Jerkass Woobie/Live-Action TV

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Examples of Jerkass Woobies in Live-Action TV include:

  • The Sopranos was packed with this type of character. There's Tony, Carmela, Christopher, Paulie, Bobby, Eugene, Pussy, Vito, Patsy, Johnny Sack, Uncle Junior, Jackie Jnr, AJ, etc. - even Complete Monster Ralfie had his moments.
  • The Wire: Mc Nulty, Prop Joe, Bodie, Namond (before Character Development), and, sometimes, Avon.
  • Oz
    • Dino Ortolani, Donald Groves, Miguel Alvarez, Nino Schibetta, Peter Schibetta, Schillenger's son, Andrew (and occasionally Schillenger himself), and James Robson.
    • Also, Chris Keller. Despite how terribly manipulative he was to practically everyone and the fact that he was an insane murderer, he truly did love Beecher in his own twisted way and suffered horribly (and willingly).
    • Shirley Bellinger. She is a criminally insane woman who deliberately killed her daughter with no remorse, racist, and sexually promiscuous. But the scene where she is to be hanged, in which she freaks out, struggles against the guards, has to be tied up, and fervently prays to God for forgiveness while sobbing uncontrollably is nothing short of heartbreaking.
  • Early Brenda in Six Feet Under.
  • Almost every murder in Cracker fits this trope. Albie Kinsella (Robert Carlyle) and Janice (Elizabeth Estensen) being particularly strong examples. Jimmy Beck becomes this during the second series as well.
  • Lost
    • Ben. Definitely a villain, Manipulative Bastard, unrepentant liar, and murderer, yet his Freudian Excuse and the fact that the writers seem to enjoy having him constantly get the pulp beaten out of him (even though most of the time, he deserves it) have the side effect of making him somewhat sympathetic. It also helps that he was redeemed in the episode "Dr. Linus".
    • Also, Sawyer, at least for the first three seasons. After that, the jerkass part tones down.
  • Topher from Dollhouse, by the series' end. Especially after Bennett, the only girl, he could have truly loved, was killed right in front of him
  • Doctor Who
    • Turlough is this, at least for his first few episodes.
    • No one saw it coming, but in The End of Time, the Master evokes this response during the confrontation with Rassilon. At first, he's being all megalomaniacal-whackjob as usual, and then Rassilon wipes out the Master's control over humanity with a flick of his finger. The Master then finds out that he's been manipulated his entire life by Rassilon, been knowingly driven insane and used as a tool for the rest of the Time Lords who followed Rassilon to "ascend to a higher state of being". The Master was not invited, but don't worry, he teaches Rassilon a fun counting game.
    • The Doctor himself has this a bit, particuarly in his later incarnations.
  • Scorpius from Farscape gets into this territory at times. At least, when he's not knee-deep in his own Plan.
  • Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers seems to have been designed around this trope.
  • Londo Mollari of Babylon 5: He's an abrasive, racist, manipulative ham. He effectively condoned genocide against the Narns (rendering the Narn homeworld largely uninhabitable may not have been his idea, but he was certainly defending the invasion and occupation). Still, losing his first wife, and implied true love, because of his family's disapproval, losing Adira because his love for her made her a target, and then realising that the one thing he always truly served, the Cantauri republic, is under the control of a lunatic who's going to bring it down around all their's hard not to feel bad for him sometimes. Doubly so during his occasional Pet the Dog moments.
    • Also in the running is G'kar, Londo's personal nemesis, who seems more of an Iron Woobie most of the time, but he has a nasty temper and, in the first few seasons, he appears to be one of the more ruthless of the ambassadors (not that he doesn't have reason). Then there's the part where he Mind Raped Londo to extract information. (After his prison sentence for that crime and the accompanying revalation from Kosh, he's pretty much straight Iron Woobie.)
  • Gregory House. Cuddy calls him out on it in the season 6 finale.
  • Veronica Mars
    • Logan! "Obligatory psychotic jackass" or not, his life just sucks so much. Dead girlfriend and mother, horribly abusive father who was also the one who killed his girlfriend, falsely accused of murder, and generally, his friends and loved ones keep dying/being evil/breaking his heart/fleeing the country/any combination of the above.
    • Also, Cassidy, who is objectively a Complete Monster, but has a good Freudian Excuse and massive Puppy Dog Eyes, so we pity him.
