JG's Ten 1980s TV Characters Who Taught Me To Hate
By James Guttman Nov 26, 2012 - 6:08 AM
The 1980s were a scary time. No bicycle helmets. No curfew. No leads when your friends get kidnapped. But, for me, those days were the building blocks of my existence. It was TV that first taught me about life, love, and, well, evil. This list is about those evil beings and what I learned from them. At first glance, you might assume these ten will be littered with names like Skeletor and Gargamel, but no. Those guys had agendas and even managed to squeak some goodness out once in a while (joining forces with the good guys to help Santa Claus and things like that). No. This list is about the sociopaths, trouble makers, and all around terrible people who tried to pass themselves off as part of the show. In reality, they were far from it. They were awful and that's why they're included in
Ten 1980s TV Characters Who Taught Me To Hate…
Lisa Hayes Diffr'nt Strokes
Diffr'nt Strokes was a strange show for many reasons. One of the most prominent, perhaps, was how Arnold Jackson (played by Gary Coleman) went from the most adorable little kid to grace the planet in season one to the most annoying little douche to ruin the planet by the final season.
Honestly, the metamorphosis of Arnold is something that fans of the show will always carry with them. Sometime after this little shit met Mr. T, he started to do awful things like getting the mentally handicapped busboy fired at the diner to mocking his adopted ginger brother's bed wetting during family supper. His insults weren't cute. His faces weren't precious. He was just annoying and in need of a violent beatdown in response to his next "Whatchu Talkin' 'Bout?" All around, Arnold Jackson had become a terrible human being.
That's what makes Lisa Hayes so interesting. This girl managed to come off as the bad guy while making Mr. Drummond's littlest burden the object of her ire during some of his most arrogant seasons. Amazing.
That's right. For many boys everywhere, Lisa represented that girl in class who always knew the right answer and had a condescending face to go along with it. She tattled on her classmates and stooped so low as to rat Arnold out to Principal Dick Sergeant for protesting against the school dress code. Even the teachers she tried to ingratiate herself to couldn't stand her presence. Lisa's brown nosing and self congratulations were almost always met with eye rolling. Even the ones she was helping hated her. In a nutshell, Lisa Hayes was a detestable maggot who taught us all that some people are just evil.
Now keep in mind, this show was known for repeated exposure to pure evil. Throughout the course of its entire run, we met a number of kidnappers (both sexual assaulters and grieving fathers), faceless bullies, and even Gordon Jump in his soul-scarring role as the bicycle lovin' child molester. But still, none of them could hold a candle to the everlasting impression Lisa left on us all. Had she been in the bike shop as Mr. Horton was playing bathtub games with Arnold and Dudley, she'd just crack that infuriating smirk and say, "See, Arnold Jackson. I knew you'd get yourself into this mess. I'm going to tell the teacher how you're getting molested! Pipsqueak! Ha!" God I hate her.
Oscar Sesame Street
Dude. Oscar sucks.
Growing up, Oscar the Grouch was the lone voice of misery on Sesame Street. With characters like Big Bird waddling around in such a happy haze that they ought to be drug tested, the Grouch stood out like a smelly sore thumb.
Learning happened all over the Street. We were taught ABCs, math, animal sounds, and songs about llamas. Everyone had something to teach me…except for Oscar. Over the course of my entire childhood, the only thing I remember about the smelly green monster was that he ate sardine sundaes. Nothing else. Yeah. That came in handy in life. I remember getting that question about whether or not fish and ice cream mix from my SATs, don't you?
This depressing garbage can dwelling nug of weed still inhabits Sesame today. My kids watch it. During the entire duration of their PBS viewing, I've seen one Oscar-centric episode. The lesson taught? Dirt is good sometimes. Once again - thank you, Oscar, for a waste of Sesame Street. The entire episode could have been replaced by going outside for five minutes with a shovel.
At least now, though, kids have a happier Oscar. The one from the pre-90s era didn't have a smile as his default expression. Nope. It was this hairy, scary, garbagey mess that served no purpose but to rain on every parade and piss in every bowl of Cheerios. No joke, I wouldn't be surprised if he had something to do with Mr. Hooper's death.
