Being an actor involves taking risks with your career when getting involved in a new project. Taking risks can sometimes lead to huge success or can end up becoming a major flop. But what happens when good actors get cast in terrible TV shows?
It can be difficult to tell from a few scripts whether a television series will bring in a big audience or not. Sometimes, a series might actually be pretty decent, but they fail to bring in the viewers that the networks are looking for and are then cancelled. But sometimes, it just is a really, really terrible show.
Every year, networks produce new series that they hope will be a big hit, but sometimes expectations fail to meet reality once the series is on air. The project may have sounded good on paper, but it later performed miserably on TV.
Last year, a popular internet meme, $#*! My Dad Says, was attempted to be turned into an entire television series. While yes, internet memes do bring a lot of attention, they are often short-lived, and probably not something that you can base an entire series off of. We are not quite sure what the value was that lead actor, William Shatner, saw in the show.
Or how about Jaime Pressly in I Hate My Teenage Daughter? You won’t believe how many times the show got cancelled. Nobody can deny that the show failed miserably, leading everyone to wonder what did Jaime Pressly see in it to convince her to be a part of the project?
Sometimes, bad TV shows happen to good actors, but it is all about how they pick themselves up after the fall that will define their career in the future. Take a look at this list to see 20 amazing actors who survived awful television shows.
20. Kelsey Grammer – Hank
ABC typically has had good luck with their new comedies like The Middle, Modern Family and Blackish. However, not all shows can be instant hits and Hank seemed more like an instant flop.
The show starred actor Kelsey Grammer, as a Wall Street CEO who has moved his family to suburbia after being kicked out of his own company. The show got off to a rough start with bad reviews and low ratings that never seemed to get any better. Hank turned out to be an unlikable character who audiences just couldn’t connect with. In fact, Hank was so unsuccessful that it was cancelled before the premier season even finished.
ABC Entertainment President, Stephen MacPherson, commented, “I love Kelsey. I think he’s fantastic. I think he would agree, we never got the writing to where it needed to be. There is something to be said there with economy and what a guy would face. And viewers are smart — they’re not going to be sold something that just based on star value. They want a great show.”
19. Laura Benanti – The Playboy Club
Apparently, The Playboy Club television series took years to create and get on prime-time air. It took NBC three weeks to kill it.
The Playboy Club wasn’t a reboot of an old show. It was an original series looking to bring back the relevancy of a once popular global brand.
One insider commented that Playboy Club, never had much of a shot because the show wasn’t grasping the right audience saying, “It was a fundamentally flawed concept. It’s a soap, which inherently appeals to women. But it’s a brand so tied to men. I just think it was doomed from the start.”
The end Result? No viewers.
18. Michael Chiklis – No Ordinary Family
No Ordinary Family starred a family of superheroes who, apparently, didn’t have enough power to save their show. The ABC series was cancelled after one season. It was rated one of the lowest-scoring dramas of the season.
The family was on vacation when they crashed into Amazon River and gained special abilities. While this could be a cool concept, the episodes seemed jam-packed with action, twists, turns and revelations. There was absolutely no room to breathe, it was all declarative sentences and fighting.
The story which seemed way confusing which meant that viewers seemed to lose interest very quickly. Michael Chiklis made it out alive from the series’ death, appearing in a number of popular series since No Ordinary Family was taken off the air including Gotham and American Horror Story.
17. Drea de Matteo – Joey
Actress, Drea de Matteo, is well-known for her role in the acclaimed series, The Sopranos. Unfortunately, we all make mistakes, and she also agreed to star in the not-so-acclaimed Joey. The show was created by Matt LeBlanc as some kind of an attempt at a post-Friends sitcom.
It was a pretty bad spin-off, to say the least. Due to bad writing and other production factors, Joey got booted after two seasons. Apparently, it was so bad that Matt LeBlanc allegedly refuses to answer anything about the disgraced project.
Drea managed to come out of the show’s cancellation unscathed and jumped right back into some new roles. The actress played the role of Wendy Case in the popular series, Sons of Anarchy and recently appeared on the series, Shades of Blue.
16. Hugh Jackman – Viva Laughlin
CBS cancelled Laughlin after two episodes and the Nine Network, in Hugh Jackman‘s native Australia, dropped the series following just one episode.