    • Hell, even Dick starts crossing into this late in season 3, when he has something of a Heel Realization about the way he treated his brother, blaming himself for everything Cassidy did, including his suicide.
  • Smallville
    • Lex Luthor, thanks to his abusive childhood at the hands of his father, Lionel.
    • Tess Mercer is an even better example. She may be a Corrupt Corporate Executive, Dark Action Girl, and Misanthrope Supreme, but her brutal childhood, manipulation by Lex and Zod, and the recent revelation that she was one of Granny Goodness' orphans earn her a lot of sympathy. Unlike Lex, she never crosses the Moral Event Horizon, and remains in Well-Intentioned Extremist territory.
      • And, of course, this is thanks to her abusive childhood due to abandonment by her father, Lionel.
    • Even Lionel qualifies. Born and raised in the slums, where his mother was an alchoholic and his father was a thief and murderer, he has to claw his way to the top of the financial spectrum (which he starts by murdering his parents). Loses his younger infant son, Julian when (he thinks) Julian's older brother Lex accidentally kills him. Loses his wife, Lillian, who dies while Lex is still a pre-teen. Than Lex is rendered permantly bald by the meteor shower. When an adult Lex discovers what Lionel did to his own parents, Lionel's forced to drive Lex into insanity and erase his memory. This would normally make Lionel a Complete Monster except he actually feels a great deal of remorse about it. He then learns, long after it's too late to do anything about it or make it up to Lex for it, that Julian was actually deliberately murdered by Lillian. He undergoes a Heel Face Turn right around the same time Lex does a Face Heel Turn, ensuring that he and his son will always be at odds. Falls genuinely in love with Martha Kent (and she even seems to return some of that affection, even if she's a bit freaked out by it), but can never fully win her over because he has to reveal to her that he's indirectly, unintentionally responsible for her husband's death[1]. After being knocked out while trying to help Clark defeat Bizarro, is then kidnapped and tortured for several weeks by Lana Lang. He meets Grant Gabriel, the adult clone of his dead son Julian, and starts to bond with Grant...only to witness Grant being murdered on Lex's orders. He can never fully let go of his manipulative tendancies, so when he gets several cryptic threats about Clark, resorts to kidnapping him to keep him safe. Clark shuns him for this, since Lionel's not Lana Lang. Patricia Swann tells Clark that Lionel killed her father, further deepening the rift between them.[2] Lionel desperately tries to warn Clark and Chloe about the looming threat of Lex and the coming Apocalypse, but they'll now have nothing to do with him. Is finally cornered by Lex, and when he refuses to divulge Clark's secret, is murdered by his own son, dying friendless and alone.
    • Really, being a Jerkass Woobie seems to be a Luthor family trait. You want to hug all three of them, Lex, Lionel, and Tess, then slap them in the face and say, "Stop being such bastards, guys! Even being Magnificent Bastards doesn't make up for all the crap you go through for being bastards!"
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Faith and Spike.
      • Spike spent most of his human life as a ridiculed introvert, rejected by the woman he loved. Then he was turned, and turned his mother out of love and devotion. She promptly tried to molest him, and implied that he had was Oedipal, forcing him to stake her. He then spent twenty years or so in the company of three of the most evil vampires in history, often considered bottom of the pack as the youngest, and had to see Drusilla, who he adored, screw Angelus. Then he lost Drusilla and was essentially neutered and mocked, used as a source for information and occasional meatshield by the Scoobies. Despite this, he retained a capacity to feel love (even if he was phenomenally bad at expressing it in a remotely human manner) and affection (e.g. Dawn and Joyce), making him nigh on unique among vampires. After that, Buffy essentially yanks him back and forth for most of series 6. Then he gets driven mad by the First and dies after being re ensouled in a Heroic Sacrifice. The Woobie part is very definitely there, especially as the universe is clearly still kicking the crap out of him, judging by Series 5 of Angel and the Season 8 comics.
    • Buffy herself, after she sacrificed herself to save her sister (and the world, though at that point, she cared little about it in comparison) only for her friends to bring her back to life. Confused, scared, and hurt, she reveals that she was happy being dead and in heaven, simultaneously pushing people away and using them.
    • And from the Spin Off, we have several, but one of the most noted is Connor. This is the kid that grew up in a hell dimension, his father figure lied to him about the nature of his real father, he was driven mad with revenge, and was seduced into the service of an Eldritch Abomination. Sometimes, you just want to give the little guy a hug, but he was also known for being unbelievably Ax Crazy...
