Track of the Day: 'Baby Blue'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

To commemorate the launch of our “Actual Worst” feature, a bracketed competition to find “the most terrible character in television,” here’s the song from Badfinger that closed out the final episode of Breaking Bad upon the death (or dream?) of Walter White:

A reader makes a predication for our contest:

Calling it now for Joffrey Baratheon. He’s the only one here who A) transcends his own show (by which I mean, people who have never seen or read A Game of Thrones still have a strong idea of what his character represents), and B) is culturally emblematic of pure evil in a way the one other really transcendent character on this list (Walter White) isn’t.

It’s first going to come down to the names people recognize the most. From those, it's then going to come down to which one is most widely understood as a horrible, evil person. (Other interpretations of “worst,” such as those one might use to describe Pete Campbell or Jeremy Jamm, aren’t as viscerally thrilling and will not carry the same weight. Even severely flawed antiheroes like Walter White and Frank Underwood can’t quite muster as strong a response as someone unilaterally presented as evil.) I’d throw Hannibal into the mix if his character hadn’t already been done to death over the last 20 years, but as it stands, even with a new show, he won't invite the same level of excitement as his fresher peers.

Another reader thinks a key character is missing:

Eric Cartman from South Park. I could write a 30-page thesis on Cartman being the worst person ever on television and I’ve had this discussion in the past. Completely invalidates the list.

Tricking a teenager into eating his parents is pretty hard to beat. IMDb has 14 more evil moments from Cartman.