Humor and cultural standards are ever-changing. What is acceptable and even funny one year can be, after reflection and evaluation, grossly offensive the next. Given their broad audiences, sitcoms typically attempt to channel the current popular humor of the day. This doesn’t always age well.
As such, there are many characters who were once viewed as some of the funniest and most integral elements of their sitcoms but have failed to hold up well as time has gone by. It leaves those characters as, at best, embarrassing reminders of a show’s origins.
Updated on November 15, 2022, by Mayra García: As time passes more and more sitcom characters become culturally obsolete. Icons that used to be fan favorites are re-evaluated in a new light and not all of them pass this test. We’ve expanded this list with even more sitcom characters whose behavior isn’t quite as charming in retrospect.
14/14 Hyde’s Attitude Got Even Sourer After Danny Masterson’s Allegations Surfaced
That 70’s Show
Raised in a negligent home, Steven Hyde is a cynical, sarcastic young man with a defensive attitude toward life. Due to his upbringing, Hyde doesn’t care much about anyone. He ultimately breaks Jackie’s heart due to his own trust issues. But before this happens, he’s often violent towards her. He disregards her feelings and mistreats her all the time.
Since Jackie’s other love interests in That 70’s Show were worse, many fans rooted for her relationship with Hyde. However, as time passed, it became obvious that he wasn’t a good man either. Now that Danny Masterson has been accused of sexual abuse, it somehow makes it worse.
13/14 Barney Stinson’s Behavior Is Sexist & Often Outright Criminal
How I Met Your Mother
Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother aged poorly even without taking into consideration his worst actions. As a crude womanizer, nearly everything out of his mouth reduces the women around him to sexual objects. While this behavior is often criticized in How I Met Your Mother, some of his worst actions aren’t discussed as often.
Throughout the series, Barney makes use of elaborate “plays” to pick up women, often involving vast efforts to deceive them into sleeping with him. This behavior was never called out as the gross violation of boundaries — or even law — that it is now understood to be. Instead, it was portrayed as a hilarious element of Barney’s character. Many How I Met Your Mother jokes have aged well, but not this one.
12/14 Jim Halpert Was A Good Boyfriend, But A Bad Husband
Jim Halpert became a fan favorite in the first season of The Office thanks to his wholesome love story with Pam. However, in recent years, the fandom has come to realize Jim got progressively worse. During his time courting Pam, he was a hopeless romantic. But once things got difficult in their marriage, he wasn’t able to take the pressure.
Fans still cringe at the scene where Jim scolds Pam for not recording their daughter’s recital just because he’s upset about his new job arrangement. While this moment brings Jim and Pam’s relationship to the real world, it’s also the beginning of something bigger. According to many The Office fan theories, he may even have cheated on her.
11/14 Debra Barone Abuses Her Husband
Everybody Loves Raymond
The dynamic running through Everybody Loves Raymond is that, despite an ostensibly loving relationship, Ray Barone frequently infuriates his wife Debra. Although Ray is far from a saint, especially by today’s standards, Debra’s behavior has aged even worse than her husband’s.
Everybody Loves Raymond’s Debra is frequently physically violent towards Ray, and he seems genuinely afraid of her, which is usually laughed off by other characters. Domestic violence as a whole has become a more serious topic in recent years. Fortunately, male victims are taken more seriously now than in the 1990s.
10/14 Mrs. Brown Uses ‘Man In A Dress’ Comedy
Mrs. Brown’s Boys
The central concept of the British and Irish sitcom Mrs. Brown’s Boys is that the titular Mrs. Brown, a family matriarch, is played by male comedian Brendan O’Carroll. Much of the comedy in Mrs. Brown’s Boys revolves around that fact.
Although a staple of British comedy, the idea that the very concept of a man in a dress is a source of endless comedy has become more controversial, with some finding transphobic undertones in the joke. Even without this problem, it tends to center characters on a single annoying note. Given that this trope is central to the character of Agnes Brown, it is likely she will continue to age poorly.
9/14 Everyone Mistreated C.C. Babcock, But Niles Always Took It Too Far
In the ’90s, Laurel Lane appeared on The Nanny as C.C. Babcock, Maxwell Sheffield’s business partner who was also romantically interested in him. Given this, she saw Fran Fine as a threat from the beginning, often being nasty towards her out of jealousy.
Since everyone loved Fran, Cece became a punching bag for every other character on The Nanny. In the beginning, it was all in good fun. But as the series progressed, comments against her became crueler, especially from Niles. The fact that she ended up marrying her is a very poor depiction of an unhealthy relationship.
8/14 Grace Mostly Uses Will For Her Own Needs
Will & Grace follows the often toxic relationship between Will, a gay man, and Grace, his straight best friend. The series mainly focuses on relationships as they deal with life in their 30s, and it always revolves around their unconditional friendship.