  • Mini from the third generation of Skins is turning out to be this. Yes, she is the Alpha Bitch with major Machevellian tendencies and is bitchy, passive aggressive, and very Sugar and Ice. On the other hand, she has an insane longing for control and stability in her unstable life, eating disorders (and probably some sort of anxiety problem), her best friend slept with her boyfriend, her boyfriend took her virginity (painfully), and she generally just seems like a sad, sick girl playing at confidence. On top of it all, her friendship with Franky - the one truly authentic person in her life - has gotten complicated because Mini has developed a crush on her while Franky only has eyes for Matty. YMMV, though. Some people just see her as a jerkass.
  • Battlestar Galactica (new series):
  • iCarly
    • Sam in the episode "iSpeed Date". A case for a Jerkass becoming a Woobie in that episode.
      • Even more so when you remember that her mom is not the most competent parent, her father abandoned her, and most of her family is or was in jail.
    • Nora. She was a psychopathic kidnapper who tried to outright murder Gibby, but it's hard not to feel sorry for her. The girl's parents left her alone on her birthday (the way she said it implies that this is a common occurence), she had no friends except her chicken, and her insanity was likely because of it. In-universe, Carly actually feels sorry for her.
    • Nevel becomes this in "iPity the Nevel".
  • Victorious
    • Robbie. He gets a few episodes where he is clearly the 'villain' of the piece, then we get episodes like Rex Dies and the one where he gets his car stolen, where he's woobie-tastic.
    • Also, Jade, to an extent.
  • Big Time Rush had Sandy, who had an obsessive crush on Kendall but did terrible things, including spreading lies claiming that she was his girlfriend, refusing to let him get a word in to Jo, and using him to lie to her real boyfriend. While she has an Alternative Character Interpretation, she did just want Kendall to herself. Then again, if you were in a boy band, you'd probably run into at least one girl who would probably be like that to you, but still.
  • Nathan in Misfits (E4 Channel, UK) is very much shaping up to be a Jerkass Woobie. While he started off as a pretty straightforward jerk, moments in which he reconnects with his Mum, has a fight with his Dad, and we see him shell-shocked after barely surviving an attack by his rabid probation officer in an alterna-present (it's complicated. Watch the show. No, seriously, watch the show) all point squarely at him being a classic example of a Jerkass Woobie. The fact that they have cast someone with so angelic an appearance as Robert Sheehan (yes, of course I am being totally objective about this. How could you possibly suggest otherwise?) in the role also indicates that this is exactly the effect the programme makers wanted.
    • Oh Lord, Nathan epitomises this trope. But the main factor of his Jerkass Woobie status -- aside from some very effective Pet the Dog moments, and the casting of a ridiculously charismatic actor with big puppy dog eyes -- is probably the fact that the writers seem to just delight in punishing him. Although he is a genuine jerkass, the viewer barely has time to hate him before some kind of amusing karmic retribution (often in the shape of Kelly's fist) comes along to knock the crap out of him.
    • Rudy seems to have taken over this position rather nicely, though in a different way. Sure Rudy is a jerkass with little regard for how he hurts people, but the secound his other side comes out(rather literally) it's impossible not to feel sorry for the guy.
  • Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell from Prison Break certainly fits this. He's an unrepentant Ax Crazy psychopath, murdered children, is a racist, and is a Depraved Bisexual of the highest order who will get it on with Anything That Moves. But his horrible childhood (being the product of incest and rape, being molested by his father, and forced to memorize entire dictionaries) combined with some of the horrible things that happen to him in the series (having his hand cut off, for starters) really stirs up some pity for the bastard. It becomes more apparent in the fourth season when T-Bag slowly starts Becoming the Mask after taking on a fake identity, genuinely wanting redemption, only for it to just not work out in the end. Robert Knepper (who played him) noted this pretty well.

"Around episode 6 or 7, I got so many letters from people saying, 'When I first started watching this show, I absolutely hated you and I wanted you dead. Now I still want you dead, but I'm starting to feel for you.' I think there's something in my eyes, a childlike thing in there. There's still an innocence. There's still a bit of hope."

