Just because we love certain characters doesn’t mean that they’re not jerks. In fact, some of them are downright insufferable. Watching their misadventures on television might be a fun way to spend forty-five minutes, but would you really want to take a road trip with them?
This is not to say that they are not layered, complex and well written – although a couple of them most certainly are not. The love for most of these characters is definitely deserved, but the fact remains that they are not good people.
How beloved they are is not only a true testament to the writing, but also to the actors who bring them to life. The words would be absolutely meaningless without actors talented enough to make the characters so engaging.
Whether it’s for escapism, laughs or catharsis, we watch them screw up time and time again. We stick with them anyway, because let’s be honest, everyone knows what it’s like to make poor choices.
For some of these characters, being bad is what makes them so good. Others started out as fine human beings, but were corrupted over time. Certain entries on this list are here simply due to poor writing. Many of them remain lovable, despite being terrible human beings.
Here are 16 TV Characters Everyone Loves Who Are Actually Terrible.
16 Greg House – House
With Dr. Gregory House, what you see is what you get. He avoided patients like whatever plague he was diagnosing, was incredibly rude to anyone he actually deigned to speak to, tormented his only friend, and drove away any woman who ever loved him.
House was an addict in more ways than one. There were the opiates that he could not live without, but House was also hopelessly addicted to solving cases that only he could.
Although his mantra, “Everybody lies” aided him in diagnosing patients, it was also the reason that he couldn’t have any lasting romantic relationships. To him, the truth trumped everything.
House was a formulaic show, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing - it allowed the audience to forget that the incredibly well-written antihero was kind of a terrible person.
Viewers knew he’d say or do something awful, but that in the end, he’d solve the case and we’d forgive him – Hugh Laurie made it pretty impossible to remain angry with the guy.
15 Don Draper – Mad Men
Just because someone is cool, doesn’t mean that he or she is actually a decent human being. Jon Hamm makes Don Draper effortlessly cool, but he is also an undeniably awful husband, father and coworker.
Much like the women in his life, fans were so blinded by Don’s charms that it took several seasons for many viewers to see that the guy is kind of a monster.
Don Draper is a liar, a cheater, an alcoholic, and a narcissist. Sure, he had a difficult childhood, but is that an excuse to serve up a similar fate to his own kids? He’s been unfaithful to both wives so many times that pretty much everyone has lost count. Don may have a talent for the ad game, but he’s also a shark who gets off on humiliating his colleagues.
His complex characterization made it all the more exhilarating to watch him on Mad Men every week, but that doesn’t make him any less of a jerk.
14 Kate Austen – Lost
Let’s just breeze past the fact that Kate Austen (Evangeline Lily) was one of Lost’s most poorly written characters and talk about the fact that she was a jerk.
In the beginning, it’s really easy to root for her, but as her story unfolds, that becomes more and more difficult. Kate destroyed her own life, as well as the lives of several other people, and yet she maintains the belief that she knows what’s best. It seems like every time the character became sympathetic, the writers found a way to remind us that she’s kind of a terrible person.
Kate is selfish, arrogant, and refuses to take responsibility for her actions. She’s constantly going off half-cocked, and letting everyone else pay for her mistakes.
While it is true that plenty of Lost characters could make this list, as they were all deeply flawed human beings, Kate is undoubtedly the worst.
13 Sheldon Cooper – The Big Bang Theory
You can say that The Big Bang Theory isn’t quite as popular as it once was. You can even say that plenty of people think that Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) is the absolute worst. However, there is no denying the large fanbase that remains for both the show and the character. For some reason, people are amused by this rude, arrogant, thoughtless man and always find a way to excuse his behavior.
We hear your argument that Sheldon is a genius and growing up with the burden of his massive intellect has made him incredibly awkward. But even a guy who doesn’t understand social cues is still a grown man that should know how to treat other human beings, especially those closest to him.
Regardless of his abhorrent actions, Sheldon is still such a popular character that his prequel show, Young Sheldon, is already a ratings hit. As long as people keep laughing, we’ll just have to keep putting up with Sheldon’s bad behavior.
12 Dexter Morgan – Dexter
Alright, this one is pretty obvious. The guy spent literally eight years repeatedly telling you what a monster he was, right? Well, he wasn’t wrong.
Fans of the Punisher will most likely argue the need for Dexter’s brand of justice and it was definitely a novel approach to writing an antihero. Still, much like other characters on this list, Dexter Morgan began as fairly easy to sympathize, and Michael C. Hall managed to make him likable despite his murderous predilections.
