A lot of police procedurals take place in such a world. In the grittier dramas, every character is damaged or morally-compromised to one degree or another. Every prosecution is an uphill battle hampered by city politics, well-meaning civil rights crusaders, legal loopholes, or simple incompetence. And success is a mere drop in the bucket: there's always going to be another crime to solve, another murderer to catch. At best, our protagonists are jaded and/or burned out from seeing the worst of humanity day-in and day-out. At worst, they are one failed case away from turning Knight Templar.
The 100 starts out about a century or so in the future, with all that's left of humanity having escaped to space when nuclear warfare pretty much made the entire planet radioactive. However, because of limited resources, everything is rationed (with the more privileged naturally having access to better quality everything), there is a "one child per family" law for population control, and all crimes are punishable by death unless you're a minor. Oh, and oxygen systems are failing, so they've got 4 months to live, at best.
24: Par for the course when terrorist attacks on American soil have become a common occurrence and the government has essentially given counter-terrorist operatives free reign to use torture on anyone suspected of being involved in the plots. A good way to sum it up would be to point out that in a twenty year period, the U.S. has had nine different presidents, only one of whom actually finished out the term they were elected to. The rest were either assassinated or forced to resign in disgrace.
The Adventures of Superboy: In the episode "Roads Not Taken, Part 2", the titular character visits an Earth on an alternate timeline, ruled by a dictator known as the Sovereign, who is his duplicate in that timeline.
Battlestar Galactica (2003): The human race is made up largely of flawed, amoral, and evil people who barely deserve to continue existing as a species, every victory the fleet wins comes at great cost, and even the completion of their quest to find Earth nets them nothing but the lifeless, irradiated ruins of a dead civilization.
Blackadder: Even though it's hard to tell. The first series starts off with him accidentally lopping off his uncle's head (said uncle absolutely despised him despite not knowing him at all), and throughout the series Blackadder just keeps sliding further down the social food chain. It is a case where the ugliness of all ages is this being Played for Laughs. The first season is the Dung Ages pretty much with dirt, poverty, dung, wars at the drop of a hunt, witch hunts and more dung. Even the Prince isn't safe from the violence much of the time. The second season gives emphasis on the reign of terror of the Queenie and how easy it is to end up beheaded and like the first season there are equally horrible people who vy for her position. The third season has the retarded Prince living in luxury while everything outside the palace is pretty much a squalor. And the fourth well is self-explanatory considering that it was the bloodiest world in history at the time and the incompetence and sociopathy of the heads.
Blake's 7: If they're nice/happy, they stop being nice/happy or they die. If they're not, they get worse or they die. If they get worse, they die. If they don't die, run.
Breaking Bad: Albuquerque has a few decent neighborhoods, but otherwise appears to be dirty streets frothing at the mouth with a meth problem.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The episode "The Wish" where Cordelia gets transported to an alternate universe where Buffy never came to Sunnydale. The normal Sunnydale is no picnic either, but it was preferable to this.
There's also a 'Buffy' novel that has an even more disturbing Wish-type world. Instead of The Master being the vampire king, Giles is the vampire lord of Sunnydale.
The final season of Angel really began to delve into this following Fred's death. Illyria wondered if there was anything good in the world, and all Wesley could offer her was "hope".
And season 4 had Jasmine, a benevolent Eldritch Abomination who made the world a better place at the cost of free will. Wolfram & Hart were so grateful to Team Angel for getting rid of her that they made them the new head of their LA branch.
The further you get into Buffy and Angel, the more the crapsackness of it's universe is foregrounded. In one episode of Angel, Angel takes an elevator to Hell, only to have it to take him back to the real world because there was no way of making a hell worse than Angel's normal life. It's not for nothing that Joss Wheedon argues the real villain of Buffy Season Six is "life itself".
Charmed: Set in a world where you are born with no power and an easy victim to demons and warlocks, with good powers but too weak to do much and now a target of said demons and warlocks, with bad powers where you have no choice to be good and live in a darwinist underworld, or are the Charmed Ones who are powerful but targeted by virtually all the forces of evil until you either die or kill enough powerful demons that they decide to bide their time and wait to try and kill the next generation.
