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The line between good guys and bad guys has gotten grayer and grayer among some of the more complex and compelling TV shows airing these days. Those looking for a male character who's a beacon of hope, goodwill and high morals can head into theaters this weekend to catch the highly anticipated Man of Steel. Those looking for more of a dark side in their hero (or anti-hero) have only to turn on the television in the coming weeks. We looked over the Summer TV line-up and found that this year's scripted programming has a pretty fantastic selection of bad-boy characters looking primed to cause some trouble.
Whether they're villainous, mischievous, dangerous or simply trouble-making, here are eight TV bad boys headed for the small screen this summer (ordered by series premiere date).
Ben "The Butcher" Diamond - Magic City
Magic City presents Miami in the fifties, a city of bright colors, glitz and glamour, with cool costumes and even cooler cars. On the surface, Miami is a picturesque but fast-paced town, but at its heart, the city is hopping, thanks to gangsters and gamblers and men willing to cut and make under-the-table deals. In Magic City, the best of the worst is Ben Diamond, a high-end city mobster who skillfully negotiates (read: bribes) the police, doesn’t take crap from anyone, and has managed to carve out a kingly niche for himself in Miami.
Diamond isn’t your usual bootlegging thinking man. Known as “The Butcher,” he’s brilliant and cruel, and while he sometimes sends henchmen to do his dirty work for him, he more often than not is perfectly happy to get his hands messy, as well. Nothing was as frightening and impression-forming as watching Diamond kill his own dog while it was playing with his wife by the pool in Season 1, and with so many unresolved plotlines and so much promised intrigue ahead in Season 2, he’ll be the biggest baddie around this summer.Magic City returns Friday, June 14 at 9:00 p.m. ET on Starz.
Bill Compton - True Blood
It’s a strange world that sees True Blood’s Bill Compton on this list. Compton’s a vampire, true, but he’s also a fine southern gentleman, Sookie’s former lover and a man with true power and esteem in his community. Bill has a shown the ability to be absent emotion and even nefarious, however his brand new path as a god-beast full of religious vampire fervor has made it clear the man will be a straight-up bad boy moving forward. In truth, there’s nothing else many fans would rather see.
Instead of the dully romantic Sookie-Eric-Bill love triangle, all previews indicate that Season 6 of True Blood will have some real stakes, both for humans and for the supernatural communities. At the heart of this is Bill’s new form and capabilities, which HBO’s teasers have indicated, includes an ability to walk in the daylight. That should make him uniquely capable of playing an integral part in setting up the war between vampires and humanity that’s coming, and given his newfound outlook, we can only guess how bloody the battles will be. True Blood returns Sunday, June 16 on HBO.
Bender - Futurama
"Bite my shiny metal ass!" You can't have a list of bad boys without Bender Bending Rodriguez, the baddest bot in the universe. Well, baddest bending-unit in the universe, he's no Robot Devil or Santa or anything. But with Futurama gearing up for their final season on Comedy Central, expect all out, no holds barred debauchery from Bender. Not that he ever really held back, smoking, boozing and stealing his way through his time as a member of the Planet Express crew. Oh, he also occasionally calls for the death of all humans. You know, just your average lovable tramp.
In Season 7A alone the surly robot fathered an illegitimate son, served his best friends as sausage (or so he thought) and became a paparazzo. And we've already gotten a glimpse of a few of the baseless acts that Bender gets up to during the (second half of the) seventh season with the first trailer showing the robot, voiced by John DiMaggio (an added bonus for Adventure Time fans is getting to hear a foul mouthed Jake) at his worst, whether it's trying to mug his best friends at carrot-point, desecrating some bones or simply tap dancing on all of their heads. Looks like good fun! Futurama returns with special back-to-back episodes starting at 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 19 on Comedy Central.
Wilfred - Wilfred
Wilfred might be the only one on the list that actually gets called a ‘bad boy.’ The phrase is just something owners have to occasionally say to man’s best friend, even (or especially) if that man’s best friend is a man in a dog suit. Technically, Wilfred’s ontological status is more a matter of perception and certainly up for debate but his depravity on the other hand is unquestionable. Jason Gann’s titular canine is one sick puppy and it’s always a lot of fun watching him get Elijah Wood’s Ryan in over his head. Or just hanging out on the couch in the basement smoking a bong, scratching himself and shooting the shit.
And the bad boys are coming back to FX just in time for the dog days of summer with the third season of the existential comedy starting next week. It seems impossible that the two could possibly get into more trouble or engage in any more disgusting(ly hilarious) behavior than they have these last two years - one especially intimate encounter resulted in the owner getting doused in doggy ejaculate - but let’s hope the new showrunners can somehow unleash even more twisted laughs. Wilfred returns with special back-to-back episodes starting at 10 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 20 on FX (surprisingly not FXX). Things should get ruff.
