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Horrible / Game Show

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Good game shows instill excitement in the audience, dread in the contestants, and ratings in the Nielsen box. These failures can't even do one of those things. Here's the worst that game shows and reality TV have to offer.

Important Notes:

  1. 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.
  2. It is not a Horrible TV series just because Game Show Garbage 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.)
  3. This page is not for horrible episodes (or even seasons) of otherwise good shows. For those, see DethroningMoment.LiveActionTV and SeasonalRot.LiveActionTV.
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Examples (more-or-less in alphabetical order by network, then TV show name):

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    ABC (United States) 
  • Set For Life was a mercifully short-lived ABC game show hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and produced by Deal or No Deal creators Endemol (essentially playing Follow the Leader with themselves), where a contestant played to win a monthly annuity of a specific amount, ranging from one month to the top prize of "Set for Life" (40 years). The player pulled from 15 glowing "sticks" (read: giant Lite-Brite pegs) to find the 11 white ones which progressed them up the "time ladder", while avoiding the red sticks that knocked them down a level (finding all four reds ended the game). But there was a twist which easily led to a Shocking Swerve - off-screen and inside an isolation booth with nothing but a screen full of analytics, 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.note 
  • The One: Making a Music Star (2006) was a U.S. attempt at Endemol's Star Academy format, which was basically a music competition mixed with elements of sister franchise Big Brother. note  It was quickly derided as being a Follow the Leader clone of American Idol (not to mention the slew of competing talent shows also airing over the Summer that year note  as well as Big Brother itself), despite the format having debuted at around the same time as the original British version of Idol. Critics and viewers thought the judges were "forced", and that there wasn't much talent among their contestants. It debuted to what were the worst ratings for a series premiere on a major U.S. network in history; ABC pulled the plug on The One after only four episodes, and the winner was left undecided. While most of the contestants faded back into obscurity, several of them did end up becoming moderately successful eventually (among them, Syesha Mercado made it onto Idol in 2009 and finished third, Aubrey Collins briefly joined the country band Trick Pony, and Jadyn Douglas got a supporting role on NBC's short-lived 2016 sitcom Telenovela). Just over a decade after the network desperately tried to clone it, it was announced in 2017 that Idol would be revived by ABC.

    In Canada, The One also attracted controversy: CBC acquired local rights to the series since it was being hosted by CBC Radio personality George Stroumboulopoulos, and the network was considering producing an English-Canadian version of the format (TVA already had a French-Canadian version, Star Académie, running around the same time). Airing in simulcast with ABC, The One displaced CBC's traditional 10:00 p.m. newscast The National in much of the country. Critics felt it was out of character for CBC to be airing an American series in primetime, as the network (since it is Canada's commercially-funded public broadcaster) has historically focused its efforts on Canadian productions. note  Additionally, CBC's president at the time had explicitly stated that they "[didn't] do reality television." After the ratings disaster of The One, CBC resorted to Canadian versions of the Andrew Lloyd Webber talent searches instead.
  • National Bingo Night (2007) was a somewhat bingo-related show, where contestants aimed to fulfil a Luck-Based Mission based on bingo balls to win a prize. And no, the game wasn't bingo. It was a minigame that often boiled down to predicting a trait about the next number drawn (i.e. odd or even, higher or lower than the last ball, etc.), getting specific numbers, or having the cumulative total of the numbers drawn reach a specific target. However, while this was happening, the audience played normal Bingo with the numbers from the contestants' game, and the contestant had to win their minigame before someone in the audience got a Bingo, or else they lost (and the audience member would win either $5000 or the prize from the contestants' game). The show was slow and plodding, some of the games were unreasonably difficult to win (with the "Bingo 500" being a noted offender), there was a rule that a contestant could still lose if an audience member got a Bingo off the last number they needed to win their minigame, and the focus on the Audience Game and Home Participation Sweepstakes really took some of the focus away from showcasing the contestants. Pretty much the only memorable aspects were the Scenery Porn of the giant bingo machine, and Indian-American actor Sunil Narkar's role as the "commissioner" — a referee who checked cards in the audience if they declared a bingo, and let it loose if they didn't and play could continue ("NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO BINGO!!"). The show only ran for six weeks in a Friday Night Death Slot, and was quietly canned. It was meant to return for a week-long event in December, but ABC replaced it with the new quiz Duel instead. The show would get a quiz-oriented Retool/spin-off for GSN, Bingo America, which was moderately better and lasted two seasons.
  • In 2012, ABC tried their hand at doing another Follow the Leader reality show for the summer, The Glass House. It was basically Big Brother IN A HOUSE WITH TRANSLUCENT WALLS!, and viewers would be able to influence the proceedings by voting in online polls (including activities, food, and of course, who gets eliminated after getting sent to "Limbo" for losing a challenge). In fact, CBS actually tried to sue ABC over the series' semblance to Big Brother, noting that many alumni of the series were among its production staff, and presumably using proprietary techniques and concepts associated with its format. However, a court tossed the suit, after deeming that the intellectual property ABC had allegedly infringed from Big Brother constituted "common" production techniques and concepts that were not inherently original. The lawsuit provided a marginal amount of buzz for the show (complete with promos subsequently branding it as "the show they don't want you to see!"), but reviews for the premiere were generally negative - facing criticism for its poor direction, cliche contestant archetypes and scenarios, and a contestant who did not know that his own state of Oregon was on the west coast (and proceeded to drop out of the show voluntarily for reasons unknown). It premiered to nearly 4 million, but its viewership was already dropping by its second half-hour, and it was largely at the bottom of the ratings table against other reality competitions that season. Its already-minuscule viewership promptly fell below 2 million when the Summer Olympics began. Needless to say, the show was quickly forgotten.

    Antena 3 (Spain) 
  • One of the greatest game show failures in Spain was a very short-lived show called La Trituradora ("The Crusher"). Aired in 1999 and hosted by Belinda Washington, who back then was a popular actress and TV host in Spain, it lasted only two episodes before it was unceremoniously discarded. Part of its undoing was its unusual premise: contestants had to wage a personal belonging (such as a domestic appliance) and take part in a series of games. If they were victorious, they won a hefty prize; if they lost, whatever they waged was destroyed by Deborah, the eponymous crusher. Abysmal audience ratings, almost no volunteers to the contest (since people participate in game shows to win stuff, not to have theirs destroyed; and never mind that there was {presumably} nothing stopping you from going to a charity shop, buying some random trinket for €30, and calling that your personal item), and a very high cost per episode marked the death knell not only for the show, but for Belinda Washington's career.
    • La Trituradora was based on a 1998 British game show titled Beat the Crusher, featuring Melinda Messenger and Freddie Starr. Considering the original version was only very slightly more successful (it aired on Sky1 for a single season of 10 episodes), it's a wonder why they even decided to export it.

