Horrible: Live-Action TV
"In Beverly Hills ... they don't throw their garbage away. They make it into television shows."Sometimes, you just wonder what television executives were thinking when they greenlight shows like these and kick others out the door before giving them a shot at stardom. These particular programs give new meaning to the term "idiot box". Important Note: Merely being offensive in its subject matter isn't enough to justify a work as Horrible. Hard as it is to imagine at times, there's a market for all types of deviancy (no matter how small a niche it is). It has to fail to appeal even to that niche to qualify as this. If it has a fandom of any sort, it doesn't belong on this list. Second Important Note: It is not a Horrible TV series just because anyone from That Guy with the Glasses or any other Caustic Critic reviewed it. There needs to be independent evidence, such as actual critics (emphasis on plural) for example, to list it. (Though once it is listed, they can provide their detailed reviews.)
Examples (more-or-less in alphabetical order by network, then TV show name):
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ABC (United States)
- Galactica 1980. This sequel/spinoff of the original series eliminated half the cast (including Apollo, Cassiopeia, and Baltar) without explanation, then attempted to pander to audiences with insipid plots involving a group of space children named "The Super Scouts". Good actors made complete fools of themselves - especially Lorne Greene, who was stuck talking to a child prodigy named Dr. Zee for most of the run. It featured what could be one of the worst episodes of a science-fiction series ever made, "Spaceball", in which the Super Scouts have to win a baseball game. The creators were forced to write stories that could be marketed to young children and shoehorn environmental messages into each one, mainly since the show was broadcast at 7:30 PM — a dead zone that killed any chance for success even if it had been worth watching. The writers themselves hated it, as every morning they would chant "come on 13" in reference to the highest rating the show could get and still be canned. Glen Larson had to deal with ABC's Standards and Practices, including their demands for more children, which in turn caused a influx of stage moms (the entire sordid story must be read to be believed). But the show's biggest sin? It killed off the franchise for over 20 years until a reboot made it popular again. And even then, few fans of the original were won over by the reimagined series, whose connection with the original was tangential. Here's TV Trash's review of the disaster.
- Cavemen stands out as quite possibly the worst concept for a TV show of all time—a sitcom based off a character in a TV commercial, in this case the cavemen from a series of GEICO commercials. This concept already failed when CBS attempted to make a show (Baby Bob) based on the Quizno's baby commercials in 2000, and fans of The George Lopez Show already had a grudge against it for replacing its timeslot, but those who tuned in discovered it to somehow be even worse than it sounded on paper. The show had already run into trouble after the pilot was screened for critics; those who saw it claimed it was offensive and racist (the cavemen were an obvious stand in for blacks, with the word "magger" seeing frequent use), leading to the show undergoing a significant Re Tool into a slacker-comedy with the original pilot episode never seeing the light of day on TV. This helped precisely nothing, as the program was critically savaged right from the beginning due to its weak characters (who have awful, fake Southern accents for no apparent reason), bottom-of-the-barrel "humor" (the "highlight" is when a caveman is told to "keep your penis in your genus"), unnecessary sex scenes with plenty of Fan Disservice, and lame plots. To top it off, some of the offensive material from the original pilot made it into the re-shot version! The bad reviews combined with dismal ratings led to only 6 out of 13 episodes being aired before ABC put it out of its misery. The Chicago Tribune called it one of the 25 worst TV shows of all time, and TV Guide listed it in their 25 "biggest TV blunders", saying that making a sitcom based off a commercial was a terrible idea to begin with. Here's TV Trash's take on it, and here's also Brad Jones' review of the unaired premiere for DVD-R Hell.
- The 2011 remake of Charlie's Angels. The show cast aside the cheesy charm that made the original so iconic in favor of trying to copy the Darker and Edgier tone of modern action TV shows such as 24 and Burn Notice, even going so far as to throw some unnecessary torture scenes in there for good measure. All it did was make the show an inconsistent and confusing mess. There was no character development, and each episode was merely an excuse to show hot chicks walking against Stuff Blowing Up for an hour. Plots were a parade of action movie cliches, and the acting and dialogue were mediocre at best. Overall, it was an expensive flop for ABC, as the critics absolutely savaged it and audiences weren't much kinder; its first season was to last 13 episodes, but only 8 were ever aired, and in some countries the show didn't even last half that.
- Emily's Reasons Why Not, a sitcom which premiered on January 9, 2006... and ended on that day, making it a part of the exclusive "cancelled after one episode" club, despite a huge amount of promotion by the network. (It had five others shot that aired overseas and released on DVD.) Though the basic premise—Heather Graham as a self-help guru who constantly finds a single overriding flaw in every man she dates—may have had some potential, in practice it was really more suited to a movie. What really took it over the line was the execution—the supporting characters were cliched, unfunny and bordering on offensive at times, and the jokes were just flat-out dull. It appeared on #6 of Cracked's list of similar shows cancelled after one episode.
- Life with Lucy. No, not I Love Lucy—Life with Lucy. This 1986 Lucille Ball comedy series was supposed to be a smash success, but instead became one of the biggest critical and commercial flops of the 1980s. Why? Well, ABC gave complete creative control to Ball, who was 75 years old at the time of production — a risky move because advertisers prefer viewers under 49, and the show led off the night against The Golden Girls on NBC (which was probably one of the reasons ABC went after the show). The plot, with Ball's character helping out at a California hardware store, was painfully slow and just not funny. The show finished almost dead-last in the season's rankings, and Ball was reportedly so devastated by its failure that she gave up production on any more television projects. Quite a pity, given that she died 3 years later after the show was cancelled.
As pointed out by the book What Were They Thinking The 100 Dumbest Events In Television History, part of the reason for the series' failure is that it tried to recreate the physical stunts of I Love Lucy when Ball was in her seventies. Watching her try to do those stunts didn't so much inspire laughter as it did fear for her safety. Supposedly, the idea of incorporating slapstick was made by an executive that firmly believed that fans would want some of the classic gags I Love Lucy was known for.
- McGurk: A Dogs Life, a 1979 ABC half-hour "comedy" canceled with only the pilot aired. It starred Barney Martin (a.k.a. Morty Seinfeld) as a fat old dog named McGurk. All the cast wore the finest kindergarten-play-quality dog suits while a laugh track brayed over painful quips about such '70s classics as health food, Glen Campbell, joggers, and steel-belted radials. In an attempt to widen the demographics, the dogs next door were made "sexy" in a deeply disturbing and anatomically improbable way. Representative dialog: "Your lips told me no-no, but there was yes-yes in your tail." The human characters were not seen and spoke in Peanuts-style gibberish. The climax featured dancing dogs and a twist that would make M. Night Shyamalan cry.
- The Tammy Grimes Show, aired on ABC in 1966, starred Grimes as an heiress with plots focusing on how much she loved to spend money. Ten episodes were produced, but only four aired before it was canned and replaced by a nighttime version of The Dating Game. Keep in mind that this was when networks were far slower to bring down the axe—My Mother, the Car lasted a full season, but Tammy Grimes lasted just four shows.
- Turn-On was a Totally Radical Sketch "Comedy" program on ABC in 1969. Inspired and produced by some of the same people who made the actual hit show Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, it took everything in that show and turned it Up to Eleven. It was canned before the premiere had finished its half-hour run, though most of ABC at least let it finish running.note It tried to be psychedelic and just the sort of thing the young 'uns would dig (something television as a medium has never been good at) and surreal (which it perhaps succeeded at too well), along with being more openly sexual than shows normally got back then (which was the reason why TV executives and censors hated the show and wanted it to die). Here's a sampler.
- Work It, ABC's 2012 cross-dressing comedy set In a World where only women are getting jobs, was critically savaged from the word "go". The writing was full of bottom-of-the-barrel humor and played so much to stereotype it wasn't even funny. The show's very premise was built on misogyny, and the writing was shamelessly racist. Offensive to women, minorities, and everybody else with a working brain, it was canned within two episodes (six episodes were ordered overall). Its only redeeming quality is that it killed off ABC's attempts to make "mancession" comedy a genre (it had failed once already earlier on in the season with Man Up). It was so bad, it broke IGN's rating scale, "earning" a zero out of ten.
- Big Top, a hideous sitcom set in a circus. It was heavily cross-promoted by a bunch of people well aware how bad it was (in an article about sitcom writing on Radio 4, when the expert was asked to link it back to this show, she even admitted it wasn't funny) and drew criticism for being very unfunny with lazy, stock jokes (a clown... that makes children cry!) and starring a heavily Botoxed and facially immobile Amanda Holden as the main character. Its only redeeming feature was Tony Robinson somehow managing some genuine laughs with the lame material he got, and even then there are much better places to find Robinson in action. It was happily canned after one series and still frequently makes "worst sitcom" lists.
- In 2009, James Corden and Matthew Horne were riding high as the stars (and in Corden's case co-writer) of the critically acclaimed sitcom Gavin and Stacey. What could have gone wrong by giving them their own sketch comedy show, Horne & Corden? Just about everything. Sketch after sketch relied on the fact that Corden was fat and had a wobbly stomach (that was the joke), with other sketches featuring Matthew Horne as a gay war reporter who was frightened of war (that was the joke) or the pair teaching school children how to draw a penis on a blackboard (that was the joke). There was absolutely no attempt to develop any situations beyond the basic premise, which left just a load of puerile references to body parts and Corden's flab. The critical hostility was overwhelming, and declining audience figures led to the second series being cancelled. Corden himself stated in retrospect that he didn't know how to write a sketch show and was not good enough to pull it off.
- Mad About Alice, a 2004 sitcom about a divorced couple forced to work together for the sake of their young son. The show was flat, tedious and predictable, with its thoroughly obvious plot (the characters beginning to wonder whether they still had feelings for each other) being treated as something shocking and original. What pushed it over the line was the publicity hype given to the show before it aired and the decision to cast Amanda Holden and Jamie Theakston, better known for their controversial private lives than their chops as comedy actors, in the lead roles; both demonstrated no sense of comic timing or delivery. This led to widespread mockery from both viewers and the public, with all critical reviews negative, and many commentators stating that the show's only redeeming quality was the Fanservice scenes involving Holden and another actress. It was cancelled after its first season (thankfully consisting of just six episodes) and continues to make "worst TV" or "worst sitcom" lists in the UK.
- The Melting Pot was a sitcom that aired on BBC1 in 1975... and ended the same night it premiered, joining the long list of shows canceled after one episode. The show was written by Spike Milligan, and starred him as a Pakistani illegal immigrant who tries to adjust to life in the titular district in London. Upon its premiere, the show was met with universal outrage for its Unfortunate Implications and at times, outright racism- however just as many people complained that the show was just plain not funny. The show is so bad that even the executives at the BBC like to pretend it didn't exist, and it also effectively ended Milligan's career.
- The Royal Bodyguard was a vehicle for David Jason, beloved as a star of Only Fools and Horses and Open All Hours. He played the incompetent head of security at a car park in Buckingham Palace, who saves the Queen from an assassination attempt and is promoted to royal bodyguard. The production team apparently thought that having a famous name in the lead guaranteed a hit, so didn't bother to put any effort into the script, and ended up with an excruciatingly unfunny parade of slapstick cliches. Having Jason as the lead actually backfired, since fans of his earlier work felt that he deserved a far better show. Jason being 71 years old made it a difficult suspension of belief that he'd be hired as a bodyguard, and caused a similar problem as Life With Lucy: seeing him do wacky stunts made viewers concerned for his safety. Jason himself described the show as "safe", but critics and the public were nowhere near so polite. (One critic pondered whether the BBC had deliberately chosen to broadcast the first episode on Boxing Day because they knew that many viewers would be drunk.) Viewing figures dropped sharply and the show was axed after six episodes.
