List of television shows considered the worst

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A number of television shows have been judged the worst. Factors that can reflect poorly on a television series include inherently poor quality, the lack of a budget, rapid cancellation, very low viewership, offensive content, and negative impact on other series on the same channel. Multiple outlets have produced lists ranking the worst television series, including TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, and Mail Online. TV Guide published lists in 2002 and 2010, each of which had contemporary shows near the top of the list.

The following is a list of television series considered the worst by critics, network executives, and viewers (extreme low viewership despite high promotion). Situation comedy shows make up a large percentage, so they are listed in a separate list of sitcoms considered the worst.

Animated shows[edit]

The Brothers Grunt
MTV debuted The Brothers Grunt in August 1994 in attempt to capitalize on their earlier success of Beavis and Butt-Head, but the show was canceled after seven months and met with derision from critics and viewers for its gross-out content.[1][2][3] Kenneth R. Clark of the Chicago Tribune wrote that MTV "created the most repulsive creatures ever to show up on a television screen".[4] Charles Solomon of the Los Angeles Times deemed it a "sophomoric half-hour that leaves the viewer longing for the refined good taste of Alice Cooper."[5] The Boston Globe called the show "moronic",[6] while Steve Hall of The Indianapolis Star commented: "Compared to this ... Beavis and Butt-Head looks like a masterpiece of social satire."[7] Jean Prescott of The Pantagraph, in 1999, cited The Brothers Grunt as an "animation disaster".[8] In their 2002 book North of Everything: English-Canadian Cinema Since 1980, authors William Beard and Jerry White called the series a "failure".[9] Writer David Hofstede included the show among his selection of "The 100 Dumbest Events In Television History" in 2004: "Given the ... grotesque appearance of the characters, it's not surprising that the series didn't last."[1]
Bucky and Pepito 
The 1959 syndicated series Bucky and Pepito has been criticized for its poor animation quality and racial stereotyping.[10][11] It was produced by Sam Singer, who was referred to as "the Ed Wood of animation" by Jerry Beck[12] for his low-budget and generally ill-reviewed style.[13] The show was described by Fast Company technology editor Harry McCracken as setting "a standard for awfulness that no contemporary TV cartoon has managed to surpass".[14] In his 2011 book Television Westerns: Six Decades of Sagebrush Sheriffs, Scalawags, and Sidewinders, author Alvin H. Marill wrote that the show "managed to set TV animation back to the early crude days", and castigated Pepito — who was voiced by white actor Dallas McKennon[15] — as "pure Mexican stereotype—from the huge sombrero that covered his eyes to [his] slow, lazy ways ... mentioned in the show's theme song."[15] Writer David Perlmutter described Bucky and Pepito as being "racially troubling" and having "poor animation and cliché-ridden writing".[16] Media historian Hal Erickson called Pepito "non-politically correct [and] stereotyped" and the show's animation "arguably the worst of any TV cartoon of the 1950s."[17]
Father of the Pride
Father of the Pride was a 2004 primetime series that centered around a family of white lions whose titular patriarch stars in a Siegfried & Roy show in Las Vegas,[18] but was canceled after only fourteen episodes.[19] Pre-release publicity was affected by Roy Horn having been mauled by a tiger during a 2003 performance,[20] while high production costs amounted to $1.6 million per episode.[21] Despite producer DreamWorks having marketed the show towards younger audiences,[22] it was criticized for its adult humor that forced NBC to return $50,000 in funding to the Family Friendly Programming Forum.[23] Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle described the series premiere as "alternately crude and stupid, with any lame sex joke sufficing in the absence of true wit."[24] The Deseret News called the show "smutty",[23] while Kirk Baird of the Las Vegas Sun wrote: "Father of the Pride isn't suitable for children. Unless, of course, you consider references to sex acts and bestiality OK for younger ears."[22] David Bianculli of the New York Daily News opined that the show was "too raunchy for young kids and too unsophisticated and unfunny for anyone older than 12."[25] Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly criticized its "bafflingly conflicted attitudes about sexuality."[20] Newsday named it one of the "worst shows of the 21st century",[26] and The Daily Beast rated it among NBC's "most embarrassing flops of the last decade".[21] Chris Longridge of Digital Spy commented in 2017: "[It] didn't help that Roy Horn was attacked by one of his own tigers before the show got to air. File under catastrophic misjudgment."[27]
Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon"
The Ren & Stimpy Show creator John Kricfalusi rebooted his original 1991 series for the relaunch of The National Network as Spike TV, as part of its new adult animation block. Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon" premiered in June 2003 and contained significantly more vulgar content than its predecessor, which resulted in only three of nine ordered episodes being aired by the network.[28][29] Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described it as "just plain gross. ... They don't pay me enough to watch cartoon characters eating snot."[30] Charles Solomon of the Los Angeles Times criticized the show as "'adult' only in the sense that you wouldn’t want kids watching them."[31] Tucson Weekly and Exclaim! both labeled it "disastrous".[32][33] DVD Talk praised the show's animation, "but the weak stories epitomize empty, heavy-handed shock value."[34] Matt Schimkowitz of Splitsider opined that the show's intended audience was "the 16-year-olds who grew up on the [original] show and are ready to handle such hilarious topics as spousal abuse and eating boogers."[35] Comic Book Resources, in 2018, called it "perhaps the most hated animated reboot ever."[36] The negative reaction to the show tainted Kricfalusi's reputation[37] and resulted in a 2016 pitch for a Ren & Stimpy feature film being rejected by Paramount Pictures.[33] Billy West, who voiced Stimpy in the original series, had turned down Kricfalusi's offer to reprise the part in Adult Party Cartoon: "It would have damaged my career. It was one of the worst things I ever saw."[38]

Live-action children's shows[edit]

Barney & Friends
The long-running show featuring an anthropomorphic purple dinosaur as the title character was listed at number 50 on TV Guide's 2002 list of worst TV series. In addition to straightforward criticism of the title character's incessant cheerfulness and the lack of serious topics in the series,[39] the series has triggered a strong revulsion among people older than its target preschool demographic. The show has been the target of a barrage of often-vicious and dark anti-Barney humor since its debut. W. J. T. Mitchell, a University of Chicago professor who devoted a chapter of his book The Dinosaur Book to the anti-Barney phenomenon, noted: "Barney is on the receiving end of more hostility than just about any other popular cultural icon I can think of. Parents admit to a cordial dislike of the saccharine saurian, and no self-respecting second-grader will admit to liking Barney."[40]
This Channel 4 show featured young children singing then-contemporary pop music. The children were usually dressed to look like the original performers, including the clothing and make-up. The show made many adult viewers uncomfortable because it often showed the child singers dressing and dancing in imitation of the provocative styles of the original adult performers. One performance by Joanna Fisher, in which she sang the Sheena Easton song "9 to 5", caused national outrage when Fisher, then eight years old, sang the lines: "Night time is the right time/We make love". The show's creators and child cast were somewhat shocked at the response to the program and its misinterpretation. Despite the show's popularity, the resulting controversy caused Minipops to be cancelled shortly afterwards.[41] It was voted the second-worst UK show by TV critics.[42]

Dramas and soap operas[edit]

