It’s perhaps a good sign that I had trouble filling this year’s list, as maybe there are fewer annoying TV characters out there. As always, these are the characters I found most annoying on otherwise good shows rather than bad characters on bad shows…
10. Most of the major characters in “TURN: Washington’s Spies”…Spies that have no subtext and a blind man could probably see through, and a murderous Lt.-Colonel the series asked us to despise thoroughly before cheating us of his death. I spent four long years waiting for the series to get better, and the final season somehow managed to make the end of the American Revolution feel anti-climactic (although it’s still the best of all four, which perhaps tells you something).
9. Kerry Bishe as Donna Clarke in “Halt and Catch Fire”…The final season of AMC’s other uneven historical series was arguably the show’s strongest, but a disappointing series finale and putting Donna in a villainous light felt like a drag. And let’s be honest and say the series has never really known what to do with her in the first place.
8. Paul Sparks as Tom Yates in “House of Cards”…I like Sparks as an actor, but when Tom Yates (the manipulative, double-crossing author who stole his dead best friend’s manuscript and tried to blackmail the Underwoods into greater and greater intimacy) died post-coital with a naked Claire on top of him, I practically burst into applause.
7. Felicity Huffman as Jeanette Hesby in “American Crime”…It’s a sign of just how weak a year this is for bad characters that she’s included here, as I probably wouldn’t have noticed Jeanette much in a worse year. Still, it’s a far-reach to ask audiences to believe that the long-time wife of a farm owner doesn’t know farm immigrants aren’t treated very well. Her “Wokeness” might have been admirable if it didn’t feel like the long overdue result of decades of willful ignorance.
6. Jack O’Connell as Roy Goode in “Godless”…”Godless” is sold as a feminist Western about a town full of women (they’re mostly widowed from a mining collapse that killed most of the town’s men) trying to make it in frontier times, but that fascinating idea keeps getting shortchanged by this miniseries’s stubborn refusal to give up on the idea that Roy Goode is a character worth focusing on. Any time we get to spend with Merrit Weaver’s fiery sharpshooter or even Jeff Daniels’s villainous outlaw leader feels like a relief before the guaranteed tedium Goode brings.
The Last Five Characters Are Essentially Tied…
Emily Browning as Laura Moon in “American Gods”…Her tough-girl poses and “fuck you” attitude add up to a sarcastic Showtime-series cliche more than anything resembling a real character. And the two episodes focusing almost exclusively on her (much more so than the book ever did) are the series’s worst, and I don’t think that’s entirely coincidental.
Frank Langella as Gabriel in “The Americans”…It feels time is practically standing still every time we’re asked to follow Gabriel, who can usually be found eating soup quietly, moaning, and saying the phrase “I’m tired” as he sits at a table looking morose, only occasionally coming alive to hatch up a scheme. Although he does feel like an accurate representation of a true Russian.
Giovanni Ribisi as Marius Josipovic/Pete Murphy in “Sneaky Pete”…A con-man so sweaty and twitchy that you don’t see how anyone could fall for a word he says.
Lauren Lapkus as Jessica in “Crashing”…Pete’s wife (who sleeps with and leaves him for another, much grosser man in the pilot episode) is such a drag on the proceedings that the episodes that don’t feature her are vastly better than the ones that do.
Jude Law as Pope Pius XIII in “The Young Pope”…What starts off as a mysterious, Machiavellian character is gradually softened into a character that only somewhat cares about others besides himself. The problem is that Pius is so narcissistic and egomaniacal that you don’t fully believe in his mild transition. Maybe I’m wrong and this character is just a commentary on a vain, uncaring God but that doesn’t make him any easier to tolerate for ten long episodes.