While nowhere near as great as the shows of the aughts, the 1990s brought us some of the greatest television in history. From long-running series like Seinfeld to Friends to short-lived series like Twin Peaks, audiences were introduced to some of the most memorable and unique TV characters they had ever seen. But not all memories are pleasant ones. Even the best shows of all time have characters that are uniformly despised by audiences, or characters that resonate for all the wrong reasons.
There are myriad reasons why certain characters rub audiences the wrong way and become hair-pullingly annoying every time they appear on screen. Sometimes they’re straight up troublemakers, total ne’er do wells that bring a special kind of horrible and troubling chaos with them everywhere they go. Other times, they just don’t mesh well with audience expectations, or they don’t fit well within the show’s structure. Of course, they could just possess a boatload of annoying qualities that are impossible for the masses to overlook or ignore. And for some reason, it seems as though the ’90s were a decade in which loathsome characters were ubiquitous. To back this up, we’ve made a list compiled of 15 ‘90s TV Characters Everyone Hated:
15. Wesley Crusher – Star Trek: The Next Generation
At the San Diego Comic-Con in 2010, Wil Wheaton polled fans in attendance, asking them whether they, contrary to popular opinion, actually liked Wesley Crusher. He received a rousing round of cheers in response, arguably providing a bit of tangible evidence that the teenaged ensign he played on Star Trek: The Next Generation wasn’t as unanimously hated as most would have you believe. That could be true, but we think maybe the audience might have been telling him what he wanted to hear, just a little bit.
It wasn’t so much that Wesley was booed and hissed by everyone in the world—it was the way he was loathed by diehard fans of the series. When hardcore Trekkies accepted virtually every other character on TNG except Wesley, well, that’s very telling. Fans of the show found Crusher to be a bit of a know-it-all, an obnoxious teenager who didn’t belong on a spaceship full of seasoned pros. The hatred of Wesley Crusher may have been unjust, but it certainly was there.
14. Kimmy Gibbler – Full House
Talk about obnoxious. Or, rather, what an obnoxious talker. On Full House, Kimmy Gibbler, the childhood pal of DJ Tanner, gave new meaning to what an obnoxious next-door neighbor was. Every time she entered a room and started spewing ridiculousness, she became a mosquito in the eyes and ears of viewers. Her attitude was bad enough by itself, but she was always dragging DJ down and getting her into trouble episode after episode, which easily made her the show’s most unlikable character.
Even her greeting was annoying. Every time she came barging through the Tanners’ front door (always sans etiquette, usually uninvited) she would holler “Hola, Tanneritos!” as both a hello, and a way to announce herself. Needless to say, whenever Kimmie came over, TGIF suddenly stood for: That Girl is Foul.
13. Emily – Friends
Of course, we were never meant to really like Emily. Her primary purpose as a character was to get in the middle of the show’s (and one of the decade’s) most beloved couples. Monica and Chandler were great and all, but Ross and Rachel were THE couple whose story drove Friends. So when Ross met, fell for, and proposed to Emily after only knowing her for a few weeks, fans just couldn’t handle it.
There was also the fact that Emily was a hyper-controlling British Regina George. Ross was constantly trying to impress her (super violent rugby match, anyone?) and when she demanded that he never speak to Rachel ever again, that was it; fans had had enough. Fortunately, her marriage to Ross didn’t last long, but fans of the show still remember her. Just not in a particularly good way.
12. Dawson Leery – Dawson’s Creek
Dawson Leery was not a protagonist fans rallied around. He was whiny, pouty, he constantly pined for the wrong people, and he made his best friend — Pacey a wisecracking rogue who had an affair with their teacher — look way attractive by comparison. His absolute failure to see that a) the super smart, adorable, awesome Joey had a major thing for him, and b) maybe he should be with Joey instead of Jen, who he barely knew because she just moved in…well, that whole thing was infuriating, and it got Dawson off to a bad start with audiences.
Fans could never get over his inability to make a decision regarding virtually everything in his life—he was like a bad Shakespearean character that just whined out soliloquy after soliloquy before making the exact wrong decision. Thus, fans of the series found themselves rooting for virtually every other character on the show.