Cockroaches is a Brit Com which takes place in a post-apocalyptic enviroment, 10 years after nuclear war has devastated the Earth.
Dark Angel: It is set in the crapsack world of the US Pacific Northwest after an EMP takes out a lot of the infrastructure for the USA (and presumably elsewhere). The series is set in a chaotic world where thugs and criminals are in control and so on. Paragraph 2 of the definition of this trope is a perfect description of the Dark Angel setting.
Defiance: After a devastating conflict with alien refugees and a terraforming mishap, the Earth is forever changed. The atmosphere is saturated with electromagnetic radiation, making long-range communications impossible and air travel prohibitively hazardous. Freak weather patterns and uncontrolled terraforming have led to huge swaths of uninhabitable territory. Dozens of abandoned and/or destroyed arkships form a belt of debris around the planet that constantly threatens to fall out of orbit, in the form of either "Razor Rain," where jagged bits crash through the atmosphere at terminal velocity and shred anything in their path, or "Arkfall," where a whole ship crashes to Earth. Most large animals have either gone extinct or mutated into new hybrid forms. Predatory insects the size of tanks roam the wilderness, and they're not even the worst things out there. Most major cities were completely erased by the terraforming process, and the few left are the seats of power for the fascistic, opportunistic Earth Republic. The other major superpower, the Votanis Collective, isn't much better, as it is politically dominated by the arrogant, warlike Castithans. The only independent nations are small municipalities like Defiance, and those are only able to maintain their independence if they have control over a resource that everyone needs (in Defiance's case, the mineral Gulanite) and taking it by force would be too much of a diplomatic headache. There's so much unclaimed wasteland and abandoned technology that Disaster Scavenging - aka "Arkhunting" - is a viable career choice, and Arkhunters routinely betray and/or kill each other to get ahead. Earth is basically a dying rock full of ruins, monsters, and xenophobia, and no one can ever leave.
Earth also becomes one during The Year That Never Was. With the help of the Toclofane, the Master has enslaved the human race, forcing them to build monuments to him (including carving his face onto Mt. Rushmore) and millions of galactic WM Ds to prepare for war with the rest of the universe. He's destroyed New York, frozen the Nile, poisoned the Caspian Sea, created radiation pits in Europe, erected fusion mills in China, and burned Japan to the ground. The entire planet is also under constant surveillance through the Archangel network. The Doctor, Captain Jack, and Martha's family all remain prisoners onboard the Valiant, stuck listening to the Master playing the same songs over and over again.
Dollhouse: It is yet another Whedon example. Even before the mind-control technology apocalypse, apparently the great big amoral slavery corporation was to some degree controlling the government. And then there's the whole dystopian burned-out planet afterwards with technology lying around that can randomly wipe or reprogram your brain anywhere at any time.
Farscape universe: a weird and astoundingly corrupt place, where the most civilized areas are dominated by one of the two warring empires: the Peacekeepers, Human AlienPrivate Military Contractors with a habit of conquering their own clients, a strong bias against any relationship stronger than friendship (with or without benefits), and an awful lot of xenophobia; or the Scarrans, a race of warlike Reptilians with a foreign policy even worse than the Peacekeepers, a vested interest in ruling the galaxy, and a habit of exterminating species they believe to be inferior and without use. The area between them is frequented by fugitives, pirates, mercenaries, con artists, mystics, con artists pretending to be mystics, assassins, terrorists, gangsters, mad scientists, evil sorcerers, unscrupulous sects of psychic monks, hordes of ravenous alien monsters, Godlike Aliens with attitude problems, actual gods with even worse attitudes, interdimensional entities with a decidedly Blue and Orange Morality, and an awful lot of contenders for the role of the next Evil Empire. There are very few episodes in the entire series where anyone gets a straightforward happy ending, and even less that end with the locals being any better off; when it comes time for the Peacekeepers and the Scarrans to finally make peace, the hero has to threaten the entire universe with a doomsday device- and actually set it off- before they even consider agreeing to a treaty. Oh, and while Earth might have stayed out of the conflict, humanity turns out to be no better than any other race in the galaxy, to the hero's despair.
