We’re living in what’s been called “the golden age of television,” but it hasn’t always been that way. The silver screen was the goal for most actors, and TV was the lesser platform. Now, famous movie stars are fighting to get recognition in the more personal world of the small-screen.
Of course, with progress comes missteps. Some of the most hated TV shows of all time were released in the last 10 years. This list is a compilation of series that span decades, genres, and distribution platforms. From cringe-worthy ‘90s sitcoms to the horrors of reality programming, these are 25 of the worst TV shows ever made, ranked by personal opinion.
25. Skins (U.S.) (2011)
America has a long tradition of taking things the British made (well) and making them terrible. OK, that’s not entirely true, but when it comes to adapting U.K. TV shows, Hollywood rarely gets it right. One such example is Skins. Based on the E4 series of the same name, Skins follows a group of rebellious teens engaging in very, well, teenage behaviors.
The original drama covered various topics like drug abuse, mental illness, and the exploration of sexuality, but from a youthful perspective. The show cast real teenagers, typically complete unknowns, and actually consulted and drew from the experiences of young writers. It was a huge success in the U.K., so they decided to adapt it for American audiences.
A few big mistakes were made here. First, the pilot was a shot-for-shot remake of the original’s. Going in a slightly different direction is how remakes actually succeed (see Shameless). This may have also solved the other major issue: Laws and attitudes are different in the U.S. Controversy over the show’s content was immediate and intense, and it ultimately wasn’t picked up for a second season.
24. Strike It Rich (1947–1957)
Speaking of controversy, this game show, which aired for a decade, certainly stirred up a lot of it. Beginning as a radio program in 1947, Strike It Rich became a popular CBS offering, even evolving into a prime time offshoot for a few years.
The premise of the show was simple: Contestants, most of whom have been down on their luck, compete for a large sum of money. A charitable idea, but with any good intention come issues. Many abhorred the show for exploiting the poor, while others argued that there were too many people desperate to make it on the show, making it so the program couldn’t deliver on its promises.
What’s most interesting is that the show has been essentially wiped from the network’s history. Most recordings of Strike It Rich have been destroyed, and attempts to reboot it in later years (understandably) failed.
23. Maury (1991–present)
Another long-airing show, only this one is still on. With more than 25 seasons under its belt, Maury (formerly known as The Maury Povich Show) continues to delight and disgust audiences. The daytime talk show features the eponymous host as he eggs on his guests and delivers controversial information.
Though similar shows exist (most comparable is The Jerry Springer Show), Maury scrapes the very bottom of the barrel, not even attempting to offer anything other than mindless, disturbing entertainment. The show has become best known for commonly discussing paternity tests, and the shouted declaration of who is the biological father of the poor child in question.
Sex, deceit, domestic abuse, and “out of control” teenagers are also featured frequently, catering to the lowest common denominator. What writer Whitney Matheson said more than 15 years ago is truer today than ever before: “It’s high time someone showed Maury Povich the door.”
22. The Brady Bunch Hour (1976)
Some of the worst shows (several of which made this list) clearly come from the minds of network executives. They secure a hit, and then, in order to hold onto that, create spinoffs that no one was looking for. The Brady Bunch Hour definitely meets that criteria.
A couple of years after the original The Brady Bunch series ended, the producers of the Donnie & Marie variety show created a reunion, “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour,” as an ABC pilot. Somehow, almost all of the original cast members were assembled (with the exception of Eve Plumb, who played middle daughter, Jan), and 13 episodes were planned. The entirely original premise was that the Brady family moved to Los Angeles in order to put on a variety show.
The revival series was a complete bomb, with only nine of the episodes ever coming to fruition. Few of the cast members had any real musical talent, and rumors of what went on behind-the-scenes have far outlived the content of the show itself. The series has been parodied numerous times over the years.
21. A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila (2007–2008)
Since MTV scored big with The Real World in 1992, reality TV has reigned supreme. It has its place on subjects such as home improvement, addiction, and many, many more, but nowhere is reality TV as prominent and divisive than the dating competition show. And no one makes for a better star of this kind of show than a fame-hungry lunatic. Enter A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila.
