Television is pretty incredible because it connects us to fictional characters that can become inspirations and role models in our lives (Leslie Knope, anyone?). We can feel an intimate sense of connection to these characters and even grow protective of them. But for every character who is a role model, there is another whose actions or presence on our screens immediately incites a visceral reaction from us. A character so irritating that they cause our blood to boil and our teeth and fists to clench. Or, you know, make us question whether we should even keep watching the shows they’re on. These are not necessarily characters who are “bad guys” or who do evil things. They can be sidekicks, heroes, even the lead character of a show– anyone whose onscreen choices and behavior are just too frustrating to watch.
Here are 16 of the most insufferable characters on television in 2016.
16. Sheldon Cooper – The Big Bang Theory
Though Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) has evolved since the pilot episode of The Big Bang Theory, the truth remains that we’re not entirely sure why anyone on the show is still willingly friends with him. Parsons has played Sheldon Cooper as if he is on the autism spectrum — though it has been debunked by the show that the character has Asperger’s — which would explain some of his more extreme, irritating characteristics (his obsession with order and structure, his fear of change, etc.)
But it is his treatment of other characters that makes Sheldon Cooper so insufferable, specifically the way that he undermines the accomplishments of Howard (Simon Helberg) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and consistently dismisses Amy (Mayim Bialik). Sheldon keeps making the same mistakes and acting callously toward others. It is this consistent dismissal of people and their feelings, with very few lessons sticking or seeming to be learned, that truly makes Sheldon a grating character.
15. Rachel Zane – Suits
Though Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle) has improved since her fiancé Mike (Patrick J. Adams) has been imprisoned, she spent the majority of this year on Suits firmly being defined by the word “insufferable.” When she is at her best, Rachel is an ambitious character who never takes no for an answer. She is driven, often to the point of obsession, and devoted to her work. Unfortunately, most of this year in Suits has seen Rachel utilizing those qualities in a detrimental way. She became delusional about her future with Mike, and consistently acted entitled (especially when it came to the relationship with her parents) even though she had no right to be, since she was a co-conspirator in Mike’s fraud.
Rachel’s obsession with being right all of the time is what makes her irritating, and in her quest to be right, she often tears down or dismisses other people including Jessica (Gina Torres) and Donna (Sarah Rafferty). Rachel Zane 2.0 seems to be a vast improvement — she has begun to learn to take responsibility for her own actions and fix her problems rather than wallow in them. Hopefully this character progression will only continue.
14. Samantha – Arrow
A character who was only briefly introduced in Arrow this year somehow still is one of the most insufferable of all. Samantha (Anna Hopkins) debuted as the baby mama to Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell). Her limited presence before the reveal that she kept the child didn’t allow audiences to connect with her or her journey. So when Samantha presented Oliver with an extreme ultimatum — he could not tell anyone, not even his soon-to-be-fiancée Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) that he had a child, it was bewildering and maddeningly frustrating for viewers. Oliver listened to Samantha and obeyed her demand, without any real argument or counterargument for that matter. Her lack of reasoning for implementing this rule, apart from the brief and elusive “to protect my son” was confusing at worst and frustrating at best. Her attitude toward the other characters in the series, including the father of her child, makes her eye roll-inducing.
13. Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold – Once Upon A Time
Out of all of the characters on Once Upon A Time, it is most baffling that the heroes haven’t yet killed Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle). And his character remains the most insufferable of all, because no matter what — whether he is dealing with family or foes — Rumple is always only thinking of himself. That is what makes his relationship with Belle (Emilie de Ravin) so toxic. Everything that he does in relation to her is done under the guise of helping them and securing a better future. But the truth is that everything Rumple does is for his own good and his own power.
His double and triple-crossing of the other characters, as well as his ability to kill, imprison, or maim anyone who stands between him and his goal is what truly makes him a morally ambiguous character who skews — more often than not — into the territory of “villain.” With countless chances to change his ways and countless refusals to do so, Rumple remains the most irritating pseudo-villain in Once Upon A Time.
12. Danny Castellano – The Mindy Project
When The Mindy Project debuted, Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) was the jerk who brashly and unapologetically insulted Mindy Lahiri’s (Mindy Kaling) weight. As the show developed, so did Danny’s character. His curmudgeonly do-gooder attitude was rooted in his strict Catholicism and his abandonment by his father when he was younger. But very quickly, Danny went from a “problematic favorite” to a “borderline emotionally abusive” character.
This year, it was Danny’s refusal to treat Mindy as a person and partner that led to his most insufferable characterization yet. Let’s not forget that he tried to impregnate Mindy without her consent. The issue with Danny as a character was always that, by the very “rom-com” nature of The Mindy Project, his misdeeds were excused or wrapped up in a neat bow by the end of the episode. He would make apologies and amends, vow to change, and then repeat the same pattern of behavior the next episode. Thankfully it seems like Mindy Lahiri has recognized this pattern of behavior as unacceptable, and the show has addressed it as such. Nevertheless, Danny has been ruined — and, by extension, the Danny/Mindy pairing — for a lot of viewers as a result.