Big Jim Rennie - Under the Dome
Assuming his Under the Dome character Big Jim Rennie is anything like the character featured in Stephen King's novel, we should expect to see a darker side of Dean Norris come June 24 when the CBS series makes its debut. Big Jim's not just a big fish in the small pond that is Chester's Mill, he's the big fish, and when that pond becomes a fishbowl, Jim's thirst for power expands. The novel's version of the character is successful in business and politics, manipulative and cunning, and worst of all, he's convinced that his way is the right way. He presents himself as an upstanding, law-abiding citizen, while in truth, he's anything but.
Those of us who know Dean Norris from his role as DEA Agent Hank Schrader in Breaking Bad know that the actor can play up the good-guy law enforcer type beautifully, and that may serve him well in his portrayal of Big Jim when the character is showing his good-guy face. But there's a dark side to this character and one Norris may be just as perfectly suited to reveal. Big Jim's not the kind of guy you want to get on the wrong side of, and when the dome drops down, make no mistake, he wants to be calling the shots. And he's not the only bad boy under the dome. We'll also want to keep an eye out for Big Jim's son Junior (Alexander Koch), who has his own dark side to hide.
Dexter Morgan - Dexter
Dexter Morgan’s life was once a serial killer’s compartmentalized dream. With the occasional exception, he murdered those who wouldn’t be missed or those who good-hearted people knew they shouldn’t look for. That code has slowly gone out the window over the years, but at no point has there ever been more loose ends than at this very moment. One of those famous Miami hurricanes is about to descend on the entire homicide department, and it’s hard to imagine how Dexter is going to be able to kill his way out of it.
Maybe he’ll head for Argentina. Maybe he’ll walk into a police station to save those he loves. Maybe he’ll go on a murderous tear unlike anything we’ve ever seen. There is an incredible number of possible ways the writers could choose to end Dexter’s thrilling eight season run, and in Michael C. Hall’s capable hands, there’s no reason to think we won’t all be glued to the television for every last gory, pulsating and macabre detail. As bad boys go, this blood spatter analyst is truly the most sociopathic. Dexter's final season premieres Sunday, July 30 at 9:00 p.m. ET on Showtime.
Ray Donovan - Ray Donovan
Of all of these bad boys, Ray Donovan may be the biggest mystery, given that this is a new show, which hasn't actually premiered yet. But we've gotten a peek at Showtime's new series and there's definitely a dark side to Liev Schreiber's character. Ray Donovan is a man who lives by his own moral code, making a living in Los Angeles by fixing the problems and cleaning up the messes of his wealthy clientele. On the surface, he's as cool as a cucumber and reserved enough to fit in among the sophisticated Hollywood elite, but behind that stubbled face and soothing deep voice is a guy from south Boston who knows how to crack his knuckles and get the job done.
Ray Donovan certainly has the bad-boy edge, but he's also a husband and father trying to do right by his family. And he's not numb to the things he's dealing with. That adds a layer of depth to the character and this series. Jon Voight's character Mickey, Ray's father, also has a dark side, though he's well versed at concealing that with his charismatic personality. Both Schreiber and Voight's performances as dark male characters are two reasons to keep an eye out for Ray Donovan when it premieres on Showtime on Sunday, June 30 after the Dexter premiere.
Walter White - Breaking Bad
When Breaking Bad began, Bryan Cranston’s Walter White was an incompetent, bumbling wannabe criminal with some science knowhow, serious money problems and a worrisome expiration date. Now he’s a cold-hearted, scary and largely unsympathetic bastard who sports both a body count and more money than he can launder. Watching that transformation has been nothing short of incredible, but it has also left an uneasy lingering feeling that this won’t end with anything other than destruction. Walt/ Heisenberg has come too far to simply trot into the sunset with his riches and his family.
There are three types of bad guys. Those who do some reckless shit but are basically good-hearted (like Fonzie), those who are straight up evil and villainous in damn near everyway (like Russell Edgington) and those who occupy some middle ground in which they sometimes display a good heart and are sometimes horrendous human beings (like Tony Soprano). Walt started as that first category, but over the years, he’s most definitely tumbled into the third category. If nothing else, these final episodes beg to be a battle for our hero’s soul. Will he continue the descent into villainy, or will he start thinking like a science teacher again? We’ll see. Breaking Bad returns Sunday, August 11 on AMC.