Jackman’s wife, Deborra-Lee Furness commented at an Australian award ceremony about the series’ cancellation saying “We are obviously very disappointed, but you have to take risks in this business. Doing a drama that is a musical is going to be a huge risk… but if you don’t take any risks, you know… If I’m going to fail, I want to fail spectacularly, and it seems like we did.”
Some say it is one of the worst remakes of a British television series. Jackman’s career obviously made it through the series failure, going on to star in a ton of box office hits like Wolverine and X-Men and has even seen success acting on Broadway.
15. John Cho and Karen Gillan – Selfie
The ABC romantic-comedy drifted aimlessly in the ratings until quietly being cancelled just six episodes in. The series played out the rest of the planned episodes online and on streaming services like Hulu. With underwhelming ratings that failed to impress critics, Selfie just was not going to cut it in the ABC lineup.
Although Selfie was described as vapid and poorly written, actors John Cho and Karen Gillan were praised on their roles in the show. Karen Gillan gave an upbeat performance and the British actress was complimented on her nearly perfect English accent.
Gillan’s character, Eliza, was obsessed with becoming famous through selfies and Instagram until she realized that she needs real-life friends rather than online ones. John Cho’s character filled the role of one of the real-life friends. Guess this Selfie just didn’t get enough likes!
Gillan went on to try out a couple more pilot series and is currently filming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Actor John Cho has played roles in a few series since Selfie like The Mindy Project, New Girl, and American Dad. He also played a role in the latest Star Trek film.
14. William Shatner – $#*! My Dad Says
$#*! My Dad Says is an example of a television network attempting to capitalize off of a popular internet meme that just did not work.
CBS launched $#*! My Dad Says starring William Shatner, a comedy based on the Twitter feed of Justin Halpern, S#*! My Dad Says, which currently has 1.7 million followers. The tweets have already been adapted into a best-selling book with the same title.
Unfortunately, by the time the concept got to CBS, it was too little too late and a little too overdone. Oh, and turns out that using the strange cluster of characters, $#*!, makes it impossible for DVR’s and channel guides to recognize or record the program.
William Shatner played the role of an opinionated father to a young, struggling writer who has just moved back in with him. Other actors starring on the show were Jonathan Sadowski, Will Sasso, Nicole Sullivan, and Stephanie Lemelin.
The TV series actually got off to a pretty decent start with a 4.0 rating and over 12 million viewers, but the next two episodes fell in the ratings. The series was cancelled after one season.
The adaption from popular Twitter meme, to book, to television series may have been stretching the funny idea a bit too far. Shatner may not be up to much nowadays, but it’s hard to argue that this was the show that ended his career!
13. Judy Greer – Two and a Half Men
After Charlie Sheen left Two and a Half Men, Ashton Kutcher took over as the main actor on the series. Judy Greer was later cast as Ashton Kutcher’s wife.
Greer is no stranger to the Two and a Half Men set. In 2007, she played one of Charlie’s many love interests, Myra. However, it might not have been the best idea for Greer to join the cast when she did as the show’s ratings were continuously dropping and the series seemed to have lost its appeal to viewers.
Some viewers were certainly hoping that Judy Greer’s role on the show would help improve it, unfortunately her presence was not enough to save the show. Two and a Half Men aired its final episode in February of 2015.
12. Shailene Woodley – The Secret Life Of The American Teenager
This unrealistic and dramatic story of a 15-year-olds life as a pregnant teenager in suburbia was dragged out for multiple seasons on ABC Family. How they lasted that long on-air? We have no clue.
The series was created by 7th Heaven creator, Brenda Hampton. However, The Secret Life of the American Teenager was plagued with bad acting, lazy writing, repetitive dialogue, and insulting stereotypes.
There was a thinly-veiled message of abstinence throughout the entire series which did nothing for the show’s diminishing audience. Shailene Woodley‘s role as Amy did not allow for her to demonstrate her talent as an actress. Woodley’s character is a shallow and honestly, pretty boring character to have as a main character.
Woodley saw some major big screen success and created Oscar buzz for her role as George Clooney’s teenage daughter in The Descendants. Hopefully Woodley will get herself involved with some more television or movie projects that enable the audience to see what a talented actress she actually is.
11. Chris O’Donnell – Headcases
Actor Chris O’Donnell is pretty well known for his recurring role in NCIS: LA. O’Donnell also attempted to jump into a new Fox “dramedy” called Headcases, which did not turn out to be a success for the actor.