Over the course of the show however, Dexter became harder and harder to root for as the lines of his code and his “dark passenger” often blurred. Most viewers stuck with him until the end though, which was bad news for everyone.
11 Cristina Yang – Grey’s Anatomy
If we’re being honest, at least half of the characters on Grey’s Anatomy could wind up on this list.
What separates Cristina Yang from the rest of them is her lack of growth over the course of an entire decade. While Meredith may have started out all “dark and twisty”, she eventually evolved into a better person. Cristina never really did. This has nothing to do with her ambition and everything to do with the way that she treats the people around her.
Fans grew up alongside Cristina for ten years and Sandra Oh made it easy for fans to fall for her wit, humor, and drive. However, during that time, her character remained largely stagnant in all aspects, save her career. Plenty of people are driven by that one thing, but not necessarily at the expense of anyone who gets in their way. C
ristina was Meredith’s person, which did humanize her, but aside from that one notable exception, she proved time and time again that she was only out for herself.
10 Michael Bluth – Arrested Development
A great deal of Arrested Development's humor is derived from the sheer awfulness of the characters. However, Michael is supposed to be the best of the Bluths. He certainly thinks he is, at least.
The thing is, “the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together” is really no better than the rest of his selfish, clueless family. He lacks the one thing that keeps them all forever stuck in their ways: self-awareness.
Michael Bluth wants desperately to believe that he is better than his family and feels that he, as the lone voice of reason, is the one person capable of solving all of their problems. The issue there isn’t Michael’s words, but his actions. It’s easy to forget this because Jason Bateman makes him so likable, but he stole his brother’s girlfriend, slept with the teacher his son was in love with, and tried on more than one occasion to break up his sister’s marriage.
9 Oliver Queen – Arrow
If you want to talk about people in Arrow who have “failed this city” let’s go ahead and put Oliver Queen (Steven Amell) right at the top of the list. Sure, he’s a hero, but is he actually a good person? Not so much.
Aside from racking up quite a body count during his tenure as Green Arrow, he’s pretty terrible to the ladies in his life. We won’t even hold the fact that he’s a serial liar against him, because no one would ever say Clark Kent isn’t a nice guy.
Fans accept that Arrow is basically a Batman story, as Ollie shares little in common with his comic counterpart. Still, the guy could learn to treat people better and stop being such a huge control freak.
There's no denying the trail of destruction Ollie has left in his wake over the course of his hero's journey. He also lacks the comic book character’s trademark wit and humor, as well as his political prowess.
8 Olivia Pope – Scandal
Considering her self-proclaimed status as a “white hat”, it’s strange that we’ve never seen Olivia Pope in anything other than shades of grey – although Kerry Washington always looks fabulous in them.
We’re told over and over again that Olivia Pope and Associates are “gladiators” who fight for people who can’t defend themselves. But how often do these ostensibly defenseless people turn out to be filthy rich jerks who pay top dollar to have OPA clean up messes that they made for themselves?
While it is true that Scandal’s first season painted Liv as a champion of the people, in subsequent years, she has grown exponentially less sympathetic. Shall we count the ways? Between her affairs, fixed elections, incessant meddling, and some light murder, that white horse she rode in on has basically been kneecapped.
Good thing season 7 will be the show’s last or there would be no one left to root for Liv - not even her friends.
7 Chuck Bass – Gossip Girl
Considering the introduction of Chuck Bass in Gossip Girl’s pilot, it’s pretty crazy that the guy wound up a fan favorite. In that one episode, he attempts to sexually assault two different women!
Part of his immense popularity is obviously due to Ed Westwick’s undeniable charm, but even still, Chuck Bass isn’t exactly someone to swoon for. In fact, if you come across him, you should probably run in the opposite direction.
Sure, you can argue that his character developed a lot over the course of the show’s six seasons… but you’d be kind of wrong. He slept with his best friend’s very recent ex, and then proceeded to spend the next several years making her life miserable.
Remember when Chuck traded Blair to his uncle in exchange for a hotel? Let's also not forget that when they finally got married, it’s only so Blair couldn't testify against him in court. Isn’t it romantic?
6 Bill Compton – True Blood
Does anyone else struggle to understand why Sookie was so torn between Eric Northman and Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer)?
In fact, Sookie’s relationship with Bill was kind of like viewers’ relationship with True Blood. It began with simple infatuation. The series was like nothing else on TV and for those first two seasons, it – and Bill – could do no wrong. However, as time wore on, the series lost its identity. It wasn’t who we thought it was… and it was not to be trusted.
