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August 16 2010

Showblockers!: 22 characters who stop good TV shows in their tracks. Buffy's "showblocker" was also the key.

I always liked Dawn. The showblocker for me was always Andrew.
Just once I'd like to see an article where Dawn gets shown positively. Anyone who can bash her during season 7 clearly isn't paying attention.
Did she whine in season 5? Yes. Was she justified? Gee, finding out your entire existence is fake...sounds like a pretty good reason to screw you up, especially when coupled with being the younger sister to the "one girl in all the world."
I disagreed with a lot of those...
I agree that Dawn wasn't a showblocker, annoying as she sometimes was.

Connor, on the other hand...
As with all other such articles, there's a whomping huge danger that when the writers say "the audience," they actually mean "my friends and I." These are going to be massive subjective. (Except Kate on Lost. Hating her is clearly objective and rational.)

Specifically on Dawn, I find that a lot of her whining isn't all that dissimilar from the whining that Buffy did years earlier; but because by Season 5 the show and our main cast had grown up a bit, her immaturity is cast in much starker terms.

And as trunkstheslayer says, Dawn was playing lil' sis to a girl who thought the world depended on her... and was right.
I have to disagree with their timeline of annoyance...in season 5 she had a legitimate purpose, but I was always a little offput by her appearance and whiney nature, however justified. Most of season 6, I generally find her to be a reason to *headdesk*. But I actually actively enjoy Dawn in late Season 6 and all of season 7. She grew up, matured, and seemed to find a place within the group she was content with. I'm cool with a character who grows like that.

Meanwhile, I'm still giggling incessantly over that "oft-posted" screencap of James Van Der Beek...

(Yeep, first time I get to comment on Whedonesque. Intimidation reigns supreme.)
I don't completely agree with Dawn's placement on the list but man do I ever with the Ted Mosby character from HIMYM at #1.
Yea, I wouldn't worry too much about this list. Many of these are cliche "I hate this person" charecters.

The thing about people hating and loving charecters is that it tends to very much be a perpetual noise machine. I say I hate Dawn, so you realize that that she annoys you too so you say it, and so on, and so on. Eventually you end up with an entire fanbase with the same (now somewhat warped) opinion.

And the idea that straight charecters are dramatic dead weight on Dexter is more than a little disturbing to me.

And welcome to the boards Perididdle. Trust me, intimidation is only justified when entering a debate unprepared or unintentionally. :) Otherwise, just good peeps 'round these parts.

[ edited by azzers on 2010-08-16 17:00 ]
Romo Lampkin

Point of list failure.

Dawn I don't agree with but can sort of understand, certainly in season 5 but Romo Lampkin FFS ? One of THE best non-regular characters from recent TV ? The AV Club often makes sense. Not this time. Don't agree with Rita's inclusion either, even though for the last couple of seasons her character hasn't really been going anywhere particularly interesting (IMO) she's still absolutely essential to Dexter's character arc.

In general, I reckon characters that are actually designed to be annoying and grating should be exempt. That's the point of them, you realise that then step back, disengage slightly. So with Dawn and Connor you can be annoyed by them (that's the point after all) but hating them as characters just seems a bit daft (unless you hate the fact that they're designed to be annoying - i.e. hate the manipulation aspect - but even then, that's more disagreeing with the direction of the show than hating the character themselves).
Hey, look! Someone made a list of 22 TV characters they don't like!
I really don't understand why people are so down on Dawn. Yes, she whined. She was written that way, for good reason in my opinion, and Michelle Trachtenberg pulled it off with aplomb. Ask anybody who is the big sister to a little sister (ie me!) whether their little sister whines and the answer would undoubtedly be yes. Ask the same big sister whether she would do anything to protect that little sister, and the answer would be even more resoundingly yes. I think Dawn was there to make super-hero Buffy more human in that she was contending with the 'normal' pressures of life on top of the abnormal pressures of being The Slayer. It was contrast, it worked. I always enjoyed seeing the dynamic of the characters when Dawn was in the mix. I felt it made them step outside themselves and remember exactly why they were doing what they were doing: to protect people just like Dawn.

