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Audience-Alienating Premise

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We don't know what stinks more: the concept or his diaper.
"I simply don't care a damn what happens in Nebraska, no matter who writes about it."
A now-forgotten critic on the book O Pioneers!

Some shows never stood a chance. Not necessarily because they're bad, but because the very concept scared people away. They say that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but sometimes, that’s easier said than done. This is the Audience-Alienating Premise: an idea that could be cool and could even make a fantastic show, book, movie, video game or comic, and may very well have, but which instead dooms the work from the very start due to the mere concept being a difficult sell. Sadly, due to how it "sounds", many people won't try it out.

This can play out in the inherent struggles with trying to get people excited with niche genres (horror films with Squick, Nausea Fuel and Black Comedy), foreign material that doesn't translate well (comedies with puns based on the native language), genres that were killed off some time ago (blaxploitation can only exist today in parody), adaptations of an existing property with a built-in stigma, trying to appeal to too many demographics at the same time (making only that part of the film intelligible to its target audience), characters who are difficult to root for (an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist who mooches off the generosity of friends), a brutal deconstruction (fans would be insulted by the criticism, while non-fans would still see it as the same style of work) or the execution itself takes things in an unexpected direction.

Note that this is not a judgement call on the work itself. Marketing itself can be entirely at fault, trying to sell it as something more generic when it has plenty of other qualities to offer. Sometimes attempts to mimic styles popular from other cultures comes off as too different for audiences to understand and appreciate, even though it is a fine example of that genre in its own right. And the concept can be taken too far by the audience. A Hard-to-Adapt Work doesn't mean an adaptation shouldn't be attempted, and a prequel with a Foregone Conclusion doesn't mean there isn't an interesting story to tell.

Of course, a work with such an obstacle can rise above it and achieve recognition; in many cases an oddball work is shunned on release only to become a Cult Classic, often being either Vindicated by Video, Vindicated by History, or Vindicated by Cable. Simply having an off-sounding premise doesn't immediately qualify for this trope, as sometimes a movie inspired by 1930s pulp space adventures or psychedelic rock with horror themes ends up being wildly successful anyway. Compare that to And You Thought It Would Fail.

Compare Germans Love David Hasselhoff when a work winds up much more popular in another country due to differences in tastes and Values Resonance. When the alienated audience is in another country, it's Americans Hate Tingle, similarly attributable to Values Dissonance. Public Medium Ignorance is for works which suffer from a strong tendency to be audience-alienating. Premises that are not merely unusual, but downright offensive might result in the work also being Overshadowed by Controversy.

Could also overlap with Acceptable Breaks from Reality, Anthropic Principle, and Uncertain Audience. Contrast Dancing Bear, where the oddness of the premise attracts interest rather than discouraging it. Also, in many ways the opposite of Multiple Demographic Appeal; in fact, an Audience-Alienating Premise is sometimes the result of trying to cater to different kinds of audience and failing to attract any - even fans of multiple things don't always like those things in the same work at the same time. Compare Intentionally Awkward Title, Demographic-Dissonant Crossover and Audience-Alienating Era.

Note: Since "some people won't like this work's premise" on its own is too subjective even for YMMV, there should be objective proof that people in general didn't like the premise. This means the work being a Box Office Bomb, Acclaimed Flop, Creator Killer, Short-Runner, Stillborn Franchise, or receiving No Export for You, which can only happen after the work has been released to the public, so do not add examples of unreleased works. Just because one person finds a work's premise unappealing doesn't necessarily mean that everyone shares that viewpoint, and just because a work's initial trailers are unappealing, it doesn't mean the work is doomed to failure. In short, this reaction should not be used for Complaining About Shows You Don't Like.

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  • When they were first invented in the mid-20th century, bikinis were not at all popular and were even banned or discouraged in various countries. The reasons should be obvious: A female swimsuit that amounts to little more than undergarments, invented by a man. Being used to one-pieces and the more modest traditional two-pieces, most women were not keen on walking around nearly naked in such contexts where it was mostly unheard of at the time. It took a decade or two afterward for bikinis to gain acceptance.
  • When Christian Dior launched his "New Look" line of women's fashion following World War II, which featured long, full skirts and other throwbacks to a more Victorian or Edwardian aesthetic, there was initially a public backlash. The generous use of material did not sit well with the post-war mentality, which was still in a mode of austerity. There were actually demonstrations organized against the "New Look", and even cases of people tearing the clothes off women they found wearing them on the street. By the 1950s, however, full skirts were very much in fashion. Much later, in 1966, the situation repeated itself when women who felt liberated by the new miniskirt protested against Dior's "unfair treatment" of that fashion.

    Film — Animation 
  • El Arca is an animated retelling of the story of Noah's Ark from the animals' point of view that is very questionably written: Christians who would have been interested in the film for its Biblical story were turned off by its blasphemy and raunchiness, the aforementioned sexual themes made the movie unsuitable for children when its art style and sillier scenes seemed geared for them, and most viewers (except for a few members of the Furry Fandom) were repulsed by the sexualization of animal characters. To cap it all off, a large number of furries are put off by the biblical themes. The movie seemed to have no idea who its audience was supposed to be, and consequently failed and fell into obscurity.
  • Bolívar, el Héroe: For one thing, the film takes many artistic licenses with the story of Simon Bolivar, which for many people is disrespectful. For another, the poor animation and the numerous and exaggerated clichés in an attempt to make an "Animesque" adventure also alienated anime fans.
  • Cesante is a Chilean adult animated film that covers 12 hours in the life of an unemployed man named Carlos Meléndez and the trials and tribulations he goes through in search of work and respect. The film premiered in 2003, at a time when Chile was going through a serious economic crisis that left many people unemployed, which for many hit too close to home. In addition, the consciously ugly and grotesque aesthetic alienated viewers who weren't used to animated films that weren't intended for family viewing.
  • Although considered a Cult Classic, Felidae has difficulty finding mainstream attention in large part because of its premise. It's a Film Noir where the primary characters are feral cats. Sounds harmless enough... except the film is also an R-rated feature chock full of disturbing imagery involving gruesome murder, surreal nightmares, and a realistic sex scene (again, as a reminder, the characters are non-anthropomorphic house cats). The film obviously can't be watched by children, but adults couldn't get into the film either on accounts of the characters being ordinary cats and the jarringly cartoonish art-style.
  • A chunk of the reason Foodfight! flopped so badly was the nature of its concept. While films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit or Toy Story showed that the idea of a crossover film involving a bunch of branded characters could work, Foodfight! decided to focus on supermarket advertising mascots—while cartoon characters or toys can be separated from their brands somewhat, Foodfight!'s characters are brands, which causes it to come off as uncomfortably close to a feature-length advertisement. What's more, the literal moral of the film is "Brand Names Are Better, and Brand X is run by Nazis", which is not a good message for young children to absorb. And despite being a concept ill-suited to anyone but very small children, the film also introduces a lot of elements that kids would be unlikely to understand, such as what exactly its characters even are, or the countless Parental Bonus-type jokes. Even if not for the film's Troubled Production, the pure story alone is enough to leave most people baffled.
  • This was one reason Frankenweenie was a box office disappointment. A black and white stop-motion animated feature focused around death and reanimation is a hard sell for today's families, especially when it's topped off by a violent climax. Disney didn't help matters by refusing to move its release date to distance it from the more accessible Hotel Transylvania and the equally-dark-and-quirky-but-released-first ParaNorman; when the former became a Sleeper Hit that exceeded industry expectations and had strong weekly holds, and the latter got the earliest wave of critical buzz, that burned off demand for another Halloween film for 2012.
  • While many critics blame HomeOnTheRange's failure on its poor writing. The premise of the protagonists being three talking cows isn't very attractive.
  • Once Lightyear underperformed at the box office, this point was raised by analysts, claiming that as beloved as Toy Story is, nobody had a real interest in the story of the "real" Buzz Lightyear. Many found the film's concept to be too confusing and unnecessary for it to be appealing, and having Buzz and Arch-Enemy Zurg portrayed very differently from their toy counterparts (not even their voice actors returned) didn't help. Fans of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command also disliked it for feeling that show had already done this idea much better, and were turned off by the film using nothing from it. What's more, even those who did take interest in the premise argued that the film's actual final product doesn't match up with the intended idea of "this is the movie Andy saw as a kid"—rather than a Genre Throwback to 1990s toyetic sci-fi, it's a pretty straightforward modern animated action film.
  • Playmobil: The Movie is based off of a toyline considered niche, and had to deal with the stigma of toy-based movies being expected to be hollow Merchandise-Driven cartoons. Even worse, LEGO, a toyline that overshadows Playmobil in almost every way, had a movie a few years prior that both managed to defy the expectation that it would be a cheap cashgrab, but also managed to become a huge success, meaning that people were inevitably going to compare Playmobil's movie to it. All of this resulted in an opening weekend described as the worst opening in cinematic history for a film playing in over 2,300 theaters.
  • Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World is often considered one of the less bad Disney sequels (a few even consider it better than the original, though this is mostly Damned by Faint Praise at work), but its premise makes it a rather difficult sell. It tries to continue the story of the original film by making it somewhat more in line with the actual life of Pocahontas, such as setting her up with John Rolfe, the man she married in reality. However, most people irritated at the first film's... liberties with history would probably find them too big of a dealbreaker to even consider watching a low-budget direct-to-video sequel. Meanwhile, the people who liked the original Pocahontas clearly didn't consider those elements a dealbreaker, and would be rather snippy at the possibility of breaking up the original film's main couple.
  • The Road to El Dorado is an homage to the Road to ... films starring two Spanish thieves who find the titular city and get mistaken for gods. Further complicating things is that, like many other animated movies here, it can't decide whether it wants to appeal mainly to kids or adults. (Though a combination of this and bad marketing did lead to the movie failing at the box office, it largely contributed to the film's Cult Classic status.) Kevin Koch, an assistant animator, cited this trope as part of the reason for the film's lack of success:
    For me there were two major problems with The Road to El Dorado. First, it was a period piece set in South America — I thought at the time that that combination would be box office poison. There are certain settings and time periods that I don’t think modern audiences are interested in, even if the film is fantastic.
  • Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss takes one of the most famous tragic plays of all time, replaces the characters with cute seals (the title characters are seal pups, making the whole romance story feel uncomfortable), and tones the story down for kids, adding a happy ending and a Kid-Appeal Character voiced and written by an actual child. Despite being made on a shoestring budget (thanks to almost everything being done by a single person Doing It for the Art), it failed to turn a profit.
  • The Star, being an animated retelling of the birth of Christ, is a hard enough sell in mainstream cinema, but it's also a comedy where the events are told from the animals' perspective. Its box office conversely had a smaller initial opening debut than the creator's former movies.
  • A pair of animated movies based on the Titanic disaster:
    • Titanic: The Legend Goes On takes a hundred-plus-years-ago tragedy and throws in a bunch of wacky hijinks to comprise everything prior to what actually happened.
    • The Legend of the Titanic takes the sinking of the Titanic (though, for the most part, treats things much more seriously than The Legend Goes On), and turns it into an anti-whaling Aesop, to say nothing about its fictional aversion of what happened in real life.