11. Ramsay Bolton – Game of Thrones
Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), also known as Ramsay Snow, might just be one of the most evil and insufferable characters on television. We’ve seen him do some pretty messed-up stuff over the last few years. And just when you thought he couldn’t get any worse, he found a way to do just that. Let’s see, he: trained his hounds to hunt humans, mentally and physically tortured Theon (Alfie Allen) to the point where Ramsay stripped Theon of his identity, and we won’t even get started on what he did to Sansa (Sophie Turner).
It was his own cockiness and desire to inflict pain on others that was his own downfall in the end, and it was fitting that both Sansa and Jon (Kit Harington) were able to get revenge on Ramsay and the entire Bolton family for everything they had done to them. Though gruesome, it was one of the most satisfying moments Game of Thrones has given its viewers.
10. Fitz Grant – Scandal
There’s never been a character more aptly described by the phrase “man-child” than Fitz Grant (Tony Goldwyn) on Scandal. In the world of politics, especially politics on Scandal, there are no truly morally pure players. However, Fitz has proven time and time again that his arrogance and delusions know no bounds. Whether it’s in regards to his relationship with Olivia (Kerry Washington) or his presidency, Fitz is the kind of man who demands that the world cater to him, not the other way around. Though he has the ability to take responsibility for his actions, Fitz is too filled with pride to bend to the whims of others. His selfish and narcissistic behavior have been called out by many on the show, especially by Mellie (Bellamy Young). And though Fitz made amends toward the end of the year, the whiplash revelations that he feels don’t make up for the numerous ways in which he has hurt and degraded the people around him, especially the women in his life.
9. Alison Hughes – The A Word
Alison Hughes (Morven Christie) is proof that sometimes even characters with decent motivations can become insufferable if the way they go about them is self-centered. On The A Word, the Hughes family deals with the revelation that their youngest son, Joe (Max Vento) has autism. While Alison and husband Paul (Lee Ingleby) respond with denial, Paul’s subsides and Alison’s does not. Everything that she does — mostly for worse, rather than better — is for Joe. She dismisses every other member of her family and expects them to support her, even when her actions are skewed.
In a recent episode, Alison tried to bribe a police officer to look the other way regarding an illegal immigrant just because the woman happened to connect with Joe and help the family out. Alison believes the world revolves around her and that everyone in her life is there to serve one purpose: drop everything to help Joe. This leads to a strained relationship with her teenage daughter, Rebecca (Molly Wright) who is constantly dismissed and sidelined by Alison in favor of Joe. While it can be difficult for characters to deal with earth-shattering revelations like autism, Alison’s behavior is irritating and problematic.
8. Piper Chapman – Orange is the New Black
It comes as no surprise that Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) is a difficult character to appreciate and understand, and definitely one of the most grating characters on Orange is the New Black. Her always entitlement has been one of her most loathsome qualities and, even though she had a good character arc this year, she still remains one of the most insufferable characters on television. It is her ability to manipulate others without remorse, and her inability to see beyond her own self that makes her irritating most of the time. The problem with Piper is that she is often narcissistic and television characters who are blinded by themselves and their ideas are often the most unsympathetic of all. If Piper continues to grow throughout the series and is able to identify her missteps and accept the ramifications of her own actions, she might just be able to be redeemed.
7. Bellamy Blake – The 100
When The 100 debuted, no character was perfect and no character was a clear-cut hero or villain. Bellamy Blake (Bob Morley) did some deplorable things in the name of protecting his sister, but through his relationship with co-leader Clarke (Eliza Taylor) became a better person and leader. Flashing forward a few seasons, that is no longer the case. “Insufferable” might be too kind a term to describe a young man who was easily so swayed by grief and an askew leader that he committed genocide and then had the audacity to try and excuse it away to Clarke. Bellamy’s actions led to Lincoln’s (Ricky Whittle) untimely death, and severed the relationship between him and sister Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos). His anger, and lack of coherent characterization (the writers clearly needing Bellamy’s erratic behavior to fulfill a badly-written plot this year) were his downfall, and most audiences were actually glad when Octavia got the chance to take her anger out on him. Hopefully The 100 can restore Bellamy’s characterization next season, but at this point, it might be too little too late for him.
6. Vandal Savage – Legends of Tomorrow
Villains in television shows are often difficult to write well, but very easy to mess up (and mess up quickly). Such is the case with Legends of Tomorrow’s villain, Vandal Savage (Casper Crump). His insufferable and boring monologues as well as proclivity to escape the heroes of the series were second only to his primary issue — a lack of any coherent motivation.