The Big Bow Wow
This Irish drama about a group of young people who gather at the titular nightclub was likened by pre-release publicity to Sex and the City and This Life.[43] However, when broadcast, The Big Bow Wow received a surfeit of negative reviews. Shane Hegarty in the Irish Times claimed the nightclub scenes had "all the atmosphere of a parish fete" and complained that the characters "are narcissistic, shallow and humourless. The trick will be in knowing when it is deliberate and when it is down to an inarticulate script".[43] Claire McKeown in the Irish Sunday Mirror said "The camera work was as shaky as it gets...and the acting was not convincing".[44] In her overview of television for the year 2004, Olivia Doyle in the Sunday Tribune criticised "the dog's dinner stab at "yoof culture" that was The Big Bow Wow".[45]
The Borgias (1981)
What was intended to be a gripping historical melodrama in the same vein as the earlier BBC series, I, Claudius, the show was not a success. Reviewer Clive James dismissed the series as "a ramshackle vehicle".[46] The BBC screened the series at the same time as ITV's lavish Brideshead Revisited with critics contrasting the high production values and stellar cast of Brideshead with The Borgias.
Churchill's People
This 26-part BBC miniseries was widely regarded as misconceived for a variety of reasons, such as the studio-bound production which offered little in the way of realism and the lack of available funding. Each episode dealt with a particular period in British history, and the quality was consequently variable. Much of the acting was criticised, despite the involvement of Richard Johnson, Robert Hardy, Alan Howard, Colin Blakely, Anna Massey, Gemma Jones and Edward Fox. The programme was reviewed at some length in the programme TV Hell, which revealed that viewing figures had plummeted from 2 million at the series' launch to less than half a million by the fifth episode. The programme was swiftly buried in a later time-slot for the remainder of its run. Nancy Banks-Smith in The Guardian described it as having "little to offer us but blood, horsehair and history. Though a hell of a lot of each."[47]
The Colbys
Although much hyped in 1985, garnering high ratings for its premiere episode, and also the winner of a 1986 People's Choice Award for New Dramatic TV Program,[48] The Colbys was ultimately a ratings disappointment. The first season finished in 35th place, in part due to competition with NBC's Cheers and Night Court on Thursday nights[49] (by comparison, Dynasty finished in 7th place the same season). The series was renewed for a second season, but fared much worse. Now, not only being scheduled opposite NBC's Cheers and Night Court, but also rival soap Knots Landing on CBS, and later in the season, having to compete with The Cosby Show, The Colbys finished a dismal 76th for the year prompting the network to cancel the show.[50] The series did not fare well among critics either, with one of its main criticisms being that it was simply a copy of Dynasty. The L.A. Times stated "It's not a spinoff, it's a clone—as close a replica as ABC and the Dynasty producers could concoct, right down to the credits."[51] The Pittsburgh Press compared the scripts to Dick and Jane books for children.[52] In their Directory To Primetime TV Shows, television historians Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh stated that the series likely failed because it was "too close a copy" of Dynasty.[53] Even some cast members were vocal about their dissatisfaction with the series. In 1986, Barbara Stanwyck opted to end her contract and leave the series after its first season, reportedly calling it "a turkey"[54] and telling co-creator Esther Shapiro "This is the biggest pile of garbage I ever did" and that "It's one thing to know you're making a lot of money off vulgarity, but when you don't know it's vulgar - it's plain stupid."[55] On the contrary, Charlton Heston always had supported the show and stated its cancellation "was premature" as "we were coming closer to being a creative production team that could make the kind of show we'd planned on from the beginning."[56] Dynasty star Joan Collins categorically refused to make any appearances in it herself, believing it would have caused "massive confusion between the two shows",[57] and urged her fellow Dynasty castmates not to involve themselves with it either.
Cop Rock
This musical police procedural, which aired on ABC in 1990, has been cited as one of the worst television series ever, ranking #8 on TV Guide's 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time list in 2002.[58] The show was a critical and commercial failure from the beginning and was canceled by the network after 11 episodes.[59] Owing to the combination of its bizarre nature and its high-powered production talent, it became infamous as one of the biggest television failures of the 1990s.[60][61]
The ITV soap opera was badly received by TV critics throughout its 1964–88 run, with writer Hilary Kingsley stating "Some of the acting would have disgraced the humblest of village halls; many of the plots were so farcical they could have been written in a bad dream, and much of the dialogue was pathetic."[42][62] The series was revived briefly in 2001 but ended two years later.
This BBC soap opera from 1992 was, despite heavy advertising, a notorious flop. Many of the cast were inexperienced actors whose limitations were clearly exposed on such a new and ambitious project; the acting was derided as amateurish, while the attempt to appear more 'European' by having people speaking other languages without subtitles or bizarre/unconvincing accents was met by viewers with incomprehension and ridicule.[63] Eldorado is remembered as an embarrassing failure for the BBC, and is sometimes used as a byword for any unsuccessful, poorly received or overhyped television programme.[64] It ranks #36 on the Daily Mail's list of the 50 worst TV shows of all time.[42]
Holby City
Holby City has attracted comparisons to other medical dramas, often unfavourable, and figures within the television and entertainment industry including Broadcasting Standards Commission director Paul Bolt have accused the BBC of squandering the television license fee on the programme. The series employs a team of researchers to ensure medical accuracy, and utilises surgeons from different disciplines to check scripts. Cast members are taught to perform basic medical procedures, and given the opportunity to spend time on real hospital wards for research. Holby City has, however, been criticised for its lack of realism, with the British Medical Association denouncing its portrayal of organ donation and unrealistic impression of resuscitation, and an accident and emergency nurse at the 2008 Royal College of Nursing conference accusing the show of fostering unrealistic expectations of the NHS and fuelling compensation culture.
Ironside (2013)
This 2013 NBC remake of Raymond Burr's crime drama received negative reviews. It holds a 14% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 4.3 out of 10 and the summary. Brian Tallerico of HollywoodChicago called it the "Worst New Drama of 2013" and awarded it 1 star out of 5, saying: "[Ironside is] the most cliched, least believable, least fun, and just awful new drama of the year. It is aggressively bad. Avoid at all costs. Blair Underwood... deserves better than the horrendous, uninteresting writing here. [Ironside] should be a way to explore how our physical well-being is only one part of our lives and how we approach our work, even crimefighting. It's not. It's just manipulative drama that hopes to make you stand up and cheer by reminding you over and over again how tough its title character remains." Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times called the title character "an unpleasant combination of macho and brusque" and their handling of his disability "thuddingly didactic" and "one that is not doing real people with disabilities any favors". He called the storylines "bland", the reason for Ironside's disability "predictable" and the writing "plodding". Robert Bianco of USA Today gave the show 1.5 stars out of 4. He called it an "atrociously clunky" remake that "jettison[ed] whatever wit and intelligence the original possessed". The show was cancelled after four episodes.
Skins (U.S. remake)
This 2011 series generated controversy in the United States over its sexual content, in which several advertisers withdrew and there were some accusations of child pornography since many of the actors were under the age of 18. On June 9, 2011, MTV announced that they would not renew Skins for a second season, with a statement that "Skins is a global television phenomenon that, unfortunately, didn't connect with a US audience as much as we had hoped".[65][66] In the wake of a mounting scandal over a possible child pornography investigation of MTV as a result of the show's content, Yum! Brands (Taco Bell), Mars, Incorporated (Wrigley), General Motors, Doctor's Associates (Subway), Foot Locker, H&R Block, Schick, Guthy-Renker (Proactiv), L'Oréal, Reckitt Benckiser (Clearasil) and Kraft all opted to pull their advertising from the program.[67][68][69][70][71]
The Spike
The Spike was featured on RTÉ's scandal series, Scannal[72][73] with the Irish Independent naming it as one of their "Top 10 Worst Irish TV Programmes".[74]
Supertrain was the most expensive series ever aired in the United States at the time. The production was beset by problems including a model train that crashed.[75] While the series was heavily advertised during the 1978–79 season, it suffered from poor reviews and low ratings. Despite attempts to salvage the show by reworking the cast, it never took off and left the air after only three months. NBC, which had produced the show itself, with help from Dark Shadows producer Dan Curtis, was unable to recoup its losses. Combined with the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics the following season, which cost NBC millions in ad revenue, the series nearly bankrupted the network. For these reasons, Supertrain has been called one of the greatest television flops.[76] The A.V. Club noted that Supertrain has a reputation as "one of the worst television series ever was hugely expensive, little watched, and critically derided".[77]
A soap opera about a British ferry which starred Kate O'Mara, Triangle is remembered as "some of the most mockable British television ever produced". The series is even humorously mentioned in passing in the BBC comedy series The Young Ones - "Even Triangle has better furniture than this!" [78] Triangle came third in a poll of worst UK shows ever.[42]
Viva Laughlin
CBS's 2007 American adaptation of the British series Blackpool lasted only two episodes, one in Australia. Like the aforementioned Cop Rock, the series was an attempt to create a musical TV drama; in this case, the series had a fatal flaw in that the lead actors sang over hit records with the original vocal tracks intact. The opening line of The New York Times review said, "Viva Laughlin on CBS may well be the worst new show of the season, but is it the worst show in the history of television?"[79] Newsday's review started with, "The stud is a dud. And that's only the first of a dozen problems with CBS' admirably ambitious but jaw-droppingly wrongheaded new musical/murder mystery/family drama Viva Laughlin. Let us count the ways it bombs..."[80]

Fantasy/science-fiction shows[edit]

