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VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Kim Mabee
These shows are great, but their main characters are the worst. For this list, we'll be looking at the most terrible, annoying, cringey, or just all-around awful fictional folks that television has ever asked us to root for. Our countdown includes “Pretty Little Liars,” “Saved by the Bell,” “Girls,” and more!

#20: Alison DiLaurentis “Pretty Little Liars” (2010-17)

There are plenty of flawed characters on this show, yet Ali stands out among the rest. The premise is initially centered around her disappearance and alleged death, and during her absence, flashbacks show her manipulative and cruel nature. She was a full-blown jerk in high school. Just look at how badly she treated everyone, from foes Jenna and Mona to supposed besties Hanna, Aria, Emily, and Spencer. When she eventually reappears, we hope she’ll want a real fresh start, but a lot of the same patterns remain. She often acts high and mighty, and selfless isn’t necessarily a word we’d use to describe her. Granted, she grows to some extent, but we’d also say Emily in particular deserved better than the romantic relationship they had.

#19: Bela Malhotra “The Sex Lives of College Girls” (2021-)

Bela starts off as a naive, ambitious girl who’s learning and growing through her mistakes. But, in season two, her character development takes a turn as her behavior goes from loveably unsophisticated to frustratingly self-destructive and selfish. Throughout the episodes, she joins other women in starting their own comedy publication — that she eventually gets booted from because she’s not a team player. She also notably cheats on her boyfriend Eric. Her actions and antics are maddening to watch. Indeed, she proves she’s learned nothing from her time at the toxic Catullan magazine and navigating her relationships the prior season. We aren’t sure what’s next for her, but we hope it’s better than this.

#18: Ally McBeal “Ally McBeal” (1997-2002)

This show’s titular character just so happens to be its most annoying. As a lawyer in Boston in the mid-‘90s and early 2000s, Ally has the opportunity to show what it means to be a career woman at the turn of the century. Instead of doing so in a meaningful manner, she comes off as whiny and needy a lot of the time. Though it’s possible they were trying to make her relatable, her less-than-rational decisions in life and love make it hard to take her side. Plus, presumably for the sake of humor, she gives off an unprofessional vibe and appears unsteady, which is not a good look, especially in retrospect.

#17: Tori Vega “VICTORiOUS” (2010-13)

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When you’re surrounded by such an awesome cast, sometimes your flaws stand out a bit more. Tori might be the main character in “VICTORiOUS,” but she’s far from the most talented, and even farther from the most likable. One of the first things she does is kiss Beck right in front of his girlfriend, Jade. True, Jade is billed as a mean girl, but this revenge plot takes things a bit too far. But more than that, if we’re talking talent, the characters surrounding Tori outshine her. She’s definitely a good singer, but when you’re standing next to the likes of Ariana Grande, it’s a bit hard to compete.

#16: Zoey Brooks “Zoey 101” (2005-08)

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Even though her name is in the title of the show, we’d say she shouldn’t necessarily have been the star. Most of Zoey’s friends are far more interesting, have more depth, and roll their eyes about a thousand times less often than her. While Zoey starts out as a sweet kid finding her way in her new school, she becomes increasingly bratty and annoyingly good at practically everything. Everyone seems to be obsessed with her despite her pretty standard personality, and she kind of seems emotionless throughout big moments. “Zoey 101”’s initial run ended up only lasting four seasons, but that’s probably for the best.

#15: Elena Gilbert “The Vampire Diaries” (2009-17)

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Elena has some moments of heroic selflessness, but they’re few and far between. After she becomes a vampire at the end of season three, she grows increasingly self-centered. We know she goes through a lot, but she often ends up coping in the worst possible ways, and it gets frustrating. What’s more, everyone else’s actions seem to magically be justified no matter how horrible they are, as long as they result in saving Elena’s life. Her turbulent love triangle with the Salvatore brothers isn’t the most likable thing in the world, either. To be fair, they’re to blame for that too. Still, Elena exiting after season six and only briefly returning gave everyone a much-needed break.

