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Program PITA's: TV's 20 most painfully annoying characters of all time

Updated on April 25, 2012

Television can be our good friend: it comforts when we're alone and when we're sick. It provides entertainment and knowledge. It brings us the news and gives us a better understanding of our world. But television can also annoy. The biggest annoyances on TV are typically found in commercials, but there are others. When it comes to these one of my biggest complaints is the annoying character.

The following list is my personal 20 picks of the most painfully annoying characters (independent of the individual TV show itself) of all time. These characters are so unbearable that they go far beyond any Love To Hate 'Em thing. I just can't bear them.

Note: there are no inclusions here from any reality shows. For as ridiculous as reality TV generally is, I'm not going to castigate any persons here who have a hard time separating their real selves from the fiction they've created via exaggerated and hyped Reality. Also, I've avoided naming any character from a cast ensemble so bad that the entire show is just consummately annoying. However, because I care about the mental health of readers who may not yet have seen one of those shows I will make mention of them at the end. Forewarned is to be forearmed, you know!

#20 Warren Ferguson (The Andy Griffith Show)

Warren Ferguson got hired on as deputy in Mayberry after Barney Fife left for greener horizons. Warren had an irritating laugh, couldn't remember any orders, was clumsy as heck and possessed an I.Q. that made Goober seem like a rocket scientist by comparison. Imagine the town's grief when the county coroner reported Warren had died of a self-inflicted neck wound at the end of a long rope tied to Andy's cruiser. Aunt Bea was so broke up she threw the biggest keg party the Ladies Church Social had ever sponsored.

19. Alice Hyatt (Alice)

Alice Hyatt may have been the new gal in town but she was never afraid to speak her mind: no matter what the topic was, no matter what the circumstance, no matter what private conversation she was interrupting, no matter how many customers of Mel's Diner she sent running out the door with their eardrums bleeding. Yep, Alice had a very special effect on people. After her tragic death of lockjaw in 1998 the local Beltone representatives got together and erected a statue in her honor.

18. Orko (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe)

Part magician, part court jester, part anal plug with cayenne lubricant, Orko was Eternia's Warren Ferguson. Unlike Warren, however Orko wasn't confined to sharing his unique and unforgettable presence with one set of townspeople. Orko spread his unforgettable presence far and wide, and to his dying day cherished the scars from the many stonings he suffered at the hands of angry mobs. In fact, Orko has been memorialized by the Man-at-Arms Lawn Company who used his name for their top-of-the-line manure.

17. Rico (Hannah Montana)

There are few less fatiguing spectacles than a child put into a role where their irritating penchants for over-acting and scene-hogging are given free reign. But Miley Cyrus aside, Hannah Montana's Rico was even worse: not only did this character never know when to shut up, he couldn't shut up with gusto. The rare times he did manage to close his mouth was when he was either oogling beach babes or trying to con a patron at his beverage shack. Yep, Rico was every negative Italian typecast ever created, just rolled up into a teeny, tiny package..somewhat like Little Caesar's pizza man but with more cheese.

16. Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and The City)

I had some friends who liked Sex and The City. I tried to like it, but the reoccurring dilemmas experienced by a bunch of horny morons too stupid to learn from past mistakes just isn't my cup of tea. And the worst thing about this show was the main character Carrie. I'm sorry, but boring doesn't adequately cover the depth, width, breadth and height of this character's lack of interestingness. Counting the flies on the walls was more exciting than trying to keep up with Carrie's parade of sniveling, emotionally unstable boy-toys and personal tribulations. And don't even get me started on the pain of seeing her re-apply her lipstick for twenty times during a single episode. The only redeemable thing I can say about Carrie is that thanks to her I found out how riveting the Weather Channel is by comparison.

15. George Lopez (The George Lopez Show)

The George Lopez Show had some good things going for it, but unfortunately it had a lead character with more chips on his shoulder than you'd find in a Pringles four-pack. Every event George's family experienced was shadowed by some traumatic childhood misery George somehow valiantly managed to survive and joke about...and fixate about...and grieve about...and talk about...and whine about...and rant about...and cry about...and...