    Food and Drink 
  • The Handwich was an attempt to create "the sandwich of the future", being sold at Disney Theme Parks, especially EPCOT. It was effectively an ice cream cone, but with a cone made of bread and stuffed with sandwich filling. It was heavily marketed, and a favorite of Michael Eisner, but ultimately failed to take off, due to not really having any obvious advantages: while it broadcasted the convenience of the idea, since it could be carried in one hand and there was no risk of the filling falling out, sandwiches are already easy to carry and eat one-handed as long as you're not careless. If anything, the Handwich actually frequently ended up being messier than its old-fashioned counterpart, since you couldn't put it down easily without it spilling, and trying to take a bite would involve shoving your mouth into a ball of sandwich filling or noshing on the bread that's the only thing keeping that filling inside. (Tellingly, they were often sold with forks, which really betrays just how misguided the concept was.) Add in the fact that it required those specialized breadcones as opposed to, say, bread, and the product was discontinued after only a few years.
  • Kono Pizza, a take-away pizza in the form of cones instead of triangular or square slices. It was invented in Northern Italy in the early 2000s and then exported to the USA, Japan and other countries. While it still exists, it never managed to become anything more than a curiosity. For one thing, the filling had to be really hot or otherwise the mozzarella inside wouldn't melt, so you'd have to be pretty careful before taking a bite.
  • In 1996, McDonald's introduced the Arch Deluxe, a new burger specifically marketed towards adults, made with higher-quality ingredients. Unfortunately, McDonald's is mostly known for their cheap prices, so the higher price turned regular McDonald's-goers away, while fans of gourmet food who'd have appreciated the burger wouldn't be caught dead eating at McDonald's. The Arch Deluxe became one of McDonald's biggest failures despite a massive advertising campaign. The ad campaign itself didn't help, initially showing children being confused and intimidated by the Arch Deluxe, giving a bad impression of the product; it was promptly retooled to show Ronald McDonald engaged in "adult" activities (like golfing), but by then it was too late to save it.
  • New Coke was a 1985 rework of Coca-Cola's formula, which was made to taste closer to Pepsi. Pepsi fans just kept drinking Pepsi rather than switching to the rival brand, while Coke fans were outraged that their drink was changed. The failure was so massive, the old formula was brought back 3 months later as Coca-Cola Classic. This reversion brought Coca-Cola a lot of good publicity and sales, to the point where a popular Urban Legend says the entire campaign and outrage was intentionally planned.
  • Pepsi A.M. was a 1989 spinoff of the Pepsi line intended for morning use. While it possessed a similar flavor to regular Pepsi, it contained more caffeine to function as an energy drink. It was made in response to a slight increase in morning soda drinkers from the past decade, but it was still working against a cultural perception against consuming soda in the morning, leaving little room for this niche market to grow. It also didn't provide enough incentive for the few morning soda drinkers to switch from regular Pepsi to this new product. The product itself was a Master of None between energy drinks and soda: the coffee drinkers Pepsi was hoping to win over weren't enticed by the lower caffeine levels, while the few that actually tried the product complained that the flavor was too flat. Pepsi A.M. failed in the test market, and was discontinued a year after its soft launch.



  • After the Civil Rights Movement, the demand for white supremacist and nationalist literature shrank over the years, as the idea that whites were superior (due to their genes, etc.) was viewed as ridiculous and outdated to the point where it became a tiny niche:
    • William Luther Pierce is a massive white supremacist, and his books reflect that. Good luck finding anyone who isn't also a white supremacist who won't be turned off from his books by that fact.
    • The Northwest Front series is white nationalist literature where we're supposed to root for racist militants.

Individual Titles

  • Alfie's Home is a children's storybook about a kid who, due to his parents constantly arguing, latches onto the sexual abuse from his uncle as his only source of affection. That alone is a hard sell, but it could have found a niche helping kids who deal with sexual abuse in Real Life... that is until it brings up the possibility of Alfie becoming gay from all this (something based on a long-discredited psychological theory), and treats it as a problem that must be taken care of by a few words with a counselor. You can probably imagine why the book was lambasted by everyone who has read it.
  • Awoken (written by Lindsay Ellis, Antonella Inserra and Elisa Hansen) is a parody of the Paranormal Romance genre, specifically "Twilight meets the Cthulhu Mythos". When asked if it was an audience-alienating premise, they responded with "That's the joke."
  • The BattleTech novel Far Country. Standard BattleTech stories revolve around Realpolitik stories of different human star empires fighting each other, with no focus on Space Opera themes like exploration or first contact with alien species. Far Country had several different groups get stranded on an alien planet with no way home having to deal with the bird-like alien natives. People who liked BattleTech were turned off by the utter lack of a BattleTech-related plot, while fans of space opera style science fiction were turned off by the tie-in to the franchise.
  • A Brother's Price is about a world where only about 10% of the population is male, and this leads to polygamy. Already a rather odd premise, not to mention the fact that polygamy is a rather controversial idea in the west. Worse yet, the cover and advertising were apparently designed to appeal to a mainstream romance audience, who likely won't like the book at all as it's more of a thriller.
  • Bumped is a young adult novel about a dystopian future where a virus has made everyone over the age of 18 infertile and reliant on teenage girls as surrogate mothers. People were squicked out by the Teen Pregnancy, while readers who do want to read about it criticized the book for exploiting a serious problem in society for shock value.
  • Captive Prince: The story follows a hunky, dark skinned prince that is turned into a Sex Slave for the blonde, fair-skinned prince of an enemy nation, which made some people uncomfortable, especially since the story would follow their love story, but the two spend the entirety of the first novel of the trilogy hating each other.
  • The Clique is an Indecisive Parody told from the point-of-view of a middle school-aged Alpha Bitch and her Girl Posse (two character types that are nearly universally despised) but does very little to make them likable or sympathetic. And even readers who would want to read something like that are very likely going to be put off by all the Squick (namely the very sexualized depictions of preteen girlsnote ). The author tried to add some Deconstruction elements later on in the series but for many it was too little too late. This trope is possibly why The Film of the Book was Direct to Video — the creators were probably aware that a film with this kind of plot would bomb if released in theaters.
  • The article's opening quote refers to one of the seminal canon works of Willa Cather, one of the most prominent female authors of the first half of the 20th century (one of her others, My Ántonia, was published in 1901). Indeed, she frequently wrote about Nebraska - one of the least densely-populated and featured in the United States. Cather's work The Professor's House was partially written in response to this trope (and consequently is more like a Dark Fic or Deconstruction compared to her earlier works - and most notably, takes place along the shores of the Great Lakes with flashbacks to Arizona).
  • The Cold Moons is a Xenofiction fantasy about talking badgers. While there may be a decent audience for this sort of thing if done right, as shown by the success of Warrior Cats, Watership Down, and Guardians of Ga'Hoole, badgers are not an appealing species choice to center a book on, especially when and where it was published in 1980s United Kingdomnote . It's only an uphill battle from there to get people interested.
  • The Deptford Mice trilogy features anthropomorphic mice in a struggle against a God of Evil and his bloodthirsty rat minions. Violent deaths abound, including decapitation and flaying alive. The cute animal characters would put off older kids, but the stories are Nightmare Fuel for the younger ones. This is likely why these books have yet to see a film adaptation.
  • The premise of Growing Around is not one that holds up well to Fridge Horror, at least before later drafts have fleshed out and better realized how such a world could potentially function. It takes place In a World… with Swapped Roles taken to the extreme: kids have all authority, and grown-ups must abide by their rules. Despite this, people age and develop as they do in Real Life. While the author is aware of this problem readers have, he makes it clear that he doesn't want to pen the Darker and Edgier Lord of the Flies-style Deconstruction that everyone's minds head towards, nor does he want to bog down the story to explain how such a world could work, and simply implores potential readers to extend their Willing Suspension of Disbelief for it. This is somewhat ironic, as the entire thing was born from the creator having seen a short with a similar premise and claiming that They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot.
  • Industrial Society and Its Future: It's a book/manifesto decrying the Industrial Revolution and not only modern civilization, but many social aspects of it. Those who are environmentalists or concerned about human impact on nature in general will be put off by Kaczynsk's critiques of leftism, feminism, LGBT movements and his Social Darwinist leanings. Readers coming from a conservative or "traditionalist" background will also be put off by Kaczynsk's decrying of civilization in general and conservative "hypocrisy" towards the environment. And that's of course without getting into the eco-terrorism he has done and his unapologetic positions towards it and the deaths he has caused, even if they're only briefly mentioned in the manifesto itself.
  • Johnny the Walrus, by conservative commentator and Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh, tells the story of a little boy named Johnny who loves to role-play as different animals and objects. One day, he decides that he wants to be a walrus. This (somehow) causes everyone to treat him as if he actually wants to become a walrus, culminating in a doctor suggesting that Johnny eat worms and have his limbs cut off in an allegory for hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery—a metaphor that would only be understood by the transphobic adults in Walsh's audience who would purchase it, despite the book being illustrated and ostensibly presented as a children's book. Walsh boasted that it was the best-selling book in Amazon's LGBTQ+ category,note  only for Amazon to recategorize it to Political and Social Commentary and for Target to completely remove it from its online storefront.
  • While The Mister, E. L. James' follow-up to her smash hit Fifty Shades of Grey series, sold well enough, it dropped off The New York Times Bestseller List much faster than the Fifty Shades series and got even worse critical reviews. Part of this may be to do with the fact the heroine is an undocumented immigrant from Albania who is revealed to be a victim of attempted forced marriage and sex trafficking, which are very serious topics, only in this case they're used more as an excuse to put her in the hero's path; not helping is that the hero himself is her vastly more rich and powerful employer. The trivial way such subjects were dealt with and the extreme power imbalance between the Official Couple understandably made many readers uncomfortable.
  • This is the most likely reason why the first Monster High book series flopped. It had too many mature themes and fanservice for young readers but older ones would most likely be turned off by a novel series based on a little girls' toy line. And fans of the franchise disliked that it was In Name Only.
  • River Heights was a spin-off of The Nancy Drew Files series (itself a spinoff of the original books), receiving a Poorly-Disguised Pilot in that series. The series itself had very little mention of Nancy herself, instead focusing on a neighbor of hers named Nikki, and was instead a high school drama series not unlike Sweet Valley High. Fans of Nancy weren't interested in teen drama (or even if they were, were likely already reading other series, like the aforementioned Sweet Valley High), fans of drama likely thought it was a straight mystery (because of the tie-with Nancy Drew), and the series faded away after about 16 books. Not learning their lesson, they tried this again with Nancy Drew on Campus, another spinoff that sent Nancy away to college and, yet again, pushed aside the mysteries in favor of more young adult drama. Again, the series died off after 25 books (while this sounds impressive, realize that Nancy Drew books are ridiculously Long-Runners, with the original series lasting to 175, while the Files spinoff lasted to 124, and even less successful series such as Girl Detective survived all the way to 47.)
  • Save the Pearls: Revealing Eden is a novel about a dystopian future where whites are enslaved and oppressed by evil black people. The premise relies on outdated tropes played straight (including Food Pills), and worse, Blackface plays a huge role in the story. The work was ignored or shunned by general audiences.
  • Dr. Seuss at one point attempted to put out an adult book, The Seven Lady Godivas. The book was a massive bomb and motivated him to stick with strictly child audiences almost permanently, and it's really not hard to imagine why—the art came out looking like, well, Dr. Seuss drawing naked women. Dr. Seuss's artstyle is many things, but "sexy" is not one of them, and his name had already been established as primarily a children's book author. Not helping the Playing Against Type case was that the book has a structure and feel very much like his more well-known books, with goofy names, slapstick humor, a whimsical plot, and a pretty low wordcount; even the raunchy content (aside from gratuitous Barbie Doll Anatomy nudity) is pretty tame. It did eventually see a reprint, but this was more due to historical curiosity than anything.
  • It took Stephen King five years to find anyone who was willing to publish "Survivor Type", a story about a doctor who gets stranded on a deserted island and resorts to amputating parts of himself to eat. In Danse Macabre, his nonfiction book on horror, King reflected that "not even men's magazines would consider this one."
  • This is most likely the reason why the Tailchaser's Song adaptation is stuck in Development Hell. It's an adventure novel full of rich lore and violence. It's also about talking cats. Unlike its Spiritual Successor Warrior Cats, which is allegedly aimed at 10-year-olds, Tailchaser's Song is aimed at older fantasy fans. It's more in the vein of Watership Down with its heavy emphasis on mythology, culture, and Conlang. Kids are unlikely to be interested in a novel that has its own glossary and has 4-page long character section, cat fans are turned off by the mature tone, and fantasy fans don't want to read about cats. This leaves it for that small niche of Xenofiction fans.
  • Twisted (2010) is a book about sentient rollercoasters... that kill and eat people. The idea of the main characters being amusement park rides seems too childish for adults, but the gore and edginess of the content makes it inappropriate for children.
  • Victoria by military theorist William S. Lind is a book where a bunch of Rated M for Manly Right Wing Militia Fanatics completely crush the forces of liberalism, leftism, multiculturalism, feminism, political correctness and progress to establish a new, pure America where everyone is a good, proud, red-blooded Christian, or else. It's... not for everyone, and outside people who subscribe to certain flavors of right-wing politics, it tends to be enjoyed more for being So Bad, It's Good.