Galactica 1980
The 1979 cancellation of Battlestar Galactica prompted a letter-writing campaign by fans that convinced ABC to revive the show as Galactica 1980, but with a significantly smaller budget that resulted in the setting being changed to Earth three decades after the events of the original program,[81] while the cast was overhauled save for Lorne Greene and Herbert Jefferson Jr.[82][83] Galactica 1980 was negatively received as a result and canceled after ten episodes. GamesRadar+ named the show among its "Top 25 Worst Sci-Fi and Fantasy TV Shows Ever" in 2012, lambasting its "cardboard cut-out heroes" and having "more loathsome kids than any other SF show ever."[82] Gordon Jackson of io9 criticized it as "ill-advised" and "lack[ing] any of the zest of the original series."[84] Carol Pinchefsky of Syfy wrote in 2017, "[P]lease, oh please, let’s not think about Galactica 1980",[85] and The Guardian called the show "woeful".[86] Luke Y. Thompson of Nerdist deemed it "extremely difficult to defend," and considered the absence of original series star Richard Hatch a factor in its demise.[87] Hatch had rejected reprising his role as Captain Apollo, as he felt the changes "ruined the story. I just wasn’t interested."[81]
Manimal was scheduled by NBC opposite CBS's popular Dallas, and was canceled after eight episodes due to low ratings. It was a part of NBC's 1983 fall line-up that featured eight other series that were canceled before their first seasons ended (including Jennifer Slept Here, Bay City Blues, and We Got it Made).[88] John Javna's book The Best of Science Fiction TV rated Manimal among its "Worst Science Fiction Shows of All Time".[89] TV Guide ranked Manimal number 15 on their list of the 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time in 2002. In 2004, readers of the British trade magazine Broadcast voted Manimal as one of the worst television shows ever exported by the US to the UK.[90]
The Powers of Matthew Star
The 1982 NBC series was put on the list of TV Guide's 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time, ranked at #22.[91] The show revolved around a seemingly normal teenage boy who was actually an alien prince with superpowers. The first half of the series showed him as a high school student where his guardian, also an alien, worked as a science teacher. The second half of the series abruptly shifted from a drama into a sort-of cop show, where he and his guardian worked for the government. Matthew's girlfriend, who had previously been a central character, was cut from the show, and he did not attend high school anymore.[citation needed]

Game shows[edit]

Don't Scare the Hare
The first episode of the 2011 British game show received overnight ratings of 1.93 million viewers, a 15% audience share.[92] Although hot weather was given as a possible reason for the low ratings, it was reported that many viewers were unimpressed with the show, assuming it was a one-off to tie in with Easter (since the tagline used to promote the show was "this year, the Easter bunny has competition"), and were surprised to learn that more episodes were scheduled to be broadcast. Justin Mason, critic for ATV, said, "I don't think I've quite seen anything like Don't Scare the Hare. I was wondering who on earth dreamt up the idea... it looked like a cheap, children's quiz-show that would be better placed on CBeebies than prime-time BBC One."[93] Jim Shelley of the Daily Mirror was equally critical, summing up his review as follows: "The idiots playing might have enjoyed themselves but even toddlers would have found the games dull and Jason creepy."[94] A review in The Stage observed: "The actual games are pretty feeble and uninspired, leaving the poor hare and his robotic novelty value to carry the show. Unfortunately, the hare is far from impressive either. Doctor Who's tin dog K9 managed more personality and manoeuvrability, and he was operating within the confines of seventies technology."[95] John Anson of the Lancashire Evening Post opined: "If you're going to have a gimmick in your game show at least make it entertaining. Surely this is a programme which would have been ideal for CBeebies. Make the questions simple, involve bunches of kids and hey, presto it works... But primetime Saturday night viewing it ain't."[96] Digital Spy's Alex Fletcher noted: "Not since the days of Mr Blobby and Ice Warriors have weekends been filled with such peculiar antics."[97] The second episode, aired on 30 April, achieved an audience of 1.39m (10.5%).[98] By the fourth episode, the viewing audience had declined to 900,000 viewers (a 5.9% audience share).[99] Because the show was so poorly received, BBC One decided to reschedule it to an earlier timeslot, beginning on 14 May. Don't Scare the Hare was moved from 17:25 to 16:40,[99] while the second series of So You Think You Can Dance? – whose ratings have also struggled – was aired earlier. The schedule change was spurred on by the broadcast of the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest. which aired on 14 May.[100] On the previous day, 13 May, the BBC had announced that the series would be cancelled after only three episodes had been aired. Speaking about the programme on an edition of BBC Breakfast, the BBC's entertainment controller Mark Linsey said: "Obviously Hare is not going well. It was a huge risk we took – it's co-hosted by an animatronic hare – and while it's proved successful with children, we were hoping there would be enough knowingness within the show to draw in the adults. There wasn't enough of that, which is where it fell down."[101][102] The final three episodes which had not aired were rescheduled for October.
The Million Second Quiz
Marred by a confusing and boring format that jeopardized the health of its contestants,[103] excessive and unwarranted hype,[104][105] banal questions,[106] and a random decision to artificially inflate the grand prize after it was won solely to set the record for most money won on a single game show,[107][108] The Million Second Quiz was lambasted by critics and suffered from collapsing ratings throughout its short run in 2013. A review for The A.V. Club was indicative of the reception: "so deeply flawed and so universally unpopular that it is not going to remain in anyone's memory for long."[104]
Naked Jungle
A UK game show on Channel 5 which revolved around naturists performing an assault course. Naked Jungle was savaged by critics, denounced by nudists for being exploitative[109] and even condemned in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.[110] A group of TV historians later voted it the worst British TV show ever.[111] Host Keith Chegwin later called presenting the show "the worst career move I made in my entire life".[112]
A UK game show aired on ITV presented by Robert Kilroy-Silk. It is most notorious for Kilroy-Silk's laughable actions on the show, which have since been frequently mocked on popular satirical show Have I Got News for You since late 2004. Particularly notable is his delivery of the show's tagline, "Their fate will be in each other's hands as they decide whether to share or to shaft", and the associated hand actions. The show was dropped just four episodes after it started in 2001, and was listed as the worst British television show of the 2000s in the Penguin TV Companion (2006).[113] A 2012 postmortem of the show read: "Nothing seemed to work for Shafted from the start. It looked derivative, it sounded derivative, the format was pretty unfair, the host was bad, and it just wasn't that interesting. So basically nothing worked out."[114] In an article on ITV programmes, Stuart Heritage described Shafted as "Hamfisted" and stated it was "deservedly remembered as one of the worst television programmes ever made".[115]
Strike It Rich
This show was controversial during the 11 years it aired.[citation needed] While some applauded Strike It Rich for helping out some less fortunate people (as well as showcasing the sincere charity and goodwill of the viewers), others found it a sickening spectacle that exploited the less fortunate contestants for the vicarious thrills of the viewers and the selfish gain of the sponsors. A major part of the criticism was that it promised more than it could deliver. Though the show received between 3,000 and 5,000 letters per week from needy people wishing to win what would be (to them) life-changing sums of money, only a small fraction of those could be selected.[citation needed] Critics stated that the show picked mostly those thought to have the most interesting tales of woe. Despite warnings by the show's producers, a number of people hoping to be contestants exhausted their money to travel to New York, only to be rejected and end up relying on charities such as the Salvation Army to help them return home. This led to complaints from charities and local government agencies. The New York City commissioner of welfare called Strike It Rich "a disgusting spectacle and a national disgrace" while the supervisor of the Travelers Aid Society said, "Putting human misery on display can hardly be called right." TV Guide later called it "a despicable travesty on the very nature of charity."[citation needed]
Three's a Crowd
A game show created and produced by Chuck Barris, and hosted by Jim Peck, which aired in syndication from 1979 to 1980. In it, a male contestant was asked pointed personal questions, which were then asked of both his wife and secretary, to find out which of the two knew him better. David Hofstede, author of What Were They Thinking?: The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History wrote that it "offered the chance to watch a marriage dissolve on camera years before Jerry Springer", and noted that it received backlash from United Auto Workers and National Organization for Women. By the time the controversy settled in 1980, Three's a Crowd and all three of Barris's other shows (The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game and The Gong Show) had been canceled. His next two projects, revivals of Treasure Hunt and Camouflage, neither of which lasted beyond one season, were also failures; Barris, whose reputation was effectively ruined by both this and some not-safe-for-TV incidents Barris allowed and encouraged on The Gong Show, would never again create a new game show and would stick to revivals of his previously existing shows for the rest of his career.[116]
You're Back in the Room
A poorly received hypnotism-based game show broadcast by ITV in 2015 hosted by Phillip Schofield and Keith Barry. The show was panned for being fraudulent and exploiting vulnerable people after its release.[117]
You're in the Picture
A CBS game show starring Jackie Gleason, the premiere received such extremely hostile reviews that the following Friday, host Gleason appeared in the same time slot (but in a studio "stripped to the brick walls") to give what Time magazine called an "inspiring post-mortem", asking rhetorically "how it was possible for a group of trained people to put on so big a flop."[118] Time later cited You're in the Picture as one piece of evidence that the 1960–61 TV season was the "worst in the [then] 13-year history of U.S. network television."[119]


