TV’s 10 Most Notorious Curmudgeons

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Maybe it's due to the fact that we have free speech. Maybe it's because we don't have to worry about survival and can let our minds wonder. Whatever the reason, Americans love to complain. We even like to watch other people complain, which explains the star power of cranky old men on TV. They're unhappy about everything and yet we keep tuning in. From real people, like 60 Minutes' Andy Rooney, to fictional characters and Muppets, here are everyone's favorite TV curmudgeons.

  1. Andy Rooney

    One of the most famous complainers of all, Andy Rooney recently left CBS' 60 Minutes after 47 years. Rooney had a well known segment each week on the news magazine show during which he would read a piece that he had written, normally about whatever he found annoying about society, consumer goods, or his everyday life. Practically nothing was off-limits for Rooney's rants, and they included his relatives, politics, and things as mundane as office supplies. If film of this curmudgeon's complaints were left in a time capsule, future generations would get the full picture of how life used to be (though a poor impression of our eyebrow-grooming techniques). The 92-year-old Rooney still has plenty of spunk left in him and swears he's not through letting everyone know what bothers him.

  2. Simon Cowell

    The British TV personality's name is synonymous with being overly critical. Simon Cowell may be a little young for traditional curmudgeon status, but he definitely meets all the other requirements. He's opinionated, loud, and rarely nice, and yet we all love to hear what he says, even if it's just because we love to hate him. As a former judge on American Idol, Cowell gained wild popularity for the way he crushed people's dreams and was constantly booed by the audience. Though he does compliment singers when they earn it, most people just tune those moments out. Cowell's now judging the American version of X Factor, where he will no doubt be frank when a contestant is not his cup of tea.

  3. Lou Grant

    The old grump in The Mary Tyler Moore Show played by Ed Asner was a classic bitter news man. With drinks in his desk drawers and a distaste for peppy young people, Lou Grant ran his TV newsroom with cynicism and likable gruffness. He was a WWII veteran who modeled his managerial style after John Wayne Westerns, and had an angry, insulting exterior. Throughout the show, however, it was apparent that this bear was emotionally attached to his staff and showed kindness in his own way. That's everyone's favorite kind of crank — one with a soft side. After his run with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, he was picked up for the drama Lou Grant. He became an editor at a newspaper, the perfect career for a surly old man.

  4. Oscar the Grouch

    As a child, you probably thought Oscar the Grouch, one of many stars on Sesame Street, was funny. But that was just because you hadn't lived long enough to realize that people like him really exist. Oscar, like many crotchety old men, freely claims that he doesn't like anyone or anything nice (except for children, because you can't have a kids' show with a character who terrorizes our youth). Even though he goes on about all the good things that he hates, like Christmas and being happy, he is able to maintain friendships and carry a relatively chipper tune. And his bad mood isn't totally his fault; he is a Grouch by species and was introduced to the show to teach racial diversity to children (and probably to help them understand their grumpy grandpas better).

  5. Larry David

    When watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, it's sometimes hard to believe that a guy who's as critical and outspoken as Larry David would have any friends. As the creator of Seinfeld, he's obviously a fairly funny man, but he's also neurotic, argumentative, and unhappy in the most upbeat way. While most of us gladly comply with basic societal expectations, like waiting in line or not telling our wife how attractive a friend's spouse is, David has no problem creating a scene or starting an argument with a complete stranger just to make sure everyone knows his opinion. This bellyacher thinks he's telling lots of funny jokes, but mostly they just turn into awkward situations started by his thinly veiled complaints or offensive remarks.

  6. Archie Bunker

    If you want to hear the opinions of the world's most politically incorrect man, Archie Bunker from All in the Family is your man. From his signature living room chair, he shares his old-fashioned, unsolicited opinions with his family on everything from women's liberation to other races, vegetarianism to homosexuality. As he tries to cope with the changing tide of public opinion on so many social issues in the 1970s, he comes home to a daughter and son-in-law who belong to the younger generation and new way of thinking. His ideas reflected those of many old, real-life Americans who grew up in a different social climate and are stuck in their ways.

  7. Dr. Gregory House

    Despite having a brilliant medical mind and being a valued leader of a hospital team, Dr. Gregory House on House just isn't happy. The doctor with a penchant for Vicodin and sarcasm and a knack for diagnosing rare, deadly conditions has no problem telling others how dumb he thinks they are or how boring he finds them. He insults patients and superiors alike and seems to resist the rules at every opportunity. But once you get to know him, you see that he's not unlike an 8-year-old boy who teases the girl he likes, and he often ribs those he cares about the most — while also making their life difficult with his frivolous protests and endless complaints.

  8. Fred Sanford

    It's not surprising that a man who sells junk out of his house can be as mean and crabby as a junkyard dog. Ready to fight at any minute, eager to call his son a dummy, and willing to fake a heart attack to get his way, Sanford and Son's Fred Sanford is definitely an old grouch. Even though his son quit school to help him with his business, Sanford always insults him, along with everyone else in his life. The old guy's got a superiority complex, wants everything done his way, and likes to meddle in other people's lives. You know, just like any other 70-year-old man. Sanford is often found to be one of Americans' favorite TV characters of all time — just another testament to our love affair with complainers.

  9. Statler and Waldorf

    Every show is bound to have critics; The Muppet Show just happened to feature theirs on the show each week. Statler and Waldorf are the two old misers who sit in the balcony and discuss how terrible the program is. They rarely have anything nice to say about the actors, sketches, or each other, but they always have a good laugh about it in the end. Featured in the intro of the show, even they question why they always show up for the torture of enduring the program. They may have plenty of gripes, but we can forgive them since they are so old, entertaining, and well, not real people.

  10. Bill O'Reilly

    If you're going to host a show about politics, you can't really be neutral on very many subjects, so it's not surprising that Bill O'Reilly uses The O'Reilly Factor to argue about what he sees as the ills of our society. Luckily, our political machine allows for many opinionated people to put their ideas out there, so they can all be considered together as constructive discourse. O'Reilly's argumentative commentator style might make him seem like a crank, but many would say he contributes to the political conversation. Being a curmedgeon isn't limited to one side of the political spectrum. On the other end, you could say Keith Olbermann fills the same role.

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