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Happy Valley’s Tommy Lee Royce voted the UK’s top TV villain


Happy Valley’s Tommy Lee Royce voted the UK’s top TV villain

Happy Valley’s Tommy Lee Royce voted the UK’s top TV villain

He terrorised UK viewers for nine years and now Tommy Lee Royce’s wicked antics in Happy Valley have seen him voted the nation’s top TV bad guy.

Following a thrilling end to the BBC crime drama earlier this month, nearly a fifth (18%) of Brits now see the character as the best small-screen villain, research by streaming service reveals. The violent psychopath, played by James Norton, finished just ahead of Killing Eve’s murderous Villanelle (17.5%), while Dallas’s wicked oil magnate J R Ewing came in third (17%).

Norton’s performance up against Sarah Lancashire’s heroic Sergeant Catherine Cawood had the nation gripped, with 7.5 million viewers tuning in for Happy Valley’s finale, making it the UK’s most-watched show so far this year. It has also sparked calls for the actor to be named the next James Bond.

Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis Moriarty and Coronation Street serial killer Richard Hillman, both with 14% rounded off the top five.

The UK’s favourite TV villains

1 Tommy Lee Royce Happy Valley 2014 to 2023 18%
2 Villanelle Killing Eve 2018 to 2022 17%
3 J R Ewing Dallas 1978 to 1991 17%
4 Richard Hillman Coronation Street 1960 to present 14%
5 Moriarty Sherlock 2010 to 2017 14%
6 “Dirty” Den Watts Eastenders 1985 to present 13%
7 The Master Doctor Who 1963 to present 13%
8 Negan The Walking Dead 2010 to 2021 12%
9 Mr Burns The Simpsons 1989 to present 11%
10 Meena Jutla Emmerdale 1972 to present 11%

However, in the survey by, it’s clear that there are many factors at play when it comes to choosing the best TV baddie.

Tommy Lee Royce’s despicable behaviour had the biggest impact on female viewers, with one in four (26%) selecting him as their top villain, compared with 10% of men. Rolling back the years, JR from Dallas — first played by the late Larry Hagman in 1978 — was the top pick among males with 16%.

While a quarter (26%) of those over 55 chose Tommy Lee Royce as their number one villain, 16-24-year-olds singled out Mr Burns from The Simpsons as their favourite bad guy (18%).

The survey also shows that even for the most monstrous characters, regional loyalty can run deep. In Yorkshire one in four (25%) stood by Calderdale’s Tommy Lee Royce, while Paul Spector from The Fall — played by Irish actor Jamie Doran — was one of Northern Ireland’s favourite TV sinners. Spector was chosen by 24% of respondents in the country, more than double the percentage of any other UK region.

Jeff Richey, TV analyst at

“Following three brilliant series, millions of Brits will now have a Happy Valley-shaped hole in their hearts. Yet as well as the fantastic Sergeant Catherine Cawood, this research shows that in Tommy Lee Royce, the show also delivered a brilliant and despicable baddy. Whether it’s a sci-fi, soap opera or cartoon, a great villain can make a TV show truly memorable long after its final scenes. Many of the criminals and creeps that make up our rogues’ gallery are not on our screens any longer but they continue to be the characters we love to hate.”

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