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8 TV kid characters we love ... or love to hate

There’s nothing like a cute little kid to make a sitcom especially entertaining. And by “entertaining” I mean “annoying in most cases.” Because while at the outset, it may seem like a wise choice to throw in a character who looks precious while spouting adorable one-liners, it more often than not backfires when said adorableness crosses the fine line to overblown obnoxiousness. Raise your thumb if you agree.

But every once in a while, a kid character comes along who strikes the perfect balance of cuteness and precociousness, and is able to elicit more “awwws” than eye rolls and vows from the viewing audience to never, ever have children. Kids say the darnedest things, right? And if they have pigtails high upon their heads, an endearing nerd-like quality, or a speech difficulty that renders their “r’s” into “w’s”? Hold me back. But show me a kid character who says those darnedest things over and over and over again or is sporting a belligerent and nasty attitude, and you’ll be holding me back again—but this time from throwing things at my TV.

Much like real kids, we all have our own opinions on what makes certain TV kid characters adorable or annoying. Here are my picks. And no, I did not dare venture into the depths of the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon shows—there’s not enough space on the Internet for me to go there.

The Adorable

Marcus (About a Boy)
Verdict: Adorable

Marcus-About a Boy

Geeky, idealistic, witty, truthful, trusting, and sweet-tempered; Marcus is a breath of fresh air on network TV. A teenage boy who loves and respects his mama? How can he be anything but adorable? As the boy the show’s title refers to, Marcus has a pretty big beanie to fill (so to speak). He does it with an endearing personality, not to mention hilarious one-liners. Sure, it was a bit of a throw this season when his voice changed and he grew a few inches, but I forgave him, and will continue to do so as long as he doesn’t ever pull a “Jake” from Two and a Half Men and go crazy on us one day.

Winnie Cooper (The Wonder Years)
Verdict: Adorable

Winnie Cooper - The Wonder Years

After looking at this photo, I shouldn’t need to give my explanation. Those glasses? Come on. Adorable. For those of you who were also fans of The Wonder Years, I’d like to officially throw Kevin Arnold into this category as well, but in the interest of your time, let’s just go with Winnie here. Not only was she adorable to look at, but she was delightfully awkward and sweet, and personified the Girl Next Door whom everyone has a crush on.

Lily (Modern Family)
Verdict: Adorable

Lily - Modern Family

I know there are many of you out there who vehemently disagree with me on this one—just wait until I get to the annoying characters!—but I’m standing by my decision to include Lily in the adorable category. Sure, she’s bratty and defiant, but with lines like the one above—delivered in perfect deadpan—she keeps me in stitches.

Adam (The Goldbergs)
Verdict: Adorable

Adam Goldberg - The Goldbergs GIF

Much like The Wonder Years‘ Kevin Arnold—actually, exactly like The Wonder Years‘ Kevin Arnold—and also channeling a little Marcus from About a Boy, Adam Goldberg perfectly captures the angst and awkwardness that accompanies being a preteen boy. And he does it with just the right blend of geekiness and self-deprecating humor that wins me over. Plus, he also loves and respects his mama, so this choice is a no-brainer for me.

The Less-Than-Adorable

Sydney (Parenthood)
Verdict: Annoying

Sydney - Parenthood

Since that face is pretty much the only face we ever see of Sydney (other than her perfectly executed eye roll), it’s easy to understand why this character takes the top spot on my annoying list. Bratty, spoiled, belligerent, disrespectful—the list of Sydney’s insufferable qualities goes on and on. Watching Sydney’s behavior each week makes me drop to my knees in thanks for my own children, but at the same time inexplicably want to ground them for offenses they haven’t even committed. You’ve got to hand it to Savannah Paige Rae (the actress who plays her) to be able to elicit such disgust from most of Parenthood‘s rampant fans.

Cousin Oliver (The Brady Bunch)
Verdict: Annoying

Cousin Oliver - The Brady Bunch

I know, little dude, the memories of how your character came along and flushed one of the greatest shows of my childhood down the toilet makes me want to cover my face too. Seriously, when Cousin Oliver (he was never simply “Oliver,” which made him all the more annoying) joined the family as part of the creators’ attempt to breathe some adorableness back into the show since all the little Bradys were well into their awkward teen years, it backfired. Sure, several of the Bradys were borderline annoying themselves (I’m looking at you, Cindy), but I forgave them. After all, they were my family, and like a few other members of my family, I overlooked their issues. Outsider Oliver was nothing but obnoxious.

Urkel (Family Matters)
Verdict: Do you really have to ask?

Steve Urkel - Family Matters

Sure, I know his character was supposed to annoy he hell out of us, but to this day I cannot see a GIF or an image of Urkel’s face without wanting to hurt something. In fact, I’m writing this paragraph blindfolded and have locked my cats up in the other room until I move on to the next character.

Dana (Homeland)
Verdict: Annoying

Dana - Homeland

There are a bunch of pictures I could’ve chosen of Dana Brody, but since in every one she has this same “I-don’t-give-a-sh*t” look on her face, this one was as good as any. Talk about teen angst. Dana’s bad attitude and incessant finger-pulling was beyond irritating. I was sorry about what happened to her father, but I’ll admit, more than a bit relieved that it meant I wouldn’t have to endure Dana’s exhausting moods anymore.


You might be wondering how I could write a post on TV kid characters without including the Full House crew. Don’t worry. Because they all get Honorable Mentions for being both adorable and annoying. Seriously, I couldn’t decide (although Nicky and Alex are firmly planted on the annoying list). On the one hand, Michelle and Stephanie were cute to look at, but as soon as they opened their mouths and delivered one of their overblown trademark lines, they became unbearable.

Sorry, but it’s true.

Obviously, there are many, many more characters I could have added to each list—so now it’s your turn! Who did I miss? And who did I get wrong?

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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