Bullz-Eye.com's All-Time TV Punching Bags, Dwight Schrute, Milhouse, George Costanza, Butters
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In nature, the weaker members of a species are often ostracized so they cannot reproduce and dilute the gene pool. Lions, for example, do not keep an omega male around to be the butt of the joke for the rest of the pride, like we humans tend to do. And while that makes sense in a Darwinian way, our way is a lot more fun. It may be cruel, but imagine how boring life would be if we lived in a world without the human equivalent of a punching bag. Admit it: you all know someone who fills this role in your life, and you relish it. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t.

The world of television has a near-inverse proportion of punching bags as there are in nature, and this makes sense; it is much easier – and fun – for the writing staff to designate one character as the target for random acts of misfortune and malice, though not necessarily in that order. If you ever wondered why every show features at least one character that the other characters would likely never associate with in real life, now you know.

So bring us your sad, your weak, your insecure; your clueless, your obnoxious, your desperate, your slow-witted, and we will celebrate them for their inherent loserness. Get your boxing gloves on as we present to you Bullz-Eye’s all time favorite TV punching bags.

20Neil Pye

The Young Ones

Neil PyeWhen you’re a hippie who’s sharing a flat with a punk rocker, a Cliff-Richard-worshipping anarchist, and one of the greatest con artists Britain has ever produced, you’re clearly destined to suffer through a lot of abuse, but the stuff Neil Pye has to deal with…like, say, one of his roommates burning up all Neil’s stuff for a laugh…is above and beyond the call of duty. On one occasion, he repeatedly ran into the living room with a cake, shouting, “Surprise,” and when he finally explained why he was doing so (it was his birthday), the reply was, “Now, you knew that anyway, and we don't care, so where's the surprise?” Even Neil’s parents aren’t thrilled with him, complaining that he should’ve been a character on a better class of TV series. (“Why couldn't you be in one of those nice situation comedies that your mother likes?”) Of course, anyone who fears technology and promotes Vegetable Rights and Peace deserves most of what he gets, but when you’re hitting yourself in the head with a frying pan and no one can even be bothered to ask why? That’s heavy, man. – Will Harris

19Michael "Meathead" Stivic

All in the Family

In San Francisco, Michael Stivic’s politics would’ve found him being viewed as a real “right on” kind of guy. Living in Queens, New York, however, he was just another dumb Polack…though, of course, that’s Archie Bunker’s choice of phrase and not ours. Michael and Archie didn’t see eye to eye on, well, anything, really. No, seriously, it’s not like it was limited to their politics or even their religious beliefs (Michael was profoundly atheistic). Even the simplest of topics could result in an argument that could last for days. Michael’s victories were few and far between, however, due to his tendency to fall back on intellectualism and then throw up his arms in surrender when faced with Archie’s wealth of racial epithets and sexist remarks. Of course, the reality is that Michael’s beliefs were beside the point; Archie’s venom toward him had as much to do with his having taken up with Archie’s “little goil,” Gloria, as anything else. In the end, Michael could’ve agreed with anything and everything his father-in-law said, but in Archie’s eyes, he still would’ve been…wait for it…a meathead– WH

18Carlton Banks

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Carlton BanksCarlton Banks is far from a smooth operator, but that didn’t change the fact that he still acted like one every chance he got. He’s so utterly clueless about his social awkwardness that when he heard his hip cousin, Will, would be coming to live with his family in Bel Air, he thought that he would, by extension, also be cool. Instead, Will’s presence only seemed to accentuate just how very uncool he really was. A self-proclaimed Tom Jones fan with a knack for dancing like a white dude, Carlton was a pretty easy target for Will in the show’s early years, and despite the fact that the two became a lot closer over time, Will never let Carlton live down the fact that he was vertically challenged. And when you’re hungry for attention like Carlton was, there’s nothing worse than being a shrimp.  – Jason Zingale

17Al Bundy

Married…with Children

Al BundyIt could be argued that, upon the Bundys’ arrival, the face of married sitcom life was changed forever. Al was a lot more like the typical dad than most guys were comfortable admitting, but that didn’t stop him from hogging the airwaves for 11 seasons or keep married men from tuning in. Al was one of us. We don’t always want to have sex with our demanding wives, we sometimes hate our bratty kids, and we often loathe our meaningless jobs. When life socked it to Al, we felt the punches right along with him. But no matter how low he sank, or how horrible circumstances became, he was always able to pick himself up, and plop down on the sofa with a beer in one hand and the TV remote in the other. Invariably one hand would find its way down the front of his trousers, which was the true Bundy salute. – Ross Ruediger

16Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri

The Sopranos

Paulie WalnutsMeet the Rodney Dangerfield of Tony Soprano's crew. Starting out as a 17-year-old enforcer for Tony's father John, Paulie Gualtieri devoted his life to the DiMeo crime family, later serving as a captain and then underboss once Tony became head of the family. Promotions aside, Paulie never earned the respect among his peers that someone with his résumé would otherwise command because he too often made himself an easy target for harassment and ridicule. Case in point, he got his nickname when he hijacked a truck he believed was carrying a shipment of televisions, only to learn that it instead was filled with walnuts. It takes a lifetime to live down a blunder like that. Paulie's woes seeped into his personal life too. Not only did he remain unmarried and childless, but Paulie also learned that his mother was actually his aunt, and that his biological mother was his dying "Aunt Dotty" and his father was some unknown soldier named Russ. Ouch. Paulie's renowned paranoia and quick temper intensified after this discovery and led to several confrontations with his cohorts, most notably Chris Moltisanti and even The Boss himself. In fact, Tony grew so weary of his long-time friend's big mouth and wavering loyalty that he nearly whacked Paulie on a fishing trip in Miami during the show's final season. Paulie survived, but maybe he would've been better off if someone had just put the poor guy out of his misery. – Jamey Codding

15Hank Kingsley

The Larry Sanders Show

Hank KIngsleyIf “The Larry Sanders Show” taught us anything, it’s that annihilating insecurity is the most frequent side effect of a partially successful show business career. As the on-air sidekick to a neurotic late night talk show host (Gary Shandling), Hank (Jeffrey Tambor, “Arrested Development”) arguably suffers from the worst case of insecurity ever portrayed on television. The problem is that, in Hank’s case, the insecurity is entirely justified. Other than an inane catchphrase (“Hey, now!”) and an endless capacity for kissing up in the direction of celebrities and kicking down in the direction of underpaid coworkers, Hank has no discernable talent, no brain power, and not a huge number of endearing qualities – except that there’s something sort of inherently sympathetic about someone in that much pain. Larry should fire him, but he doesn’t. Is it because Hank is the only human on the planet more insecure than he is? – Bob Westal

14Bill Dauterive

King of the Hill

Bill DauteriveWilliam Fontaine DeLaTour Dauterive sounds like some kind of Cajun royalty, which makes the fact that Bill is the favorite whipping boy of Arlen, Texas all the more hilarious. The implication that he actually revels in the beatdown is what makes him a standout. See, Bill’s got a masochistic side, and no matter how far he falls, there always seems to be a variation on “I deserved that” attached to it. How this man who was once a star running back of his high school football team has fallen so far is never explained in detail, but much of it seems to stem from his marriage to the horrible Lenore. He remains a “Hill” character for whom the writers never seem to run out of material, and even the most recent season opener focused on Bill’s desire to appear handicapped, if only as a means to be loved and admired for overcoming a lifetime of challenges.  – RR

13Dr. John A. Zoidberg


Dr. John A. ZoidbergYou know you’re in trouble when you can’t even get laid on your own home planet when it’s mating season. Such was one such plight of Dr. John Zoidberg across four seasons of “Futurama.” The crustacean-cum-what-have-you man of medicine was always taking the most shit from his pals, which is saying something when everything always seemed to be going wrong for Fry. Then again, it’s hard to argue with everyone else when Zoidberg made himself at home wherever he was (most auspiciously at the estate of Amy’s wealthy parents) and was forever trying to push his presence into situations where it wasn’t wanted. Of course, it’s his complete lack of self-awareness that has enabled him to soldier on, and also supply suspicious hors d’ouvres at parties, which he would happily proclaim that he “made himself.” This was always followed by dry heaves from everyone else, but since bad attention to Zoidberg is better than no attention, he would certainly respond with a triumphant “Hooray!”  – Jason Thompson

12Theodore "Ted" Buckland, Esq.


