TV characters beam in and out of our lives every week, which allows viewers to develop something of a rapport. Beloved roles begin to feel like old friends, and as their lives evolve and change, so do our own. Even so, TV inherently has a voyeuristic quality—much of the joy derived from watching a show comes from a sick fascinating in just watching people behave (see: reality television). That barrier between the viewer and the character creates a sort of safe zone—no matter the behavior of the character, the audience is always spared. For those reasons, watching a character can be a lot of fun, even if said character would drive anyone crazy in real life.
Which brings us to this bunch. Find herein a litany of beloved, even iconic characters who will forever continue to amuse audiences with their antics and adventures. In the real world, however, they’d likely drive anyone around them crazy. Conspiracies? Murders? Dropping Junior Mints into the surgical cavity of a friend? It might make for great TV, but in life, people would have to resist punching these folks in the face! Have a look at our list of 15 Beloved TV Characters You’d Never Want to Meet in Person!
15. Fox Mulder/X Files
Dashing, sexy, smart—and annoying as hell, Fox Mulder gave The X-Files heart with his never ending search for his abducted-by-aliens sister. Though geeks—male and female—have long swooned over Mulder and his quixotic pursuits (see also… or hear, anyway… Bree Sharp’s song “David Duchovny”), spending any time with a real-life Mulder would probably have fans praying for intervention by the Smoking Man!
A real Mulder would probably put off people with his untidy disposal of poppy seeds, love of pornography and taste in eccentric friends. That also says nothing of his constant proposal of weird and outlandish theories to explain everything from murder to malfunctioning computer equipment! The series always accepted Mulder’s behavior as one of the conceits to the show, not to mention his employment with the FBI. If a real agent ever spent the amount of cash that Mulder did on investigations only to end up blaming aliens, vampires, ghosts or whatever else, he’d lose his badge very quickly. Give Scully credit for her patience!
14. Jessica Fletcher/Murder She Wrote
Few audiences could ever resist Angela Lansbury, the tweedy, vibrant actress who embodied author Jessica Fletcher over 12 seasons of Murder, She Wrote. Credit Lansbury for making the show work during its run, because a real Jessica Fletcher would have people fleeing for their lives. In virtually every entry of the 200+ episode series, somebody drops dead, leaving Jessica to catch a murderer.
In real-life terms, Jessica would, no doubt, need heavy duty psychological counseling since death seems to follow her everywhere. After the first season, no doubt her friends and loved ones would stop inviting her to parties, vacations and the like to save their own skins. Granted, Jessica did always catch the culprit by the end of the episode. Still, that wouldn’t much comfort wary acquaintances not wanting to end up dead, or get wrongfully accused of murder—another bad habit investigators on the show used to make. Jessica Fletcher might be a nice lady, but if she comes calling, lock the door!
13. Patty Hewes/Damages
Glenn Close made Patty Hewes, the unscrupulous, conflicted and ruthless lead attorney of Damages into an irresistible anti-hero. Patty never shied away from violence, coercion, blackmail, lies or…well, anything to win a case, right down to trying to have her friends and law associates killed! That alone gives reason enough to not want to hang around Ms. Hewes, no matter what!
Granted, Patty makes one Hell of a lawyer—the kind anyone would want on their side during a case. Still, even her legal cunning cannot absolve her of trying to murder her longtime legal protégé Ellen on multiple occasions, nor can it expunge her threats against her own son’s life! To know Patty Hewes in real life would be like strapping a target to your chest, sending the IRS a picture of you stacking cash in a safe and threatening a mob hitman all at the same time. In other words, no matter what, it would end badly.
12. Steve Urkel/Family Matters
Family Matters’ Steve Urkel marks the rare case where a one-off character proves so popular, he gets added to the main cast of the show. Even more shocking, Urkel proved popular enough that the producers eventually retooled the entire series to be about his character!
As played by actor Jaleel White, Urkel embodied a new level of nerddom: wearing suspenders, hiked-up pants, knee socks and a pair of thick glasses, his nasal voice and social ineptitude endeared him to the audiences of the day. Urkel become nothing short of a cultural phenomenon, boosting ratings of Family Matters, spawning a spin off talking doll line, and an actual dance craze. Whatever that says about the culture of the time is another matter…
Just as Urkel drove the Winslow family mad—and just about anyone else—on the show, so would he drive anyone in the modern age nuts. As a sort of reverse of several characters on this list, instead of ending up dead, anyone who spent time with him would probably end up accused of murdering Urkel!
11. Homer Simpson/The Simpsons
Homer Simpson might just be the funniest character ever created for television. Tender-hearted, smelly, dumb and prone to life-threatening accidents, he might make a great friend on The Simpsons, but in real life, if he didn’t accidentally get his friends killed, they’d likely end up maimed at the very least.