  • Big Grams, consisting of rapper Big Boi and indietronica band Phantogram, wasn't able to reach anything further than a niche audience. The combination of Southern Rap and shoegazey glitch-pop was too odd to fit on either the urban or alternative formats. The ones that did listen to it, generally liked it, however.
  • The One-Hit Wonder song "Timothy" by The Buoys is about three miners who are trapped for days after an accident, until two of them are forced to eat the other (the title character) just before being rescued. Its writer Rupert Holmes (otherwise known for peppier material like "The Pina Colada Song") admitted years later that he was deliberately trying to create a song that would get banned from several radio stations, thus inspiring edgelord teens (in those pre-Internet days where there would be no other way to hear it) to flood other stations with requests for it.
  • Chris Cornell's Scream: An artist best known for fronting the alt-rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave collaborates with Timbaland, a hip-hop/R&B producer, for a dance-pop album. The record didn't fly well with Cornell's usual audience or attract him any new listeners, and the commercial failure of this was a major factor in Suretone Records' demise.
  • Danish Eurodance band Daze was disillusioned by all the Aqua comparisons following their debut record, and took their style in a completely different direction for their next album: They Came to Rule, which employed the famous Max Martin sound associated with Britney Spears as the basis for a Darker and Edgier, anti-authority image, with which they tackled scandalous subjects such as trash television, the manipulative corruption of the media, and prostitution rings. It flopped — the group's original audience was alienated, and the people who liked that kind of rebellious commentary weren't interested in buying an album by Daze. The group remained together, but never released another album.
  • Dexys Midnight Runners' Don't Stand Me Down, an expansive experimental soul album, failed to appeal to fans, who wanted another "Come On Eileen". It doesn't help that the first single was released several months after the album was, and the single chosen — "This Is What She's Like" — was twelve minutes long. On top of that, the album received no promotion. It was a commercial failure upon release, which led to the group's disbandment. However, it's now considered somewhat of a lost gem.
  • Eminem: Relapse was Eminem's first new studio album after a prolonged Creator Breakdown, and fans and critics expected it to be a confessional Concept Album that continued the increasingly mature persona he'd developed on his last few albums. While it was indeed a Concept Album, it was instead a Horrorcore release revolving around a Serial Killer version of Slim Shady, featuring various unidentifiable accents and leftfield beats with Slasher Movie-influenced lyrics. While the result sold well off of Eminem's brand recognition, topping the Billboard 200 and being certified triple-platinum in the US, its poor reception resulted in Eminem cancelling plans for a sequel and shifting to a confessional Pop Rap style on its sequels Recovery and Revival.
  • Steve Grand saw his career flounder after becoming an overnight sensation with his debut single "All-American Boy." The song was massively successful, but it led to him being called "the gay country singer," a label he himself didn't coin which created a few problems for him as he attempted to launch a mainstream career. First, country music fans are known for being very..."traditional"-minded and were put off by him openly singing about his love for another man. Second, queer audiences, especially gay men, tend to prefer more urban styles of music: pop, electronic, hip-hop, etc. What little country they like tends to be big-name divas like Dolly Parton, Shania Twain, or The Chicks. Many of them were supportive of Grand, but didn't buy his music. Lastly, the overlap of queer people that are country fans bought his music but ran into the exact opposite problem: Grand was never a country singer in the first place. He's from Chicago and mostly deals in pop-rock and electronic. "All-American Boy," with its rural themes and twangy guitar, was a Black Sheep Hit for him. Grand never promoted himself as a country singer either; the media just stuck him with that label and he has speculated that it may have done his career more harm than good. He still makes music as an indie artist with a fanbase of mostly gay men, as well as a side-gig designing men's underwear, but the "gay country singer" label still follows him whenever he's in the news, much to his chagrin. Interestingly, several actual country singers like Brandi Carlile, Ty Herndon, and Billy Gilman have since come out as gay or lesbian.
  • In 1990, reigning Madchester band Happy Mondays saw their biggest critical and commercial success with the party-friendly Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches, which served as their Breakthrough Hit in America and went Platinum in their native UK. Their 1992 follow-up Yes Please!, meanwhile, stepped as far away from that sound as possible in favor of an unexpectedly bleak take on Caribbean soul funk that invited comparisons to Joy Division in the press. The artistic 180 was critically derided as out-of-step and outdated in the wake of the grunge boom and sold so badlynote  that, together with its expensive Troubled Production, it acted as a Creator Killer for both the band and Factory Records, who went bankrupt just a month later.
  • This might be why metal band iwrestledabearonce haven't been able to get really big in the music world yet. They look like a bunch of scene kids and get marketed to that scene despite rejecting the label. Their sound is based out of Avant-Garde Metal with a bizarre hodgepodge of every type of metal and non-metal styles out there. In short, they are too "weird" for scene kids while metalheads reject them for their image.
  • Diane Diamond, in her book Be Careful Who You Love, suspects that Michael Jackson's 38-minute Short Film/Concept Video Ghosts was buried by Sony in North America because of its premise. Jackson plays the mysterious "Maestro", who is suspected of being up to no good when it's revealed that he's been secretly inviting a small town's kids to his spooky mansion for ghost stories. The Maestro is denounced as a freak by an evil, bigoted white Mayor (Jackson in a Fat Suit), so he summons up a troupe of ghouls to turn the tables on him and his mob. It's a blatant allegory for the child molestation accusations leveled against Jackson in 1993. Sony did get the clip wide distribution overseas, as the scandal hadn't done quite so much damage to Jackson's reputation there, and it eventually found wide North American exposure at the Turn of the Millennium.
  • KISS's Music from "The Elder". One of the hardest rock bands in the world at the time attempting a Progressive Rock Concept Album? It just wouldn't fly: the album only hit No. 75 and was their first to not be RIAA-certified, with all of their previous albums having at least gone gold. Even the band themselves regret making it and have rarely ever performed any of the songs live.
  • John Lennon and Yoko Ono's first three albums are all experimental recordings. Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins (1968) is John and Yoko experimenting with noise and feedback while Yoko wails. Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions (1969) has more of the same, though luckily only one LP side worth of that. The second side is Yoko and John singing newspaper articles, a recording of the heartbeat monitor of their unborn baby (who died in miscarriage), two minutes of pure silence and Yoko playing around with a radio. Wedding Album (1969) has John and Yoko saying their names for one entire LP side, while side 2 is a couple of songs, press interviews and background noise in their hotel room during their Bed-In peace project. Needless to say, it's not difficult to see why these albums are not often mentioned when people tout Lennon's genius as a songwriter!
  • One More Light by Linkin Park is the most hated album in their library because of the very premise. The band, known for mixing rock, hip-hop with flavorings of electronica together while having a unique identity, while also featuring a Vocal Tag Team, making an album that almost completely abandons both rock and hip-hop (save for few disparate elements) and cranks up the electronica to create a pop album meant to be enjoyed by tween and teen girls who listen to artists like The Chainsmokers. Safe to say, this didn't win points with anyone. When all the songs were revealed, with barely audible guitar, only one song featuring the Chester/Mike combo (which was hampered by two other rappers being there), near-invisible instrumentation that wasn't synthetic, listeners were scratching their heads wondering exactly how this was supposed to be welcomed by their longtime loyal fans. Yet the band expects them to do just that, and flat-out insulted them for "not moving on from Hybrid Theory". It didn't help that Chester Bennington sadly killed himself just a few months after One More Light came out. While many fans have been kinder to the album in light of that, most people might be uncomfortable with listening to what's essentially a suicide note.
  • Exclusively for German-speaking countries, Melanie C collaborated with Rosenstolz to produce "Let There Be Love", a Translated Cover Version of "Liebe ist alles", and got disappointed that all the people who had purchased the original track less than a decade earlier wouldn't buy the same song with the same instrumentation again in English.
  • Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed is a double LP set with nothing but continuous droning of guitar feedback and screeching noises. The album was Reed's first solo effort to not chart at all in any country (even his debut album just barely scraped the Billboard 200 at No. 168) and was deleted by RCA Records in just three weeks.
  • Panic! at the Disco's 2007 album Pretty. Odd. turned out to be this for the band's fanbase at the time. An emo-pop band doing a throwback to 1960s baroque pop and psychedelic pop (particularly The Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band)? It just didn't fly with their fans. It ultimately resulted in half the band departing to form a new band.
  • Kenji Sawada's concept album Onnatachiyo. A concept album based on The Tale of Genji from a singer mostly known for his anthemic live performances, with lyrics outright written in haiku freestyle, and complex instrumentation with Julie's backing band EXOTICS buried under layers of synthesizers from Yellow Magic Orchestra collaborator Hideaki Matsutake. The album had virtually no live tour attached to it, and is probably the most polarizing album of Sawada's '80s albums.
  • The The's Hank Williams tribute album Hanky Panky (1995) was met with mixed reactions, to say the least. Dusk era The The melded with Williams' country tunes from the 1940s and 50s was a hard sell to the thin overlap in the Venn diagram of the artists' fanbases, while many others had no idea what to make of it. The punny title and silly cover art didn't help, and the album found its way onto "worst albums of the 90s" lists. However, it was well-received by some, particularly those already familiar with Williams but not The The (including Williams' daughter) and opinions of it have skewed a bit more positive over the years.
  • The glam metal band Vinnie Vincent Invasion never really took off because of this trope, according to drummer Bobby Rock in his autobiography. The band had the commercial pomp of late-period glam bands like Def Leppard and Poison, but Vinnie Vincent's guitar playing was often too experimental (he derived just as much from jazz and blues in his playing as typical shred metal) for the type of crowd that music attracted back then; most of the songs Vinnie Vincent played were fast-paced, but were usually over 5 minutes long and not arena rock friendly.
  • The Wanted bombed in the United States because they were being pushed as a boy band. Unfortunately, their members were all in their early 20s at the time they started to release music there, so they proved to be unable to build up the teenage girl fanbase that helps boy bands succeed. The boy band image also alienated adult listeners, who were also growing tired of the electropop sound dominating the airwaves at the time.
  • Edgar Winter's album Mission Earth was based on the Mission Earth series by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and featured words and music written by Hubbard himself. As a result of the massive controversy surrounding Hubbard and Scientology, combined with the fact that the source material wasn't exactly well-regarded,note  the album tanked.

