These days, there's no shortage of loud, obnoxious jerks on TV getting paid to basically yell at you, but it wasn't always this way. Until Morton Downey Jr. helped pioneer the new age of television hate in the late '80s, the TV landscape was a much more civil place (with a few exceptions, admittedly.) With Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie, a documentary on Downey's strange career as a toady, in-your-face television asshole, opening at the Sie FilmCenter today, we thought it was a good time to round up the most repulsive television personalities of all time. Although the competition was stiff, when the dust settled we were left with this impressive list of the ten worst perpetrators of history's crimes against televised decency.
We've come to a point in history where "bastard chef" has become a category of television personality. The cream of this awful crop is Gordon Ramsay, the shouting, abusive, hatred-spewing Englishman behindHell's Kitchen
and other shows that feature him being a world-class dickbag to people that (usually) don't really deserve it. Somehow, watching this on television has been classified as entertainment, rather than punishment. Go figure.9) Howard Stern
The self-proclaimed "King of All Media" made his reputation more on the radio than television, but the truth is his obnoxiousness transcends the medium that delivers it. His juvenile humor, sexist sleaze and grating persona would shine through even if he were painting it on a cave wall. And hey, his cretinous caveman persona would feel right at home there!8) Joe Pyne
Old Joe Pyne might not be as familiar as most of the names on this list, but they are all his children in a sense. From the early '50s through the '60s, Pyne pioneered the confrontational style -- albeit a relatively tame version compared to what came after -- on which the majority of this list built a career. Anti-gay, anti-feminist and pro-war, Pyne was a real peach of a man who lived to cater to America's worst instincts, giving everyone from the American Nazi Party to Manson's followers a chance to be on TV (and thus probably paving the way for reality TV as a side effect).7) Nancy Grace
Nancy Grace is venom personified. Her vile, malicious attacks on anyone she perceives as guilty of anything, regardless of the evidence (or lack thereof) have made her a powerful media figure. Why? Because people love to jump to conclusions when those conclusions fulfill their deeply held prejudices -- and that's Grace's stock in trade. It doesn't hurt that she has one of the most grating voices in all of media, and a fashion sense to match it.6) Bill O'Reilly
Arguably the spiritual successor to Morton Downey Jr. himself, Bill O'Reilly's faux populist angry white man shtick has made him the hero of angry white men everywhere. His tendency to shout down, sneer at or simply ignore anyone he disagrees with -- which is pretty much anyone that doesn't get all their "news" from the Rupert Murdoch-run propaganda machine that employs him -- is classless, tasteless and thoroughly unpleasant. And in case you were wondering if it was all an act, O'Reilly has been kind enough to grace us with enough behind-the-scenes flip-outs over the years to prove that, no, he really is that big of a dick. Special bonus: In the late '70s, he did a stint as a TV anchor in Denver.5) Keith Olbermann
Proving that being an enormous prick knows no political boundaries, Keith Olbermann emerged as the left's answer to Bill O'Reilly in the mid-aughts -- not that anyone was really dying for that answer. His snivelling sense of superiority and childish rants against the "worst person in the world" fueled a meteoric rise to the top of the "talking shit on TV" heap. His fame was predicated on being the person to announce that "hey, that George W. Bush sure is a fuckhead" more often and more loudly than anyone else at the precise moment that everyone in America finally came to the same realization. It's a meager claim to fame, but hey, someone was going to coast on it, so why not him? Of course, once Bush was gone, Olbermann suddenly lacked a reason to exist, and so disappeared.4) Donald Trump
Whether he's spewing nonsensical accusations about the president's birthplace or chewing over his tired "You're fired" catchphrase on his reality shitshow, Donald Trump is one annoying gasbag. And if listening to him wasn't annoying enough, there's also looking at him. Seriously dude, that hair. WTF? The only reason he's famous is the enormous piles of money he has, combined with his desire to be, well, famous. See kids, in America, you don't have to be talented or interesting or serve any discernible purpose whatsoever to be famous. You just need a pile of money big enough to drown in and the willingness to use it to promote yourself at every possible opportunity.3) Glenn Beck
Glenn Beck's weepy histrionics, goofball antics and batshit insane conspiracy theories combined to form an unholy trinity of television abrasiveness. His personality was bad enough, but the utter idiocy that poured out every time he opened his mouth put him on a whole other level of awful. To anyone with a cursory knowledge of history, politics or, you know,reality
, everything that came out of Beck's mouth was like nails on a chalkboard, so far from the truth that it was an insult to truth just to listen to him speak. Then, as a bonus, you always got to listen to some mouthbreathing toolbag repeat the same nonsense the next day at work. Fun!2) Ryan Seacrest
Most of the people on this list are here because they are straight up in-your-face abrasive, hateful jerks. Not so much with Seacrest. His brand of annoying comes from the fact that he's a smarmy, slimy twerp of a TV personality, the kind who are typically a dime a dozen on any third-rate entertainment network. A little of that type goes a long way. The problem is, he's fucking everywhere -- you can't escape him. People say that glitter is the herpes of craft supplies -- once you come in contact with it, it gets everywhere and you'll never get rid of it. That makes Seacrest the glitter of TV personalities.1) Morton Downey Jr.
The man who inspired the list deserves the top position on it. It may be hard to remember these days, decades after his brief moment in the limelight, but Downey moved the bar so low that people riding the subway had to duck under it. Screaming in the faces of his guests, calling them a plethora of creatively abusive names -- pablum-puking punk seemed to be a favorite -- and putting the worst of the worst on TV for America to goggle and scream at, Downey built a huge following by being a massive jagoff on TV. His repulsive persona, expletive-laden rants and tendency to incite fistfights put most of the abrasive assholes on this list to shame. That's why he remains the worst, even to this day.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.