    • When his character breaks out of prison again in a crossover episode of Breakout Kings, it turns out that his monstrous actions during the episode were motivated solely by getting revenge on the orderlies who sexually abused his comatose, dying mother. During the final chase scene, he is not trying to escape but is actually running to his mother's hospital room so he can see her before her death. Even the marshalls who witnessed his horrendous crimes are not able to refuse him that last moment.
  • I'm Alan Partridge: Alan Partridge, absolutely insufferable and yet, sometimes, his haplessness is pitiable. He's an utter twat but, sometimes, you want to give him a mug of hot cocoa and a hug.
  • From Degrassi Junior High: oh, Kathleen. You're such a snooty bitch, but your life's such a wreck - alcoholic mom, absentee dad, abusive boyfriend, anorexia...
  • Degrassi has a few: Sean spends a while wearing this coat. Craig has a lot of it too. Holly J., when her Jerkass Facade comes into play, whenever that washes away, the inner woobie shines. Riley's Gayngst causes some of this. Generally, Degrassi hits every flavor of woobie, so this is no different.
  • Howard Moon from The Mighty Boosh. He's a pompous, deluded, self-absorbed misanthrope who seems to cause more trouble than he's worth, but is put through hell in the course of most episodes, to the point where he more than wins the audience's sympathy. At least once in most live shows, there's a scene where he's cruelly picked on or gets incredibly depressed, and the accompanying sympathetic "Awww" from the audience is loud enough to warrant a response from Howard.

Howard: So alone...
Random Girl from Audience: Come back to my place!
Howard: I'm not that lonely.

  • Damon, from The Vampire Diaries, is the unliving embodiment of this trope.
    • Tyler Lockwood and Caroline Forbes before characterdevelopment set in.
  • Red Dwarf: Arnold Rimmer. It's a comedy series, so his problems are usually treated light-heartedly, but given everything, is it any wonder that he's a mess? In particular, he would have turned out like Ace Rimmer (what a guy!) had he simply been held back a year instead of being allowed to progress. Even when he gets a break, it turns out for the worst. Of course, the series also takes pains to point out that the Woobie part doesn't automatically excuse or justify the Jerkass part; he's still, in many ways, a loathsome, repellant coward, for the most part.
    Perhaps no episode highlights both the Jerkass and Woobie portions of his personality better than "Me2", when we are faced with a second Rimmer Hologram. The second Rimmer is every bit the Jerkass the original was, except he seems to delight in focusing all of his worst qualities against the original Rimmer hologram. Under the belief that he has been chosen for deletion, the original Rimmer hologram shares a deeply personal, and painfully embarrassing, moment from his life with Lister and Cat. It's revealed after he's finished that Lister had already deleted the second hologram as he'd exited the room.
    Another good example is Terrorform. Anthropomorphic Personifications of Rimmer's self-hatred and inner demons are bearing down on the ship, which is unable to drag itself out of a swamp representing his despair. His friends take this opportunity to tell Rimmer that, regardless of their past differences, he is a member of the crew and they care about him. This briefly brings back to life the personifications of Rimmer's good-qualities, like his nobility and self-confidence, which hold off the demons and frees the ship from the swamp. Upon escaping the planet, Rimmer asks the crew whether all of the things they said were just to escape and if they meant any of it. The crew's response? A unanimous and immediate "No!"
  • Glee
    • Terri, especially in episode 12.
    • Kurt. He's pretty manipulative and borderline Stalker with a Crush on Finn (which was not condoned), but he's victimised and struggling for acceptance and it's hard not to just want to jump through the screen and give him a cuddle.
    • Rachel. She's conceited and demanding, yes, but she has almost nothing to hold on to besides her dreams of stardom. A lot of her arrogance is compensating for her insecurities and loneliness.
    • As of "Never Been Kissed", Dave Karofsky, one of Those Two Jerk Jocks, joins the club when he's revealed to be struggling with his own sexuality and is most likely full of self-hatred. He becomes a card-carrying example after his A Day in the Limelight episode, "The Sue Sylvester Bowl Shuffle". Also, in On My Way he tries to kill himself.
    • Sue. Let's see, her mom abandoned her when she was little, her dad passed away, and she was left to take care of her mentally disabled sister, who later heartwrenchingly dies. On top of this, she was bullied because she stood up for her sister. Yes, she's a complete bitch most of the time, but she really does have a heart underneath it all.