  • The failure of the Flexplay format was in part caused by people finding the idea of disposable DVDs stupid and wasteful. Though most can understand the idea of disposable goods when it's for the sake of cheapness and the item can't be made reusable without raising its cost, Flexplay was a system where otherwise perfectly-usable products would have to destroy themselves, making the disposability entirely artificial.
  • In 1988, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company launched Premier, a smokeless cigarette that heated tobacco rather than burning it, allowing smokers to enjoy the taste of tobacco without that harmful secondhand smoke and messy ash. What few of the existing audience of smokers who were willing to give Premier a shot were not pleased by Premier's taste and the complicated instructions required to light it, while the potential new audience of non-smokers who were already put off by tobacco products still refused to give them a shot. By the following year, Premier was snuffed out.note 
  • The Legends (formerly Lingerie) Football League, which is effectively the women's version of (American) football. As the former title implied, the premise was women's tackle football with the players clad in little more than bikini clothing and padding. Women and feminists were alienated by many aspects of the league, notably the sexist clothing they have to wear (in a few cases, teams were fined for players wearing too much) as if to put Fanservice over athleticism. Even the men looking for such things were alienated as the protective gear negates any attractiveness the women accentuate, and many of the players would too muscular looking for the target male audience, as they were athletes first. The league never found its niche and folded in 2019.note 
  • Basketball had two leagues with the same stripperiffic premise: The Lingerie Basketball League, and the Bikini Basketball Association. Again, audiences were alienated for similar reasons as Legends (also not helped by the existence of the WNBA, which avoids the controversy over the sexism), and both folded after two official seasons apiecenote .
  • Quibi was a short-lived streaming service that — despite investing over a billion dollars for original programming at launch, and featuring the likes of DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg at the helm — quickly flopped in large part due to its base premise: pay $5-8 a month for TV-quality, but "bite-sized" content for your phone. This was meant to capitalize on the increasing prevalence of both streaming platforms and mobile-based audiences, but the critical flaw was that not only was Quibi still dealing with preexisting competition in streaming platforms such as Netflix — which offered ad-free streaming on phones in addition to TVs, tablets, and other devices; Quibi didn't offer such options until it was too late — mobile devices had plenty of free options for content such as YouTube or TikTok. Combined with other issues, such as the platform not producing any must-see Killer Apps and the COVID-19 Pandemic clipping demand for a mobile-exclusive platform, subscription counts began far below expectations and would only continue to spiral until the service shut its doors within 6 months.
  • In the same sense, the 2001 XFL. As the premise was a Totally Radical attempt at a new football league created by wrestling promoter and WWE CEO Vince McMahon, viewers couldn't tell if it was serious football, or a parody of the sport with Professional Wrestling tropes galorenote , with extreme and crazy rules (e.g. the infamous "jump ball" where players charge towards a ball and wrestle one another for possession), and were alienated and stayed away in droves. Not helping things is that many of the hosts for the XFL teams also had NFL teams (like New York and Los Angeles), making them redundant for all the professional football fans out there. It folded after one season due to very poor TV ratings and a $70 million loss. When the XFL was rebooted in 2020, it became a more serious lower-level league, and was much better receivednote .
  • Convertible SUVs such as the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet and Range Rover Evoque Convertible have never been particularly successful, offering the worst of both worlds, as demonstrated in this video. Their two-door design and limited rear space eliminates much of the practicality that SUVs are often purchased for, while their large size makes them less sporty and more cumbersome than a regular convertible. Because of these reasons, convertible SUVs are seen more as a novelty at best.
  • Treasure Chess is's attempt to make a chess-based NFT project by letting players mint NFTs of their games. It was rejected by the chess community, which (like many parts of the Internet) strongly dislikes NFTs. NFT fans weren't interested either, as they didn't want to buy worthless NFTs of random people's chess games. According to this post, only six people bought any "Treasures" during the first five months of Treasure Chess.
  • The MS Satoshi was supposed to be the flagship (pun not intended) of seasteading- small communities living permanently on boats or artificial islands that are close to various countries, but are not part of the countries, giving them considerably more freedoms than they would have as part of the countries. However, when the Satoshi's owners pitched their project to potential buyers, they got very little actual takers for one obvious reason: there just aren't that many people who are willing to give up living in actual houses in cities and towns with access to groceries, hospitals and unlimited space for tiny cabins with very limited amenities, surrounded by other people with no easy way of leaving. In the end, due to a lack of takers and a ton of logistical problems that they couldn't solve, the owners were forced to sell the Satoshi only a couple of months after they'd bought her.
  • The Lincoln Blackwood was Ford's attempt at making a luxury pickup truck in response to the surprise popularity of the Navigator SUV, and during a time where trucks were being used in North America more as personal vehicles about as much as serious workhorses. However, it was intended to replace the car moreso than to replace the truck. As a result, it was only available in rear wheel drive despite its capable 300hp V8 engine, limiting its cargo carrying capabilities as a truck. The Blackwood also lacked a rear middle seat to avoid exceeding its payload capacity thanks in part to said weak powertrain, limiting its practicality for carrying passengers as a car. And then there's the rear power-operated tonneau cover placed over the bed to form a large trunk, which was notorious for its high rate of failure and labor-intensive removal process (even though it was never intended to be removed), further crippling its use as both. Coupled with its disproportionately high price tag compared to its lack of luxury (a lot of its interior was the same cheap plastic used in the Ford F-150), both traditional car and truck buyers were turned off by the Blackwood, ensuring its quick death after its sole 2002 model year. Ford would try again with the comparatively better and more truck-like Lincoln Mark LT, which lasted from 2006-08 until they realized it would be a lot easier just to make a luxury trim level of their F-Series trucks (though the Mark LT did receive a second generation in Mexico), starting in 2009 with the Platinum and Limited editions that continue to this day.

