Last week I did a (very scientific) poll among my Facebook friends: “Who are the worst characters on the best TV shows?” The answers were varied: ranging from characters on sitcoms to reality shows, from family dramas to supernatural thrillers. Some were characters on shows I’ve never watched (Parenthood, Breaking Bad) and some were on shows no longer on the air (Alf). The one common theme? Women. Nine out of ten characters named were female—usually mothers. (Do viewers generally dislike mother characters? Or are these more underwritten, stereotypical parts?) So with those suggestions, here are my picks for the worst characters on TV’s best shows.
So far Ellis (Jaime Cepero) has recorded and leaked an in-progress song, stolen Julia’s (Debra Messing) notes, tattled about Julia and Michael’s (Will Chase) affair to Eileen (Anjelica Houston), and wears too many vests. So why, exactly, hasn’t Tom (Christian Borle) fired him? Weasely Ellis serves no purpose to the storyline; he’s an unnecessary, distraction to a promising show that still needs to find its footing.
Lori, The Walking Dead
Let’s ignore the fact that she slept with her possibly dead husband’s deputy (which is defensible). Or that she almost got someone killed just so she could get a morning-after pill (which is stupid since she’d already had a positive pregnancy test). But this under-written, poorly acted character—played by Sarah Wayne Collins—is utterly grating. Even an executive producer from the show, Glen Mazzara, had to come out to protect her: “I don’t find her irritating.” Let the Lori zombie deathwatch begin.
Lily, Modern Family
The best thing that can be said about the new, improved, “talking” Lily is Luke’s (Nolan Gould) hate-jealously. I miss silent, stare-off-in-to-space Lily from seasons 1 and 2.
Kenneth & Jenna, 30 Rock
In 30 Rock’s quirky, brilliant first seasons, Kenneth the page (Jack McBrayer) and Jenna the egomaniacal star (Jane Krakowski) were comic highlights of the show. But in season 6, the characters are painfully unfunny. Without focus or purpose, these talented actors portray characters that are merely clumps of ideas.
Betty, Mad Men
Besides Lori from The Walking Dead, no other TV mother receives such passionate antipathy from viewers as Betty (January Jones), Don’s ex-wife. She is a cold, shrewd woman who values appearance over substance. Her character is so unapproachable, so unforgivingly distant, your concentrated hatred of her sometimes supersedes your love of the show.
Bill, True Blood
It takes a lot of skill (or lack thereof) to be the most dreadfully boring character on a show filled with violence, vampires, werewolves, and nudity.
Alex, Happy Endings
It pains me to put Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) on this list — after all, Happy Endings is one of the few comedies on TV that actually makes me laugh every week. But, except for “Meet the Parrots” (where she inadvertently bought a racist parrot), Alex (just edging out Penny) is often the weakest of the group.
Louis Canning, The Good Wife
The first appearance (or two), Michael J. Fox’s Louis Canning was a devious foil. But now, this one-note character is just becoming derivative.
Edith, Downton Abbey
True, Downton Abbey’s third season won’t begin until the end of 2012, but it’s hard to ignore the most insipid character on one of the most critically acclaimed shows in years. The middle daughter of the Crawley family, Edith (Laura Carmichael) can best be described as colorless. Her screen time only gets in the way of another zinger from the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith). Will she finally get together with Sir Anthony? And keep driving? No one cares.
Sabrina, Raising Hope
Like Alex on Happy Endings (or Anne on Parks and Recreation), Sabrina (Shannon Woodward) isn’t awful. She just suffers from being the least entertaining character, and thereby the most irritating, on one of TV’s best comedies.