- Triangle was a 1980s soap opera set on board a ferry that sailed a "triangular" route between Felixstowe, Gothenburg and Amsterdam. It was known for horrible sets, cliche storylines and stilted dialogue that made it a subject of regular public mockery, including on The Young Ones and by Terry Wogan on his radio show. The final nail in the show's coffin was the production problems associated with filming on location at sea, such as lighting, power supply, and rough seas playing havoc with the then-new Electronic Field Production technique. note All of these technical flaws were very apparent in the finished product; and the grim North Seas weather put paid to any hopes of glamor, instead making the ferry and surroundings look exactly as shabby as they were. The show dragged on for three years before being cancelled and was an expensive flop for the BBC, also taking down the careers of some of the cast. Triangle regularly appears in shows and articles about embarrassingly bad TV, and in 2010 was voted third worst in a poll of the worst British television ever; making the show infamous for a scene in the first episode where Kate O'Mara sunbathes topless on the deck of the ferry, even though she's clearly freezing cold. When even The Young Ones makes jokes about how cheap your sets' furnishings are, you know your show's in trouble.
- In 1971, comedian Peter Cook was riding high with his comedy show Not Only... But Also when he was offered his own vehicle with full creative control. Foolishly, he decided to do a combination chat show, sketch comedy, and music show, entitled Where Do I Sit?. The premiere had Peter interviewing S. J. Perelman, who just sat in his seat yawning while Peter couldn't think of anything to ask. An interview with Kirk Douglas featured an inebriated Peter asking Kirk "Who are you?" followed by a long, awful silence. The show also featured the unedifying sight of Peter ripping into an audience member who had complained about a sketch he had performed and phoning up a viewer at home who had pondered whether Peter was on drugs (the call took over five minutes as the person was in the bath). Peter also insisted on performing a song in each show, and he was a notoriously bad singer. The show managed to last three episodes, after which it was canned and the tapes wiped.
- The Wright Way, a 2013 sitcom by Ben Elton that was lambasted on Twitter and widely panned by critics. The main character and much of the "comedy" were recycled from The Thin Blue Line, ignoring the fact that it was 20 years old and hadn't been well-received in itself. The premise (an uptight health and safety inspector who dictates the lives of his family and colleagues) somehow managed to both reinforce Elton's unpopular public image as a humorless, overly politically correct left-winger, and come across as a desperate attempt to pander to right-wingers who are opposed to anything more than the most basic health and safety laws. The show lurched between jokes that would have been hackneyed in Elton's 80s heyday, and cringe-making attempts to be modern (a character whose catchphrase was "OMG, that is SO a YouTube moment!") The same "hilarious" monologue about chest/scrotum-waxing was repeated almost verbatim in every episode, and visual gags were handily pointed out for the viewer, just in case they didn't get it. In particular, the show was noted for its over-reliance on penis jokes and Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness. No one was sorry when it was abruptly cancelled after one season.
- Back in 1989, when Canvas was known as BRTN TV 2, they released Container that was promoted as a 'philosophical' talk show, and is possibly the worst of its kind. It was mainly despised for being absolutely incomprehensible if you weren't intellectual, and despised by that particular target group for encompassing every single negative stereotype attached to intellectuals. One can clearly see that both the people who were talking as well as the host barely knew what they were talking about and shared their ideas right on the spot, trying to hide their lack of knowledge by quoting art critics, reviewing paintings and showing clips of films, which results in enough wall bangers to destroy the very wall you are trying to bang on and enough idiocy to make you feel like you got dumber. It is quite telling that critics were comparing its content to conversations that you could have in a simple café. While there were plenty of shows that were already blamed for only appealing to the Lowest Common Denominator on VTM, which launched on the february of the same year, this show was something so horrible that its horribleness started up so many unnecessary controversy that ended up in not only very hefty debates in which even the defenders of the show agreed that it was horrible, but even a thesis paper dedicated to all of the controversy around it. It was ultimately cancelled after 10 episodes and now only one episode has survived because cobra, which is the national art movement, insisted to preserve an episode of the show because there has never been quite something like this on Belgian television and as it can thus be viewed on its official website together with all the negative criticism the show received just below it. Sadly it ended up being one of the reasons why Canvas would become stereotyped as only appealing to intellectuals, which is an especially painful move with recent competition right along the corner.
- Out of all the shoddy live-action series made for Cartoon Network's infamous CN Real block (created to try to compete with Nickelodeon and Disney Channel), many agree that its absolute low point was Dude, What Would Happen?. The premise is that its three in-your-face Totally Radical hosts are asked a question and attempt to answer it through an experiment à la MythBusters...but minus that whole "scientific process" thing. Instead of old wives' tales or questions kids might actually ask, they ponder things such as what sticks to peanut butter on an inclined surface longer (one of the tested substances was more peanut butter), if covering a piano in deflated basketballs would make it bounce, or what would happen if you popped the world's biggest zit. Instead of answering anything, they would just use the question as an excuse to do something stupid for the sake of doing something stupid (the previously-mentioned zit experiment for example was "solved" by filling a punching bag with cream and dropping it off a building), more in the vein of MTV's Jackass, only everything is played without the slightest hint of irony or self-awareness. Despite terrible ratings and an overwhelming negative response from the viewers, Cartoon Network apparently thought that the show had potential and promoted it to the extreme—not only using the guys from the show for their Stop Bullying, Speak Out commercials and frequently having them host special network events long after the death of CN Real, but keeping Dude on the air with the same treatment for 2 years. It went over as well as you would expect.
- Out of Jimmy's Head has gone down in history as one of Cartoon Network's most hated original programs, and is considered responsible for the network's Network Decay. The series, based off a CN original movie entitled Re-Animated, revolves around a teen named Jimmy Roberts, who is an Extreme Doormat constantly exploited by his friends and others at school. One day, after he somehow gets hit by a train in a public location in a Walt Disney World Expy, he has to have a brain transplant and it just so happens he receives the brain of the park's founder Mitt Appleday—which inexplicably gives him the power to see the cartoons Appleday created, who help him through his everyday junior high life. It's an Idiot Plot, but it wasn't completely without potential...but sadly, they didn't even see the good that could come out of it. The acting is wooden, most of the characters are unlikable, the animated effects look horribly cheap, and there is a Laugh Track that is especially overused and out-of-place since the series is mostly an attempt to emulate Kid Coms like Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide. The series was canned after only 20 episodes as the network used the 2007 TV Strike to end it without much fan anguish, and gained a Periphery Hatedom the size of the Empire State Building, "earning" a 2.1 IMDb rating. Cartoon Network seem ashamed of it as well, as they never put it out on DVD outside of Re-Animated and never aired it again. Sadly, they didn't learn from their mistakes and this show is probably what paved the way for other later live-action CN shows like the aforementioned Dude, What Would Happen?.
- Not My Department was a short-lived sitcom from 1987 that starred Harry Ditson and Shelley Peterson. The show was Canada's attempt at having their own Yes, Minister, and focused on a fictional department of the Canadian government named Department of Regional Incentive Targets, a department that inherits files that other departments can't be bothered to deal with. The show was criticized for being flat, excrutiatingly slow-paced and unfunny, and also being rife with several Unfortunate Implications- one in particular being a character who claims he learned French from a Quebec TV programme and attempts to use it in political meetings, instead accidentally hitting on people from across the room. There was more than just that, though; it was also known for its misogynistic treatment of female politicians, cheap shots taken at people in the government, overuse of Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness and also, despite its misogynistic and cheaply hateful content, simultaneously furthering Canada's already unpopular image at the time of being overly politially correct. The show was axed after six episodes- something that was rare for the time, as back then, shows in Canada usually were to run their full seasons. The ratings started off abysmal and only got worse over time, and private affiliates were so embarrassed by it that they either threw it on in the dead of night or just couldn't even be bothered to air it.
- House Party, not to be confused with the 1990 film of the same name starring Kid 'n' Play, was a 2008 Canadian comedy series that was mercifully short-lived and ran only for 6 episodes. The premise consisted of an already run-into-the-ground premise (Some kid's parents go away for the weekend, so he holds a house party and trouble ensues), which was run into the ground even further. The acting was painful and elementary-level at best, the lighting was extremely poor (at times the bottom half of the frame would be much higher lit than the top), the camera work was boring, and the jokes were so painfully unfunny that at times the show was emotionally draining to watch. To give you a taste, one excruciatingly unfunny joke that happened in all 6 episodes was a girl going around asking everyone at the party if they wanted to try her potato chip dip. Another joke had jocks convincing the protagonist that his cat could talk. The show has been re-aired very few times since, and those re-airings were limited to dead of night airings.
- The Trouble with Tracy is thought to have been made just to fulfill a then-financially-unsteady CTV's quota for Canada-produced content. There's certainly no other justification for this 130-episode 1970s sitcom, which went on for six months due to a desperate attempt by CTV to recoup their investments. Due to a severe lack of time and money, they could not shoot on-location, build convincing sets, or even retake scenes. The scripts were, for the most part, recycled from the 1930-45 radio series Easy Aces, with a few topical references (such as Tracy's deadbeat hippie brother) shoehorned in. The show currently has a 3.8 rating on IMDb, and this clip of the show rightfully labels it as the "Worst Sitcom Ever".
- Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures, a live-action version of the cartoon series of the same name. It spent a year in Development Hell during which Alex Winter (the original Bill) went on The Arsenio Hall Show and said it was horrible. It featured wooden acting, very poor scripts, and Teen Drama plots that were completely unnecessary. Fox pulled it after 6 episodes. Chris Moore of TV Trash stated it was "totally bogus!"
- The Chevy Chase Show, which lasted for five weeks in 1993, is one of the most notorious failures in late night talk show history. The show's material was criticized for being derivative of Chevy's old shtick, and the interviews were excruciatingly awkward. The show's pretty much killed Fox's attempts to get in on the late night talk show game, and alongside Vegas Vacation also pretty much killed Chevy's career until Community.
- dads. Despite the popularity of Seth Green and Brenda Song, this 2013 series filmed before a Studio Audience was a huge flop. Everyone in the series overacts horribly (leaving space between shouted lines for the canned laughter). Jokes were impressively weak, and multiple characters are nothing more than one-note stereotypes (Eli is a short guy, his father's a crotchety miserly Jew, Edna's Hispanic, etc). IMDb users rated the series a middling 5.5, but the Metacritic audience response was much harsher (15 out of 100 from critics, and 3.7 out of 10 from users). The series was cancelled before the first season finished, and while later episodes were eventually aired online, fan response was so nonexistent that news of such things weren't posted on the episode listing on The Other Wiki or the aforementioned IMDb for weeks.
- In an attempt to bring the ratings gold of MTV's The Osbournes to network TV, FOX created Osbournes: Reloaded, a Variety Show starring the first family of metal. The premiere consisted of a guy being tricked into kissing an elderly woman blindfolded, a "randomly-selected" audience member given the prize of marriage to his long-time girlfriend (they were married on-air), painfully long and unfunny sketches with little kids dressed as Ozzy & Sharon (the joke is that they swear) and Ozzy & Kelly working in fast food. The show was canned after one episode, although multiple affiliates either refused to air it or threw it on in the dead of night.
- That '80s Show, a spin-off to the hugely popular That '70s Show that was cancelled after only one season. The show's main problem was that it had no link whatsoever to That '70s Show; none of the characters or actors were involved. The daring stuff that made That '70s Show so notable was totally absent, as were likable and identifiable characters. It was basically a bland middle-of-the-road sitcom where the one-dimensional protagonists mostly made cheap and random references to 1980s pop culture. After a few episodes, Fox started changing the originally intended chronological order of the episodes, but it was already too late. None of the fans of That '70s Show liked it and newcomers weren't particularly interested either. The only remotely interesting thing about this show is that three actors on it would later be seen on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Glenn Howertonnote , Charlie Daynote , and Brittany Danielnote )
- The ½ Hour News Hour, a satirical news show created and produced by Joel Surnow for Fox News Channel in mid-2007. The show was intended as the conservative answer to The Daily Show; unfortunately, though, while Daily was relatively even-handed in its mockery of politicians, network news, and the general public, ½ Hour dedicated itself entirely to taking weak, half-hearted potshots at popular targets for conservatives, including Barack Obama, the ACLU, and the Democratic Party. When their jokes weren't eye-rollingly obvious, they were relentlessly mean-spirited and bitter. The show was universally panned by critics and canned after 17 episodes.
