Characters that almost single-handedly ruined a television show

Stephanie Mills — All In The Family

If you’ve owned a television in the last forty years or so, you’re well aware of Archie Bunker, the main character of the classic comedy All In The Family. By Season 9, the grumpy Archie was looking forward to finally having some quiet time, as his daughter and son-in-law had moved to the West Coast, but before he could chill, his nine-year-old grand-niece Stephanie Mills is dropped at the Bunker doorstep. Before you can say “cast addition,” Stephanie is taken in, despite Archie’s predictable protests, and he and his wife begin to care for the girl as their own. Of course, Stephanie reveals herself to be Jewish, and extremely liberal in her views, making her the new lightning rod for the conservative Archie to react to.

The addition of Stephanie brought immediate criticism for allowing Archie to grow softer. Her presence also placed too much sentimentality on a series that had hung its hat on its realistic, thought-provoking conversations and plots. Now, Stephanie’s emergency appendectomy, family members trying to take her back, and more commonplace sitcom fare became the norm. This lead to grumbling that marked a new, failed era for the series (it barely made it a year with Stephanie before being canceled), as it crossed over into spin-off territory.

Archie Bunker’s Place, which premiered soon after All In The Family got the ax, featured a now-widowed Archie managing his bar. Since everyone else was gone, Stephanie takes on a much larger role in the series, much to the chagrin of those already tired of her. ABP barely lasted four years, meaning a little girl accomplished what Archie’s meathead son-in-law never could — she successfully annoyed viewers to the point that they their hands up. Stifle!