It's no secret that I watch a lot of television, with a certain affinity for TV shows from my youth. I love the sitcoms with preposterous premises that were the staples of my formative years. Watching them now, however, I find these shows quaint and endearing in their awfulness.
Most sitcoms featured a cast of likeable characters — a sweet mom, a friendly dad, a helpful neighbor, a loyal coworker, a jovial hillbilly who suddenly comes into a large sum of money. You know, everyday folks to which the home viewer could relate. A lot of shows, however, featured an annoying character. Someone whose sole purpose was to be irritating. I'm not talking about a character like Barney Fife, the hapless deputy sheriff on The Andy Griffith Show. Sure, Barney had his annoying moments, but he meant well. He was sincerely trying to help. He was just a little overanxious, longing for some real police action among the day-to-day tedium of cats stuck up in a tree or making coffee to sober up Otis the drunk. Sheriff Andy knew that Barney was not malicious, just zealous and proud. Also, Don Knotts was awarded five Emmys for his performance and he was a favorite of the viewing audience. In 1999, TV Guide ranked him ninth on its "50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time" list — so someone liked him. Although I love The Andy Griffith Show, I find the character of Barney thoroughly annoying in the majority of episodes, but I am in the overwhelming minority.
I'm also not talking about characters like Dennis Mitchell, the rascally main focus of Dennis the Menace. Sure, the point of the show is that he's annoying, but he does mean well and, at times he can be endearing. I also don't mean Mr. Mooney, Gale Gordon's character from The Lucy Show. First of all, anyone who has to put up with Lucille Ball gets an automatic pass, but Mr. Mooney is just doing his job and Lucy is the real cause of his ire. I'm not talking about mildly annoying characters, like Dwayne Schneider on One Day at a Time or Steve Urkel on Family Matters. Yeah, they were annoying, but they genuinely meant well and weren't necessarily toxic. The kind of characters I am singling out are annoying for the sake of being annoying. They have no endearing qualities. They are selfish and mean for no other reason than stroking their own ego. Their actions are not beneficial to anyone but themselves. There are three of these jerks that I wish to expose.
I like to think that television writing and character development has improved over the decades since Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie and That Girl graced the airwaves. But it really hasn't.
Just ask Kimmy Gibbler or Ross Geller.