I'm not the only one who sees the evil of Oscar. Eat your sardine sundae and listen to Dave Chappelle's not-safe-for-work views on him and know we're not alone…
Screw you, Oscar. Why can't you be nicer to everyone like Elmo?
What? He did what? Oh wow. Never mind.
Mr. Donald Twinkacetti Perfect Strangers
It's one thing to have a mean boss. It's another thing to work for a sadist.
Balki and Cousin Larry from Perfect Strangers would have settled for either. Instead they had evil incarnate during their time at the Ritz Discount store in the form of Mr. Twinkacetti.
Mr. Twinkacetti was a repulsive person. From top to bottom, he embodied everything people told you not to grow up to be like. Not only did he mock and overwork his only two employees, but he'd withhold pay for no reason at all. The few times he did manage to come through on his promises, it was because his wife forced him to. You got the idea that if he was single, Mr. Twinkacetti would be whipping these guys with a belt every morning when they arrived at the store.
The one example that Twinkacetti may have been some sort of demonic monster was the fact that he barked. Seriously. The guy barked. At times, when faced with some sort of obstacle to his nastiness, Donald Twinkacetti would tilt his head to the side and snarl like an animal. The audience laughed. Children cried. Couple that with his propensity for calling people "turnips" and you have one nasty hell beast of a boss.
A few years into the show, both Larry and Balki traded in their jobs at the discount shop for jobs at the local newspaper. They also traded in their barking boss for Mr. Gorpley - a new sleepy-eyed manager from hell who replaced cruelty with dry humor. It was a kinder, gentler Milwaukee for the cousins after that.
Mr. Twinkacetti was never heard from again. My hunch is that they killed him. Wouldn't you? Think I'm kidding? I'm not. After the cousins went through their life changing career move, Mr. Twinkacetti 's wife, Edwina, resurfaced…with a new hair color and using the name "Lydia". Lydia would go on to be a regular character on the show and they all pretended like she wasn't once married to their evil boss. Sounds sketchy? Of course it does. Don't be ri-dic-u-lous.
Munro Ficas Too Close For Comfort
I think I was too young for most of Too Close For Comfort's humor. But that being said, Munro remains one of the few characters in TV history who was just as irritating to children as he was to adults. To illustrate this point, I'll show you two examples of each.
For adults, Munro was a bizarre man-child who lived in Ted Knight's basement. He talked like a six year old that everybody whispers about when he leaves the room. With his bright smile and strange immigrant-like approach to a country that he'd lived in his whole life, Munro served no purpose in the main story. He was just there to annoy Ted Knight.
How did he annoy Ted Knight? Just by being himself. What sort of things happened when Munro was himself? He got raped. Yeah. Raped. By two
women. They made a whole episode about it. I'm not making this up. Here. Look. I apologize for the quality, but you take what you can get...
If you've never seen Too Close For Comfort, now you have. And now you hate Munro too.
Keep in mind that I first saw this particular Comfort when I was still pretty young. So the idea of a man being raped by two women was horrific and confusing. I felt bad for him, but since almost no one else did, I was left with a sense of apathy that has stuck with me until adulthood. Who cares, Munro? No one. No one cares.
Not every show was about Munro getting raped. But one thing every episode had in common was that Ted Knight, who played a cartoonist on the show, would play with his Cosmic Cow hand puppet. Since I was still at the point where most of the sex jokes flew over my head, I looked forward to the hand puppet. I had been drinking the Jim Henson Kool-Aid for years at that point and anything that remotely resembled a puppet on television was entertainment for me.
Munro's presence and propensity for stupid scenarios just took time away from Ted Knight Puppet Theater. It really got on my nerves.
Also, around this age, I was learning all about spelling. I had finally gotten vowels and all that down pat when along came the man who played Munro…Jm J. Bullock. Every time the theme song played and I saw his ridiculously spelled name, my understanding of the English language was shaken to its core. There seemed to be no reason for the missing i. I couldn't handle it. Years later, I would experience the same thing when I heard about Sade.