- Six episodes were filmed, but only one aired, of Heil Honey, I'm Home!, a sitcom (yes, sitcom) about Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun living next door to a Jewish family. They apparently tried to kill the Jewish family every week, but the Jewish family remained blissfully unaware of Hitler's treachery. Ironically, this was conceived as a parody of terrible sitcoms — the premiere tries to spoof the old "my boss is coming to dinner" plot with Neville Chamberlain — but unfortunately it ended up becoming the thing it tried to parody. Humor is almost nonexistent, the main concept's played straight, Hitler's no different than any other sitcom husband, and his attempt at a catchphrase is the incredibly stupid "I'm a very, very bad Hitler!" One of the strangest things ever seen on TV, it appealed to nobody and hasn't been aired in its entirety on network television since (although a clip is here, Brad Jones' DVD-R Hell review of the pilot is here, TV Trash ripped it right here and the whole thing's available on Blip.tv), though parts turn up in clip shows of the worst TV moments ever.
- Train 48 was a soap opera that ran from 2003 to 2005. A loosely-based remake of the Australian TV series Going Home (which itself was short-lived, but at least well-received), the show depicted the lives of 12 commuters from Burlington, Ontario on their way home from work in Toronto via GO Train (the main method of transport for people from small boroughs going to the city in Ontario). The show's gimmick was that it was (sort of) written, filmed, edited, and aired in the same day, like the show it's based upon. Except whereas Going Home was aired late at night, the big problem was that Train 48 was to be aired in the evening, and was also filmed on a replica GO Train. This meant that the writers could only write small portions of the episodes and had to leave the rest to the actors to improvise. This wouldn't have been a problem if it wasn't so amateurishly done and, quite frankly, dull. The improvisation (if that's what it was supposed to be) was painfully obvious, and the actors completely lacked what it took to make the improv work. The show's filming on an actual train caused problems, as Jittercam caused the show to be impossible to watch at times, and the actors' dialogue often got drowned out by the loud engines. Worse yet, as the show went on, it got increasingly unrealistic; the show would rely on cheap Dude, Not Funny! gags, deal with ridiculous subplots that would never happen on a commuter train such as a passenger dying, a snake getting loose on a train (were they cribbing ideas from The Asylum?!), sex in the bathroom, a shooting and more. As if that wasn't enough, it even had a Product Placement for Canadian jeanswear brand Warehouse One. An even bigger complaint among viewers was that it was never established where the train was going, which resulted in the final scene of the series showing the passengers stepping off the train in Burlington.
The show dragged on for three years before abruptly being canceled, and proved to be an expensive flop for Global, as each episode cost $40,000- no cheap feat for a show where each episode lasted 30 minutes. It was lambasted by both critics and audiences for being dull, poorly written and also just plain unrealistic. It also found itself on the receiving end of public mockery from shows such as This Hour Has 22 Minutes and The Rick Mercer Report. The show frequently makes it onto "Worst Canadian Shows" lists and also did lasting damage to the Canadian soap opera. Watch an episode here, if you dare.
- Albion Market was a soap opera based around a marketplace in the north west of England. It was created as a "sister show" to Coronation Street and rival to EastEnders, but the channel insisted it be referred to an "ongoing drama series" as they felt it was too good to be "just" another soap. However, viewers and critics found it to be pretentious and lazy, with horrible acting and infamously cheap-looking sets. The show was criticised for casting popular actors to pull in viewers; its obvious focus on beating out EastEnders above being a good show in its own right; and having a production team who thought their past successes guaranteed a hit thus didn't put any effort in. On top of everything else, it had the problem that one of its two weekly episodes was broadcast in a so-called "graveyard slot", while the other aired opposite the hugely successful Open All Hours. It launched at the time of Coronation Street's 25th anniversary, and the chairman of the channel (then Granada, prior to merging with ITV) predicted that Albion Market would still be running a further 25 years later. In fact it haemorrhaged viewers, was savaged by critics, and ended just a year later.
- Britain is typically known for creating good shows that received inferior remakes in the U.S., but it's also been known to happen the other way around. Case in point: Days Like These, an inexcusable remake of the aforementioned That '70s Show. Every episode had the exact same plot and situations as the episode of its US counterpart before it, but rewritten so that it fits the British setting and characters, and they just couldn't nail it. The jokes very seldom made sense and at times were downright awkward, the pacing was hideous, the staging and blocking were depressing to watch, and the whole thing just ended up being one giant trainwreck. The show had a total of 13 episodes, but only 10 were ever aired in the initial run (all 13 were eventually shown), and a good lesson was learned with regards to the difference between American and British senses of humor, ending the idea of British remakes of American works as a whole. (The Golden Girls, Married... with Children, Mad About You, Good Times and Whos The Boss, among others, were also translated. With the exception of the last-named, none of them worked.)
- Hardwicke House, a 1987 sitcom set in an anarchic comprehensive school, received so many viewer complaints that it was pulled after just two episodes. It was designed to compete with The Young Ones and received a lot of hype before it aired, with a second series commissioned before the first had even been broadcast. (An episode guest-starring Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall, who at that time were at the height of their fame with The Young Ones, and might actually have brought in more viewers never saw the light of day.) Some of the viewer backlash was due to Values Dissonance; people were outraged at the portrayal of schoolkids swearing and attacking teachers, while today swearing is a common problem in schools and news reports of violence against teachers are not rare. However, just as many people complained that the show simply wasn't funny, and particular anger was directed at its jokes about pedophilia and Teacher/Student Romance. To avoid potential controversy over racism, the writers had already changed one planned character (an incompetent teacher on a foreign exchange, whose original school will not take him back) to make him Icelandic instead of from an African country. The channel promised to screen the remaining episodes in a later viewing slot, but never did, and then had to pay the cast for the second series even though it would never be made. Media watchdog the Independent Broadcasting Authority later ordered the tapes to be wiped so that the show couldn't resurface or be sold abroad, although it was later revealed that the channel did not comply and were still offering Hardwicke House for sale.
- The Nineteenth Hole was a 1989 Sitcom based at a golf club. On paper the combination of writer Johnny Speight (Till Death Us do Part) and star Eric Sykes was a winner, but in practice it looked as if Speight had forgotten how to write jokes and Sykes had forgotten how to perform. The series was dismally unfunny and cancelled after only seven episodes, and some stations buried the last few in a graveyard slot.
- The Totally Untrue History of... was a 2007 short-lived "comedy" show that mocked celebrities and, as the title suggested, told a completely fake history story of them. The show even managed to fail in that regard; the jokes were horribly unfunny and often mean-spirited (even more so than Video on Trial ever did); the editing of archive footage of celebrities was painfully obvious and the sketches in the middle of the episodes were only worse. The show was mercifully buried after 6 episodes, and nobody was sorry when it was finally put out of its misery.
- Bad Judge, a show starring Kate Walsh as Rebecca Wright, a judge who is bad at her job. The pilot did show a bad judge, but the first season was reworked to lessen or justify her mediocrity. From there on out, the show went from having an unlikable protagonist to a bland one, complete with terrible jokes and forgettable side characters. It appeared on pretty much every reviewer's worst shows of 2014 list and was swiftly cancelled after only a few episodes.
- The American remake of Coupling, which lasted only four episodes in 2003. Every episode was a rewritten version of the original UK source material; the actors were bland and forgettable, and the fact that Coupling itself was just a British tweaking of Friends didn't help. Entertainment Weekly named it one of the 25 biggest bombs; People gave it 1 star out of 4; and its TV.com and IMDb ratings are in the 4 or below range. According to The Other Wiki, then-NBC head Jeff Zucker would later say that the show "just sucked". Watch TV Trash tear it apart here.
- Emeril. No, not Emeril Live—the sitcom. The show basically revolved around Emeril Lagasse doing his cooking show, only far less entertaining than the real-life ones on Food Network that he was known for. Emeril went home to his generic sitcom family, had generic sitcom problems with said family, and uttered very unfunny jokes for 30 minutes every episode. All of this wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for two things. First off, the writers had a habit of shoving completely unrelated political views into episodes. For instance, the pilot episode goes on a tangent involving women's body image and the way they're portrayed in the media. Second off, and most annoyingly, everybody adores Emeril in the show. People constantly compliment his "genius", fans are always lining up for autographs, and he's always shown standing up to those evil television execs. The series only made it through 8 episodes before being cancelled due to low viewer counts and terrible critical reception. This was the first of several missteps in Emeril's now troubled career. Sadly, it was also the last starring role for costar Robert Urich who would die of cancer in 2002. Not to mention, this show was originally slated to premiere on September 11, 2001. However, it was pushed back in favor of the more important news coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon that same day. Hence, if one has knowledge of this atrocity of a TV program, two common 9/11 jokes are that A) the news coverage was much better to watch, and B) Osama Bin Laden was just trying to save us from having to see it.
- There had been bad sitcoms before, but My Mother The Car was one of the first to attain true infamy for its terribleness. Its premise is that the protagonist's recently-deceased mother has been reincarnated as a (fictional) 1928 Porter; aside from that not being how reincarnation is supposed to work, it doesn't translate well to monochrome live-action TV because you can barely see when the mother's speaking — they use a faint flickering light in her (anachronistic) car radio. The full ontological possibilities are never explored, perhaps because the writers were unable to think of them. None of the characters are sympathetic, and worst of all, none of the jokes are even remotely funny! You can watch TV Trash's review of it. Fun fact: the lead actor, Jerry Van Dyke, turned down the role of Gilligan for this dreck.
- British cynic Charlie Brooker once included a clip on his show, and although his tone was generally mocking he seemed curiously admiring of the show's willingness to try an off-the-wall idea and run with it.
- Pink Lady And Jeff, perhaps the worst TV Variety Show ever produced, was the brainchild of NBC exec Fred Silverman, and was helmed by legendary TV producers SidAndMartyKrofft (who had also given us The Brady Bunch Hour, in addition to all those trippy kids' shows). The show was intended to be a star vehicle for the Japanese singing duo Pink Lady, consisting of singers Mitsuyo "Mie" Nemoto and Keiko "Kei" Masuda who were paired with comedian Jeff Altman. The only problem? Neither member of Pink Lady could speak a word of English, and they had to learn all their lines phonetically. This led to one of the biggest trainwrecks in the history of television, and is often named as the exact moment when the Variety Show stopped being relevant in American television.
Despite the singing talent of the ladies, who sang a few tunes in their native tongue (without subtitles), the show only lasted 6 episodes — the last of which didn't even air. Pink Lady was continuing its tour during filming, so between that and the language barrier we saw much more of Jeff...whose material wasn't good enough to hold things together. This show was so bad that The Agony Booth did a detailed run-down of the entire series with tons of screencaps from the official DVD — including the unaired sixth episode, which manages to make the first five look tame and actually serves as a fitting closer.
- Supertrain tried to be the new Love Boat, aiming to combine the best of City of Adventure and Walking the Earth and featuring a large staff full of major characters as well as plenty of minor roles for big-name guests. Its most notorious feature was the setting, a gigantic nuclear-powered train, designed perhaps only to be ridiculed by trainspotters.note It was mired with production issues (including a model which cost a million USD and promptly malfunctioned, shattering right there in the studio) and the plots were predictable at best. Not helping anything was the fact that Three Mile Island had a partial meltdown a month into the show's runtime. Its failure put NBC in jeopardy—between this and several other missteps (including the aforementioned Pink Lady and Jeff, the disastrous sixth season of Saturday Night Live, and the apathetic response to the US-boycotted 1980 Olympics), they nearly went bankrupt. Here's Rowdy C tearing the pilot a new one.
