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The Big Bang Theory: The 20 Most Irritating Characters, Ranked

In some ways, it’s hard to believe The Big Bang Theory is coming to an end. It’s a show that adored and still watched by millions of people each week, and with old episodes in syndication, it’s constantly on TV whether you like it or not. You can’t even walk through a department store anymore without finding a T-shirt, wall calendar, or licensed action figure that references the show in some way.

But maybe that’s why it’s the perfect time for it to stop. We’ve lived with these characters for 11 and a half seasons now, so it makes sense for the show to go out on top while it’s still (somewhat) funny. We’ve watched some of the characters grow and mature, while others have more or less stayed the same. The writers have done a great job of keeping it fresh with new characters pretty much every season, so maybe its best if The Big Bang Theory ends while we still like most of them. Unfortunately, every show also has characters that we despise. They have negative qualities that we consider to be present in the worst people -- things that irritate us so badly that it makes it hard to watch. For every sweet, innocent Bernadette, you have an overbearing, selfish mother, or worse, a science dork who doesn’t know when to stop talking about themselves. While The Big Bang Theory will forever be immortalized in TV greatness, let’s take a look at some of the characters that made us wince at different times over the last 12 years.

20 PROFESSOR PROTON

Professor Proton, played bewilderingly by acting legend Bob Newhart, is Sheldon Cooper’s childhood hero. Growing up as a recluse, Sheldon used to watch Professor Proton’s TV show and as a kid, felt a special connection to his favorite scientist. The professor returns numerous times in Sheldon’s adult life, often dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi (another of Sheldon’s heroes) to dole out ill-conceived advise.

Professor Proton first appears in season six, when Leonard and Sheldon find out the discredited children’s show host does paid gigs for extra money. As great of an actor Newhart is, his portrayal of Professor Proton is somewhat irritating. He’s frequently bumbling lines or stuttering over simple words- perhaps on purpose -- but it creates a bit of a disconnect with the viewer.

19 HOWARD WOLOWITZ

Over the years, Howard Wolowitz has become way less annoying than he used to be. In the beginning, his character was a nerdy, perverted, immature 20-something who would hit on any woman than came within 50 feet of him. His look was equally bad, always wearing turtlenecks under checkered dress shirts and finishing it off with giant, flashy video game inspired belt buckles.

Over time though, Howard has been forced to grow up. After becoming an engineer and venturing into space with Russian astronauts, Howard came back to Earth with a newfound maturity. He married Bernadette and now has two children with her. His role as a dad has become more prominent in the more recent seasons, with his irritating demeanor turned down several notches.

18 LEONARD HOFSTADTER

Like Howard, Leonard Hofstadter has grown increasingly less irritating over the years. At first, he was a geeky brainiac who froze whenever he was in the presence of Penny, the girl of his dreams. But as the lead in the series, he’s always been the anchor of the group: slightly more sociable, more emotionally intelligent, and often the voice of reason to counter Sheldon’s ridiculousness.

Early seasons focused on Leonard’s lack of experience with women, his chronic need to take inhalers and bizarre allergies, and his need to arrogantly correct others on minute details. He’s matured and settled into married life with Penny, but his obsessive urge to correct others still earns him a spot on this list.

17  RAJ KOOTHRAPPALI

If Raj’s track record with women isn’t frustrating, then nothing is. First, he wasn’t able to talk to girls at all without alcohol. Now than he can, he hasn’t fared much better. Lucy (Kate Miccuci), Emily (Laura Spencer), and Claire (Alessandra Torresani) were all interesting characters with a lot of potential, but Raj continuously shoots himself in the foot by lacking confidence and being unable to commit to one partner.

Now, Raj has given up on finding love on his own and is getting to know his new fiancé Anu in an arranged marriage situation. Aside from his love life, Raj had a strange affliction for his dog, a persistent need for people to like him, and an advanced knowledge of astrophysics.

16 MR. LARRY FOWLER

Mr. Larry Fowler (Amy’s dad) finally showed up in Season 11, but he’s an irritatingly humble and meek character without a backbone. Humorously portrayed by Teller -- one half of the legendary magic duo Penn & teller -- Mr. Fowler is constantly trying to avoid and hide from his overbearing wife Mrs. Fowler (Kathy Bates), who considers him a lazy dimwit without anything meaningful to add to any situation.

The idea that Amy’s parents’ relationship is unhealthy is a massive understatement. Mrs. Fowler is always belittling him, imposing her thoughts on him, and refusing to allow him to speak for himself. He’d rather run from his problems than confront his wife -- and he did exactly that in the Season 12 episode “The Conjugal Configuration.”

15 PENNY HOFSTADTER

In some ways, Penny is the perfect counter to the male energy in The Big Bang Theory. She’s rude, she criticizes people, she sleeps around, and she generally doesn’t care much about what people think of her. Back in the day, she played up even more of a “dumb blonde” prototype that was no doubt cringe-inducing to anyone who happened to catch the first couple of seasons.

