-- intro: For six seasons, James Gandolfini shined in the HBO series "The Sopranos" as Tony Soprano -- a complicated mob boss with a capacity for both tenderness and violence. For perhaps the first time in TV history, audiences grew to love a hero who was capable of doing truly descpicable things, and that's been the case with these TV characters who followed in Soprano's footsteps.
title: Omar Little, "The Wire" text: The HBO drama "The Wire" was full of complex characters, including drug-dealing gangs and the cops who were out to get them. But perhaps the most beloved was Omar Little, a heat-packing, humming criminal who lived by a strict moral code (played by Michael K. Williams). Did he kill people? Sure. Was he frightening? Of course. Did that matter in the hearts of viewers? Hardly. media:19446390
quicklist: 2 title: Dexter Morgan, "Dexter" text: The main character of the Showtime series, Dexter Morgan, played by Michael C. Hall, was raised by a cop, and, like Soprano and Little, lives life by certain rules. Among them: Evildoers should be severely punished. In short, Dexter kills killers--and no one seems to mind a bit. In fact, Hall has won a Golden Globe and a SAG award for the role. media:19446488
quicklist: 3 title: Walter White, "Breaking Bad" text: A teacher turned meth dealer, Walter White has become more and more evil as the AMC drama progresses, and even actor Bryan Cranston, who has won a bevy of awards for the part, credits Gandolfini for the character's success. "He was a great talent and I owe him," he told ABC News in a statement. "Quite simply, without Tony Soprano, there is no Walter White." media:19446478
quicklist: 4 title: Nicholas Brody, "Homeland" text: A POW turned terrorist turned, well, who knows, Nicholas Brody has proven that despite his evil inclincations at times, he's able to win the heart of Claire Danes' CIA operative Carrie Mathieson -- and Showtime viewers as well. As if that's not enough? It's earned actor Damian Lewis an Emmy and a Golden Globe. media:19446510
quicklist: 5 title: Nucky Thompson, "Boardwalk Empire" text: Steve Buscemi, who worked with Gandolfini on "The Sopranos," has taken the lead on another HBO drama with great results. As Nucky Thompson, a corrupt politician in Atlantic City, Buscemi plays a gangster who's capable of great ruthlessness and yet manages to appeal to the masses.The same goes for his contemporaries: He's won a Golden Globe and a SAG award for his performance. media:19446467
quicklist: 6 title: Jackie Peyton, "Nurse Jackie" text: She won a ton of awards alongside Gandolfini as Carmela Soprano, but Edie Falco's performance as a drug-addled nurse in the Showtime show "Nurse Jackie" has also earned her acclaim. She's earned a Emmy and a bevy of other nominations for the part.
quicklist: 7 title: Starbuck, "Battlestar Galactica" text: A quick-tempered, cocky fighter pilot, Kara "Starbuck" Thrace, played by Katee Sackhoff, can be insubordinate and get herself into trouble -- but she remained one of the most popular characters in the sci-fi series. media:19446284
quicklist: 8 title: Don Draper, "Mad Men" text: On the surface, Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm, is a family man, but fans of the AMC show know that underneath, he's a deeply conflicted man who doesn't exactly value fidelity. Still, the role has skyrockted Hamm to the A-list, and earned him a Golden Globe and a number of other nominations. media:19446597