1. Leslie Knope, Parks And Recreation
“We have to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, and work. Or waffles, friends, work. But work has to come third,” says Leslie Knope, with her priorities clearly in order. Amy Poehler’s character is the one character in Parks And Recreation who possesses an unassailable work ethic. Her passion for city government finds her at times even sleeping at her desk as she struggles to find an idea or to hit a deadline. But amid the hustle, Leslie Knope knows how to treat herself: with waffles from Pawnee’s own JJ’s Diner. Rather than syrup, Knope’s usual topping of choice for a stack of Belgian waffles is a mountain of whipped cream. The waffle obsession has become so central to her character that NBC now offers a “Leslie Knope Scented Butter & Maple Syrup Waffle Necklace” for purchase. Guess the network was all out of whipped cream.
2. Ron Swanson, Parks And Recreation
While Leslie Knope’s love of breakfast foods tends toward sweetness, Ron Swanson—her foil and closest friend in the Parks Department—has an equally formidable love of breakfast that skews toward the savory side. Describing himself as “a simple man,” Swanson casts his love of breakfast as a defining trait when he states, “I like pretty, dark-haired women and breakfast food.” Proving he can back up such a claim, Swanson famously cleans out a diner when he requests “all the bacon and eggs you have,” clarifying that he doesn’t just want “a lot” of the greasy spoon’s bacon and eggs—he wants literally all of them.
3. Walter White Jr., Breaking Bad
Although the creators of Breaking Bad might have had grand ambitions for the character of Walter Jr. when the series was first conceived, he eventually came to serve as the hapless naïf who moans in confusion as his family falls apart. But Walter Jr. has one defining characteristic in addition to being clueless: He loves breakfast. Over the course of the show, Walter Jr. is seen downing Cheerios, omelets, bacon, fruit salad, toast—all the American breakfast staples. He asks for pancakes on his birthday, and on Walt Sr.’s birthday, he demands that Skyler arrange the bacon pieces to spell out his dad’s age. (It’s tradition!) He also insists that the difference between Raisin Bran and Raisin Bran Crunch is a meaningful and important one. Junior’s love for the first meal of the day comes to embody his hopeless yearning for a time before Walt started down his dark path. To him, there’s nothing more idyllic than a family gathering for breakfast before starting the day, and Walt Jr. keeps chasing this unattainable ideal of family harmony, almost to the end of the series.
4. Peter Bretter, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Among the many virtues of cereal is that it’s convenient, which is undoubtedly why Jason Segel’s Peter Bretter subsists almost exclusively on the stuff in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. First introduced in sweatpants, wolfing down huge bowls of frosted something-or-others, he is not the type of guy who’s going to put the effort into an omelet. After Bretter’s TV-star girlfriend leaves him, though, even his plastic Froot Loops storage container becomes another painful reminder of their relationship. “She got me this because I would always leave my cereal boxes open and the cereal would get stale,” he blubbers. “Now I have the freshest cereal.” For Bretter, the container is a symbol of his ex’s saintliness, but it’s also evidence of why their relationship failed. Maybe if he had the drive to at least close his own cereal boxes, she wouldn’t have left him.
5-6. Merry and Pippin, The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
The tagalong Hobbits of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation are obsessed with breakfast-style fry-ups. They first enter the story while stealing potatoes from a farm and gathering mushrooms in the woods, clearly with a nice peasant omelet in mind. Later, as they trek cross-country after their mysterious guide, Strider, Pippin is horrified when he isn’t allowed to stop to cook “second breakfast.” Even when they do stop later that night, the Hobbits’ first thought is to get a skillet of “tomatoes, sausages, nice crispy bacon” going, even though their fire alerts the monsters chasing them, and night-breakfast turns into a nearly fatal fight. They’d avoid a lot of hassle if they stuck with lunch meat, bread, and “second sandwich” instead—at least sandwiches can be eaten on the go, and without telltale fires. Merry and Pippin aren’t the only Hobbits with a breakfast obsession, though: In J.R.R. Tolkien’s prequel novel, The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins responds to his isolation in Gollum’s lair by imagining himself “frying bacon and eggs in his own kitchen at home,” and meets exhaustion in Mirkwood forest by dropping “deep in thoughts of bacon and eggs and toast and butter.” All Hobbits are a bit food-obsessed—Tolkien says in The Hobbit that they like six meals a day—and it often seems like they’d prefer at least five of those meals to be breakfast food.
