Top 10 Best Characters in Bad TV Shows

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything pop culture related, and if you’ve been a reader for a while, you know it used to be a very common staple around here. But my pop culture tendencies have been satisfied at work in the last year, as I’ve had the chance to work pop culture into two classes I’ve taught and two curriculums I wrote.
But here I am getting that itch again and had an idea today as I was watching a bad TV show. Often bad TV shows have at least one character that is somewhat likable, and sometimes even very likable. I have my own guilty-pleasure TV shows I watch from time to time and was trying to figure out why… and voila! I realized the show is usually somewhat redeemed by one great chracater that I either love or love to hate. Either way, love is involved. So here we go:
10.) Bruce Van Exel on “Judging Amy”


I was a regular watcher of Judging Amy for a couple of seasons back in the day, before A Brenneman began to annoy me and her character even more. But one consistently great character on the show was Bruce, Amy’s co-worker at the courthouse. Bruce was, in many ways, the moral center of the show, as well as the person who grounded Amy the most. We all need that person in our life. Plus… he’s soooooo handsome.
9.) Jane Deaux on “Dharma and Greg”


Dharma and Greg was never a great show, but never a truly horrible one either. It never become a “can’t miss” for me, but even today I’ll pause on it if I see a re-run airing. Try as they might to make Greg and Dharma interesting characters, Jane was far more interesting and completely hilarous. Shaie D’Lyn didn’t get near enough screen time, but when she did, she stole the scene. (Well, mostly the whole espisode) And she made the show completely worth watching.
8.) Deputy Andy Brennan on “Twin Peaks”


I have a long/hate relationships with Twin Peaks. I loved it when it first aired on TV, though at the time I never had the chance to watch it all the way through to the end of the final season. And I was pretty young when it first aired, so that was probably a good thing, as the material was inappropriate for someone my age. There were many things about the show I loved, but also many I hated. As an adult, I realized now much of my hatred is due to me not fully embracing Lynch’s surrealist style and just letting myself go and really be in the story.
That said, whenever Dupty Andy was on the screen, I was in full-on love mode. Adorably dim and sweetly innocent, Andy made the underground seediess of small town America seem less painful. I recently rewatched the whole series on Netflix, and while I still don’t love it, I can honestly admit it scared the crap out of me. No TV show has ever done that, and for back in 1990-1991, that was pretty-ground breaking for public television. And one of my favorite moments is when we see Andy putting put posters around town and he has scotch tape ALL over his face. So funny.
7.) Piper Halliwell on “Charmed”


I admit it: Charmed is a guilty pleasure of mine, particularly Season 2-4. But I will be the first to admit that the show is mostly crap-tastic. However, Piper, first as the middle sister then as the oldest sister, was consistently the most watchable character on the show. But then again, she was up against that brooding anger of Shannen Doherty and the obnoixious attitude of Alyssa Milano. (And don’t even get me started on Rose McGowan. Ugh.) Too bad they saddled her with the worst husband ever and some really bad dialogue. But Holly Marie Combs almost always brought honest emotions to even the worst of the material and makes it worth it for me (some of the time, anyway. No episode in Season 8 is watchable at all).
6.) Mallory Keaton on “Family Ties”


I loved Family Ties when I was a kid, but I watch it now and it’s painful. Meredith Baxter Burney chews the scenery in every episode and Michael J. Fox’s portral of the arrogant Alex Keaton is not enduring, but simply obnoxious. But the character of Mallory Keaton, and Justine’s decent portrayal of it, always rang true to me.
5.) Birttney Pierce on “Glee”


Okay, so I’m not exactly sure I could quailify Glee as a “bad” tv show yet, but there have been some serious low points in the brief time it’s been on the air. However, those are easily outweighed the by the high points. (Rachel and Kurt singing Defying Gravity, everything Arty does (though he is sadly under-used), the development of Kurt and his father’s relationship, Rachel singing Streisand at Regionals, Puck becomcing human, how they handled the gay bullying story-line, Sue doing Vogue and all her hilarous hair jokes, for example). So it was a tough choice for me to pick which character to put on this list, but week after week, Brittney has the best line of the episode: “I think my cat is reading my diary.” “I was pretty sure Dr. Pepper was a dentist.” ”When I pulled my hamstring, I went to a misogynist.”
4.) Miranda Bailey on “Grey’s Anatomy”


Holy cow, has this show been bad. Really, really bad. But it has also had some really brillant moments, and many of them are because of the bad-assery of Bailey, brillantly played by Chandra Wilson. Bailey cuts through the crap of all the soap drama, and when she makes one of her awesome yelling speeches, I am reminded of why I give the show chance after chance. Of all the characters on the show, I feel as if she’s been the least subjected to the typcial character assasination that often happenes on long-running shows looking for new plot devices. Bailey’s been consistently hard-working, utterly compassionate, ethically upright and a great teacher to her interns. I cannot say that for the rest of the cast of characters.
3.) Genevieve Gorder on “Trading Spaces”


Okay, I realize I’m stretching it a bit since she’s an actual person, but here is why I picked her: in a show that eventually became a virus – on every single day and twice on Saturdays – this original and creative show idea become soooooo stale and awful. But Genevieve always brought style and personality to the show an in general was just… fabulous. I was always happy when she was one of the two designers in an episode, which happened far too little in the later days after she got her own show. I appreciated how she really listened to what the homeowner wanted and needed yet still made it her own style. That’s a rare combo in a designer. Especially on that show.
2.) John Cage on “Ally McBeal”


In the same vein as Grey’s Anatomy, wow… this could be a really bad show when it wanted to be. But the character of John Cage was written brilliantly and acted even more brilliantly by Peter MacNichol. Despite all the so-called “feminism” of the show and the whining of Ally about her love life, the quirkiness of it all won me over (even if the last season was truly awful) and the biggest part of that quirkiness was the character of John Cage. He consistently made me laugh with his bathroom dismounts, his pet frogs, his “fresh bowl” and his Barry White dancing. He left as the show went awry (smart move) and the Biscuit will always hold a special place in my heart.
1.) Pacey Whitter on “Dawson’s Creek”


I never watch Dawson’s Creek while it was on the air, but I had a friend who who urged me over and over to watch it so I relented and watched it on DVD. And it’s really, really bad. Bad chick-rock music, ridiculous dialogue, unrealistic portrayal of teenagers and far too much angst. But Pacey, Pacey, Pacey… he was the show’s star (though only deemed the “side-kick best friend”). He also managed to stay free from character assasination, and the writers did a decent job keeping his character, especially his strong sense of justice, intact during the show’s 6-season run. Despite my hatred for the Dawson character and his flaring nostrils and my disdian for Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson’s redition of a wounded kid with hero-tendencies and what looks to me to be the best hugger EVER, made this show bearable for me to watch. Even if it was just once.
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One Comment on “Top 10 Best Characters in Bad TV Shows

  1. Gotta love #6 – hard to beat Peter MacNichol. Love it when John Cage went all Barry White on us. And yes Ally was a bit lame at times.


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