Some say we’re in a golden age of television with far more choices than ever before with amazing stuff to watch. The networks are still hanging in there with some shows that can surprise you and become hits but really, the prestige stuff is on cable. FX, TNT, USA and AMC have offered amazing and beloved shows. Even Lifetime has gotten in on it with the acclaimed UnReal. Pay cable stations like HBO and Showtime still offer a lot of great stuff and now, streaming networks are getting the game with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu among others offering amazing fare. All that being said, it’s clear there’s a lot of great stuff on TV now… but there’s also a lot of bad programming.
Reality shows are the most famous example, as too many of them clog up the TV landscape. Scripted shows can be just as terrible and painful to watch, to the point where you feel sorry for the actors involved. Some shows were actually good (if not great) long ago, only to fall into a serious rut. Other shows were just bad right off the bat and, yet, somehow managed to survive when they shouldn’t. There are sadly a lot of picks overall but, here are the most notable fifteen worst shows on TV that should have met their cancellation a while ago.
From reality to scripted, these are 15 of the current worst TV series that somehow remain on the air, despite their content and low quality.
Warning of some SPOILERS for some series below.
15 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
The last remaining entry of the once-great Law & Order franchise remains a draw for NBC with good ratings. It's also still the place for writers to throw on “ripped from the headlines” stories. However, the series has turned off even long-time fans with its preaching to the audience and sensationalism, as nothing seems too much for the writers.
Mariska Hargitay (the lone original cast member) can still deliver some sexy stuff as Olivia Benson, but much of her action now consists of sitting at a desk and doing an occasional lecture on the evils of the legal system or big corporations. The writing can be so laughably overdone and the situations hyped as huge events with really nothing at all to them. The takes on current events are obvious and overwrought. The music is manipulative, making you want to care when you don’t. The cast gives their best but the trite cases move too far away from regular SVU crimes to stuff the writers just feel like tackling for no reason.
After 17 seasons, it’s past time to put this one to bed and let the iconic franchise finally live on in endless repeats, as the new episodes are a shadow of what the show once was.
14 Criminal Minds
One would think after 11 seasons, the writers would have run out of different ways to present serial killers and their brutal crimes. That thinking is right. This show was intriguing in its early going with an elite FBI team hunting serial killers and showing their troubled minds with a good cast (Thomas Gibson, Shemar Moore, A.J. Cook and others) and some thrilling episodes. That thrill is long gone now, as the show has settled into a pattern of just depraved moments and seeming to go out of its way for dark and gruesome murder scenes just for the hell of it.
The loss of several cast members (Mandy Patinkin famously walked out over the violence while Moore, Paget Brewster and Jennifer Love Hewitt have also left) has made it rougher for some viewers to get into the series. It’s just turned into a freak show that goes too far in its violence and its Beyond Borders spin-off is more about international intrigue than serial killers. Its success in syndication may be a factor in its renewal, but most feel the quality of this series today is what’s truly criminal.
13 Mystery Diners
It’s no secret reality TV shows can often be scripted and acted out. This Food Network series doesn’t seem to make it any secret whatsoever to an insulting point. The idea is that Charles Stiles helps restaurant owners, who suspect shady stuff going on in their restaurants.
The show utilizes hidden cameras (even drones) as well as “undercover operatives” to get at the truth. It’s clear how much acting is involved with the shocked owners watching on monitors as their employees pull stuff that no actual owner could have missed, like robbing from tills, abusing customers, throwing secret parties, even allowing guys on a golf course to drive a cart into a lake.
Somehow, the police are never called in for actions that are clearly criminal, as the employees are confronted and fired, and it seems that’s the end of it. There’s no way any of this stuff can be for real yet the Food Network show continues to push it as such and after eleven seasons, it just proves how some folks can buy almost anything as “reality” despite all evidence to the contrary. The true mystery is how this show wasn’t canned long ago.
12 Dr. Ken
Few things are as bad as seeing a truly funny guy wasted on an unfunny show. Such is the fate for Ken Jeong, who cracked people up in The Hangover movies and Community. Amazingly, he created this cookie-cutter sitcom, in which he plays a doctor who has no patience for his patients. Thus, we have him blowing his top a lot and screeching, which gets very old fast. The bad jokes just make it harder to watch.
Jeong's character has a cliché sitcom family of the put-upon wife, the outgoing teenage daughter and the quirky son. The staff includes a flamboyant gay nurse, a sassy black manager and a boss who constantly makes racist cracks. Somehow this show managed to earn a second season, even thought it is among the more insulting comedies out there. It's a waste of both Jeong’s talent and an attempt at diversity in TV. It goes to show no matter your culture, you can still give viewers a terrible series.
CBS has made its success off of their procedural dramas, but even by their standards, Scorpion is a joke. It’s based on the life of Walter O’Brien, whose lavish claims (he hacked NASA at 13 and created a program that caught the Boston Marathon Bombers) have come into major question. It’s no surprise the show can come off truly ridiculous, as the TV version of Walter leads a group of geniuses who do special jobs for the government.
They group is supposed to be great but they also fall into clichés and Katharine McPhee’s talents wasted as the “normal girl” helping them out. Walter is an arrogant jerk, who refuses to believe in things like love and his smug demeanor is not heroic in any way, so you often find yourself rooting for the bad guys the team goes against.