14. Karen Arnold (The Wonder Years)

Although her mother would never admit it, Karen Arnold had more talent in one icy pinkie finger than her younger brother Kevin did in his entire book-savvy brain. She managed to balance dual careers as man-hating hippie feminist and Daddy's pampered princess and both without ever once having to bat an eyelid. The problem was Karen rarely did bat an eyelid. Or crack a smile. Or break a sweat in the heat of summer. Or move her arms. Or bend her knees when she walked. Or move her chest when she breathed so everyone else could tell she was breathing and stop dialing 9-1-1. Karen Arnold proved that being a hippie isn't the worst of things, but being a hippie with only one running emotion -that of perpetual angst- can be almost as frustrating as trying to bend your rubber-hinged ass down behind the wheel of the Barbie Corvette.

13. Peter Griffin (Family Guy)

Peter Griffin is the head of a cartoon family and has several colorful attributes that makes him so appealing to a select group of viewers: arrogance, gluttony, rudeness, insensitivity, self-pity, vulgarity, unreliability, crudeness, selfishness, wrath, laziness and a deep and abiding sense of self-preservation. Peter will hurt anyone if it means getting what he wants and when he wants it, and he never forgets even the slightest of slights cast his way. During his lifetime Peter has successfully committed (and sometimes re-committed) the following acts: lies, murder, theft, the emotional abuse of his daughter, the cover-up of his infant son's near-fatal head injury, infidelity and the leaving of his eldest child in the care of a child predator.The most amazing thing about Peter Griffin is that he actually thinks he's funny. Which is about the closest the show gets to humor during any given episode.

12. MIchael Stivik, aka Meathead (All In The Family)

In the years All In The Family was running on CBS Meathead was the outspoken liberal nemesis of his equally outspoken blue-collar father-in-law, Archie Bunker. Meathead's wife, Gloria, worked hard to pay his way through college and it was her parents' home the couple resided in for a good many years. Although this arrangement brought its share of grief for Gloria and her mother, Edith, it provided Meathead the opportunity to reflect on the unfairness of the capitalistic system, and his angst with the wrongdoings of the government provided a never-ending source of kindle for his fiery debates with Archie. Even to this day Meathead remains the icon of the self-sacrificing leftist struggling to bring enlightenment to stupid capitalists, like the kind that donated money to build the colleges he attended and later taught at.

11. Robbie Ray Stewart (Hannah Montana)

Hannah Montana's Robbie Ray Stewart should not be confused with real-life C/W singer/songwriter Billy Ray Cyrus. Cyrus only plays Robbie Ray on television. Likewise, Robbie Ray's fictional background only coincidentally mimics Cyrus' own even down to his fame for writing mediocre hits. That the two are both fathers to a child star, convinced of their own artistic genius and that they both perpetuate ridiculous Southern stereotypes is purely coincidental, too. That Robbie Ray, as eager as he is to spout off trite paternal advice, is still a better father than Cyrus will ever be should convince everyone that the two have absolutely nothing in common. Remember that or else Cyrus might come to your house and give a performance of Achy, Breaky Heart right outside your window.

10. Theodore Cleaver, aka The Beaver (Leave It To Beaver)

Way back before my time TV children all looked rather the same. They acted rather the same. They dressed rather the same. And their problems, as psychologically irrelevant as they were addressed, were virtually all the same. It was a boring age with plastic answers for every problem encountered by TV families. And then Beaver Cleaver arrived.