#14: Otis Milburn “Sex Education” (2019-)

It seems to be a common theme that a lot of the worst main characters start off on the right foot, but go downhill as the series goes on. Otis Milburn is no exception. He’s insensitive towards other people's feelings and his treatment of Ola and Maeve leaves a bad taste in our mouths as well, especially when he lashes out at both of them while intoxicated. One of the worst examples of his disregard for other people is when he abandons Eric, who’s meant to be his best friend, on his birthday, leaving him to get hurt. We can only hope that his redemption arc is around the corner.

#13: Jenna Hamilton “Awkward” (2011-16)

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While other characters on this series tend to grow and improve as time goes on, Jenna becomes more and more unlikable. She lacks emotion, is narcissistic, and behaves in a selfish manner while playing with the emotions of boys who are into her and creating her own cacophony of problems. She cheats on Matty and repeatedly hurts him and Jake. To make matters worse, the third season sees her falling in with the wrong crowd and becoming insufferable. So it’s hard to believe or root for her when her friends welcome her back with open arms and she and Matty wind up together.

#12: Serena van der Woodsen “Gossip Girl” (2007-12)

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While Gossip Girl is the true villain of the show, Serena van der Woodsen is arguably an anti-hero. Her entitled behavior lingers over all of her questionable actions. Who could forget her sleeping with Nate while he was with her best friend Blair? Or in the end, when she wants everyone to forgive Dan for being Gossip Girl, and marries him despite everything he’s done? Blair often feels like Serena steals attention everywhere she goes, despite not deserving it — and we get it! As a main character, she’s often messy and hard to watch, as she constantly paves the way for her own downfall and rarely thinks about anyone but herself.

#11: Sabrina Spellman “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (2018-20)

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Sabrina Spellman is a part-witch with a lot of potential to grow as a character, but she falls flat in the end, as her development winds up taking a step back. She’s flawed and makes mistakes, and that’s fine. But she rarely grows by facing the consequences of her actions, like when she resurrects Tommy. The plan is ultimately a failure, because she thinks the rules don’t apply to her. She’s also naive, which causes her to do things impulsively when she should be slowing down and looking at the big picture. Unfortunately, the show ends without us ever seeing her get a meaningful redemption arc.

#10: Jack Shephard “Lost” (2004-10)

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For the lead of its ensemble cast, “Lost” might have chosen an interesting character – but he wasn’t necessarily the one we liked the most. Jack Shephard became the head of the castaways pretty much from the jump, and to his credit, he was pretty good at thinking on his feet in high intensity situations. It’s all the other stuff that was a bit difficult for him. Throughout the show’s run, Jack is faced with a number of dilemmas, and almost always picks the wrong choice. Whether it be ignoring Claire when she thinks she and her baby are in danger, or wanting to detonate an explosive, our guy has some bad moments. Plus, he yells and cries way too much for our liking.

#9: Emily Cooper “Emily in Paris” (2020-)

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Emily embodies every stereotype associated with Americans in Europe, living in France and initially making little effort to embrace the language or culture. Sure, that stuff gets better as the series progresses, but it’s still cringey. She’s also irritatingly successful in marketing where she lands big clients and is given lots of obligations, but is also somehow able to jaunt around Paris as much as she wants. While she could’ve been portrayed as naive and bright-eyed while navigating a new country, everything works out just a little too easily for her, and it can be super annoying to watch. Also, she did sleep with her friend’s ex – sorry Em, we don’t forget.

#8: Zack Morris “Saved by the Bell” (1989-93)

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Don’t be fooled by that cute smile and those charming fourth wall breaks. As far as we’re concerned, Zack Morris is a little bit of a narcissist, and a whole lot of a creep. Throughout the series, his favorite pastimes include being gross to women and being a pretty bad friend. In order to feed Lisa’s shopping obsession, for instance, he starts charging people a dollar to kiss her. And once, in college, he impersonates a professor in order to get a date. But some of Zack’s worst offenses come with how he repeatedly mistreats Slater, notably perpetuating the idea that he’s violent. If we’re being honest, we’re team Slater.