Theodore "Ted" BucklandYou know a character is a punching bag when the coolest thing about him is that he’s a member of an a cappella group. Whether it happened as a result of having his hairline begin to recede when he was in 8th grade, with having to take the bar exam five times before getting a passing score, or with sleeping in the same bed as his mother until he was 40, Ted has become the living embodiment of a sad sack, absorbing all of the abuse Bob Kelso heaps on him like a sponge. (It’s no wonder that Ted’s dream is to hold Kelso’s head under water “until the last bubble goes ...'bloop.’”) Unsurprisingly, he has no romantic life to speak of…or, at least, we presume that’s the case, since his idea of a pick-up line is, “I want to make you pregnant,” and he once responded to an attractive woman addressing him by shrieking, “Oh, good God! She knows my name. Am I awake?" Even though Dr. Kelso has now retired, Ted’s destined to be somebody’s punching bag for the rest of his life. – WH

11Matthew Brock


Matthew BrockMatthew is arguably less a punching bag than a hopelessly naïve man-child who was never meant for this complicated era of ours. Indeed, his boss, Jimmy James, once gently chastised him for attempting to stop a corporate merger by turning the hands of the clock back by ten minutes to make him miss a deadline (“Matthew, I’m dealing with a corporation here, not magical fairies”). But while Matthew has presumably at least earned the respect of his kitties, Chew Chew Bonewagon and Mit Mit St. Claire, the same cannot be said for his co-workers at WNYX. Matthew’s incomparable incompetency has earned him the ire of every single person at the station at some point, even inspiring Bill McNeal at one point to tell everyone in the office that Matthew had lice…though, come to think of it, that’s probably the least awful thing Bill did to him. Matthew’s unparalleled ineptitude eventually got him fired, but the fact that he was brought back into the fold serves as a testament to how much fun (and how funny) it is to kick him around. – WH

10Milhouse Van Houten

The Simpsons

Milhouse Van HoutenThere was some discussion over which “Simpsons” supporting character was the bigger punching bag, and while a very strong case can be made for Moe Szyslak (the annual suicide attempt at Christmas, women describing his looks as “pug fugly”), no one is kicked around as hard, or as often, as Milhouse Mussolini Van Houten. A quick glance at his upbringing puts it all in perspective: his deadbeat father Kirk can’t keep a steady job (and slept in a race car-shaped bed after divorcing Milhouse’s mother Luann), and Milhouse is not only allergic to dairy – and non-dairy – but his own tears as well, meaning both nature and nurture have had their way with him from day one (not to mention the authorities, after best friend Bart put Milhouse on the FBI’s Most Wanted list). Unfortunately for Milhouse, his future doesn’t look any brighter: a flash-forward episode reveals that Lisa actually loses her virginity to Milhouse, but Marge tells Lisa to wear white on her wedding day anyway because “Milhouse doesn’t count.” Milhouse doesn’t count: those three words sum up his existence as well as anything.  – David Medsker

9Ross Geller


Ross GellerHe may be a whiny, pseudo-neurotic geek, but the bashing that Ross incurred throughout the ten-year run of “Friends” wasn’t limited to his eccentric behavior. In fact, while Joey may have been short on book smarts, it was Ross who was seriously lacking in the street smarts department. You needn’t look any further than his multiple run-ins with a spray-on tan machine to understand why the gang (namely Chandler) found it so easy to poke fun at him as often as they did. Plus, when you’ve been married and divorced three times (one of which was to woman who turned out to be a lesbian), well, you’re practically begging to be the butt of every joke. Ross just happens to be that guy, and you’ve got to give him credit; he takes the punishment pretty well.  – JZ

8Ted Baxter

Mary Tyler Moore

Ted BaxterIt’s fascinating to note that Ted Baxter was originally envisioned to be a slick, debonair newsman who would eventually be a love interest for Mary Richards. But something unexpected happened – Ted Knight auditioned for the part, and wanted it so badly that the character was re-envisioned into the pompous goofball that Baxter eventually became. It’s difficult to believe it could ever have gone down any other way, as Baxter’s antics were such an integral part of the show’s fabric, and Knight’s portrayal earned him six consecutive Emmy nominations and two wins. Could anyone else have so successfully made such an unlikable guy into someone everyone loved? Here’s a character that spent seven seasons misreading the news, all while believing he was only a couple offers away from becoming the next Cronkite. Everyone in the WJM news office was aware of Baxter’s buffoonery except for Ted, and because of that he stands apart in the punching bag crowd – the guy was never really aware that life was knocking him around six ways from Sunday.  – RR