  • Baby Pac-Man was an attempt to blend video games and pinball; a fan of one was unlikely to be a fan of the other. Those who happen to enjoy both had a hard time getting past the absurd difficulty and changes to the typical Pac-Man formula, such as starting with no Power Pellets and the Ghost AI being far more aggressive. It doesn't help that you have to be good at both Pac-Man and pinball in order to do well. It was also a nightmare for arcade operators and vendors as such a hybrid practically doubles the points of failure (for example, if the pinball half went kaput, the Pac-Man half was worthless), causing them to balk as well. Although it sold decently well (7,000 units were produced), Bally Midway would never attempt such a hybrid ever again.
  • Golden Logres tried to combine realistic pinball action with the mission-oriented structure of a Role-Playing Game. While die-hard players loved the challenge, it alienated everyone else who just wanted straightforward arcade action.
  • James Bond 007 was a time-based pinball game; the player starts off with 50 seconds, and can keep playing so long as he has time remaining, which he gets by making key shots. Unfortunately, novices couldn't build up enough time to enjoy the game, while experts found it easily exploitable for long games. The backlash was so bad that most operators tried to return the tables to Gottlieb as a result.
  • Orbitor 1 is a pinball game built on a transparent warped plexi-bowl, which causes the ball to loop and spiral as it travels along the table. Unfortunately, the sparse layout, simple rules, and sheer difficulty of aiming shots on an uneven surface quickly turn off most players. The novelty died quick and killed Stern Electronics' pinball division.
  • Popeye Saves the Earth combines an extremely hard-to-swallow premise (Popeye the Sailor Man being used to push a Green Aesop... in a pinball game?) with an extremely unattractive playfield (the upper half of the field is dominated by an overhanging, transparent, toilet-shaped second field, which - once it inevitably gets scratched up over the course of normal play - makes it impossible to see half the board). What was worse, Williams (the company behind the game) tried to force distributors to buy the game through a minimum-orders clause in their sales contracts. An idea nobody can get behind, a design that raises loads of questions, and sales practices that ensure the people who should want to sell the game want nothing to do with it combined to make it a massive flop.
  • Bally's Spectrum was an attempt to combine the action of Pinball with the puzzle game Mastermind. Unfortunately, cerebral logic puzzles and arcade games are two great tastes that don't necessarily taste great together — of the 994 machines produced, fewer than five hundred were sold, and the others were scrapped or salvaged.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • While Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling started with the fairly tame premise of pro wrestlers competing against various martial artists and athletes from other sports, the "anything goes" nature of the bouts quickly saw an escalation to bloodletting, burning, electrocution and worse. Those who watched FMW in its glory years will tell you it offered so many different match types that it was possible to still enjoy it while ignoring the more Garbage heavy matches and indeed, some did. On the flip side, when Kodo Fuyuki tried to introduce a safer style to FMW he called "sports entertainment", that was an audience-alienating premise to the FMW faithful who had learned to like the occasional blood bath and those who stuck around ended up leaving too when they learned "sports entertainment" translated to less variety even among the normal matches. The concepts associated with "sports entertainment" would later be more successfully implemented by All Japan Pro Wrestling during its "Puroresu Love" rebuilding period and Fighting Opera HUSTLE. HUSTLE was a bit of a cash sink that could only survive under Nobuhiko Takada, but it at least had a fairly massive inter-promotional starpower and tons of Narm Charm going for it.
  • A wrestling promotion with Vince Russo as booker that expects you to pay ten dollars a week, where the first thirty minutes of the first show featured nothing but talkingnote . Wrestling fans wanting to torture themselves could see the same thing for free. But then more people started to notice, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and Low Ki and declared the X Division to be a new landmark of pro wrestling! All the same, financial success wouldn't come to TNA until a while after Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle were signed.
  • The biggest point of contention regarding the transition from Yoshimoto Women's Pro Wrestling Jd' to JD Star was the "Athtress" program, which involved the promotion trying to get the wrestlers acting deals and to that end scouting trainees who had the looks of models for its dojo. A good deal of fans and workers alike were not amused by the idea of using the sport as a stepping stone to pop stardom and JD ended up losing as many fans in the transition as it gained. World Wonder Ring STARDOM found more success signing already famous model Yuzuki Aikawa and having veteran joshi Nanae Takahashi subjugate her to a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown in her first match to garner audience sympathy.
  • The WWE Brawl for All's entire concept was that it would be a "fighting for REAL" tournament, standing in defiance of typical Kayfabe. Not only did this seemingly cast the rest of the WWE's output as fake, but it resulted in matches that looked less like your typical pro wrestling bouts and more like a weird mix of boxing and MMA... and really clumsy, inexpert boxing and MMA at that, because it turns out most of the wrestlers were not able to adapt to unscripted fights. Several people suffered injuries, the unscripted nature of the fights meant that things went off the rails when relative nobody Bart Gunn managed a Darkhorse Victory,note  and the crowd spent most of the matches booing. The cherry on top came when Gunn got his "reward" for beating the clearly-intended winner... a fight with professional heavyweight boxer Butterbean, who flattened him in under twenty seconds. It's telling that Ken Shamrock, former UFC champion and active WWF wrestler at the time, flatly refused to have anything to do with this because he felt it would destroy his credibility.
  • NXT Season 3 on paper seemed like it could be a good idea - a season of female rookies from WWE's developmental system competing for a chance at the main roster. However, the concept was flawed from the beginning when WWE's choice of contestants included only one trained wrestler from the indies in A.J. Lee and, while some of the homegrown developmental talent were already quite good for their amount of time training - Naomi was already on the same skill level as AJ, and Aksana and Maxine could have a good match with the right opponent - rookies included Jamie Keyes, who was literally a ring announcer forced into the wrestling role and didn't have any experience beyond basic holds and pins. The planned Wrestling Monster Aloisa (Isis the Amazon from the indies) was dropped from the contest before the first episode and replaced with Kaitlyn, who had only a few weeks of training and had her first ever match there on television (although she too would prove quite good for her inexperience if she had the right opponent). The choice of mentors for the rookies contrasted heavily with the prominent superstars who had done so on the main roster and didn't even have top players in the women's division - instead the likes of Primo and Goldust, who'd had minimal presence on TV, and lesser Divas like Kelly Kelly and the Bella Twins, with only Alicia Fox (a former Divas' Champion) and Vickie Guerrero (an over heel manager) being notable. The greenness of most of the rookies resulted in several matches that were full of botches, including a match between Kaitlyn and Maxine so terrible that Michael Cole got up from the commentary booth to take a phone call in the middle of it. WWE also treated the show like a joke, with silly segments like dance-offs, Halloween costume contests and mechanical bull riding that placed the season heavily into the Girl-Show Ghetto. Ratings plummeted every week until it was moved to after a few episodes, and the finale was a debacle where the extremely green Kaitlyn was chosen as the winner over Naomi.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Little Muppet Monsters. As Scott Shaw! (who storyboarded the series) put it "The concept of this second half-hour was neither simple nor particularly well-developed." Three new kid Muppet monsters live in the basement of the Muppets' home and create their own TV station which broadcasts Muppet-based cartoons but only to the familiar Muppet characters living above them. Yeah. When a failure to produce the animated segments in time resulted in the show being replaced after three episodes by a second episode of Muppet Babies (the show was scheduled to follow Muppet Babies to create an hour-long slot called "Muppets, Babies and Monsters"), ratings shot up, and everyone involved said "Well, let's do that, then." LMM's blending of animation and Muppets would be handled much better in Dog City (adapted from a special aired on The Jim Henson Hour), which lasted a good 31 episodes on Fox Kids.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Chronicles of Darkness has Promethean: The Created. Devoted to playing as golems à la Frankenstein's Monster with the goal to Become a Real Boy, Promethean suffers from a combination of fluff that is brilliantly written but very heavy on the Wangst, due to its emphasis on the Created's nature as In-Universe Hate Sinks and Walking Wastelands, an end-goal that many players find counter-intuitivenote , punishing mechanics that can easily make the game unfun, a susceptibility to Railroading, and just a general playstyle that demands a high level of maturity and good communication on the parts of both player and storyteller, due to the very intimate focus of the game. Promethean has earned a reputation amongst NWoD fans as "the greatest game that nobody plays". This has led directly to the authors trying to tone the game down in its second edition to hopefully make it more accessible.
  • One of the reasons why the otherwise decent Luck & Logic didn't really get off the ground is because matches can take forever. Average time for a round is 45 minutes. Combine that with tourney-style play, and you'll have most of the players already exhausted after the second match. For the record, most of the popular CCGs like Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Pokémon can finish a match in 10 to 25 minutes. That's approximately half the duration. Pop open any Starter/Trial Deck and open the rules side of the pack-in playmat. At first glance, the sheer rules density is intimidating enough to scare off card gamers looking for a simple, go-to game. However, the rules are actually quite intuitive once you learn them.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, the plane of Lorwyn was immensely unpopular upon its release, for reasons related to this. In addition to having problems with overcomplicated mechanics, Lorwyn was set in a bright, soft, idyllic world full of Ghibli Hills and forests, with an explicit "fairytale" aesthetic, and absolutely no human characters at all. The closest thing it had to humans was the "hobbit"-like kithkin, who had Hive Mind powers. MTG's audience at the time was still largely teenage boys and young men, who didn't want a "cutesy" world in their "cool" high fantasy game. Yet, the plane was also very dark in some aspects: for example, the elves would outright murder "Eyeblights" — those that not fit their impossibly high standards of beauty, so those looking for such an idyllic world would be alienated as well. Thus, the world become consistently low-ranked in official popularity polls. However, the plane did have admirers and become a Cult Classic... And the audience for MTG grew, expanded, and evolved over the years. So much so that MTG tried a second "fairytale" plane, Eldraine, in 2019, directly citing the failure of Lorwyn and MTG's growth in their desire to "try again." Not only was Eldraine even Lighter and Softer than Lorwyn, being based on actual fairytales and nursery rhymes instead of just inspired by them, it was Denser and Wackier as well, featuring cards such as a gingerbread man and Goldilocks as a fur trapper. Unlike with Lorwyn, this "cutesiness" was accepted warmly, and the plane's themes were one of its most popular aspects.
  • Redakai was a trading card game doomed by its own gimmick. The cards are translucent with paint on certain parts so that players had to stack cards and combine their attributes, and attacks take the form of battle damage that reduces the victim's health bar. Not a bad idea on paper, but this also means that you needed a special board to prevent your opponent from seeing what you have. Combine this with the "basic" game giving you no control over what happens, and you have a game that hit the bargain bin after just a couple of months. The Animated Adaptation being a critical and commercial flop as well also hurt it in this regard.
  • Warriors Adventure Game, the licensed RPG adaptation of Warrior Cats, was an attempt by the publisher to get tabletop RPG fans interested in the book series. The book series is targeted at children ages 9-12, while tabletop RPG players are generally much older, so there already wasn't much demographic overlap. The game is too complicated for a kid who's never played a tabletop RPG before but too simplistic for an audience that's experienced with RPGs. The pre-written adventures were included in books 19-24 of the series, which make no sense unless you've read books 1-18, so if you've just picked them up for the adventures you're not going to get into the book series from them. Essentially, nobody who reads the series is going to be interested in the game, and nobody who plays RPGs is going to pick up the game, to begin with, never mind start reading the series because of it. Predictably enough, the game lasted under three years before getting canned - although you can still find the rules on the website, and current printings of books 19-24 continue to have the adventures in the back, nothing new will be published.

