1. Piper Chapman (Orange is the New Black)
Opinion has seemed pretty divided over Orange is the New Black since some pretty substantial shifts in both plot and tone that started in full in season 3 - the show's focus shifted to encompass more of the ensemble, Jason Biggs' character was dropped, and the show began to explore the murky world of private prisons. But one thing everyone can agree on that - no matter what season we're talking about - Piper Chapman is the worst character on the show. And, unfortunately, she is the protagonist. Kinda.
I say "kinda" because the show seems to realize what an utterly non-compelling figure Piper is - she's only serving a 13 month sentence in a minimum security prison (compared to other characters who have longer stretches, more interesting backstories, and much more at stake), her chief dilemmas are almost always self-inflicted, and on a show where people have severe real problems - from mental illness to rape to state-sanctioned abuse - her romantic travails and loss of her yuppie lifestyle don't really compare. And yet she whines and complains more than anyone.
Again, at least the writers seem to have realized this - de-emphasizing her character and moving her towards the background, while highlighting more interesting characters like Taystee, Suzanne, Gloria, Caputo, etc. Although they could have de-emphasized her EVEN MORE by making it HER that dies at the end of season 4. Because seriously - you take away Poussey and leave Piper alone?! That is some real injustice.
2. Ted Mosby - How I Met Your Mother
Ted is such a creep - I know the book is finally, mercifully closed on How I Met Your Mother, but it cannot be overstated how weird and unsettling Ted Mosby was, particularly in light of the series finale twist, which I'll remind you about right now (or inform you for the first time, if you had somehow missed it): the entire premise of the show was Ted telling his kids in the future the story of how their mother and he met and fell in love. Of course, most of the show is about Ted hooking up with their "Aunt Robin" and an array of other women who are not their mother - and that alone would be enough to justify Ted being a grade-A creep (constantly describing to your kids every single hookup you had in your early 30s). But then it gets worse - it's only really in the finale that Ted's meeting with the mysterious Mother is finally shown in full and their time spent together. And then it's revealed that the mother has died of cancer...and Ted was telling his kids this extended story to subtly hint to them that he's in love with their Aunt Robin (since most of the series is actually about how he and Uncle Barney were both in love with Robin) and get their blessing to start dating her.
THAT IS SO GODDAMN WEIRD AND CREEPY. But - of course - there was more - Ted was condescending, egotistical, insanely douchey, and obsessed with the ideas of marriage and family so much that the small detail of finding the right person almost seemed like a secondary concern. In short, haaaaaaaave you met Ted? 'Cuz he sucks.
3. Clay - 13 Reasons Why
C'mon Clay - how hard is it to listen to a couple of 45 minute-long tapes? For some inexplicable reason, the main character in Netflix's big teen suicide drama show is the most frustrating, ass-backwards moron possible. All he has to do is sit there and LISTEN to some tapes - the most passive thing possible. And yet, he constantly delays listening to tapes, acting on half-information, and refusing to act in any manner that might be considered rational.
The fact that he doesn't IMMEDIATELY turn the tapes over to the cops is almost besides the point (although - c'mon - he absolutely should have just done that) - Clay listens to the tapes, does something rash, and then listens to more tapes to realize that maybe he should have held off on that rash action. The fact that it takes him seemingly MONTHS to get through a few tapes that should have taken him no longer than about 2 days is baffling.
The only thing worse than Clay's tape-listening (which forms the basis of the entire show) is Clay's character - bland, boring goody-two-shoes who has the most uninteresting "twist" in the entire show. Ya see, a good chunk of the season includes a runner about people telling Clay "wait til you hear YOUR tape dude", implying that whatever Clay did to Hannah was unforgivable and may have directly led to her suicide. And then we get to his tape and...the shocking revelation is that Clay respected Hannah's consent TOO MUCH and was TOO NICE? COME ON.
4. Archie Andrews - Riverdale
Riverdale is a bizarre show - I never really would have imagined the TV adaptation of Archie Comics would take the form of "Twin Peaks meets Veronica Mars meets The OC", but here we are. And almost in spite of itself, it's a pretty entertaining show - schizophrenic and scattershot in its execution, for sure, but entertaining nonetheless. Except for one character - iconic redhead Archie Andrews.