The Morning Program
On January 12, 1987, The Morning Program made its debut[120] on CBS hosted by actress Mariette Hartley and Rolland Smith, former longtime anchor at WCBS-TV in New York City. Radio personality Mark McEwen handled the weather, while Bob Saget did comedy bits. Produced by the network's entertainment division, the show ran for 90 minutes (7:30–9 A.M. local time) behind a briefly expanded 90-minute CBS Early Morning News (6–7:30 A.M. local; although most larger affiliates pre-empted all or part of the 6–7 A.M. hour to produce a local morning newscast), which had dropped "Early" from its title. However, The Morning Program, with its awkward mix of news, entertainment, and comedy, became the joke of the industry, receiving scathing reviews.[121][122][123] At one point, it generated the lowest ratings CBS had seen in the morning slot in five years. The format was aborted and the time slot returned to the news division after a ten-and-a-half-month run. Hartley and Smith were dumped, while Saget left to star on the ABC sitcom, Full House. A longtime producer summed up this version of the program upon its demise by saying, "...everyone thought we had the lowest ratings you could have in the morning. The Morning Program proved us wrong".[123]

Reality television series[edit]

The Briefcase
An American reality TV series created by Dave Broome that premiered on CBS on 27 May 2015.[124][125] In each episode, two American families undergoing financial hardship are each given a briefcase containing $101,000, and must decide whether to keep all the money for themselves or give some or all of it to the other family. Over the course of 72 hours, each family learns about the other and makes a decision without knowing that the other family has also been given a briefcase with the same instructions.[126][127][128] The Briefcase was met with largely negative reception from critics. Ken Tucker, critic-at-large of Yahoo! TV, described it as "cynical and repulsive" for "passing off its uplifting, inspirational TV."[129] Jason Miller of called it "the worst reality TV show ever".[130] Others compared the show to fictional films and television that pitted the needy against each other, such as the Twilight Zone episode "Button, Button", or The Hunger Games.[126] A petition was made on to end the show with more than 60,000 supporters.
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
An American reality television series on TLC, featuring the family of child beauty pageant contestant Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson. The show premiered on August 8, 2012. Thompson and her family originally rose to fame on TLC's reality series Toddlers & Tiaras.[131] The show mainly revolves around Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson and "Mama" June Shannon and their family's adventures in the southern town of McIntyre, Georgia. Critical reaction to the series was largely negative, with some characterizing the show as "offensive," "outrageous," and "exploitative," while others calling it "must-see TV."[132] The A.V. Club called the first episode a "horror story posing as a reality television program,"[133] with others worrying about potential child exploitation.[134]
Jersey Shore
A string of controversies over the U.S. MTV series documenting members of the Guido subculture made this series one of the most controversial in television history.[135]
The One: Making a Music Star
At the time of its premiere, according to overnight ratings from Nielsen Media Research, the first episode of The One was the lowest-rated series premiere in ABC history, and the second-worst such episode in the history of American broadcast television,[136] scoring only 3.2 million total viewers (1.1 rating in the 18–49 demographic), and fifth place in its timeslot.[137] In Canada, the premiere of The One on CBC had 236,000 viewers, which trailed far behind Canadian Idol on CTV and Rock Star: Supernova on Global, each scoring around one million viewers.[138] The next night's results episode fared even worse in the United States ratings, sinking to a 1.0 rating in the 18–49 demographic. The re-run of night 1's episode (which preceded the results show) plunged to an embarrassingly low 0.6 average in the vital demo ratings. The poor performance of the show helped ABC measure its lowest-rated night in the network's history (among 18-49s), finishing tied for sixth place.[139] The series was ultimately cancelled after a second week of poor results. According to CBC executive Kirstine Layfield, in terms of resources and money, The One "had the most backing from ABC than any summer show has ever had (sic)."[140] The One was touted as a show that would dethrone American Idol, then the most-watched show in the United States; such high expectations for the series made the resounding public rejection of it all the more spectacular. Canadian ratings have dipped as low as 150,000 [141] – not necessarily out of step with the CBC's usual summer ratings, although much lower than the broadcaster's stated expectations for primetime audiences, in the one-million range.[142] The CBC initially insisted that despite the cancellation, a planned Canadian version may still go ahead, citing the success of the format in Quebec (Star Académie) and Britain (the BBC's Fame Academy).[140] The network confirmed that the show will not air in fall 2006[143] – in fact, the show had never been given a fall timeslot[144] – but the show was "still under development."[143] Critical response was limited but generally negative. The Hollywood Reporter's Ray Richmond called the series "clearly derivative and opportunistic" with the judges' comments "awkward and forced."[145] A 2018 article on TV By the Numbers identified the show as “the nadir of ABC’s forays into music competitions,” among a list of seven major flops in the format ABC had attempted in the 21st century (the article noted in its headline “ABC is terrible at music shows”).[146]John de Mol Jr. (the creator of The One) would later find much greater success with his next music-based reality contest, The Voice.


Specials and television movies[edit]