For confirmation, look no further than the Season 8 episode “Homer’s Enemy.” The writers of The Simpsons, very conscious of Homer’s larger-than-life history, decided to provide a meta commentary on the character by introducing him to Frank Grimes, a man firmly based in our universe (even if he was animated). Homer’s luck and oblivious recklessness drove Frank crazy, right down to the point that he electrocuted himself just to prove a point. That Homer couldn’t even remember Frank shortly thereafter testifies to both his ridiculousness, and his selfish wherewithal. Homer may look and sound like a riot to hang out with, but in reality, nobody on Earth could possibly stand a man so clueless.
10. Anyone from the cast of GIRLS
Girls won acclaim for a realist portrayal of young women and their exploits. If that’s the case, we’re in real trouble.
Girls epitomizes a generation of mentally stunted, entitled and spoiled women and men, while also lionizing them as generational heroes. Have there ever been so many narcissistic, vapid characters to populate a TV show before? Girls purports to show a realistic take on 20-somethings living in New York City, yet the show has a decided lack of people of color, and makes virtually no comment on the city’s class and economic divides. The show easily could do all those things, much as another show with four white, female leads—Sex and the City—did far more often: make the characters aware of their environment. The women of Girls, however, are so clueless, so oblivious to the world outside their upper class lives, that they can’t even see how good they have it!
No doubt plenty of women like those portrayed on Girls do exist in the world, and no doubt the show’s loyal fans somehow identify with the leading characters of Hannah, Adam, Shoshana, et. al. as old friends. Here’s a newsflash though: if any of the fans of Girls ever met their beloved characters, they’d have a shocking realization. Those characters are not their friends. In fact, they’re kind of awful people.
9. Eric Cartman/South Park
Speaking of awful people, what characters could possibly rival Eric Cartman as one of the most lovable—if vile—characters to ever waddle across TV screens? Cartman represents something of a cultural id: brash, selfish, snarky and unfeeling, he says and does whatever comes to mind without any self-censorship. That makes him a great deal of fun to watch, even if he’d be totally obnoxious in real life. Throughout South Park’s soon to be 20 year run, Cartman abuses and manipulates everyone around him, at times for his own objectives, and others just to amuse himself. Seldom does he ever have any real comeuppance, even if his fat—or big boned—figure makes him a subject of ridicule in his own right. Cartman has no limits, which is partially why audiences love him so much. He says what he feels without any regret. At the same time, however, Cartman abuses his friends to the point of absurdity. Being around him wouldn’t be fun for anyone!
8. Rose Nylund/The Golden Girls
One of my fellow writers here at ScreenRant referred to Rose Nyulnd of The Golden Girls as her “sprit animal.” She has good reasons for saying as much. As magnificently embodied by Betty White, Rose Nylund played the heart of the Golden Girls foursome. Pretty, effervescent and confident, she did, however, take stupidity to new highs… or lows, depending on how you look at it.
Though a true friend and bastion of energy, Rose more than irritated her three roommates with her nincompoop behavior, idiocy and constant recollections of her hometown, St. Olaf. Though a joy to watch, spending time with Rose in real life would grate the nerves, as it obviously did for her three best friends who started hitting her with newspapers to cope. Anyone who can make three nice old ladies turn violent obviously has some issues, and though Rose had her share of endearing qualities, her annoying habits would drive anyone nuts.
7. Hannibal Lecter/Hannibal
Hannibal Lecter’s inclusion here is pretty self-explanatory. While debonair, articulate and charming, Lecter also enjoyed playing psychological games with those around him. Oh, and he was also a sociopathic killer who enjoyed dining on the corpses of his victims. At least he didn’t let them go to waste…
The cultural love of Hannibal Lecter is something of a paradox. He somehow manages to personify pure animalistic evil, but has the charm enough that people don’t seem to mind that he tortures, murders and often serves his victims to unwitting friends as special dinners. Lecter’s prowess and cunning make him an irresistible character to watch though, and though he is a psychopathic serial killer, at least he can hold an interesting conversation! Should any of his fans meet him in person though, no doubt they’d enjoy a fine chat and a delicious meal before ending up eviscerated and butchered before getting served to Hannibal’s next group of guests!
6. Data/Star Trek: The Next Generation
Dear, dear Data: the official science officer of the Enterprise-D, childlike in his innocence, and totally irritating in his behavior. Data’s fellow crewmates (ok, Dr. Pulaski notwithstanding, but then, who cares about her anyway) all adore the ultra-smart android, even if he drives them all crazy. Consider the time he took dance lessons from Dr. Crusher and mastered every step she showed him in a matter of seconds. The good doctor’s lifetime of dance suddenly became a bit less impressive. Or recall Data’s attempts at dating and courtship—not to mention the time he lost his virginity to Lt. Yar. None of his relationships lasted since he never had sexual impulses of his own, and because he could never really understand them in others either.