Beaver was anything but the same: he was antsy, he was nosy. He whined a lot and was often callous to family members and friends alike. He liked to interrupt people, A LOT. He ransacked his brother's stuff and often came to the supper table with dirty hands. Beaver never showed appreciation for his hard-working stay at home Mom, and instead looked up to a father who was either smoking his pipe, stuffing his pie hole or gone off to work. Beaver was generally sweaty, emotionally self-absorbed, a tattletale, a brown-noser in relations with teachers and he had a set of buck chomps strong enough to fell the mighty oak. Yep, Beaver definitely came from a different mold of TV children. And according to some oldsters I've talked to he did more for advancing birth control back then than the cost of sheets for double beds and the threat of biological warfare combined.

9. Charles Ingalls (Little House on the Prairie)

I've never understood why this show was called Little House on the Prairie. It was so unlike the Laura Ingalls Wilder autobiographical series as to be a crime to even claim it was adapted from her books. A much better name for the show would have been The Michael Landon Show, because in all honesty it was little more than a vehicle to showcase his acting and director "talents" anyway. And his hair, of course. His portrayal of Charles "Pa" Ingalls was so unbearably sunny and fashionably liberal it gives me headaches to watch him. Do you remember the opening scene of the show where the girls are rolling down the grassy hill? I have actually had dreams where I am kicking Michael Landon down that hill under the hooves of a mule. And at the end of the hill is this big pit of boiling tar, where he's cooked alive while Ma Ingalls, Mrs. Oleson and Nellie Oleson sing bawdy tavern songs. Mr.Edwards is there, too, doing a strip tease with a bear and Mr. Oleson is selling barbecue sandwiches to the happy townsfolk coming to watch. Sigh. If only the TV show had been this interesting.

8. James Evans, Jr., aka J.J. (Good Times)

With Good Times viewers were brought into the intimate day-to-day living as faced by the Evans family. They were a nice family with a manly, hard-working Dad and charitable, hard-working Mom, a curvy beautiful daughter and good-natured and musically talented young son. Although they lived in poverty and in a rough section of town the Evans family were loving, decent people who would make anyone proud to call them neighbors.

And then there was the J.J.. This child -at least that's what the Evans family told everyone it was- was tall and thin, with ribs that protruded through its leathery flesh. Its facial features resembled those of a horse and its reach extended six times the length of its spindly arms. Its huge teeth glowed in the dark and its sharp bony knees were known to lacerate small children who happened to pass its way. As frightening as the J.J. was to behold, its voice was even more alarming. It cackled when it laughed, which was often, and it had a habit of crowing whenever it saw a mirror. When female humans came to the home the J.J. would squawk in strange intonations mingled with a bogus foreign accents, and unless Mrs. Evans was nearby to intervene, posture itself before the female and perform strange dances reminiscent of a vulture mating ritual. The J.J.'s most disturbing habit was in its call; a loud scream, "DYN-O-MITE!!" This call, as annoying and bone-chilling as it was, signaled to the family it was time to lock the doors and windows, for they knew that the call denoted the J.J. was prepared to seek out a mate and bring her back to his lair in order to breed.

The poor Evans family. It's no wonder Mr. Evans keeled over dead with a smile of relief on his face.

7. Krillin (DragonballZ)

Granted, Japanese-style anime is an acquired taste for most westerners. The biggest hurdle in trying to watch these forms of entertainment is found in the behavior dispayed by a majority of the characters. Their emotions are erratic and whatever reaction they are supposed to be feeling very often just seems out of context with whatever is going on in the storyline. Likewise, their facial features often shift with lightning speed and the pitch of their voices frequently go from normal to loony to ear-piercing scream and back to loony again, once or twice, before leveling out again for the next twenty-odd seconds or so.

Now take this commonplace scenario and multiply it by a hundred and you have the character of Krillin. According to the DragonBallZ world he is supposed to be a valiant warrior who accomplishes a lot of heroic deeds. But you really couldn't know this by merely watching the show. Here, he is a kinetic ball of misplaced emotions and volcanically erupting gestures. If you were to meet someone like this on the street you'd run and call the mental hospital to report an escape. Sadly this isn't how they roll in the realm of DragonBallZ. But I can say Krillin and his multiple personalities makes the idiotic laughing of Spongebob Squarepants a lullaby by contrast.