Tila Tequila was a social media celebrity in the MySpace age, who was at the time, actively pursuing a career in entertainment wherever she could find it, be it as a singer, a model, or a TV personality. As an openly bisexual woman, the concept of the show was identical to that of The Bachelor, only the competing individuals were both straight men and lesbian women.
Unsurprisingly, the show faced a lot of controversy, most of which came from conservative groups who were against the gay community. However, others reported that Tila had a boyfriend during the taping of the show, and after Bobby Banhart won the show, he claimed that and Tila never even dated.
As bizarre as all of that is, things have gotten even stranger for Tila in the last decade: She’s now a recovering drug addict and supporter of the (alt-right) National Policy Institute, a research foundation that believes that the Earth is flat.
20. The Tom Green Show (1994–2000)
Many comedians have tried their hand at their own sketch show, but few have truly succeeded. The perfect formula is impossible to calculate, but likely combines elements such as the right network, timing, demand, and a plan for longevity.
Though it ran for three seasons, The Tom Green Show lacked another crucial aspect: an at least semi-likable host. Green’s brand of humor is definitely not for everyone, nor is it really for most. The show was simply concentrated Tom Green; gross pranks and a lot of value placed on shock factor.
Despite all of this, the show had a fairly successful run on MTV. Production was halted in 2000 when Green was diagnosed with and then treated for, testicular cancer, much of which was documented in a surprisingly poignant special for the network. Since then, Green has had a sporadic career involving stand-up comedy, podcasting, a number of critically panned films, and a web show.
19. Crisis in Six Scenes (2016)
Once more for those in the back: Success on one platform does not guarantee success on another. Infamous filmmaker Woody Allen has won a number of Academy Awards, and, despite the fact that his movies aren’t all beloved, has developed a cult following and a signature style. So it was understandable that Amazon thought to give him a TV show.
But the result, mini-series Crisis in Six Scenes, was a critical and commercial failure, both for the burgeoning streaming service and the artist behind it. The six half-hour episodes were released simultaneously on September 30, 2016, but by that point, viewers were already wary. Early reviews were negative, and Allen himself expressed regret over the entire project.
Fortunately for Allen, he’s been able to slide fairly easily back into his usual writing and direction, continuing to put out a feature film almost every year since 1965 without fail. And Amazon isn’t crying over it either: Its Emmy Award-winning shows like Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle will keep the money pouring in.
18. Cop Rock (1990)
Sometimes a concept so incredibly absurd can only go one of two ways: surprise success or colossal failure. Though it was, of course, striving for the former, it’s unsurprising that Cop Rock, an ABC musical police drama, was very much the latter.
Though musicals have found their place in today’s television landscape (see: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), the territory is a difficult one to successfully claim. Steven Bochco, creator of the popular procedural Hill Street Blues in the ‘80s, decided to try something new with his law enforcement expertise.
Sadly, this time things didn’t go so well for him. The show was canceled after just 11 episodes. Shockingly, despite its short-lived run and inclusion on many critics’ “worst shows” lists, Cop Rock was actually nominated for five Emmys — and won two.
17. Small Wonder (1985–1989)
Depending on the genre, a creepy concept or character can work in a show’s favor. But when it comes to sitcoms, this is a difficult balancing act. Enter Small Wonder, a sci-fi 30 minute comedy that aired during the second half of the 1980s. As one of the worst series of the decade, it goes down as a top contender for the “WTF” award.
The premise of the show is that an engineer, Ted Lawson, creates an incredibly realistic android, but chose to make her a preteen girl, so he could keep her at home where she can “mature” and he can pass her off as his daughter. Cue wacky antics while Lawson tries to cover up his secret, while the android, V.I.C.I. performs odd tasks such as jump-starting a car.
The robot in question is played by a real girl, so they end up having to account for aging, by saying that she got “an upgrade.” Small Wonder was a moderate success, but looking back, it’s just another terrible sitcom with a very weird concept.
