This question comes from The A.V. Club’s own Gwen Ihnat:
When The Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce recently returned for its second season on Bravo, the main character’s friend Jo, played by Alanna Ubach, had progressed from annoying to intolerable. In the first few episodes especially (she’s since improved a bit), she’s the kind of loud, petulant, self-obsessed person who thinks she’s a badass, when she’s really just an asshole to practically everyone around her. I would flat-out avoid this person in real life, which was making it difficult for me to enjoy the show as much as I did when Janeane Garofalo was in the “sarcastic friend” role. So I was wondering: What TV character manages to ruin a show you like?
Although I stopped watching the show a few seasons before it ended, The League hobbled every time Taco appeared. I don’t think it was Jonathan Lajoie’s fault; the “kooky friend”character is an old, tired trope, and particularly in the show’s early seasons, his character just didn’t fit with everything else. I think that improved a bit by the fourth season, the last one I watched, but Taco never felt essential. I would’ve gladly ceded his screen time to more appearances by Jason Mantzoukas’ unhinged Rafi.
There are a lot of things wrong with The Strain, FX’s series that’s apparently about how hard it is to make a good show out of Guillermo Del Toro’s three-book series that treats a vampire infection like a viral outbreak. But one of the most intolerable aspects of the whole enterprise is the character of Zach Goodweather, son of Ephraim (Corey Stoll), the former CDC doctor who’s racing to find a cure to the outbreak. On the scale of obnoxious kids, from one to Urkel, Zach essentially wrecks the curve, his insufferably self-centered behavior literally endangering the future of the human race. He has two settings—mopey and putting everyone’s life in danger—and neither one is watchable. Kids might be this awful in real life, but that doesn’t mean I want to see a show that depicts such assholery in all its stupid glory. Please, Zach, take a cue from Carl on The Walking Dead, and grow the fuck up.
I risk beating a dead horse here, since I’ve thoroughly documented my issues with Scandal’s Rowan Pope (Joe Morton) as he went from being the show’s best character to its worst in record time. But after swearing off Scandal following “You Can’t Take Command,” a season finale so terrible it’s almost brave, I caught up with it a few weeks into this season. Season four ended with Rowan behind bars, and I wanted to see what shape the show would take after temporarily neutralizing the character most responsible for its devolution from a singular, if daffy political thriller to an inept spy drama with no concrete stakes or grasp of its characters. The first two episodes focus on the tumultuous romance between Olivia (Kerry Washington) and Fitz (Tony Goldwyn), and while I was never fully invested in that relationship, many Scandal fans are, and Goldwyn and Washington have unbeatable chemistry. It was certainly the shallowest incarnation of Scandal, but one I could see myself getting back into. But at the end of the third episode, Rowan reemerges to ruin the show once again. I’d hoped the trial separation would last at least a half-season, sparing me a few of Rowan’s dumb schemes and interminable monologues, but Shonda Rhimes’ biggest storytelling flaw is her insistence on working with actors she likes, even if their characters are gutting their respective shows. I feel much more comfortable abandoning Scandal now that I see just how committed Rhimes is to turning it into an off-brand Alias.
Here’s something I don’t especially like admitting, given the long and unpleasant history of people unfairly hating on the sitcom wives of the animated world: I loathe Linda Belcher from Bob’s Burgers. But here’s the dark secret that underpins my antipathy for the character, and her attention-seeking, self-centered ways: Linda isn’t Bob’s Burgers’ Marge Simpson, acting as a fun-draining governor on her family’s wilder excesses; she’s its Homer, a rampaging id monster who perpetually puts her family in actual, physical danger to fulfill her random whims. Look no further than season four’s “Christmas In The Car,” the episode that curdled my dislike for Linda into actual hate. First, she forces the family out into the snow on Christmas Eve, and then she spends the entire evening belittling, ignoring, and mocking her husband as he tries to keep her and their children—whose own selfish irritations and obnoxious taunting are far more endearing, because they’re, you know, kids—alive after they attract the attention of a semi-deranged candy cane. Sitting here writing this, I’m getting angry about it all over again. Stop complaining about your stupid Dutch baby, Lin! This guy’s trying to run us off the road!
