There are a lot of ways that a good TV show can fail through no fault of its own: bad scheduling, inadequate promotion, or just falling prey to the age of peak TV and getting lost in the fray. However, while some shows fail due to these outside factors, others fail due to their own stupidity, rushing plot forward at the sacrifice of character development, stretching their plot far past its expiration date, or, the worst offense, keeping a horrible character at the center of a story that could otherwise be great.
Many good shows have fallen into the trap of keeping around a horrible main character for one reason or another, with the show’s writers and directors failing to see the awfulness in them that the viewers are all too aware of. These characters are a drag on their show whenever they show up on screen, which, of course, is often far more often than it should be. Bad characters can be the end of good shows, taking something with potential and just thrusting it back into awfulness. Here are all the times that horrible characters happened to good TV shows.
15. Piper in Orange is the New Black
Taylor Schilling’s Piper provided viewers an entry point into the Litchfield Women’s Correctional Facility, using an obviously relatable character as stepping stone to reach the more interesting stories. In Orange is the New Black‘s first season, this made sense; as creator Jenji Kohan has admitted, it’s tough to sell a network a show entirely about minorities and, due to this unfortunate reality, a character like Piper can be used as a draw for both networks and viewers. However, Piper quickly became one of the least interesting characters on the show with her constant whining and general awfulness, and, even with more compelling storylines happening everywhere she wasn’t, the writers still decided to showcase her throughout the series. The recently released fourth season, which showed Piper accidentally starting a white power group, because, you know, accidents happen, only made her more intolerable. Way too much time wasted was on her plight, as opposed to focusing on the more interesting storylines, like the increasing conflicts between the guards and the prisoners. At least Larry is gone, though.
14. Echo in Dollhouse
Eliza Dushku is a good actress: she’s electrifying to watch when she’s on screen and, with the range she showed while playing Faith on Joss Whedon’s other shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, it made sense that the writer/director would cast her as the lead in his sci-fi series Dollhouse, which saw the actress playing a different role every episode as her character Echo was imprinted with new personalities. However, Dushku quickly showed that, despite her talent, she was no Tatiana Maslany, unable to pull off the quick switches in personality that her character had to accomplish. This made Echo fall flat, especially surrounded by the other dolls played by more able actors, including Enver Gjokaj, Dichen Lachman, and the always wonderful Amy Acker. The only episodes in which Dushku truly shined were the “Epitaphs,” the two season finale episodes where she went from switching personalities to playing a more singular version of Echo, a chance for the actress to finally do what she was good at.
13. Arthur in Merlin
Oh, Bradley James: so attractive, and yet so singularly bad at acting. With his sandy blonde hair and impossibly defined cheekbones, James was, looks-wise, a perfect choice for the role of Arthur on BBC’s Merlin, a young, cocky and overly confident version of the legendary warrior who plays the rude jock to Colin Morgan’s teenaged version of the famous wizard. James, who was only in his 20’s when the series started, struggled with the adolescent acting, making Arthur nearly insufferable throughout the early seasons of the show. Although he did improve as his character matured and James was able to occasionally show the tenderness that provided the character’s best moments, the stilted writing and constant bullying of poor Merlin made Arthur a difficult character to digest. Luckily, James proved that his acting abilities have improved quite a bit over time with his charming turn as the gone-too-soon Lowell on iZombie.
12. Rachel Berry in Glee
On paper, Rachel seems like the perfect character for a show about a high school glee club: she’s preppy, overly enthusiastic, insanely talented, and, of course, absolutely awful. Especially in the first season, Rachel’s type-A personality was played up for laughs and her neuroses were endearing—briefly. However, the show took them way too far, preventing the character from growing far beyond the uptight persona she displayed in the pilot and forcing actress Lea Michele to constantly play Rachel as an annoying drag with an ego the size of Ohio. Despite Michele’s amazing voice, it was still painful every time Rachel came on screen, with far more interesting characters like Mercedes and Artie being outshone by the school’s resident drama queen, even when it was their time in the spotlight. Although Rachel was allowed to mature somewhat later on in the series, the storyline following her adventures through New York didn’t help, with the increased focus on her making her even more annoying to watch.