You’ll notice she changed a lot after the first couple of episodes, becoming more of a sarcastic outsider poking fun at her friends than a happy-go-lucky, dumbfounded participant. She can still sometimes be obsessively bad-mannered -- talking behind the gang’s back, ignoring her morals, and pretending to be immature -- which why she earns a spot on this list.

14 ZACK JOHNSON

Zack Johnson (Brian Thomas Smith) was a half-witted jock who acted as Penny’s ex-husband back in Season 3. He’s a friendly, air-headed giant who definitely had some funny moments and even seemed like a loveable buffoon at times. But like many of the characters on this list, he’s also excessively irresponsible, claiming he and Penny had no idea they were engaging in a real wedding when they tied the knot in Las Vegas years earlier.

Zach has appeared in the show infrequently over the years, usually popping up to annoy Leonard or make him question Penny’s commitment to him every once in a while. He’s an unnecessary distraction considering most people in the real world don’t run into their exes that often.

13 DR. BEVERLY HOFSTADTER

Dr. Beverly Hofstadter is Leonard’s intelligent yet inappropriate mother. She’s often telling embarrassing stories of Leonard’s misadventures as a youth, and even wrote about them in detail in one of her published books. She’s a neuroscientist and psychiatrist too, so she over-analyzes everything and shares her opinions on people’s personal lives whether they ask for it or not.

As a mother, she’s also a bit cold-hearted, rarely showing affection towards Leonard or offering him a comforting shoulder to lean on. At one point in Season 5, she even told Leonard to “Buck up, sissy pants!” when he complained to her about his relationship problems. She’s not really a mother you’d want to share much of your life with, so it’s understandable that Leonard and Penny didn’t even tell her about their engagement or first wedding.

12 LUCY

Brilliantly played by comedian Kate Miccuci, Lucy was a web designer who meets Raj at the comic book store at a Valentine’s Day singles party. She was a bit of a loner though, admitting to having social anxiety but actively working on handling uncomfortable situations.

Lucy was an interesting character but too shy and awkward to watch without wincing. She confessed that she sometimes lied to people because she was afraid to say “no.” Worst of all, she broke up with Raj because he was too overbearing, and unlikely scenario considering Raj’s pathetic temperament. It’s too bad the show didn’t play up Miccuci’s comic talent to better effect.

11 BARRY KRIPKE

Barry Kripke, Ph. D. is a colleague of Leonard, Raj, Howard, and Sheldon working as a string theorist at Caltech. His sole role in the show seems to be to troll Sheldon. Kripke not only believes he’s a better scientist than Sheldon but he often plays Sheldon’s lack of social skills against him.

Kripke suffers from rhotacism, meaning he slurs his words and pronounces “r” sounds like “w,” similar to how Elmer Fudd from Looney Tunes talks. While Bowie does have a speech impediment in real life, he plays it up for the show and the gag is getting old at this point.

10 STUART BLOOM

Comic book store guy Stuart (Kevin Sussman) is similar to the four main guys in many ways. He’s socially awkward, lacks confidence, and seems to always sabotage himself even when he does have a chance at meaningful relationships with women.

Recent seasons have been difficult for Stuart, as it seems like the writers are struggling to find ways to keep him in the show. First, he developed an awkward, and potentially romantic, relationship with Mrs. Howard’s mom, even moving in with Howard and Mrs. Wolowitz at one point. Then, he moved in with Howard and Bernadette, becoming a part time caregiver to their baby daughter Halley for some reason. Stuart’s character development should be further along by now, but instead he’s the same passive, timid, and geeky loner we first met in season 2.

9 MRS. WOLOWITZ (HOWARD'S MOM)

Although she was never even shown on screen Mrs. Wolowitz (voiced by Carol Ann Susi, RIP) might be one of the most memorable, yet irritating, characters to ever appear on the show. Her backstory was that she became overweight and lost her confidence some time ago, possibly when her husband Sam (Howard’s dad) left the family when he was very little.

As a result, she clings onto to Howard, treats him like a mama’s boy, and disgraces anyone who tries to intervene on their relationship. Her raspy bellows would reverberate through their house and her requests were frequently inappropriate for a mother and son relationship. The nasally tone created by Susi for the character was excellent, but it still makes us cringe watching those old episodes.

8 DR. RAMONA NOWITZKI

Dr. Ramona Nowitzki -- played by Miccuci’s Garfunkel and Oates bandmate Riki Lindhome -- first appears in season two as a postdoctoral graduate candidate who develops an infatuation with Sheldon. Yes, you read that right. Why on Earth anyone would obsess over Sheldon is a different question, but Dr. Nowitzki seems OK with tending to his every need -- getting him breakfast, offering him foot rubs, and cleaning up his workspace -- to the point that it’s “suitable.”

