By Mandi Bierly
Updated July 29, 2020 at 05:18 PM EDT
Credit: John P. Johnson/HBO

TV’s bad men (and women) tend to play second fiddle to big-screen evil. You can see it in our gallery of the 20 Vilest Villains in Pop Culture: Only two, Dallas’ J.R. Ewing and The Simpsons‘ Mr. Burns, are from the tube. I think it’s time we celebrate them. Who are the best bads you’ve seen on the small screen?

It occurred to me as I watching last Sunday’s True Blood — and found myself saying “Eric, don’t eat the children” out loud, with a smile on my face — that the joy Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) brings me now rivals that received from watching Mayor Richard Wilkins (Harry Groener) in the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For me, a villain is great when I start to wonder how much of the character is on the page, and how much is coming from the actor: Whose idea was it for Eric to be reclining on his elbow as (insert dismissive look) shapeshifter Sam asked for his help in defeating Maenad Maryann? And what about that wink he gave after he said, “Goodnight, tiny humans” to Arlene’s kids, or the way that he fixed his hair after flying to seek advice from Queen Sophie-Ann and running into Bill, who asked if he was only there to look like a hero to Sookie? (“Oh, Billy. This paranoia, it’s really quite unbecoming. Has she, uh, mentioned me?”) You may think I’m giving Skarsgard too much credit, but we know he worked closely with the show’s costume designer for the infamous foil/flip-flop kill scene in Season 2’s second episode, so…

Your turn. List your favorite TV bads, whether they’re the focus of the series (Adrian Pasdar’s Jim Profit has, possibly, the most ruthlessly seductive voice ever), a season’s Big Bad such as Mayor Wilkins, or a one-time guest star that continues to haunt you (sorry to go back to the Buffy well, but just thinking about the vamp, played by Jeff Kober, Buffy had to face on her 18th birthday without her superstrength makes me want to crawl under my desk).

CLARIFICATION: When I say “bads,” I’m talking about your classic villains, as well as your anti-heroes and vampires who trick a woman into drinking their blood and look hungrily at children after calling them “delicious.”

More True Blood:

Ausiello TV spoiler alert: True Blood finale shocker!

True Blood: Sookie + Eric = sexytimes (Update: We’ve now gotten our answer; Lafayette is having sex dreams! Do we want to see one? YES!)

Photo Credit: John P. Johnson/HBO

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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