6. Arnold Jackson (Diff'rent Strokes)

Like Beaver Cleaver before him, Arnold Jackson was an annoying TV child. But where Beaver was whiny and indifferent, Arnold was usually deliberately rude and bossy. Arnold also mugged for the camera more than any child character to ever hit the television airways. And his trademark, smugly delivered "What'chu talk'in about, Willis?" became one of TV's best known catch-phrases, even as Arnold himself attracted only a cult following among adults with obsessions for living things that come in miniature packages.

My Mom drove me crazy every time Diff'rent Strokes was on the air. An example of the emotion seeing Arnold inspired would be this particular conversation of one night.

My Mama said, as she always did at least once during the broadcast, "Oh, Arnold is soooo cute!"

"No Mama," I said, "he's not cute. He's a camera hog and this dialog is just drivel."

"So what? If he wants to be a camera hog that's fine. He's little and adorable. What's wrong with you?"

"This show is really hard to take, Mama."

"Why? Because you're not little and cute anymore? Are you jealous?"

"His size has nothing to do with it; take a look...Arnold is supposed to be in the 3rd grade but he has a five o'clock shadow!"

"I don't see a five o'clock shadow. Its the lighting in the studio."

Then my Dad looked up from the newspaper and interjected, "Your daughter's right. That is a five o'clock shadow."

To which Mama snapped right back, "Don't act blind. He's just an innocent little boy."

But Daddy wasn't to be ignored. "You said the same thing about that midget at the mall, until he pinched your behind."

"He was adorable, too. And I just didn't realize."

"The snake tattoo on his shoulder should have been a clue."

"It was an honest mistake!"

"Honey, I suspect you just have a non-typical fascination for miniature things."

"Oh, stop playing psychiatrist and get back to your newspaper!"

"That reminds me; there's an ad in here for dwarf teacup poodles."

"Ooh, really? Let me see!"

At that point I went for a bathroom break; timed just right so I missed out having to watch the rest of Diff'rent Strokes.

5. Roseanne Connor (Roseanne)

As the matriarchal head of the Connor family, Roseanne was bossy, crass, crude, loud, opinionated and sarcastic. In addition to these outstanding qualities Roseanne was also eager to help anyone with her unique brand of homespun wisdom evolved from a lifetime spent as a cynic and a slob. Amazingly, Roseanne took time away from her career as self-proclaimed neighborhood sage to even get married. Even more amazingly, to a man who actually cared for her...or at least one who liked being emotionally castrated. They went on to have three children- two daughters, much like their mother in several ways, and a son. Although this last child is almost normal in every way Roseanne was a devoted mother who worked tirelessly to whip him into an obedient and docile male that one day would make a fit mate for another domineering and cynical slob.

4. Arthur Fonzarelli, aka Fonzie (Happy Days)

During Happy Days' initial years, when the show was fresh and funny, the character of Fonzie actually was cool. He possessed real anti-social, anti-hero appeal what with his interests that were aimed more at girls and his cycle than anything else. Viewers got the definite feel that for the Fonz, life beyond Al's hamburger joint was a lot darker -and much more exciting- than the problems encountered by Richie Cunningham and his band of nerdy high school friends.

Then suddenly the show changed: it was being filmed in front of live audiences and the humor grew more hokey and family-oriented with each passing episode. The character of Fonzie likewise changed; he became one of the major players and in doing so was turned into a caricature of his own former coolness. A caricature with heaps of sensitivity and wholesome virtues and spouting off his catch-phrases, "Sit on it" and "ee-aayyh!" until the viewers who had originally tuned in because of his coolness were now turned off forever.

Today Fonzie is remembered best for the episode that has inspired the adage, Jumped the shark. It isn't a memorial to be proud of, but it shows exactly the kind of damage that can befall an appealing character once he's been cleaned up and wholesome-fied.

