The WORST TV Characters of 2016

By | January 1, 2017

Note: As always, these are bad characters in otherwise good shows. There has to be a certain element of “ruining a good series” present, otherwise I could just list participants at an RNC debate…

Have to Include It: The “Sand Snakes” and Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) in “Game of Thrones”…Actually, they didn’t get on my nerves so much, but most fans hated these characters so much that their scenes were visibly cut back. To many book fans, these characters symbolize the worst change from page to screen, but love Indira Varma.

Dishonorable Mention: Christine Reade (Riley Keough) in “The Girlfriend Experience”…It looks like the series wanted to shred the “hooker with a heart of gold” archetype by creating one of the most viscerally unlikable characters of the year. You might say “Well, what’s the difference between her and other TV anti-heroes that are men?” but Tony Soprano or Walter White or Vic Mackey are always fascinating even when they’re despicable. Christine is just never that interesting.

Warning: Abe Woodhouse (Jamie Bell) in “TURN” and Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) in “Silicon Valley”…I’ve actually really liked both in season’s past—but in their respective series 3rd seasons it felt like they went out of their way to screw things up and look incompetent. And this is a little more forgivable for Richard than Abe since “Valley” is a comedy, while “TURN” is sometimes just unintentionally funny.

10. Uncle Pete (Alan Alda) in “Horace and Pete”…To be clear, this is a great performance as Alda—completely against type as a sour-faced, conservative asshole bartender who’s hostile to all he meets—but he also feels like the least likable or interesting character Eugene O’Neill ever created.

9. Rosa (Rosa Salazar) in “Man Seeking Woman”…Last season’s complicated “love interest”/girl obsession (Maya Erskine’s Maggie) was awful in a hilarious way. Rosa doesn’t show up until the back-half of this season and in her episodes she leads Josh on while she has a boyfriend, refuses to date him when she doesn’t, eventually dates his best friend, eventually dumps the best friend too, and then starts leading Josh on again just enough to possibly wreck his friendship.

8. Ben (Bryan Greenberg) and Sara (Greta Gerwig) in “The Mindy Project”…Does anybody really give a shit about “The Mindy Project” relationships anymore? Since Mindy and Danny have broken up, Mindy has dated a string of increasingly bland dudes and randoms (really, Ne-Yo?) like she’s back in season 1—a regression for the show, to be certain—and Danny has mostly been seen with interchangeable Sears models and Gerwig’s neurotic, irritating Sarah. Plus, the Mindy romance the show most set-up as a tolerable Mindy/Danny substitute—Jody (Garret Dillahunt) and Mindy—collapsed before it even began.

7. Most humans in “Westworld”…The “Westworld” show-runners have made the Kubrikian decision to make the robots more human than the actual humans, but most of the human characters are as one-note as they are nasty. Aside from The Man in Black (Ed Harris) and creator Ford (Anthony Hopkins), what human characters even have a second layer? There’s soulless corporate schemers, bloodthirsty guests, and hapless lab techs, and it makes it hard not to root for the robots most weeks, which I understand is the point but a point perhaps better made in a movie than a weekly TV series.

6. Chuck (Michael McKean) in “Better Call Saul”…To be totally fair, Chuck is a very realistic character—the horrible relative that treats family worse than an enemy—but I’ve grown a little tired of his chess match with Saul. By this point in “Breaking Bad” season 2, we had already met most of Walter’s greatest antagonists (aging hitman Mike, live-wire Tuco, and steely chicken king Gus) while Saul is mostly doing battle with his own brother, a guy who wears a literal tinfoil blanket. It increasingly seems like Mike is carrying the series with B-side neo-noir coolness while Saul and Chuck are off restaging a “Frasier” episode as high tragedy.

5. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in “The Walking Dead” and Declan “The Satanist” Bode (Frederick Weller) in “Banshee”…Two villains that just don’t live up to the hype. On “The Walking Dead” the arrival of Negan was treated as an epoch event that would split the show into pre-Negan and post-Negan periods, but non-fans of the comic (like myself) are wondering “What’s the big deal?” Negan has never struck me as remotely scary—so far, the mild-mannered cannibals from Terminus are the most unnerving “Walking” villains—and often just seems like a former jock having a mid-life crisis and taking it out on his young gym students. There’s just not much beneath the leather-jacketed smarm, and most of his decisions (like killing Scott for trying to warn him about Rick) don’t even make sense. Then on Banshee the fourth (and finale) season’s main villain couldn’t help but be a let-down after all the great badasses that have come before him.

4. The Good Guys on “Narcos”…The only thing worse than an anti-climactic villain may be “heroes” that are actually pretty awful. Netflix’s hit Spanglish drama consistently fails to make a case for why we should even care if Pablo Escobar is caught when the people hunting him are maniac army colonels, neo-fascist death squads, smarmy rival cartel bosses, and DEA agents willing and eager to make deals with any of them as long as it “brings down Pablo.” As the cliffhanger for season 3 makes clear, they virtually ignored cartels that were actually growing much bigger in the name of hunting someone politically embarassing to them. [Pictures of an actual DEA agent smiling over Pablo’s actual corpse–like he’s just bagged an animal–as we see in real photos during the season-two finale make me ask, again, “Why do we give a damn about these people?”]

3. Theo (Jason Patrick) on “Wayward Pines”…Last year’s “Wayward Pines” lead character (Matt Dillon’s sheriff) made 2015’s Worst Characters List and I thought it couldn’t get much worse, but Dillon’s dazed sheriff looks warm and three-dimensional compared to Patrick’s joyless and sullen Dr. Theo. He carries himself less like a middle-aged surgeon than a shithead teenager who’s looking for a reason to be angry. [Although there was at least one lead character in a series who was worse, as you’ll see from number 1’s ranking.]

2. Zach on “The Strain” and Paige on “The Americans”…I try not to be repetitive—carrying over the same characters on either the Best or Worst list—so I wasn’t exactly wanting to put these “kids” (who shared last year’s top Worst spot) on again, but damn they suck. Paige has almost single-handedly slowed “The Americans” pacing to a crawl; gone are the days of realistic badassery and here are the endless scenes where her parents have to talk her off a ledge where she might report them. And how bad can “The Strain” make Zach look after he was indirectly responsible for killing his dad’s girlfriend last year? Well, this year he set off a nuclear bomb in Manhattan during a temper tantrum.

1. Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) on “Billions”…We should love Chuck Rhoades. He’s married to Maggie Siff’s cool, bondage-playing therapist. He chases white collar crookes for a living. He has a rigid moral code as he goes after Wall Street scum. I mean, he’s played by Paul Giamatti for God’s sakes. Yet Chuck (what is it about that name between this show and “Better Call Saul”?) is an unrelenting asshole to just about everybody he meets. There’s hardly a scene where he’s not browbeating, bullying, insulting, or lying to everyone from a random dog walker to hapless bystanders in his collateral-damage accuring war against a hedge fund king to even his loyal assistant. [He tells his loyal assistant not to “fuck the help” about a work crush who’s nice to him, among other charming lines.] Chuck is so awful, “Billions” may be the first show I’ve ever seen where people wind up actively rooting for a Wall Street villain. And all those people that said “Damages” Patty Hewes was “unlikable” (she wasn’t really) may want to look up Chuck Rhoades for a case study in characters that are actually hard to like.

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