16. $#*! My Dad Says
If you need more proof that Hollywood is completely out of original ideas, look no further than $#*! My Dad Says, a CBS sitcom starring William Shatner that aired for one season. Shatner is Ed Goodson, a crotchety senior who can’t keep his mouth shut, and likes to share his unsolicited, very un-PC opinions with his two adult sons.
Sounds lame enough, but get this: The concept for the show came from a popular Twitter feed. An aspiring screenwriter, living at home with his parents, Justin Halpern started documenting his father’s daily ramblings and sharing them with the internet. Twitter was really starting to explode as a place for comedy at the time, and after a few keystrokes of luck, Halpern managed to get a book deal and a television series.
Unfortunately for Halpern, the series didn’t click with audiences. As talented as Shatner is, only so much success can come from a hilarious lead actor. Apparently, Halpern’s dad’s rants only strike a chord in short bursts.
15. Quarterlife (2008)
Remember when millennials were called “the internet generation?” The days of MySpace and LiveJournal were really the first to show a change in the way that we consume entertainment. Despite their age, Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick grasped this concept before YouTube had gained much traction. In order to tap into this new media market, the My So-Called Life creators launched Quarterlife.com, where they began releasing episodes of their new web series.
Quarterlife was a very simple concept, but its online execution was where it succeeded. The lack of monetary value in that medium at the time was what prompted the move that would ultimately end the show. NBC purchased the rights, and aired exactly one episode in the hour-long television format before admitting defeat. Bravo picked up the remaining five episodes, but the series was dead.
Though Quarterlife.com is no more, MySpace is a thing of the past, and web series are as abundant as political opinions these days, one can still enjoy the decade-old Quarterlife, if you dig deep enough. Head to the depths of the web’s past if you feel like seeing what the lack of hype was about, or just want a hit of nostalgia.
14. The Pickup Artist (2007–2008)
Though MTV is known for its reality shows like A Shot at Love, former music channel competitor VH1 has also made a few attempts in that arena. One of the worst? The Pickup Artist, which remarkably lasted two seasons.
The description of the show is almost too revolting to handle: Known “pickup artist” Erik Von Markovik, who likes to be called Mystery, works with several men who have been unsuccessful in their dating lives. Aided by his “wing men,” Mystery helps these poor guys woo women (read: attempt to get laid) through a series of challenges.
If the misogyny doesn’t turn you off, how about the fact that the show was completely staged? Like so many others in the genre, models and actors were recruited to play the “average” contestants. Fortunately, the show has long been off the air, yet the pickup artist community still remains a thing.
13. Supertrain (1979)
Every now and then, network TV provides us with a failure so grand it inspires think pieces for years to come. Supertrain, a nine-episode disaster of improbable proportions, aired on NBC in 1979. What’s more, it was poised to be part of a comeback for the peacock network, writes A.V. Club, under the leadership of new president Fred Silverman.
Instead, what happened was a literal and figurative train wreck. Most of the money was spent on the elaborate production (and the train itself), making it a very expensive show. The script formula was all over the place, and even popular guest stars couldn’t bring in an audience. Supertrain was put out of its misery soon after.
Smart execs would take this failed series as a warning. Good content makes for a ratings success. A flashy premise can draw people in, but let’s be real here for a second: A bullet train just isn’t sexy in the way old-fashioned locomotives were portrayed in Agatha Christie novels. It’s no surprise that there hasn’t been a show set on one since.
12. The Chevy Chase Show (1993)
While we’re on the subject of infamous television disasters, we can’t forget The Chevy Chase Show. An affable comedian behind a desk chatting with other celebs? Why wouldn’t this be a home run?
Well, for several reasons. First of all, Chase had a pretty interesting idea, it was more of a variety show in which his brand of humor could shine through. But networks always make changes, and so Chase ended up with a both bland and bizarre late night talk show. It didn’t help that Chase regularly stumbled through his monologues.
But, as Splitsider explains, despite the good intentions behind it, the project was likely always doomed to fail. Chase may often be hilarious, but the ability to hold a conversation, not to mention the attention of a studio audience, is the key to a good live show.