7Meg Griffin

Family Guy

Meg GriffinMeg Griffin might just be the most ill-treated character in TV history. She’s so unpopular that a fellow student shot himself with a nailgun (twice) in order to avoid going on a date with her, while Cleveland (usually known for his cordial behavior) once declared that she was his least favorite of Peter’s children. Peter himself is probably the worst offender, but even when someone isn’t picking on Meg, the writers still go out of their way to terrorize her whenever possible – like when they cast her as the garbage monster for her cameo in the “Star Wars” special, or when, after the Griffins were granted superpowers from a nuclear waste tanker that crashed onto their front lawn, Meg was given the ability to…grow long fingernails. Anyone can be a punching bag, but the amount of abuse that Meg has been subjected to over the years puts her in a completely different category.  – JZ

6Leopold "Butters" Stotch

South Park

Leopold "Butters" StotchIf Leopold “Butters” Stotch were a real character, he would make some lucky therapist richer than Bill Gates. The boy’s childhood is a veritable landmine of emotional trauma, and there isn’t a resident of South Park that hasn’t contributed to it in one form or another. The biggest culprit, though, is Eric Cartman, who has subjected Butters to such unspeakable acts of cruelty (forcing Butters to glue testicles to his chin and join the freaks on the talk show circuit is but one example) that Butters eventually snaps and forms the alter ego Professor Chaos, vowing revenge on the town. Butters’ friends and the townspeople react to Butters’ evil plans…with complete indifference, effectively torpedoing his plans for vengeance before they’ve begun. Even when Butters saves the world in the “Imaginationland” trilogy, his parents ground him because he was supposed to be helping his mother clean the basement. Granted, some of Butters’ pain is self-inflicted – falling in love with a Raisins girl, for example – but in the anger-venting food chain, where husband yells at wife, wife yells at kid, and kid kicks the dog, Butters Stotch is the dog. A sad, beaten, abused little dog.  – DM

5Daffy Duck

Looney Tunes

Daffy DuckDaffy didn’t really start life as a punching bag, but especially in the cartoon classics of director Chuck Jones, he emerges as the perfect foil for the ever-victorious Bugs Bunny – a perpetual loser in his eternal battle against the vastly smarter rascally rabbit and pretty much any other nemesis he encounters. Susceptible to “pronoun trouble,” Daffy can’t quite manage the distinction between such phrases as “shoot him now!” and “shoot me now!”, resulting in hapless hunter Elmer Fudd blasting his bill off, repeatedly. Even as the heroic “Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century,” words are the enemy. After the villainous Marvin the Martian destroys him with a disintegrating ray gun, a reconstituted Daffy takes his own disintegrating gun to the vile martian. Naturally, it’s the gun that disintegrates and there is no revenge. Still, Daffy never gives up, surviving so that he can be destroyed once more.  – BW

4Cliff Clavin


Some people don’t know when to shut up. Cliff Clavin is unequivocally one of those people, with his chatterbox tendencies often inspiring loathing in those who are around him for an extended period. (Just ask Carla Tortelli.) Cliff is a repository for more trivia than any one human being should be allowed to possess, and he is perpetually prepared to distribute this accrued information – some of which is ridiculously inaccurate – to anyone who’ll listen, whether they’re interested or not. Cliff once decried the unfairness of the world, “that I should have so much knowledge when there are people in the world that have to go to bed stupid every night,” but Diane Chambers’ summation of the man comes much closer to hitting the nail on the head: “If it's true that a little knowledge is dangerous, you are a walking time bomb.” Although he perpetuates the stereotype that the best punching bags live with their mothers for a decade or two after entering adulthood, Cliff is a dedicated employee of the US Postal Service; were it not for the enjoyment that his co-workers get out of teasing him, we suspect there’d be a lot more disgruntled postmen out there. – WH