In my opinion, Dawn just needs a big hug :)
Yeah, this sounds like more of a "characters that don't appeal to me, personally" list.
The problem with this list is the writer seems to think that everybody else feels the same as they do, when they have a lot of characters on their list that I, my friends, and a lot of people posting on the internet seem to like.

I was pretty shocked to see Sgt. Hatred, Romo Lamkin and Rita on that list, all character that I have loved to watch.

However, I was quite pleased to see Dawn Summers, the worst and most tedious character to ever appear on a Joss Whedon show, appear alongside Betty Draper and Tara Thornton. Unsure which one of them I hate more.

Pity they couldn't have add Eve or Nina to that list as well.

That's all my personal opinion.
Wow that is a really strange list. I love how the author promotes his own opinion as "the fans" opinion. Seriously, who disliked Romo Lampkin? And would The Office be the same without Dwight Shrute?

Also agree that some characters are intentionally annoying because they are written that way. Sometimes characters grow and evolve - witness Wesley, who started as an annoying almost-showblocker character on Angel, and gradually revealed a lot of depth and growth.

I know there's a list on TV Tropes of characters that the writers try to force the audience to like... but I'm not going looking for it and losing my work day to TV Tropes today.
I grok some of the Romo problem, but for me it had less to do with the character, per se, than the fact the writers never really seemed to have a handle on why they were using him, other than that they liked Mark.
That list was so predictable. I could have guessed each of the characters that would be picked for the shows I've watched. I'm bored with it.
I'm with spikesdeb. I didn't particularly love Dawn, but I didn't mind her, and I loved Buffy having an annoying little sister/potential destroyer of the universe hanging around.

The only "I hate character X" bandwagon I could ever really get on was Kim Bauer. But it wasn't because I didn't like the character (to me, irrelevant), but because she was used over and over as the same plot device. "Kim's in trouble, it must be Sunday," was really true on 24 (which I haven't watched for several years).
At Comic-Con, they did a special screening of "Once More With Feeling" to a giant room full of people. Every time Dawn came on screen people jeered, booed, and threw things. Until that point, I never knew there was such hardcore Dawn hate out there. Although it might not be completely widespread, it's pretty prevalent!
That's pretty much why I can't go to OMWF sing-alongs anymore. When the touring show that basically was responsible for screening rights being taken away came to Portland a few years back, the crowd didn't even have a tongue-in-cheekness to it. It was like standing inside a howling, foaming mob about to string someone up. Seriously unsettling.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2010-08-16 18:45 ]
Dawn fit into the show and served her role perfectly in season 5. It was later, in 6 and 7, when she was written as "that annoying character". I even find myself hating Dawn when I watch those seasons, and I have to remind myself that she used to be a real, 3 dimensional character, not just a whining brat.
Dawn was the stereotypical self-centered brat, but I thought she was starting to grow in Season 7. She's become a respectable adult in Season 8.

I though Michelle Trachtenberg did an excellent job portraying her in the TV series.
Some of those are well deserved.....I remember T4 (a sunday morning television strand here in the UK) constantly mocking Dawson every time they showed an episode of 'Dawson's Creek'....I believe they even went so far as to mock up a 'Pacey's Creek' title sequence one week.

I also don't get the Dawn/Connor hate. I kinda took it that they were written that way on purpose. Dawn moreso than Connor...I think the Angel writers have admitted that Connor got away from them a bit, hence his exit at the end of S4.
I really disagree with a lot of those. Except Ted. Sorry, Ted, I know you're the narrator of the show, but you're also the character I'm least interested in. Like how the less Sookie and Bill are on screen in True Blood, the more I seem to enjoy the show.