Years of television all for ten minutes of puppet time. Thanks, Munro. You're a real dck.
Margaux Kramer Punky Brewster
Punky Brewster was pretty much the saddest TV character of all time. Ten steps below Annie's silly lil' Orphan routine, Punky was full-on abandoned and left to live with an old curmudgeon straight out of the Police Academy movies. She was unwanted and her "punky" outfits hid the fact that she was being dressed by a senile old man who brought strange kids home from baseball games.
Enter Margaux Kramer, one of Punky's "friends". For starters, her name was spelled "Margaux". Couldn't be "Margo". No. Just like Munro couldn't be "Monroe". Ugh.
Not only was Margaux forever destined to never find a personalized license plate plaque with her name on it, she was also completely oblivious to how pretentious she was. Margaux, you see, was rich and spoiled. Her time spent with Punky Brewster was done to illustrate the differences in their social classes and hammer home the fact that the more money you have, the worse of a person you are. Oh good ol' self-hating Hollywood. Thank you for your scripts.
Margaux paraded around in clothes that went beyond the classic "rich girl" look too. This chick wore berets and feather boas. It was like being friends with a miniature Hulk Hogan. Nothing about her seemed to gel with her friends. She was always out of place. Perhaps it was because she had no respect for them at all.
How can I say this? Well, in one famous episode, Margaux's family fell on some hard times and was forced into bankruptcy. This, of course, upsets our little Hulkster since she assumes that Punky and Cherie (no relation to the chair on Pee Wee's Playhouse) would no longer want to be friends with her.
Let that sink in. Her two poor friends wouldn't want to be friends with her anymore because she's poor. I mean, after all, who wants to be friends with poor people? How disgusting. This girl was so oblivious to the fact that her two pals were a paycheck away from being homeless that the entire episode was spent with them trying to show her how personality, not money, makes you a good friend. It was pretty much a giant slap in the face to the two paupers she had been slumming around with. But, that was OK because now all three were poor…and happy. Ah.
Then - and here's the really horrible part - Margaux's family became rich again in the last minute of the show. This awful little demon girl came prancing into Punky's dilapidated shack, flashed a pile of bills and declared that she had reclaimed her place in society. They don't show it, but I'm pretty sure Punky tried to jump out her apartment window when the cameras stopped rolling.
So far, TV has taught me that grouches, turnips, and rich people make awful friends. You know what's next? Busybodies.
Harriet Brindle Small Wonder
Let's get one thing straight. I'm not a particularly violent person, but if you sneak around my house and peer through the windows, I'm going to smash you in the head. It might be with my hand. It might be with a brick. But someone's getting smashed.
No one smashed Harriet Brindle on Small Wonder. Maybe that's because the neighbors were bumbling sex addicts, their son was a cheeky gummi bear, and their daughter was a robot that was decades before its time. Nope. Harriet brazenly snooped around the house that Ted Lawson built, trying to catch a glimpse of whatever she could. No window was safe. Even the bedrooms on the second floor didn't stop her from staring through the window. I'm not sure if this was just a writing oversight…or if she could really fly. If she could fly - yikes. That's a scary thought. There'd be no hope for humanity .
Now, I know what you're thinking. You're hungry. Go eat some Combos. Also, you're thinking,
"James, the family didn't know she peered through their windows. Peeping Toms keeping their peepers on the down low, right?"
Wrong. Harriet not only spied on her next door neighbors, she'd ask them about things she'd seen. When robot Vicki came home for the first time, she saw the whole thing on WindowVision. Later, when she encountered the family, she asked about it - citing how she'd seen her arrive while peering into their home.
No one smashed her. In fact, the first discovery that Vicki was a robot living in the giant walk-in closet was directly due to this nosy little witch. During a dinner that the Lawsons were nice enough to invite her horrible family to, Harriet asked to use the restroom. When Jamie (the gummi bear) followed her to make sure she didn't poke around, she confronted him. Of course, being made of gummi, he backed down and allowed her to march into his bedroom to reveal robosister's sleep box.
