- Sitcom characters occasionally have villain storylines that can tarnish their overall likability and character development.
- Some shows, like Parks and Recreation and The Office, forgave characters too easily for their antagonistic actions.
- Challenging storylines can sometimes lead to interesting character development, like in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Derry Girls.
It’s always surprising when a popular sitcom character has a villain storyline, but not all of them have paid off. From time to time, a normally good, or hero, character will have a story that sees them in an antagonistic light. While this can result in some good character development, there are instances where a particular story tarnishes them instead, a mistake that even some of the best TV shows of the genre have made.
Although sitcom villains differ compared to a drama or thriller TV show, it’s always a shock to see a show introduce a plot where a character differs greatly from their usual archetype. These are usually only brief occasions, usually spanning no more than a few episodes, and after the story is wrapped up, all is forgotten, with the characters moving on as if nothing had happened. While that’s standard practice for a formulaic TV show, with each episode beginning with a new story, these sudden changes in a character still have quite an impact on the show as a whole.
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8 Chris Traeger
Parks And Recreation
Parks and Recreation
- Release Date
- April 9, 2009
- Amy Poehler , Nick Offerman , Chris Pratt2 , Aubrey Plaza , Adam Scott , Rashida Jones , Retta , Jim O’Heir , Aziz Ansari , Rob Lowe
The usually delightful and positive Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) was given an antagonistic storyline in Parks and Recreation season 4, one that was quite out of character for him. After discovering that Leslie (Amy Poehler) and Ben (Adam Scott) were secretly dating, Chris launched an investigation into the two for ethical violations. Although Chris was always committed to his job, he was also Ben’s best friend and had always been very fond of Leslie, and the way he treated the two during this time made no sense.
In the end, Ben sacrifices his job for Leslie so the two can be together, and all is forgotten. However, it seemed odd that Chris was forgiven with no further repercussions, especially by Ben. Even if it was the rule that they shouldn’t have been together, Chris treated Ben and Leslie’s relationship like treachery, which was odd for such an optimistic and approachable character.
7 Kim Briggs
- Release Date
- October 1, 2001
- John C. McGinley , Robert Maschio , Donald Faison , Christa Miller , Neil Flynn , Judy Reyes , Aloma Wright , Zach Braff , Sarah Chalke , Sam Lloyd , Ken Jenkins
The character of Kim (Elizabeth Banks) was introduced to Scrubs in season 5, with the running joke that she’d actually been present since the pilot, but J.D. (Zach Braff) was unable to see her as she wore a wedding ring. Shortly after meeting J.D., Kim ended up falling pregnant, which put a lot of strain on their relationship, especially when she was then offered another job miles away from him. However, not long after she moved, Kim told J.D. that she’d had a miscarriage, only for him to discover months later that this wasn’t true.
Despite telling such an awful lie, J.D.’s reaction was nowhere near as horrified as it should have been, realistically. Within a matter of episodes, the two end up getting back together in preparation for the birth of their son. Although it didn’t last between, with Kim once again moving away for a job after Sammy’s birth, this storyline ended up being swept under the rug, and Kim didn’t face the criticism she deserved.
6 Winston Schmidt
- Release Date
- September 20, 2011
- Zooey Deschanel , Max Greenfield , Hannah Simone , Damon Wayans Jr. , Lamorne Morris , Jake Johnson
Although Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Cece (Hannah Simone) got their happy ending in New Girl‘s finale, it’s hard to forget that Schmidt cheated. While their relationship was tumultuous in the beginning, Cece always ultimately chose Schmidt, but upon rekindling in season 3, Schmidt confesses to Nick (Jake Johnson) that he’d still been dating Elizabeth (Merritt Wever). Throughout this storyline, Schmidt sees himself as the victim, struggling to balance the feelings he has for both women.
Even when the opportunity arises for Schmidt to be honest, he lies to Cece, telling her that Nick is cheating rather than him. Although the two women do eventually find out, and he’s dumped by them both, Cece and Schmidt do eventually make their way back to one another. While it could be considered that these events made their love stronger, realizing exactly what they want out of life, it felt like the storyline was quickly discarded and forgotten about in later seasons.
5 Eric Foreman
That ’70s Show
that 70s show
- Release Date
- August 23, 1998
- Topher Grace , Mila Kunis , Ashton Kutcher , Mark Brazill , Laura Prepon , Wilmer Valderrama , Debra Jo Rupp , Kurtwood Smith
Although That ’70s Show saw a lot of storylines that focused on a clash between Eric (Topher Grace) and Donna (Laura Prepon), there is one that stands out. After Eric gives Donna a promise ring, he quickly becomes frustrated when she decides to wear it on a chain around her neck instead, and unable to accept this decision, he ends up breaking up with her. Not only did it seem to be an immature reason for Donna and Eric’s relationship to end, considering they were both in school, but it proved how much of a control freak Eric could be.