But I love Romo Lampkin, Rita, Emma, and I find Michael Scott to be much more painful screen presence than Dwight. And Dawn isn't so bad. She's a teenager. Every teenager is annoying.
I always felt they wrote Dawn a bit too young; she was supposed to be 14 when first introduced but she came off, to me, like she was about 11. For me it was that strange disparity between the character's age and her behavior, more than whining, which turned me off at times, though I always did like Dawn and wished she was given more of substance to do. (I also think Buffy and the scoobies were routinely written too old; when they were 16 year old kids, 17, 18, they always acted about 25. Oz could have been 30.) For me the showstopper was Spike, as he quite literally derailed the show: changed it from what it was originally heading toward, put it on a new track, and made it something else entirely.
Add me to the "I don't get the Dawn hate" crowd.

She was playing a kid sister. A kid sister who found out she "wasn't real." She lost her mother. She had a superhero for an older sister.

I also think it was good that they gave Buffy another family member, otherwise she would have had no one after she lost her mother.
I agree that Dawn wasn't a showblocker, annoying as she sometimes was.

Connor, on the other hand...


Took the words right out of my mouth. The only difference between those two is that Dawn's whiny tantrums and attention-getting antics were more plausible. I could never understand why Connor whined so much. You'd think that, being raised in a hell dimension, he'd have learned the futility of whining about anything a long time ago.
Nuts. I was just gonna come over here and mention that I thought Spike was the real showblocker, but Hellmouthguy beat me to it. And why not? He beats me to everything else. Don't think I don't know who took the last sprinkle-frosting donut this morning, HMG. I know.

This list is problematic, for me, because I think they have the very IDEA of a showblocker wrong. A showblocker is the character who the writers, in feeling that they just HAVE to write for them because they're awesome, shift the whole focus of the show. The most prominent examples seem to be jerks, frequently ones who display other vices as well: Eric Cartman on "South Park," Barney Stinson on HIMYM (love you, Neil, in a purely platonic way, but you've become the star and it just ain't fittin'), and yes, Dwight Schrute on "The Office." I think it evolves naturally...the writers enjoy them, and so do the fans at first...but these characters are like kudzu in Mississippi. They grow over everything, and they soon lose their appeal.

In true ensemble shows, they become the lead -- the story that was once about a young group finding true love in NYC has now become "Barney and Friends" without the purple dinosaur. In shows that have a strong central character who drives the mission, they get elevated to central status themselves ("...and now, it's the Buffy and Spike show! Starring Buffy and Spike!"). And in the more mixed cases, where there's an ensemble cast which nevertheless has a definite central character, they basically become the strongest secondary character, even if they didn't start that way. ("Paging Commander Data...you're wanted on the bridge.") The pity is that they actually were great, and they served the show well, in the role they had before, and they would have STAYED great in that role. Too much of a good thing is not necessarily an awesome thing.

Anyway -- Dawn was just never that character. Season 5 was, in a large way, ABOUT her...but the writers took great pains to blend her in with the cast and demonstrate where she fit in the show's fabric. By the time we found out she was the Key, we'd grown used to her. By the time we found out how important the Key was, we thought of Dawn first and foremost as Buffy's sister. She never stopped the show, or blocked it in any way. At least for Season 5, she enhanced it. Less so in Seasons 6 and 7, but that's a topic for another thread. Spike, and to a lesser degree Andrew, were the real culprits here.

Bonus question: Who WOULD have been the showblocker in "Firefly?" My money is on Jayne.
Bonus question: Who WOULD have been the showblocker in "Firefly?" My money is on Jayne.


By your definiton of showblocker? River, without a doubt. It could even be argued that she already was, in Serenity (though I'm happy to go with Joss's calling it Mal's story through River's eyes). I never really felt the show was meant to be about her, awesome and fascinating though her story is, and given time it probably would have taken over completely.

