Everyone loves a baddie, but the best worst characters on TV are hard not to hate – the people so genuinely awful that they’re only really around to make everyone else look better.
Let’s raise a glass to the murderers, cheaters, back-stabbers and control-freaks. To the slimy demons, slimier politicians and all-round party poopers. Here’s to the absolute dicks: the very worst people on TV…
20. Frank Reynolds (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia)
Every family has a gross, slightly racist uncle, but Frank always makes sure he takes the stereotype so, so much further. From pimping out his own son to the mafia, waterboarding his daughter in a pub urinal and secretly running a Vietnamese sweatshop, Frank makes everyone’s worst relative look like a saint.
The worst thing they’ve done: It’s between setting fire to an immigrant’s house and setting fire to his daughter (and her two kittens)
19. Marnie (Girls)
If you ever took an online quiz to find out who you were from Girls, there’s only really one wrong answer. Ruthlessly self-centred, emotionally manipulative and obsessed with micro-managing everyone else’s lives, Marnie always acted like the unlikeable star of her own TV show. Watch the beach house episode and shudder.
The worst thing they’ve done: Breaking Ray by sleeping with him and then blanking him when his best friend died. That, or cringe-singing Kanye West
18. Harper (Industry)
Believe it or not, the main star of a show all about high-end investment banking isn’t really that likeable. Harper’s ruthlessness is what gets her ahead, but it’s also what makes everyone want to stop choosing Business Studies as a GCSE. In a show constantly called the love child of Succession and Euphoria, Harper seems to have inherited all the worst bits of Logan and Nate.
The worst thing they’ve done: Making us all have to look up financial terms like “meme stocks” and “layup trade”
17. Jessica (The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself)
If The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself is really the “X-rated Harry Potter”, Jessica is the anti-Hermione. Born with the power to shapeshift into anyone she wants to, Jessica chooses to become an evil high-school super bully – stopping at nothing to master the dark art of bitchiness. When she’s not luring her own brother into the woods to get beaten up, she’s emotionally wrecking girls in the locker room by appearing as their own naked dads.
The worst thing they’ve done: Giving witches a bad name again
16. Barry (Archer)
Can you blame Barry for being bad? The first time he meets Archer he accidentally ruins his suit, starting a lifelong feud that eventually sees him thrown off multiple buildings, crushed, turned into a cyborg and stranded in space. Still, he gives almost as good as he gets – killing Archer’s one true love (that isn’t Lana…) and rubbing it in his face for 13 seasons.
The worst thing they’ve done: Killing Woodhouse the butler, the only man Archer hated just enough to love
15. Dedra Meero (Andor)
No one’s likely to meet Darth Vader or Kylo Ren in the real world, but every boardroom and cabinet meeting has a Dedra Meero in it. The grown-up corner of the Star Wars universe hides the most believable face of the dark side – with Meero’s ruthless careerist politician only a few spaceships away from suggesting we send migrants to Rwanda.
The worst thing they’ve done: Torturing someone with the recorded screams of dying children
14. Daemon Targaryen (House Of The Dragon)
Prince of House Targaryen, rider of dragons, chopper of heads, killer of wives and molester of nieces, Daemon is the dark and charming heart of Westeros, and he knows it. He might be the most charismatic one in HOTD, but Matt Smith’s Daemon is also a pretty awful human being. Probably the worst little brother around too.
The worst thing they’ve done: Confusing the hell out of the fanbase for being evil and sexy at the same time
13. Hannibal Lector (Hannibal)
A guy who eats people probably should have been further along on this list, but Mads Mikkelsen’s gourmet serial killer is far too charming to seem all bad. There’s also the fact that the show’s other murderers are far more terrible in comparison – stuffing corpses into horses, pulling out people’s tongues through their necks and turning one guy into a human cello. Still, cannibalism is most definitely also pretty bad.
The worst thing they’ve done: Probably the whole killing and eating people thing
12. Gyp Rosetti (Boardwalk Empire)
In a show full of awful people, Gyp Rosetti is still a stand-out. As great at holding a grudge as he is at losing his temper, even accidentally looking at Gyp the wrong way could get you stabbed, shot, burned or beaten to death with a shovel. He’s also the only one on this list who was actually a real person.
The worst thing they’ve done: Punching a priest (after telling Jesus to fuck off)
11. Gus Fring (Breaking Bad)
If Walter White proved that some drug kingpins can still be lovely people, Gus Fring did his best to prove the exact opposite. Running meth for the Mexican cartels through a chain of chicken shops, Gus was the anti-Walter – slitting throats, forcing kids to sell for him, and threatening to kill every man, woman and child who got in the way of his underground empire.
