To keep a narrative alive, shows need antagonists that are just as strong -- or, in some cases, stronger -- than their protagonists. This is even harder in TV, where stories can stretch into dozens of hours of screen time. However, the result is that TV villains are some of the most authentic, well-rounded bad guys in modern media, since they need to stand up to so much close examination by the audience.
Unfortunately for the talented actors who portray these antagonists, that means they're all the more hated than the villains in movies, books and other forms of storytelling. Audiences check in regularly with TV baddies, effectively renewing and reinforcing their revulsion. It grows exponentially over time.
It's hard to feel too bad, however, as the characters are often involved in evil plots and horrible catastrophes. On the other hand, there are those that are on the hero's side, but are so insufferable along the way that audiences grow to hate them. These are often cathartic characters, as they tend to get their just desserts.
In case you need to renew your perspective on good, evil and the wide gap of gray area in between, here's a look at some of the most reviled characters on TV in recent memory.
The obvious starting point for TV hate-ability is Joffrey Baratheon. The pompous bastard son of the incestuous Lannister twins displays no empathy or charm in his four seasons on screen, and repeatedly set out to harm heroic characters for no reason but spite.
Joffrey is the archetypical chaotic villain, who does nothing to earn his power and has no concept on how to wield it responsibly. He's especially easy to loath because of his misunderstanding of his regal power, as other characters are constantly using him as a pawn in their own nefarious plots.
Like many characters in Game of Thrones, Joffrey gets his just desserts in a moment of pure poetic justice.
Glee was peppered with dramatic, sometimes cartoonish villains, and Terri Schuester was one of the best. The wife of glee club coach Will Schuester was always scheming to make her husband more conventional and keep him in line, resorting to layers and layers of lies and deceit.
Terri Schuester grew a lot over the course of the series, keeping the theme of finding the good within anyone. Still, on a show with Jane Lynch playing one of the most lovable villains of all time, it was nice to have a recognizable bad guy as well.
It's sad but true that most Walking Dead fans groaned every time an episode shaped up to be Carl-centric. The erstwhile son of the show's hero, Rick Grimes, was a pubescent, awkward mess, and he couldn't seem to stay out of high sctakes trouble.
In fairness, it's hard to love a teenage character, as those growing years can be so awkward. Many fans may be missing Carl now that he's departed from the show.
Girls was made up of an impefect ensemble, but for some reason Marnie Michaels was the easiest to despise. The indecisive best friend of Lena Dunham's main character made things uncomfortable at every turn, and never found a way to blame herself.
Still, fans of Girls who hated Marnie had no idea what kind of evil Alison Williams was capable of until they saw Get Out in 2017.
Part of the beauty of Friends is that a group of six young people stick together for ten years through the good times and the bad. It sort of proves and extends the old adage, "you can't chose your family."
Yet the show is not without cataclysmic conflict, specifically in season 5 when Ross marries his British girlfriend, Emily Waltham. The character is high maintenance and snobbish from the very beginning, though at first, it seems like a good fit for Ross. Over time, however, she manipulates him and turns his life upside down.
Emily is easy to hate because she commits one of the cardinal sins in an ensemble story: she tries to isolate Ross from the group. On an intuitive level, the audience knew at once that she had signed her own death warrant, and she wouldn't be walking down the hall with the rest of the cast in the series' closing shot.
Skyler White is a contentious choice, but, ultimately, she belongs on this list. Skyler is easy to hate in the beginning of Breaking Bad, as she represents the world of normalcy that anti-hero Walter White is being ripped away from.
Skyler is guilty of being boring, preachy, withholding and indecisive over the course of the show. Yet, as the seasons go on, she raises more and more valid points. As Walter loses control of his ambitous schemes, the audience starts to see that Skyler has been right more often than not.
Still, any redemption Skyler earns doesn't change the fact that, for dozens of episodes, fan tuned in to hate her every week.
Adding main characters to the cast of a show is a difficult, surgical process. It requires finesse, grace and adaptability. The creators threw all of that out the window when they added Dawn Summers to the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The bratty kid sister was simply not the energy that show needed to keep it going in its later seasons. Many fans hated Dawn as loudly as they possibly could in the pre-Internet days of fandom, yet they still watched every episode of the acclaimed show religiously.
If there's any show that could outdo Game of Thrones in terms of hatable characters, it's Game of Thrones. The series beat its own high score by adding Ramsay Snow, a young lord even more despised than the boy king Joffrey, in the third season.
Ramsay was even more infuriating than Joffrey in some ways, as his arc represented more of a rise and fall in power. He didn't start as the king, like Joffrey did, he began as a reviled bastard with a penchant for torture. To the audience's horro, Ramsay's ambition actually got him pretty far. He was legitimized by House Bolton and even became Lord of Winterfell for a time. All the while, he was abusing one of the most beloved characters of the main cast, and the same girl that viewers had already seen victimized by Joffrey.
Of course, justice came for Ramsay, too.
Family Guy proved that even after eleven seasons, showrunners can make a near-fatal mistake. The show lost a lot of clout when the tried killing the family dog, Brian, and replacing him with a new dog named Vinny.
The new companion, voiced by Tony Sirico, drew outrage from fans, not least of all because he was not as well-rounded as Brian had been. The sudden insertion of a new, apparently permanent cast member on the long running show was jarring for fans, and it didn't seem worth it since Vinny the dog did little more than spout Italian stereotypes.
Whether they planned it or not, the creators of Family Guy apparently learned their lesson. At the end of season 12, they got rid of Vinny and reinstated Brian. However, the show never quite got its equilibrium back after that.