Her sucking up is exposed later on though when she asks Sheldon to share credit with her on his paper, to which he swiftly kicks her out. Kudos to Lindhome her spot-on acting as an A-list butt-kisser, but Dr. Nowitzki was about as shallow and annoying as they come.

7 AMY FARRAH FOWLER

As Sheldon’s endlessly patient wife, Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, Ph. D. has the unenviable task of putting up with his excessive neuroticism, childishness, and need to control every last detail of his life. But she’s equally as annoying at times. Even as a 30-something with a professional job, she still dresses like a church lady twice her age and lacks essential social skills, often going to Bernatdette, or worse, Penny for advice.

It would take the tolerance of a saint to be able to put up with Sheldon every day, but the irritating thing about Amy is that she doesn’t do anything to try to change him. Rather than knock some sense into him -- as good partners sometimes do -- she’s contempt with putting up with his nonsense and even indulging in it.

6 V.M. KOOTHRAPPALI

V.M. Koothrappali -- Raj’s dad -- usually appears on the show via video chat, previously with Raj’s mother but now alone as it’s been revealed they are divorced. As a wealthy doctor in India, he’s frequently questioning Raj’s judgement, feeding him tough love and encouraging him to not be so frail. He talks down to his son and insults his friends, at one point calling Penny a “hotsie-totsie.”

In the Season 12 episode “The Wedding Gift Wormhole” we learn that the elder Koothrappali even has a much younger girlfriend. And when Raj tells him that he’s longer going to accept handouts from him, he’s delighted, proving that he’s a shallow person.

5 DR. STEPHANIE BARNETT

She wasn’t in the show for long, but Dr. Stephanie Barnett (Sara Rue) was instantly annoying from the moment she first appeared on the show in Season 2. She initially dates Howard, who lets her drive the Mars rover in “The Lizard-Spock” expansion. When Leonard has come rescue her, however, she falls for him instead and enthusiastically starts taking over his life.

The relationship moves quickly, and Dr. Barnett moves in with Leonard. She’s overly sexual, pushy, and irritating. She replaces Leonard’s stuff with her own and becomes jealous after realizing that Penny hangs out at Leonard’s place a lot. The show never bothered to explain how or why Leonard and Stephanie broke up, but we’re more than happy that they did.

4 ANU

Anu (Rati Gupta) is a fairly new character introduced in Season 12 who is Raj’s finacee, brought into the picture by his parents for an arranged marriage. At this point, her character development is a bit thin, with little backstory actually being shown on-screen. We do know that she comes from a wealthy family (like Raj) and that she’s a hotel concierge for some reason.

So far, she seems to be a decent fit for Raj as she’s the complete opposite of him -- dominant, self-assured, calculated, and by-the-book. But that’s also the problem. Her straight and narrow demeanor comes off as robotic and unnatural, making her a difficult character to watch. Considering all of the interesting girlfriends Raj has come across -- Emily, Lucy, and Claire, for instance -- it’s hard to root for his relationship to Anu to last.

3 MRS. FOWLER

Mrs. Fowler (Kathy Bates) is an obnoxious and bossy mother who’s regularly telling her husband Larry (Teller) what to do and think. She also assumes that Sheldon is trying to steal Amy away and that he’s the reason Amy doesn’t call or want to get together with her anymore. But, after talking to Sheldon, she realizes that it’s actually Amy who is retreating from her.

While Bates does a great job of playing this character to a T, there’s certainly room for the writers to dial her back a bit. The loveless marriage to Larry she seems to be trapped in is concerning and her treatment of him is just plain terrible. She even hunted him down when he tried to run away in the aforementioned Season 12 episode “The Conjugal Configuration.”

2 SHELDON COOPER

This one is obvious. Sheldon’s compulsive need to control, organize, and administer absolutely every aspect of his life certainly drives a lot of the shows comedy, but it annoys the hell out of all the people around him. Few of us know people who are actually this unrealistically strict about everything, which is why watching Sheldon is terribly irritating but somehow never gets old.

From scheduling bathroom breaks to creating roommate agreements to planning time with his wife down to the minute, Sheldon has shown us time and time again that he’s a needy guy who would be insanely irritating to be around. He demands that people adhere to his schedule and idioms at all times, which makes it unfathomable that a person life this could actually function in real life.

1 DR. LESLIE WINKLE

Dr. Leslie Winkle, Ph. D. hasn’t appeared frequently since Season 3, but her presence is still remembered as key part of Leonard’s journey to find love. Initially, the novelty of seeing Sara Gilbert (who portrays Winkle) reunite with Johnny Galecki (who plays Leonard) on-screen was funny, as the two hadn’t been seen together since their Roseanne days of the ‘90s. Winkle’s attributes, however, are less than noble.

First, she uses Leonard for sex when she realizes that he’s been feeling down and out over Penny’s rejection. Then, she shrugs him off a basically tells him that she doesn’t need him for anything else. Later, she uses Howard for a “friends-with-benefits” relationship and again ditches him when he’s no longer needed.

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