"Anne Robinson, Simon Cowell, and now me... proving once again that the British are a bunch of [expletive deleted]."
— Jimmy Carr, on the trailer for the US version of Distraction
We can blame Simon Cowell for this. After his success on American Idol, just about every American Reality Show has seen fit to cast a British guy as the snarky, ultra-critical judge.
The Mean Brit will bluntly tell mothers their kid sucks and make two-year-olds cry if their talent isn't good enough for him. The flip side of this is that if he does compliment you, it means you must be really good, and he's usually willing to stake his reputation on anyone who measures up. The other good quality some of them possess is that those who fall short of his standards but need help (or previously impressed him but have lost their way) can expect constructive criticism rather than just barbs. In the worst case, they come across as a bully with a media platform and a fortune picking on people who can't fight back.
Expect him to appear on any show that has an American Title. Call it subtle (or not-so-subtle) nationalism, but note that these people are seen as nasty at home too. Another possible explanation is that several of these reality shows originated in Britain, such as American Idol (from Pop Idol), Dancing With the Stars (from Strictly Come Dancing), and America's Got Talent, which was based on an unaired British pilot which would eventually become Britain's Got Talent.
Compare and Contrast Evil Brit.
As mentioned, Cowell on American Idol and Britain's Got Talent. He's known for his "No... I won't send you home" approach, his cases of hitting his fellow judges' klaxons in Britain's Got Talent and his put-downs, usually to Hopeless Auditionees. Granted, generally he's simply telling the truth, but does so in such a blunt way that it could only be taken as offensive.
Some American Idol viewers took to saying "Paula will give you a pass if you're nice, Randy will give you a pass if you're black, but Simon will only give you a pass if you can actually sing."
Piers Morgan, also known as Piers Moron, on America's Got Talent.
For extra fun, Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell are judges on Britain' s Got Talent and often seem to compete to see who can be the most cruel to the contestants (though Piers will often deliberately go against what Simon said, and praise an act Simon hated, presumably to irritate him, since plenty of these acts really are awful). Admittedly he's far less nasty on Britain's Got Talent than its American counterpart, but he's still capable of some mean put-downs.
Australian Idol's answer to Simon Cowell was Ian "Dicko" Dickson.
Germany has Dieter Bohlen, who manages to cause the majority of all complaints filed with the broadcasting commision.
Peter Jones on American Inventor.
Len Goodman on Dancing with the Stars isn't really mean, but he is much more demanding and less likely to hand out fuzzy, feel-good comments like "I loved your energy!" or "You are a smoldering sex goddess!" than either Carrie Ann or Bruno, and more likely to base his comments on the actual dance. Like Simon, if Len says it was good, it was very good, and his criticisms virtually always relate to something the dancer needs to work on. On the other hand, if a performance was genuinely bad he won't pull his punches, as during the second season when he told Master P essentially 'You don't care, you aren't trying, you don't belong here, it's time for you to go home.' in the third week.
Whereas on the British equivalent Strictly Come Dancing, his judging style is relatively lenient compared to Craig.
Toby Young on Top Chef. He started out as this trope in trumps, his comments about the contestants' food being incredibly snarky and including comparisons to WMDs and cat food. He admitted in his blog on Bravo that he had no idea what the show was about when he accepted the job, and assumed that what the producers were hiring him for was to be the Mean Brit. Once he realized that he was expected to actually critique the food, not just criticize it, he got a bit better. But not enough better to get the producers to keep him on for another season, though.
"Nasty" Nigel Lythgoe (who is bringing his show to the UK) held the title before Simon Cowell.
Gordon Ramsay acts this way in his shows Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares, although it is arguable that the show's producers gave him directions to do so. At times his temper becomes too much to handle that it pushes buttons and some contestants will once in a while lose control and lash back at him. On the other hand, any aspiring chef who makes it through his tutelage must have truly worked hard and honed their skills, as well as when praise and enthusiasm is due, Ramsay will give it to the deserving.
He tends to keep his temper relative to his expectations: screw-ups by culinary professionals—restauranteurs, chefs, waiters, etc.(who frankly should know better)—will get the full brunt of his wrath, while non-professionals (like those who appear on The F Word) are treated much more patiently.
He'll also- after an initial collective dressing-down- give calm and fairly sympathetic advice to chefs or middle-managers who have been placed in impossible situations by the people they work for, such as being hopelessly under-trained or given inadequate time and materials.
Begley in Neurotically Yours is British. He's also very mean, but so is pretty much everyone else.
David Mitchell's "incredibly posh and aristrocratic" character in That Mitchell and Webb Look. He takes a number of different jobs like waiter, clothes store clerk, or vicar. He always gets contrasted to "that friendly australian girl" who used to work in his place.
Waiter:"I saw you in here last week. I saw you drinking your soup. I saw you blowing and slurping and dunking your bread. We were watching you on the monitors in the kitchen, and we all thought you were a dick!"
Store Clerk:"I've seen you in here before. I've seen you slouching around the place with your slip-on shoes and your motorcycle jacket, looking like a mechanic who won the pools. I've seen your tin earring and your black marketeer swager. We've all seen you, and we thought you were a turd!"
Vicar:"I saw you in here last week. I saw you reading the notices and talking about your views. and eating other peoples' biscuits. We were watching you from the vestry, and we all thought you were a bitch!"
Webb gets a turn as the Mean Brit in the "Hole in the Ring" sketch, parodying Anne Robinson. The problem is that he's not very good at it - his insults degenerate into calling people "gay" and flipping off the audience.
The Psych episode "American Duos" parodies American Idol, with Tim Curry playing the Simon Cowell role.
The Simpsons got Simon Cowell to play a parody of himself as a staff member at an exclusive preschool in which Marge was trying to enroll Maggie. At the end of the episode, Simon's snark finally pushes Homer to violence...and he proceeds to criticize Homer's beating.
"Simon": You call that a punch? I felt it, but it was like, "so what?" (punched) Ooh, again with the nose. I have a chin, you know. (knocked out)
Then Simon plays as himself in another episode, in which Moe Syzlak winds up as an American Idol judge after becoming a Jerkass. Simon convinces Moe that being the Mean Brit is a lonely life — which is just a ploy to make Moe look weak and eliminate him as a potential threat for Simon's job.