3George "Gob" Bluth II

Arrested Development

Poor George “GOB” Bluth II. He tried so hard during the hilarious course of “Arrested Development” to win the love of his mother and his father. Somehow, though, he always managed to screw things up for himself, be it with his lousy magic tricks, his non-menacing manner on his Segway, or just his complete lack of intelligence in general. All these traits combined made him a prime target of disdain for everyone else in his family. The icing on the cake, however, was when Michael decided to leave after father George Sr. lied about having a heart attack, and mother Lucille made GOB president of the Bluth Company. Suddenly, he had a whole office of strangers hating him – no thanks to those ridiculous failed magic tricks that he tried to integrate into his new “job,” and his complete inability to put someone on hold and transfer a call over the company’s phone lines. At least his punching bag status led him to many hilarious near-psychotic breakdowns that were often the highlight of a fantastic comedy.  – JT

2Dwight Schrute

The Office

Dwight SchruteHe's a B&B owner and part-time beet farmer who spends his days locked in a struggle to the death for the number-two position at the Scranton office of a slowly failing company – and if that didn't scream "punching bag" loudly enough, Dwight Schrute of "The Office" is also an avid player of "Second Life" and fan of such dork-friendly entertainment as "Battlestar Galactica" and the "Lord of the Rings" movies. Is it any wonder that fans of the show have gotten such pleasure out of seeing Schrute get his comeuppance on a weekly basis over the last four-plus seasons? As played by Rainn Wilson, Schrute is one of the most cluelessly snide characters in recent television history – but the show is so well-written that viewers have been given multiple glimpses of the heart that beats beneath the discount clothing, including Dwight's painful breakup with officemate Angela (caused by his decision to feed her cat antihistamines and lock it in the freezer while catsitting). It's nice to know Schrute is a three-dimensional character, but the show is at its best, not coincidentally, when he's bearing the brunt of chief rival Jim Halpert's endlessly inventive practical jokes. Who can forget the time Jim put Dwight's stapler in a Jell-O mold? Or the classic "Conflict Resolution" episode, in which years of Dwight's complaints against Jim are aired in a meeting containing the words "This morning, I found a bloody glove in my desk drawer, and Jim Halpert tried to convince me I committed murder"? Dwight Schrute is the Daffy Duck of NBC's Thursday night lineup, and if you aren't watching this show, you're missing out on some classic abuse comedy. – Jeff Giles

1George Costanza & Larry David (tie)

Seinfeld/Curb Your Enthusiasm

George Costanza Larry DavidOne of our friends put it thusly: George Costanza is the type of character that, if you knew that he would be attending a party you were invited to, you would skip the party. It takes a special kind of jerk to inspire such vitriol, but that’s George Costanza in a nutshell: a very special kind of jerk. Double-dipping a chip at a party is one of his lesser offenses; this is the man who got in a fist fight with a boy in a plastic bubble, bowled over old women and children for the exit when he thought his life was in danger, and ate food out of a trash can (at someone else’s house, no less). His signature moment of jerkosity, though, was when he asked a woman out on a date within a matter of minutes of receiving the news that his fiancé was dead. If Milhouse VanHouten and Ross Geller are punching bags because they’re too weak-willed to change their lot in life, George Costanza is a punching bag because he makes people literally want to punch him.

The inspiration for George Costanza, as everyone knows, is Larry David, longtime writer and co-creator of “Seinfeld.” He took every paranoid, uncomfortable, awkward thought he ever had and gave it to George, so it should come as no surprise that “Larry David,” the character on David’s show “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” is every bit the nervous, maddening, irritating mess that George Can’t-stand-ya was. Refusing to thank the wife of a husband who picked up a dinner check because it wasn’t her money? Accusing the weatherman of predicting rain so he could score a tee time at a popular golf course? Not soothing his wife when she called from the air phone on a turbulent flight because he was too busy dealing with the TiVo repairman? How very David. That last one cost him dearly, too; when his wife came home from her flight, she told him she was leaving him. It makes sense that a character like George or David would have more than they deserve, yet not appreciate any of it. That is why they own our top spot – George and Larry hit the holy trinity of punching bagdom in that they’re unlucky, ungrateful and unapologetic. That is no way to go through life, people. Go forth, and learn from their mistakes.  – DM

Honorable Mentions

Stewart, “Beavis & Butt-Head”
Sgt. Hans Georg Schultz, “Hogan’s Heroes”
Mel Cooley, “The Dick Van Dyke Show”
Paul Shaffer, “The Late Show with David Letterman”
Erwin “Skippy” Handelman, “Family Ties”
Ed Norton, “The Honeymooners
Dwayne Wayne, “A Different World
Paul Lassiter, “Spin City”

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