7. Jerry Seinfeld, Seinfeld
As noted by Jason Alexander’s George Costanza, the life of the fictionalized Jerry Seinfeld revolves around two things: “Superman and cereal.” They’re both symbols of the character’s immaturity and are obsessions drawn from Seinfeld’s real life that often feature in his observational comedy. Grape-Nuts contain neither grapes nor nuts, but Jerry’s apartment contained dozens of cereal boxes across Seinfeld’s nine seasons, a signature element of the series’ set design. Cereal isn’t the only component of Jerry’s diet—if it were, there’d be no call for Seinfeld classics like “The Soup Nazi,” “The Chinese Restaurant,” and the black-and-white cookie spiel from “The Dinner Party”—but it is one of the reasons he briefly got engaged at the end of the show’s seventh season. It’s the perfect arrangement—Jeannie (Janeane Garofalo) digs Shredded Wheat and reads Supergirl—until it isn’t. This match, made in the cereal aisle, is undone because the only things Jerry can commit to are George, Elaine, Kramer, Kal-El, and a breakfast of cold flakes or loops.
8. Michael Scott, The Office
Michael Scott is a man of distinguished tastes: He likes having breakfast in bed. However, as a regional manager at a failing Pennsylvania paper supplier, he is not a man of means. And it’s that lack of means that kicks off “The Injury,” which ranks among The Office’s funniest half-hours. A series of unfortunate events begins when Michael, having constructed a makeshift kitchen in his bedroom, accidentally clamps his foot in a George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-reducing Grilling Machine, sandwiching his toes between two hot surfaces and six strips of sizzling bacon. The events of “The Injury” could have been avoided if Michael simply had the foresight to place his Foreman grill on a bedside table or nightstand. Fortunately for viewers of The Office, such is the character’s desire to wake up to the smell of crackling breakfast meats that he forgoes common sense and basic hygiene, leaving the device open and on the floor, like a trap waiting to snap down on the perfect sitcom premise.
9. James Bond, From Russia With Love
Ian Fleming’s books about superspy James Bond linger on his precise idiosyncrasies, emphasizing 007’s British gentlemanliness by casting him as a fussy elitist who likes things just so. The movies’ “shaken, not stirred” instruction for his martinis is only a tiny part of the literary Bond’s highly detailed drink order, and he’s even more obsessive and meticulous about food. Fleming’s From Russia With Love explains: “Breakfast was Bond’s favorite meal of the day. When he was stationed in London it was always the same. It consisted of very strong coffee, from De Bry in New Oxford Street, brewed in an American Chemex, of which he drank two large cups, black and without sugar. The single egg, in a dark blue egg-cup with a gold ring round the top, was boiled for three and a third minutes. It was a very fresh, speckled brown egg from French Marans hens owned by some friend of May in the country. (Bond disliked white eggs and, faddish as he was in many small things, it amused him to maintain that there was such a thing as a perfect boiled egg.) Then there were two thick slices of whole wheat toast, a large pat of deep yellow Jersey butter, and three squat glass jars containing Tiptree ‘Little Scarlet’ strawberry jam; Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade and Norwegian Heather Honey from Fortnum’s. The coffee pot and the silver on the tray were Queen Anne, and the china was Minton, of the same dark blue and gold and white as the egg-cup.” How can someone who has such severe OCD about egg-cup patterns and jam brands survive in a world full of messy, schedule-disrupting spies and terrorists? Maybe that’s why he fights them—to make the world safe for people who need to punctiliously eat the exact same meal from the exact same dishes in the exact same way every day.
