tv

"Sorry, Don Draper." The 8 best TV shows about the worst people, ranked.

In TV land, there are many objectively terrible people.

There's something so entertaining about the plights of people who suck. Psychology probably tells us it's something about making us feel better about our own, less screwed up lives. Maybe it's because they can get away with things we can't. Maybe it's just because no matter how you look at it, a chemistry teacher-turned-drug kingpin is interesting as hell.

Whatever the reason, this is what I am here to talk about today: television's worst people. The kinds of people who, in real life, you'd avoid at all costs, but whom you can't look away from when they're on your TV. 

These are the jerks we love to hate (or hate to love), but enjoy watching nonetheless. 

Some of the greatest TV shows of all time are about the absolute worst people. Here are my top eight, ranked:

8. Arrested Development.

Arrested Development follows the Bluths, a former wealthy dysfunctional family who can't give up their extravagant lifestyle.

All of the Bluths are terrible people. Yes, even Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman), the show's supposed 'good guy' is pretty sh*tty. There's emotional abuse, "light treason", alcoholism, inappropriate relationships, a running gag about incest... the list goes on.

But heck, it's damn enjoyable to watch their completely outrageous shenanigans.

Where to watch: Disney+.

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7. The White Lotus.

The White Lotus is a cringey, funny and moreish murder mystery about a dysfunctional group of guests at a luxury resort in Hawaii. 

It's also a critique of terrible, rich (mostly) white people.

Whether it's Steve Zahn's Mark, who sarcastically asks if his family should "cede their privilege" to right the wrongs of the past or Jake Lacy's man-baby Shane, who expects everything to be done his way without him having to ask: all of these characters are so blinded by their own social standing they cannot fathom a world that isn't revolved around them.

The White Lotus is absurd, like a funhouse mirror held up at those with the most power in society. And that's what makes it so intriguing. 

Where to watch: Binge.

6. Dexter.

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Dexter (Michael C. Hall) is a forensic technician specialising in bloodstain pattern analysis in Miami. Oh, and he's also a literal serial killer, leading a secret life as a vigilante who hunts down murderers who haven't been adequately punished by the justice system.

No matter how charming he is, and how er... 'ethically' he tries to go about murdering people, he's still murdering people and that is not great.

I stumbled upon a Reddit thread with some amazing mental gymnastics about how Dexter is a good person, but none of that can change the fact he's manipulative and responsible for a number of innocent deaths - and the only reason he doesn't kill more innocent people is because of childhood conditioning. 

Dexter, the person, sucks! Dexter, the show, does not!

Where to watch: rentable on Apple TV.

5. Veep.

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Veep is a political satire following former senator turned vice president turned - spoiler alert - President of the United States, Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). She is - and I cannot stress this enough - the absolute worst.

In fact, every character on this show bar two (Clea DuVall's Marjorie and Sam Richardson's Richard) is a terrible human being.

Veep is chaotic, petty, corrupt and back-stabby, but the terribleness is also laugh-out-loud funny, especially because absolutely nothing ever actually works out for Meyer et al.

One of my fave shows of all time.

Where to watch: Binge.

4. Succession.

Have you ever been so immensely satisfied while watching such a reprehensible family?

Succession is a satirical dramedy centred on the Roy family, the dysfunctional owners of a global media and entertainment conglomerate, who are fighting each other and outside forces for control of the company. Yes, it is loosely based around the Murdochs. That's what makes it even more juicy.

The Roys are HORRIBLE people, but I would happily watch Succession for the rest of time. It nails everything: the privilege and the power of the extremely wealthy, all with an eyebrow raise that acknowledges how absurd it all is.

Season three cannot come soon enough.

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Where to watch: Binge.

3. Mad Men.

Mad Men is a period drama about advertisers in the 1960s, centred on charismatic creative director Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and everyone in his orbit.

During Mad Men's run (2007-2015), everyone wanted to be - or be with - Don, but Don is flawed as hell. He's charming and looks very good in a suit, but he's also a fraud, a serial cheater, a terrible father and a lousy boss. 

Even Hamm thinks so: "I'm always surprised when people are like, 'I want to be just like Don Draper,'" he told Time magazine in 2014. "I'm like, 'You want to be a miserable drunk?' I don't think you want to be anything like that guy. The actual guy's rotting from the inside out and has to pull it together."

Plus, the other characters aren't too flash either (except Peggy, I won't accept Peggy slander): Roger is an arrogant racist and Pete Campbell is just... such a d*ck. 

The thing is though, Mad Men is so good - one of the best ever - and you can't help but be invested in the characters' lives and want them to be happy despite it all.

Where to watch: Stan and Amazon Prime Video.

2. The Sopranos.

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The Sopranos is one of the most memorable shows in history, but for the uninitiated: it follows the life of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) as he navigates the challenges of being both the leader of a criminal organisation and a family man.

Both worlds are inherently intertwined, and it turns out being a mob boss requires you to be an angry arsehole and do some very unpleasant things. There are countless infidelities, murders and crimes, but the expert writing of The Sopranos portrays him so sympathetically that we still root for Tony throughout the entire show. 

And Tony Soprano was the blueprint for the complicated, terribly flawed characters that came after him: Don Draper was one, as was Walter White.

Where to watch: Binge.

1. Breaking Bad.

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Walter White is no doubt the villain in Breaking Bad. The high school chemistry teacher produces and distributes crystal meth to secure his family's future after his recent stage-three cancer diagnosis.

At first, Walter appears as a good man doing bad things for noble reasons. We start out sympathising with him, excusing his actions and wanting him to succeed, even though that requires him to commit terrible crimes. 

But then as the series goes on, Walter goes off a cliff. He, as the title suggest, breaks bad.

This is what makes Breaking Bad so compelling: Walter is evil, but we can still identify with him. He's manipulative, controlling and destructive of everything in his path, and yet the audience still has a smidge of admiration for him. Do we like him? Do we hate him? The answer doesn't really matter, because we'd be along for the journey no matter what.

Where to watch: Stan.

Chelsea McLaughlin is Mamamia's Senior Entertainment Writer. For more pop culture takes, sarcasm and... cat content, you can follow her on Instagram.

Feature image: AMC/HBO.

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