The Worst TV Characters of All Time

Is there a TV show character who makes you cringe every time you see him or her onscreen? You’re not alone. From annoying secondary characters who occasionally appear on popular shows to unbearable primary characters who make some series completely unwatchable, here are 10 of the worst TV characters of all time.

1. Screech, Saved by the Bell

Screech, Saved by the Bell
Screech on Saved by the Bell | NBC

Screech is not only one of the most annoying characters to have ever existed on a TV show, he may also be one of the most accurately named. Played by Dustin Diamond, this loudmouthed character screeched his lines in his role as the geeky misfit on Saved by the Bell. Screech may have actually been a tolerable character if he only occasionally made appearances on the show.

Unfortunately, Screech was a primary character on Saved by the Bell, and his hammy antics quickly went from being mildly amusing to downright irritating. Even worse for fans of Saved by the Bell, Screech was the only character who appeared in all three incarnations of the show, which means there’s no escaping this obnoxious schmuck.

2. Joffrey Baratheon, Game of Thrones

Joffrey Baratheon, Game of Thrones
Joffrey Baratheon on Game of Thrones | HBO

Some TV show characters are terrible because they have annoying mannerisms. Others are terrible because of the pain they cause to other beloved characters. Joffrey Baratheon — the bratty boy-king on the hit HBO series Game of Thrones — manages to embody both these faults in one loathsome person. Not only does Joffrey have the irritatingly haughty mannerisms of an overprivileged noble, but he is also a sadist who enjoys torturing and killing people, including some of the show’s most popular characters.

Fortunately, fans of Game of Thrones no longer have to put up with Joffrey after he was poisoned in Season 4. But considering the number of sick atrocities that he committed during his brief reign, Joffrey’s death was probably not as painful as some fans had hoped it would be.

3. Janice Litman, Friends

Janice Litman on Friends | Warner Bros. Television

While some would argue that the entire cast of this wildly popular sitcom might qualify for this list, even fans of Friends were irritated by Janice, the nasally voiced, on-again off-again girlfriend of Chandler. With her disconcerting laugh and habit of loudly exclaiming, “Oh. My. God!” Janice was the epitome of an unwanted guest. And much like a bad rash, Janice had a knack for suddenly reappearing during crucial events in other characters’ lives, including the birth of Rachel’s daughter.

4. Kimmy Gibbler, Full House

Kimmy Gibbler, Full House
Kimmy Gibbler on Full House | Jeff Franklin Productions

This popular sitcom may be best remembered today as the launching pad for the careers of twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who together played the role of Michelle, the baby of the Tanner family. While Michelle and most of the other show’s characters were generally likable, D.J., the eldest daughter, had an especially irritating best friend named Kimmy Gibbler. With her loud outfits and her equally loud voice, the perennially upbeat Kimmy not only got on the nerves of viewers but also appeared to annoy all the other characters on the show.  Oh, and did we mention that she had stinky feet?

Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long before it became a running joke for members of the Tanner family to ask Kimmy to leave. Now, with the show revived as Fuller House,  it appears that Kimmy will have an opportunity to annoy a whole new generation of fans. 

5. Janice Soprano, The Sopranos

Janice Soprano, The Sopranos
Janice Soprano on The Sopranos | HBO

The Sopranos was a critically acclaimed HBO series that ran from 1999 to 2007 and is widely regarded as one of the best TV shows of all time. Of course, even great shows can have terrible characters, and The Sopranos had a prime example of one with the eldest sister of crime boss Tony Soprano.

With her tendency to emotionally manipulate others for her own ends and her obsession with material goods, Janice was somehow even less likable than the violent mobster characters who populated the show. After all, this is a woman who once stole another woman’s prosthetic leg because she wanted her record collection. Stay classy, Janice!

6. Nikki and Paulo, Lost

Nikki and Paulo, Lost
Nikki and Paulo on Lost | Bad Robot

While the success of Lost helped popularize many of its stars, there are at least two members of the cast who probably didn’t benefit from their exposure on the show. The characters of Nikki and Paulo were clumsily introduced in the third season of the show, and the couple quickly earned the hatred of fans due to their incessant whining and general irrelevancy to the storyline. Even other characters on the show seemed to wonder why they were there, such as Sawyer, who regularly mispronounced their names.

“We had the feeling with Nikki and Paolo that it wasn’t right about a month before the fans started reacting,” Lost executive producer and co-creator Damon Lindelof told Variety. “We were already starting to think, ‘Maybe our instinct here has been wrong.’ ”

Fortunately, in this case, the show’s writers took the fans’ complaints to heart. Not long after Nikki and Paulo were introduced, the couple were bitten by poisonous spiders and then accidentally buried while still alive.

7. Maria LaGuerta, Dexter

Maria LaGuerta, Dexter
Maria LaGuerta on Dexter | Showtime

As the superior officer of an active serial killer who operates right under her nose, Maria LaGuerta is not only one of the worst police detectives in the world — she is also a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen. After making unwelcome advances toward Dexter for several seasons, LaGuerta moved on and had an affair with another police officer under her command.

And when she wasn’t hitting on her co-workers, LaGuerta tried to advance her career by undermining her fellow police officers and blaming her mistakes on others. Given LaGuerta’s track record as a boss and a friend, it came as no surprise that when Debra was given the choice of shooting her serial killer brother or shooting LaGuerta, she opted to kill LaGuerta. Wouldn’t you?

8. Pete Campbell, Mad Men

Pete Campbell, Mad Men
Pete Campbell on Mad Men | Lionsgate Television

On a show full of amoral advertising executives, it takes a special kind of character to stand out from the crowd, but Pete Campbell manages to do just that. Campbell has done just about every despicable thing imaginable on the show, from trying to blackmail Don Draper to pressuring his neighbor’s nanny for sex.

As if that wasn’t enough to make him a hated character, Campbell also tends to rely on his prestigious New York family name to advance his career, rather than doing any real work. Add his naturally whiny voice to the mix and you have the perfect recipe for one of the worst TV show characters around.

9. Steve Urkel, Family Matters

Steve Urkel, Family Matters
Steve Urkel on Family Matters | Bickley-Warren Productions

With his loud, nasally voice and his ultra-nerdy mannerisms, it’s hard to believe that Urkel was the main attraction that sustained Family Matters through nine seasons. According to one of the show’s co-creators, Urkel was originally intended to be a minor guest character who takes Laura Winslow out on a date and never reappears — not surprising, considering how annoying he is. “The part was written to be a one-time thing,” Michael Warren told the Los Angeles Times.

Despite being deliberately designed to be as irritating as possible, Urkel inexplicably became the show’s most popular character, and his many catchphrases soon entered the pop culture lexicon. His popularity even spawned a slew of Urkel-related merchandise, including a terrifying talking Urkel doll made by Hasbro. While Urkel definitely had his fans, we still believe he is one of the worst characters to ever appear on a TV show.

10. Cousin Oliver, The Brady Bunch

Cousin Oliver, The Brady Bunch
Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch | Paramount Television

What do you do when the children on a TV show become older? The Brady Bunch faced this issue during the fifth season of the show in 1974, when the youngest child on the regular cast turned 12. In what was widely regarded as a ham-fisted attempt to boost ratings and fill in the age gap, the show’s producers introduced Oliver, a cousin of the Brady children whose parents inexplicably decided to leave him with relatives who already had six kids to take care of.

Unfortunately, cousin Oliver’s cutesy antics appeared to have the opposite effect that the show’s producers were looking for, and The Brady Bunch was cancelled soon afterwards. As a result, Oliver is blamed — perhaps unfairly — for prematurely ending The Brady Bunch by some fans of the show.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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