- Awesomeness TV was Nickelodeon's attempt at creating their own version of Incredible Crew (already a divisive show in its own right), except Awesomeness TV had its own major issues, especially as the "unskippable-YouTube-playlist-in-22-minutes" format it had meant a lot more skits that clunked than hit. The hosts weren't really engaging (Daniella Monet from Victorious seemed to only be there to fulfill her contract to the network and couldn't do much with the material), and had a cherry "putting on a show" mentality which seemed cloying to the audience. Smosh hosted an episode, but didn't feel like their regular selves, for instance. The amateurish quality of the skits didn't help much at all, along with jarring skits which seemed more mean-spirited than funny note and the characters have few redeeming characteristics. The jokes are poorly written note and the laugh tracks never shut up. (if you listen closely, there are children laughing.) They also laugh at even the worst jokes. Also, the skits are often even recycled from the YouTube channel the series was based on. It was horrible enough to score a 1.0 out of 10 for a whole year on TV.com before getting brought up to a slightly less painful 3.1, and IMDb had no less hate for the show. Unfortunately for Nick (and Daniella) they signed a two-season contract where they had to fulfill the airing deal before the network could finally abandon their disastrous run of DreamWorks shows, but not before somehow getting the skit character Terry the Tomboy a 90-minute TV-film that was dumped on one of Nick's weekday holidays.
- Nickelodeon's action programming block, Nick Studio 10, was almost universally and passionately loathed. Presented as live, it had multiple instant replays and cameras of stunts which suggested otherwise. The sketches by themselves are already dreadfully unfunny and the block hosts can only do so much with the material given, but by far the most infamous reason that so few people like it is because they randomly interrupted other shows with "Important Public Service Announcements" note that boil down to little more than the same random sort of antics you would expect to see on a 10-year-old boy's Tumblr page.
Viewers were annoyed by this practice, and the block had several different petitions calling for its cancellation; a search for it on Google will bring up its Wikipedia page and, from there, nothing but loathing for it. The network quickly gave up on having a Twitter account for the show (one alleged to be "real" was clearly a racist parody), while they gave up on their Facebook outside of one brave social media manager a few months later; it finally ended after Labor Day 2013 with a quiet cancellation after the summer break. It spawned an entire series of rants done by The Archfiend.
- Australia's Naughtiest Home Videos was a 1992 one-off comedy special that featured Doug Mulray as its host. Although its content was beyond what would be shown on, say, American television, it probably wouldn't have launched controversy and popularity had the late Kerry Packer not viewed bits of it at a dinner, called Nine Network, and angrily yelled at them to "Get that shit off the air!". Within minutes, it cut to an Ad Bumper stating the rest of the program couldn't be shown for "technical reasons" and it was cancelled midway through its first episode to make way for reruns of Cheers.note On August 28, 2008, the special was rebroadcast for the very first time in 16 years, and when Australian viewers tuned in, they could easily see why Mr. Packer flipped his lid; Mulray made unfunny quips over clips of kangaroos getting their balls twisted by children, animals doing it in public, people getting it on in front of the camera, Mulray talking about "bosoms", and a naked man falling out of a shower. Bert Newton provided the introduction, monologue and outro of the 2008 rebroadcast, which was probably the only good part of the whole thing.
Bert Newton: Anybody still watching back then in 1992 who wasn't scandalized by the spot was expecting more of the same. Instead, they got that announcement about "technical difficulties" which you heard, which was true! It's technically very difficult to keep a show on air...with Mr. Packer on the phone yelling at you.
- Ben Elton Live from Planet Earth, a live Australian stand-up/sketch-comedy/variety show starring comedian Ben Elton. It was intended as something of a comeback for Elton, who'd been absent from the comedy scene for a while and widely considered a Fallen Creator. It was also intended as a flagship for the Nine Network. Unfortunately, the material was dated, ineptly presented, and largely unfunny; it impressed almost no one. During the premiere, viewing figures dropped from 805,000 at the start (it was scheduled to start after Top Gear in primetime) to 233,000 by the end, with about 200,000 people dropping out every 15 minutes... and if the reaction on Twitter and other social networking sites was anything to go by, most of those who hung around watched solely to rip it to shreds. Critics were by and large no more generous; typical reviews took the lines "an early contender for worst show of the year" or "a screaming, embarrassing failure". It lasted three weeks, shedding even more viewers, before being cancelled. Quite possibly the worst section of the whole thing was Girl Flat, a sitcom in which Lady Gaga, Beyoncé Knowles, Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse share a flat. It comes off like every line was ripped from crappy YouTube comments—apparently, the writers thought that a famous woman saying "vagina" was the funniest thing to grace our green planet.
- De Oro Puro ("Of Pure Gold"), a Venezuelan Soap Opera which, despite its high production values, was unspeakably awful. The plot seemed to be a Love Triangle between a girl with Psychic Powers and Easy Amnesia, a man with a Mysterious Past, and the Wandering Jew, who's female and apparently mother of the heroine (Jesus damned her from the cross and all). There was also a Mad Scientist with a lab with jar people growing up, and numerous supernatural elements. At least, that's about as much sense as could be made. RCTV, the network that made it, placed it in the timeslot previously occupied by the long-lasting, successful, social-themed soap Por Estas Calles, causing a cultural shock that obviously didn't help it at all. When the ratings sank, they tried to attract people by airing segments in which the whole cast and a respected character actress who wasn't even in the production recapped and explained the convoluted plot and backstory; this backfired when people realized that, if the creators had to explain the story, the viewers won't get much from watching it. When it was obvious that the show couldn't be saved, they edited the final chapters to compress them so they could finish the emission sooner, hacking off the resolution of its plot points and alienating the few souls who did invest their time watching it. The parody by Radio Rochelanote was arguably better.
- This show's failure ruined the reputation of its writer, the late Julio César Mármol (an usually competent play and scriptwriter, who had written huge successes like Estefanía, La Dueña, and El Desprecio), contributed to the ratings downfall of RCTV during a good chunk of The Nineties, and killed the then-budding practice of fully filming a soap before broadcasting (usually, Latin soaps first film a 20-episode buffer and then film day-to-day so they can adjust the plot according to ratings and character reception). This soap had been completed before the premiere, meaning that nobody could step in and set the show right once it was clear how bad it was. All of the above measures were meant to try to recoup any losses, and because RCTV produced it they were obligated to broadcast the full run. If you see the Telenovelas section on RCTV International's website, you'll notice that the description of this soap is deliberately more obtuse and poetic than the rest of their shows.
- The Big Bow Wow, based around a group of 20-something friends who hang out at the titular club, was an attempt to create a drama somewhere between Friends, Skins and This Life. It came across more like a tourism ad for Dublin, trying to portray a lifestyle of partying around the clock in "designer pubs" as representative of the lives of ordinary young people. The show went down very poorly with viewers and critics alike, who mocked its weak storylines, horrible writing and pretentiousness. It relied on drug use to create "edgy" storylines but used a fictional drug (because the writers didn't want to be seen to condone drug abuse) - then turned the whole thing into a heavy-handed and amateurish Drugs Are Bad message. One memorable scene, portrayed in all seriousness, involved a drug dealer going into a record store where a shop assistant directs someone to the blues section for Miles Davis. A real record store employee would know Miles Davis belongs in jazz, so the dealer knows this one must be a cop! The creative team were so certain of the show being renewed that they went out to the Caribbean to begin writing the second series, yet the reception was so poor that it was canned after just six (out of a planned thirteen) episodes. The channel even condensed some episodes together (so poorly that you could still hear the opening/ending music where the credits should have played) just to get it off the air as soon as possible.
- The Spike, a 1978 serial set in a tough high school in Dublin, received negative press and reviews from the first episode. One critic wrote that RTE had finally "found the magic formula for successful comedy" - but the show was intended to be a serious, hard-hitting drama. It became infamous for briefly showing a naked model in an art class, which caused a flood of complaints. The chairman of the League of Decency actually had a heart attack while calling the newspapers to complain about the scene. After this, the show was abruptly Cut Short halfway through its run (hours before the next episode was due to air), and the remaining episodes never saw the light of day. It still remains a subject of public mockery in discussions of Irish TV.
- Stew, a sketch show attempting to be an Irish version of The Fast Show. Unfortunately it was utterly awful to watch. The jokes were just childish and awkward. Notably, it had a recurring sketch of a Bollywood Nerd who was trying to push his daughter into a high-powered career (not even a specific one) from a very young age which was very awkward to watch. Bizarrely, in spite of multiple complaints from viewers, RTE gave it two seasons. Yet, they canned The Blizzard Of Odd at roughly the same time.
- Germany hasn't been known for inventing new concepts, but what they did with Das i-Team is unacceptable. Basically, it took The IT Crowd and reshot it frame for frame — and still managed to get it wrong. The timing was awful, the delivery was bland and from all the things they could have changed, they took the intro. Thankfully, it got cancelled after two episodes.
- Club Mario was just a repackaged version of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show with the live-action segments (the ones that actually involved the Mario Brothers) replaced by two aggressively Totally Radical Surfer Dudes with Attitude. Worse, the live-action segments have nothing to do with the Mario or the cartoons except for some stock footage in the intro and a brief summary of the episode in question. A quick edit and dub and the so-called "Club Mario" could be used for anything. Rumor has it that the Club Mario segments were so horrible, that DiC Entertainment ordered every single copy of them to be destroyed. Here's RetroNausea TV's take on it.
- The Magic Hour, a 1998 talk show hosted by basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson, didn't take long to become a byword for "terrible TV." Magic's incompetence at hosting made him the butt of ridicule for many, most notably Howard Stern (who was invited to be a guest on the show and proceeded to ask Magic inappropriate questions about his sexual history). Magic's sidekick, comedian Craig Shoemaker, was fired after publicly calling the show "an absolute nightmare." The show was canceled after three months, costing syndicators millions of dollars.
- Turbocharged Thunderbirds, a half-hour version of Gerry Anderson's British Supermarionation classic Thunderbirds, produced for syndication. 13 of the original Thunderbirds episodes were hacked into a half-hour format (with space opened for commercials), re-titled, and dubbed over with new voicesnote . The Tracy family fought supervillains, and the action took place on "Thunderworld". Oh, and the family took orders from a pair of Large Ham live-action teenagers called the "Hack Masters" who lived on the inside of Thunderbird 5 (renamed "Hacker Command"... but really, who cares) and called Jeff Tracy "Mr. T" (WHAT THE HELL, FOOL!?). Worst of all, the original dialogue was edited out completely and replaced with "ironic post-modern" jokes. Anderson was outraged when he found out what had been done to his creation, and threatened to sue unless his name was removed from the credits (which they were, rather awkwardly — his name was blurred out in the closing credits, and then-wife Sylvia was the only one credited). The series only lasted one season. When the rights to Thunderbirds reverted to Anderson he reportedly ordered all copies of Turbocharged Thunderbirds destroyed.
- The Secret Diary Of Desmond Pfeiffer (the "P" isn't silent), a short-lived (and extremely low-rated) UPN sitcom, possibly the network's worst such series aimed towards African-Americans, that aired only four episodes out of the nine produced overall in October 1998. It starred Chi McBride as the titular character, a Black English nobleman who is kidnapped and sent to America on a slave ship, then becomes a horny Abraham Lincoln's valet in the form of a Servile Snarker that is more competent than any other inhabitants in the White House throughout the Civil War, who are all portrayed as being very stupid. This show became notorious for being the subject of protests by African-American groups against its arguably lighthearted portrayal of slavery. Because of this controversy, the original pilot episode, where Desmond Pfeiffer becomes Lincoln's butler and attempts to return to England, was never broadcast. It was so poorly received, it was even advertised with the tagline "Critics hate it." The show would have been forgotten if not for various references on Clerks: The Animated Series—and notably, some people who watched Clerks first and later found Desmond Pfeiffer nearly did a Spit Take after finding out that it's wasn't actually fictional. Brad Jones did a review of this series for his DVD-R Hell series, and TV Trash reviews it here.