Though brilliant, Data never quite could understand basic human interaction. That gave him the aforementioned sense of childish innocence, but made him more than a bit annoying from time to time. No doubt plenty of Star Trek fans would kill to meet the real android. They might later regret their wish.
5. Walter White/Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad became a hetero-male fantasy: emasculated and put-upon working man becomes wealthy drug czar, and in the process totally transcends societal customs. He also went bat-guano crazy.
Breaking Bad won a broad and devoted fanbase thanks to the strong writing of the show, its premise and a brilliant performance by actor Bryan Cranston. Over the course of the show’s five seasons, White transforms from a heroic husband and father into something sinister. Though he began as a kindly, if desperate, science teacher, by the end of the show Walter has become a ruthless murderer—the kind of criminal he would have once despised. Though it makes for great TV, the Greek tragedy of Walter White would make for tough living, to say the least, including for everyone around him. No doubt eager fans who yearned to live the exiting Breaking Bad life would find themselves mutilated, drug-addled or dead!
4. Patsy Stone/Absolutely Fabulous
Sweetie darlings! Former model and magazine fashionista Patsy Stone epitomizes the superficial woman. Fond of promiscuous sex, plastic surgery and just about any mind altering substance, Patsy manages to take advantage of everyone around her, especially her best friend Edina. Patsy loves to encourage Edina’s most selfish and self destructive impulses, supplying her with drugs and alcohol while threatening Edina’s daughter Saffron.
Fans love watching Patsy’s antics, whether she’s waking up on a garbage barge with a hangover, seducing a married PM or accidentally setting Edina’s house on fire after falling asleep with a lit cigarette. While not as completely selfish as a number of other characters listed here, Patsy Stone’s ruthlessness and uncensored hatred can make her a royal pain. No doubt spending time with her would result in a constant hangover, punctuated by extravagant purchases of ugly clothes. That she and Edina have managed to survive so many years of boozing and drug use testifies to the tenacity of both women, and their utter devotion to one another. Still, life with Ms. Stone would be one bitter pill to swallow.
Fans of the BBC hit Sherlock love to watch their beloved, updated Sherlock Holmes as he solves cases with his smartass flippancy. Audiences love Sherlock, because, like Hannibal Lecter, he possesses a seemingly omniscient sense of observation, and because he always manages to solve a case. The real attraction, though: viewers love that Sherlock can get away with just about anything, including abuse of his friends.
Poor Mycroft and Watson! Both are brilliant men of good character in their own right, and both have the patience of saints. Putting up with Sherlock’s idiosyncrasies drives them both nuts, though like Sherlock’s audiences, they keep coming back for more. Sherlock—by his own admission—aspires to be a sociopath, suppressing his own emotions, acting rude to everyone around him and unable (or unwilling) to pay any mind to the emotions of his friends. Sherlock does care about his brother and flat mate in his own way, at least to the extent he can. That said, that either man can even tolerate the World’s Greatest Detective for more than a few minutes is nothing short of miraculous.
Anyone who watched the show Dexter knows why the titular character fits here. Though loyal to his friends, charming, handsome and intelligent, he’s a serial killer. Not just any serial killer either—over the course of the show’s eight seasons, Dexter offs dozens and dozens of victims, enough to make him one of the most prolific killers in history. That also happens to make him a lot of fun to watch, in part because he, like Hannibal Lecter, will only kill people who offend him, or that somehow offend his morals, however shaky they may be. Still, even if fans assume Dexter would not try to kill them, they’d have to put up with his withdrawn, emotionally stunted personality. Granted, Dexter does evolve as a character over the course of the show, eventually becoming a loving husband and father. Still, his “hobby” makes him irrefutably repulsive, and a frightening beast to tolerate.
Does he ever knock? As played by Michael Richards, Cosmo Kramer became the breakout character of Seinfeld, and remains a legend long after the show’s demise. Eccentric, to say the least, Kramer manages to afford living in New York without a job or any discernible skills. He also manages to wreak havoc on the lives of his friends. Recall the time he invited them to a dinner party where he served food he’d prepared while in the shower! Another time he opened a hostel for Asian tourists, whom he made sleep in drawers. That one of the drawers got stuck with someone inside goes without saying… Oh, and once he gave his friend George defective condoms. Things could have ended very badly on that one.
Though a laugh riot, Kramer would drive people crazy in real life. Irresponsible, selfish, and just plain weird, he’d try the patience of anyone he encountered, possibly while endangering their lives.
Anyone we missed? Let us know in the comments!