A great television character can leave a lasting impression. But for every Tony Soprano or Tyrian Lannister, there’s a Kimmy Gibbler; a character that might be just as memorable, even if they’re one we’d rather forget. And while it might not be a surprise to find an annoying, poorly acted, or unrealistically written character in a bad show, even a high-quality series can be tainted by an unlikable character.
Below, we take a look at the characters that disrupted, derailed, or just disappointed more than any others, and almost took their shows down with them. These are the characters who made us cringe, roll our eyes, or change the channel, the ones we hoped would die on the way back to their home planet (or at least be re-cast).
In each of these cases, the annoying character detracted from an otherwise decent show’s strengths and made it difficult for viewers to stay invested. Whether it was poor writing, bad acting, or a lack of chemistry with the rest of the cast, these characters proved that one bad apple can spoil the bunch.
The Walking Dead – Andrea
Before it was the biggest show on television, The Walking Dead was a beloved comic, and Andrea was a beloved character. On the small screen, though, she’s simply maddening. Her constantly shifting loyalties and inexplicable decision-making made her a frustrating character to watch.
Andrea often made things worse for the group and never seemed to learn from her mistakes, even as her character made life worse for everyone around her in-universe. She also embodied the aimless or uninspired writing that became an increasingly noticeable problem with the show itself. Simply put, fans hated Andrea.
Friends – Janice
Friends is one of the most popular show ever, and It’s proven to be a streaming juggernaut in part because fans enjoy spending time with the characters, to the point that they don’t mind re-watching the series time and again. But not everyone on Friends is such a great hang.
Perhaps the most annoying character on the show is Janice (apologies to Ross haters). Janice’s nasal voice and annoying catchphrase (“Oh. My. God.”) quickly wore out her welcome on the show. Her appearances were meant to be comedic relief, but instead, she became a running gag that overstayed its welcome.
Breaking Bad – Marie Schrader
A certain subset of Breaking Bad fans notoriously and somewhat unfairly villainized Skyler White for her shifting and ambiguous reaction to her husband’s transition from mild-mannered science teacher to murderous drug kingpin. Actually, it was her sister Marie who seemed most out of place at the heights of prestige television.
Marie’s kleptomania and constant meddling in her sister’s life made her a difficult character to root for. Her storylines often felt like distractions from the main plot, and her presence only served to irritate viewers.
The Brady Bunch – Cousin Oliver
There’s probably no more iconic example of a single character marking the doom of a show than The Brady Bunch’s cousin Oliver. Oliver was brought in to the Brady family to help boost the show’s declining ratings in the fifth season. His presence is noticeably forced and unnecessary, disrupting the dynamic of the original Brady family, and sending the series on a one-way trip over the shark.
How I Met Your Mother -Ted
How I Met Your Mother’s Ted Mosby is an example of a surprisingly common phenomenon: the main character who’s also the show’s weak link (see also: Chapman, Piper). This often happens because the main character is a straight-man, the eye of a storm surrounded by zany side-characters, and a cipher-like blank slate for audiences to project themselves onto.
It’s unlikely anyone would enjoy seeing themselves in Ted, though. His constant self-pity, self-serving romanticism, and inability to let go of his ex-girlfriend made him a frustrating character to watch. The character is meant to be a sort of everyone, but comes across instead as controlling, jealous, and selfish.
Game of Thrones – Olly
Game of Thrones captured the hearts of fans with gritty, dynamic storytelling, grand spectacle, and, most of all, compelling characters. By the end of the series, though, show-runners had outpaced novelist George RR Martin’s source material and opted to wrap up the show with one of the most remarkable runs of self-destruction in television history.
Non-novel character Olly is perfect example of how the show squandered any and all goodwill it had built up. Olly’s betrayal of Jon Snow and involvement in the death of a beloved character made him one of the most hated characters on the show, and serves as a perfect example of the lazy writing that would undermine later, awful Game of Thrones episodes.
Honorable Mention: The Simpsons – Poochie
If there’s a trend in pop culture, it’s usually a safe bet that The Simpsons has done something with it. With Poochie, a “cool” and “edgy” character introduced to goose rating for a lagging Itchy and Scratchy Show, the series mocked the ham-handed and self-defeating lengths that shows will go to in order to retain relevance and ratings. It was a perfect meta joke that lampoons the times when TV jumps the shark and introduces terrible characters like these.