Sure, they might make your skin crawl and your blood boil, but admit it... no quality TV show is complete without a good baddie.
They’re the characters we love to hate; the reason we keep watching. Even as we group together to bemoan their horridness, we know we’d be lying if we wished them gone – just imagine how dull the world would be without them.
There has been many a worthy TV villain over the years, but some leave a real mark. From classic sitcoms to big-budget fantasies, here’s my take on the crème de la crème of TV’s most loathsome leeches.
Captain Jack Randall, Outlander
Every now and then, along comes a character who it seems has risen straight from the fiery pit of hell itself, so evil are their actions. Enter Outlander’s Captain Jack Randall. Even the most seasoned watchers of brutal television recoiled in horror during the first season’s finale when (spoiler alert!) Randall finally has his long-awaited sadistic way with Highland warrior and protagonist Jamie, leaving him utterly broken, both physically and mentally. Few characters have ever evoked such repulsion in viewers, and just when we thought he couldn’t possibly get any worse, he goes and beats the corpse of his beloved baby brother to a pulp – charming. He’s complex, he’s callous, he’s evil incarnate.
Marie Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond
Not all monsters wear Redcoats; sometimes it’s seeing the monster you know reflected in a character onscreen that makes them truly horrifying. Having to suffer insufferable in-laws is something we can all relate to. Never has the tense, maddening nature of the in-law relationship been personified so absolutely as in the character of Marie Barone in hit sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond. There’s not a soul in this world who doesn’t feel for Debra, Ray’s long-suffering wife who tolerates her pesky mother-in-law constantly intruding in their life from her house conveniently located right across the road. From dictating how Debra should raise her children to molly-coddling Ray, the worst comes in the relentless snide comments about Debra’s cooking. Deep breaths now.
Walter White, Breaking Bad
It’s not often a show’s protagonist is also its most hateful character, but it’s also not often a show as uniquely brilliant as Breaking Bad graces our screens. From the very first episode, Walt undergoes a drastic transformation from a quiet chemistry teacher and all-round family man to a ruthless drug lord whose downfall we yearn for. Thinking back on his multitude of malicious moments, it’s hard to choose which was his worst... poisoning a child, handing his partner in crime Jesse over to be tortured, watching unconscious addict Jane die when he could’ve saved her, or perhaps confessing to Jesse that he did just that, breaking his heart in the process. At least Jesse has a heart to be broken; the same can’t be said of Walter. Brutal.
Many of us have experienced wanting to avoid awkward encounters with an ex, but in the case of poor Chandler in Friends, he went as far as Yemen to escape his unbearable ex-girlfriend, Janice. As absurd as his act may seem, Janice is so genuinely intolerable, it’s actually plausible to imagine hopping on that plane yourself. It’s not just her clingy, over-the-top, whiney nature as a girlfriend that makes her so hard to swallow. Hers is a nasal voice that will go down in history. Indeed you might say Janice did for the phrase ‘Ohhhh. Myyyy. Gaaawwwd.’ what Gollum did for the word ‘precious.’ That is, make it impossible to so much as think the words without hearing her voice in your head.
David Brent, The Office
There is no character in television’s history that more perfectly encapsulates the word ‘obnoxious’. Comedic genius Ricky Gervais’ David Brent is the cringe-inducing co-worker we have all had to endure. He occupies that singular space at the juncture between trying too hard, being too cocky and not knowing awkwardness when it stares him in the face. Watching him interact with his team (watching him do anything, really) is like watching a car crash in slow motion; too painful to witness yet somehow impossible to turn away from. You just know that when America tries to replicate material despite it being so wholeheartedly British, we’re dealing with something special. Don’t you dare let David hear you call him special though... we shudder to think.
Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones
This show is so full of meaty, evil-to-their-core villains it’s hard to choose just one (indeed the devil she spawned, Joffrey, almost took the cake), but no one does more to make us loathe them as the self-appointed Queen of Westeros. Is it her relentless vengeance, her unbelievably cruel treatment of her brother Tyrion, her incestuous relationship with her other brother Jaime, her heartless orchestration of mass murder, her maiming of a soul and body in order to have herself the ultimate bodyguard, or a combination of the above? I think we were supposed to feel sorry for her when she suffered the loss of her children, but after all she has done, it proved quite impossible. But hate her as I do, I know Game of Thrones wouldn’t be a shade of the show it is without Cersei at its core.
Peter Griffin, Family Guy
Think of all the bad qualities that have ever been attributed to men everywhere, and tell us they aren’t embodied by Family Guy’s Peter Griffin. (You’re lying.) Smug, ignorant, selfish, arrogant, immature, bolshie, bigoted, narrow-minded, insensitive, ill-educated, irritating as all hell... the list goes on. Plus, this is one guy who is seriously punching above his weight. Why Lois puts up with him is one of the great unanswered mysteries of television. As the man himself says in one of his most meme-worthy moments, ‘you know what really grinds my gears?’ You do, Peter. You do.