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.
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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?
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.
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?