    BBC (United Kingdom) 
  • 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show was an otherwise straightforward elimination quiz with a £10,000 prize, where a group of contestants tried to avoid being the one stuck with the one incorrect answer to a particular question. Those who picked a correct answer were safe, while the incorrect player was eliminated. The main gimmick of the series was its extensive focus on ejecting losers in various ways. However, many of them involved variations of being dropped into a pool. Then, the procedure for revealing the correct answers was full of obscene amounts of Padding, consisting of an individual countdown for each answer (and the game starts with 8 contestants, so they go through this as many as seven times). The "Emergency Exit" round (randomly draw a name: they must answer a question correctly to stay in the game. Repeat until someone gets one wrong, after which they are eliminated and the round ends) seemed thrown in, and also had an equally lackluster elimination (being slowly lowered 80 feet while extras gunged you along the way). The majority of these issues would be addressed in the U.S. version ordered by ABC (to accompany its sister show Wipeout), which had refinements to the format and presentation (including a streamlined reveal for the incorrect answer, and more elaborate eliminations thanks to a higher budget). Both versions were a One Season Wonder, though.
  • Don't Scare the Hare was an utterly pathetic attempt by BBC One to try and make a "family" game show, but instead ended up becoming a notorious flop. Two teams of adults competed in a series of challenges in which the object was to not "scare" (read: wake up) a giant, robotic hare. The winning team played for a top prize of £15,000. It premiered on Easter weekend in 2011 before the Series 6 premiere of Doctor Who and ended up with spectacularly low ratings (1.93 million); the producers attempted to blame the heat wave rolling through England at the time, but 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 eight more episodes; the ratings got so bad that the BBC pulled it after six episodes, with the remainder burned off in a mid-afternoon graveyard slot. Critics and audiences lambasted the show mercilessly: many mentioned that its concept would've fit better on CBeebies rather than a network meant for mainstream viewers, and the games themselves were also criticised for being either too easy or embarrassing to watch.
  • In 1996, the BBC secured what must have seemed to be an impressive coup, luring comedians Gareth Hale and Norman Pace over from ITV. Hale and Pace had starred in a popular sketch comedy on ITV, but were tired of the format and moved over to try something new. Unfortunately, nobody seemed to have an idea what that would be. The result was utterly dreadful, right down to the Lucky Charms Title, h&p@bbc. The series was a peculiar miscellany, with segments including Gareth and Norman wandering around a town trying to get free stuff, a general knowledge quiz for celebrities where points were awarded but no winner announced, and a game where audience members tried to recognise songs with their heads underwater. Each bit just felt like a way of passing time between "hello" and "goodbye", except that nobody ever said either. The whole thing just started, ran for 40 minutes and then stopped. And yes, 40 minutes is an odd length, so presumably a load of stuff must have been deemed even worse than what got on screen. The BBC seemed to have realised they had a flop on their hands before it aired, several months after it was ready, with the first episode of a supposed family show going out at 9:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. After that, it was basically shoved out wherever it could do the least harm with the sixth and final episode on a Tuesday at midnight. Hale and Pace did not make else for the BBC after this.

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    Black Family Channel (United States) 
  • The Thousand-Dollar Bee, a children's game show filmed in Atlanta from 2004 to 2007 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 Onyewuchi (credited as "Sinatra, the wacky host" and "Sinatra Onieyewacki"; yes, a show about spelling couldn't spell its host's last name right) who wore a geeky bow tie. note  The contestants were dreadfully bad at spelling and it's not like they had any incentive to try, 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 Vídeo 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, Jordan Ealey, 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 an homage to the Soul Train Scramble Board). Here's some gameplay, if you dare.

    Bravo (United States) 
  • The first season of Top Design fell squarely into this. 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 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, three years later, Nine Network launched an Australian version, with not much more success: while it did debut at #5 in the ratings, its popularity kept falling until the finale ranked at #51 and it was not renewed for a second season.

    CBS (United States) 
  • Candy Crush, a 2017 game show based on Candy Crush Saga, hosted by Mario Lopez. While it can be complimented for its technical achievements (like having one of the largest touchscreens ever employed on a television program), the game falls flat quickly. The contestants are basically just playing the same game they could play on their phones, but never quite like this. Actually, scratch that - it is quite like playing it on your phone, except with stunts designed to make it more difficult (such as having your team attached to wires lowering and raising you like a pendulum, or having one player blindfolded). As usual for a modern-day game show, the contestants were already high on sugar by the time they got on stage. Due to the game's format and how the show is directed, there is little play-along value either; much like The Magnificent Marble Machine before it, the appeal is actually playing it, not watching what is essentially a show in which other people play it. Not only that, but Lopez, despite having been host of various TV shows over the past decade, still wasn't a good game show host; his only other was the second season of Masters Of The Maze, way back in 1995 on what was then The Family Channel note . Despite the Big Brother lead-in and the Celebrity Edition premiere (with teams representing Big Brother and Survivor) getting decent ratings, Candy Crush got, well, crushed on subsequent episodes. The final episodes were burned off against opening weekend Saturday-night college football games.
  • 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 CBS 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 may be the funniest moment of Gleason's long and illustrious career; expanding upon the "apology" show, he created an informal half-hour interview series to replace Picture for the rest of the latter's commitment.