By the other definition, the one everybody else seems to be using, I'd go with either Inara or Book - speaking only for me personally, because I know plenty of people love both of them.
River was more of a plot device than a character, in a manner of speaking...but I can see if her story took over too much that would def. be a problem. Characters who clearly have interesting arcs coming up I don't think would qualify. Simon, obviously - he was already starting to experience some changes thru the series and in the movie and that would have probably gone interesting places and would have impacted the storylines of the others. and I think Jayne, also, definitely had some character growth ahead of him, so I don't think he was headed for showblocker. Kaylee and Inara are harder to say...its hard to say with any of the Firefly characters though, that show is fairly unique in respect to how they all meshed so well, and each one had something valuble to contribute. And we don't know all of what Joss planned for them individually. I'm not really sure that any of them would have become showblockers however, just becasue they all feed into each other so well and add to the other characters simply by their presence and interactions.

[ edited by F_TB on 2010-08-16 20:26 ]
Dwight Schrute, showblocker?? FAIL. He's the best thing there is about The Office.

But I have to agree with the points made about Dawn. She had a purpose in Season 5, but after that storyline was over they really never figured out what to do with the character. But then, Season 7 was unkind to many of the regular cast who were not named Spike or Buffy, so Dawn wasn't the only one who was rather pointless in the end.

Also have to agree about Tara on True Blood. She irritates the heck out of me in that series, but fortunately she has wonderfully psychotic James Frain this season to balance out her scenes. I know you aren't supposed to because he's EEEVILLL, but I keep rooting for Franklin to eat her so we can be done with Tara.
Who WOULD have been the show-blocker in "Firefly?" My money is on Jayne.


I don't think Jayne was ever gonna be the show-blocker because his whole deal was being the bad guy who could be heroic, but just isn't. Just when you think it might happen - FAIL. I'm reminded of that wonderful scene in Objects in Space where instead of grabbing his gun he grabs...his blanket. Priceless. Or when he stopped Mal and Wash from ripping into each other in Out of Gas not because he was concerned for their friendship, but because they'd use up all the air doing it. The only way Jayne would have become a show-blocker is if the writers had decided to make him more heroic than Mal, or funnier than Wash, etc.

It hurts me to say it, but I think the real show-blocker would have eventually turned out to be River. Eventually.
Add me to those who like Dawn. As someone with a younger sister she was pretty much spot-on. I also like Connor (even more than generally more popular characters like Fred and Lorne). Horses for courses.

As for the rest of the list. I love Betty on Mad Men, though I've not seen any of S4 yet so I can't really comment on their points. Agree about Ted on HIMYM, occasionally he'll do something funny that almost wins me back, but really it's too late now. The whole comment about Dawson is hilarious, including the picture, because it's so true.
The thing with Betty on Mad Men is I'm not sure what role she's going to have. Either she's going to have to get back with Don in some form or I don't know how you blend her into the show without resorting to cheap melodrama. "And now, here to keep Don from seeing his kids is Betty!"

And I say that, primarily in the sense that Don's not going to be the type of guy to fixate on Betty unless she's doing something to actively antagonize him. I think he'd just move on.

I really don't mean this in the sense that Betty should make up with Don. I just mean, show structure wise, I don't know who you can maintain her as a lead if you don't do this. It's about life and the Ad agency primarily through Don's eyes.

[ edited by azzers on 2010-08-16 22:37 ]
Everyone loves to hate on Dawn, but I always liked her. She was a total spaz and I thought that was fun about her. :)
Joss Whedon’s incomparably rabid fan base.

Incomparable, yes. Rabid? Only when anti-character wars rear their ugly head. There's not a character I hate in terms of their role, apart from Mollie the Dick Van Dyke Potential. Dawn was a troubled teenager who lost her mother and sister within a couple of months. There were reasons for her whining, good, dramatic reasons. Can't really agree with any of the other characters attacked above either. Without them the story would have been utterly different and, to me, less interesting.
Without them the story would have been utterly different and, to me, less interesting.

It's important to note that not in all cases does the article say the show should be without the given character altogether. Its remarks about Dwight on The Office are actually pretty spot on: he's become a shadow and a caricature compared to the more intricate character he used to be. That's a legitimate criticism of what's happened to the character and nowhere do they simply say he should never have been there at all.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2010-08-17 00:44 ]
The main argument in defense of Dawn seems to be that she was written as a whiny younger sister and thus Michelle portrayed her character perfectly. All true, but also why she deserves to be on the list.