A Christmas Story Live!
A 2017 live adaptation of the 1983 film A Christmas Story received mixed to negative reviews from professional critics.[147] Most viewers of the program gave strong negative reactions; it had not been publicly advertised that Fox was not adapting the film directly but instead the 2012 Broadway musical, which stretched the live production out to three hours.[148] Ratings were the lowest for any live musical special since the genre had been revived in 2013, with its poor performance raising the possibility that it could end further entries in the format for good.[149]
The Decision
On July 8, 2010, LeBron James announced on a live ESPN special that he would be playing for the Miami Heat for the 2010–11 season.[150] In exchange for the rights to air the special, ESPN agreed to hand over its advertising and airtime to James. James arranged for the special to include an interview conducted by Jim Gray, who was paid by James's marketing company and had no affiliation with the network.[151] The show drew criticism for making viewers wait 28 minutes before James revealed his decision, and the spectacle involved.[152] James's phrase "taking my talents to South Beach", which he spoke in revealing his choice, became a punchline for critics.[153][154] Though the special drew 13 million viewers, ESPN's reporting leading up to the program, its decision to air it and the network's relinquishing of editorial independence in the process were cited as gross violations of journalistic ethics.[151][155][156][157]
Eaten Alive
A 2014 television special on Discovery Channel that purported to have host Paul Rosolie swallowed whole by an eighteen-foot anaconda, it drew criticism before its airing from those who felt Discovery was aiming for sensationalism and shock value.[158][159] Rosolie was never actually consumed by the anaconda before the stunt was prematurely called off due to safety concerns,[160] which resulted in heavy viewer complaints.[160][161][162][163] PETA criticized the special as an example of "entertainment features ... that show humans interfering with and handling wild animals [that] are detrimental to species conservation."[164] In January 2015, Discovery president Rich Ross admitted the special's promotion was "misleading."[165]
Elvis in Concert
This TV special was a recorded Elvis Presley concert held on June 19, 1977; it was one of the last concerts of his career. Presley's deteriorating health was evident in his weight gain and his inability to remember lyrics of several songs. It has been described as "terrible and embarrassing"[166] and as a "travesty."[167] Had Presley not died on August 16 of the same year, CBS would have likely never aired the concert, and only did so in October, after his death; the network had had plans to record another concert to get better footage, but this was rendered impossible after Presley's death. The Presley estate refuses to release the special on VHS or DVD to this day.[168]
Exposed! Pro Wrestling's Greatest Secrets
The documentary was criticized for being sensationalist, misleading, and outdated in the presentation of the "secret tricks." Critics in and out[169] of the wrestling business contend that many of the "secrets" exposed were already widely known by fans to begin with, and others were so obscure as to be non-notable. While most of the professional wrestling world refrained from acknowledging the program, the night following its airing, Ernest "The Cat" Miller entered the ring during WCW Monday Nitro and sarcastically shouted in a melodramatic tone to the audience, "Now you know all our secrets!" Mick Foley on WWF Monday Night RAW announced to tag partner Al Snow, "We didn't do so well last week, but last night, the secrets of professional wrestling were revealed to me!" Foley also poked fun at the program several times in his autobiography, Have a Nice Day!
First Night 2013 with Jamie Kennedy
On December 31, 2012, KDOC-TV aired a live New Year's Eve special hosted by comedian and actor Jamie Kennedy that was riddled with numerous mishaps and technical issues, among them periods of dead air, unedited explicit language, Kennedy speaking into his microphone while unaware he was live, and then a fight breaking out onstage during the end credits. The special received a scathing critical reception, being deemed "the world's worst New Year's broadcast" by The A.V. Club,[170] "the worst New Year's Eve show of all time" by Uproxx,[171] and "the worst in television history" by Gawker.[172] Kotaku called it a "class-five flaming disaster",[173] and Huffington Post noted the special's "astounding level of technical incompetence".[174] In 2018, Good Housekeeping included the show among its selection of the "most dramatic TV catastrophes ever".[175] Comedian Jensen Karp described Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearing that year as "already running as smooth as a Jamie Kennedy New Years Eve special".[176] Kennedy claimed the show's numerous miscues were intentional,[177] and defended his work in an interview with The New York Times: "I didn’t stab nobody, I didn’t shoot nobody. I just made a New Year’s Eve special. Is that so bad?"[178]
Highlander: The Source
Highlander: The Source is the first Highlander film in the franchise not to be released in American theatres. Instead, it was shown on the Sci-Fi Channel on September 15, 2007. Critical reaction to Highlander: The Source was universally negative. Christopher Monfette of IGN gave The Source a score of 1 out of 10, saying: "The worthwhile days of Connor MacLeod, it would appear, are officially over—dead, decapitated, and depleted of their power. The struggle for an immortal to move through life unchallenged has since mutated into an awkward arrangement of mismatched mythologies, TV-to-movie crossovers, and a steady stream of low-budget, direct-to-DVD cash-cows which may, in the end, prove to be the only truly immortal thing about this series."[179] Brian Orndorf of DVD Talk gave the film one half star out of five, saying: "The Source is nothing less than a parody of what has come before. If you've seen the previous sequels, you already know that's saying something. There is some relief that this franchise will finally be put out of its misery, because nobody in their right mind would try to keep this series going after watching just how boneheaded Highlander: The Source is."[180] Danél Griffin of Film as Art gave The Source one half star out of four, remarking that "it's bad—cheesily bad, colossally bad, monumentally bad, bad enough to make you never want to watch another movie again bad."[181] Keith Breese of gave the film one star out of five, saying: "Not only will Highlander fans be disappointed by the film's nosedive into nonsense, but the average viewer will be stunned by the backyard quality of this film. The acting is uniformly terrible, the special effects are hideous, the sets are cheap and grubby, and the direction is uninspired. The film is an utter failure. ... Surely this is the final nail in the coffin lid for this film series. If it isn't, then something is truly wrong with the universe."[182] The Sci-Fi Movie Page gave The Source one and a half stars out of five, saying: "Just when you think that this is a franchise that can't sink any lower, along comes Highlander: The Source. ... One gets the impression that The Source was filmed with theatrical distribution in mind but that no sane cinema distributor would touch it with a ten-foot barge pole. Good for them. Instead it went straight to the SciFi Channel and now the DVD shelves where you should let it stay, collecting dust."[183]
If I Did It
In November 2006, O. J. Simpson, who had been acquitted of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in a trial in 1995, wrote a book describing how, if he were to have actually committed the murder, he would have done it. He arranged for a television special in which he would be interviewed by publisher Judith Regan to promote the book. NBC refused to air it, while Fox almost did before backing out at the insistence of its affiliates. The Goldman family, who insist Simpson is guilty of the crime despite the acquittal and who won a US$33,500,000 wrongful death settlement against Simpson for the murders, declared the special "an all-time low for television"[184] and eventually arranged for Regan's firing from HarperCollins for alleged "anti-Semitic remarks;"[185] Regan eventually sued HarperCollins for wrongful termination and won. Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch eventually admitted the idea was an "ill-considered project."[186] The special never aired in its original form and the book's rights were turned over to the Goldmans, who retitled the book If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer, with the If in much smaller type. In 2018, the still-unaired special was re-edited, with new bridging segments hosted by Soledad O'Brien, and given the name O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession. The Goldman family approved of the re-edited special, which aired March 2018.[187]
Liz & Dick
This 2012 Lifetime original movie starred Lindsay Lohan in the title role of Elizabeth Taylor, a casting move that earned wide derision. Matt Roush of TV Guide panned the film, calling it an "epic of pathetic miscasting" and "laughably inept".[188] According to David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle, the film is "so terrible, you'll need to ice your face when it's over to ease the pain of wincing for two hours" and "the performances range from barely adequate to terrible. That would be [Grant] Bowler [as Richard Burton] in the "barely adequate" slot and Lohan, well, in the other one."[189] Jeff Simon of The Buffalo News noted, based on a consensus of other reviews, that "it's the howler everyone expected" and openly mused that the film could end Lohan's acting career.[190] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 26, which indicates "generally unfavorable reviews", based on 27 reviews.[191]
Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives
Discovery Channel aired this special alleging the continued existence of the megalodon, a long-extinct giant shark species, to begin its 2013 edition of Shark Week. The special received some of the highest ratings ever for Shark Week, but the special was shortly thereafter soundly rebuked from numerous critics, who noted that many of the events in the special, despite being portrayed as actual events, were obvious fabrications; Discovery itself was also the target of criticism for allowing such a program to air, accusing the channel of "jumping the shark" (a wholly unrelated television idiom) and having stooped to a level of channel drift that the channel had previously been able to avoid. Discovery's response to the criticism was to claim that the barely visible fine print, which ambiguously stated that the organizations mentioned in the special were not involved and that there was still doubt about what caused the alleged events, was sufficient.[192] Science writer Christie Wilcox wrote an open letter to Discovery Communications complaining about the program: "Part of me is furious with you, Discovery, for doing this. But mostly, I'm just deeply saddened. It's inexplicably depressing that you've gone from "the world's #1 nonfiction media company" to peddling lies and faking stories for ratings." [193]
The Mystery of Al Capone's Vaults
Recently fired from his job as a reporter for ABC, Geraldo Rivera hosted this live syndicated television special in 1986, which involved opening a recently discovered vault previously owned by mafia boss Al Capone. Although the promotions for the special heavily implied that the vault was likely to contain valuable artifacts from Capone's life or possibly even dead bodies, when the vault was opened it was revealed to contain a handful of empty moonshine bottles and nothing else. The phrase "Al Capone's vault" soon entered the vernacular to refer to any event that is heavily hyped and promoted but spectacularly fails to live up to expectations. Several sitcoms made joking references to the disappointment. The special marked a turning point in Rivera's career, shifting from his previous career in journalism to a career in tabloid entertainment, including his eponymous talk show.[194]
This unsold pilot aired as a one-off special on NBC in 1990. The show, which featured Peter Boyle as the voice of a detective who is killed and reincarnated as a bulldog, has been retrospectively mocked for its bizarre premise and copious amounts of toilet humor.[195][196][197][198][199]
Star Wars Holiday Special
Generally, Star Wars Holiday Special has received a large amount of criticism, both from Star Wars fans and the general public. David Hofstede, author of What Were They Thinking?: The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, ranked the holiday special at number one, calling it "the worst two hours of television ever."[200] Shepard Smith, a news anchor for the Fox News Channel, referred to it as a "'70s train wreck, combining the worst of Star Wars with the utter worst of variety television." Actor Phillip Bloch explained on a TV Land special entitled The 100 Most Unexpected TV Moments, that the special, "...just wasn't working. It was just so surreal." On the same program, Ralph Garman, a voice actor for the show Family Guy, explained that "Star Wars Holiday Special is one of the most infamous television programs in history. And it's so bad that it actually comes around to good again, but passes it right up." The only aspect of the special which has been generally well received is the animated segment which introduces Boba Fett, who would later become a popular character when he appeared in the Star Wars theatrical films.
Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?
This one-time special had fifty female contestants vying to immediately marry an unseen multimillionaire who, unknown to the contestants or viewers, only barely qualified for the title (owning only $2,000,000 in assets, including non-liquid ones) and who had a record of domestic violence. The winner, Darva Conger, never consummated her relationship with Rick Rockwell and the marriage was annulled. In a 2010 issue of TV Guide, the show was ranked #9 on a list of TV's ten biggest "blunders".[201]


