maddie slept together on the show and Shepherd took a break when she was pregnant with twins, "Moonlighting" often got by on David's charm alone. Plus, the "taming of the Shrew" episode is great.
Photo: Bruce Willis
He started out as something of a punk and gradually matured into an experienced cattle driver. He solved problems. He had that Clint Eastwood drawl. Awesome.
Photo: Clint Eastwood is shown as Rowdy Yates in the television series "Rawhide" in Hollywood, Ca., on July 30, 1959.
Stephen Colbert, the pompous, right-wing opinion show host, is played by Stephen Colbert, the mild-mannered actor, and it fools a lot of people.
But identity crises aside, Colbert via Colbert pokes fun at all politicians, advocates thinking instead of blindly following, and he's funny while doing it, too. And how many people can introduce a word - truthiness - into pop culture?
Photo: This photo shows U.S. Speedskating executive director Robert Crowley in the left foreground, Olympic gold medalist Dan Jansen and host Stephen Colbert on the set of "the Colbert Report," Nov. 2, 2009.
Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) is smart, funny and doesn't suffer fools, including real-life vice presidents of the United States.
When the fictional character was criticized by the real life VP over her choice to be a single mother, "Murphy Brown" featured successful one-parent families on its news show, "FYI."
Photo: "Murphy Brown" cast, front l-r: Charles Kimbrough, Candice Bergen, Faith Ford; back l-r: Pat Corley, Robert Pastorelli, Joe Regalbuto and Grant Shaud
For countless kids, Doogie Howser was a hero. He was a genius (cool), a doctor (awesome) and a had a great life.
But he was still a kid that we could relate to, dealing with first girlfriends, parents and the growing pains of regular life. He just happened to be brilliant, too. Neil Patrick Harris played him as a guy who wasn't too smart to know he still had a lot to learn.
Photo: Neal Patrick Harris as Doogie Howser, M.D.
Rico Tubbs and Sonny Crockett
They made pink look macho and introduced slouchy deconstructed Italian suits to the masses. They wore loafers with no socks and t-shirts under suits. And, of course, there was stubble.
Oh, and as "Miami Vice" cops, they killed a lot of bad guys, too.
Photo: Philip Michael Thomas as Ricardo Tubbs and Don Johnson as "Sonny" Crocket.
Benjamin "Hawkeye" Pierce
Donald Sutherland played him in the movie, but over 11 seasons on TV, Alan Alda brought a warmth to the character that didn't exist on the big screen.
With all his heavy drinking and practical jokes, he almost made life as a front line army surgeon look fun.
Photo: Alan Alda, sitting left, as Hawkeye, with Wayne Rogers, Gary Burghoff, Loretta Swit, Larry Linville and McLean Stevenson in "M*A*S*H."
He was a cop who assaulted, blackmailed and killed his way through his job. Part of the reason we watched each week was to see if this tortured man would pay for his sins or keep going unstopped.
Photo: Michael Chiklis and Glenn Close in a scene from "The Shield."
Credit: AP/FX Network, Prashant Gupta