However, later seasons seem to forget about this storyline. The two eventually get back together, and following the same thought stream he’d had before when searching for a gift for Donna, Eric purchases an engagement ring. Donna ends up accepting the proposal, clearly having changed her mind about her previous feelings about being too young and seeming to forget what had happened the last time. Even though Eric and Donna were great together, this story should have caused more damage to the relationship than it did.
4 Rebecca Bunch
- Release Date
- October 12, 2015
- Rachel Bloom , Vincent Rodriguez III , Pete Gardner
Although Crazy Ex-Girlfriend saw a lot of underlying themes about mental health through its hilarious scenes and musical numbers, season 3 saw a jarring storyline for its lead character, Rebecca (Rachel Bloom). Heartbroken that Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) had left her at the altar, Rebecca goes on a hellbent search for revenge, including defaming her ex-fiance for being a racist and homophobe, which led to his reputation being scarred and the loss of his job. After several episodes of insane scheming, in a surprisingly emotional moment for a sitcom, Rebecca attempts suicide and is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.
Unfortunately, it didn’t end there, and after pushing Trent (Paul Welsh) off a roof, she was arrested for attempted murder. Unlike some shows, however, Crazy-Ex Girlfriend saw its main character take responsibility for her actions, while at the same time acknowledging that she struggled to control her behavior and needed help with this. By taking the guilty plea, and apologizing for everything she had done, it proved just what an interesting character she was.
3 Erin Quinn
- Release Date
- January 4, 2018
- Saoirse-Monica Jackson , Louisa Harland
The Derry Girls season 1 finale saw a brief feud between long-time friends Clare (Nicola Coughlan) and Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson). After confiding in Erin that she’s a lesbian, Clare is horrified by her friend’s reaction, assuming that she was attracted to her and telling her to “go back in [the closet].” Considering Derry Girls was set in Ireland in the 1990s, both a time and location where homosexuality was a taboo subject, Erin’s response was relatively tame.
However, it was a moment that showed Erin as a bad friend, and Clare’s hurt is more than justified. In the episode’s final moments, the two reunite as Erin realizes she’d responded without thinking, and their friendship remains strong throughout the rest of the show. In this instance, moving on from the storyline actually worked, and future episodes saw a lot of support for Clare’s sexuality. Not only did it allow the teens to take the chance to realize what was truly important, especially living in the depths of a civil conflict, but it also saw some brilliant character development.
2 Andy Bernard
- Release Date
- March 24, 2005
- Mindy Kaling , Jenna Fischer , Kate Flannery , Ed Helms , Craig Robinson , Paul Lieberstein , Ellie Kemper , B.J. Novak , Angela Kinsey , Oscar Nunez , Rainn Wilson , Brian Baumgartner , Phyllis Smith , Leslie David Baker , Creed Bratton , Steve Carell , John Krasinski
There’s no doubt that Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) became a beloved addition to The Office cast after his introduction in season 3, but the character was ruined in the final season. After battling to retrieve his position as regional manager, and finally getting it, he quickly abandoned the Scranton branch and his girlfriend Erin (Ellie Kemper) to sail to the Bahamas with his brother, Walter (Josh Groban). This storyline saw quite the personality change for Andy, who not only gained back the anger issues he’d had in earlier seasons but also became uncaring and selfish.
In the three months he’d been away, not only did he lie to David Wallace (Andy Buckley) about doing his job, but he believed he could claim his paycheques with no issues upon his return. He also failed to keep up with basic communication with Erin, whom he’d fought so hard to be with during the previous season, which seemed like a waste of character development. Seeing Andy become so arrogant and obnoxious made him very unlikeable, but the fact that the entire office, minus Erin, begrudgingly accepted his actions and let him get away with it was very unusual.
1 Nick Birch
- Release Date
- September 29, 2017
As the characters of Big Mouth are all going through the puberty process, it’s not surprising that some storylines would see some questionable and immature actions, but Nick’s (Kroll) hatred storyline in season 5 was inexcusable. Despite Jessi (Klein) not feeling the same way, Nick can’t take no for an answer and continues to profess his love for her, resulting in her embarrassing him rather publicly. After being rejected by Jessi, Nick struggles to control his feelings, and instead of accepting her decision and moving on his lovebug, Walter (Brandon Kyle Goodman), turns into a hate worm.
While this story did see more of a bond develop between Nick and Missy (Ayo Edebiri), the girl quickly realized that Nick’s feelings came from a twisted, selfish, point of view. Nick had never been the most empathetic character of this sitcom, but Jessi’s rejection made the character more self-absorbed than ever and he became unable to care about anything that didn’t concern him. Although Nick does overcome his hate eventually, this storyline tarnishes the character overall and his approach to the opposite sex.