Arena Football League on NBC
NBC's coverage of the Arena Football League ran from 2003 to 2006. It borrowed many of the features it had previously attempted with the XFL (see below), including moving the start of the league's season to February (it had previously begun in April), regional coverage and an adaptation of the XFL's swirled-ball pattern. Although NBC's arena football coverage didn't have the lowbrow promotion tactics it used for the XFL, its coverage faced its own set of problems. Promotion was inconsistent,[202] the network overpromoted several teams (New York, Philadelphia, Dallas) while leaving others (Buffalo, Grand Rapids) blacked out entirely, and perhaps most fatally, casual football fans cared little about the league, with ratings finishing lower than even the XFL's[203] and the sport as a whole becoming the butt of jokes on sitcoms. It did not have as much of the negative publicity that the XFL did, mainly because the sport languished in more obscurity on Sunday afternoons. The large amount of television promotion (continued when the league moved to ESPN) along with investment from National Football League ownership also sparked a run-up in player salaries, a factor that led to the original league's bankruptcy and dissolution in 2009.
The Baseball Network (Baseball Night in America)
This short-lived joint venture between ABC, NBC, and Major League Baseball was a pioneer in that the league produced and owned the rights to the telecasts (including half of the regular season and the postseason), but it was mostly a flop. The arrangement did not last long; due to the effects of a players' strike on the remainder of the 1994 season, as well as poor reception from fans and critics over the coverage was implemented, The Baseball Network would be disbanded after the 1995 season. Criticism centered over several factors: that The Baseball Network held exclusivity over every market, which meant that in markets with two teams, a Baseball Network game featuring one team prevented all viewers in the market from seeing the other team's game that night;[204][205][206] the fact that East Coast teams playing on the West Coast (or vice versa) could not be seen in the market as the start time would either be too late or early for the home market;[207][208] and regionalized coverage well into the postseason, which led Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci to dub The Baseball Network both "America's regional pastime" and an "abomination" and Bob Costas to write that it was an unprecedented surrender of prestige and a slap to all serious fans. Frustration was also shared by fans; the mere mention of The Baseball Network during the Mariners-Yankees ALDS from public address announcer Tom Hutyler at Seattle's Kingdome elicited boos from most of the crowd. ABC Sports president Dennis Swanson, in announcing the dissolution of The Baseball Network, said "The fact of the matter is, Major League Baseball seems incapable at this point in time, of living with any long term relationships, whether it's with fans, with players, with the political community in Washington, with the advertising community here in Manhattan, or with its TV partners."[209]
Celebrity Boxing
This self-explanatory series, an icon of Fox's "lowbrow" era of the late 1990s and early 2000s, ranked number 6 on TV Guide's 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time list. Celebrities who participated in the two-episode contest were mostly D-list names and those involved in criminal cases (Joey Buttafuoco, Tonya Harding, and Paula Jones were among the contestants, while Buttafuoco's former lover Amy Fisher backed out of the contest); one match even featured a man (Buttafuoco) facing off against a woman (pro wrestler Chyna), with Buttafuoco (who had taken the place of "Weird Al" Yankovic, who refused to fight a woman) winning in a decision.[210]
NBA on ABC (2002–present)
Some viewers have been critical of ABC's telecasts of the NBA since the 2002 season. One common complaint is of strange camera angles, including the Floorcam and Skycam angles used by ABC throughout its coverage.[211] Other complaints[212] are of camera angles that appear too far away, colors that seem faded and dull, and the quieting of crowd noise so that announcers can be heard clearly (by contrast to NBC, which allowed crowd noise to sometimes drown out their announcers).[213] Some complaints have concerned the promotion, or perceived lack thereof, of NBA telecasts. The 2003 NBA Finals received very little fanfare on ABC or corporate partner ESPN; while subsequent Finals were promoted more on both networks, NBA related advertisements on ABC were still down significantly from promotions on NBC. NBA promos took up 3 minutes and 55 seconds of airtime on ABC during the week of May 23, 2004 according to the Sports Business Daily, comparable to 2 minutes and 45 seconds for the Indianapolis 500. Promotions for the Indianapolis 500 outnumbered promotions for the NBA Finals fourteen-to-nine from the hours of 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm during that week.[214]
NHL on Fox (FoxTrax era)
Fox Sports's decision to implement a CGI-generated glowing hockey puck during their live coverage of the National Hockey League from 1996 to 1998 drew ire from sports fans, who derided the move as a gimmick. Greg Wyshinski wrote of the glowing puck as the second-worst idea in sports history in his book Glow Pucks and Ten-Cent Beer: The 101 Worst Ideas in Sports History. (The worst idea in that book was Ten Cent Beer Night, which wasn't a television event.) Despite Fox's significant growth and emergence as fourth major television network over the course of the 1990s, something that should have increased the NHL's viewership, ratings instead fell dramatically after the debut of FoxTrax, from a high of 2.1 per game in 1996 to a low of 1.4 at the end of Fox's run as the NHL's television partner.
NHL on SportsChannel America
Taking over for ESPN, SportsChannel's contract paid $51 million ($17 million[215] per year[216]) over three years, more than double what ESPN had paid ($24 million) for the previous three years[217] SportsChannel America managed to get a fourth NHL season for just $5 million.[218] Unfortunately, SportsChannel America was only available in a few major markets,[219][220] and reached only a 1/3 of the households that ESPN did at the time.[221][222] SportsChannel America was seen in fewer than 10 million households.[223] In comparison, by the 1991–92 season, ESPN was available in 60.5 million homes whereas SportsChannel America was available in only 25 million. As a matter of fact, in the first year of the deal (1988–89), SportsChannel America was available in only 7 million homes when compared to ESPN's reach of 50 million.[224] When the SportsChannel deal ended in 1992, the league returned to ESPN[225] for another contract that would pay $80 million over five years. SportsChannel America took advantage of using their regional sports networks' feed of a game, graphics and all, instead of producing a show from the ground up, most of the time. Distribution of SportsChannel America across the country was limited to cities that had a SportsChannel regional sports network or affiliate. Very few cable systems in non-NHL territories picked it up as a stand-alone service. Regional affiliates of the Prime Network would sometimes pick up SportsChannel broadcasts, but this was often only during the playoffs. SportsChannel America also did not broadcast 24 hours a day at first, usually on by 6 p.m., off by 1 or 2 a.m., then a sportsticker for the next 16 hours.
Olympics on NBC (1964, 1988-present [summer]; 1972, 2002-present [winter])
NBC broadcast the Olympic games for the first time starting in 1964 in Tokyo, and later broadcast the 1972 Winter Olympics. NBC later brought broadcasting rights to the Summer Olympics starting in 1988, and obtained rights to broadcast the Winter Olympics starting in 2002. Currently, NBCUniversal (a division of Comcast which operates NBC and its cable networks) holds the broadcasting rights for the Olympics until 2032.[226] Since 2000, NBC has received criticism over its tape-delaying practice, which has gotten many complaints from many viewers, yet in 1992, the then-NBC Sports producer Terry O'Neil coined the term "possibly live" for NBC's practices to tape delay live events as if they were live.[227][228] Some examples include the Women's Gymnastics event during the 2016 Summer Olympics in order to "juice the numbers".[229] In the 2010 Winter Olympics, NBC aired no alpine skiing events in order to showcase high-profile events.[230] Many viewers have expressed outrage, including U.S. senators during the 2010 Winter games, and people were forced to use VPN servers to access the BBC and in Canada, CTV (for the 2010 Winter Games and 2012 Summer Games), and the CBC (for the 2014 Winter Games and 2016 Summer Games) to view them live.[231][232]
NBC has also frequently been criticized for airing the Olympic games as if it's more of a reality television program instead of a live sports event.[233][234][235] One example of this includes cutting off a fall from Russian gymnast Ksenia Afanasyeva, which NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus did "in the interest of time," although her routine took only 1 minute and 38 seconds. And according to The New York Times, he did this to create suspense on the U.S. Women's Gymnastics team.[234][236]
In 2016, chief marketing officer John Miller held a press conference prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics about their formatting of NBC's Olympics coverage, citing that the Olympics were "not about the result, [but] about the journey. The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they're less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It's sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one."[237] This led to criticism from the media; Linda Stasi of the New York Daily News claimed it to be "sexist nonsense" and a "pandering, condescending view of the millions of women viewers."[238] Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins suggested that "it insults the audience — but it sure does insult Olympic athletes, especially female athletes."[239]
NBC was also criticized for frequently editing and tape-delaying the opening and closing ceremonies, with "context" as its main reason.[240][241][242] In 2010, NBC aired the opening and closing ceremonies on a tape delay, even for viewers on Pacific Time, despite being 3 hours ahead of Eastern Time. During the closing ceremonies, NBC went into a 65-minute intermission to air a series premiere of The Marriage Ref and local newscasts, and returning to the ceremonies at 11:35 PM ET/PT.[243] This spawned outbursts from upset viewers, especially on Twitter,[244] when several performances were cut off.[245]
In 2012, NBC cut a tribute to the victims of the July 7, 2005 London bombings in favor of a Ryan Seacrest interview with U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps during the opening ceremonies, which was called an "outrage" by the British media.[246] Ultimately, this caused the hashtag #NBCFail to trend on Twitter.[247] The network was criticized for cutting up to 27% of the closing ceremonies to air local newscasts and a sneak preview of the NBC sitcom Animal Practice.[248][249][250]
In 2014, NBC also received criticism for cutting the video segments on the Olympic Torch relay and not showing the mascots. It also received criticism for cutting the Olympic Oaths and IOC President Thomas Bach's speech on discrimination and equality.[251][252] It was also criticized for setting a 90-minute window to air the closing ceremonies. In addition, they used the times before and after the 90-minute window to air a sneak preview of another sitcom, Growing Up Fisher, at 10:30 PM ET/PT,[253] and a documentary on Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan which aired between 7 PM and 8:30 PM ET/PT.[254] In 2016, NBC aired both of the ceremonies in a 1 hour delay (at 8 PM ET/PT) and it also drew criticism for the excessive amount of advertisements it aired during the delayed ceremony, and cutting 38% of the closing ceremony.[255][256][257]
NBC also received criticism for its pro-American bias,[258][259][260][261] and for various comments made by commentators during the Olympic Games in 2016[262][263][264][265][266] and in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games.[267][268][269][270][271]
Olympics Triplecast
Even before the 1992 Summer Olympics started, many criticized the business model. On July 16, nine days before the Opening Ceremony, one Philadelphia Inquirer writer called it "the biggest marketing disaster since New Coke".[272] The Triplecast was deemed by The New York Times "sports TV's biggest flop" and that NBC and Cablevision were "bereft in sanity" in operating it.[273] By 1994, it was referred to as "the Heaven's Gate of television"[274] Albert Kim, the editor of Entertainment Weekly, went on National Public Radio and called it "an unmitigated disaster for NBC".[275] It was a loss of about $100 million (half of which was covered by Cablevision under agreement) for the two parties. It also shaped NBC's strategies in the coverage of future Olympics.
The Premiership
In 2000, ITV took over terrestrial broadcasting rights the highlights of the English Premier League, following a bidding war against its rival and long-time rights holder, the BBC (known for broadcasting its similar show Match of the Day) at a reported cost of £183 million to commence at the start of the 2001–02 Premier League season.[276] The first show aired at 7pm on 18 August 2001[277] was watched by a peak figure of 5 million viewers, in comparison to The Weakest Link which drew an average of 7 million when shown on rival channel BBC One at the same time.[278] The channel suffered their worst Saturday night ratings for five years, when an average of 3.1 million viewers watched The Premiership.[279] After two months, figures had not greatly improved: only 4.6 million viewers tuned in, and the 7pm slot was a clear failure. The decision was made in early October 2001 to shift The Premiership from its original slot to a permanent later time of 10:30pm, from 17 November.[280] Not helped was the media and football critics – most notably the Daily Mirror – were outspoken about the programme's highlights. Out of the 70 minutes on air, the first show included only 28 minutes of action, compared to the average of 58 minutes on MotD the previous season.[281] At the end of its contract run in May 2004, rights for the league were sold back to the BBC.[282]
Thursday Night Football
Throughout its decade-plus run, the package of National Football League games have been subjected to a barrage of criticism. Among the controversies were the hiring of Bryant Gumbel (an experienced studio host but one with minimal play-by-play experience and who appeared to get the job only because his brother Greg was also a play-by-play announcer) as its first play-by-play announcer,[283] difficulties in getting NFL Network onto cable providers,[284] poor quality of the games,[285][286] a uniform scheme that caused great difficulty for those with color blindness to tell teams apart,[287] disruption to the flow of the league's weekly schedule (the league is forbidden under federal law from televising games on Friday or Saturday for most of the regular season) in a way that potentially puts players at greater risk of injury,[288] and a perception that the package saturates the market with NFL products and was thus driving down the viewership of the league's Sunday and Monday games. On at least one occasion, the league has reportedly considered ending the package after its current contracts expire.[289]
TVS Television Network, a syndicator best known for its coverage of college sports, signed on to televise the World Football League, a fledgling major football league, in its inaugural 1974 season. TVS would carry a weekly Thursday night game with a two-man announcing crew and, in most weeks, a celebrity guest commentator. The league soon devolved into chaos; several teams either moved or folded midseason, including the New York Stars, a team that was particularly important to the network's viewership ratings, and schedule changes were being made on an almost weekly basis. The WFL was further undermined by a scandal in which league owners were caught lying about paid attendance, having inflated ticket sales by as much as tenfold, which destroyed fans' and TV stations' confidence in the league. By the end of the 1974 season, TVS found it impossible to sell the games to local stations, and ratings fell to levels that were anemic even by modern standards. TVS issued an ultimatum to the WFL demanding that the Chicago Winds sign Joe Namath in order to continue TV coverage in 1975; the Winds failed to do so, and TVS pulled the plug, leaving the WFL untelevised for its final, abortive season.[290]
XFL on NBC, XFL on TNN and XFL on UPN
The three television programs covering the XFL are generally treated as one for the purposes of worst television show lists. The series, the subject of Brett Forrest's book Long Bomb: How the XFL Became TV's Biggest Fiasco, ranked #3 on the 2002 TV Guide list of worst TV series of all time, #2 on ESPN's list of biggest sports flops, #21 on TV Guide's 2010 list of the biggest television blunders of all time, and #10 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the biggest bombs in television history.[291][292][293] Among its problems were a series of low-scoring and unexciting games, the involvement of Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation, an emphasis on tawdry stunts, a particularly poor casting choice in which Jerry "The King" Lawler was hired as a color analyst despite his near-total lack of knowledge of or interest in football, disagreements between WWF and NBC over the direction of the league's presentation, generally inferior talent (only a few of the players would go on to make an impact in the National Football League or had done so already), minimal sports media coverage outside of the networks carrying it, and even a possible involvement of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx. Despite the league's failure, both of its co-founders would try again nearly two decades later: McMahon with another XFL in 2020, and NBC's Dick Ebersol with the Alliance of American Football in 2019; the AAF was better-received despite underfunding and internal squabbles.