3. Brian Griffin (Family Guy)

Brian is the canine member of TV's Griffin family as seen on Family Guy. One might assume that living in the same household as the village idiot Peter Griffin might have a detrimental effect on this dog, but strangely Brian is the smartest member of the entire lot. Not only can Brian talk, but in contrast to Peter, is an unqualified genius. And as the brains of the family Brian typically gets in the last word on the controversial scenarios and situations that seem drawn to the Griffins like magnets. If it weren't for Brian's perspective no doubt the family would fall apart. But as it is Brian has the ability to shine the light of progressive rationality on any and all situations and therefore bring stability into the otherwise chaotic household.

In doling out his spin on things Brian regularly mocks, derides, snubs and otherwise demeans anything that opposes his social philosophies. Over the years he's also became a confirmed atheist, and this ideology liberally peppers his conversations. Not that Brian pretends he is perfect -he's been known to dabble in illicit drugs and pull a few drunks- it is just that Brian learns from his mistakes. By learning I mean that Brian realizes how to be discreet about his vices and correspondingly, ever more sanctimonious. Yep, Brian is a genuine moralist among elitist cartoon dogs and one you'll never catch trying to hump a woman's leg without bringing protection!

2.. Barney (Barney & Friends)

He's been known by many names: The purple dinosaur. The raging plum Nightmare. The Playground Freak-a-Saur. The Creature From The PBS Void. The Thing With No Soul. The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse. The Antichrist.

But to millions of children he's Barney the Dinosaur. A friendly, gentle creature who teaches them important lessons about personal safety, family, friends and how to annoy others with a steady stream of guffawing laughter, humorless puns and off-key singing. I remember a few years back when some adults stirred up controversy by hanging Barney in effigy. That kind of behavior is totally insensitive. A responsible adult makes an effigy, cuts the head off and then gets it put into bed for the producer to wake up beside.

Its all about the right message.

#1 Julia Sugarbaker (Designing Women)

Designing Women's Julia Sugarbaker places #1 as my choice for TV's Most Painfully Annoying Character of All Time.

Now unlike some of her fellow TV characters on the list Julia did have some virtues: she was educated and articulate, successful and hard-working. Julia also possessed a fine intellect, an enduring appreciation for the finer things in life and generally cared about her fellow man. Unfortunately for anyone who had to spend any time around Julia -or even inadvertently found themselves in the same room -Julia had a temper as volatile as the San Andreas faultline. She was aggressive when pissed, which was OFTEN, and it didn't matter if you were friend or family or a complete stranger -if you crossed Julia, purposely or not, you were doomed to pay for that mistake.

The scariest examples of Julia's fragile control over her temper manifested when she heard an opinion that differed from her own views. It wasn't that Julia didn't respect the First Amendment, but for her freedom of speech meant two things: 1. she was free to preach her beliefs at any time, anywhere and at any audibly-offensive level she chose. 2. she was at liberty to plow her car through vending stalls where girlie magazines were sold without facing so much as a driving ticket.

Although her views were sometimes quite laudable, for Julia the sound of dissension equated to a challenge to battle. Her reaction was to pounce on her opponents (or victims, if you will), with an arsenal of scorching verbal missiles, typically launched well within her opponent's personal space Not only were these belligerent assaults aimed at other characters it was clear the context of her words were meant to censure viewers who didn’t toe the line to the message the show’s creators wanted out. To sum it up, Designing Women was not meant to entertain; it was designed to preach and convert. But even for those viewers -like me- who agreed with a certain amount of the basic message, the sermonizing and intolerance was a huge turn off.

After a couple of seasons I stopped watching completely. I think many people did. However, even as the writers didn't seem to care they were losing audience members, by continuing to make the spittle-spewing Julia Sugarbaker front woman for their agenda this character did offer certain interest the writers probably had not foreseen: it served as an exemplar for other writers desperate to learn the fine art of chasing off pesky viewers AND it offered the closest thing to lathering hot Dominatrix-style porn you could get without cable...or one of the dirty magazines like the ones Julia destroyed.