10. Christopher Turk, Scrubs
In Christopher Turk’s ideal world, silverware drawers would be transformed into convenient pancake storage compartments. Turk’s love of breakfast extends beyond the morning hours: He exults in “brinner,” a meal of breakfast food eaten at the dinner hour. “I just don’t see what’s wrong with having a nice glass of wine with a pancake,” Turk says. While Scrubs may not have invented the idea, it certainly helped introduce the word “brinner” to the public lexicon. The elusive meal is presented as the Holy Grail of feasts for just about every male member of Sacred Heart Hospital. In the seventh-season episode “My Bad Too,” Turk goes so far as to eavesdrop on Carla to gather notes on what he must do to impress her—and earn a hearty brinner as a reward. Once the meal is on the table, it’s not hard to see why Turk puts in so much effort into earning it. Carla’s brinner features overflowing plates of pancakes, bacon, hash browns, sausages, casserole, toast, and fruit salad served alongside orange juice, milk, coffee, and wine. After hearing of the incongruous feast, even grumpy Dr. Kelso is quick to congratulate Turk on his success. Even Carla’s attempts to seduce her husband are dashed by his preference for a bowl of bacon ice cream. Even with Turk’s hyperactive libido, he admits, “It’s kind of hard to beat brinner.”
11. Special Agent Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks
When a straitlaced FBI agent arrives in the town of Twin Peaks, his first priority is to investigate the murder of prom queen Laura Palmer. His second priority is breakfast. Special Agent Dale Cooper approaches the meal as meticulously as he does a crime scene, highlighting ultra-specific details. Even beyond his signature “damn fine cup of coffee,” Cooper has distinctive breakfast orders. In the series’ first episode, he specifies to the waitress at the Great Northern that he’d like “Two eggs, over hard—I know, don’t tell me, it’s hard on the arteries, but old habits die hard—just about as hard as I want those eggs. Bacon, super-crispy. Almost burned. Cremated.” And before he deconstructs the strange dream he had in the Red Room, Coop orders a “short stack of griddlecakes, melted butter, maple syrup lightly heated, and a slice of ham,” adding that “Nothing beats the taste sensation when maple syrup collides with ham!” Cooper’s childlike joy for a cup of joe and griddlecakes lightened the shadowy milieu of the show and helped solidify actor Kyle MacLachlan as a cult figure.
12. Pee-wee Herman, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
Pee-wee Herman may like the process of breakfast more than he likes eating breakfast. It’s hard to tell from an early scene in Tim Burton’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, in which Paul Reubens’ man-child delightedly watches his elaborate breakfast-making Rube Goldberg device in action. The contraption turns pancakes, bacon, and eggs into a food-face that lands on Pee-wee’s plate. But when it comes to actually enjoying the fruits of his mechanism’s labor, he just pours Mr. T cereal over it, masticates a dry forkful, dabs the corners of his mouth, and walks away. The conversation he conducts with his breakfast (“Good morning, Mr. Breakfast!”) makes it clear that Pee-wee views the morning meal as his friend rather than a source of nourishment. In any case, he rightly pities the fool who doesn’t eat Mr. T cereal.
13. Jethro Bodine, The Beverly Hillbillies
Before Duck Dynasty sullied our love of backwoods rednecks forever, the Clampett clan of The Beverly Hillbillies showed America how to love California’s vision of what Arkansas hillbillies in California might look like, if played by actors from California. Perhaps this confusion is at the root of the Clampetts’ resident hunk-slash-lunk, Jethro Bodine, and his oversized obsession with Corn Flakes. Rather than possum innards over grits (or whatever other exotic Ozark vittle Granny foists on her nouveau-riche household), Jethro prefers a suburban cereal staple served in bowls big enough to act as troughs. Then again, maybe it’s not so odd, seeing as how Kellogg’s was a longtime sponsor of the show.
14. Omar Little, The Wire
Omar Little may be a near-mythic figure in David Simon’s Baltimore of The Wire, but even a feared outlaw knows the importance of a good breakfast before a hard day of robbing drug dealers. Omar’s problem is that his chosen lifestyle sometimes makes it difficult to track down his cereal of choice, Honey Nut Cheerios. One morning while laying low, Omar makes a grocery run (with a gun stuffed into the waistband of his satin PJs), only to find that his local convenience store doesn’t have his favorite in stock. He’s forced to settle for boring old regular Cheerios. Later, living in exile with his lover Renaldo on the beaches of Puerto Rico, Omar learns that even paradise can be lacking: “Your cousins got to find out where they got Honey Nut if they expect us to call this spit o’ land home.”