  • The notorious 1988 musical adaptation of Carrie was brought down most of all by how the story simply wasn't suited to the format, a downer tale of high school bullying that ends in mass slaughter with only a single character left alive for a limp final note. This especially affected the central set-piece of Carrie destroying the prom; the pig's blood prank that sets it off was done by Billy simply pouring a bucket of raspberry jam onto her head, followed by the actors all writhing around and desperately trying to give the impression of a level of destruction that is not possible to stage in live theater. The show was also noted for doing a terrible job of establishing Carrie's telekinetic powers for anyone not familiar with the novel or film, with her only breaking a light bulb in the opening scene and pinning her mother into a chair while opening up a portal to hell (no, really). Even an attempt to revamp the show in 2012 with a greatly revised script and several song changes didn't get much of anywhere, though it was at least seen as better use of the story's potential, and got the creators willing to license it out, unlike the original version.
  • Dear Evan Hansen. The premise being: an awkward teenager who is mistaken as the best friend of a boy who commited suicide and through that is able to get close to the boy's family, date the boy's sister and greatly improve his social life by essentially leeching the affection of a grieving family — is a very hard to sell even with all the context, good acting and music numbers it has to offer. This show, despite getting fair criticisms around its protagonist and perceived glorification of suicide, still got acclaim and multiple awards. However when it came time to adapt the musical into a film, the severe alienating flaws from the stage show could no longer be overlooked with artificial dream-like theatre staging, since the film was set in unmistakable reality. That along some Dawson Casting with the lead Ben Platt, succeeded in creeping audiences out, the film getting memed to death and ultimately being a Box Office Bomb.
  • The Golden Ticket is a musically-sophisticated opera full of Genius Bonus musical in-jokes for buffs... but it's also an adaptation of a popular children's novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Critic James L. Paulk's review of the Atlanta Opera's staging for was fairly positive, but pointed out that adults who love opera would likely find the source material too kiddy for their tastes, while kids wouldn't appreciate the jokes referencing adult operas and styles in the score and find proceedings too slow-going. (That much of the book's snarkier humor is absent doesn't help.) The result, according to Paulk, was a show that didn't sell a lot of tickets and had many families leaving at intermission — which is to say, kids didn't want to stick around for the actual tour of the factory! He also thought the show was too long for said kids at 2 and 1/2 hours with intermission. Compare this to the success of the 2013 stage musical adaptation of the novel, which lasted 3 1/2 years on the West End with a similar runtime.
  • Goosebumps was adapted as a screenplay titled Screams in the Night; mere months after its premiere it was put on indefinite hiatus and never re-aired. In addition to rather poor writing, the fact that Goosebumps appealed to young fans of horror and not adults who appreciate theatre didn't help it gain an audience.
  • Heathers sticks to its original premise of two teenagers who start killing students and framing them as suicides in an upper class white high school, starting with the local Alpha Bitch. It's full of Black Comedy, Mood Whiplash, and frequently Crosses the Line Twice, both playing the deaths of rich kids for laughs yet taking the act of suicide very seriously. Being based on an even darker source film that gathered a modest cult following, it didn't even make it to Broadway before major productions lost steam. It still attracted a very loyal following of adult fans of the original and teenagers that liked the snarky humor. It has since enjoyed a healthy West End run which was filmed for streaming.
  • The 2014 West End musical comedy I Cant Sing got some good notices, but when it closed in less than three months (again, counting a preview period), British theatre newspaper The Stage wasn't the only one to point out that the show had a shaky premise when it came to audience appeal — it was an officially-sanctioned parody of The X Factor, complete with backing from Simon Cowell himself. The audience who watched The X Factor on TV wasn't interested in paying West End ticket prices for a parody of something they could watch at home, while regular theatergoers were turned off by the self-promoting, lowbrow concept. To make matters much worse, the overconfident producers gave it a huge physical production and staged it in one of the largest theatres in town (the Palladium), so whatever good word-of-mouth there was from those who did see it wasn't nearly enough to fill the theatre and justify the day-to-day running expenses.
  • Imagine This was a 2008 West End musical set in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 depicting a Jewish theater troupe that learns, during their Show Within a Show about the siege of Masada, that the ghetto's residents are being tricked into going to certain doom in the concentration camps. In the end, most of the troupe is murdered for trying to warn the audience. Not hard to see why this would-be inspiring musical didn't last two months (counting the preview period); both the main story and the Show Within a Show have downer endings, and the basic conceit of a Holocaust-set musical is a questionable one.
  • The musical London Road has the unique premise of being based on the community response of the people of Ipswich to the "Suffolk Strangler" killings, with dialogue/song lyrics being lifted verbatim from interviews conducted with locals at the time. Needless to say, opinions were divided between people who found it to be an interesting concept, and people who feel that the play was highly disrespectful and deserves to be banned, made worse once a film adaptation was made; most notably, the families of the victims felt that they weren't consulted before the play was released, and took legal action.
  • Side Show is a musical drama based on the lives of Violet and Daisy Hilton, Conjoined Twins who became 1930s vaudeville stars and are best remembered today (if at all) for their appearance in the film Freaks. The original 1997 Broadway staging was a flop, but the show has an intense enough fanbase that it received a revival in 2014... which had an even shorter run. Ads for both versions tried to get around the premise by not directly stating it, but that didn't help. To quote a New York Times article on the revival's closure:
    "We'd tell clients that the show was about conjoined twins, Siamese twins, and it just created horrible images in people's heads," Scott Mallalieu, the president of, a theater ticketing agency, said. "The only clients who bought tickets had seen the original Side Show on Broadway and loved it. Everyone else was turned off."
  • Stephen Sondheim shows are notorious for these. This is why, for all their acclaim, only a few of his musicals (Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, etc.) are well-known to the general public. A few audience-alienating examples include:
  • Passion: In the 19th century, a young soldier has a Stalker with a Crush — a mentally unbalanced, homely, terminally ill woman who adores him. Notable for having the shortest-ever run of a Broadway show that won the Best Musical Tony Award, with 280 performances — less than a year's worth.
  • Merrily We Roll Along has a workable central premise in the tragic story of three friends who all lose their youthful optimism over the course of two decades and end up with every artistic spark crushed out, but was doomed with its setup of telling the story in reverse order by a group of teenagers in a gymnasium. The first audiences were horribly confused and walked out in droves, and there were quite a few attempts to try to make it more understandable, including the costuming being reduced to sweatshirts with the characters' names on them. Further rewrites have removed the Show Within a Show aspect, making it slightly more comprehensible.
  • This might be one reason Andrew Lloyd Webber's Stephen Ward failed — it's a musical about the Profumo Affair, a political scandal with little relevance to those who weren't adults living in the U.K. in The '60s. That Lloyd Webber decided to open this dramatic, adult musical just in time for Christmas 2013 (when theatre audiences tend to gravitate towards lighthearted and/or fun-for-the-whole-family fare) couldn't have helped.
  • The Testament Of Mary was based on a novel about the Virgin Mary, set after Jesus' death. We are assured that Mary was not a virgin when Jesus was born, he did not come back from the dead, and all of his followers are morons for thinking he was some kind of messiah. At one point Mary also pulls out a knife and threatens to murder some of those followers in their sleep. Critics loved it, and it was nominated for three Tony Awards, but it only played for about five months. Apparently, viewers who might have been interested in a religious story didn't like the implication that they were worshiping a fraud whose mother would have wanted to stab them.