    Channel 4 (United Kingdom) 
  • The Girlie Show was a 1990s attempt by Channel 4 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.
  • Love Thy Neighbour was a 2011 reality series that had families competing for a £300,000 cottage in Grassington — a village in North Yorkshire, with the winner chosen by residents. The entire point of the series was that because the village, allegedly, did not take kindly to outsiders, they would compete to gain favour among the residents (such as organizing events and giving a speech at the pub as a pitch) — who would then get to vote on which family they think would be better-suited to live there (beginning with heats between 6 pairs of two families each, followed by a semi-final and finale). However, there was a major flaw: the format depended on the village — portrayed as being largely conservative — displaying prejudice towards the contestants. They rarely did, so the producers had to rely on Manipulative Editing to get their preferred point across. For instance, one episode featured a family of Nigerian descent, and the show attempted to insist that there could be racial tensions. The worst reactions they got were someone concerned that someone else could show prejudice against them, and somebody mistaking them as being Jamaicans on first glance. Said family would end up winning the episode. Plus, Vox Pops from some of the other residents appeared to suggest that Grassington had more "outsiders" than the show suggested there were. In the end, viewership was low and the reviews were bad, so it was unceremoniously burned off on Channel 4's sister digital channel More4 after only 3 episodes.
    • It is also worth noting that ABC actually tried to do a similar show, Welcome to the Neighborhood (where the families competed to win a dream house in a conservative community in Austin, Texas) in 2005, but it was pulled over its controversial premise before it even premiered.

    City (Canada) 
  • Canada's Got Talent is often considered by many to be the worst out of the "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). In addition, neither the winning contestants nor the judges have been seen in much after the show finished, for obvious reasons. Probably for the best.
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    één (Belgium) 
  • Pak De Poen De Show Van 1 Miljoen is fondly remembered as one of the most spectacular flops in the history of Belgian television. Offering up to 20 million Belgian francs (around $667,000 US) in conjunction with the postcode lottery, up to 1 million (around $33,500 US) in a Bonus Round for the winning contestant, and hosted by the stars of one of the most critically-acclaimed sitcoms in Belgian history, one wonders what could possibly go wrong. For the premiere, it was everything: The hosting was so overly formal that it bordered on parody, the trivia rounds had glitchy buzzers and inconsistent judging that would make Alex Zane proud, the phone for a home game segment didn't work, and the final challenge to determine who would play for the million francs - an RC car race across the set - had a car that wouldn't move. Even worse was the irony that a random audience member could win 20 times more cash than what the winning contestant would have had if they answered all the questions of the final round correctly. The interval acts, that were filled with So Cool, It's Awesome performances, saved the program as a whole from being a total trainwreck, though. The program was ultimately retooled with new hosts as the Pak De Poen Show; it was an improvement in comparison to the "premiere", but the lingering karma led to poor viewership, and it was cancelled after two episodes.

    The Family Channel (United States) 
  • In 1993, International Family Entertainment had announced plans to launch a game show-oriented channel known as The Game Channel, which would feature classic game shows and interactive features. However, it already faced competition out of the gate from the impending launch of Game Show Network. As part of the lead-up to its (aborted) launch, The Family Channel began to air several game shows with interactive segments, all of which were produced and hosted by Wink Martindale, beginning with Trivial Pursuit. The hour-long show was treated on-air as distinct shows (right down to having separate credits); Trivial Pursuit: The Interactive Game was a qualifier, where 12 (later 9) players competed to answer multiple-choice questions on keypads as quickly as possible, with the top three players advancing to the main show, Trivial Pursuit: The Classic Game. The first half of the show was essentially a tutorial for the "Playbreak" segments in commercial breaks throughout the remainder of the network's game show block (outside of The Classic Game, however), where viewers could call a 1-900 number on a touch-tone phone to answer questions in a similar format (only $4.98 per call!).

    The horrible part came when they introduced three other "interactive" shows in '94 - Boggle, Jumble, and Shuffle; all three shows were bare-bones, with nearly the same format and mechanics as Trivial Pursuit (designed for use on a touch-tone phone, hence making them glorified tutorials for the Playbreak segments (give us your money) yet again), and little variation (same scoring system based on response time, no bonus round or returning champions, and a lot of Prop Recycling between them, in an entire block to boot). Even worse, the contestants did not speak at all, playing the game solely via the keypads. This meant they were literally just standing there for 29 minutes (commercials included) as a silent, question-answering robot. That is unless they won, however, which gave them permission to briefly express an emotion to Wink about the sub-$3,000 trip they just won. Here is Game Show Garbage detailing all of them.

    Food Network (United States) 
  • Mystery Diners, a Food Network "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; the worst they're ever accused of is being too trusting with their employees), 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: 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.
    • One other thing that gives the show away as fake: in later seasons, almost every restaurant covered has some kind of unique quirk or gimmick that the problem employee can take advantage of.
  • 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.