The same can be said of Bill. Between his monstrous past, petty jealousies, dishonest intentions for getting to know Sookie in the first place, and, oh yeah, trying to kill her, Bill proved that he wasn’t the nicest guy. Season 6 even turned him into an actual villain.
The greatest sin of all? Bill Compton was painfully boring. No wonder Sookie - and the viewers - fell for Eric.
5 The Gang – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Yes, of course, we know that the fun of watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia comes from the fact that its core cast of characters is comprised of completely awful people.
The shock isn’t that the Gang has no redeeming qualities, but rather going back and watching earlier seasons before the writers realized how much more terrible they could be. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen season 1, you’ll be shocked at how much they’ve actually evolved.
Character development is much more associated with dramas than sitcoms, but the It’s Always Sunny cast has progressively gotten worse. Luckily, when it comes to this series, the more unforgivable their actions become, the more fans love to watch.
The Gang has done too many horrible things to list here, but some greatest hits include wearing blackface, pretending to be crippled, and getting poor Rickety Cricket hooked on cocaine.
4 Jordan Catalano – My So-Called Life
Ask many girls who grew up in the ‘90s who their biggest onscreen crush was and the resounding response from just about every single one of them will be, “Jordan Catalano” from My So-Called Life. Was he smart? Nope. Kind? Not so much. Funny? Pretty much never.
However, Jared Leto was so impossibly dreamy that he made Angela – and most girls watching the show – completely overlook all of his glaring character flaws.
Jordan wasn’t exactly great boyfriend material. He ignored Angela in public, tried to push her into having sex when she clearly wasn’t ready, and then slept with her best friend. The moments of true affection Jordan gave Angela hardly made up for his gross mistreatment of her.
Still, one look into those eyes and she just couldn’t find it in her heart to quit him. Neither could the rest of us. Poor Brian Krakow never stood a chance.
3 Annalise Keating – How to Get Away with Murder
Although How to Get Away with Murder is a Shondaland show, it was not created nor is it run by Shonda Rhimes. This is made most apparent by the fact that we learn Annalise Keating is not a good person before we even have the chance to fall for her.
Viola Davis’s magnetic performance keeps us coming back for more, but Annalise is not an easy person to root for. This lawyer is all about winning cases and she doesn’t seem to care if the people she defends are guilty or not. She basically reinforces every lawyer stereotype you've ever heard.
Considering her chosen profession, it’s pretty interesting how little the letter of the law seems to actually matter to her. She is also pretty terrible to her boyfriend.
However, all of that could be forgiven if she wasn’t such a monster to her team. Annalise manipulates them at every turn, both exposing secrets and keeping them, as she sees fit - all in an effort to keep control over her ersatz family.
2 Barney Stinson – How I Met Your Mother
Many fans of How I Met Your Mother will site Barney Stinson as their favorite character. This is due in no small part to the infectious charms of Neil Patrick Harris. No one else could’ve possibly made the aging Lothario quite as lovable.
Still, there’s no denying that Barney was a pathological liar, unfailingly selfish, and painfully thoughtless – not that it made us love him any less.
Yes, a case could also be made for Ted Mosby to wind up on this list, but Barney edges him out. He did evolve over the course of the series, but for every few steps forward, Barney wound up taking another few steps back.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun watching his story unfold, but no one would say that Barney Stinson was a stand-up guy. He may have been there for his close pals, but that hardly makes up for his womanizing ways, which - although funny on the show - wouldn’t have made anyone laugh in real life.
1 Walter White – Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad was a fascinating character study that followed the slow descent of Walter White. According to creator Vince Gilligan, the plan was always “turning Mr. Chips into Scarface” and he definitely accomplished this goal. By the end of the series, Walter White had been all but replaced by Heisenberg.
It’s not as black and white as good and evil, though. Walter White was one of the most complex and well-written characters ever to appear in film or television, and no one could’ve brought him to life like Bryan Cranston.
The sins of Walter White are too numerous to list here, but we all remember the worst of the worst: watching Jane die, poisoning Brock, and giving Jesse to the Aryans, just to name a few.
What began as a way to provide for his family completely spiraled out of control when they became little more than an afterthought. The story may not be simple, but the transformation is so clear and complete that it almost begs the question: was Walt even a good guy to begin with?
Who are your favorite characters who also happen to be terrible people? Let us know in the comments!