Talk/chat and discussion shows[edit]

The Chevy Chase Show
Television critic Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly gave the show an F letter grade, and criticized the show for having "the gall to rerun a taped comedy bit he'd aired in the first week of his show" during the show's second week.[294] Tucker also noted that "the audience that fills Hollywood's new Chevy Chase Theatre has steadily turned into the worst-behaved crowd in late-night television; they hoot and yell and cheer over whatever pitiful chatter Chase is attempting to wring out of a luckless guest."[294] TIME panned the show: "Nervous and totally at sea, Chase tried everything, succeeded at nothing."[295] The magazine also criticized Chase for having "recycled old material shamelessly", taking pratfalls, and even pleading with the audience to stand up and dance in their seats.[295] The show ranked 16th on TV Guide's list of worst television shows and the same position on its of biggest television blunders; Fox chairwoman Lucie Salhany described the experience of watching it as "uncomfortable and embarrassing."[296][297] After drawing half of the number of viewers promised, Fox dumped the show to save both its own stations' ratings and Chase's reputation.[297]
The Jeremy Kyle Show
British tabloid talk show which presented family disputes and the like. Often accused of treating its guests in an exploitative way, it was permanently scrapped in May 2019 when a guest died a week after appearing and failing a lie detector test on the show, apparently taking their own life. [298][299]
The Jerry Springer Show
The show topped TV Guide magazine's 2002 list of "The Worst TV Shows Ever".[300] The phrase "Jerry Springer Nation" began to be used by some who see the program as being a bad influence on the morality of the United States. In addition, the phrase has shown the association of Springer with any "lowbrow" type of entertainment in general.
The Magic Hour
Soon after its debut, the series was panned by critics citing Earvin "Magic" Johnson's apparent nervousness as a host, his overly complimentary tone with his celebrity guests, and lack of chemistry with his sidekick, comedian Craig Shoemaker. The series was quickly retooled with Shoemaker being relegated to the supporting cast (and eventually fired for publicly stating the show was a disaster)[301][302] which included comedian Steve White and announcer Jimmy Hodson. Comedian and actor Tommy Davidson was brought in as Johnson's new sidekick and Johnson interacted more with the show band leader Sheila E. The format of the show was also changed to include more interview time with celebrity guests.[303][304] One vocal critic of The Magic Hour was Howard Stern, who was later booked as a guest for one episode as part of a stunt to raise the show's ratings.[305]
This tabloid talk show hosted by Maury Povich was dubbed by USA Today columnist Whitney Matheson as "the worst show on television" and "miles further down the commode than Jerry Springer."[306]