11. Sydney Andrews – Melrose Place
Like Dawson, Sydney (Laura Leighton) and audiences also got off to a bad start. She showed up in LA out of the blue after she dropped out of college, and she immediately asked her big sis Jane (Josie Bissett) if she could bunk at her house for a few days. Jane, because she was a decent human, agreed, and before the episode was over, Sydney was randomly showing up at Jane’s workplace, trying to ingratiate herself to Jane’s boss, and asking her sister to lie to their parents about her whereabouts.
Later on the series, Sydney’s schemes only worsened, and she hit a new low when she pursued (then slept with) her sister’s ex-husband Michael. “I think you’re trying to steal my life,” Jane told her once, not remotely inaccurately. Syd may have found some redemption as a character towards the series’ end, but the damage was already done.
10. Claudia Salinger – Party of Five
Forget that Claudia was a fast-talking wiseacre with opinions about everything. The second-to-youngest Salinger was always meddling in her elder siblings’ problems, sometimes inadvertently doing way more harm than she meant to. Take the time Claudia called the parents of Charlie’s twenty-something fiancée Kristen in response to a lecture Charlie gave her about the importance of parenting. Claudia didn’t get that Kristen was clearly clinically depressed, and the interference of her parents only made matters worse for everyone. Her tendency to act out in ways like this made her antics—and her—unbearable at times.
9. Emily Valentine – Beverly Hills 90210
Audiences disliked Emily (Christine Elise) immediately when she started dating Brandon and Dylan—the show’s two huge heartthrobs—at the same time, when everyone knew she was the soulmate of neither. She became one of the most hated characters of the decade when she went off the rails, spiked Brandon’s drink with the rave-y drug U4EA (pronounced euphoria), and then began stalking him and sending death threat letters to the school newspaper when he refused to hang out with her.
It was a total Fatal Attraction-type scenario—she even snuck into Brandon’s bed as he slept, and called his house to purposely leave risqué messages for his parents to hear on the family’s answering machine (ah, ‘90s technology!). Emily moved away shortly after all the stalking and harassing, and even though she reappeared in a later episode, she never managed to resonate with audiences. Wonder why?
8. Angelica Pickles – Rugrats
Anyone who turned Nickelodeon on in the ‘90s knows that Ms. Angelica Pickles was arguably the biggest animated brat ever. No one — not child, adult, animal, vegetable, or mineral — was immune to her lies or manipulations. The things she did to Chuckie alone on Rugrats were worthy of her inclusion on this list.
Remember that time she made everyone believe that poor Chuckie was an alien? Or that time she persuaded him that the world and everyone in it would be better off without him, which led to his running away from home? Re-watching Rugrats as an adult can be horrifying and uncomfortable when viewed through the lens of her antics. Angelica was a force to be reckoned with, for sure, and she was one we loved to hate, but that love didn’t make the hate any less real.
7. Steve Urkel – Family Matters
The thing about Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) was that he made Kimmy Gibbler look like a fun alternative in the friend and neighbor department. Arguably one of the more well-known TV characters to emerge from the decade, Urkel was disliked largely because he couldn’t do, say, or even wear anything that wasn’t over the top. If he turned the oven up too high, he couldn’t just say that he burned some muffins. Instead, he would respond like this: “Well, ya see, we had a little muffin mayhem. A small gastronomic goof up. A minor Betty Crocker boo boo.” Yeah. We get the point.
There was also his unhealthy obsession with Laura—there are laws against the level of stalking he’s into, and many of his romantic gestures weren’t romantic so much as creepy. And don’t even get us started on the Urkel Dance, which, once seen, cannot be unseen.
6. Marcy Rhoades – D’Arcy, Married with Children
Married with Children’s resident neighbor from Hell, Marcy D’Arcy (who was Marcy Rhoades before she remarried) wasn’t a bad person; she just wasn’t a very likable one. She would randomly show up on the Bundy’s doorstep for no other apparent reason other than to throw insults at them, and she wasn’t much nicer to her dimwitted-yet-well-meaning husbands, either.
Perhaps Marcy was so disliked because she often served as a roadblock to Peggy and Al—often literally. In the two-parter “You Better Shop Around,” Peg and Al squared off against Marcy and her husband Jefferson in a Supermarket Sweep-style competition that involved loads of sabotage and led to Al literally running Marcy over with his shopping cart to end her reign of terror in the episode. Much to Al’s (and viewers’) chagrin, it didn’t quiet Marcy D’Arcy for long.
