“Lost” (2004-10) Being the hero of an ensemble show is challenging, as the protagonist needs to hold things together. Jack Shephard carries such an arrogant attitude for most of his run in “Lost” that it’s not the easiest to root for him. Despite becoming the de facto leader, Jack doesn’t do much to tend to the group — apart from yelling at them seemingly as much as he can. From his crisis of faith to wasting time in a love triangle with Sawyer and Kate, he overlooks issues that probably matter more to most of the characters. Most of the bad things that happen aren’t his fault, but Jack’s unstable mindset and stubbornness make it difficult for viewers to warm up to him.
“Grey’s Anatomy” (2005-) Many main characters are nice, likable, and engaging — Meredith is none of those. Apart from a select group of people, she’s cold and aloof in general, including towards her own half-sister at first. Sure, her troubled childhood played a part in making her this way, but Meredith also suffers from slow character development and an incessantly distant personality. Plot points about her romantic relationships generally go through recycle periods, following a similar template that gets predictable as the seasons roll on. Add to that, other central members of the cast are simply more interesting. We’d rather follow someone charming like Lexie or exciting like Cristina than put up with Meredith’s dry attitude.
“Fred: The Show” (2012) Shows aimed at a younger audience typically don’t require as much depth in storytelling. But “Fred: The Show” pushes this to the limit, featuring a main character with the ability to talk your ear off. Apart from being extremely annoying, the character of Fred Figglehorn has no personality or reason to exist. The series is mainly about him landing in one problem or another, followed by his unfunny antics. Fred may have been okay when creator Lucas Cruikshank portrayed him on YouTube, but his schtick gets old by the first television episode. Watching his flat, uninspiring, and at times infuriating behavior is a tall task to sit through — which is remarkable, considering each episode only runs for 11 minutes.
“Gilmore Girls” (2000-07) & “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” (2016) When things start out, we’re inclined to excuse Rory’s faults due to the inexperience of youth. She’s bright, intuitive, and charming in her own way, but winds up making one wrong move after another. After watching her break up a marriage, antagonize her mother, and become an outright boat thief, it becomes harder to defend her. It doesn’t get better in the Netflix follow-up. Here, she can’t even bother to remember her boyfriend, whom she’s cheating on with her ex. The lack of accountability she takes for her actions doesn’t help either, as Rory carries a largely unapologetic demeanor. If you want to see what happens when a “nice girl” turns bad, look no further than Rory Gilmore.
“How I Met Your Mother” (2005-14) Here’s someone who constantly tries to convince people he’s a “nice guy,” but in reality lives up to his “Classic Schmosby” tag. Ted is pushy and obsessive, never taking no for an answer. He whines about his failed relationships, yet pursues romances that are doomed from the start. While his friend Barney is shown as a womanizer, at least he’s honest about who he is. On the other hand, Ted claims the moral high ground while hitting on an engaged woman, guilting Robin to get rid of her pets, and running away with his ex at her wedding. He also uses the memory of his deceased wife to get his kids’ approval to pursue Robin again. Classic Schmosby indeed.
“Emily in Paris” (2020-) A series should probably be relatable when told from the perspective of the main character. However, that’s far from the case with Emily Cooper, whose stay in Paris seems entirely artificial. Emily puts in little effort to learn about her new home, but things conveniently fall into place. Everything from instant success at her new job, having the finances to live an upscale life, and finding hunky people to date happens seemingly without a hitch. The lack of any particular edge to Emily’s personality is off putting enough to make her the weak link in her own series. We can’t put ourselves in her shoes when all Emily seemingly does is coast through life with minimal consequences and little personal growth.
“The Idol” (2023) There’s not much room for redemption when someone’s supposed to be a sleazy, misogynist cult leader. And yet, Tedros manages to be even more despicable, mainly because the show glamorizes his flaws and The Weeknd’s shoddy portrayal of the character. “The Idol” tries to present Tedros as someone suave and cool despite the obvious red flags he raises. With his drawn-out mannerisms and weird demeanor, he’s the kind of guy any person would want to stay away from. The series could have set Tedros up as a satirical take on the entertainment industry, but that’s lost under a mountain of problematic behavior and excessively graphic content surrounding the character.
“Dawson’s Creek” (1998-2003) The danger with a character who’s supposed to be likable is that they can buy into their own hype. This is what happens with Dawson Leery. He gradually sheds his positive traits to become insecure and self-centered. This is made worse by the controlling behavior he has around his love interests, damaging his relationships with Jen and Joey. He also proves to be a poor friend, alienating those closest to him by rarely reciprocating their care and devotion. Dawson’s personal conflict is a drag to follow for six whole seasons. It’s hard to imagine anyone putting up with him for too long, so it’s fitting he ends the series by himself.
“Orange Is the New Black” (2013-19) This series would’ve been exclusively about Piper’s pity party if it didn’t have an ensemble cast. The main character continually drowns herself in her sorrows, not realizing her issues are of her own making. There are a lot bigger problems at Litchfield Penitentiary, not that Piper notices or cares. Her initial stumbles stop being excusable soon, especially when the character inadvertently begins a white supremacist group just to stay on top of the prison’s food chain. Even after she is released from prison, her character remains tiresome. Fortunately, later seasons start to focus more on the other inmates, although Piper still finds ways to annoy viewers.
“Glee” (2009-15) If having the arguably worst teacher in the world in Will Schuester wasn’t bad enough, “Glee” has perpetually conceited Rachel Berry as its protagonist. Whether it’s cheating on her boyfriend or sabotaging a classmate’s chances out of jealousy, Rachel can be fiercely vindictive. She truly believes the world revolves around her. This main character has a channel-changing personality, filling reels with frequent rants mostly about how much she’s entitled to one thing or another. It’s good to know what you want and aim to be the best. What’s not good is being as insufferable about it as possible. Rachel does achieve her goals in the end, but at the cost of the audience’s support.