    • Santana as of "Mash Off". After constantly bullying Finn, he finally got fed up and called her out about being in the closet, humiliating her in front of the whole school. Then, one of Sue's opponents in the run for congress outs her in one of their campaign videos, not just to the rest of the school, but to everybody. Furthermore, Finn also made her question Brittany's feelings for her. This is made all the more poignant by the Troubletones' song choice. Their mash-up of Adele's 'Rumor Has It' and 'Someone Like You' involves love lost/unrequited and secrets being outed (duh). This parallels Finn's claim that Santana's afraid that Brittany doesn't love her back and her fears about what people will say behind her back when she's outed being realised. Also, in "I Kissed A Girl", Santana gets kicked out of her grandmother's house after coming out to her and is driven to tears.
    • Quinn: she's kind of bitchy but she's also an intelligent but insecure girl who lost everything she had.
  • James Cook from Skins, according to some fans. And Tony Stonem from Season 1 and 2 has his moments.
  • Bad Girls has Denny Blood (before Character Development), Zandra Plackett (ditto), Maxi Purvis, Snowball Merriman, and Shell Dockley.
  • Malcolm Tucker, a spin doctor from The Thick of It whose job description is Magnificent Bastard, has become one of these by season three. He treats the politicans he has to police like crap (although...well, Acceptable Targets and all...) and speaks in Cluster F Bombs (when he's not talking of Country Matters), and, as one character notes, he pretty much "thrives on being disliked". He has a Morality Pet in the form of his secretary Sam, and one of the series' very, very few crowning moments of heartwarming comes when he leaps to her defence and comforts her when she's crying (bear in mind that he takes the time to do this in the middle of his sacking from Number 10. Glimpses into his personal life are very rare, but when we do see him at home, he's just lying forlornly on his sofa, eating crisps alone.
    • Season 3, episode 6: as Terri offered him a hug, many viewers wanted to give him a hug too. As inexplicably loveable as he is, in season 1, this would have been unthinkable.
  • Crixus from Spartacus: Blood and Sand, though the character seems to be shaping up to be an honorable, if abrasive, man.
  • Supernatural:
    • Dean Winchester. He can have a nasty temper and is a cocky, self-righteous, judgmental, always-wisecracking Jerkass manwhore with such low self-esteem that he thought he deserved to go to hell, has an almost obsessive devotion to his family (and he really wanted them back together again, which is never going to happen) and especially his little brother, an unwillingness to actually stand up for himself (when it came to Missouri, John, and sometimes Sam), has shown an honest willingness to sacrifice himself and his own happiness for perfect strangers, and all that wisecracking is just to "mask all that nasty pain". Not forgetting that he's also the show's favourite bitch, so you've got to give him some sympathy.
    • Also, his brother, Sam. He's self-absorbed, doesn't seem to think much of Dean sometimes even though he'd give anything for him, can be incredibly cruel at times ("You were four when Mom died. How could you possibly know how I feel?", anyone?), and is prone to self-pity by the bucket-load. He knows just how to twist Dean around his little finger, but he tries a hell of a lot harder to make Dean feel better than John ever did, he falls apart trying to save Dean in Season Three, he's using his demonic powers for good, he really did try to make it up to his father after "In My Time Of Dying" by focusing on the hunt, and much of the bitchiness is leaning towards the affectionate Deadpan Snarker style and not the unsympathetic Jerkass style. His violent streak isn't be quite natural in origin and, much like Dean, he endures a lot of crap throughout the series.
    • Gabriel/the Trickster. Yes, he screws with people and likes to torment Sam Winchester even more than the other antagonists, but he left Heaven because he couldn't stand to watch his brothers kill each other, only for the fight to begin again and to be dragged back into the fight. He then fought for the humans, believing them to be better than the angels, because they at least try to be better, and gets killed by his big brother, Lucifer, who he loved. The look on his face when he's stabbed will break your heart.
    • Castiel is turning into this. He has always been a Woobie but, in season six, he starts becoming a Jerkass. He is fighting a civil war against other angels in Heaven and chose to make a Deal with the Devil in order to get the power needed to win the fight. Despite that, he still helps Sam and Dean and tries to keep them safe until he sacrifices even his friends.
  • Gossip Girl's Chuck Bass may be a pseudo date rapist, Magnificent Bastard, Chessmaster, and ruthless force who will crush anybody just because he feels like it and sell his soulmate for a hotel...But he's also put through more heart-wrenching pain than all the other characters. He's the only male character that's been driven to tears and that's happend four times over the course of three seasons.