#7: Rory Gilmore “Gilmore Girls” (2000-07)

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Watching a beloved character become a terrible one is never easy, but in Rory Gilmore’s case? It was almost unbearable. Rory starts out as your typical precocious teenager. She’s charming, smart, funny, and everything else you want out of a main character. But once she gets to Yale, things take a terrible turn. She starts making one mistake after another. She sleeps with Dean even though he’s married, drops out of school, and lets her relationship with her mother Lorelai deteriorate. But the worst part of it all is that for the longest time, Rory doesn’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with this behavior. She winds up seeming like a far cry from the girl we once knew.

#6: Piper Chapman “Orange Is the New Black” (2013-19)

Unlike Rory, this character was annoying from the jump. Piper Chapman’s whiny nature worked for “Orange Is the New Black” at first. She’s an upper class white woman headed for prison, so she’s bound to be a bit snobby. But as the show goes on, we learn so much about the other women and their stories, and Piper only becomes more insufferable. Next to all the other inmates at Litchfield Penitentiary, she’s so clearly the worst it’s hard to understand why she was picked as the main character in the first place. We would all definitely rather spend more time with the characters surrounding her than hearing about her panty-selling venture.

#5: Carrie Bradshaw “Sex and the City” (1998-2004)

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For someone with a column about sex and relationships, Carrie Bradshaw sure seems to be bad at them. But her romantic entanglements were far from her worst transgressions on “Sex and the City.” For one, she’s a pretty deplorable friend. In one episode, Miranda asks Carrie to come help her after she hurts her neck. She delegates the task to Aidan instead of going over herself, and he finds Miranda in a pretty humiliating situation in the bathroom. And speaking of Aidan, we’d be remiss not to mention how terribly she treated him too. Leave it to Carrie to drive away the only good guy she ever had!

#4: Ted Mosby “How I Met Your Mother” (2005-14)

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There’s nothing worse than the TV “nice guy” who’s actually the opposite of nice. We’ll get to a worse offender later, but for now, give it up for Ted Mosby. The show frames his over-the-top and obsessive nature as romantic, but in hindsight, it’s kind of just plain toxic. For example, Robin and Ted might be one of the main couples on the show. Yet he always tries to move way too fast and aggressively, getting swept up in his fantasy of them being meant to be. So he often neglects to consider her needs and wants. Yet this type of problematic behavior continues even when he says she wants to be friends, and long after they break up. We truly are appalled.

#3: Hannah Horvath “Girls” (2012-17)

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When someone like Marnie is a character on your show, it’s hard to imagine that things could get much more annoying. Enter Hannah Horvath, proving that you should never speak too soon. The main character on “Girls” is one of the more selfish ones on this list, putting her own, not-so-awful problems above everything else. Her behavior impacts her friendships, her romantic relationships, and even her worklife. On the occasions where Shoshanna called Hannah on her self-obsession, it felt like she was speaking for the entire audience. Her words are harsh, but oh so true and necessary!

#2: Dawson Leery “Dawson’s Creek” (1998-2003)

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Ah, here’s the “nice guy” to end all “nice guys.” Dawson Leery was sold to us as a boy-next-door type, and billed as the love interest to Joey Potter. But from the moment “Dawson’s Creek” began, every single word that came out of the title character’s mouth made him less and less likable. For one thing, he’s a bad friend and boyfriend to Joey. Beyond that, he’s downright terrible to Pacey, often using their so-called friendship so he can feel better about himself. It’s no wonder the writers eventually ended up having Pacey and Joey be the main couple. And it’s really no wonder the only remnants left of Dawson on the internet are crying memes.

#1: Rachel Berry “Glee” (2009-15)

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If characters got gold stars for being the absolute worst, Rachel Berry would have a binder full of them. The Glee club is known for being made up of misfits. But we think the reasons Rachel has trouble fitting in have more to do with her mean girl streak than anything else. She’s convinced that she’s destined for stardom, and thinks that gives her the right to belittle others. She’s not afraid to sabotage anybody who seems like a threat to her, either. We all remember what she does to Sunshine in season two! And that’s saying nothing of her cringeworthy behavior – inappropriate crush on Mr. Schuester, anyone?! Rachel spent the majority of her run on “Glee” being awful, and we couldn’t miss her less.

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