British TV's Greatest Villains

Blog > Flashback
29 Sep • 6 min read

If every show needs a hero, then every hero certainly needs a villain to lock horns with. And we’ve seen some real nasty pieces of work over the years. From soaps to dramas, reality TV to game show hosts. Our TV heroes are nothing without a force of evil to fight against. You might not love them - but you certainly love to hate them.

We’ve taken on the impossible task of listing five of our favourites from years gone by. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t easy.

Simon Cowell

The original talent show Mr. Bad Guy. And although the X-factor mogul has blunted his razor sharp tongue in recent years - we simply cannot forget the impact he’s had on British culture with his merciless put downs and iconic catchphrases. Simon Cowell changed the game. Before him, entertainment shows didn’t exist on the same scale, or with the same level of pizzaz. Whether you love them or hate them, these programs that are etched into the British psyche would look entirely different had Mr. Cowell not graced us with his unfiltered presence.

There are too many classic Cowell moments to list them all. Luckily for us, there’s a brilliant compilation of his most infamous quips on YouTube.! It’s definitely one to sit down with a cuppa over.

Dirty Den

The quintessential soap villain. Den Watts - or as he was coined by the media - Dirty Den, was a menace to Walford during his original stint with Eastenders back in the late 80’s. Den had all the ingredients to be the most dastardly soap villain around. The late Leslie Grantham’s portrayal of the original Queen Vic landlord was chilling at times. Den was a murdering, wife-beating, adultering so-and-so. Which meant it came as no surprise to see audiences rejoice when he came to his seeming demise in 1989.

To this day, Den Watts remains a part of one of British TV history’s most memorable moments. It’s Christmas Day in 1986, 30 millions Brits gathered around their telly’s post-turkey to witness Den carve out one of the most historic “doof doofs” ever. Divorce papers in hand, jaws to the floor. Simply unforgetable. Relive the spine-tingling moment on YouTube!

Anne Robinson

If Simon Cowell is the archetypal voice of evil for talent shows, then Anne Robinson is his game show counterpart. Quick-witted, prickly, and so, so unrelenting. Robinson has the unwavering ability to make contestants feel miniscule in the space of a millisecond. In one of her finest hours, the former Weakest Link host reduced a bunch of muscle-clad professional wrestlers to quivering messes during a celebrity special of the show.

And the good news is that T3 and T3-R customers can still catch this beautifully chaotic piece of telly over on Youtube! Despite a lukewarm (at best) reception to her current stint as Countdown host, folklore will always remember Anne Robinson as one of British TV’s meanest figures.

Richard Hillman

Has a storyline ever gripped the nation as much? We’re not sure. What we do know is that from 2001-2003 Richard Hillman’s reign of terror on Coronation Street sent shockwaves through the cobbled Weatherfield streets - it even made front page news at its pinnacle. Few soap villains can boast the same impact in such a short space of time. Even fewer can boast such a twisted penchant for homicide.

Brian Capron’s depiction of the serial killing fraudster still gives us chills when we think about it! Such was the seismic impact of Richard as a character, during a 2003 episode where Richard brutally murdered Maxine Peacock, a national power cut occured when the show went off-air as the nation flocked to the loo after the nail biting tension. What a legacy!

Janine Butcher

We’re ending our journey of TV villains by returning to Albert Square. Janine Butcher represents a different dimension of soap baddies. Don’t get us wrong, she was as evil as they come during her original stint that started back in 1999. Despite this, Walford’s favourite villainess had a certain charm and allure that only Charlie Brook could convey. From shoving our beloved Barry off the edge of a cliff, to being charged with Laura Beale’s murder. Janine did the lot, and then some!

We’re totally over the moon to have Janine back on the Square, we know wherever she goes, trouble seems to follow. Expect fireworks, tears, and a trail of destruction in her wake. Just in time for a big Christmas “doof doof”. You can watch every episode of Janine’s return on BBC One and anything missed is available for catch up over on BBC iPlayer.

And there we have it - our 5 favourite villains from British TV history. From the sharp witted, know-it-alls to the just plain evil. Which villains have left you screaming at your tellies? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter, or if you have more to say, email us - we'd love to hear from you!