ABC (United States)
- Set For Life, a mercifully short-lived game show from Endemol (the people behind Deal or No Deal). Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, it ultimately ended up being a poor attempt to play Follow the Leader with themselves. The contestant was on a Luck-Based Mission that required literally nothing but pulling out "light sticks" (giant Lite-Brite pegs) and going up the money ladder. White ones advanced you, red ones knocked you down; pulling all four reds ended the game. But there was a twist which easily led to a Shocking Swerve — offscreen, the player had a "Guardian Angel" who could stop the game at any time, but their decision wasn't revealed until the player finished their game (either by pulling out all the white pegs, getting all the red ones, or simply quitting themselves), meaning entire chunks of the game could be for naught. Even worse, while the show used a qualifying game that determined how much each player would be playing for (Kimmel stated it involved twelve numbers and an envelope), it was never shown!
- The aforementioned qualifying round was done differently and actually shown on-air on the British version, For the Rest of Your Life: the couple picked a dollar amount, then played a variation of the stick-pulling game with three reds. White sticks added to the pot, red sticks subtracted; the couple could stop at any time, but only after they picked a white one. While this made the game more truthful and transparent in its methods, it also made an already tedious game even more tedious.
- The One: Making a Music Star: Endemol tries to bring its Star Academy format — which is sort of like American Idol but with Big Brother-style interactions and conflicts in a music academy between performances — to the U.S., with horrific results. Critics, despite the format originally premiering in other countries (particularly the UK, where it was known as Fame Academy) at around the same time as the British version of Idol, concluded that ABC was late to the party: the fact that advertising touted it as "the show Fox doesn't want you to see" probably made matters worse. Viewers voted with their remotes, scoring some of the worst ratings for a series premiere on a major U.S. network in history. The ratings on the following episodes were even worse; ABC pulled the plug on The One after only four episodes, and the winner was left undecided.
- As if the poor reviews weren't bad enough, The One also became entangled in controversy in Canada; the show was hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos, a CBC radio and (now former) talk show host. To tie in with his involvement, CBC actually bought the Canadian rights to The One, and aired it in simulcast with ABC, preempting its traditional 10:00 p.m. newscast The National in much of the country. Critics felt it was very out of character for CBC to be airing an U.S.-produced series in primetime, as the network has historically focused its efforts on Canadian productions — in contrast to the remaining commercial networks, whose business models involve acquiring rights to popular U.S. shows, then simulcasting them so they can force TV providers to replace U.S. feeds of the show with their own, advertising included, and scheduling Canadian content as an afterthought. Additionally, CBC's president at the time had explicitly stated that they "[didn't] do reality television." At the same time, CBC was planning to produce a Canadian version of the format (which would compliment the French-Canadian version produced by TVA). However, after the ratings disaster of The One, CBC resorted to Canadian versions of the Andrew Lloyd Webber talent searches instead.
- Don't Scare the Hare was an utterly pathetic attempt by BBC One to have a leading game show, which instead ended up becoming a notorious flop. The show consisted of a group of adults who were to complete a series of challenges (three per episode out of nine total) to win £15,000 in prize money; failure to do so would result in them "scaring" (read: waking up) a giant robotic hare. The show premiered on Easter weekend in 2011 before the series 6 premiere of Doctor Who and ended up with spectacularly low ratings (1.93 million), and the producers had attempted to blame the heat wave rolling through England at the time; this backfired when the ratings for Doctor Who ended up being the series' highest yet. Worse yet, since it premiered on Easter weekend, audiences were under the impression that it was a one-off to tie in with Easter, so they were surprised to find out that there were still 8 more episodes. The ratings got worse with every season, causing BBC to lose a lot of money. The ratings got so bad that the last episode was merely a clip show hastily cut together just so BBC could get the show off the air. Critics and audiene lambasted the show mercilessly; many mentioned that its concept would have fit better on CBeebies rather than a network meant for adult television, and the games themselves were also criticized for being either too easy or embarrassing to watch. The show did so poorly that BBC never attempted a game show again.
- The Thousand-Dollar Bee, a children's game show filmed in Atlanta for the now-defunct and little-seen Black Family Channel. It was a televised spelling bee/vocabulary game with a very odd Bill Cosby-type host named Sinatra Onieyewacki who wore a geeky bow tie. The contestants were dreadfully bad at spelling and didn't have any drive to be better, as the prize for the entire season was a $1,000 savings bond for college, enough in these days to buy maybe books for a year. It also had the lowest production values ever seen on cable TV in the 21st Century — a creepy CGI bee straight out of the Video Brinquedo handbook, PowerPoint-grade captions done in Comic Sans, a "theme song" consisting of the same two bars of music and chipmunk vocals, a Kid Sidekick in a bee costume who provided overly precocious commentary about the contestants and their progress, and an entire round that involved spelling out words with refrigerator magnets (though that last one could be forgiven as a homage to the Scrambleboard of Soul Train). Here's some gameplay, if you dare.
- Top Design, Season 1. Bravo thought people who loved Top Chef and Project Runway would love to see more takes on that formula, and so they made a show like those two shows, but with interior designers. They also decided to combine the host and mentor roles into host Todd Oldham. Now, this can be done right — HGTV had a competitive reality show for interior designers that worked. But Top Design didn't get it right. The challenges were not engaging enough to viewers; the elimination catchphrase "See you later, Decorator" was dull; and Todd Oldham had negative charisma. The show was a flop in the ratings. Instead of canceling it right then, Bravo gave it a second chance, giving production of the Season 2 to the studio behind Top Chef and Project Runway and ordering a major retool of the show to get it closer to the formula of Chef and the Bravo seasons of Runway:
- India Hicks became the new host, while Oldham was demoted to mentor but unfortunately still there. The elimination catchphrase was changed, the challenges became more elaborate, and the Season 2 finale was a two-parter. Despite the changes, the retool failed to bring in new viewers.
- Nowadays, when Top Design is mentioned in articles or forums related to Bravo shows, the reaction is always negative. Despite this, 3 years later, Nine Network launched an Australian version.
- You're in the Picture is almost a byword for bad ideas executed badly — or it would be if it was better known. It was a 1961 game hosted by Jackie Gleason, in which a four-celebrity panel (in the one episode that aired, the panel consisted of Pat Harrington Jr., Pat Carroll, Jan Sterling and Arthur Treacher) stuck their heads through pictorial cut-outs and tried to guess what picture they were in. Within five minutes of the January 20 premiere, it was clear that the game was nigh-impossible and far from interesting; even the prize was lame — 100 CARE packages donated in that celeb's name (if nobody guessed correctly, they were donated in Gleason's name).
- The following week's "show" on January 27 consisted entirely of Gleason shotgunning coffee (which an audience member had poured some booze into) and apologizing to everyone who watched the premiere, chalking up its failure to "the intangibles of show business", sharing memories of other failures he was involved in, and making fun of a format that seemed like a winner when it was being thought up. Incidentally, this half-hour apology (the Poorly Disguised Pilot for a one-on-one informal Gleason talk show) may be the funniest moment of his long and illustrious career.
- The Girlie Show was a 1990s attempt to cash in on the Lad-ette fad and "girl power" ethos embodied by the Spice Girls. The show mainly consisted of a group of female presenters childishly daring each other to say rude words on TV; while a bunch of male counterparts would be shown attending various places such as clubs or sporting events and acting like Lower-Class Lout stereotypes. Critics trashed the show for being amateurish and highly staged, with the hosts' lack of professional TV experience being very apparent. Meanwhile, audiences found it to be offensive and sexist against both men and women. It lost viewers rapidly and was canned after two series.
- Canada's Got Talent is often considered by many to be the worst out of the "________'s Got Talent" shows, for many different reasons. The show was forced to make plenty of inexplicable changes from the British and US versions due to budget constraints, and it shows:
- Actual episodes were an hour long each with the results shows being 30 minutes each, resulting in the show being much less accommodating.
- The show also changed the idea of the original where semifinalists were judged in front of a live audience after the auditions to contestants being judged by their regional auditions.
- The show also ended up with 36 semifinalists (in lieu of the other shows' 72 semifinalists), and the judges (Measha Brueggergosman, Martin Short, and Stephan Moccio) were routinely condemned by critics and audiences for being both more annoying than the bad contestants and being way too kind.
- Halfway through the season, the series got canned for considerably low ratings and high production costs that seemed like a near-impossible task for City — the network lost a considerable amount of money with each episode, and didn't create any new reality shows afterward... until they started doing The Bachelor Canada (which has fared much better, since its getting a 2nd season)
- In addition, neither the winning contestants nor the judges have been seen in much after the show finished, for obvious reasons.
- Mystery Diners, a "reality show" that comes off as unbelievable for several reasons:
- The owners seem to only do the show for free publicity (and nothing is ever found wrong with their own management), some situations (such as a beer bong in a formal restaurant or a bartender running his "own" bar off-hours) would be definitely brought up long before through a comment card, Yelp review, or a phone call when the owner was actually in, and in one situation, a new beer wholesaler which was a plant for the mystery diners did not identify their company by name, a major no-no in any business. Also, even though outright retail theft is shown multiple times, none of the owners have called for the police when the confrontation takes place (a standard norm in those situations), leaving the "culprits" to pretty much get away with it beyond their firings and the humiliation of having to sign the appearance release. Finally, unbelievable things (even accounting for Willing Suspension of Disbelief) and overly rehearsed offensive behavior suggest a lack of reality.
- One episode featured the restaurant and two cast members of the former TruTV show Ma's Roadhouse (which had scripted situations), suggesting that nothing really happened in any reality. Another episode had a 'four months later' summary of what happened after the television crew left, when the show's first airdate was only three months earlier; the Ma's Roadhouse episode was worse, airing only a month and a half after shooting (as of the seventh season the 'four months later' has been changed to the vague 'restaurant update'). The host, Charles Stiles, points out obvious things repeatedly and asks ridiculous questions (usually along the lines of "Do you usually let your employees do that?"). In addition, Stiles is repeatedly shown from the back when he talks (so we don't see "his" face), and his talking is usually very obviously dubbed in during post-production.
- The events of every episode of this "reality" series are exactly the same. Namely, Mystery Diners come in, focus on one employee the owner told them about doing something bad, discover the behavior of an employee entirely outside of initial suspicion is even worse (most times something that would be so against the rules, they would be entirely impossible to hide). Owner confronts "worse" employee first, shouting match ensues, firing follows. "Bad" employee gets a stern talking to, "bad" employee nods and pledges to do better, resumes work as normal. "Thank you, Mystery Diners!" Where Are They Now, roll credits.
- Restaurant Stakeout has pretty much the same concept as Mystery Diners, and many of the same flaws. The premise is like Kitchen Nightmares Lite — hidden cameras placed around a restaurant are supposed to catch chefs and waiters acting unprofessionally so the Donald Trump-like host can reveal himself and come down on them at the end of the episode. Great idea, but just one little problem — this could be filed as a scripted show. Actors are hired, employees are told how to act, everyone is aware they're on-camera, and the audio is never muddled down with restaurant activity like on other Food Network restaurant shows. One restaurant owner admitted that nothing that happened was real during the second episode. Add in a blustering, uncharismatic host who uses the phrase "We banged/pounded another one out, America!" without any irony as his victory catchphrase, and you have an absolute joke of a program.