Firefly: The Whedonverse extends this further in this show. The largest power is effectively space Nazis that have shown that the richest get the best, slavery still exists, many free worlds are hideously backwards, all the main heroes have a criminal past (one of which was due to a brother saving his sister from Mind Rape that made her Ax-Crazy). Oh, and lest we forget the Reavers...
Word of God claims that the Alliance do as much good as they do harm. They genuinely want to help people even if they do go about it in completely the wrong way at times.
This is apparently Jayne's opinion of things; at one point he calls it a "crap-heel 'verse".
The Flash: Barry Allen in the 1990s show was accidentally thrust 10 years into a future where Central City has been taken over by his brother's killer, Nicholas Pike, and where an underground group of citizens were waiting for the Flash to return in order to set things right.
Fringe: Sure, the parallel universe has more advanced technology than ours, but their universe is literally falling apart. To the point where the agents of the Fringe Division over there are more or less unbothered by the prospect of dying horrifically on any given day, since their job demands that some lives must be sacrificed for the greater good.
The prime universe becomes this when the Observers take over.
The opening credits ordinarily show the names of various longshot "fringe sciences" (psychokinesis, singularity, quantum entanglement, etc.). In an episode set in a rapidly failing future, the fringe sciences include "water" and "hope". In episodes set under an alien tyranny, the fringe sciences are such things as "Community", "Private Thought", and "Free Will".
Westeros is frequently torn apart by competing factions and insane monarchs, many of whom think little of their troops abusing the peasantry, and the anarchist wildlings beyond the Wall live by fighting and stealing from their neighbours. Rape, murder, robbery, and incest are easily found everywhere. Oh, and every generation there's a winter that can last years when everyone worries about starvation. Even worse, this particular cycle, the monstrous White Walkers are waking from their long sleep to invade, but no one is preparing for it.
Essos is perhaps worse. Valyria is still a smoking Forbidden Zone centuries after its destruction. Other places have hopeful names like Slaver's Bay and the Shadow Lands. Much of the rest is a patchwork of rival city-states and vestigial empires of decadent aristocrats completely dependent on miserable slaves and bounded by a vast grassland filled with hordes of marauding Dothraki horse-nomads who slaughter or enslave anyone who cannot flee or buy them off.
Glee: Welcome to the world of GLEE; where everyone has something sucky and traumatic happen to them at least once a season.
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess: Despite being staunchly idealistic, the world of these shows is inhabited by warlords, bandits, mythological monsters and apathetic gods. Other lands like China and India are no better. Even Heaven is rocked by never-ending conflict.
Heroes: They have one of these almost every season.
Incorporated takes place in a future where climate change has left over half the world's population in poverty while the other half is rich but engaged in ruthless and very literal corporate warfare.
Into the Badlands: The Badlands are a rough place. Territories and industrial resources are controlled by feudal overlords that just barely manage to maintain a balance of power with each other, a balance that is in the early stages of crumbling when the narrative begins. Peace and order are kept through force and propaganda. The majority of the population are serfs and/or slaves, owned by their Barons, and the only ticket to a better life is to join the ranks of the Clippers, becoming merciless killing machines. Roving tribes of bandits prey on the hinterlands, robbing and killing at will, and Barons only take action against them when it suits them. There are rumors and legends of a better world beyond the Badlands, but so far they're just that: rumors and legends. Escape from the Badlands means danger and uncertainty, and almost everyone has been ground down by the system too much to even want to try to escape.
Played with in one episode where the "heroes" are tearfully united with their real father — a kindly, warm-hearted, selfless individual who is pretty much their complete opposite. After only a short period of time in their company the father is so horrified he ends up kicking them out.