    • Blair Waldorf will destroy you if she wants to, or even if she's just in a bit of a bad mood. However, with her low self-esteem, bulimia, neglectful parents, being sold for a hotel, her failed marriage, and her miscarriage, it's hard not to feel bad for her, especially what with Leighton Meester's talent for using her big brown eyes to show agony.
  • Both Mark and Jeremy from Peep Show. You could count the times things have worked out for either of Them on one hand. Jeremy stands out more though. He's a complete dick with practically no morals, motivation or loyalty to his friends and is happy to sponge off everyone around him. But His dad abandoned him, his music career is going nowhere, he doesn't seem to have any other friends aside from an equally pathetic crack addict, he can't form a meaningful relationship and the only woman he loved used him to get a green card and left him, his best friend and roommate sees Him as the living definition of a fuck up and the universe seems set on viciously crushing whatever optimism he can scrounge up around him.
    • Not to downgrade Mark either. He's neurotic, selfish, never thinks of others and is constantly coming up with excuses for his behaviour. Still his life seems determined to crush anything good that comes his way while also putting him in terrible and awkward situations beyond his control. He is also The Unfavourite of his family, his father is emotionally abusive, his mother had an affair, and pretty much everyone he meets seems to think he exists solely to be treated like crap and be Their personal whipping boy.
  • Ashes to Ashes has Gene Hunt. (Ray has his moments as well.)
  • Guy of Gisborne from Robin Hood stabs unarmed women, leaves babies in the woods to die, burns down houses, and sells his sister to a rapist. He's also arrogant, selfish, and has a vicious temper that causes mass suffering to him and everyone around him. And yet, whenever anyone shows him a shred of kindness, he blossoms like a delicate little flower in the sun...the fact that he's a Draco in Leather Pants doesn't hurt either.
  • Most characters on My So-Called Life have had been mean to each other but remain sympathetic in various different ways.
  • Heroes:
  • Alex from Greys Anatomy is a Jerkass, but he also grew up in and out of foster care, had an abusive, drug-addicted father and an alcoholic mother, had a girlfriend breakdown, and when he finally started to trust someone, she got cancer and left him with her hospital bills over a stupid miscommunication. And he was shot. And he had to commit his brother to a psych ward after he had a psychotic episode and tried to kill their sister.
  • Mash:
    • Frank Burns could be considered one of these. While he often acts in a way that makes you want to see karma bite him in the ass, karma bites him so often and so mercilessly that it's easy to actually feel sorry for him. Particularly after Margaret left him and he became progressively more unhinged; even Hawkeye and BJ eased up on him during that time. We're also given occasional hints that Frank's childhood was not a happy one.
    • His successor at the 4077th, Charles Winchester, occasionally was one of these as well. Particularly in the final episode.
  • Adrian Monk from Monk moves back and forth between the status of The Woobie and Jerkass Woobie. While he's a nice and caring man who's crushed under a debilitating amount of phobias and compulsions, his inability to connect with others on an empathic level makes him an insufferably demanding boss and an outright jerk at times. It should be hard to feel sympathy for a guy who would take candy from a baby if it wasn't unsanitary, but he suffers from a socially debilitating disorder, was basically abandoned by his parents, and his one remaining relative is more neurotic than he is. Not to mention that his beloved wife was murdered in the one crime he can't solve. Of course, it helps that Monk can show his heart of gold while being a total Jerkass.
  • Cheers: Cliff Clavin gets a lot of abuse for his Know-Nothing Know-It-All attitude. Mostly from Carla, but after a while, Sam also had difficulty hiding just how much he depises Cliff.
  • Hells Kitchen: Gordon Ramsay initially seems like a pompous, foul-tempered Jerkass, at least until you see what some of the contestants on his show put him through and you understand just why he's so cranky to begin with.
  • One hopes this trope doesn't apply to the Real Life Larry David, but the Larry David character on Curb Your Enthusiasm exemplifies it. He's a legitimate Jerkass and extremely self-centered...but the Universe seems determined to make him seem even worse than that, up to and including Complete Monster status. He also endures a lot of crap throughout the series and some of it isn't even his fault.
