2016 TV: The 10 Most Disappointing Shows of the Year

2016 has certainly made for an interesting year in television. We’ve seen revivals of shows thought to be long gone, and debuts that have taken us all by complete surprise. Somewhere lower on that totem pole of quality sits a collection of series that didn’t quite hit the mark. These are the ones that simply didn’t live up to lofty expectations, each falling short of considerable potential across the board. This of course, didn’t make their collective body of work terrible per se, but when it comes to a level of quality that never equaled the hype, these were the worst offenders. First …

1. Wayward Pines, FOX

Wayward Pines - FOX

Wayward Pines | FOX

Wayward Pines was a series that was never meant to go on for as long as it did. Billed as a single-season event during its initial run, its second season was a prime example of a perfectly good story overstaying its welcome. The show’s debut season was marked by a triumphant return to creative form for M. Night Shyamalan, with an assist on the writing side from eventual Stranger Things showrunners Matt and Ross Duffer.

Everything that came after that though might as well have never happened. Simply put, the story dragged on well past its expiration date as it quietly spun its wheels. And while it’s still “on the bubble” for a potential third season, we have a hard time imagining how it could possibly have anything left to give us.

2. The Walking Dead, AMC


The Walking Dead | AMC

If we’re going to have a conversation about disappointing television in 2016, The Walking Dead is Exhibit A. Its first misstep came early in 2016, following an infuriating cliffhanger to close out its fifth season. Season 6 did little to remedy that frustration, presenting us with a nihilistic, Negan-run world that’s becoming harder and harder to watch. Direct evidence of this later surfaced in the form of ratings that fell with each successive episode following the premiere. TV’s most popular show this side of Game of Thrones has failed to earn that title in 2016, and fans have begun to duck out in droves as a result.

3. Vinyl, HBO

Vinyl HBO

Vinyl | HBO

You’d think a show that featured the creative talents of Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger, Boardwalk Empire showrunner Terence Winter, and Vanity Fair editor Rich Cohen would be a slam dunk, especially on a network like HBO. The network certainly thought so too, pouring $30 million into the series premiere, and a grand total of $100 million into the first season.

What we got instead was a monumental letdown on every front. The story never managed to capitalize on its vast potential, and its pricey premiere netted just 764,000 viewers, making it the lowest-rated opening for an HBO drama in years. It got a brief respite when HBO renewed it for a second season, but they soon walked that back for a full-on cancellation four months later, putting the final nail in the expensive coffin that was Vinyl. 

4. Fuller House, Netflix

Fuller House

Fuller House | Netflix

No one quite knew what to expect out of Fuller House, a revival from a sitcom series whose main appeal was rooted largely in its late-’80s/early-’90s backdrop. Transport that story into a modern context, and the result was a series of references that felt dated, and a narrative that failed to justify its existence.

If you were really Full House fanatic 20-some years ago, then maybe Netflix’s reboot series hit home for you, but for the most part, there wasn’t a lot to hold on to for the casual TV-watcher looking for the next binge-worthy series on the streaming service.

5. The X-Files, FOX

X-Files | FOX

The X-Files | FOX

Speaking of long-awaited revivals, FOX managed to bring back The X-Files for a shortened 10th season. To its credit, there was far more material to work with than anything Fuller House brought to the table. Still, even that wasn’t enough to give fans what they wanted. As Rotten Tomatoes’ own critical consensus put it, the revival “lack(ed) the creative spark necessary to sustain the initial rush of nostalgia,” and the end result was a run of episodes that made us long for the days of the original series more than hope for future seasons down the road.

6. House of Cards, Netflix

House of Cards Season 4

House of Cards | Netflix

In all fairness, House of Cards‘ fourth season did contain brief flashes of brilliance. But those were still few and far between, as it continued its slow decline from prestige TV to a paint-by-numbers Scandal-esque story. Things kicked off with an attempted assassination plot, sidelining Kevin Spacey for the opening handful of episodes, followed soon after by twists and turns that hardly felt earned. Few political dramas will ever match the excellence of the show’s first season years ago. Sadly, it’s been a pale reflection of that since then, and 2016 did little to sway us from that opinion.

7. The Muppets, ABC

Fozzie, Miss Piggy and Kermit in 'The Muppets'

The Muppets | ABC

It’s been awhile since the Muppets have been on network TV, and suffice it to say, we were all excited to see them return in 2016. That being said, their new mockumentary-style series lacked many of the key elements that made Jim Henson’s creations so subversively hilarious.

The New Yorker summed it up well in their own review, noting how “the off-color humor seems badly misplaced, as if the show’s creators were trying to beat Crank Yankers and Avenue Q at their own game. With the exception of Gonzo, the Muppets should not work blue.”

8. The Bastard Executioner, FX

The Bastard Executioner - FX

The Bastard Executioner | FX

Kurt Sutter has long proved himself a capable showrunner, having delivered a stellar seven season run for Sons of Anarchy on FX. So when news broke that Sutter would be returning for another new series on the network, there were plenty of reasons to be hopeful. Enter The Bastard Executioner, a violent drama from the Sons of Anarchy mastermind set in the Middle Ages. Sutter has never been shy about reveling in some of the gorier aspects of his stories, and that went double for The Bastard Executioner. Unfortunately, that violent focus overshadowed anything that resembled a cohesive story, leading to Sutter himself opting to ax the series after its first season.

9. Daredevil, Netflix

Source: Netflix

Daredevil | Netflix

Daredevil‘s second season managed to successfully establish the Punisher as a full-blown force of nature in the MCU. That’s about all it accomplished though, with a run of episodes that left us with more questions than answers when it was all said and done. The beautifully subtle touch of departed showrunner Steven S. DeKnight was sorely missed, replaced by a sloppy narrative that had little concern for cohesion. That’s not to say that it was a complete failure, and yet there’s little doubting that it fell well short of the bar set by its spectacular first season.

10. Heroes Reborn, NBC

Heroes Reborn | NBC

Heroes Reborn | NBC

There’s a strong argument to be made that Heroes‘ first season in 2006 was ground zero for superhero television, arriving on the scene a full six years before Arrow kick-started the genre in full on The CW. Everything after that debut though has been disappointing to say the least. NBC hoped to remedy that with Heroes Reborn, yet another revival series in 2016 looking to capitalize on a once-popular show well past its prime. What they did instead was continue to demonstrate that the Heroes narrative is better off left alone, while we all pretend the writer strike never happened and that Season 1 was as far as it ever went.

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