O’Donnell stars as the main character, Jason Payne, a middle-aged lawyer struggling to balance work and family life. Basically, the character has a mental breakdown and ends up in a mental institution. The show focuses on Payne’s reintegration back into his life after he has been hospitalized.
Headcases was nothing memorable, to say the least. O’Donnell’s character attempts to portray heartwarming moments, but things like him reconnecting with his family appeared forced and unbelievable. And although this series is considered a “dramedy,” this series failed to define itself and was difficult for the audience to get into.
10. Maulik Pancholy – Whitney
Actor Maulik Pancholy had a role on Season 1 of comedian Whitney Cummings’ series, Whitney. On the show, Pancholy played Lily’s (Zoe Lister-Jones) boyfriend Neal, who came out as gay towards the end of the season. He was released from the show and his exit was explained stating creative changes were required for the show going into Season 2.
Pancholy returned to 30 Rock on NBC, which the actor had been appearing in since the series first season. Pancholy plays Jack Donaghy’s (played by Alec Baldwin) obsessive assistant Jonathan.
The critically derided Whitney, was a total waste of Maulik Pancholy’s acting abilities. He certainly got lucky being able to get out of the show just as quickly as he got into it. Pancholy went on to carry out the final season of 30 Rock as his infamous character Jonathan and all was right with the world.
9. Dylan McDermott – Hostages
Dylan McDermott played the role of Agent Duncan Carlisle in the CBS “thriller” Hostages. The show was cancelled after one season. McDermott acted alongside of another talented actress Toni Collette, who got caught up in the less than exhilarating series.
CBS deemed Hostages a “limited series,” but it was still eligible to come back for a second season if the ratings were high. Well, they were not, and the show was cancelled.
The series started off with weak ratings and in the following weeks of the series airing, the ratings just continued to decline. McDermott was much too talented to be a part of such a disappointing series.
McDermott went on to shoot another drama/thriller series on CBS called Stalker, which was also cancelled after a short time, but had much better ratings than Hostages ever did. The actor is also due to appear in the upcoming film, Blind, directed by Michael Mailer.
8. Terry O’Quin – 666 Park Ave
666 Park Ave struggled from the get-go. Between its 10pm Sunday slot and heavy critical buzz, the series did not have much hope. Terry O’Quinn starred in the show alongside Vanessa Williams.
666 Park Ave failed to hold the audience that ABC was hoping for. The diminishing viewership continued to spiral down as the show wore on.
The show billed itself as a horror-drama revolving around a demonically influenced apartment building. However, the show failed to acknowledge its own inherent absurdness and was unable to reach the proper audience. The series ran for 13 episodes before ABC decided not to bring the series back after it’s mid-season break.
Terry O’Quinn is widely known for his role as John Locke on the hit series Lost. Fortunately, 666 Park Ave did not seem to slow the actor down too much. Since the series cancellation, O’Quinn has had roles in several other television series such as Gang Related, Hawaii 5-0, Full Circle, and Secrets and Lies.
7. Sam Neill & Jorge Garcia – Alcatraz
The J.J. Abrams thriller Alcatraz was cancelled after one season on Fox. According to Fox, the show performed badly in the ratings, starting off strong when it premiered in America last January, but dropping to less than half that audience by the end of the season.
The Alcatraz series followed police detectives (Sarah Jones) and Doctor Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia) as they worked to piece together a case of 340 inmates and guards who disappeared from the prison in 1963 and were reappearing now looking exactly the same.
Jorge Garcia is notably known for his role in Lost. Garcia did not let the failure of Alcatraz get him down, and has also appeared in Californication, Hawaii 5-0, Once Upon A Time, How I Met Your Mother and films like The Wedding Ringer and The Ridiculous Six.
Sam Neill went on to appear in many more television series and movies as well. Neill’s career includes roles in Harry, Old School, Peaky Blinders and House of Hancock.
6. Nasim Pedrad – Mulaney
Nasim Pedrad is a hilarious former SNL cast member. She left the show to join the cast of Mulaney on Fox. Unfortunately, it seems that production just didn’t know how to utilize the comedian’s talents.
The multi-camera sitcom featured a fictionalized version of comedian John Mulaney as a rising comic and Pedrad was cast as one of Mulany’s friends.