    Fox (United States) 
  • The Chamber stands tall as a textbook example of how not to do a quiz show. It was rushed to air by Fox in 2002 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, very-unlikely-to-kill-you stimuli used on The Chair (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 segment 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.
    • MADtv parodied 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.
    • Sounds disturbingly like someone watched The Ducksters and thought that was a great idea to build a show around...
  • I Wanna Marry "Harry", from 2014, 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 Australia, but suffered awful ratings there as well). Now that the real Prince Harry has married American actress Meghan Markle, a commoner whose former roles include a game show, this show could be Hilarious in Hindsight.
  • Knock Knock Live! was 2015 reality show that pretty much mixed everything about the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes, celebrities, and everything bad about reality TV in one mix, plus Ryan Seacrest. In this show, Seacrest went door-to-door with various celebrities to give regular people anything from cash to big prizes to the chance to play and win a big game. The problem was how it went about doing so: where some boring white-bread suburban development in Dallas got cleared out for fun and games where the entire mostly-Caucasian population got money (along with a meeting with David Beckham where a family got free iPhones), a "knock-knock" in an urban neighborhood was much different - the mostly minority population had to chase money distributed at random or the usual generic "help out a church" story which hardly helps any individual family that might deserve a reward. Despite Seacrest's star power, along with other minor celebrities, it failed to rate well and was canned after only two episodes.
  • Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage. First off, production must have had a lot of balls to assume they’d get a second season. 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 second 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 the network managed to get the fine substantially reduced after it was revealed that most of the complaints were part of an AstroTurf 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.
    • One contestant had to be removed early on because the show's staff somehow missed the little detail that she was already married, and thought that weddings in Las Vegas aren't real - which many viewers noted was shockingly reminiscent of Phoebe's subplot in the Vegas episode of Friends.
  • 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 - namely that the vast majority of the guys were movie-star handsome, with the one or two "ugly" ones being Hollywood Homely at worst.
  • Our Little Genius was a game show that gave child prodigies the chance to test their knowledge and win as much as $500,000... or at least it would have. A few days before its scheduled January 2010 premiere in the coveted slot after American Idol, producer Mark Burnett balked upon getting some "information" from his staff. It went downhill from there. Audience members came though with stories that kids were allowed to retry with different sets of questions after bombing out on the first. The staff blamed the stopdowns on technical difficulties. It was later revealed that one parent wrote a letter of concern to the FCC in December 2009 stating that his child was given a list of topics in advance and the answers to at least four questions. You read that right: Genius had all the markings of a rigged quiz, which Congress had made a federal crime 50 years earlier following the quiz show scandal investigations. Genius was shelved for good, with the production staff letting the contestants keep their undisclosed winnings. Amazingly, nobody involved in this was ever set back. Game Show Garbage talks about it here, giving it the first-ever “Wayney Award”.
  • 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, "American Goddess", and later realizing she shouldn't have changed.
    • Now complete with a Celebrity Edition.
  • Utopia note , 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, 15 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 minister 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 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 women 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 (United States) 
  • 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.
  • Extreme Gong was a revival of The Gong Show hosted by George Gray (better known for his later hosting duty on the U.S. syndicated version of The Weakest Link and current announcing duty on The Price Is Right) and produced by Scott Sternberg (considered the Seltzer and Friedberg of game shows to some), and it managed to infuriate game show fans in more ways than one. For one, rather than the tried-and-true panel of three celebrities judging the acts, their fates are instead decided by a home audience calling in to vote, thus eliminating the reactions from the panel and audience and part of the reason why the prior iterations were so entertaining to many. Also, there were unfunny skits during the show that sometimes took insulting jabs at both the original Gong and even the usenet group alt.tv.game-shows, the latter of which got especially mean-spirited at times (one example of which was their "Babe of the Day" calling the group a bunch of fat virgins who will never nail someone like her). And to top it off, the grand prize was a check of $317.69, lower than even the original's puny $516.32 (though near the end it would see an hour-long tournament special with a $10,000 prize). It limped along from October 1998 to October 1999. Despite its toxic reputation, Gong was revived in 2008 for Comedy Central and again in 2017 for ABC. Game Show Garbage details the show here.
  • 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), the shows being riffed on were often Cult Classics (most notably Go and Hot Potato) 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 much better-remembered 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 had one joke's punchline be a still-shot of the slate for that one surviving episode. note 
  • Hidden Agenda was one of several major GSN flops in 2010: it was literally just a hidden camera show in which wives had to get their husbands to perform embarrassing activities to win money. Whatever "game" this 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 one more round. While it employs the same thought processes that create the drama that made Deal or No Deal a hit, it lacked most of the elements necessary to make it watchable, besides Corbin Bernsen actually hosting it well. It lasted only two months.

    ITV (United Kingdom) 
  • 24 Hour Quiz (2004) was billed as being a cross between a quiz show and a reality show. The gist of the show was that three contestants were locked in a "quiz pod" 24/7, and that for 16 hours per-day (8 hours fewer than what the title promised) they would answer questions (approximately every 30 seconds) off computers in the pod, with each worth a life-changing £1. That was, unless it was worth an even greater amount, such as £100 (which was often done when one of the contestants was distracted). The privilege of food, going to the bathroom, or taking a shower deducted money from your score. There were a total of five episodes per-day, including a Noon show that featured updates on events transpiring overnight, and the beginning of a round where 14 new contestants could compete to displace one of the three contestants in the pod. This bit came to a climax in the evening edition, where the worst-performing contestant (in a 2-hour segment aired on ITV2 immediately befor) risked elimination if the top contender could pick the correct Pod Pass out of five (with the chance to remove incorrect passes by answering questions). ITV2 also aired a primetime episode with a "cramming" session with a guest expert, as well as a late-night "party" show as a wrap-up (with frequent ITV2 Companion Show host Matt Brown).

