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News Article

TV's Top Five Devils

He goes by many names: Satan. Lucifer. Beelzebub. Dark Lord. Antichrist. Any way you slice it, the Devil is the Devil, the original bad guy. After last week, when we doted on Santas, let's take a look at Satans. I've pulled five of my favorite portrayals from TV. Who are your favorites?

Ray Wise, Reaper

Slick and smarmy, Ray Wise seems a natural to play The Devil. In Reaper, he made a deal with Sam's parents: he will grant them a son if he gets said son's soul at age 21. But this Devil is more of a businessman than being of indescribable horror. He uses Sam to recapture the souls that have escaped from hell - it's just bad business to let them run free. He is always impeccably dressed, rarely loses his temper, and has a penchant for ice cream (which he can't eat - God cursed him so that ice cream melts if he tries to eat it).

Fun Fact: Wise was also Laura Palmer's father, Leland, in Twin Peaks. Many fans and critics considered his character (who molested and eventually killed his daughter) a parable to the devil.

Killer Quote:  "What? You don't like banana splits? What are you - some kind of commie?"

Mark Pellegrino, Supernatural

Pellegrino is becoming something of a genre TV mainstay. Besides Supernatural, he was the main vampire bad guy in Being Human; Rita's junkie ex-husband in Dexter; the highest authority of the Others in Lost; he even appeared in an episode of the short-lived anthology show Fear Itself. In Supernatural, Lucifer's origins and motivations are pretty close to the traditional Bible stories: war against God; refusal to bow to humans; banished to hell.

Key Moment: Possessing Sam Winchester in order to bring about the apocalypse. The Winchesters prevent the end of the world, but not before Lucifer decimates Sam's brain.

Killer Quote: "Sorry if it's a bit chilly. Most people think I burn hot, it's actually quite the opposite."

Burgess Meredith, The Twilight Zone [Episode: "Printer's Devil"]

Newspaper editor Doug Winters is suicidal. His beloved Courier is being driven out of business by the Gazette. So when he gets a too-good-to-be-true offer from a mysterious Mr. Smith (who will not only pay off the Courier's debts, but work for free), Winters doesn't think twice. Naturally, Mr. Smith is actually the devil, and scoops other papers by causing the tragedies that become the headlines. Winters actually signs the devil's contract, but outsmarts him in the end. Burgess Meredith portrays Mr. Smith as witty, yet menacing; charming, yet dangerous.

Fun Fact: This was Meredith's fourth and final appearance in The Twilight Zone, and his only time playing the bad guy.

Killer Quote: "What good is a soul, anyway? It's sort of like an appendix these days, particularly since it doesn't exist in the first place."

Gary Cole, American Gothic

Cole's portrayal of Sheriff Lucas Buck in American Gothic could probably be considered his "breakout" role. I know that was where I first saw him, and for years and years, every time I saw him in a new role, I identified him as "Lucas Buck." Sheriff Buck was as corrupt as they get, with rape, murder, and supernatural manipulation to his name. While technically never called "the devil," it is generally accepted that Cole's character is Satan on Earth.

Key Moment: Buck raped Judith Temple while her young daughter, Merlyn watched. Merlyn had a mental breakdown, and Judith killed herself shortly after giving birth to Caleb, the product of the rape, taking with her the secret of Caleb's paternity. A decade later, Buck kills Merlyn and "manipulates" Caleb's "father" into suicide in order to adopt Caleb. Yeah, that all happens in the first episode.

Fun Fact: Evan Rachel Wood appeared in three episodes.

Killer Quote: "Only two roads in this world. And if you're listening to anyone but me, you're on the wrong one."

Robert Englund, Married With Children [Episode: "Damn Bundys"]

In an episode in the last season of the sitcom, Al sells his soul to the devil so he can take the Bears to the Super Bowl. That devil is played with glee by Robert Englund. When Lucifer comes to collect, Al enjoys hell too much (no wife, no kids, no neighbors), so Lucifer brings the family to hell. Desperate to win his soul back, Al plays the devil for it. His team consists of Peg, Kelly, Bud, Marcy, and Jefferson, while Lucifer is backed by Genghis Kahn, Erik the Red, Attila the Hun, Brutus, and Goliath.

Fun Fact: "Damn Bundys" was part of a The Mask promo on Fox. Several shows were gussied up with special effects similar to those in the Jim Carrey movie. In the late 1990s, sitcoms were still three-camera shoots, filmed in front of a studio audience, so putting in movie-quality special effects was a huge deal. If you watch the episode today, the effects don't really hold up.

Killer Quote: Al: Peg? Jefferson? 

Lucifer: They can't hear you. I've frozen them. 

Al: Please! These are two of the laziest people in the world. You want to impress me, make them get jobs. 

Lucifer: I'm the devil, not a genie.

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