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October 9, 2015

The Five: Awesome TV jerks

by Adam Finley, posted Aug 22nd 2006 8:01AM

mr. burnsIf everyone was nice, life would get pretty boring, wouldn't it? The television landscape is full of characters who made shows more interesting by doing what they do best: annoying the living hell out of everyone else. There's a lot to choose from, so share some of your favorites in the comments. Below are some of my personal faves:

Major Frank Burns: Alan Alda gets a lot of credit for his acting chops and his portrayal of Hawkeye on M*A*S*H, but Larry Linville deserves just as much, if not more, credit for his role as Frank Burns during the show's early years. Yes, he was a jerk, and yes, he was self-centered and only cared about doing what was in his best interest, but beneath it all was a very real vulnerability, a man who still held on to the childhood notion that the world owed him something. Maintaining that balance is not easy, but Linville did it perfectly.

Dr. Gregory House: Besides affecting an American accent that puts Michael Caine's to shame, Hugh Laurie manages to be both abrasive and lovable, like a cactus crossbred with a teddy bear. House is a character that could only exist on television, because I can't imagine anyone like that in the real world wouldn't have been beaten to a bloody pulp by now. Of course, he has been smacked and shot with a gun, but I still maintain he would been hit and shot a lot more if he existed outside of the TV world. It's that distance that makes House so much fun to watch.

Archie Bunker: Like the first two fellas on this list, Archie was a jerk with a tender side. Well, maybe House doesn't have a tender side, and if he does it's very small and probably attached to his liver or something. Anyway, I've always thought of Archie as being representative of both my grandfathers: gruff, incredibly narrow in their worldview, but somebody who loved his family in his own unique way. I wouldn't want to discuss social issues with Archie, but I'd go fishing with him.

C. Montgomery Burns: To quote Smithers, "When he tried to steal our sunlight, he crossed that line between everyday villainy and cartoonish super-villainy." If one thing can be said about Mr. Burns, it's that he always keeps the residents of Springfield on their toes. Will he be an old, decrepit man who can do no harm to anyone, or a madman who points guns at children and steals their puppies?

Master Shake: The jerks on this list all have at least one thing in common: beneath their rough exterior they have at least a modicum of kindness to them. Master Shake from Aqua Teen Hunger Force is the exception, though, because no matter how often his self-serving attitude results in him being maimed or blown the heck up, he never learns his lesson. You do have to admire his tenacity, though.

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House is a "cactus crossbred with a teddy bear"? How exactly does one crossbreed these various life froms?

No credit will be given to those who answer "painfully".

September 12 2006 at 10:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Nick James

Where the hell is Tommy Gavin from Rescue Me? Come on, Denis Leary? He's an asshole...

Plus his personality is a mirror to mine, so, you know.

August 23 2006 at 1:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris Wyant

Oh yeah, Scrubs is jerk-central... Jerkopolis, if you will.

August 22 2006 at 10:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mac from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

August 22 2006 at 3:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I second Chris W's suggestion of Cartman. I find it hard to believe there'd even be a Master Shake without first there being an Eric Cartman.

August 22 2006 at 1:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jordan Running

What about Dr. Cox from Scrubs (or, for that matter, the janitor from Scrubs)?

August 22 2006 at 12:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris Wyant

Hah! I was thinking Master Shake the whole time. There is nothing tender, caring, or good about Shake. He cares about nothing but himself, which is why I think the writers kill him off semi-regularly. I think they're trying to say "it's not OK to be horrible to everyone all the time." Either that or CN told them that he has to be punished once in a while.

Sawyer from Lost is a jerk too, but pretty cool.

T-Bag from Prison Break is pretty compelling, for such a loathsome character.

Gob and/or George Sr. from Arrested Development

Ummm.... Cartman?

Finally, I think I might call Jack Bauer a jerk... Sure he means well, what with saving the world and everything. But he puts a lot of people in danger, all the time. He tortures people who have no information to give him (but how could he know unless he electrocutes them?). So, yeah, he means well, but man I would never want to work with him. He'd probably get me fired, and get one of my family members killed.

Honorable mentions:
The Seinfeld gang, as a unit.
Dr. Romano, ER

August 22 2006 at 11:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great call on Larry Linville!

August 22 2006 at 9:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Adam Finley

Ah, damn it.
Yeah, I know he's British. That was a brain fart. It's fixed now. Thanks, guys.

August 22 2006 at 9:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


You do realize Hugh Laurie is British? Maybe I'm confused about the "affecting an English accent" comment. If so, I apologize for my erroneous assumption. :-)

August 22 2006 at 9:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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