She should have just peed on his bed while she was at it. She could take Jamie's face and rub it in the stained sheets screaming,
"Taste it! Taste it!"
Harriet got away with murder and the occasional insults hurled her way didn't do enough to alleviate it. There was something unsettling about all this girl stood for. Then again, you have to place some blame on a scientist who can make a perfect humanoid robot with 1980s Atari technology yet still can't make a pair of curtains that close.
Rocky Ratrock Flintstone Kids
The Flintstones were liars. There. I said it. Stick that in your pelican sink and stir it.
In one particularly memorable episode of the cartoon, Fred and Wilma spoke about how they first met. The memories were from a time when they were older. It was touching. We laughed. We cried. We slaughtered a water buffalo. Good times.
Then came the Flintstone Kids cartoon and we learned that all of that was brontoshit. That's right. I said it. Apparently everyone on the show grew up together. Mr. Slate. Betty. Wilma. Random townies we never met. They all went to the same school. They all wore the same clothes. They were just, well, little. That's why they called the show The Flintstone Kids. Duh.
But one character on the show was no friend to the gang. His name was Rocky Ratrock and he was a ratrock indeed. The token bully, Rocky was featured prominently. In fact, the opening credits used his mug as the eye of the facial sunflower.
Rocky Ratrock sucked. His whole goal in life was to threaten the Flintstone Kids. Whenever times seemed fun, he'd hold out his fists and threaten them with a "trip to Knuckle Junction." Seriously.
Now, it's my experience that guys who name their fists aren't guys you need to worry about. "Salt and Pepper", "Shock and Awe", "Hall and Oates" - whatever. They usually get punched in the face by the time they get to "and".
Rocky might have been that sort of guy, if only someone in Bedrock had a pair of stones. No one stood up to Ratrock and, as the show went on, he became noting more than a threatening bully. He obviously came from some sort of abusive home. But that subject was never explored. No. Rocky just sucked. And he sucked until the day Fred stuck a syringe full of M99 into his neck, tied him to a table, and sliced him into little pieces.
Of course, I'm just taking an educated guess on that one. The grown up Flintstones didn't know any Rocky Ratrock. In fact, they never even spoke his name. The same person who was so central to their lives as children that they put him in the center of their head circle never has his name said again. He was the Chris Benoit of Bedrock. Seems some people are hiding some things.
I know you're probably thinking that there's no way the Flintstones would do something like that. I didn't think they'd ever lie about how they all met during an episode, but they did. Guess we didn't know them all as well as we yabba-dabba-thought.
Lucy Van Pelt Peanuts
Let's be honest here. The 1980s were brutal. We didn't have anti-bullying campaigns. We had stop-crying-or-I'll-give-you-something-to-cry-about campaigns. Don't believe me? Watch this boy call this girl fat and ugly before Mr. T jumps in to defend…him.
Sorry about the song. I warned you. The 1980s were brutal.
No one was more brutal than Lucy Van Pelt. Although Peanuts were all the rage in the 80s (kids weren't violently allergic to them yet), Lucy's bitchiness spanned countless decades and infuriated countless generations.
For many men, Lucy Van Pelt was our first introduction to "crazy chicks". This pint size psychopath with puffy sleeves was relentless on poor Charlie Brown. The football gag was just the start. Whatever this poor little bald kid did, she ragged on him. Christmas Tree - ragged on him. Little League -ragged on him. You name it. She didn't even do it in a clever way either. Her main insult? To call him a "blockhead". Yeah, the kid with the roundest head I've ever seen is a "blockhead". Shut up, Lucy. I hate you.
She didn't even like her own brother, Linus. Despised him. Now, I know what you're saying.
"Linus was her brother. Most kids don't like their siblings." Yeah? Well do most kids hate puppies that kiss them? No. They don't. Lucy did. Whenever the star of our show, Snoopy, would sweetly lay a smooch on her nasty-ass mouth, she'd scream as if she just discovered her parents bodies in the garage. What a nutcase. The dog kissed you. Nothing more, nothing less. If the "dog germs" didn't kill you the 100 other times he freakin' did it, it won't this time. Save the drama for your trombone-sounding mama, beeotch.