It's amazing - a show that turned lovable burger-lover Jughead Jones into a brooding burger-neutral sadboy and still made that character great somehow failed to make its protagonist interesting or even BEARABLE to watch. Archie sucks - he whines about everything, he never got too invested with the central mystery of the show ("Who killed Jason Blossom?"), and spent most of his time talking about his music career, as illustrated by a few crummy songs he wrote. Basically, he was just a huge drag on the more interesting elements of Riverdale - he was selfish when others were giving, he was secretive when others were open, and he had so little inner-life that it made it a chore to sit through any scene he was in, particularly since there was never really any attempt to make Archie give a shit about the murder.
Really, I was kinda hoping it would have been revealed that Archie was the murderer - it would have explained why he was so aloof regarding the investigation, it would have been a REAL shocking twist (the MAIN CHARACTER did it!), it would have been a huge calling card for the show (literally ANYTHING is possible if they're willing to make Archie a murderer), and it would have finally made Archie Andrews somewhat interesting.
Instead, we didn't get that. And we're stuck with Archie as the main character for the foreseeable future. Although who knows? Maybe next season can make things a little more interesting by sticking to the comics:
5. Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead
More than any other show currently on the air, I hear people talking about abandoning The Walking Dead. The reasons vary, but all come back to a few things - the plot seems to be going in circles (find a new place, reveal what's wrong with the new place, chaos erupts, start again), the plot has nowhere to really go, it's overly sadistic with its treatment of characters, etc. And the main place all of these reasons are exemplified are in the show's main character and occasional bearded nutcase, Rick Grimes.
It should be seen as a given that Rick has slid pretty far from his moralistic sheriff of years past - he's lost his best friend, his wife, countless allies, watched his son's innocence be drained, and seen the world around him go completely to shit. It stands to reason that he'd become a scary, nihilistic, sometimes manic character - but since the show still has him at the center as the focus, Rick's darker and grittier (and bearded-ier) character simply isn't too fun to watch.
6. Buffy Summers - Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer did a great job of filling out its universe with a diverse cast of all types of characters - morally-conflicted vampires, snarky best friends, spiritual witches, British overseers, former-demons trying to do right in the world, etc. But one thing the show failed at more and more as time went on was making its central character even half as fun as the supporting ones.
The compounding tragedies and traumas Buffy had to deal with certainly didn't help - she was constantly wrestling with the responsibility of being the slayer, dealing with her insanely difficult romance with Angel (which briefly led to him becoming evil and murdering one of her allies), the loss of her mother, and - maybe the moment that pushed things TOO dark for Buffy - bringing her back from ACTUAL HEAVEN and forcing her to return to her crummy, miserable life. It's no surprise she was often a downer - she dealt with a lot more than all the other characters combined.
Buffy's descent into badness really becomes apparent when there were moments in season 7 where I was EXCITED to see Dawn interrupt when Buffy was giving one of her many (many many) speeches. When Dawn is preferable, you know your main character is a real downer.
7. Lorelai Gilmore - Gilmore Girls
Gilmore Girls is chock full of fun, quirky, interesting characters - Kirk as the town weirdo, Emily and Richard as snooty, uppercrust parents trying to adjust to their more free-spirited daughter's lifestyle, Luke as the grisled-but-loving diner owner, etc. The town of Star's Hollow itself was maybe the most compelling character of all - the type of lovely quaint New England town that seemed to only exist in your dreams. There was only one problem: the main character was Lorelai Gilmore.
Granted, much of what made Lorelai so difficult to root for were character flaws the show openly acknowledged - she was flighty, she was self-centered, she often didn't respect the boundaries of others, she was irresponsible...but watching these flaws play out and affect the lives of others (who we liked more) was tough to watch. Abandoning her fiance without even talking to him and running away? Constantly getting into petty fights with her teenage daughter? Breaking up with Luke over a few miscommunications? At her heart, Lorelai always had the spirit of a much younger person - that's what put her in the position of being more of a friend to her daughter than a mother. But she also had the immaturity and self-centeredness of a much younger person, and that was annoying as hell.