However, it only takes a rewatch to notice Grace is a terrible friend. She rarely puts Will’s needs over her own and often pushes out of his comfort zone just to get what she wants. Their friendship was groundbreaking for a sitcom in the 2000s, but as time passes, it’s obvious that it had a lot of flaws.
7/14 Han Lee Is Composed Largely Of Racial Stereotypes
2 Broke Girls
2 Broke Girls tried to be progressive in some ways and to explore untold stories, starring often ignored characters. However, the show has faced repeated criticisms over its seeming view that Asian Americans are somehow funny just by being Asian and American.
The character Han Lee makes this problem clear. Starting in the show’s pilot, Lee’s character is derived from stereotypes about Asian Americans. In particular, he speaks almost entirely in broken English and doesn’t understand American culture. This sort of ethnic humor was out of fashion even when 2 Broke Girls started, and age has made it even worse.
6/14 Charlie Harper Is Simply Too Depraved
Two and a Half Men
Charlie Harper is another instance of a mid-2000s sitcom protagonist whose primary humor comes from his philandering ways. Two And A Half Men centers on Harper’s tendency to reduce the women around him to sexual objects by way of word or deed.
At its worst, Two and a Half Men takes this to its logical conclusion, ending in behavior that can only be viewed as attempted sexual assault. His behavior is now recognized as the dangerous sexism it always represented. No female characters on Two And A Half Men were ever safe from his predation, so this show definitely wasn’t as good as many remember.
5/14 Hal Crosses Lois’s Boundaries In Very Violent Ways
Malcolm in the Middle
Portrayed by Bryan Cranston, Hal Wilkerson is one of the best dads on television. He’s funny, he’s emotionally involved with his kids, and he’s sensitive enough to raise them without violent masculinity. Additionally, unlike other sitcom men, he always shows how much he loves his wife.
However, this doesn’t excuse him from having a very toxic attitude sometimes. For example, he often acts like a kid, leaving all the responsibility of the household to Lois. What’s more, he once admitted to purposely trying to get Lois to gain weight while she was on a diet. This made for a hilarious reaction, but in reality, it’s serious abusive behavior.
4/14 Lee Is A Slacker Who Gets Rewarded With A Relationship
Not Going Out
Before its retooling, the British sitcom Not Going Out followed a fictionalized version of Lee Mack living in a flat in the London Docklands. In the series, Lee is an unmotivated, unemployed slacker who often had tension-fueled arguments with his landlord, Lucy, due to his attitude. Ironically, he ends up marrying her.
Despite little in the way of prospects and barely any character development, Lee apparently “wins” Lucy throughout Not Going Out simply by existing. In the reboot, Lee became a much more driven family man with far more virtues and an easier relationship with Lucy, who’s now his wife.
3/14 Ross Geller Is Now A Far Too Dogged “Nice Guy”
When Friends first aired, it was still somewhat unconventional for a sitcom to base itself around a “will-they-or-won’t-they” storyline. It was especially unconventional for Friends to involve an allegedly geeky guy like Ross with a heartthrob character like Rachel, but in the end, he mistreated her often.
The intervening time period, however, has seen a glut of ‘give geeks a chance’ storylines that suggest men like Ross are quite dateable, regardless of their poor behavior. Looking back, many see Ross as desperate, obsessive, and hypocritical, not the sympathetic romantic lead that he was framed as.
2/14 Gloria Pritchett Is The Target Of Many Stereotypes
There is no denying that Modern Family attempts to be a progressive sitcom, with a cast that represents many demographics. Furthermore, Modern Family‘s principal Colombian character, Gloria Pritchett, is presented as one of the more sympathetic members of the cast.
Nonetheless, a large number of stereotypes underlie her writing, and they somehow target the entire nation of Colombia. These stereotypes include suggestions regarding South American criminality and poverty alongside stereotypical views of family affairs and maternal relationships. Although in some ways Gloria has aged well, in others she is viewed as a mark on Modern Family‘s permanent record.
1/14 Sheldon Cooper’s Autism Is Used As A Punchline
The Big Bang Theory
Today, neurodivergent individuals are viewed in a rapidly-changing light, especially in media. In the earliest episodes of The Big Bang Theory, the four main characters were all similar in their socially awkward and geeky ways, but the quartet diverged over time.
Sheldon Cooper’s divergence saw him acquire more traits associated with autism. Although some episodes attempted a sincere exploration of the effects these traits had on Sheldon’s life, often they were simply used as a recurring punchline. In the worst cases, autism was given as the reason behind the worst things Sheldon’s ever done. Targeting people for being on the autism spectrum has never made sense, but it’s even more problematic today than it was in TBBT‘s early years.
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