    Theme Parks 
  • Disney Theme Parks:
    • Snow White's Enchanted Wish, Peter Pan's Flight, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and Alice in Wonderland originally didn't have the title characters in them - the idea was that you were the heroes and that everything in the dark ride you saw was through their point of view. However this was changed because a lot of people were asking "Why doesn't the Snow White/Peter Pan/etc. ride have Snow White/Peter Pan/etc. in it?" It was one of the reasons why Disneyland's Fantasyland was overhauled in 1983; not only were the title protagonists added to their respective rides, but the overhaul added another ride called Pinocchio's Daring Journey, which had Pinocchio in it from the start. Since 1983, along the same lines, new dark rides have been created themed to such films as Winnie the Pooh or The Little Mermaid, and they, too, have always had their main protagonists (i.e., Pooh or Ariel) visibly present from the start. Snow White and Peter Pan rides in the other parks have also featured their title characters since their respective openings, with the one exception being the Disney World version of Snow White's Scary Adventures until its 1994 renovation.
    • This, combined with a severe lack of attractions, is widely agreed to be one of the major reasons for the initial failure of Disney's California Adventure: even if the execution had been better, the very idea for the park was flawed from its inception, because no one wanted to visit a California-themed theme park located in the already California-themed California. Only after getting more Disney/uniquely themed attractions was it able to become successful.
    • The failure of Journey into Imagination's second incarnation, Journey into YOUR Imagination can be attributed to this. Beyond the absence of the fan-favorites Figment and Dreamfinder (though Figment would receive a couple of small cameos), the second version would shift away from the ride's original whimsical premise about the wonders of imagination in favor of a more scientific-oriented story starring Dr. Nigel Channing, who constantly talks down to the riders and treats them as if they're unimaginative idiots throughout the entire ride. In short, it failed to appeal to longtime fans by lacking the elements that made the original attraction so beloved, while also turning off more casual riders thanks to its sterile and condescending plot that had little to do with imagination, and Nigel Channing being less likable or endearing compared to Dreamfinder and Figment (and less marketable to boot). Due to the swift backlash it received, Disney would shut down the attraction only two years after its opening (making it one of the shortest lived attractions in the parks) and replace it with the third and current incarnation (which brings back a few elements from the original incarnation, such as Figment and the theme song "One Little Spark"), with the second incarnation going down in infamy as one of Disney's worst ideas.

  • The failure of Disney Adventurers, a Spear Counterpart to the Disney Princess crossover franchise, can be attributed to the "girly" reputation Disney had earned at that point in time; becoming so heavily associated with princesses, fairy tales and magic castles that they couldn't shake this image off. Most Disney movies had become decidedly uncool to the young boys it was aiming at, especially at a time where action-fantasy franchises like Pokémon, Digimon (itself originally a Spear Counterpart to Tamagotchi), Yu-Gi-Oh! and Beyblade were viewed by them as substantially more cool and exciting— to say nothing of the popularity of Marvel and Star Wars, both of which Disney would eventually purchase for the explicit reason of appealing to male audiences.
  • LEGO:
    • It is generally believed that this was a major reason behind the failure of LEGO's RoboRiders theme. Their previous attempt at buildable, collectible action figures, Slizer, was a big hit for its creative setting (robots in different elemental settings) and for the uniqueness of the models. However, whereas the Slizers were identifiable characters with posable limbs, RoboRiders were essentially goofy-looking cyborg motorbikes with weird weaponry attached. They came with no rider figures, nor did they have seats — instead, the bikes themselves were the riders. Their front wheels featured printed decals on the sides representing the otherwise unbuildable talisman characters, and they launched these wheels like projectiles, meaning that every shot reduced the bikes to a nonfunctional mess with one wheel at the end. The concept was too esoteric for kids who wanted more Slizers sets, and the line failed.
    • Learning from this mistake, LEGO began working together more closely with creative agencies and storytellers for their next line, BIONICLE, and turned what was originally conceptualized as a story of robot tribesmen beating each others' heads off into a more serious Science Fantasy epic that resonated well with its audience, and became one of their most popular series. Ironically, BIONICLE itself became an example in its later years because kids couldn't keep up with its over-thought continuity, and after nine and a half years, LEGO had to cancel it.
    • The later BIONICLE reboot was significantly simplified, some would say too much. Apart from the original team of Toa and the basic Cain and Abel Light vs. Dark concept, very little of the first generation was re-adapted into the new story-line, and what took its place wasn't as unique and engaging. The line ultimately underwhelmed veteran fans and failed to interest new ones, and was thus canceled after two years of a proposed three year grace period.
    • Galidor's tie-in LEGO line: a bunch of overpriced gimmicky action figures with swappable body parts and virtually no compatibility with other LEGO sets. May have been more successful as a regular toy line made by another company, but LEGO lovers hated the enormous, useless pieces and other buyers didn't know where to put these weird, expensive toys (the LEGO logos, which may have given them confidence about the product's quality, were hidden on the boxes).
    • Around the same time as Galidor, LEGO attempted to reach out to kids who didn't like building toys. The result was the Jack Stone line, LEGO sets with (again) big, specialized pieces and very little in the way of construction. Too "juniorized" (and still LEGO) for bigger kids, not exciting enough for smaller children, and unacceptable for adults. However, this building style was kept for a few years, strictly promoted towards a younger crowd, before being abandoned.
  • In 1957, Lionel Trains released a "Girls' Train Set" with a pink locomotive and cars painted in pastel colors. The set sold terribly, because girls who wanted to play with model trains wanted realistic model trains just like boys did. Lionel ended up having to buy back much of the set's stock so they could repaint them the normal way and resell them. Ironically, this means that the Girls' Train Set is now very desirable among collectors because so few of them exist in the original pastel colors.
  • Back in 1965, Hasbro once made a doll called Little Miss No Name, in an attempt to tug at little girls' heartstrings by offering them a toy modeled after a sad homeless girl. Unfortunately, this toy proved to be unsuccessful not only because of her depressing backstory of being lonely and wanting a good home but also because she looked rather creepy due to her large eyes and soulless frown.
    Comment on a Cracked article: But if you leave me in the store
    You'll get a nice surprise
    I'll visit you in seven days
    And rip out both your eyes.
  • My Little Pony:
    • This is why G2 sold so poorly. It retooled the characters into looking more like full-size horses than cute little ponies, and as a result, didn't last for more than a year or so in the US (though it went over somewhat better in various European nations, where it went on for a few more years). The next retool returned the ponies to something close to their original look, and was much more popular as a result.
    • G3.5 fell into this, because although it retained an assortment of popular characters from G3, it switched over to a heavily stylized look which didn't even particularly resemble any kind of equine, with short muzzles and hooves nearly the size of their heads - the Unintentionally Uncanny Valley "Newborn Cuties" spin-off took this even further, resembling colorful human babies with some horse traits. Not helping matters is that the tail end of G3 proper suddenly switched from the franchise's typical large cast to a Minimalist Cast, which G3.5 largely retained, disappointing those who wanted other ponies. The retool was unpopular everywhere, and it contributed to Filly's displacement of the franchise in Germany.
  • Novi Stars was a doll line aimed at little girls where all the characters were Ugly Cute alien and robot girls. It barely lasted two years. And their fairly cheap make sadly turned away most toy collectors interested.
  • As the Transformers: Generation 1 franchise began to wane in popularity, Hasbro attempted several gimmicks to keep the line fresh, many of which failed to connect with the audience:
    • Transformers Pretenders tried to take the "Robots in Disguise" aspect even further with the inclusion of Pretender Shells that could disguise the figures as organic beings. In theory, this line could be two toys in one, but the two sides failed to synergize properly; the shells, with their garish appearance and limited articulation, seemed more at home in Masters of the Universe as opposed to the older-skewed Transformers, and the robot often had to sacrifice in design to accommodate the shells. Some later Pretender designs got even more bafflingly surreal, with the top of the heap likely being the Pretender Vehicles, which replaced the Pretender shell with a vehicle of some kind. As in, Transformers, whose whole gimmick is being able to turn into vehicles, disguising themselves further as... vehicles. By hiding inside them. It didn't help that even the fiction surrounding the Pretenders really struggled to explain how and why they were supposed to work.
    • Transformers Action Masters were, simply and infamously put, Transformers toys that didn't transformnote . Instead, they came with gadgets, nonhuman partners, and larger vehicles which turned into weapons, while also featuring somewhat better articulation than preceding toys, making for a more conventional toy-line along the lines of G.I. Joe or M.A.S.K.. Not only did this screw over what made Transformers unique and memorable, but the end result was too surreal to be taken seriously on its own; not only was Bumblebee (who becomes a small car) the same size as Devastator (who is combined from six robots who become construction vehicles), but the likes of Optimus Prime and Wheeljack ended up driving a Big Badass Rig and a Cool Car, when they're famous for turning into those vehicles (which begs the question of whether the Transformers shrunk down or their vehicles were absurdly huge).
    • Though Beast Wars was generally successful, it also had a notorious stinker in the form of Transquito, possibly the worst-selling figure in the line's history. Making an action figure that turns into a mosquito, one of the least popular animals out there, was already a rough sell, but Transquito also boasted an unappealing color scheme of brown, purple, and translucent yellow, a missile-shooting gimmick that gave him the look of constantly vomiting, and a fifteen-dollar price tag putting him in the second-costliest range at the time. Most reviewers who actually bought the toy noted that there was nothing particularly wrong with it in terms of engineering or play value for the time, but the concept of a giant brown puking mosquito would have struggled at any price. Transquito sold so poorly that there are accounts of seeing him on clearance as late as Transformers: Energon, seven years after his release.
    • Machine Wars was a line exclusive to Kay-Bee Toys, meant to throw a bone to older fans who had been put off by the at-the-time running Beast Wars. But while the new molds had some appeal, all the line's larger toys were Palette Swapped designs from the Generation 2 era, complete with now severely-dated articulation, with several of them also getting their signature gimmicks neutered. Its status as a G1 revival was dampened by most of the characters looking almost completely different: Skywarp, for instance, went from black and purple to white and yellow, and Starscream got the largest toy in the line, which was an all-black behemoth with no mouth. Add in the fact that there was essentially no fiction to advertise the line or explain these radical changes, and it only lasted one wave and became little more than a curiosity.
    • Transformers: Timelines ran into this when it attempted to do an adaptation of Machine Wars for BotCon 2013, despite having had success with revisiting Generation 2 and many characters from the Pretender and Action Master ranges. Obviously, adapting an already obscure series posed a challenge, but the designs from the line didn't make for good exclusive figures, with their drab colors and generic looks making the high pricetag questionable. What made this even worse, though, was that rather than leaning into the weirdness and Same Character, But Different nature of the Machine Wars designs, they tried to downplay them as much as possible; Starscream went from a giant to regular-size, for instance, and Megaplex was no longer Megatron's body-double. And then the fiction printed at the convention doubled down on this by declaring that the Machine Wars characters were actually malformed clones of the G1 characters, making them even less desirable. At this point, even people who would be into a Machine Wars revival weren't interested, since the mystique of the series had been why the classic cast had changed so much. Add in a number of other issues with the finished productnote  and the only other real draw being characters from the incredibly controversial Beast Machines, and you had one slow mover, to the point that despite being produced in limited numbers, the sets still needed to be put on clearance in the online store.