  • Al Bundy from Married... with Children is mean, egoistical, and hates everyone and life in general, but considering how practically everyone and everything, from his wife who constantly picks on him and refuses to do anything worthwhile around the house to the fat women who make his shoe salesman job hell to the universe yanking his chain whenever anything begins going slightly right for him, craps on him, you can't really hate him and even have to admire him for refusing to give up even in the face of everything in his life conspiring against him.
  • GOB from Arrested Development. He's a total ass to everyone in the family, selfish, and aggressively stupid, but his parents hate him and nothing ever goes right for him. As much of a Jerkass as he is, it's hard not to feel sympathetic towards him. Pretty much every single awful thing he does is done in an attempt to make someone love him, appreciate him, or even notice him.
  • Charlotte on Private Practice is a horrible, thoroughly unpleasant person. And then she was brutally beaten and raped and it became impossible not to feel sorry for her.
  • Avon of Blakes Seven acts like a complete git for much of the time, refuses to trust anyone and points out repeatedly that anyone who trusts him is stupid. Then we learn that his lover died under torture, protecting him. Still later, it turns out that she wasn't actually dead, but had been working for the authorities all along. At the beginning of Season 4, the woman he maybe even liked a bit, who liked him back, dies. He spends two years searching for his lost leader, going through failure after failure and gradually losing his grip on sanity. This man needs a hug.
  • Jonah of Summer Heights High. He's undeniably a Jerkass (just look at the way he treats a lonely kid assigned to be his buddy for confirmation), but one can't help feeling at least a little sympathetic for him in the final episode when he is humiliated in front of his entire class by his teacher, and expelled from the school.
  • The Colbert Report: Stephen Colbert (but not Stephen Colbert) is a delusional Small Name, Big Ego type who takes his own vanity and arbitrary biases to absurd extremes. It becomes difficult not to pity him during his more delusional moments.
  • The Office: Michael Scott. He may be a Jerk Ass, but when you consider his horrid relationship with the bitchy Jan and his depression after his roast over how much fun he'd have instead of what really happens at a roast and his short lived romance with Holly (and he still holds a torch for her), it's hard not to sympathise with him. Also, in general, his lack of social skills can be a downer sometimes.
    Even further than that, throughout the show, it's clear that most of Michael's decisions (becoming a salesman being a big one) are made with the intent of either making friends or finding romance. Unfortunately, failure seems to be the only option for him, as bad luck tends to break up any chance at either that Michael's own thoughtlessness, childishness, oblivity, or generally self-centered nature doesn't drive away first. It gets really woobie-ish at the brief points where Michael actually realizes this, such as in "Bring Your Daughter to Work Day".
    • Also, Dwight in some episodes.
  • Ken Titus. His own mother liked to play cruel pranks on him, just for shits and giggles, and his father was a drunken womanizing Jerkass, just like him.
  • Randy Taylor on Home Improvement was a wise-cracking Insufferable Genius, but a handful of episodes either shed a glimpse on or were devoted to his insecurities over his small size or feeling like The Unfavourite now and then. Plus, there's "The Longest Day" in which he had to cope with the possibility of cancer.
  • In The Twilight Zone episode "A Piano in the House", the owner of the titular piano is showing being a caustic Jerkass who delights in being the center of attention by tearing others down -- in this instance, through using a magic piano whose songs bring out the deeper personalities in people. However, when the tables are turned, he zips right into woobie territory, when he's forced (through the piano's magic) to reveal that he has an inferiority complex, and the reaction to his doing for the party-goers to leave, his wife to finally divorce him, and his normally stoic butler to quit, saying, "You're not funny anymore."
  • Gul Madred, Picard's Cardassian torturer in the two-part Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Chain of Command", grew up on the streets as a poor boy, once beaten up over some food. Picard, however, calls him out on it in light of how he became a brutal torturer:

Picard: When I look at you now, I won't see a powerful Cardassian officer... but a small boy weeping because he was powerless to protect himself.

  • Pierce Hawthorne in the second half of season two of Community. He is shown to be insecure about how his age is creating a barrier between him and the rest of the group, and much of his attention seeking behavior is an outgrowth of his dysfunctional relationship with his father.
  • Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother. Most of the time, he comes off as an unrepetant, petty, womanizing Attention Whore, but not only is he an actual person, but he's a pretty pathetic and frail one. Esspecially in regards to his relationships with Robin or his father.
  • C.C. Babcock on The Nanny. She may be a horrible, greedy, selfish person, but considering all the crap she takes, you can't help but have a tiny bit of sympathy for her.
  • Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle. He is an arrogant dick at times, but he is abused by his parents, bullied by his brothers, is an outcast at school and loses most of his friends in High School. When you realize all this, you want to just hug him and make him feel better.
  • Ari Gold from Entourage. He becomes one in "The Beginning Of The End" - when Mrs. Gold tells him that she's started seeing someone else, he looks utterly crushed.
  • Frasier Crane from Frasier. Sure, he's a pompous, arrogant, overbearing, snotty jackass a lot of the time, but deep down, he's a very insecure and sensitive man whose deepest desire is to be liked by everyone, whose controlling behavior towards his younger brother Niles and best friend Roz is often symptomatic of a fear that they might stop needing (and therefore stop liking) him, and who desperately wants a meaningful romantic relationship — but he keeps getting slapped in the face by luck over and over and over again.
  • The Inspector Lynley Mysteries: DS Barbara Havers starts out as this in the pilot episode. The woman cannot take a compliment to save her life, nor can she comprehend the idea that someone might actually respect her for her abilities. As a result, she is bitchy, snappish, and defensive, and rather tends to make viewers (and Inspector Lynley himself) want to smack her across the face. But the storyline makes it very clear just what cause she has to be this way, and as a result, the aforementioned viewers are torn between wanting to slap her in the face and just giving her a goddamn hug already because she needs one so badly. By the end of the three-hour, two-part pilot, the mask has cracked, and she begins to open up to her partner instead of shoving him away. She becomes progressively less bitchy and defensive as the series goes on; although she never loses it completely, she goes from this trope to a Woobie with a Jerkass Facade that isn't much of a facade at all.
  • Astronema from Power Rangers in Space. Being kidnapped and raised by the "Master of all Evil", fighting your own brother and being brainwashed into becoming a ruthless warlord does not make a happy person.
  • Tom Haverford of Parks and Recreation is a lecherous, narcissistic prick. That said, one can't help but feel sorry for him when he discovers he truly loved his ex-wife Wendy (who only married him so she could stay in the US).
  • George Costanza (Jason Alexander) from Seinfeld. He's a Jerkass, a moron and an amoral schemer, but man does his life suck. Also, Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) as she's also a Jerkass but she's unlucky in love and Break the Haughty plots often happen to her.
  • Rodney McKay of Stargate Atlantis falls into this category occasionally.
  • Daniel from Freaks and Geeks is manipulative, lazy and seems set on doing as little as possible in life. But his father is sick, his mother obviously doesn't think much of him, his teachers seem set on making sure he never succeeds, he's thought of by everyone as a failure by default and even his closest friends can't see him with any type of future. He seems caught in a vicious cycle: Everyone assumes he's a screwup, he tries to prove them wrong but it doesn't work, he becomes indifferent and complacent, and everyone thinks he just doesn't care.
    • Kim Kelly also qualifies. When We first meet her, She is rude, cold, and utterly horrible to almost everyone especially Lindsey who always tries to be nice. But her family and home life is so horrible you're just amazed She hasn't turned out a lot worse.
  • Ingrid from Young Dracula may be one of the evilest characters on the show, with several murder attempts to her name, but when you look at the way her father (and nearly everyone in her family) treats her it really makes you want to give her a hug.
  • In spite of how hilariously misanthropic and needlessly cruel Bernard Black is, he's bizarrely cute and his girlfriend faking her own death to get away from him or his friends casually turning on him tends to inspire more sympathy than Schadenfreude.
  • Owen Harper from Torchwood. He's undeniably a jerkass, misanthropic and womanising, but just tell me you don't want to give him a hug in the flashback scenes after his fiancee dies, or in "Adam" finding out how his mother treated him. No wonder he's out to make the whole world hate him.

Back to Jerkass Woobie
  1. Details:Lionel staged a meeting with Jonathan Kent to reveal he knew Clark's secret. Lionel's intention was to form an alliance with the Kents, but his arrogant demeanor combined with Jonathan's quick temper resulted in Jonathan physically attacking Lionel. While Lionel didn't strike back, the strain of attacking Lionel brought about Jonathan's fatal heart attack.
  2. And the very fact that Patricia's accusation makes no sense since her father died sometime after Lionel's Heel Face Turn, only makes Lionel even more sympathetic than was perhaps intended.