11. Ted in How I Met Your Mother
Sorry, Teddy Westside, but your search for true love isn’t just draining for you. Although Ted does have his moments of hilarity, when looking at the series as a whole, they’re eclipsed by his neediness and pretentious attitude. Although Ted’s search for love is the center of the series, his constant whininess about his inability to find love, while simultaneously messing up his relationships with every woman who crosses his path, gets old quickly. His pompous attitude, while often played up for laughs, also gets tiring early on in the series, with few moments actually feeling genuine to the character. His obsession with Robin also became an unnecessary and uninteresting focal point of the show, even leading to the writers ruining the ending of the show by killing off the titular “mother” shortly after she and Ted finally found each other, just so that he could go back to his long-time love.
10. Elena Gilbert in The Vampire Diaries
Elena Gilbert isn’t so much awful as she is boring. Just like Twilight, The CW’s The Vampire Diaries quickly fell into the trap of placing the most supremely boring, white-bread character in the center of a love triangle with two inexplicably attractive men who, for some reason, can’t stop fawning over a girl whose main personality trait is complaining. Although Nina Dobrev is a brilliant actress (as shown in her portrayal of the much less boring, really awesome doppelgänger Katherine), even her abilities can’t save the sheer dullness that is Elena Gilbert. Elena’s tediousness was slightly helped by being turned into a vampire (especially at the times when she turned off her emotions and started to become at least a little bit of the badass that Katherine was), but even those moments couldn’t redeem the painful diary writing scenes of season one Elena. Although the show has struggled at times since Dobrev’s departure, it is still definitely better off without everyone’s least favorite high school student at its center.
9. Doug in Weeds
Many would probably argue that Nancy is the worst character at the center of Showtime’s Weeds: she’s manipulative, obtuse, and has a nasty habit of nearly getting her entirely family killed on a regular basis due to her selfishness. However, there was at least a point to Nancy being at the center of the series. Her childish accountant, Doug, though, did not. Although Doug’s presence made sense and was tolerable on Weeds during the earlier seasons of the show where they were all stuck in the suburbs, his continued presence throughout the later seasons ranged from annoying to intolerable. Doug was absolutely useless to the show’s plot, with his only purpose to serve as comic relief—a purpose that doesn’t work very well when you’re as decidedly unfunny as Doug. This was at least partially due to actor Kevin Nealon, who didn’t do much to elevate his character above the sophomoric way he was presented in the script. Doug should have stayed in Agrestic.
8. Jack in Lost
Jack’s awful personality on camera may only be outshone by actor Matthew Fox‘s awful personality off camera. The Lost actor, who has been arrested for assaulting a female bus driver and for driving under the influence, played the pompous and self-righteous Jack for the entirety of the ABC series, a fact which became even less intolerable when creator Damon Lindelof revealed that he was actually supposed to die in the pilot. Unfortunately for the viewers, Lindelof decided to keep Jack around after requests from the network, leaving viewers stuck dealing with episode after episode of Jack whining, pining over Kate (also in the running for one of the most annoying characters), and all-in-all taking away from the more interesting storylines and characters that we wanted to follow. We will never be able to forget the episode dedicated to flashbacks about how Jack got his tattoos, as much as we’d like to.
7. Eric Forman in That 70’s Show
Although Eric is presented as the most normal of the group of his friends, Topher Grace’s That 70’s Show character is actually the worst. He goes out of his way to mess with everyone around him, taking his pranks to a level of rudeness beyond even New Girl‘s Winston Bishop. He’s a liar who never takes responsibility for his actions but somehow always gets away with his elaborate tricks, causing viewers to quickly lose patience with his over-the-top antics. One of Eric’s only redeeming qualities, his devotion to his girlfriend, and later fiancée, Donna (which borders on annoying most of the time, but is at least occasionally sweet), was smashed in the last seasons of the show of the show when he decided to ditch her at their wedding rehearsal and move to Africa instead, showing that he really can’t commit to anything.
6. Peter Griffin in Family Guy
None of the characters on Family Guy are supposed to be relatable in any particular sense, with the show basing most of its humor on the shock value of the horrible things that its characters do and say. However, unlike the similarly based It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Family Guy does not always succeed in this mission, and the primary example of its failure is in its main character, Peter Griffin. Unlike his counterparts Stewie, Brian, and Lois, who are all awful in their own ways but also provide moments of comedy, Peter is lazy, immature, and, worst of all, boring to watch. Like his daughter Meg and son Chris, Peter is one of the least interesting members of the Griffin family; however, unlike his children, Peter continues to get excessive amounts of air time every episode. Of course, it doesn’t look like the continued focus on such an annoying character is a problem for the long-running series, which just finished out its fourteenth season with a finale viewed by 2.59 million people.