When Buffy was first introduced, she whined about clothes and boys and other teenage girl stuff, but those things never defined her character. The writers were able to show a real teenage girl with real teenage attitudes and concerns and problems, but still give us the empowered female hero Joss wanted. She was a complete person. And I believe the show did just as well with all the other main characters.

Dawn, however, just kept on with the same annoying behavior over and over. She seemed like a plot device to teach Buffy how to be a mom/adult. A perfectly valid storyline, but she could have been a whole lot more. Others have pointed out that her character did grow over the final seasons, but when I think of Dawn, I don't remember any of it.

Regarding Connor, the entire Cordelia/Connor sex plot line - I absolutely hated it. I turn the channel if those episodes come on. I seek out any project that Joss attaches his name to, but if I ever need a reminder that he is far far from perfect, that crap is the only reminder I need.
Totally agree, Dawn was a show-blocker in much of seasons 5 and 6, with her horrible nasal fingernails-on-blackboards whining

And Connor, except in his last episodes. Oh my GOSH, what a pathetic character. Scree-e-e-eech. But ditto Connor's faux-dad, Daniel-whatever-he-was vengeful smug smirking do-nothing-but-be-boring guy.

Not that I have opinions about these matters, mind you.

[ edited by filops on 2010-08-18 01:49 ]
And I still don't get the Rita hate. Talked about it in previous posts, but any guy lucky enough to have a wife that caring and forgiving (and sexy too yes), should be overjoyed.
Others have pointed out that her character did grow over the final seasons, but when I think of Dawn, I don't remember any of it.

But is that the fault of the show, or the fault of how you watched the show? It can't inherently be the fault of the show, since not everyone sees it that way. Me, I don't remember any of this "Dawn was one-dimensional" thing.
Dawn grew loads. Just watch Real Me and Potential back-to-back and tell me that character was one-dimensional and undeveloped.
Dawn added a new dimension to Buffy's story- by the end of season 4 Buffy was settled in to protecting the world, but I think bringing in a sister to protect carried the "world's heroine" thing to a much more personal level. I always thought that Willow and Tara's maternal inclinations towards Dawn became an important part of their relationship as well. The story was still moving forward, and Dawn AND the other characters continued to develop. I don't think that just because the character is occasionally annoying the show is ruined or "blocked"- which seemed to be what the author was getting at.
I think Dawn suffered because her existence was counterfeit, in a way: unlike the three main Scoobies and Giles, Dawn was designed, from the beginning, to add interesting aspects to Buffy's character, more than to be a functioning character with her own arc and storylines. She was a "Buffy accessory" the way Oz was a Willow accessory, and it often seemed that the writers didn't know what to do with her, because she simply wasn't very important to their plans outside of her effect on Buffy. They wanted to write Willow episodes, and Xander episodes (at least until Andrew came along), but they didn't want to write Dawn episodes. They only wanted to write episodes about Buffy trying to find ways to deal with Dawn, which isn't the same thing.
Dawn's introduction as a character still remains one of the cleverest I've ever seen and a real mind bender (at least for a few episodes anyway.)

Whiny and annoying sure, but I always liked her...in a weird protective way.
To clarify:

I am not a Dawn hater, nor am I saying that her character did not develop. I am saying that she seemed to serve the same role over and over and over- whiny lil get in same ridiculous trouble again so Buffy can play mom (as Hellmouthguy beautifully named it) "accessory". I just do not believe that her character was handled with the subtle depth that the mains were.

I should point out that I also disagree with the author's idea of showstopper. I wasn't always enamored with Dawn but I never regretted her inclusion on the show. Just wanted them to more with her.

kamw30, I completely agree with you about Dawn's introduction. That was a thing of beauty and set up a great season long story line.
Hey, be sure to check out the Dawson's Creek video for a fairly young Christian Kane. Very pretty :)
ManEnoughToAdmitIt said:

These are going to be massive subjective.