    The show's biggest missteps came as a direct result of its Lowest Common Denominator positioning: the questions were often too easy, Shaun Williamson (who had recently departed from Eastenders) wasn't exactly the best host, and it was too concerned with trying to channel Big Brother (unsurprisingly, it was produced by Big Brother creators Endemol) in its presentation and interactions, with awkward results. For instance, the contestants were often too busy focusing on answering the questions when the host tried to strike up conversation with them. Let's not also forget them having to eject a contestant after he got drunk on the wine they brought in to make things more lively, and started kicking the walls in the middle of the night (he was invited back for the tournament of champions finale, though). In Northern Ireland, UTV had to preempt the lifestyle segment of their 5 p.m. newscast into the early-afternoon to make room for 24 Hour Quiz (a decision that was quickly reversed after viewer outcry). In 2012, a writer for The Guardian deemed 24 Hour Quiz one of the worst British game shows of all time, noting that the only thing it managed to do was "marry the mind-numbing tedium of a second-rate reality show, with the plodding boredom of a sub-standard pub quiz". Needless to say, it was not renewed. NBC would revisit portions of the concept with its Million Second Quiz (which by contrast, focused more on the actual gameplay rather than trying to be Big Brother in a broom cupboard).
  • 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 debut 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 programme to a Sunday-morning graveyard slot and left it to die.
  • The Colour of Money (2009) tried to turn those radio contests where the contestant is read off increasing amounts of money and has to stop before they hit the Whammy and lose everything, into a full show, hosted by Chris Tarrant (who, appropriately, had conducted contests like this when he was a host on Capital FM's morning show). The goal was to collect a target amount of usually £50,000-£100,000 (and no more than that) in this manner from 10 of 20 cash machines. The machines were colour-coded (hence the name of the show) and counted in £1,000 intervals, and each contained a maximum value ranging from £1,000 to £20,000. There was only one machine of each amount, however, as gauged by a Deal or No Deal-style tote board (contestants were urged to "play the gaps" to figure out if there was going to be a certain amount present). The game was tedious and repetitive, lacking something that added unpredictability and personality to the proceedings (such as the Banker of Deal). Making matters worse, it had the stereotypical aesthetics of a big-money game show (although it was originally pitched with lower stakes) and liberal use of Trailers Always Spoil (to the extent that you could have a Fox version just by changing the currency and having Mark Thompson narrate). Rapidly decreasing ratings led ITV to can Colour right before its finale. Interestingly, the format was brought to Italy, where it became a modest success.
  • The premise of Drop the Celebrity (2003) literally involved cramming six low-tier celebrities into a plane, and having them argue over who was the "better" one. An audience back on Earth voted by assembling themselves in the appropriate position on a mat with the celebrities' faces on them, and the celebrity with the fewer number of votes had to skydive out of said plane. It was canned after two out of three episodes.
  • Red or Black? (2011), created by Mean Brit talent show judge Simon Cowell, subjected a group of 1,000 contestants to a series of luck based missions involving red and black motifs, designed to whittle them down to 8 for the live final later in the night (the episodes were, in full, 90 minutes, but had a second program in between, such as The X Factor). This would, in turn, determine the one person who would have a chance to win £1,000,000 by guessing whether a ball would land in a red space or black space on a giant roulette wheel. It required absolutely no skill at all, besides predicting the outcome of luck-based scenarios (sometimes involving celebrity guests) by either making the titular choice, or having it made for you without any input at all. The first series was broadcast as a 7-day-long event in September 2011; while the ratings were pretty good by ITV standards, Red or Black? was lambasted by critics for being dull and utilizing stereotypical reality show tropes. Plus, controversy brewed when it was revealed that the first million-pound winner had a criminal record (while they didn't strip his winnings as demanded by the media, several contestants were silently disqualified from the live round on later episodes). The show was renewed for a second series in 2012 (with weekly episodes as a late-Summer run after the Olympics), but ITV demanded a Retool. It was significantly downsized (it started with 8 contestants in the studio), and the luck-based games were replaced with games of skill that still involved the same motif. Ratings were worse the second time around, and Red or Black? was silently cancelled.
  • Shafted (2001) appeared to be ITV's answer to The Weakest Link (i.e. dark, elimination-based quiz show with an antagonizing host). After having six contestants choose how much money they wanted to begin with (and the contestant with the highest starting amount getting eliminated off the bat), five contestants wagered on whether they could answer a question, given the first few words (meaning it could be a Bait-and-Switch about a completely different topic). The contestant who bet highest then answered the fully-revealed question. After each round, the contestant in the lead eliminates an opponent, and everyone else's bank is raised up to the leader's total. When the game is down to two contestants, it goes to a Prisoner's Dilemma finale (see Friend or Foe, Golden Balls, etc.) where the contestants secretly chose if they wanted to share the final pot, or take it for themselves (in other words, Share or Shaft). If both choose to Shaft, they lose everything. The problems? Its Who Wants To Be The Weakest Link aesthetic and premise felt derivative and cliche (and this was coming from the network that premiered Millionaire in the first place), and only exacerbated the moral issues of the game itself. The hosting of Robert Kilroy-Silk (a former Labour Party MP) was also stiff and lacking personality. While ratings started off good, they began to see significant losses by the fourth episode, prompting ITV to give the eight remaining episodes the shaft themselves. A clip of Kilroy-Silk's catchphrase for the endgame later became a Running Gag on Have I Got News for You.
    • Despite the failure in Britain, they did manage to sell the format in Australia (where it lasted 40 episodes before getting canned).

    Mediaset (Italy) 
  • Trasformat was a game based on recognizing the faces of famous celebrities disguised behind heavy photo editing. The concept itself wasn't bad (it even won a prize for "most original concept for a game show" in 2011), but good concepts aren't always well executed and in this case the execution was terrible. Many hints clearly gave away that it was blatantly fake and/or rigged: the contestants were always good-looking university students in their mid-twenties (other shows on the same network always had people of any look and age), the prizes way too big for the relatively easy game, and winners never emoted, almost like they already knew whether they were going to win or lose. It lasted only seven months from 2010-2011, but in January 2012, out of the blue and with very little promotion, a "second season" was announced. Except that, in an act eerily similar to Peer Pressure, it was just reruns, with minimal edits for the second cycle to make them look new, such as replacing the lovely assistants (Raffaella Fico and Katia Follesa, replaced by Francesca Cipriani mid-season) with its creepy-looking CG mascot named Enrichetto (a cube-headed chibi version of the show’s creator and main host, Enrico Papi, done in the same style that was used for the equally creepy-looking contestant avatars shown in between each game phase) with a Chipmunk-like voice (which was just the lines said by the original assistants pitch-shifted, most likely without their permission), the addition of a Laugh Track every time Enrico made a joke or Enrichetto was in the shot dancing or waving around and, most annoyingly, the part after the last commercial break always began from the end and then rewinded to were they left, wasting 40 seconds of the episode. It was finally cancelled for good by June.

    NBC (United States) 
  • In 1975, Jack Barry's production company attempted to cash in on the ESP craze with Blank Check, a format based almost solely on luck. One contestant out of a group of six, deemed the Checkwriter, wrote a check based on a myriad of four-digit number combinations. The only part of the show that had at least some game to it were the toss-up questions asking about things in common. Correct answers to those earned a contestant the right to replace the Checkwriter by blindly guessing one of the numbers picked in the check. This continued until one Checkwriter got three of the numbers on a check in a row and since progress was wiped after each failed attempt, this could span across more than one show. The winner had to correctly predict which prize an audience member selected for the chance to complete the thousands digit of the check. Not only do the rules sound like a mouthful, its execution falls flat due to the game being a complete bore. It only lasted six months before being canned and replaced with The Magnificent Marble Machine. Host Art James later recounted that he and most of the staff called it "Blank Mind" on the basis that it "was dumb luck, a guessing game". This was Barry's first NBC show after the quiz show scandals, and it wound up being his last. note 

    Oxygen (United States) 
  • 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?

    PAX (United States) 
  • One of the shows PAX (now Ion Television) aired on its first day (August 31, 1998) was The Reel-to-Reel Picture Show, 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. It's not as if he had old age or health to blame: he seemed perfectly fine as Guest Host on the 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 30 episodes, which is truly bad for a traditional game show and far below the 200 PAX had ordered. Worst of all, nobody ever got paid! note  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 being a somewhat better-received adaptation of Yahtzee in 1988.