11. Blind Justice (2005)
If you’ve chosen to make the title of your show a joke with a double meaning, wouldn’t you logically make that series a comedy? For instance, Arrested Development is referring to the state of the family in question, as well as the jailed patriarch and the housing development that he was building.
In fact, just months after a “justice is blind” joke was made on the critically acclaimed FOX series, ABC aired the first episode of its latest cop drama, Blind Justice. The keyword there being drama. The joke was on them: Despite some OK reviews, the show only lasted 13 episodes.
It’s hard to say where they went wrong. The concept was kind of intriguing, but the main character, the sightless Detective Jim Dunbar, was almost too good of a guy. And the premise didn’t exactly grab viewers.
With the mediocre performance of Daredevil in 2003, the early ‘00s weren’t a great time for blind heroes in law enforcement. Oh well, at least they finally got one character right.
10. Hemlock Grove (2013–2015)
Netflix began hitting it out of the park with its original content fairly quickly, and with the influx of great new shows and specials in the last year, we’ve been quick to forget its early missteps. Topping that list? Hemlock Grove.
With little to compare it to in terms of streaming horror series, Hemlock Grove wasn’t that bad. Many gave it a chance: A hot werewolf, some freaky experiments, more attractive people, and more creepiness? But as far as what the show had to offer, that was really it. Despite its initial intrigue, critics soon found much to complain about, from poor pacing to out-of-nowhere plot lines.
Somehow, the series managed to last three seasons before Netflix pulled the plug. And get this: It was nominated for two Emmys. Of course, those were for its music and visual effects, the two areas where the show managed to excel. Despite dragging it out, the streaming giant eventually made the right decision, and now Hemlock Grove is like the redheaded stepchild that nobody talks about.
9. The Pitts (2003)
Another terrible “punny” title for another failure of a show. It’s especially hard when you see a flop like The Pitts in the filmography of a talented actress that you can’t help but root for, such as Lizzy Caplan.
But everyone had to get their start somewhere. Caplan starred alongside David Henrie (known for the Disney vehicle Wizards of Waverly Place and How I Met Your Mother), career actor Dylan Baker, and the late Kellie Waymire in what may have been her final role. The simple premise follows the wacky nuclear family as they get themselves into and out of the most unbelievable of circumstances.
Canceled after airing just seven of the nine taped episodes, there was a later attempt by FOX to revive The Pitts as an animated series. Now, the blemish is barely visible on Caplan’s impressive resume.
8. Hunters (2016)
Not even a best-selling novel is guaranteed to make a hit TV show. Hunters, which aired for one 13-episode season on SyFy, was based on horror series Alien Hunter by Whitley Strieber. And it’s about as generic as a genre show gets.
The premise revolves around the Exo-Terrorism Unit, who recruits FBI agent Flynn Carroll after his wife is abducted. Things get a bit gruesome, but overall, Hunters falls into very familiar territory, relying on dark mystery to get past the clunky dialogue and lack of reason to the plot. The series was universally panned, with a 0% score from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
7. Fanboy & Chum Chum (2009–2014)
Nickelodeon has had a lot of success with its animated offerings in the past. The network’s triumphs, from Rugrats to Spongebob Squarepants, are some of the most beloved cartoons of all time. Of course, you can’t hit it out of the park every time.
Fanboy & Chum Chum lasted for two seasons, during which time it wasn’t exactly raved about. Though some critics supported the essentially premise-free show, it just didn’t get the same kind of buzz that others did. The eponymous characters had adventures, interacted with the many other weirdos in their world, and referenced pop culture that its youthful audience definitely did not understand. From the annoying, screeching voices to the awful CGI, there was nothing enjoyable about this series.
6. Dads (2013–2014)
If you’re going to cast four boring white dudes as the stars of a comedy, there should at least be an intriguing premise, beyond the fact that two of the main characters are the elderly fathers of the two middle-aged business partners. No? Well how about a bit of diversity in the cast? Oh, that’s better — wait a second, why is everyone so racist?