But for those not into that kind of kink and/or unacquainted with Julia Sugarbaker here is an interpretative video that demonstrates what her squalling rants sound like to yours truly.

Dishonorable mentions

in no particular order:

Mr. French (Family Affair)

He-Man (He-Man and The Masters of The Universe)

Marcia Brady (The Brady Bunch)

Officer Poncherello, aka Ponch (CHiPS)

Ward Cleaver (Leave It To Beaver)

Steven Keaton (Family Ties)

Ann Romano (One Day At A Time)

Tattoo (Fantasy Island)

The TV shows with the Most Painfully Annoying entire cast ensembles.

In no particular order:

The Facts of Life



Goodluck Charlie

Father Knows Best

Alvin and the Chipmunks


Wizards of Waverly Place


The Secret Circle

Big Time Rush

The Suite Life of Zack and Cody

Gossip Girl

In Plain Sight

Full House

This Hub post ©April 25, 2012 by Beth Perry

Reader poll

Which one of the 20 TV characters on my Most Painfully Annoying list do you find most annoying?

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Submit a Comment
  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    6 years ago from Tennesee

    Hello Deborah Sexton, as I wrote in the prelude of this Hub, "The following list is my personal 20 picks of the most painfully annoying characters" . These picks are based strictly on MY perception of the fictional characters named and nothing else. But if we want to go to historically accurate regarding mere fictional characters, then 1. Ward Cleaver had a pipe (given to him by a friend) and he wrongly accused his older son of smoking it, so if I assume Ward was a pipe smoker. 2. June Cleaver was seen cleaning her home and washing dishes in several episodes, which sorry, I count as hard work. And when it comes to Charles Ingalls, please remember just because a majority of tv viewers MAY like him, this doesn't mean I am indebted to agree. My husband likes Charles Ingalls; he is a fan of LHOTP from way back. He gets irritated with Will & Grace (which I like) and Charles' saccharin-talking nice guy image irritates me. I don't know why Ingalls irritates, but this is the way it is (maybe it was the salon-perfect hair, maybe the fact his hands never looked like they'd known a day of hard work in their life?). Whatever the reason, my husband and I don't let differences or little irritations for something like television characters make for hurt feelings. It is television, and these are not real people. I tried to put a humorous slant on this article, and I am sorry if you take it more seriously. But I cannot apologize for having or sharing my own perspective.

    I do thank you for dropping in and sharing your thoughts :) I wish you a great day.

  • profile image

    Deborah Sexton 

    6 years ago

    Beaver's father Ward never smoked a pipe, he was a goodie two shoes, and his mother June wasn't hard working at all except in trying to find out everyone's business.

    Charles Ingalls was a very nice guy and many like him. You won't find many who will agree with you there...Why are you so irritated by him?

  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    7 years ago from Tennesee

    LOL Eric! And yep, that pretty well sums poor Krillin up!

  • Eric Newland profile image

    Eric Newland 

    7 years ago from Dayton, Ohio

    Good hub, funny and very thorough, even though I have regrettably, or perhaps fortunately, not seen many of these shows.

    It's probably worth mentioning that Krillen of DBZ fame is functionally useless on top of his other redeeming qualities. Almost always the first character to get his ass kicked in a battle, as I recall. Winner of the coveted "Most Time Spent Groaning With His Face In the Dirt While Struggling to Do a Single Pushup" award.

  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    7 years ago from Tennesee

    Dexter, thanks so much :)

  • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

    Dexter Yarbrough 

    7 years ago from United States

    Beth! Thanks for showering me with great humor this morning! I have tears in my eyes from laughing so hard. And the dialogue from Different Strokes? Hilarious! This HAS to be one of the top 10 humorous hubs I have read all year.

    Voted up, up and away!!!


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