- In 2002, Fox aired a quiz show called The Chamber which stands tall as a textbook example of how not to do a quiz show. It was rushed to air to compete with ABC's The Chair, a decent game show hosted by tennis player John McEnroe that quizzed contestants while subjecting them to events intended to raise their heart rate - which itself aired only a half-season. The Chamber taped six episodes and aired only three. Unlike the fairly mild stimuli, very-unlikely-to-kill-you brought on for The Chair contestants (like tennis balls and a fake alligator), contestants on The Chamber were subjected to extreme heat, extreme cold, high winds, simulated earthquakes, etc. - and we didn't even get Scenery Porn from it. Even worse, if the producers had done their homework, they'd know that the winds at Levels 4+ were enough to cause extreme frostbite in the Cold chamber...and only the producers at Fox know what went on in the Water, Insect, and Electric chambers that were only used in unaired episodes. It's believed that one contestant sued the network over health issues brought on by the show's stimuli. You can see a portion of one of the aired episodes here.
- The show was also plagued by frequent audio equipment failures. The headsets worn by the contestants were prone to falling off, and in one episode the headset just plain stopped working, resulting in host Rick Schwartz having to shout the questions into the chamber.
- Matt Vasgersian, formerly of Sports Geniuses, was originally slated to host, but was disgusted by the show's premise and left before it even premiered.
- MA Dtv made fun of this show in "The Probe", a sketch where Mo Collins is strapped to an operating table as a giant drill whirls towards her spread-open legs and she screams for someone to let her out.
- I Wanna Marry "Harry", a 2014 dating show, is without a doubt one of the most tasteless and downright awful ideas for a dating show ever thought up. A bunch of women are flown to London, and are led to believe that they are competing for the affection of Prince Harry (while not outright being told that it's Prince Harry until the 5th episode). The Prince Harry impersonator in question (Matthew Hicks, an environmental consultant) is always surrounded by helicopters and high security everywhere he goes and the women are only to refer to him as "sir". The show was horribly received from both critics and audiences, with many reviewers noting its blatant ripping off of one of Fox's own older shows (Joe Millionaire), and also going so far as to slam its lack of shame from deceiving these poor women, and its apparent enjoyment of their foolishness. The show was a bomb in the ratings department and was pulled after four episodes (though all the remaining episodes would be released on Hulu and the series was shown in full in the UK and Austraila, but suffered awful ratings there as well).
- Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage. First off, production must have had a lot of balls to assume they’d be able to do a sequel. But throw in a boatload of confusing seemingly on-the-fly rules, a motley collection of shallow contestants, and one “Bug-Eyed Toni” (Ferrari), and it’s pathetically easy to see why the ship ultimately sank without a trace.
- In the first half of the 2003 miniseries Married by America, a series of men and women were matched up with potential spouses; their families and viewers' call-in votes ultimately arranged their engagements sight-unseen. The 2nd half of the series followed the 10 couples thus created to a retreat where they spent the next few weeks "preparing for the wedding" and competing to avoid getting "voted out". In the finale, it was down to two couples and two weddings — and if either couple agreed to say "I do" at the altar, they won a ridiculous sum of money. Neither couple agreed to go through with it, making the whole series a wash.
- In one episode, Fox sent a bunch of strippers into the resort for the grooms' "bachelor party" to try to see if any of the guys would break—if they did, they were voted out. The FCC fined FOX over this episode, although Fox managed to get the fine substantially reduced after it was revealed that most of the complaints were part of an Astro Turf campaign.
- Most of those who heard about it found it twisted, feeling that it degraded both the participants and the very concept of marriage. The Raleigh-Durham affiliate (WRAZ) found the show so distasteful, they ran reruns of The Andy Griffith Show instead. However, most people just didn't hear about it, so it got bad ratings.
- Mr. Personality, a 5-episode series from 2003 hosted by Monica Lewinsky (the former White House intern at the center of the Bill Clinton sex scandal). It was like The Bachelorette — a woman picks a husband out of a field of suitors — but in this case all the men wore creepy-as-hell masks so she could pick the right guy without considering looks. It was a good concept with horrible execution — the vast majority of the guys were movie-star handsome, with the one or two "ugly" ones Hollywood Homely at best.
- The Swan, unlike most makeover shows, took plain-looking women with bad health, self-esteem problems, etc. and put them through months of therapy, strenuous training, and painful, extensive surgery in order to transform them into plastic facsimiles of the "Hollywood Ideal" - all for a beauty pageant at the end. A few women got sent home early because of accidents or mishaps under the knife, leaving them worse off than they were before. And during the pageant finale, the girls came down the catwalk to the tune of Groove Armada's "If Everybody Looked the Same", or at least a version that never got to the next line — "We'd get tired of looking at each other." Entertainment Weekly called it the worst reality show ever made, and it's been described as nothing more than a thinly-veiled advert for the plastic surgery industry.
- In one episode, a contestant was reluctant to have her nose operated on, as it was something of a family trait she shared with her daughters and was proud of. The show made no attempt to hide the disdain everyone had for this woman who didn't want to turn into a life-size Barbie clone.
- Without a Trace did a Played for Drama version of this, with the missing person being a contestant on a Swan-like show and later realizing she shouldn't have changed.
- Now complete with a Celebrity Edition.
- Utopianote , an ambitious $50 million program that Fox premiered in fall 2014, and which quickly went down as one of the biggest bombs in TV history. Based on a Dutch reality show, fifteen people from all walks of life were sent to live on a compound in southern California in the hopes of building a new society, with a working farm, a lake stocked with fish, and a 24/7 live camera feed that anybody could watch online. While the original Dutch show it was based on was a success, the American version completely botched the execution, as the cast was composed of jerkasses and exaggerated stereotypes picked out specifically to cause tension with each other (a minster and an atheist, a hunter and an animal rights activist, etc.), pretty much defeating the whole point of the show right from the start. One critic called it nothing but non-stop "farming, fighting, and fornicating — but mostly fighting," few of the people involved (in either the cast or the production) seemed to have any idea what they were doing or what the point of the show was, and some cast members were overtly saying on camera that they couldn't wait to get voted off so they could collect their paychecks. The show's swift cancellation after only one month strained the Fox network and deepened its slump in the mid '10s, and sparked much discussion about whether Reality TV, at least on the broadcast networks, was wearing out its welcome.
- The 2-hour reality special Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, aired in February 2000, is one of the lowest points in Fox's long run of horrible ideas. The premise was that 50 gold-diggers competed to marry a "multi-millionaire" named Rick Rockwell. The woman he chose would be married to him on the spot and win $100,000 and various prizes; said winner, Darva Conger, wound up getting a divorce less than two months after the show aired...but not before capitalizing on her 15 Minutes of Fame by almost immediately posing for Playboy.
- It was revealed not long after the special that not only was Rockwell barely a multi-millionaire (he'd only been worth $2 million, with less than $1,000,000 in liquid assets — pretty well-off, but far from the elite uber-rich dude he'd been promoted as), but one of his ex-girlfriends had filed a restraining order against him for Domestic Abuse. What Were They Thinking The 100 Dumbest Events In Television History has this squarely at #9.
- In Who's Your Daddy?, a person who had been adopted as an infant is forced to pick out his/her biological father from a group of 25 men. Picking the right man won $100,000, but otherwise the "impostor" got the money. In other words, this is essentially a Prime Time version of the Daddy DNA Tests on Maury. After being hit with poor ratings, massive public backlash, and the Raleigh-Durham affiliate (WRAZ, the same station that refused to air Married by America) refusing to broadcast the show, Fox canned it after one episode, quietly burning off the other five episodes they had filmed on the (now-defunct) Fox Reality cable channel.
- GSN's entries into the reality genre are usually forgettable, but none more so than Carnie Wilson: Unstapled. The series is a documentary on an attitude-ridden Carnie trying to shed her pregnancy weight. Add plastic acting, an annoying supporting cast and a mention of a diet where she gained weight and you have the makings of a dark point for GSN. It lasted 13 episodes before being relegated to late nights and cancellation. It's no wonder she was replaced as host of their version of The Newlywed Game by Sherri Shepherd soon after.
- Faux Pause, from 1998. The concept was basically a game show version of Mystery Science Theater 3000 — find a lame old game show and riff on it. However, it failed on so many levels: the hosts (obscure comedians Mary Gallagher and Sean Donnellan) were extremely unfunny and often mean in their riffs (e.g. calling everyone in Oregon a hick, implying that New Jersey girls are all ugly, or making a joke about excessive chain-smoking when the host of the show they were riffing on died of lung cancer); their shows of choice were often Cult Classics (most notably Go, Hot Potato, and Treasure Hunt US) or at least unremarkable shows not bad enough to warrant the MST treatment; and the interstitial skits were both unfunny and poorly-acted. Read a Game Show Garbage review of the series here, and a rundown of the Hot Potato episode here.
- Perhaps the only good things to be said about the show are that its producer Frank Nicotero went on to host the cult classic Street Smarts, while Donnellan switched to voice acting in video games. Also, this was the only time GSN has ever shown the 1975 pilot of Barry-Enright's short-lived/obscure Hollywood Connection, and the episode skewering Winning Streak (more specifically, the August 9, 1974 shownote ) had one joke's punchline be a still-shot of the slate for that one surviving episode.
- Hidden Agenda was one of several major GSN flops in 2010: it was literally just a hidden camera show in which a wife had to get their husband to perform embarrassing activities to win money. Whatever "game" this game show had was almost entirely downplayed in favor of just having family members "reacting" to the ordeal: even worse, you also had the host encouraging the contestant to get their hubby drunk to supposedly make things easier. With ratings as low as 74,000 viewers, you knew you had a major flop on your hands.
- How Much is Enough?, from 2008, was probably the most tedious game show ever created: four contestants attempted to gauge how greedy they were by locking in a value on a "money clock" going up from $0 to $1,000; they kept whatever value they stopped at, unless they had the highest amount, which meant they got nothing. This continued with a $2,000 round played in reverse (the earliest to stop got nothing), and then they did three more rounds with increasing amounts, alternating between these formats, until the final, where the middle two players played for the collective pot... with another round. As a look into human greed it's an interesting experiment (it employs the same thought processes that create the drama that made Deal or No Deal a hit). As a game show, it lacks most of the elements necessary to make it watchable. It lasted only two months. The only thing that saved it from being a total trainwreck was Corbin Bernsen actually hosting it well.
- Celebrity Wrestling was a concept that might have worked, had they managed to fill the cast with people who actually knew how to wrestle, or at the very least were known for athleticism. Instead, we ended up with a bunch of reality TV stars and other D-listers who clearly weren't even cut out for arm-wrestling, much less the real thing. On top of that, the selection of contests didn't even resemble wrestling, but rather a heavily watered-down version of what you'd see in shows like ITV's own Gladiators, meaning that there wasn't even any pleasure to be taken in watching the "celebrities" fail miserably. Incredibly, ITV had enough confidence in the show to not only run a hugely expensive promotional campaign, but scheduled its first episode against the newly relaunched Doctor Who... specifically, the episode which featured the return of the Daleks. Cue tabloid headlines about the show being "exterminated" in the ratings. After two more weeks of being thrashed by Doctor Who, ITV unceremoniously shuffled the series to a Sunday morning graveyard slot and left it to die.
- Tease, a laughable show that tried to replicate the formula of Iron Chef WITH HAIRSTYLISTS! The show tried to aim for the Blaxploitation vibe of hairstylist-themed movies such as Barbershop and Hair Show; they had "black" celebrity Lisa Rinna as host, and many of the contestants had a "ghetto-fabulous" schtick going for them. But the show was terrible, featuring dated and unfunny humor and unlikable hosts, and ran only six episodes in 2007, done in by Oxygen being bought by NBC shortly after its premiere and NBC not wanting it to cannibalize their much better show in Bravo's Shear Genius. The show appears to be an Old Shame for Oxygen nowadays, as they've literally pulled every single clip of the show from the internet, and who could blame them?
