Television’s had more than its fair share of villains. Where movies have antagonists - bad guys that exist to face off against the protagonist over two hours and three acts of cinematic back-and-forth - TV has the time to bring us complex, nuanced rascals, reprobates and ruffians with story arcs independent of whatever the white hats are up to.
But the advent of the internet - and especially social media - has meant that every fan of a TV show now has a platform to say exactly who they hate the most and why, and a community to share that perspective with… and over the last ten or fifteen years, the results have been more than a little surprising.
Villains like JR Ewing in Dallas or Theodore ‘T-Bag’ Bagwell in Prison Break are terrible, terrible people that actually have fans rooting for them, cheering on their worst excesses. They’re heels you love to hate, so much so that you barely hate them at all. Meanwhile, on many occasions it’s the heroes that are vilified.
In the twenty-first century, you don’t need to be the bad guy to get booed, and TV’s writers and producers don’t have a handle on who the television audience decides to despise anymore.
This article covers the most hated, loathed characters in television, based purely upon fan responses. Some are genuine bast*rds, some are misunderstood heroes; some are the victims of poor writing, others martyrs to chauvinism… oh, and here be spoilers, for those of you that care about such things. Check out the video version below, and then click next to read on with the rest of the article.
20. The Wire - Scott Templeton
A self-aggrandising hack with pretensions to greater journalistic stature than the Baltimore Sun, Templeton isn’t the writer he thinks he is - something that’s made plain to him when interviewed for a position at the much-lauded Washington Post. He simply doesn’t have what it takes to hit the big time.
However, not only is Templeton not the talent he bigs himself up to be, but the stories he’s filing are based on sources and interview subjects invented from whole cloth. Sometimes that’s because he wants the glory of the story and manipulates the truth to get it printed… but far more often, it’s just that he can’t be bothered to get out there and find real witnesses or source real quotes.
So he makes them up. Templeton is smarmy, two-faced and shallow. Played with a marvellously sweaty smugness by acclaimed actor, writer, director and comedian Thomas McCarthy, Templeton is so hateable that it almost doesn’t matter what he’s done - he could be the parish priest and you’d probably loathe him anyway.
A case in point is when he’s confronted about his fabricated articles by Jimmy McNulty, the BPD detective who’s invented the serial killer that Templeton’s been writing about.
McNulty’s as much of a liar as Templeton - more so really, given that deceit and untrustworthiness are two of his most consistent characteristics. Yet we don’t hate McNulty like we hate Templeton, and it’s not just his Irish charm.
It’s the difference between knowing that someone needs a slap and knowing that someone needs a punch: and few characters in television history have quite the punchable face that Scott Templeton has.