Based on the first few episodes of Mulaney, the prospects seemed dim. Pedrad played Jane, a single woman who in the pilot episode is singularly obsessed with her ex-boyfriend. She is comically flat, devoting all of her time to intercepting her ex’s emails and snooping around his apartment outside. The role offered nothing new or exciting for Pedrad.
5. Jaime Pressly – I Hate My Teenage Daughter
Fox may have broken a record with I Hate My Teenage Daughter, cancelling the show not one, not two, but three separate times. The sitcom revolved around two moms who realized that their daughters have become the kind of girls who terrorized them in high school.
The show premiered and only ran four episodes before the network put the series on hiatus. I Hate My Teenage Daughter was brought back on Fox a few months later as a part of a comedy block of shows. The show performed the worst out of the bunch and Fox pulled the plug again after only three weeks.
The network later announced they would basically be burning off the remaining episodes of Teenage Daughter in June on Sunday nights, but then opted to fill those time slots with animation repeats instead. Strike #3, you’re out Teenage Daughter!
Fortunately, Jaime Pressly survived through the failure of the show. The actress got right back out there appearing on shows like Two and a Half Men, Raising Hope, Melissa & Joey, Hot In Cleveland and Mom.
4. Minka Kelly – Charlie’s Angels (Reboot)
ABC attempted to bring back the classic favorite Charlie’s Angels, but they quickly learned that some things are better left in the past. The series starred Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor and Annie Ilonzeh.
The show even made a desperate ploy to titillate some more viewers to tune in with a girl-on-girl kiss between Kelly and Taylor.
It wasn’t enough though, and the reboot was cancelled after just four episodes had aired. The series never reached 10 million viewers and basically, during those four episodes, the show lost 3 million viewers, so ABC pulled the plug.
Minka Kelly’s acting in the series is sub-par at best. Viewers know that she can do better than what she demonstrated on Charlie’s Angels. Luckily, once the show ended, Kelly was able to play some roles on TV shows like Full Circle, Almost Human, and The Path.
3. Kathy Bates – Harry’s Law
Harry’s Law was cancelled after two seasons in the spring of 2012. The show averaged about 8 million viewers and is thought to have been cancelled because it was pulling in an older audience and NBC‘s advertisers were not happy.
Kathy Bates starred in the series and publicly bashed NBC for cancelling the show, claiming that it was insulting to her and the “millions” of fans who follow the show. However, since her role in Harry’s Law, Kathy Bates seems to be getting more roles than ever. Perhaps Harry’s Law was a waste of her acting abilities and she wasn’t even aware of it.
Kathy Bates went on to have roles in movies like Tammy and Bad Santa 2, the latter of which is coming out later this year. Bates also did famously well on the small screen with memorable television roles in American Horror Story, Mike and Molly, American Dad, and Yo Gabba Gabba.
2. Jeremy Piven – Mr. Selfridge
Mr. Selfridge is a British historical drama television series that’s been broadcast on PBS and ITV since 2013 but it was cancelled after four seasons.
Mr. Selfridge was based on the true story of the American founder of Selfridge, a department store in London. Harry Gordon Selfridge, played by Piven, set out to build the biggest and best department store in the world. Both historically accurate and fictional bits are tied together to create the storyline.
The series actually got off to a pretty good start with better than average ratings. However, as the series continued on with Seasons 2 and 3, the show’s success began to dwindle. The season was cancelled after the Season 4 finale.
Jeremy Piven has had many other noteworthy roles including the infamous Ari Gold in Entourage, which was turned into a movie for the big screen in 2015. You can only hope that Piven can find some more interesting roles to dive into this year
1. Molly Shannon – Kath & Kim
Kath & Kim was a popular series in Australia that NBC (poorly) attempted to bring to America. Molly Shannon and Selma Blair in the roles made famous by Australian comedians, Jane Turner and Gina Riley.
The show featured a whimsical mother and daughter who are over the top, tabloid-obsessed, and constantly butting heads. Turns out, the American adaptation of Kath & Kim just did not live up to the original. Critics and the network agreed that the Australian humor must have gotten lost in translation in the Americanized version, and the show was cancelled.
Molly Shannon has been in the acting business for years, and she was not going to let a little thing like a failed sitcom get in her way of jumping into some new projects. Shannon has been cast for roles in TV series such as Divorce, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, and Animals. Shannon is also due to appear in a number of upcoming films in 2016.
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