Normally I prefer to eschew all stereotypes, but there’s one that I just can’t shake—I like bad boys. There’s something alluring about guys who are rebellious, who don’t sugarcoat or mince words. In real life, this attraction can be a deterrent to long-lasting, functional relationships, so I have to enjoy them from the protection of a TV screen. I find myself drawn to the antagonists of my favorite shows; even if they’re not so terrible compared to other characters, a little treachery is enough to pique my interest. My favorites run the gamut from slightly villainous to full-blown nasty, yet they all show up on my bad-guy radar as the best that TV has to offer.
Dwight Schrute, The Office
Dwight is manipulative, annoying, and downright creepy. He makes sexist comments, rats out his coworkers, and hides random weapons around the office. He’s also one of the most beloved characters on TV right now, having won the hearts of viewers by tickling their funny bones. His antics keep his coworkers on their toes and keep me tuning in every Thursday.
A propensity for murder doesn’t usually make a character likeable, especially not when he uses the nasty methods that Sylar does. However, Sylar’s sinister, coldly calculating persona is completely hypnotizing to watch, making him a truly great bad guy. When he lost his powers and wasn’t the main villain, the show became downright boring.
Sideshow Bob, The Simpsons
Sideshow Bob is one of television’s most enduring villains. Thanks to his unique personal history—he’s both a Yale alum and a former clown—he’s capable of hatching the most ridiculously elaborate murder plots. Some of my favorite episodes (“Cape Feare,” for instance) revolve around Sideshow Bob. Frankly, Bart gets on my nerves sometimes; I’m not saying I want him to die, but a serious scare from time to time at the hands of Mr. Terwilliger is good for him and the show.
Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock
As the former “Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming” at NBC, and the current “Homeland Security Director of Crisis and Weather Management,” Jack Donaghy will do whatever it takes to rise within the ranks of both the company and the Republican Party. In pursuit of this end, he covered up his company’s role in an orange children scandal and threw a Campaign to Re-Invade Vietnam dinner party. Occasionally he can be a good guy, but he’s better when he’s bad.
Ben Linus, Lost
I love complex villains, but it’s not just me. The creepy, manipulative leaders of the Others is on many critics’ lists of the best villains on TV right now. His mysteriousness—who knows what his agenda is?—keeps me riveted to the screen. He doesn’t even need to say anything to scare me—one of his chilling, intense glances is frightening enough.
Lucille Bluth, Arrested Development
The show’s not technically on the air anymore, but it’s still alive in my heart! Lucille is a bad gal, not a bad guy; but she can hold her own against any of the biggest, baddest boys on TV, so she has earned her place on this list. She’ll do anything to keep her fortune and expensive lifestyle, even if that means stealing, lying to her children, and keeping her husband in jail. Lucille always keeps things interesting, in addition to delivering some of the best one-liners on the show.