Has ‘Big Love’ Bill become cable’s biggest bastard?

Paxton In cable’s ongoing competition to replace Tony Soprano as the most dastardly lead male on TV, Don Draper of “Mad Men” and Walter White of “Breaking Bad” are rapidly losing ground to none other than “Big Love” narcissist Bill Hendrickson.

Don plays fast and loose with the ladies, but it’s not as if he’s ever juggling more at a time (or neglecting more family members) than the polygamist Bill. Meanwhile, Don almost never makes a misstep on the professional level —  he brings an exceedingly moral code to the workplace.

Walter is a tougher man for Bill to beat. Manufacturing crystal meth was bad enough when it was the reluctant path of a desperate, ill man — Walter’s full-on embrace of the endeavor in season two bordered on evil, and the way he let Jesse’s girlfriend Jane expire crossed the line.

Starting next month, when season three of “Bad” premieres, viewers will see whether Walter strays further down the dark path. But any changes of heart will certainly open the door for Bill, who showed in Sunday’s episode of “Big” just how relentless — and almost remorseless — his ambitions are. Business partner Don was thrown under the anti-polygamist bus, while son Ben was shown the door for a transgression that at worst should have earned a friendly dose of family therapy.

Bill thinks his goal to legitimize polygamy justifies his behavior, but even his closest supporters are dubious, and there’s plenty of evidence that the quest is more about Bill’s self-aggrandizement than any greater good. Meanwhile, Bill puts his family and friends at risk of real harm and reigns judgment upon those whose betrayals are lesser evils.

Bill has typically been hard not to like, despite his flaws, but when your behavior reeks of more egotism, insensitivity and delusion than Nicki’s, you’re headed for a very bad place. Ultimately, Walter might retain the crown of cable’s best bastard because of the effect his activities have on society, but without a change-of-heart or a comeuppance, Bill certainly is rocking the potential to be the worst family man on the cable block.

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