- One of the shows PAX (not to be confused with the Penny Arcade Expo) aired on its first day (August 31, 1998) was a game show called The Reel-to-Reel Picture Show. It was a painfully-dull movie trivia Q&A created to sell an equally-dull movie trivia Q&A board game with No Budget. While Peter Marshall was a master on The Hollywood Squares and other games, he was a deer in the headlights here — often tripping over questions, forgetting the rules, and making unintentional Squares references. (And it's not as if he had old age or health to blame; he seemed perfectly fine as Guest Host on a Squares revival in 2003 despite pushing 80 at the time.) The celebrity guests looked like they would've rather been somewhere else, and some of them were clueless.
- The production company had financial difficulties and had to pull the plug after only 25 episodes, which is truly bad for a traditional game show and one-eighth of what PAX had ordered. Worst of all, nobody ever got paid! The show ran from August 31 to October 2, after which repeats aired for a brief period.
- Interestingly, this was the second time Marshall hosted a game show where both he and the contestants never got paid. The first was a game show version of Yahtzee in 1988, which was a confusing Match Game knockoff With Dice! that still managed not to be completely terrible — for one, it had a rather catchy theme song, and it was headed by Ralph Andrews. It also had a cool set with a dice table that rose from the floor, although the coolness was somewhat diminished when they moved from Trump's Castle in Atlantic City to a much smaller stage at the Showboat.
- Cabin Fever was an 2003 Irish reality show consisting of eleven contestants with no prior sailing experience tasked with sailing a 90 foot, two-mast schooner around the Irish coast with a professional crew of two. The show was to last eight weeks with one contestant voted to "walk the plank" every week. However after less than two weeks, the ship ran aground and was broken up on the rocks of Tory Island. All aboard were rescued and the proceeds from that week's phone votes donated to the coast's lifeboat coverage. Following this the rest of the show's run was plagued with problems, including the replacement ship suffering from malfunctions and three of the original lineup of contestants declining to return following the accident. As a silver lining, the show did bring in decently sized audience, even if many merely tuned in to see what would go wrong that week.
- Celebrity Farm, also from 2003, involved eight C-List celebrities spending a week tending to a farm with one being voted out every evening. The voting system was the reverse of what audiences were used to, as the votes were for who was to be eliminated, rather for who audiences wanted to keep. Hence controversy was drawn from the first episode, as the deviation from the norm and the unclear explanation of the voting system by the hosts resulted in the most famous and popular celebrity of the group being voted out in the first night. Audience frustration at the confusion, as well as the general dullness of the show and the people on it, led to it lasting only one run and becoming a often-ridiculed footnote in Irish televison history.
- Shoppers Casino was essentially a home shopping Infomercial disguised as a game show; given that its production values were just as bad as one, it's not hard to see why many claim that it's the worst game show of all time. Jeff Maxwell does a pretty bad job as the host, and the models act like they're only there for the paycheck. The set is poorly constructed, which makes it hard for the cameramen to get good shots of the games, which were just dumbed-down versions of blackjack, roulette and chuck-a-luck. They attempt to sell "bargain items" to the home viewers that aren't actually bargains at all, and worse, they deceive said home viewers with a "home caller" that sounds like they're actually using the PA system in the studio, thinking the viewers wouldn't know the difference. This "program" was so obscure that, for many years, its mere existence was thought to be an urban legend. Game Show Garbage has a review here... but if you really want to see for yourself how bad it really was, it's present in all its glory here.
- Three's a Crowd, a syndicated show created by Chuck Barris (best known for creating The Newlywed Game, The Dating Game, and The Gong Show, the last of which he also hosted). In it, host Jim Peck asked probing questions of a male contestant, then asked the same questions of both his wife and secretary, to determine which of the two knew him better. The show drew outrage from Moral Guardians, leading to both it and Gong being cancelled. Outside a couple syndicated revivals of Newlywed and Dating, the show proved to be more-or-less a Creator Killer for Barris; the only subsequent original show he mounted was the short-lived Camouflage (1980-81) before he retired to France at the end of The '80s.
- The 1990 revival of Tic-Tac-Dough which had the pot resetting to zero after each tie* , a dragon and dragon slayer who rapped in the bonus round, Divorced Couples weeks and uncharacteristically kiddie theme music composed by Henry Mancini but those weren't the worst parts. Patrick Wayne was an all-around terrible host who read the questions in monotone and explained the rules very slowly. However, he amped everything else up whenever a contestant blocks their opponent or wins the game, shouting "YOU BLOCK!" or "YOOUU WIIIIIIINNN!" respectively. One must wonder if Dan Enright was high when he produced this version as, along with a revival of sister show The Joker's Wild, it would be the last game show he would work with before his death. It didn't even last a full season before getting axed. Game Show Garbage talks about it here and here. If you're brazen, you can see an episode here.
- De Gouden Kooi (The Golden Cage) was a Dutch reality show based on the original concept for Big Brother, airing a few years after the Dutch version of that show ended. It was even crueler than Big Brother was — the housemates each had to pay €10,000 to get in, and the prize money of €1,000,000 (plus the fully-furnished house!) was given to the last person left at the end. That's it. No rules. People had to bully each other until everybody except one walked out. It's widely considered the worst television show in the history of the world by the Dutch. (In case you're wondering how it went, the residents all had massive orgies and the biggest Jerkass won.)
- In the height of the dance show craze that brought us hits like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, TLC took a crack at the genre with the short-lived Master of Dance. Hosted by Joey Lawrence (of Blossom and Melissa And Joey fame), the show featured ordinary people performing their moves to a wide variety of music. In each episode, five contestants are evaluated on their ability to adjust to an abrupt change in music by a panel of three judges and were progressively eliminated until one is declared a winner and moved on into the Tournament of Champions for a chance to win $50,000. Alas, this admittedly cool premise was undone by horrendous execution.
- For one, the contestants who were incredibly talented were the ones who got eliminated. To put this into context, in one episode a breakdancer who perfectly adjusted to the changes in the music finished runner-up, while an obese woman who did nothing but move around in circles throughout won and progressed to the Tournament of Champions.
- It doesn't help that out of the three incompetent judges, only one (Tyce Diorio) was active as a professional choreographer and dancer at the time of this show's airing. The other two judges? A dancer-turned-actress who was retired for over 18 years and a stand-up comedian.
- Add the show's No Budget production values and the piss-poor covers used for the music and it's hardly surprising why the network canned the show after only six extremely-low-rated episodes. It's an Old Shame for the network nowadays, as there's only one preview clip on its website and nothing else, and with a 2.0 rating on IMDb and considerable hatred from fans of dance shows, you can see why TLC would like for it to stay that way. Here's Meredith Myers' audition on the show.
- The WB's Superstar USA, a 7-episode American Idol parody from 2004 that was sadistic from start to finish.
- The format was inverted — while saying they wanted a good singer, the judges praised the horrible ones and mocked the genuinely good ones, a mentality that almost certainly scarred someone for life.
- The "coaching" sessions consisted of more lying to the contestants, mostly to inflate their egos but also to have them emulate those with actual talent. It didn't help that all the contestants were so deluded as to actually believe them. These sessions by definition defeat the concept of the show — even terrible singers will get at least a tiny bit better with practice and encouragement, meaning that you have a search for a worst singer and each of whom are getting slightly better every week.
- Fearful that the audiences for the live performances wouldn't be able to keep their composure (i.e., boo and throw stuff at every contestant), executive producer Mike Fleiss asked who had heard of the "One Wish Foundation" (which doesn't exist) and, upon getting some raised hands that probably thought he said/meant "Make-A-Wish" (or were plants), said that the contestants were all terminally-ill and being granted this wish by said fictional Foundation.
- The eventual winner, a woman who could barely sing and was undoubtedly picked for her boobs, was told the truth after it all ended and didn't seem all that offended by it.
- The show was considered by Fleiss to be a parody, with lying to the audience being "the only way to get it to work". Unsurprisingly, the winning singer's album never materialized, aside from a soundtrack album that tanked miserably. Screenrant tore the show a new one here, saying that it had an interesting idea that was horribly executed, and you can see an 11-minute clip of the finale here.
- Motormouth was a 2004 reality show in which hidden cameras were put inside peoples' dashboards to catch them while they sang along to their car radios. Then their friends would be sent into the cars to coax more performances out of them. Meanwhile, a sarcastic voiceover guy would mock them. At the end of the show, a camera crew would rush up to the cars and shout, "You've been Motormouthed!". The dashboard camera quality was awful, the subject matter was unfunny, and the voiceover ran from dull to mean-spirited. Basically, the premise of the show hinged on mocking people who weren't professional singers...for not singing professionally. Lots of people like to sing in their cars, so why are we supposed to find this shameful? The show lasted four episodes before VH-1 buried it forever - their website lists lots of old and obscure shows, but not this one. Here's an episode clip.
- When Yootoo TV was originally called The Nostalgia Channel, one of the shows they picked up was a game show called Let's Go Back. Its host/producer Scott Sternberg, whose previous work in game shows was TV's first porno game show called Everything Goes and who would later go on to produce the much-maligned Wheel 2000 and Jep!, was wooden as a host. The format was a complete ripoff of Jeopardy, and the bonus round was a ripoff of Split Second. Also, the prizes were incredibly cheap (Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to give a pet rock as a prize?!), and the top prize for each game was a mere $500 in an era where most cable game shows could give away at least $1,000, and sometimes as much as $10,000. Game Show Garbage rips it a new one here.
- NBC's 21 and CBS' Dotto and The $64,000 Question, the three shows at the center of the quiz show scandals of The Fifties. While the formats themselves were solid, there was just one problem: much like the Restaurant Stakeout example above, the shows were being rigged by the producers and sponsors in order to give the victory to their preferred contestants and raise tension with close finishes. The resulting scandal triggered Congressional hearings and effectively discredited game shows in the United States for fifteen years, and also got many producers (including Jack Barry and Dan Enright, who later made comebacks in The Seventies) blacklisted from television. The networks also cracked down on how much influence advertisers could have on the shows they sponsored, and took a greater hand in production to avoid similar incidents in the future.
ABC (United States)
- Home Alone 4 was a made-for-TV sequel to the theatrical series, intended to be a Pilot Movie for a TV series, with none of the predecessors' cast. The "kid sees bad guys that adults can't see" had been overused by then (including 3, though that one was decent), and your head will explode if you try to connect this film with the first two. Kevin's nominally a year younger, but visually more like eight years younger; Buzz is five years younger; the McCallisters are rich and divorced; and Marv's played by French Stewart. Seriously, does anyone really think French Stewart looks like Daniel Stern? Oh, and for those watching the Home Alone series for the traps — 4 failed there as well. There's three traps, and two of them are built into the house. Yeah. A dumbwaiter and a revolving wall? Not ingenious. Thankfully, it bombed in the ratings, killing off any chance that audiences would be subjected to Kevin's antics on a weekly basis. Despite the failure of this movie, it didn't stop them from making a fifth movie which, while mediocre at best, was still noticeably better than this one. MikeJ gave it a scathing review.
- The Doctor Who 30th Anniversary Special "Dimensions in Time", which is considered definitively the lowest the show could possibly sink. This one needs to be understood in context. As the show was canned a few years before, fans were excited to get any new canon and instead got something so embarrassingly bad that everyone immediately felt stupid about liking the show. The story is completely nonsensical and a crossover with EastEnders—for no particular reason, other than it was dirt-cheap to film—with various past Doctors and companions morphing into each other for no reason. There are terrifying floating CGI heads of the posthumous Doctors. The only thing good about "Dimensions in Time" is Kate O'Mara camping her way through her awful dialogue as much as possible. The episode goes down a lot better now the Doctor Who is back on the air; it may be worth a watch.
On top of this, its production shitcanned a much more promising-sounding 30th Anniversary Special, "Dark Dimension", that would have centered on a decrepit Fourth Doctor (still alive in an alternate dimension) teaming up with the Seventh Doctor to battle skeletal Cybermen and a redesigned special weapons Dalek in a Gothic church. The other actors, particularly Colin Baker, were horrified at the idea of Tom Baker returning to hog the spotlight again; this combined with other production hurdles scuttled the idea.