This leads us to Schroeder. This little puffy hair kid just wanted to practice piano. That's it. He has an interest and, hopefully, one day that interest could get him into a good school. It could be his calling. That's all he wants to do. Just leave him alone. His mom makes him wear a purple shirt every day. Doesn't he have to deal with enough?
No. He doesn't. He has Lucy, with her residual dog germs, leaning all over his tiny piano as he tries to practice. She nearly throws her underwear at this kid and when he politely refuses, what does she do?
Yup. She screams so loudly that it sends both him and the tiny piano tumbling.
How her breath managed to do this at all is a question that only the terrorized children of Peanutville can answer. Oh the horror. Good grief. Good grief indeed.
Skippy Handleman Family Ties
Let's tackle a simple situation from a logical standpoint. Your best friend lives next door and is a total geek. Why are you best friends with a total geek? No idea. Just go with it. This geeky neighbor BFF is in love with your sister - who is fairly hot. What would your advice to your friend be? Me? It would be like this -
"Dude, maybe you should find someone else. She's not into you.
And, since you live next door, it will make the rest of our friendship and/or lives awkward. Please stop."
Not Skippy Handleman. Oh no. Skippy had no self-esteem, self-awareness, or friends who genuinely cared about him. He fawned all over his friend Alex Keaton's sister, Mallory. Although she was so far out of his league that she played a different sport, he still pushed on. He showed his love for her at every turn. In 2012, it's called stalking. In 1980s, it was called situation comedy.
Even when Mal found herself a brain damaged boyfriend who made an abbreviated career out of doing a Rocky Balboa impression, Skippy was still around. Where else was he going to go? It seemed that his entire life was centered on the Keaton Family.
Most of us assumed it was because Alex was his best friend in the world. Michael J. Fox took Skippy under his wing early and the two were inseparable. That's true and, for many years explained this strange display of self-loathing. But then, in a very special two part episode of Family Ties, Alex found himself at a psychiatrist. Why? Because his bestest buddy Greg - who had rarely, if ever, been mentioned - died in a car accident.
Then there was Jeff. He was Alex's bestest buddy too. Mallory wanted to date him, but he was a player. That's beside the point, though. The point is that Alex had lots of friends.
Skippy - none. Just Alex. If the Skippy Handleman character was on a TV show today, the series finale would involve him either killing Mallory or shooting up his school.
that for a very special episode of Family Ties? Sit, Ubu. Sit. Good dog.
Miss Piggy The Muppet Show/Muppet Babies
Can someone tell me what the hell this pig's problem was? Seriously. Is she on crack?
Straight out of Punch and Judy, this angry porker seems to think that the best way to handle a situation is to karate chop people in the throat. Actually, I take that back. Not just people - frogs, bears, dogs, John Denver, and anything else in her irate path.
The most common reason for her aggression? Kermit. She wants Kermit. She wants him bad. It's creepy and makes no sense. In real life, frogs are usually about 1/100th the size of a pig so it's impossible to envision outside of this Muppet World. But still, she wants him. He says no. She beats the shit out of him. This is repeated over and over.
It was even worse when they were babies. Holy Cow. The Muppet Babies program was a textbook example of physical abuse. Here we were. Latch Key kids being taught by our parents that we shouldn't hit each other. Then, they sit us down to watch this cartoon pig pummel a skinny frog into oblivion because why? Because he doesn't want to bang her?! What?! You're babies! You're in a nursery! Leave the frog alone! What the hell?!
The one Muppet that did want to get with Miss Piggy was beaten up too. It seemed Gonzo's unwanted sexual advances didn't sit well with her and she had no choice but to toss him across the room by his face. She does this with no thought to how the roles are reversed when it comes to Kermit, yet - once again - she's the aggressor. What a f**king psycho.
And that's why I have no problems with being a meat eater. When a distraught vegetarian looks at me incredulously and asks how I can stand to eat bacon, I sternly stare back and say,
"Because that bitch deserves it. That's why."