Right: Bob D'Amico/ABC; Justin Lubin/NBC
Television's characters inhabit a vast variety of worlds, from the dramatically gritty to the utterly fantastical. And even within those worlds, some individuals see things just a little bit differently. Sweet simpletons, daydreamers and pessimistic philosophizers, these characters process their environments into experiences all their own.
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Kenneth Parcell (30 Rock) Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) is unflappably optimistic, even in the face of Liz Lemon's (Tina Fey) near constant stress and neurosis. It seemed unusual that an NBC page could stay so positive until the episode "Apollo, Apollo," when it was revealed that Kenneth views everyone he sees as a Muppet. That might be enough to make anyone a bit more chipper.
Ralph Wiggum (The Simpsons) Ralph Wiggum is not a smart child, but sometimes the childish innocence that comes with not knowing how the world works garners him great success--at one point, even a joint nomination for president by the Republican and Democratic parties in the 2008 episode "E Pluribus Wiggum."
If there is one character who can compete with 30 Rock's Kenneth to epitomize the sweet simpleton, it's Ralph, although his imaginary leprechaun friend does tend toward pyromania.
Dr. John "J.D." Dorian (Scrubs) Constant daydreaming doesn't seem like a desirable quality in a medical professional, but J.D.'s (Zach Braff) frequent cutaways constitute the core of the humor on Scrubs. Getting lost in pop culture references and flat out absurdities, J.D. regularly drifts away from reality, often to be rudely reawakened by a degrading comment from his reluctant mentor, Dr. Cox.
Abed Nadir (Community) Abed (Danny Pudi) doesn't inhabit the same mental space as the rest of the study group in Community. Instead of living in their world, he often leans over into the zone that we, the viewers, inhabit, breaking the fourth wall and plainly acknowledging the silliness of the show's situations.What Abed lacks in social graces, he makes up for in imagination. He spends one Christmas seeing the world in Claymation. And for a while, he and Troy (Donald Glover) converted one of the bedrooms of their apartment to a Dreamatorium, where they could bring the outlandish scenarios they conceived to life.
Charlie Kelly (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) All of the main characters of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia are total degenerates, but Charlie (Charlie Day) is the odd man out, even among the Paddy's Pub gang. Despite his low intelligence, Charlie boasts an odd ingenuity, devising practical inventions like "Kitten Mittens."
The rest of the Always Sunny gang gets a glimpse into the inner workings of Charlie's mind and the way he views the world when they try to interpret his dream book in the episode "Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats." From Charlie's illiterate pictographs, the gang is able to interpret and recreate wonders such as a "denim chicken" and a bird with teeth.
Rustin Cohle (True Detective) On top of the visual hallucinations he suffers--a lingering effect of his prolonged drug use as a deep cover narcotics agent--Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) subscribes to a grim philosophy that defines the way he sees the world. Through a series of flashbacks and beer can puppets, Cohle illustrates the theory that "time is a flat circle."
While his worldviews seem depressing and often make more straightforward thinkers like his partner Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) uncomfortable, Cohle may yet have some hope. Looking up at the dark night sky in the final scene of the series, he comments that despite the amount of darkness, "the light's winning."