Throughout the month of November, we’re soliciting readers’ help to definitively answer an age-old question: Who is the actual worst character on television? We reviewed your submissions, did our own research, and came up with a list of 32 characters across four different categories, who’ll go head to head over the next four weeks until one of them is crowned as the most despicable, unlikeable, flat-out awful (fictional) person on the small screen.
The Case for Robert (Downton Abbey)
Why this character is the actual worst: If he were just a pompous turn-of-the-century mansplainer wrapped up in a velvet dressing gown, that would be one thing, but Robert, Earl of Grantham, actively chooses the establishment over his own family at every possible opportunity. He married Cora for her money like a real impoverished aristocratic heel, then refused to try and challenge the entail on the Downton Abbey estate so that his daughters might inherit some of their mother’s money, preferring to keep his family’s legacy intact and leave his wife’s fortune to a relative stranger.
Worst moment/s: Almost having an affair with Jane the housemaid after his wife miscarried. Losing all of Cora’s money with his terrible investments even after Mary went to the trouble of marrying Matthew Crawley to keep everything in the family. Then getting annoyed when Mary (who inherits half the estate) decides she wants to stop him from running things into the ground again.
Worst trait/s: Asserting his privilege at every opportunity. Jealousy and pettiness. Being the huffiest man in Yorkshire.
Redeeming moments/qualities: Refusing to kick Thomas out of Downton after Thomas was caught kissing Jimmy the footman, and subsequently saving Thomas by persuading Alfred to drop his accusations of “indecent assault.” Basically accepting the news that Marigold was Edith’s illegitimate daughter with a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ —Sophie Gilbert
The Case for Hannah (Girls)
Why this character is the actual worst: Hannah is a chronic ingrate who generally lacks the ability to take responsibility for herself or her actions. Her staggering level of self absorption is both her defining trait and the pillar of her awfulness. Whether she’s begging her parents for money, manipulating friends and boyfriends, brooding about her writing career, or making seriously questionable decisions (and then complaining about them), everything is always about Hannah. But what makes her truly unbearable are the times when she justifies this selfishness as necessary introspection, the product of being a writer or a 20-something woman.
Worst moment/s: When Hannah’s editor abruptly dies and she makes it clear that her primary concern is whether or not her book deal is also dead. The worst part of the scenario isn’t Hannah’s lack of emotion over a man she knew only briefly, or even her hovering around people who are actually grieving in an attempt to further her career. Instead it’s the ease with which she spins a lie by co-opting her friend’s (fictional) story of loss as her own in order to gain attention and rebuff claims that she’s emotionless.
Worst trait/s: Her inability to be alone, even when she moves halfway across the country. The way she whines in a baby voice to her parents.
Redeeming moments/qualities: For all her selfishness, Hannah does in fact care deeply about the people in her life. She clearly loves Adam, and wants the best for her friends, even when they’re at each other’s throats. —Gillian B. White
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.