Killjoys: Welcome to the Quad System. The entire system is controlled by an evil Mega Corp. with an appalling track record on environmental impacts and employee well-being. The planet Qresh is owned by the shareholders, who endlessly squabble with each other like petty nobility, and half the planet is underwater due to a global warming-induced flood. The moon Westerley is a polluted, overmined hellhole, subject to toxic recurring weather patterns and brutal corporate oppression, to the point where a planetwide workers' revolt is imminent. A deal the Company made with the Westerlyns is about to come to fruition, where the 7th generation of Westerlyn citizens have the opportunity to emigrate to the idyllic farming moon Leith and start a new life, which has caused an ultra-nationalist terrorist organization to arise on Leith, who don't cotton to these dirty foreigners coming in and taking their land. The third moon, Arkyn, is a completely mined-out lifeless rock surrounded by a dangerous Asteroid Thicket, where evil things go on out of the sight of the authorities. And that's just the Company. There's also whatever the hell Khlyen is up to, as well as some kind of military conspiracy responsible for things like nanotech-enhanced torture techniques and brainwashing soldiers to turn on their own men. And Vagueness Is Coming as well. This last one mentioned by one of the military-conspiracy doctors, implying that no matter how bad the things are she's doing, they're designed to protect the Quad from something even worse. It all makes the RAC, the bounty hunters whose official policy is "just do the job, take the money, and don't get involved," seem like the good guys by comparison.
League Of Gentlemen: Royston Vasey. There are incestuous serial killers, a ringmaster who kidnaps women, a butcher who sells highly illegal and hideously immoral drugs, an OCD couple who practically worships toads, a pedophile German exchange student councilor and a psychotic lesbian job restart officer who bullies and insults her "dole scum". And that's just 7 characters.
Lexx: One of the biggest examples of a Crapsack universe in science fiction. The main characters are horny, greedy cowards who fly a spaceship that eats inhabited planets for food. The one who isn't horny, greedy, or a coward is undead. One of the crew is a humanoid Man-Eating Plant who routinely eats people and openly warns that she'll eat her crewmates if ever there isn't anyone else to eat. Another member of the crew has been genetically imprinted with DNA from a monstrous alien carnivore, which leads to her doing things like going into a heat-state, during which she blacks out and eats people, including an entire theater's audience, culminating only when she mates with and consumes a Body Double of her love interest. At the end of every season, things have gone from bad to worse. Of note: in Season 2, the crew cripple a being named Mantrid, unwittingly setting up his meteoric ascension to Big Bad (and powerful galactic force). By the end of the season, the crew stops Mantrid, but lose several allies (including a plant-like creature and a young boy who helped them) and have unwittingly destroyed an entire universe, not to mention that they've run out of gas and have to go into hibernation for years. By the end of Season 3, they've blown up two planets full of people (one "good" and one "evil" planet, but not all of the people on either planet thought the same way) in order to get enough food for the Lexx to survive.
That, in turn, drives the plot of the next season, where the Lexx finds Earth. The crew wants to get the Lexx more food, but they end up doing more harm than good. Several innocent people are killed, one crew member sacrifices himself to stop a destructive invasion of killer carrot aliens, at least three whole cities are annihilated off the face of the planet by the starship (and that's before Earth is blown up), and the Lexx eventually dies of old age. The only redeeming point is that the last two surviving crew members get to travel the stars in a spiffy new mini-Lexx. Keep in mind that the whole series is intended as Black Comedy.
Low Winter Sun begins with two policemen brutally murdering a colleague-one for revenge, the other to cover his own ass from an impending Internal Affairs investigation. This is set against the hellish wastelands of modern Detroit, rife with corruption and drug trafficking.
Married... with Children. This show's universe is filled with the most despicable people you could possibly come up with. On a daily basis, innocents and guilty alike are punished, the men are almost without fail chauvinistic jackass pigs, the women money digging whiny bitches, authority figures are all corrupt, and the half decent people become worse due to the influence of the deadbeats surrounding them. It is also heavily implied that even God in this universe is a cruel vindictive being, who tortures people mentally just because he can. This universe is so awful that this world's Hell is only slightly worse than the actual universe.