Variety/sketch comedy shows[edit]

The 1/2 Hour News Hour
Fox News Channel's satirical news comedy show was criticized for its obvious intent to imitate Comedy Central's The Daily Show from a more politically conservative slant. The show's initial two episodes received generally poor reviews.[307] MetaCritic's television division gave The 1/2 Hour News Hour pilots a score of 12 out of 100,[308] making it the lowest rated television production ever reviewed on the site.[309] Business Insider ranked it #1 on its list of "The 50 worst TV shows in modern history, according to critics".[310]
Australia's Naughtiest Home Videos
The series was cancelled by its network midway through its first airing. Kerry Packer, Australian media magnate and owner of the broadcaster Nine Network, saw the show while out at dinner with friends, and reportedly phoned Nine central control personally, ordering them to "Get that shit off the air!"[citation needed] The network complied and immediately replaced it with reruns of Cheers, citing "technical difficulties." Packer arrived at the network the next day and again referred to the show as "disgusting and offensive shit." The show itself largely consisted of videos involving crude sexual content interspersed with off-color jokes from the show's host, former 2MMM morning host "Uncle" Doug Mulray. The show would not be seen in its entirety until 2008, three years after Packer's death.[311]
Ben Elton Live From Planet Earth
Live From Planet Earth debuted on Channel Nine on 8 February 2011, in the 9:30 pm timeslot. During the broadcast of the first episode, reaction on Twitter was hostile, with many users speculating the show would be axed.[312] Reviews of the first episode were largely negative. Colin Vickery of the Herald Sun called it "an early contender for worst show of the year", and Amanda Meade of The Australian called it "a screaming, embarrassing failure".[313] The Age's Karl Quinn stated there was "more to like than dislike" about the show.[314]
Horne & Corden
This was a sketch show written by and starring James Corden and Matthew Horne, following their tenure in the hugely successful sitcom Gavin & Stacey. Unlike the latter, the show featured mass negative reviews in the press. The show was cancelled, and Corden stated that the sketch show was a mistake.[315]
Osbournes: Reloaded
This variety show was universally panned by critics, with Roger Catlin of the Hartford Courant even going so far as to call it the "worst variety show ever"[316] and Tom Shales of The Washington Post labeling it "Must-Flee TV".[317] It was canceled after one episode, which itself was cut from 60 to 35 minutes prior to air; 26 affiliates had refused to air the first show or buried it in overnight graveyard slots, and Fox had barely convinced a group of 19 other stations to drop its plans to do the same.
Pink Lady (also known as Pink Lady and Jeff)
The series ranked #35 on TV Guide's Fifty Worst TV Shows of All Time list. The series, which featured Japanese duo Pink Lady struggle awkwardly through American disco hits and sketch comedy (the duo spoke very little English), was moved to the Friday night death slot after one episode and killed off after five episodes. (A sixth episode was unaired at the time but later included in a DVD release.)[318]
The American adaptation of the Australian improv series Slide Show was met with mixed to positive reviews from critics but was soon met with extremely low viewership upon its summer 2014 debut; it was reported that "no original series on one of the Big Four networks has ever rated lower."[319] The series was canceled after only four episodes aired; four remain unseen. The poor ratings were partially attributed to its lead-in, the hoax reality contest I Wanna Marry "Harry", which itself received poor reviews.
Rosie Live
This NBC variety special hosted by comedian and activist Rosie O'Donnell on the day before Thanksgiving 2008 received almost universally negative reviews from critics. The Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara wrote, "For those of us who are, and remain, Rosie fans, who think The View will never quite recover from her departure, who think her desire to resurrect the variety show was, and is, a great idea, disappointment does not even begin to describe it."[320] TV Guide critic Matt Roush panned the show as "dead on arrival,"[321] while Variety wrote "If Rosie O'Donnell and company were consciously determined to strangle the rebirth of variety shows in the crib, they couldn't have done a better job of it than this pre-holiday turkey."[322] The show had been cleared for a tentative January 2009 launch as a regular series, but the show's poor reception led to the cancellation of those plans.
Ryantown was named as one of the "Top 10 Worst Irish TV Programmes" by the Irish Independent and host Gerry Ryan was later to admit that it was all horribly "half-baked" and "should have been taken off the air after a few shows".[74]
Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell
Saturday Night Live's director Don Mischer remembers the show as hectic and unprepared, and has recalled one particular episode wherein executive producer Roone Arledge discovered that Lionel Hampton was in New York, and invited the musician to appear on the show an hour before the show was set to go on the air.[323] The show fared poorly among critics and audiences alike, with TV Guide calling it "dead on arrival, with a cringingly awkward host."[324] Alan King, the show's "executive in charge of comedy," later admitted that it was difficult trying to turn Cosell into a variety show host, saying that he "made Ed Sullivan look like Buster Keaton."[324] Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell was canceled on January 17, 1976, after only 18 episodes.[323] A year later, in 1977, the NBC sketch show Saturday Night finally got permission to be named Saturday Night Live due to the cancellation of this version of Saturday Night Live and hired many cast members who worked on the ABC version (the most notable being Bill Murray, who was hired after the departure of Chevy Chase).
The Tom Green Show
In 2002, it was ranked #41 on TV Guide's 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time.[325]
The White Heather Club
BBC Scotland show featuring traditional Scottish songs and dances usually performed in kilts, which ran from 1958 to 1968. Although popular in its day, and in some respects competently made, it put forward a couthy tartanised version of Scotland which some found very dated and even an embarrassment by the late 1960s. The Penguin TV Companion in 2006 voted The White Heather Club one of the 20 worst TV shows ever. Jeremy Paxman cited The White Heather Club as evidence that there was no "Golden Age" of British television at the 2007 Edinburgh International Television Festival's James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture.[326]
The Wilton North Report
Almost from the outset, creative differences occurred between The Wilton North Report's writing team, executive producer Barry Sand, and hosts Phil Cown and Paul Robins. The hosts thought the writers' material was too sophisticated for mass audiences and frequently not very funny; the writers thought Cowan and Robins were less than erudite and felt uncomfortable writing for them. Sand tried to make peace between the hosts and writers, seeking material that Cowan and Robins would feel comfortable with yet encouraging the hosts to town down their shrill delivery. Pre-debut rehearsals did not impress Sand nor Fox executives, who decided on November 29 to push back Wilton North's premiere, which had been scheduled for the next night, to allow the crew extra time to gel (the hosts and writers had been together for not even a week). The delay also meant a retooling of the show, beginning with Sand's scrapping of the opening news review segment; Sand believed it did not mesh with Cowan and Robin's friendly approach,[327] while Fox objected to its crude humor.[328] By the time Wilton North did finally reach the air on December 11,[329] its own cast and crew would have difficulty articulating what the show was even trying to do. The on-air product was met with general derision from critics; Clifford Terry of the Chicago Tribune said the show took a smug, studious approach to its subject material,[330] while Ken Tucker of the Philadelphia Inquirer thought the "video version of Spy magazine" lacked "genuinely amusing rudeness."[331] Later episodes of Wilton North would see a greater reliance on long-form videos and feature reporting, with such examples including a report presented by Aron Ranen on a dominatrix that specialized in corporal punishment, as well as a feature on a high school basketball team in South Carolina that hadn't won a game in five years (though they pulled off a win when a Wilton North crew filmed them in action). The idea was to have Cowan and Robins generally serve as presenters and offer comments on what was being shown. Staff writer and commentator Paul Krassner would also be on hand to introduce and discuss "underground videos" with the hosts. Krassner, in what he would later term a "practice" segment, discussed the highlights of 1987 with Cowan and Robins on the January 1 broadcast, with the possibility that such analyses would become permanent the following week (a possibility Krassner was thrilled about doing, as he would recall in a February 1988 Los Angeles Times piece about his time at Wilton North).[327] By this time, however, Fox's affiliates grew restless and demanded that the show be cancelled immediately; Fox would announce Wilton North's cancellation on January 5, 1988, with network president Jamie Kellner calling the show "a bit too ambitious."[327] The show's 21st and final episode would air on January 8.

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Hofstede, David (2004). What Were They Thinking: The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History. Back Stage Books. ISBN 0-8230-8441-8.

External links[edit]