    RAI (Italy) 
  • Rischiatutto (an Italian quiz show inspired by Jeopardy!) is a beloved show from the 1970's. When Rai decided to revive it in 2016, they managed to mess it up in every way possible, resulting in a boring, drawn-out mess. It was broadcast in primetime unlike the original, meaning that it lasted a good three hours instead of one. The extra two hours were padded by host Fabio Fazio stopping the game to a screeching halt to turn it into a full-fledged talk show, with celebrity interviews (the guest was the topic of one of the categories), and dragging out the original producer and past contestants to remind viewers of the show's history. Of course, Fazio all but forgot that back then, this actually was a game show. Ultimately, it only aired for six episodes and was swiftly forgotten, leaving anticipating audiences, fans of the original show, and young viewers who had never seen it enraged by boredom. Not even the participation of Mike Bongiorno's foundation could save it, and this insulting "homage" perfectly showed off how can you mismanage an old property to desperately appease an aging demographic.

    RTE (Ireland) 
  • Cabin Fever was a 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, but less than two weeks in 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 a 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 than who audiences wanted to keep. Hence controversy was drawn from the first episode, as the deviation from the norm and an unclear explanation of the voting system by the hosts resulted in the most famous and popular celebrity of the group being voted out on 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 season and becoming a often-ridiculed footnote in Irish television history.

    Seven Network (Australia) 
  • The 2012 revival of The Price Is Right had a glitzy look and feel based on the then-recent French revival, and longtime Aussie Price host Larry Emdur, but not much else. For one, the show had rather low payouts in comparison to past Aussie versions of Price, or even its lead-out Deal or No Deal: pricing games were generally played for prizes no more than $2,000 in value, and the Showcase prize package tended to be around $25,000 in total. Given the budget, the show was seemingly subsidized by endless plugs for its sponsor, the discount store chain Big W: they were plugged as the "provider" of its prizes, its logo was plastered all over the props (speaking of props, the pricing game props did not have the names of the games on them either, which made them look bland and, in the case of Cliff Hangers, outright missing the top part of its board), and games typically played for cash were actually played for "Big W shopping sprees" (basically, you're playing Plinko for gift cards). There's even an episode posted on YouTube with a running total of all the Big W plugs. One Big W the show didn't have was a Big Wheel - the show used a mix of the already polarizing U.S. New Price is Right (with no Contestants' Row) with the original half-hour format in which the top two winners advanced to the Showcase Playoff (conducted similarly to past Australian runs), but with a One Bid-like round used as a tiebreaker if needed. Last but not least, Emdur's sidekick was the "hip" and hammy Brodie Young, whose introduction in the first episode didn't exactly bode well (he wanted to shorten the signature catchphrase "Come on down!" to "C-O-D!" because it sounded cooler). Price debuted in May, was cancelled in December, and was missed by nobody.

    Syfy (United States) 
  • Opposite Worlds was supposed to be a series pitting brain against brawn, with Team Epoch representing cavemen and Team Chronos representing the future. Unfortunately, this meant that Team Epoch was cold, hungry and sleep-deprived, so they lost almost every single week. The challenges were almost entirely obstacle courses, giving the fitter contestants even more of an advantage, and many of them were outright dangerous. Two contestants broke bones in the very first challenge (which also involved cattle prods) and had to leave. On top of that, the showrunners kept up Twitter polls and each week the most popular player would get a reward, and the least popular a punishment. These punishments included not letting the player eat. It lasted one season and was thankfully not renewed. Jenny Nicholson discusses it here.