The worst thing they’ve done: Forget trying to kill Hank, Gus’s greatest dick move was breaking up the bromance between Walter and Jesse
10. Frank Gallagher (Shameless)
It’s right there in the title. Maybe the most shameless character on TV, there isn’t much that Frank hasn’t done in the name of self-preservation. Robbing the homeless? Check. Pretending to be the dead husband of a mentally ill woman? Yep. Telling everyone his son had cancer to get him into a cheaper school? Of course.
The worst thing they’ve done: Hiring a hitman to kill off his daughter’s fiancé, just because he didn’t want to lose his meal ticket
9. Todd Packer (The Office)
By the end of the show, even Michael hated the Pack-Man. Fat-shaming Kevin, leering at Pam, and taking a dump in the middle of the office floor that was so bad the entire carpet had to be replaced, Packer was the show’s stripper-loving supervillain throughout. Unforgivably terrible, right up to the last season when he “apologised” to everyone by gifting them poisoned cupcakes.
The worst thing they’ve done: Bad-mouthing Holly. You can take a shit under Michael’s desk, but you can’t be mean to the woman who saved him from Scranton
8. Negan (The Walking Dead)
The whole “humans are the real monsters” schtick only holds up so far in a show with this many zombies in it, but Negan really is the scariest thing in The Walking Dead. Already earning a place on this list with a string of targeted murders, beatings and disembowellings, he’s also responsible for one of the most shocking and upsetting episodes of any TV show, ever. Rest in peace, Glenn.
The worst thing they’ve done: Picking up that damned baseball bat…
7. Serena Joy Waterford (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Fred Waterford could easily have taken his wife’s place here, but Serena just beats him to the finish by taking such calm, quiet pleasure in being evil. As author of the book that Gilead was founded on, her views on women (specifically the really rapey parts) became the laws that society was built on – ushering in a nightmarish Amish dystopia with a gentle smile.
The worst thing they’ve done: Making ISIS look progressive
6. Vecna (Stranger Things)
Not content with torturing and killing his own family, Vecna (aka Henry Creel) decided to ruin the lives of a bunch of high school kids too. Drop-kicked into the Upside Down, he raised a giant demon spider that could melt people’s minds and then started sucking out eyeballs and snapping bones through other people’s nightmares. And he’s not even finished yet…
The worst thing they’ve done: Depriving us of another season with Eddie Munson in it
5. Ramsay Bolton (Game Of Thrones)
You could make a good argument for sticking Joffrey here instead, but who hasn’t had an awkward teenage phase? Ramsay The Bastard, on the other hand, has no such excuse, and he doesn’t ever look like he wants one either – gleefully slaying and flaying his way through half the cast list (including his own dad and his pregnant wife), and turning Theon into Reek.
The worst thing they’ve done: One of those wolves probably chipped a tooth on his smarmy face
4. Mr Burns (The Simpsons)
The skinny old man who started off as Homer’s bad boss stereotype has come a long way in 33 years – now counting toxic waste pollution, theft, corporate espionage and attempted murder among his CV lowlights. He once also tried to skin 25 greyhound puppies to make a dog-skin tuxedo (making up an annoyingly great song about it at the same time…)
The worst thing they’ve done: Blocking out the sun, so everyone has to pay for his dirty nuclear power
3. John Paul (Bad Sisters)
No one’s really watching Sharon Horgan’s black comedy series to actually find out who killed John Paul Williams – everyone just wants to watch it happen. It’s pretty obvious why the Garvey sisters want to murder him after one episode, but somehow he just keeps on getting worse. An abusive cocktail of toxic masculinity, ego and cruelty, John Paul is TV’s most frighteningly believable control freak.
The worst thing they’ve done: Completely ruining the word “Mammy”
2. Livia Soprano (The Sopranos)
For a show about professional serial killers, it’s odd that the least likeable character is the only one who never actually hurt anyone. Not physically, anyway… Livia might have been the frail old cannoli-eating pensioner of the family, but she was also the most manipulative boss in the mafia – shooting with her words, stabbing with a look, and giving the order to execute her own son by making someone else think it was their idea. Marone!
The worst thing they’ve done: Giving Tony a weird meat sex/death fetish (also, trying to kill him)
1. Logan (Succession)
Is there anyone in Succession who isn’t terrible? Ranking the Roys is a fool’s game (but it’s Connor, Kendall, Shiv and Roman, in that order), so there’s only one person to blame for the worst family on television – and that’s the man who messed them all up in the first place. Even leaving parenthood out of it, Logan’s billionaire bully tactics are sociopathic enough to help him top this list. Logan hates everyone, and everyone hates Logan.
The worst thing they’ve done: Bringing Connor, Kendall, Shiv and Roman into the world