Whenever villains debut, it’s important that they have some sort of motivator for the way that they’re acting. Unfortunately, Vandal Savage had no motivation. He wanted the world to burn simply… because he wanted it to burn. This didn’t help elevate him as a villain and left him — more often than not — as a dull afterthought. Nothing that Savage did throughout the season was particularly savage or had a lasting impact. Instead, he just existed as a plot obstacle in Legends of Tomorrow, and an irritating one at that.
5. Liam O’Connor – Quantico
Quantico debuted this year as a whodunit-themed mystery. Each week, the show would feature a primary suspect from the list of NATs, and the audience would keep guessing as to who the traitor/terrorist actually was. Unfortunately, the reveal of the terrorist was unfulfilling — it was the NAT instructor, Liam O’Connor (Josh Hopkins). Not only were there a plethora of more well-rounded, interesting, and compelling characters among the NATs, but there were actually more compelling villains and former villains among them.
Liam was relegated, for the majority of the season, to the role of “shady teacher who inappropriately has a brief relationship with Alex (Priyanka Chopra).” It’s this shady behavior that led him to be a suspect early on in the series for many viewers, but when it was revealed why he committed the acts he did, viewers felt wholly unsatisfied. The generic displeasure with the FBI and the way government agencies could become corrupt was a weak central motivator, especially for a show that built itself on mystery and suspense. Ultimately, the reason why Liam was so insufferable was just because he was so self-righteous and yet so generic and bland as both a character and villain.
4. Valencia – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
When Crazy Ex-Girlfriend debuted this year, it set up a rivalry between Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) and Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz), the live-in girlfriend of Rebecca’s crush, Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III). And though the show managed to redeem Valencia’s character in moments throughout the season, she spent most of the year stuck as the generic archetypal “mean girl” in a show generally known for its innovation and creativity. Ultimately, even that was stripped from her — Valencia was never intended to be the villain of the series, as that role fell to Rebecca. But her antagonistic attitude toward Rebecca’s weight, her career, and even her friends (or lack thereof) was what made Valencia, at her worst, a grating and irritating character. In the second season, there is hope for these insufferable qualities to be smoothed out (or at least the layers of her character to be explored a little more), so there might still be a way to redeem this once-villainess.
3. Uber A – Pretty Little Liars
After seven years, one might think that the titular “Liars” of Pretty Little Liars (Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benzo, Shay Mitchell, Lucy Hale, and Sasha Pieterse) would be able to escape their anonymous tormenter once and for all and move on with their lives. So when “A” — the person who tortured the girls and tried to kill them and their loved ones on multiple occasions — was unmasked mid-way through season six, it seemed like they would finally be able to put their fears behind them once and for all. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case as the destruction of “A” only led to emergence of a new Big Bad: “Uber A.”
This tormenter is supposed to be bigger and badder than anything the girls saw when it came to “A,” but the character feels like a re-tread, and a bad one at that. No one really knows what this villain wants or why, and Pretty Little Liars — in its seventh season — is finding its characters to be older, but not a whole lot wiser. The cyclical pattern of the series worked in the first few years when it still tried to lead on viewers, having them guess the identity of the mysterious “A.” But now, the character doesn’t feel remotely scary or intriguing. “Uber A” is just another version of “A,” and one whose motives are even less clear.
2. Steve – Fuller House
When Full House was in its prime, viewers fell in love with the relationship between D.J. Tanner (Candace Cameron Bure) and sweetheart, Steve (Scott Weinger). Their relationship felt organic, in spite of the inherently cheesy nature of the series. So when Fuller House debuted this year and Steve made a reappearance as a man after D.J.’s heart, it seemed that love could blossom again!
Until Steve turned out to be the most insufferable (and disappointingly so) character. Stuck living in the past, Steve is the guy who just won’t take no for an answer, citing the way things were in the good ol’ days. Though it is true that Steve and D.J.’s relationship was healthy when they were teenagers, Steve’s insistence that since it was good then, it could be good now is troubling. He is unable to separate the past from the present, and doing so actually leads him to some pretty problematic and aggressive behavior in the series, especially when a new suitor vies for D.J.’s heart. Though he was delightful in the original series, Steve’s immaturity and problematic nature led him to become one of the most insufferable characters of this year.
1. Mickey and Gus – Love
Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust) are messed up, both as individuals and as a pairing, in Love. Mickey is a troubled character who, admittedly, grows throughout the series and learns to own up to her issues. As a relapsed alcoholic, it is understandable (though not acceptable) that Mickey not only keeps people at a distance, but also treats them badly in order to protect herself. She ignores her own problems by fixating on busying herself with others. Gus, on the other hand, is the stereotypical “nice guy,” who really doesn’t evolve much over the course of the series.
Love struggled to portray the messier kind of relationships that television series are gravitating toward these days. Gone are the days of fairytale romance, with gritty rom-coms a thing of the present. Unfortunately, Love doesn’t deliver intriguing characters and actually manages to alienate its audience or potential audience by presenting insufferable leads.
Who are some of the television characters from this year you just can’t stand?
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