Of the two diverse characters on Dads, a Hispanic maid and an Asian assistant, both are made the butt of jokes due to their ethnicities. There’s one more woman, who’s white, and she’s the usual uptight wife who bosses her dopey husband around. Yeah, it was a mess.
Despite the lazy concept and indulgence in tired stereotypes, Dads did manage to tackle one impressive feat: It has an almost unheard of 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes. All 19 episodes aired, but no one was surprised when it was canceled.
5. Mr. T and Tina (1976)
There are significantly more unsuccessful spinoffs than there are ones that lived up to the height of their predecessor. One surefire way to ensure your spinoff does poorly? Center it around a character that only appeared in one episode.
Mr. T and Tina was about a Japanese inventor who hires an American to act as a caregiver for his two children after he moves his family to Chicago. Starring Pat Morita, the show lasted for just five episodes on ABC, with four remaining unaired after its cancellation. We all know that the future Mr. Miyagi landed on his feet, but sadly, the same couldn’t be said for his first starring role on television.
4. Cavemen (2007)
The idea of making a TV show from a popular commercial is more than a little baffling. And yet, ABC did just that with Cavemen, based on a series of GEICO advertisements.
Written by Joe Lawson, who also wrote the commercials in question, Cavemen was supposedly meant to point out racist stereotyping in a humorous way. However, it failed miserably at this task, with some citing its poor metaphor for race relations as one of the many reasons they stopped watching.
Though 13 episodes were filmed, only seven ever aired before the show was swiftly canceled. At least we have the series to thank for something: Star Nick Kroll called it “the most important experience of my professional career,” and without it, we may never have gotten to know him as Ruxin on The League.
3. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (2012–2014)
If a reality show is going to do well, it needs one thing above all else: controversy. After a Season 5 episode of the TLC series, Toddlers & Tiaras, received a lot of attention regarding featured contestant Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson, the network scrambled to capitalize on it with spinoff series Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. This was “redneck” entertainment at its finest, and TLC knew they had to corner the market.
The show lasted four seasons, during which time reviews were very mixed. Critics called the network out for its exploitation of the Shannon/Thompson family, while others praised matriarch Mama June for her determination and savvy monetary skills.
Without a doubt, the series was a rollercoaster ride, simultaneously making fun of and supporting its eager cast. In 2014, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was abruptly canceled, following allegations that Mama June’s boyfriend was a registered sex offender. In 2017, Mama June made her return to TV with the WE tv reality show, Mama June: From Not to Hot.
2. Heil Honey I’m Home! (1990)
It’s hard to know where to begin with this disaster of a show. Heil Honey I’m Home! was a British sitcom that aired exactly one episode on the Galaxy network on September 30, 1990. The show was intended to be a satire, highlighting the ridiculous nature of sitcoms in the 20th century, in the vein of I Love Lucy.
Needless to say, the concept didn’t go over exactly as planned. Pushing the envelope a bit too far, critics were alarmed at the trivialization of Nazi Germany and the Third Reich. Despite 10 additional episodes having already been taped, the series was pulled immediately.
Though most have never actually seen an episode of the show, Heil Honey I’m Home! is still discussed amongst those who study popular culture. In an attempt to explain himself, creator Geoff Atkinson told Curious British Telly that much of the cast and crew were Jewish, and were not offended. Whether or not the show would have turned out to be a hit, we’ll never know.
1. I Wanna Marry Harry (2014)
The lies behind reality TV are often subtle, but this one was as bold as the hair on Prince Harry’s head. FOX’s I Wanna Marry Harry was a Bachelor-esque dating competition show where the 12 contestants vied for the affections of a Brit who looked a little like the royal … but definitely wasn’t.
No one ever came out and said the name of the man in question, but very obvious hints were made to convince the women. It was fairly clear that no one was buying it, and the intrigue behind the con fell flat. After airing four episodes, FOX opted not to air the remaining four.
There’s sort of a happy ending to the tale: In the finale, bachelorette Kimberly Birch was declared the winner, and she and “Harry” (whose real name is Matthew Hicks), kept up correspondence for a time, remaining friends.
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