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Harmless Villain: Live-Action TV
  • All of the Batman villains from the 60s television series qualify for this trope. Very much so.
    • Oddly, this is why minor villains from the comics were resurrected (Clock King, a Green Arrow villain, was actually made more competent on the TV show, and the Riddler only had two appearances in the comics, over a decade before the show). Characters from the comics were either too high budget to replicate (the comic having long since taken on sci-fi elements), or else were still too legitimately frightening to be turned camp, like Clayface and Two-Face. The bulk of the show's villains were created expressly for it.
    • Somewhat subverted by, of all people, the Penguin! The Penguin was one of the few Batman villains more closely resembling mob bosses in the Dick Tracy style than murderous psychopaths of pulp era, and writers had been writing such characters for decades on television despite the limits of violence allowed. The Penguin's crimes were still over the top, but he was usually the ringleader in stories with multiple villains, and his crimes, while still campy, were typically more threatening than his fellows', like stealing a nuclear sub or engaging in brainwashing and blackmail. It's telling that the Dark Age Tim Burton appearance of the character surprised so many people, as many fans thought the Penguin needed little such change.
    • Depending on the Writer, they could turn out to be Not so Harmless Villains, especially in those early episodes. Bear in mind most episodes do end with a cliffhanger in which the heroes are placed in a Death Trap of an often quite violent nature; even if they always escape it in the next one, that doesn't mean the villains are harmless, only that Batman and Robin are just that awesome / lucky / invincible. The Riddler in particular is a giggling psychopath worse than even The Joker (who is not as harmless as he is popularly remembered either, though) and is the one who most clearly enjoys his attempts to kill the duo horribly.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Harmony is so brainless that Buffy outright laughed her ass off when told that Harmony could be a threat to her. ("Harmony has MINIONS? BWAAAAHAHAHAHAH!!") If not for the fact that she has killed and fed on a few civilians (which she really only did because, well, she's a vampire) you'd feel sorry for her.
    • Warren and his fellow members of the Trio started out this way. They were Big Bad Wannabes that Buffy didn't take all that seriously. Warren's evolution into a genuine villain (so much so that he's a sinister Mad Scientist type working for the government in the canonical season 8 comics) was a major part of his character arc, while Jonathan remained this trope perfectly and Andrew wound up carrying out a Heel-Face Turn (though he was never really all that much of a heel to begin with. It was more of a case of Love Makes You Evil as he was obviously in love with Warren).
    • Most vampires. They act tough, and do regularly murder people, but only handful last more than one appearance before being dusted, posing little threat to Buffy.
    • Spike. Oh God, Spike. He was a genuine threat when he first appeared, but after he got the chip in his head, the idea that he might actually do anything that made a difference was laughable. That is, right up until he used the fact that they no longer considered him a threat to break up their group and leave Buffy vulnerable to the season's Big Bad.
  • In the early days of Xena: Warrior Princess, Joxer the Mighty tried numerous times, in a single episode, to take Gabrielle prisoner for Callisto. He failed (hard) each time, to the point where Gabrielle felt bad for him and tried to cheer him up. At which point, he lunged again, and she punched him in the face...again.
  • Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!
    • And from the same show, the team of villains who commit such dastardly crimes as acquiring valuable watches by paying the exact price for them.
      Mook: Look! I don't like this outfit.
      Boss: Why not?
      Mook: Well, we never break the bloody law!
      Boss: ...What d'you mean?!
      Mook: Well, look at that bank job we did last week.
      Boss: What was wrong with that?
      Mook: Well having to go in there with a mask on and ask for 15 out of my deposit account; that's what was wrong with it.
  • "The Hierarchy" from Star Trek: Voyager. Think Doctor Who's Sontarans if they were spineless Chess Club members with a grudge against the football jocks. Actually, despite being ripoffs of the Sontarans visually, they are actually a blend of TNG's Pakleds (slow-witted) and Ferengi (greedy scavengers). They remain the only race in Trek to be thwarted by a home video of someone LARPing. With this said, they do have genuinely threatening technology (even if they stole most of it — which is entirely possible, them being greedy scavengers and all — they do know how to maintain and replicate it, which is more than can be said for the Pakleds).
  • Doctor Clayton Forrester from Mystery Science Theater 3000. He wants to take over the world...but he's not very good at it.
  • Subverted in The Wire, where most cops, lawyers, and other drug kingpins treat Marlo Stanfield as a small threat who isn't much to worry about. By season 4, you've got AT LEAST 22 vacant houses filled up.
  • After being demoted to producer in NewsRadio, Dave decides to become, in his own words, "pure evil", and ruthlessly work his way back up to the top. But not by getting his replacement Lisa fired - oh, no, that would be wrong. His diabolical scheme involves letting Bill make a fool of himself on the air and thus getting himself fired, get Lisa discredited, and have himself put back on as news director. Unfortunately, Bill's antics garner the station's best ratings ever, and Evil Dave was foiled forever.
  • Josh Koscheck was all set to be the villain of The Ultimate Fighter's Season 12, having graduated the first season as a Jerk Ass who'd defeated the sympathetic Chris Leben and remained perpetually at the top echelon of his division (despite stinging losses to Georges St-Pierre and Paulo Thiago), and even openly admitted that he was playing the villain to hype the eventual title fight with St-Pierre...only to appear as one of the show's worst-ever coaches, gullible enough to abandon his intended first draft pick because he saw another fighter atop GSP's "draft list" in big bold letters, an advocate of "mindless training", unable to impart his own winning ways onto his roster, encouraging his team to behave disrespectfully (culminating in the team banging on the wall separating the teams to taunt the losing Team GSP fighter), and whose attempted insults or pranks were almost always effortlessly brushed off, leaving Koscheck either looking like an inept high school jock stereotype or oddly fixated on GSP's tight short-shorts and body, and wanting to get his hands on GSP's sixth-picked fighter. So much for Older and Wiser...
  • Nevel of iCarly. Starts out trying to steal a kiss from Carly, then upgrades to...trying to destroy iCarly. Great villain.
  • Bulk and Skull were never considered "villains" on Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers but their status as "bullies" in season 1 seem dubious at best. They were pretty ineffectual and more often than not the butt of jokes. It's no wonder that after season 1 the bullies status was all but dropped.

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