    Syndication 
  • The 2001 syndicated version of Card Sharks is frequently considered one of the worst game show revivals of all-time, and it's not hard to see why. It featured unusual changes to the classic gameplay, such as removing the survey questions in favor of an out-of-place mechanic known as "Clip Chips", where contestants could guess the outcome of a Candid Camera Prank to switch the card. By far the most flawed change was that there was only a single row of seven cards shared by both players, rather than individual rows for each. This meant that the opponent could win without making a single guess if a player swept the first six cards but made an incorrect call on the last. The atrocious hosting of Pat Bullard (who had already proved his incompetence on a short-lived revival of Love Connection three years prior and the also-pretty-lousy Hold Everything! in 1990) and the ugly-looking set didn't really help matters either, and neither did the fact that promotional efforts for the series were hampered by the 9/11 attacks the Tuesday before; local stations were rightfully focused on trying to report on the local impact of the attacks rather than promoting some cheesy game show revamp on their Fall lineups. It would only last four months before it got thrown in the trash. Fans have referred to this revival as "Card Guppies" or "CASINO"("Card Sharks In Name Only"). Here is an episode, if you dare. It took 17 years for another revival attempt to be made, this time for ABC in primetime (which, as with their other recent game show revivals, is more faithful to the format of the classic 1970's version).
  • Make Me Famous, Make Me Rich replaced the Ohio Lottery's long-running and relatively straightforward game show Cash Explosion (basically a multi-round, Press Your Luck sans trivia-type game) with a confusing multi-round game that begins with teams (taking so long that later episodes actually cut out a portion of it in post just to speed things up), and then turns into a White Elephant exchange with the teams broken up into individual contestants to find out who will play the Bonus Round against the returning champion. It was also littered with bonus spaces and features requiring the contestant to have qualified for the show with a more expensive version of the show's associated scratch-and-win game in order to use them, which added to the confusion. Not to mention the hosting of David McCreary, which Game Show Garbage thought made Patrick Wayne from the 1990s Tic-Tac-Dough (see below) seem tolerable in comparison. It was widely considered a failure, meaning that Cash Explosion was promptly Un-Cancelled the following season (although McCreary was retained as host).
  • The 1998-99 version of Match Game with Michael Burger got a lot of flak for its lower quality in comparison to previous versions. Its material attempted to be Hotter and Sexier rather than try to get crap past the radar like the classic CBS, syndicated, and ABC eras (which prompted some stations to bury it in late-night time slots), and was seemingly obsessed with joking about Bill Clinton. Nearly every episode had at least one censored answer, and one featured a come-from-behind victory where the contestant and panelists all gave the same, censored answer. The panel, which was also reduced to 5 celebrities from the previous 6, appeared to lack chemistry. Plus, the top prize in the Super Match was $5,000 - puny for a syndicated show at the time, and especially for one without returning champions (the 1970s-80s syndicated runs allowed players the chance to play up to two Super Match rounds, hence offering a maximum prize of $20,000 in the Star Wheel era). It also had to compete with the Whoopi Goldberg-produced revival of Hollywood Squares with Tom Bergeron - which wound up doing better and lasting until 2004. Meanwhile, Match Game flopped, and it took until 2016 for it to get a full-fledged primetime revival, which is hosted by Alec Baldwin and patterned upon the beloved Gene Rayburn era in terms of look, feel, and format. Here is Game Show Garbage listing the 5 reasons as to why it failed.
  • Merv Griffin's Crosswords was a 2007-08 quiz show where two contestants answered crossword clues on the buzzer to fill in a crossword. In the second round, three additional "Spoiler" contestants are added who could steal clues missed by the two main contestants for a chance to switch places with them. The winner got to fill in the rest of the crossword in a Speed Round to win a grand prize. The game lacked any variety of iteration, not helped by the absolutely phony and robotic hosting of Ty Treadway. Plus, for a show without returning champions, the payouts were quite low: in the first episodes taped, the aforementioned bonus round prize was a trip plus $100 per word solved, but this was later increased to $2,000, and then $5,000 (plus an Xbox 360 package on some episodes). There was no house minimum winnings, either, resulting in one infamous episode where a contestant not only "won" with a score of -$250, but proceeded to lose the bonus round—walking away with a grand total of a watch with the show's logo on it. Since it was broadcast Out of Order, episodes kept jumping between its different payout structures with no rhyme or reason. Its pitch reel showed that its staff expected Crosswords to be a long-running hit in line with Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, but it bowed after a single season instead. Merv Griffin died just over a month before it premiered, having only been on the set for the pilot and first two tapings, so it is ultimately unknown whether the final product was meant to be like this at all. Here is a blog posting showcasing the problems.
  • When the children's game show Peer Pressure went into its final season (which was literally just the first being reaired for the third time in a row, but with even more obtrusive editing than the so-called "second" season), it gained a Spin-Off to make up for the cancellation of Merv Griffin's Click (which was often paired with Peer Pressure), known as Pressure 1. Unlike its parent, which was a board game-like Edutainment Show based on evaluating moral dilemmas, this was just a basic quiz show for teens with little connection to the original program and an atmosphere that wasn't really engaging. It even recycled the Title Theme Tune from Peer Pressure as well. The final round was just a "get these 5 questions right the fastest" showdown between the final two contestants, with a "Pressure Gage" as the timer. In regards to the obtrusive editing to Peer Pressure, it was repackaged as Pressure 2 to go along with the new show (which is odd, given that Pressure 1 is the sequel to Pressure 2), with the word "Peer" censored out whenever it was mentioned as the title. See also the Game Show Garbage review.
  • Shoppers Casino was 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 for years it was claimed to be the worst game show of all time. Jeff Maxwell does a pretty bad job as host (flubbing his lines not once but twice in the first episode), and the models act like they're only there for the paycheck. The set is dingy and 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. 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.
  • 3's A Crowd, a 1979 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 and from women's organizations, leading to all four shows being cancelled. Outside a couple syndicated revivals of Newlywed and Dating, the show proved to be more-or-less a Creator Killer for Barris; he never got another original show on the air before he retired to France at the end of The '80s. What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events In Television History ranked it at #94.
    • Despite this show's toxic nature, it got a revival in 1999 for GSN, hosted by Alan Thicke; while this one removed the "secretary" element in favor of having the second woman be a friend of the man instead, it was still a Turn of the Millennium GSN show and quickly fell by the wayside.
  • Crosswords was joined in the 2007-08 television season by yet another botched revival, Temptation: The New Sale of the Century. It was based loosely on Temptation, an Australian reboot of Sale. Its biggest change was replacing the historic shopping endgame with one where the champion is given a choice between going home with a prize, or resisting temptation and risking it for a chance at a bigger prize the next episode.note  The U.S. version shoehorned the shopping aspect back in, but the prizes on offer paled in comparison to the variety and value of those offered on past iterations (for one, most of the prizes were designer goods for women — which could be considered a nice gift for the wife or an Undesirable Prize for a male contestant), and there was no option to eventually win "the Lot" and a jackpot like classic Sale. The actual gameplay featured a bastardized version of the classic "Fame Game" rounds (which ripped off the toss-up puzzles from Wheel of Fortune), and another completely original game concept called "Knock-Off" (fittingly, a knock-off of Wipeout; it was also played as a Bonus Round called "Super Knock-Off"). In other words, it was both a half-baked Temptation and a half-baked Sale of the Century. Besides a Celebrity Edition preview special featuring American Idol finalists (aired by the equally-forgotten MyNetworkTV), the series never had a Nielsen rating above 0.5, and it too was cancelled after a single season. And did we mention it had a tie-in website eerily reminiscent of Shoppers Casino's pathetic attempt to peddle its crap to viewers? Here is Game Show Garbage to show you why it was a no-sale.
  • Another oft-cited example of a terrible game show revival is the 1990s Tic-Tac-Dough. The pot reset to zero after each tie note , the Dragon and Dragonslayer began rapping in the bonus round about six weeks in, a special week in November had divorced couples playing against each other, and Henry Mancini composed the uncharacteristically kiddie theme music. Patrick Wayne was an all-around terrible host who read the questions in monotone and explained the rules very slowly, but 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 it would be the last game show he would work with before his death in 1992. 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.

    Tien (The Netherlands) 
  • De Gouden Kooi (The Gilded 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.)

    TLC (United States) 
  • 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 & 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 to 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 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.

    UPN (United States) 
  • The UPN Iron Chef USA specials. The idea of an American Iron Chef wasn't bad; in fact, it would be pulled off successfully later by Food Network. The biggest difference between the two American Chef shows? Food Network's version, Iron Chef America, 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.

    VH 1 (United States) 
  • 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 meanspirited. 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 VH1 buried it forever - their website lists lots of old and obscure shows, but not this one. Here's an episode clip. James Corden revisited the concept as a recurring segment on his version of The Late Late Show called "Carpool Karaoke", except more about Rule of Fun and Corden doing it with celebrities and actual musicians, rather than snark.