    Visual Novels 
  • Hatoful Boyfriend, a romance game where all of the love interests are sapient pigeons. In spite of this, the game has been critically acclaimed due to its surprisingly good story, but many just can't get past the bizarre concept.

    Web Videos 
  • Demo Reel was Doug Walker trying to replace the comedic Video Review Show that made him famous with a comedy/drama that made genuine efforts to be serious. This naturally alienated most of his existing fans, who rejected the heavy, overly serious and pretentious storylines that also included his previous humor except without the Nostalgia Critic for people to latch onto. Doug eventually appeased old viewers by canning Demo Reel and reviving his past show instead, incorporating the show's existence as part of the Critic’s lore.

    In-universe examples 

Anime and Manga

  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable: When Joseph ask Rohan if his manga Pink Dark Boy is available in English, the mangaka replies that it's published in Japanese, Taiwanese and French only. There's no English localization because "Americans must have bad taste or maybe can't comprehend the subtleties of the work".note  This is a bit of Leaning on the Fourth Wall for how JoJo itself had suffered a lot of issues in being marketed to English-speakers—notably, by the time of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: The JOJOLands, it's suggested that Pink Dark Boy has picked up a significant American fanbase.

Film (Animation)

  • Toy Story 2: Stinky Pete, a character from Woody's Roundup, is The Scrappy of the toy line, as he is not very appealing to most children because he's a gassy, elderly man Prospector. He spent years on a shelf watching other toys be sold and never got played with, which made him bitter, and led him to become the villain. In the end, however he gets taken by a little girl that paints on her toys in what appears to be a Fate Worse than Death, but according to Word of God, he eventually bonds with the little girl offscreen, so it's actually a happy ending for him.

Film (Live-action)


  • There's a joke as to why people were alienated by the film Malcolm X. It's because they never got a chance to watch Malcolm I to Malcolm IX and thus were unable to follow the story!


  • How NOT to Write a Novel calls this trope "The Voice in the Wilderness" and illustrates it with an intentionally offensive sample novel passage which portrays Auschwitz commanders, guards and doctors as selfless souls trying to save the inmates from dying of typhus, only for the Allies to "demonize" their efforts. The authors then explain that writing a novel with a "universally detested" viewpoint is a bad idea regardless of whether you genuinely believe it or simply figure that shock for shock's sake will sell.
  • In the annual Lyttle Lytton Contest, a contest which challenges contestants to write the worst opening line of a novel they can think of, the Berman prize used to be awarded to the entry that suggested a novel with truly terrible subject matter.

Live-Action Television

  • In Kitchen Nightmares episode "Piccolo Teatro", Gordon Ramsay opens the episode by stating that "The French are a nation of meat lovers, each eating an average of 90 kilos of this stuff every year." The titular Piccolo Teatro was a vegetarian restaurant situated in Paris. Gordon was exasperated when he realized what he was up against, yet nonetheless proved to the owner that the restaurant was indeed capable of faring well in spite of the circumstances, or even because of its niche as one of the only vegetarian options in Paris. The real problem with the restaurant - and the reason why it went out of business - was its Lazy Bum owner that wasn't willing to be more hands-on in the restaurant business.
  • The Modern Family episode "Good Cop, Bad Dog" features "the Good-Doggy/Bad-Doggy Training System", a dog-training method invented by a grocery store worker looking to break into something more. It consists, simply, of feeding the dog either bland treats or tasty treats, depending on their behavior. On top of the incredibly basic methodology and the obvious issues with trying to sell it to people, the treats themselves turn out to be a bust, as the dog actually prefers the "bland" treats. Jay, an experienced businessman, does his best to let the guy down gently, but also has to flat-out tell him that while his salesmanship and presentation are fine, the idea itself is just not going to work.

Web Original

  • Discussed on Projector. Mathew notes in his review of How I Live Now that it's about a not-very-likable character trying to get back to someone who is their cousin/lover. He also notes that it flopped in his native UK, probably because of this.
  • ProZD has some trouble getting other people interested in Chihayafuru, which is about a game called Karuta, where one person reads a verse from a poem and the other players have to find the card that corresponds to that poem. He ends up putting the other guy to sleep because of how unexciting it sounds.
  • Jontron feels this way about a lot of the various Barbie games he reviews. He finds them to be far too focused on fashion, which simply is nearly unworkable as the main premise of a video game and would even drive away Barbie's target audience since they could just as easily do that with the dolls. Notably, the only one he actually finds decent is Barbie: Magic Genie Adventure, because said game averts this and is a normal fantasy action-adventure game with Barbie characters:
    Jontron (on Barbie by Epyx): So this game can be wholly summed up as "getting ready for a date with Ken!" Alright, Ken you're creepy, Barbie you need to stand up for yourself more, and if I was a small girl I'd probably never touch video games again after this!
    Jontron (on Barbie: Magic Genie Adventure): Believe it or not this one's actually pretty good. You fly around on your magic carpet through mazes while collecting items and solving puzzles. All of this to restore your friend's magical powers. But something feels off... something's not right. No one's told me to change my dress or get ready for a date with Ken yet!
  • During The Angry Video Game Nerd's 12 Days of Shitsmas he feels this way about Mary-Kate and Ashley Get A Clue for the Game Boy Color. Though he admits the game actually isn't that bad, he feels fans of the puzzle-game genre would be alienated by it starring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, while fans of the twins would be alienated by the game's in-depth puzzle mechanics. Notably the game was originally to be a South Park video game, before being retooled into a Maya the Bee game, which was then reskinned with Mary-Kate and Ashley, without ever once changing the actual gameplay mechanics, it's evident the developers had absolutely no clue who the game was supposed to appeal to either.
  • The CollegeHumor sketch "Nicolas Cage's Agent", mocking the actor's tendency to choose very strange films, is solidly made out of these. The premises run the gamut from racist ("To Kill a Mockingbird retold so that the black guy really did rape that woman") to disgusting ("...and everyone on this bus is vomiting, except your character, who has diarrhea") to just plain baffling ("jack-o'-lantern comes to life, makes itself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and becomes inanimate again"), but despite the protestations of the agent, Cage is enthusiastic about every single one. It concludes when the agent makes up the worst premise he can think of: a silent movie about a man who can talk to dolphins and uses this power to hunt them, who has real onscreen sex with a puppy, shot on Fruit-by-the-Foot instead of filmstock. Cage still happily agrees to do it, and when told the film doesn't exist, he suggests contacting Jerry Bruckheimer to see if they can make it happen. And if one looks closely, the shelves in the agent's office slowly fills up with multiple Oscars and Golden Globes over the course of the video.
  • In Todd in the Shadows's Trainwreckords episode on Katy Perry's Witness, he says that not only did "Chained to the Rhythm" do mediocre numbers by her standards, but it could never have been a hit because it's a feel-bad pop song that condemns pop songs, which is bound to put off people (including fans of Perry's earlier lighthearted material).

Western Animation

  • Rick and Morty's first interdimensional cable episode had a trailer for a film that was essentially Weekend at Bernie's but with cats and their old lady owner. The trailer shows the old lady's corpse in a state of decay, yet some guy manages to fall in love with her, even having sex with her. Especially bizarre is the film's actual title looks like the studios were trying to package it as a horror movie instead of a really gross romantic comedy. Then you find out an alternate version of Jerry Smith came up with the idea.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Worst Episode Ever" has Bart and Milhouse put in charge of the Android's Dungeon comic book store. Milhouse stocks 2000 copies of Biclops, a comic about a nerdy, glasses-wearing superhero who resembles him and beats up football players who made him cry, which nobody wants to purchase.
    • "Beware My Cheating Bart" has a movie literally titled Horrible Premise being shown at the Springfield Mall. We never find out what this “Horrible Premise” is exactly, but it’s apparently about an American Football player (portrayed by Rainier Wolfcastle) wearing nothing but a helmet and a diaper.
    • "Homer to the Max" has Admiral Baby, a sitcom about a baby commanding the United States Sixth Fleet. The premise is considered so stupid that even Homer comments on it.
  • South Park: In "The Biggest Douche In The Universe," Rob Schneider is shown to be starring in films where he's a stapler, a carrot, and Kenny. There's also one film where it's impossible to figure out what it's about because it appears to have the mother of all Random Events Plots, the trailer narration largely consists of variations on "derp", and the title is Da Derp Dee Derp Da Teetley Derpee Derpee Dumb note ; this isn't the first time the creators have created such a film either, as their previous catalogue includes Der and Tum Ta Tittaly Tum Ta Too. The main boys are unimpressed. This is meant to be a Take That! towards Schneider for his bizarre roles such as an animal and a woman.