Yes, because I like Tara and her plotline on 'True Blood', and I am a little sad to find out that there are people who don't.

Subjective.

Oh, and tally my vote in the 'likes Dawn' category.
Holey Moley, I'm agreeing with everything Hellmouthguy said. *head explodes*

But I don't hate what Spike did to the show. I just felt mildly frustrated. :)
Worra loader carp.
Well out of the shows I've seen from that list the only one I'd agree with is Betty Draper because she is just a pretty boring character who I don't want to see on screen very much.

Agreeing with the general Dawn sentiments though, I just don't think she's that bad, except that they portray a 14 year old as much younger than she is (just cut the stupid long hair already!). Spike on the other hand...or actually Robin Wood in season 7.

I have no idea what they're on about with Romo Lampkin, surely Gaius Baltar became BSG's big showstopper once his trial was over right up until the last episode.

Also I'm with lottalettuce about the totally channel-changing horror that was Cordelia and Connor's relationship. Both of these characters became showstoppers for me. Cordelia was ok in the first two series but I really absolutely hated how everyone suddenly thought she was totally amazing because she had painful visions and figured out how to be a nice person. Sorry, I just get so...angry...
I always like Dawn myself.

I think the only one I agree with from that list (from the shows I have seen/watch) is Tara from True Blood who is either annoyingly angry and shouty for no reason or wandering about with a wobbly bottom lip looking hard done by. Awful actress. Unfortunately she remains in the show despite many trying to kill her :D

Hellmouthguy wrote
I always felt they wrote Dawn a bit too young; she was supposed to be 14 when first introduced but she came off, to me, like she was about 11. For me it was that strange disparity between the character's age and her behavior, more than whining, which turned me off at times, though I always did like Dawn and wished she was given more of substance to do.


I seem to remember reading somewhere (or maybe in was in a dvd commentary), they meant Dawn to be younger, around 10 or 11, and only very late in the process settled on a little bit older (maybe only after casting Michelle). And that it impacted their writing a bit in the first few eps with her. But I really can't recall the source right now, sorry.
I remember that from somewhere too (though I thought she was going to be 12). It may have been the commentary for "Real Me".
I've never understood the Dawn hate. She was supposed to be irritating at the beginning and I think Michelle Tractenberg did an excellent job of portraying the character, throughout her arc.
There is actually not a single main or even supporting character on any of Joss's shows, that I don't like .... "like" obviously meaning a character being well imagined and well acted, i.e. I "hated" Warren, but he was a great character, played to perfection by Adam Busch.
Which I chalk up to Joss's genius at both inventing fascinating, complex characters, and finding the perfect actor for the role.

I disliked Cordelia on Angel, once she started turning evil. But since I enjoyed the character on Buffy and on Angel to that point, I can't say I actually disliked the character. And I didn't ever dislike Connor (except for the icky C/C relationship). Partly because Vincent K. is such an excellent actor, partly because it was a great story line.

As for the small but vocal minority who dislike Spike, I certainly agree that he changed the show (BtS) ... but for the better, to the point that it wouldn't have been nearly the classic it was, without him. Spike is to BtS what Wesley is to AtS. The most fully realized, complex character with the most in depth character development. And the two best actors on either show, in the bargain.

I'm also surprised that a few people didn't like River. She was for me, the heart of Firefly, and the focus on her was one of the main reasons that Serenity is such a great movie.

There are only a few other shows on the list that I've really watched, but .... Rolo Lampkin??? I loved the character, he came on board at just the right time and under just the right circumstances. I wont get spoilery, in case there are peeps who have yet to experience the wondrousness of BSG, but they definitely needed to bring on a new character to fill the role he played, and Mark Sheppard was just perfect. And I totally loved where he ended up. :_)
Please note I never said I didn't like River! I only meant her story was taking over.

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