- Generation X, a low-budget, poorly-conceived TV movie based on the comic book of the same name. It starred Matt Frewer as a villainous ad exec that uses his mind control device to cause mass flatulence at a board meeting. The Nineties, ladies and gentlemen. You can read more about it at number one on this list.
- Shark Swarm, a Hallmark Channel movie which clocks in at 164 minutes despite not having enough content for half that. The story is full of Plot Holes (the big one being nobody in this small town notices when so many people suddenly go missing) and bloats the run time with irrelevant subplots about uninteresting characters. The movie takes itself far too seriously, throwing in an Anvilicious Green Aesop, and worst of all, the actual shark attacks, the things people expect to see in a movie with this title, are lame. They just alternate between shots of unnamed extras thrashing about and shots of the same CG sharks (with the camera zooming in and out instead of actual attacking), with almost no variety. The only time a shark actually bites someone on camera lasts only half a second! Also, it's difficult to have a blood-filled horror film on the Hallmark Channel. The movie does try toward the end to use the terror caused by shark attacks to set up a Heartwarming Moment, but by that point it's too little too late. The excessive length and total failure as a monster movie have put it past redemption. Matt Murray of Corn Pone Flicks wrote an entertaining review of the film.
- On December 31, 2012, local Los Angeles (well, technically Orange County) independent station KDOC decided to air a New Year's Eve special hosted by Jamie Kennedy. That was only the tip of the iceberg for what could be referred to as Jamie Kennedy's New Year's Experiment, as the world found out after Patton Oswalt tweeted about it: there were awkward glitches and dead air, the beginning of an interview with Shannon Elizabeth accidentally started with a shot of Kennedy moping about on stage, hot mics picked up strange discussions peppered with F-bombs from the host and crew, racist sketches where Jamie Kennedy played a Mayan (while dressed like a stereotypical Native American, no less) who went to the Commerce Casino to try to regain his people's lost gold, a potentially drunk Macy Gray and an uncensored(!) Bone Thugs-n-Harmony serenaded the audience awaiting the arrival of the year 1999, Kennedy proclaimed that he would "see you in 2024!", and a fight broke out on stage during the (silent) credits. It has to be seen to be believed (though given how desperately KDOC seems to want to consign this to the memory hole, you may have to make do with Nathan Rabin's account for the AV Club). Kennedy has since claimed that the entire thing was meant to be that bad.
- Destination: Infestation is an unbearably awful 2007 Follow the Leader-type TV movie that was made to cash in on the Snakes on a Plane B-movie craze: this time there's ants instead of snakes. Ignoring how the premise doesn't work since ants cannot survive at a cruising altitude, there's a total of 10 minutes of these bugs in the film, most of it consisting of short shots of the swarms and one very lame attack scene that comes off as if the writers forgot about the movie's concept. Though it's a Canadian production, there's an insane amount of Plot Holes and geographical errors; for one, WestJet doesn't travel to Colombia. There's bad acting abounds and awful CGI too. The funniest thing about this whole fiasco? It premiered on Lifetime, the same channel who airs such gems as Cyber Seduction and Someone Else's Child.
- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure. This "sequel" is often considered by even hardcore fans of the National Lampoons Vacation series to be one of the worst sources of sequelitis ever. The idea is that Cousin Eddie is the main character, and his boss fires him but sends him and his family on a vacation of the South Pacific, where things predictably go wrong. It abuses every single "stranded on an island" cliche in the book and often resorts to recycled slapstick gags from the first movie which somehow manage to be completely boring this time around. Despite taking place sometime after Vegas Vacation, the children inexplicably haven't aged, and trying to connect this to the film canon will practically cause your head to explode.
The film will ruin everything you love about the first movie, and is one of the most poorly-received TV movies from NBC, which also ended the tradition of TV film from NBC for a time until The Sound of Music Live! became a ratings hit and spawned more TV specials in the same ilk. Even more baffling, it's not even a sequel to Christmas Vacation, but rather, the first film in the whole series, Vacation (for example, the original Audrey, Dana Barron, reprises her role). And even the cameo from Eric Idle as the accident-prone Englishman from European Vacation failed to please fans.
- Back in 2008, German television channel ProSieben produced a horror movie "parody" called Halloween Horror Hostel. Imagine Seltzer and Friedberg doing even less researching than usual, then go a bit further, and there we are. Just to give you a hint about how bad this movie is — it begins with a few people sitting in a car while the radio talks about a hockey player called Michael Myers gone missing. You sure you don't mean Jason? What follows are thousands of references and toilet humor. Just like a ______ Movie, except even cheaper. The best/worst part is the Overly Long Gag of one dude who thought he was invisible or something like that, walking veeeerrryyy slowly around with a pillow in front of his head.
- Highlander: The Source, a Sci Fi Channel original. The film has almost nothing to do with the original Highlander and completely alters the fundamental premise of the series with "The Source", which is apparently the source of immortality (you'd think they'd have mentioned that before) and (if allowed into what passes for continuity) retcons the way Immortals have functioned for the entire series. It also seems to be out to distance itself from the Highlander TV franchise as much as possible, killing Joe Dawson, and possibly Methos, and breaking Duncan's iconic katana. The driving force of the plot is a Romantic Plot Tumor which results in a Gainax Ending. The villain's not intimidating, the fight choreography's terrible, and a lot of plot elements don't make sense. You know it belongs here when Highlander II: The Quickening, the previous all-time go-to example of a bad sequel, is compared favorably to this. Spoony expounds further.
- The UPN Iron Chef specials. The idea of an American Iron Chef wasn't bad; in fact, it would be pulled off successfully later. The biggest difference between the two American Chef shows? Food Network's version understands and respects the source material while, at the same time, realizing that American viewers were watching mainly for the competitive aspects (the original show's appeal to Japanese audiences, meanwhile, was watching celebrities engaged in the intimate act of eating). The result was a show that's faithful to the original while still going in its own directions. All UPN's people understood was "Wacky foreigners acting like cooking is a sport!", resulting in commentators who paid more attention to the cheering studio audience than the actual cooking (and who couldn't tell a melonballer from a spork). Just about the only element UPN got right was William Shatner as the Large Ham Chairman, very much in line with Takeshi Kaga's performance.
- In 1986, following the discovery of a "secret vault" under a hotel that once belonged to Al Capone, Geraldo Rivera was brought in to host The Mystery of Al Capone's Vaults, a syndicated special in which the vault would be opened... after a large number of backstory segments to discuss Capone's history and hype its possible contents. But what was inside it? Loot? Bodies? Ancient alien superweapons? Dirt? If you answered "dirt"...well, you are correct. To say around 30 million people actually took two hours out of their day to witness this is an understatement: Rivera ultimately admitted that the special was a "silly, high-concept stunt that failed to deliver on its titillating promise", but felt that it was only the start of his career. Meanwhile, while Rivera managed to survive this debacle, both he and Capone became associated with the ritual of opening otherwise empty containers on television.
- Paparazzi Princess: The Paris Hilton Story. This docudrama/biopic/whatever you want to want to call it of the 2006 Paris Hilton court case is often considered to be distasteful, disgraceful and largely inaccurate. Paris, Nicole, and Nikki are played by people who look nothing like them, but that is the least of the film's worries — they are horribly wooden and seem to have the personalities of department store mannequins. The film is often very obviously low-budget, with awful cinematography and a soundtrack of original music because they couldn't get the rights to existing music. The resulting music is just sad. Furthermore, the film can't even decide if it wants to be a depiction of Paris' party girl lifestyle or her legal issues, and towards the end it tries to depict her jail time as the most depressing event in human history, portraying her as someone who needs medical attention (there's even a scene of her going for electroshock therapy). The film was blasted by the Hilton family themselves, aired on the station it premiered only once, and it destroyed a lot of the careers of the actors involved.
- The Baseball Network is one of the biggest examples of "bad idea, worse execution" in the history of TV. Going into the 1994 season, Major League Baseball needed a new network TV contract after CBS, who had lost roughly $500 million off of a four year long, billion dollar contract, refused to renew theirs. The league higher-ups got the admittedly-novel idea of actually producing the telecasts themselves, and then brokering them to the networks. The league made a deal with ABC and NBC to show selected regular-season games (after the All-Star Break) in primetime, under the title Baseball Night in America, along with coverage of the postseason. Where the concept fell apart, though, was that there was no national game of the week, only multiple regional broadcasts. Even worse, BNiA had an exclusive coverage window over each market, meaning that no other channels could show MLB games at the same time.
What this meant, essentially, was that once a week the affiliates in New York had to choose between either the Yankees or the Mets, royally pissing off fans either way. The same problem affected Chicago (Cubs/White Sox), Los Angeles (Dodgers/Angels), and even the San Francisco Bay Area (Giants/A's). Making matters even worse, affiliates couldn't show the local team if they weren't playing in the right time zone. For instance, if you were a Mariners fan in Seattle and you wanted to see your team play on the East Coast... tough shit, you were stuck with the early game of the night.
Ultimately, ABC and NBC decided to end the Baseball Network arrangement early after a player's strike cancelled the 1994 postseason. However, it went on for one more season, including the 1995 postseason... and that's when the problems really reared their ugly head. MLB, like all major pro sports, had long televised all playoff games nationally. With The Baseball Network, that wasn't the case for the 1995 Division Series. Fans in Cleveland were watching the Indians make a serious run at the World Series (ABC and NBC wound up, erratically splitting coverage of the '95 postseason, including the World Series) championship for the first time in generations, but if you lived outside Cleveland's coverage area... tough, you were stuck with watching the Reds. The '95 postseason is remembered even today as one of sports' greatest playoff tournaments, but thanks to the Baseball Network, it happened in relative secrecy. Fan hatred of the idea of "America's regional pastime" is part of what paved the way for MLB's current arrangement with Fox.
- The NFL Network's Thursday Night Football until 2014 stood out as the worst pro football broadcast. Looking past the questionable wisdom of making teams play on Thursday, after only four days' recovery time from the previous week's action (which multiple players have spoken out about), the telecast itself feels second-rate. The graphics were cheap-looking, the music is bland, and the pregame and postgame shows are utterly execrable ("Verizon at the Half" this isn't; NFLN was lucky to get the declining Sears to sponsor their pre-game shows). For many years it was also hamstrung by its 'please call your cable company to watch us' reputation of NFL Network, which wanted half the money ESPN gets per month for about 30 hours of game action a year, with the rest being analysis, NFL Films archive shows and during game action on Sundays, a still screen with statistics and 'you should probably be watching this' radio commentary; many cable companies refused to carry it because of that. Thankfully in 2011 after some compromises they finally got all the coverage they could earn from cable companies, though the addition of the awesome RedZone channel alongside NFL Network probably helped.
In its short existence, TNF has gone through several different commentary teams, but none of them have stuck around long enough to make an impact (most of were under probably pricey loans from other networks). The football itself isn't even that great, often having second-rate matchups and- owing to the teams having shorter rest time than usual-sloppy, turnover-ridden play, and many of the matchups were of lower-tier teams in order to provide some kind of night game to a low-prestige team but not at the cost of burning a Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football game on the Jaguars or Dolphins.
- Thankfully, this is a case where things improved. In 2014, looking to make it relevant, NFL Network partnered with CBS to produce the broadcasts and simulcast TNF for the first half of the season and a December Saturday game in a one-year experiment. CBS put actual effort into the broadcasts, having Jim Nantz and Phil Simms in the broadcast booth for the games, giving it its own separate and much better graphics package and E.S. Posthumus-composed theme (they already do the main CBS theme), adding many more cameras, and effort was put into choosing better matchups, which were more relevant divisional tilts than the random choices of the past. The problems of sloppy play and quick-turns for teams, along with an unprecedented string of blowout games during the CBS half of the season continue to occur (which cannot be helped by either CBS or the NFL), but compared to the pre-2013 efforts, the contrast is huge and much more palatable.