Happy Valley's Tommy Lee Royce, played by James Norton, is voted the UK's top TV villain

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He terrorised UK viewers for nine years on Happy Valley and Tommy Lee Royce has been 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 WatchTVAbroad.com 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%).

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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.

Tommy Lee Royce (JAMES NORTON). Picture: BBC/Lookout Point/Matt SquireTommy Lee Royce (JAMES NORTON). Picture: BBC/Lookout Point/Matt Squire
Tommy Lee Royce (JAMES NORTON). Picture: BBC/Lookout Point/Matt Squire

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

However, in the survey by WatchTVAbroad.com, 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%.

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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%).

Jeff Richey, TV analyst at WatchTVAbroad.com, said: “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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