Max Headroom: The quintessential Cyber PunkDystopia. The destitute poor are the largest percentage of the population, mostly living in shantytowns where violent crime and drug abuse are rampant; and the only escape from the misery of it all is watching communal televisions, where all the programming is mindless fantasy and violent bloodsports. The middle class has shrunk, spends most of its time either working soul-destroying jobs, or glued to their televisions, where all the programming is mindless fantasy and violent bloodsports. The upper class is comfortable, but spends most of their time engaged in political scheming (up to and including assassination) and fighting to maintain their social status, when they're not glued to their televisions watching mindless fantasy and violent bloodsports. And if that's not bad enough, the advertisements on television can literally make your head explode.
Once Upon a Time: Storybrooke. (The Enchanted Forest is more a World Half Full) In season 1, the fairy tale characters are all trapped in Storybrooke, Maine. They have no memories of their own life, and are being ruled by the Evil Queen, Regina, who is the mayor, and there are no happy endings. Everyone is struggling and no one can leave. However, thanks to The Messiah, slowly the happy endings start coming back, culminating in the curse breaking, and everyone regaining their original identity. However, in subsequent seasons, the city is continuously plagued by villains, and although you can leave, you lose your fairy tale memories. Storybrooke was almost destroyed 3 times in 2 seasons already, but it's marginally better now because everyone acts like a community now, and can defend their town thanks to the Charming Family.
One Foot in the Grave: Set in a Purgatory-like British suburbia in which everything always goes wrong and/or is generally unpleasant, and one stuffed to the brim with muggers, burglars, con-men, lunatics and antisocial louts, none of whom ever once get punished or even caught. Practically everyone the Meldrews ever interact with semi-regularly either despises them or is incredibly irritating. The series' overarching message, if it has one, seems to be "Life is cruel, utterly meaningless and basically horrible".
While leagues above the world seen in the film trilogy, the world in RoboCop: The Series isn't a picnic, either, with a war in the Amazon going on (though such a war was mention in the original trilogy, too), sections of Beverly Hills and Brooklyn have been walled off, and it's perfectly legal to market plushies that double as hand grenades and steroids (with the Family-Unfriendly Aesop that weaker kids deserve to get bullied, no less) to children, speaking English in France can land you in jail, the Italian government has fallen, and the mayor and DA are corrupt and in league with other criminals (with the latter having a fake law degree and helped to frame someone for said phony degree).
Red Dwarf is set in an empty, vast, meaningless universe. Humanity has gone extinct, and the only things left behind are insane mechanoids and genetically engineered horrors, ranging from distorted mutants to sapient, merciless and highly lethal diseases. The only person seemingly left in existence is David Lister, a British low-classer with especially revolting personal tastesnote like drinking cold curry sauce for breakfast and an aversion to baths, who drifts aimlessly through the void with a neurotic cleaning droid, a senile artificial intelligence, a super-egotistical and mega-shallow lifeform that evolved from the common housecat, and the hologram-"ghost" of the most petty, small-minded and all-around irritating people he knew. Who is alsohis best friend.
Revolution: The post-blackout world of the show. Especially the Monroe Republic, judging from the fact that the Plains Nation people go in for very colorful clothing and arts and crafts, while the Georgia Federation's technological lead is clearly farther advanced and can provide a high enough standard of living that even relatively ordinary people can dress like only the wealthiest people of the Monroe Republic can. It gets even worse, if possible, when the Patriots wreck the Monroe Republic and Georgia Federation, forcing thousands of people into refugee camps.
Sliders: Being a TV series about people traveling across parallel versions of Earth, it has so many examples, starting with the Ice Age world in the pilot episode.