5. The entire cast of The Big Bang Theory
It’s debatable whether or not The Big Bang Theory can be considered a good show, but the CBS comedy at least had a solid premise, following the antics of a group of nerds and their hot neighbor. However, the series quickly devolved into a revolving door of awful stereotypes played for cheap laughs and most of that is due to some pretty horrible characters. Sheldon, although played well by a fully committed Jim Parsons, is insufferable in his childish ways, while Simon Helberg’s Howard Wolowitz is so lacking in life skills that you start to wonder how he even earned his degrees in the first place. Johnny Galecki’s Leonard is tolerable at best when he’s not constantly whining and Kaley Cuoco’s Penny is written as an incredibly one-note straight woman to her nerdy counterparts. One of the only bright spots on the show is Kunal Nayyar’s Raj, but he isn’t funny enough to make up for his decidedly unfunny friends.
4. Skyler White in Breaking Bad
Skyler White is a difficult character. She’s a strong woman who does what’s best for her family, which, in the case of Breaking Bad, means trying to prevent her drug-dealing husband from influencing her children. It’s a noble cause, but because of the way that Breaking Bad is set up, with Walter White as everyone’s favorite anti-hero, Skyler starts to come off as a villain. The character earned so much audience hate that actress Anna Gunn had to pen an article for The New York Times about the death threats she’d received for playing Walter’s long-suffering wife. While viewers threatening Gunn clearly went too far, it is clear that Skyler is a problematic character for the show. In real life, a reasonable woman like Skyler deserves our respect, but in a show where we’re rooting for a bad guy, it was never a treat to see her on screen.
3. Marissa in The OC
Marissa was so awful and in love with herself that actress Mischa Barton went so far as to admit in 2014 that, if she could go back in time, she probably never would have taken on the role. Everything about Marissa, from her penchant for getting herself into unnecessary trouble to her inexplicable mistreatment of her friends, makes her a chore to watch, and Barton’s lackluster portrayal doesn’t help to make the character any more palatable. Add that to the fact that she absolutely ruined the life of her boyfriend Ryan, already troubled in the pilot and even more destroyed through his interactions with Marissa, and she just becomes unforgivable. Luckily, the producers decided to kill her off in the season three finale because they felt that the character’s arc had come to a close, allowing for the show to finally breathe without the general annoyingness of Marissa Cooper weighing it down.
2. Dawson in Dawson’s Creek
Quite probably the only good thing that Dawson Leery ever gave viewers is the famous image of James Van Der Beek “ugly crying,” something that the world will always be thankful for. However, aside from that, Dawson was fairly intolerable as the show’s main character, with his constant whining a huge drain on the teen drama. His obsession with girls and sex got old quickly and his immaturity in dealing with relationships and break-ups gave the impression that maybe he was a little too much of a teen struggling with growing up, even on a show about teens struggling with growing up. Even Van Der Beek has admitted that Dawson was kind of the worst, telling Buzzfeed that “Dawson’s sweet, but he’s the kind of guy I’d find myself making excuses to not hang out with.” Unfortunately, viewers didn’t have this option and they were stuck hanging out with him for all six seasons of the WB drama.
1. Ross in Friends
Ross Gellar is the very definition of awful. Everything about him screams “please, slap me across the face and just shut me up already.” The paleontologist starts off the series as Monica’s whiny brother who can’t stop pining over his high school crush, an obsession that at points in the series escalates to just plain creepy (like when he tricked Rachel into staying married to him– because that’s a totally normal and acceptable thing for a person to do). Although all of the Friends gang have been known to complain more often than not, Ross takes this to a whole new level with his constant bitching. On top of all of that, Ross is also homophobic and sexist—he worries about his young son playing with a Barbie doll and hates the idea of hiring a male nanny, among many other instances of general prejudice. Although his relationship with Rachel has long been lauded as one of the most romantic pairings on television, we just can’t see why she would ever want to end up with someone as awful (and unwilling to accept that it’s still cheating even if you were “on a break“) as Ross.
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