It kills me to say it, since I’m a huge fan of Kristen Schaal’s work pretty much everywhere else, but her introduction as psychotic NBC page Hazel Wassername (real name: Richard Drench) does serious damage to my enjoyment of 30 Rock. Season six is the show’s weirdest and weakest, and Hazel—whether twisting Kenneth around her finger, scheming to crash the live TGS stage, scheming to replace Liz, scheming to seduce Tracy, scheming to kill Jenna—is the emblem of how broad the show got before pulling things together in admirable fashion for its seventh and final season. Schaal’s signature cockeyed energy, so effective on Bob’s Burgers, Gravity Falls, Flight Of The Conchords, and The Last Man On Earth never meshes with the decidedly warmer cockeyed energy of the show itself, and she’s given way too much screen time, considering how offputting the character is from the first time she shows up. In the season six live episode, you can hear the audience chime in, too—her schemes (she schemes a lot) to disrupt the broadcast are met with a noticeable lull.
I hate to say it, but far too many episodes of Parks And Recreation were dragged down by the killer ensemble’s weak link, Ann Perkins. I feel bad for bringing it up because Rashida Jones is delightful. She showed off terrific sitcom chops on The Office (when she made what could have been a one-dimensional obstacle thrown between Jim and Pam into a well-rounded character who made you wonder if she wasn’t a better choice for Jim). On Parks, she was a terrific straight-woman foil for Amy Poehler, and the Ann-Leslie friendship was the heart of the show in its early seasons. But outside of that friendship, the writers very quickly ran out of things for the show’s one non-Parks-Department employee to do. We suffered through improbable romantic pairings (“How about Tom? We don’t know what to do with him either!”), and that terrible sitcom standby, the single woman trying for a baby. Both Jones and the audience deserved better storylines for Ann, and when she left the show, relief outweighed any sadness at seeing her go.
I’m new enough to You’re The Worst to feel like I have to give some of the show’s supporting players (outside of the delightful core four) the benefit of the doubt, so I’ll go with a show I just finished this week: I really like Marvel’s Jessica Jones, but I’ve found the character of Robyn (played by Colby Minifie) bafflingly misconceived. She begins the show as part of the weirdo couple upstairs who turn out to not be a couple at all, but brother and sister. In general I haven’t been sold on the Jessica Jones ensemble—it feels a little diffuse and underdeveloped—but Robyn’s aggressively weird and hostile awkwardness really stands out, especially as she lingers late into the season. The thing is, she should work fine; a shifty-eyed upstairs neighbor who is creepily close to her brother/roommate seems like a perfectly acceptable idea for a character in a noirish show. But Jessica Jones, compelling as it is, doesn’t do noir all that well, and instead of landing as tragic or darkly comic, Robyn’s weird not-that-funny laugh lines jut out like a bad imitation of Joss Whedon that sometimes sneers at her weirdness. I never really understood what the show was after by including her. She might’ve been a great one-off character (like, say, if Jessica Jones actually took more detective cases!) but as a recurring role she’s a bizarre, tone-deaf distraction.
I went through a retroactive hardcore Grey’s Anatomy phase about a year ago that slowed down as soon as the characters from Mercy West came into play in season six. I wasn’t a fan of any of them (save for Jesse William’s Jackson because, dayum), but I really hated Sarah Drew’s April Kepner (spoilers: I possibly hated her more because she ends up with Jesse Williams). In a show full of strong, interesting women, April was so comparatively boring. Everything about April, including her simper and her pout, her babyish voice, and her inability to be a badass on the levels of the great and powerful Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) made me cringe every time she was onscreen. She may have gotten better, but since my Grey‘s obsession has thankfully come to an end, I’ll probably never know.
I’m answering this with the caveat that the show was clearly already past its sell-by date at that point anyway, but in my mind, there has always been a direct correlation between my falling out of love with Diff’rent Strokes and the arrival of Sam McKinney, played by Danny Cooksey. Sam—the red-headed 7-year-old son of Mr. Drummond’s new love interest, Maggie—joined the series during its sixth season, and he was absolutely insufferable, completely throwing off the balance of the show. I don’t blame Cooksey, who earned redemption for his sins by virtue of his work in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, not to mention his subsequent career as a voice actor. But his character cemented my recognition of when a family-centric show is attempting to survive the aging of the kids in its cast by bringing in new kids to regurgitate the gags that the old kids used to deliver. Instead of attempting to evolve and move forward, Diff’rent Strokes made a conscious effort to maintain the status quo, and it failed miserably: After Sam moved in, I tuned out. Thankfully, I didn’t know until after the fact that the show had done an episode where Sam was kidnapped. I probably would’ve rooted for the kidnapper.