5. Dr. Peter Benton – ER
Not every doctor on this now classic medical drama was as smooth as George Clooney’s sweet talking pediatrician. Dr. Peter Benton (Eriq La Salle) was a classic case of the teacher who pushed his students way too hard, and the results were often tough to watch. In the series’ first few seasons, Benton was everything but kind to young and inexperienced med student John Carter (Noah Wyle) and his abrasiveness was off-putting and divisive. But it was his treatment of surgical intern Dennis Gant (Omar Epps) in season three that really made audiences cringe.
Benton berated Gant in front of the hospital staff on multiple occasions, and he was unreasonably hard on him. When Gant buckled under the various pressures he was facing and committed suicide, Benton felt responsible, and viewers couldn’t help but agree with him. Benton eventually developed a solid bond with Carter, and he was an incredibly complex character, but many fans couldn’t quite get over his actions in the first three seasons.
4. Stuart Minkus – Boy Meets World
Stuart Minkus (Lee Norris) made the school bully (Frankie Stechino) seem way less annoying by comparison, because Frankie was actually a cool guy underneath his gruff exterior. Minkus, however, never really knew humility or modesty. He was a know-it-all who loved being right so much that he went to the nurse when he incorrectly answered a question in class. His haughtiness was so over the top, it’s a good thing he wasn’t around that long.
Due to the aforementioned abrasiveness, Cory and Shawn wished that he would disappear, and because characters in Boy Meets World tended to disappear at random, he did, and he didn’t reemerge until the gang graduated. Minkus showed up on Girl Meets World as Farkle’s father, and fortunately, he’s a lot more palatable as an adult than he was in middle school.
3. Newman – Seinfeld
Postal workers have rarely been so annoying or grating on the soul. Another nefarious neighbor, Newman (Wayne Knight) gave new meaning to the word obnoxious during his tenure as Jerry’s resident enemy. He tried to get Jerry evicted, tried to get him accused of mail fraud, and successfully infested his apartment with fleas. This list is full of awful neighbors, but Newman is definitely the worst of the bunch. He wasn’t even likable when he was sneaking Kramer delicious, forbidden fried chicken!
“The mail never stops,” he once told Jerry. “It just keeps coming and coming and coming, there’s never a let-up. It’s relentless. Every day it piles up more and more and more…” True. But he may as well have been talking about himself.
2. Screech – Saved by the Bell
A list about reviled TV characters wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of Saved by the Bell‘s Samuel “Screech” Powers. Annoying know-it-all nerdy types are all over this list, and Screech is near the top for good reason—he may have provided the blueprint for the stereotypical annoying geek. Whether he was dressing up as a cleaning lady named Sinead O’Connor or digging up an entire beach looking for buried treasure, everything he does is annoying. But one thing in particular puts him over the top.
Screech’s incessant pestering of Lisa in an attempt to woo her made Pepé Le Pew look tame by comparison. It’s never fun watching people relentlessly pursue the opposite sex, especially after they’ve been refused 100 times, and Screech was the king of fruitless, relentless pursuit. He was also prone to announcing privileged information for all to hear, often embarrassing one or several of his friends in the process, or devastating someone with the loud reveal of a secret. On a show full of ridiculous characters and situations, we just couldn’t abide Screech.
1. Ross Gellar – Friends
Sure, he was one-half of one of TV’s all-time great couples in Ross-and-Rachel, but on his own, Ross Gellar (David Schwimmer) was pretty loathsome at times. There’s the list he made comparing Julie to Rachel as though they were cattle at a live auction. Then, there’s the whole “We were on a break” issue in which he basically cheated on Rachel and acted like it was her fault, because, you know, semantics. Very mature. And his battles with a pair of leather pants and self-tanner (both of which he lost. Badly.) didn’t really endear him to us as much as make us roll our eyes. He also had a long-running arc where he basically lost his mind midway through the series, so that didn’t help.
Friends was a fantastic show, and Ross had some great moments with Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel, but for those who feel that the show or his character were too popular to warrant his spot here, we have one word for you: “Pivot.”
Did we miss any of the loathsome stars of ’90s TV? Let us know in the comments.
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