    The WB (United States) 
  • The WB's Superstar USA, a seven-episode American Idol parody from 2004 that, rather than being amusing, turned out to be rather sadistic.
    • The format was inverted - while saying they wanted good singers, 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. Still, 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" 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. Yes, really.
    • 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". Parodies of TV talent shows are nothing new, and as Britain's Got the Pop Factor and "Underdog 2010" note  have shown, they can be done right; Superstar USA, on the other hand, was simply cruel instead of funny, especially since it actually went out to find real contestants instead of using actors. Unsurprisingly, the winner'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 badly executed, and you can see an 11-minute clip of the finale here.

    Yootoo America (United States) 
  • America's 72nd most-watched network America One (which has since been acquired by the owners of what is now Youtoo TV, and merged and renamed Youtoo America) brings us America's 72nd most-popular big-money game show, The Million-Dollar Word Game (1999). The player must unscramble words (either a single word, or coming up with multiple words of specified length using the letters of one word). A few milestone points award cash and a trip, and getting past all 14 "levels" apparently allows the player to win a prize from the cheap-looking board, such as maybe, just maybe, $1,000,000. It was ostensibly attempting to clone Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (and was likely the first U.S. Follow the Leader clone of it), but had 1989-level production values, if not worse (they couldn't even afford to show a countdown clock onscreen!), and none of the atmosphere or substance that makes game shows legitimately exciting. The "set" was literally just a wall with the show's logo and the "prize banks" for the Bonus Round on it (the credits contain the plug "Signage by Fastsigns"; the joke writes itself), two cheap-looking podiums, and effects lighting borrowed from the local rock and bowl. The host, Ian Jamieson (who you may remember from such shows as The Lonely Chef and America One's hit variety show The Ian & Clare Show - whose co-stars are the producers of MDWG), has laid-back mannerisms that contribute to gratuitous Padding. Overall, the show had a dull, public access atmosphere that makes the aforementioned Shoppers Casino look like The Price Is Right in comparison.
    • One wonders if the show could even afford to give away $10,000, let alone $1,000,000, given that it clearly has No Budget. Though, according to a post discussing the show on newsgroup alt.tv.game-shows, contestants rarely made it to the higher levels to begin with, and one contestant made it to Level 14 but lost. In the episode posted on YouTube, Ian boasts at the top of the show that the next round of tapings would add a top prize of $5,000,000! Later on, he announces a planned tournament between the United States and Canada as a contestant plug. Of course, the number to call to be a contestant is a 1-900 number. Once again, the joke writes itself.
    • Said tournament never came to be on TV, and instead another was eventually held online for a grand prize of $10,000,000, but each entrant had to pony up $100 to approximate the $10,000,000 grand prize. And the winner had to fly to the Caribbean to claim it. Can anyone spell "scam"?
  • 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 Everything Goes, a porno game show that was essentially Strip Hollywood Squares, and who would later go on to produce the much-maligned Wheel 2000 and Jep!) was wooden as 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.

    Unknown/Multiple 
  • Referred to by TV Guide as "a despicable travesty on the very nature of charity", Strike It Rich (not to be confused with the short-lived 1986-87 game show of the same name) was a 1947-50 CBS Radio show and later 1951-58 NBC-TV show that they and many other critics of its time consider one of the ultimate examples of the exploitation of the less fortunate to the gain of viewers and the show's sponsors. While its premise of destitute people, those with medical needs, or victims of tragedies trying to earn money through answering four simple trivia questions (with the occasional donation of money to the victim's family by charitable viewers phoning in via the "Heart Line" for those who failed all four questions) seemed harmless and wholesome enough in spite of its pedestrian gameplay, the execution was really off-putting.
    • The theatrics were one of many criticisms, with host Warren Hull smarmily introducing each episode in an emotionally manipulative way (one of which has him reading a headline of a tragedy that one contestant recently experienced) and then reading the audition letter sent in by the contestant after the commercials and titles (interspersed with shots of said contestant's woeful expressions and sappy organ music playing in the background).
    • Another criticism was that Strike It Rich's goal was too ambitious for its own good. Out of the thousands of needy people who sent in letters to the producers hoping to gain some cash, only a small amount were able to make it on, mainly due to the medium of television still being in its infancy, but also believed to be only those with the most interesting sob stories able to get their chance.
    • And finally, Strike It Rich inspired many people to spend themselves into debt to fly to New York (where the show aired) at a chance to get on the show, only to be rejected and exhaust local charities such as the Salvation Army to get back home, leading to complaints from said charities and at least one victorious lawsuit from the New York City commissioner of welfare, who referred to Strike It Rich as "a disgusting spectacle and a national disgrace." The supervisor of the Travelers Aid Society (now Travelers Aid International) even said "Putting human misery on display can hardly be called right", along with the general director of the Family Service Association of America stating that "Victims of poverty, illness, and everyday misfortune should not be made a public spectacle or seemingly to be put in the position of begging for charity".
    • In spite of the controversy, Strike It Rich pressed on until 1958 thanks to a combination of strong viewership and networks keeping quiet about the whole thing to avoid ruffling feathers of sponsors such as Colgate-Palmolive and Luden's Cough Drops, who provided big advertising bucks in exchange for controlling just about every aspect of the show. Luckily for all involved, they were able to avoid the scrutiny of the aforementioned quiz show scandals mere months before they even came to light. If you want to see just how low TV can sink, look at Game Show Garbage's review here.
  • All Flemish entries of the entire "phone-in game show" genre from 2005-07, which consists of VT4's Toeters En Bellen, VijfTV's Cin co, WinTonight (which aired on the two aforementioned networks), VTM's Bel Menu, and Play2Day and Play2Night on KANAALTWEE. You know you have abysmal television if videos pointing out how these shows switch out solution cards so that nobody ever gets to win are more entertaining to watch than the actual shows. They aren't even all that profitable, because when VT4 and VijfTV started experimenting with afternoon programming in 2008 and decided to cancel these phone-in game shows, it gave them such a ratings boost that it was much more profitable to stick with the new programming than to go back to the phone-in games. Belgian regulations in 2007 actually made them somewhat more winnable and gave them a somewhat dedicated demographic of mathematicians and literacists trying to solve the questions, but because they were still impossibly hard, unfair, and obtuse to play they were still considered a fraud by the general public, something that was driven home when the Flemish series Basta made an episode about them in 2011, causing all those networks to pull those shows from air to avoid the accusations.

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