Salem is a contest of power between camps of venal theocrats, black magic witches and the Devil himself. The most virtuous character winds up consigned to Hell for eternity at the end of the series.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode the "Quickening" showed a planet the Jem'Hadar decided to make an example of. Not only was the place blasted into the Stone Age, but the people of the planet were given a genetic disease called the Blight. All are born with it-anyone who does not take their own lives first dies of it. One man, being treated well because the Blight was in its final stages, said that he was glad to have bathed and slept in a bed for the first time in his LIFE.
This is the case for Dawn Cottrell, the high school-aged protagonist in the Made-for-TV movie Secret Cutting (or alternately known as Painful Secrets). Her home life sucks; her mother is a self-centered and vindictive woman who's all about appearances and aside from belittling her daughter, also belittles her father, who struggles to show affection for his daughter and stand up for himself, and tries too hard to prove herself a better mother than hers was in spite of being just as bad. Her brother acts even more outwardly disrespectful towards her than their mother does. Life at school in no better. She virtually has no friends and is constantly subjected to contempt and mockery from her more "popular" peers, even though she is desperate for their approval, which they know about and use to their advantage. She believes she has a boyfriend, but all he wants her for is sex. Oh, and anytime she does try to stand up for herself,it completely backfires as someone always manipulates her into thinking she has no right to defend herself. To cope with it all, she begins to cut herself, which is eventually discovered initially by her only friend, who's pretty troubled in her own right, but then by her family and then the whole school after her mother lets the secret out "in order for peer pressure to make you stop since you can't on your own." Things go from bad to worse and culminates in a desperate suicide attempt.
Stargate SG-1: The entire Milky Way Galaxy as depicted is like this. As depicted in the series, the galaxy's population is primarily enslaved humanity duped into worshiping a bunch of evil aliens who get a kick out of posing as gods (never nice benevolent Judeo-Christian Jehovah God who never ever shows up yet Satan does, more like "Kneel Before Zod" gods), taking over the bodies of unwilling people, and ruling their planetary systems through a mode of governing best described as Unapologetic Dog Kicking (i.e. one System Lord basically nuked an entire populated star system rather than let it fall to another). In fact, part of the reason these evil aliens so despise Earth, is because it is one of the precious few relatively happy and free worlds in the galaxy. On top of this, when the evil aliens are defeated they are ALWAYS replaced by even more Ax-Crazy foes (i.e. crazy religious fundamentalists with indestructible apostles and ships, robots bent on consuming whole planets, etc.) And if that's not good enough, the one powerful good race that WANTS to help is locked in a war for survival against said robots and the best they can do is bluff the parasitical aliens into leaving a few worlds alone.
Stargate Atlantis: The Pegasus Galaxy isn't much better. It used to be a pretty nice place a long time ago under the stewardship of the Ancients. Then they unwittingly create a fast-breeding, vampiric race of pseudo-humanoids with bio-ships who defeat the Ancients despite their vastly superior technology and then start feeding on the galaxy's humans, periodically waking up from slumber to "harvest" the galaxy. Additionally, not all Wraith are asleep. Some keep watch and wipe out any civilization that even hints at possibly being threatening to them. The ascended Ancients aren't going to help. The only consolation is the Wraith fighting among themselves, as they were woken up ahead of schedule, and there isn't enough "food" for them to go around. The three times the humans from Earth encounter civilizations advanced enough to be their allies against the Wraith, they end up as new enemies. These include crazy humanoids composed of nanites (similar to the Replicators) who, when finally turned against the Wraith, choose to wipe out their "food" (i.e. all humans) instead. The Genii are a militaristic underground culture with 50s technology and a beef against Earth humans. The Vanir turn out to be a renegade faction of the benevolent Asgard, who view humans as expendable and are perfectly willing to destroy every single stargate in an Earth-Shattering Kaboom to keep safe from the Wraith.
According to the vision showed to Dean by Zachariah, in five years time it's going to be even worse, as Dean is a homicidal, Jerk Ass soldier, Sam is possessed by Lucifer, and the only angel to give a damn about the human race is a hippie stoner/love guru who uses drink, drugs and orgies to cover up his new Nietzsche Wannabe attitude. Life sucks in 'The End'. By season five's ending, however Sam has managed to seal both Michael and Lucifer in Hell. In season twelve, Lucifer is free again, begetting Satanspawn and eventually trapped in a crapsackier alternate universe than the main universe.
Demons, monsters and angels don't have it much if any better. If you're a demon you're condemned to Hell to suffer unless you escape to Earth where you will likely be killed by a hunter or an angel. If you're a monster, you have to constantly keep a low profile and an eye over your shoulder for hunters who will kill you for no other reason then being a monster. Sooner or later you will give into your violent instincts whether you want to or not. And when you die you go to Purgatory, which is considered one step above Hell, where you have to fight other monsters constantly only to be die and reborn elsewhere for all eternity. If you're an angel, you had it good tell the higher ups failed to bring about the Apocalypse resulting in massive civil wars and every angel forcibly expelled from heaven.
Survivors: The majority of the world population is wiped out by the machinations of a evil corporation.
Terra Nova: The Earth of 2149 has so much environmental damage that the sky is an acrid yellow with smog and pollution, the atmosphere can no longer be breathed, and overpopulation is so severe that having more than two children is an arrestable offence.
Titus: Where the only really helpful advice for getting through life is "Stop being a wussy".
The Twilight Zone: Several episodes take place in worlds like this. Examples include "It's a Good Life", where one all-powerful boy controls everyone, "Eye of the Beholder" where everyone who is ugly is ghettoized, "Number Nine Looks Just Like You", where everyone has to get surgery to look like one of a limited number of models, and "The Obsolete Man", where religion is outlawed and you are terminated if declared "obsolete".
Veronica Mars: It begins with the titular heroine's best friend being brutally murdered. When Veronica's dad, the town sheriff, goes after the wrong man, he loses his job, his wife abandons him, and his daughter becomes a social outcast. Then she gets drugged and raped at a party, and when she tries to report it, the new sheriff accuses her of making it up and laughs in her face. Again, all of this happens in flashback before the first episode's plot begins. Things only go downhill from there.
The Walking Dead: This is to be expected, considering the world has fallen victim to a Zombie Apocalypse. The show is relentlessly grim, the kids among the survivors aren't even safe from horrible deaths.
Waterloo Road: The review describing this show as being set in a town resembling a cross between Dante's Inferno and Baghdad was uncannily accurate.
Weeds: It's somewhat easier to root for the Villain Protagonist when all the forces of law and order are corrupt hypocrites, and all of the other characters are in it up to their necks.
The Wire: This is an example of the World Half Empty done right, especially in the fourth season (which focuses on four inner-city schoolchildren, only one of whom manages to escape into a decent life). But even "done right" it can be enough to overwhelm people.
The sad thing is that everyone who knows the Real Life situations they show says it is all what it is really like.
Wizards of Waverly Place: The wizarding world. For utterly arbitrary reasons (seriously, we've never been actually told why) there can only be one wizard per family. Children grow up with powers and train for the wizard competition in which they will battle their sibling(s). One wins, the others lose their powers forever. We've seen at least one planned uprising by a large group of thwarted siblings, and one can assume that the earlier generation of the Russo's isn't the first - or the last - wizarding family to be torn apart by asinine rules. And Alex, Justin and Max didn't care when they killed someone for leading a revolution for wizards to never have to give up their powers.
Furthermore, the wizard world is full of Fantastic Racism and any wizard who wants to marry a non-wizard has to give up their powers.
The Young Ones: Granted, Thatcherís Britain was pretty crapsack in Real Life, but not nearly as surreal and comedic. EVERYONE in this universe is at best an abject moron, and at worst also an abject bastard. The employment classifieds of the newspaper are always completely blank. All of the policemen are miserably thick, some of them to the point that they donít even demonstrate normal human thought processes. Army sieges, avoidable plane crashes, and full-blown street riots — in residential areas, no less — are everyday occurrences. Oh, and a half-psychotic young man with a lengthy history of violence and destruction is not only allowed to walk the streets, but is enrolled in a pre-med program. Yikes. Just yikes.