On top of this, the “scientific methods” they use are regularly derided by actual hackers and computer experts as completely impossible. The show promotes itself as a major thrill ride but it’s a boring mess that somehow earned itself a third season.
10 The Big Bang Theory
That this is television’s highest-rated comedy proves the American public may laugh at just about anything. True, it boasts some great-looking ladies like Kaley Cuoco and Melissa Rauch, but the majority of the series resides on the humor of its ultra-geek male leads. Any real geek or nerd can tell you these guys are a complete insult to their culture. Half the “jokes” are just mentioning various TV shows or comic book characters, and having these genius scientists acting like high school goofs. In one episode, Sheldon calls the actual police when someone hacks his World of Warcraft game.
The attempts at real emotion (Howard and Bernadette expecting a child) are offset by cheap jokes and the banter just coming off as a poorly done comic book convention meeting. It’s still a huge ratings hit but what charm it had faded a long time ago, and too many episodes show this Theory doesn’t offer much bang for the buck after all.
9 Sleepy Hollow
Fans like to talk about all the truly terrific shows that Fox has axed after only a few episodes (Firefly, John Doe, Lone Star, Wonderfalls, it goes on) and how bad those moves were for the network. However, Sleepy Hollow proves that some shows really are better off just having one season. The first year was fantastic as we followed Ichabod Crane (played by Tom Mison) and Abbie Milles (played by Nicole Beharie) tangling with the Headless Horsemen and other evils. It was funny, exciting, offered a clever alternate take on the American Revolution, and the chemistry of the leads was fantastic. The first season culminated in a fantastic finale that seemed ready to up the ante big time. However, season two dragged on with the return of Icabhod’s wife (played by Katia Winter) whose presence marred the relationship of the leads. The second season also got too deeply into mythology, at the cost of undoing the fun of the show.
Things got even worse in season three with too many subplots abounding and word that things behind the scenes weren’t good as Beharie felt pushed out, despite being the co-lead. It all culminated in Abbie being killed off in a finale loathed by fans. The show is coming back for a fourth season but many fans say they won’t be watching and it’s sad to see a fun series collapse on itself to the point of fans groaning when it didn’t get canceled.
8 Grace and Frankie
Given the concept and the talent involved, this Netflix series has no right to be so bad. Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlin play the title characters, two different women who are friends just because their husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterson) are law partners. At a dinner, the two men reveal they’ve been lovers for years and, now that gay marriage is legal, they’re leaving their wives to be together. That’s a great idea for both comedy and drama, but the series fails at both. The clash of the ladies is cliché (Fonda’s the rich professional, Tomlin is the laid-back New Age gal) and both come off feeling flat. The sitcom setups can be painful; their conversation over how to “aid” Fonda’s fling with a younger man is a clear example. Sheen and Waterson do their best but also have some moments that come off preachy on both lifestyle and age, and the reactions of the kids of all involved can range from enjoying this to acting like it’s the end of the world. While the second season improved a bit, it still lacks any real payoff and hurts to see such talented actors wasted on this tripe.
7 The View
Somehow still a ratings winner, the series has become infamous for its massive backstage battles, which can be far more interesting than anything that’s on the screen. It’s gotten to a ridiculous point as Michele Collins has walked off, Candace Cameron, Raven Symone and Paula Faris bring little real insight to the table while Whoopi Goldberg continues to run wild with her opinions.
The show really should have gotten the axe over Jenny McCarthy pushing utter falsehoods on the dangers of vaccination that came off dangerous. The election season has made the political talk even worse. The celebrity interviews are just fluff without any real substance, while the show’s attempts to speak about “real” issues come off downright insulting and remarkable how audiences seem to enjoy these women turning current events into fodder to joke about. This view should have been ended long ago.
6 Fuller House
There’s a very good reason why some shows are better left off in the past. After amassing a huge following in the twenty years since it ended, the ABC sitcom Full House got a revamp for Netflix that reunited pretty much the entire cast, sans the ones who truly mattered, the Olsen Twins. The new series has D.J. (Candace Cameron Bure) raising her daughters, with help from sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and nutty friend Kimmy (Andrea Barber) who moves in with her own daughter.
The other original cast mates (John Stamos, Bob Saget, etc.) pop in to annoy you as the jokes appear to be straight out of the 1990s. The writing so painful that one now-famous review said, “it plays like an adult film parody without the sex.” Ouch. The actresses try, but there really wasn’t anyone screaming out to find out the fates of the Tanners after so long. This proves why some shows simply are not worth reviving and that this House deserved to be foreclosed on.
5 Finding Bigfoot
Nine seasons. That’s right, for nine seasons, this series has followed a band of researchers, as they go around forests trying to find evidence of the mythical creature. You’d think that in all that time, they’d have come across something yet the “evidence” they discover would be laughed at by Fox Mulder.
Each episode is the same as they go to a forest, check it out in the daylight, then at night set up “traps” of cameras and lights to bait a creature that any rational person knows doesn’t actually exist. The “eyewitness encounters” usually come from yokels, who have never been in a forest before and never seem to capture this thing on video so they go to laughable “reenactments”. DNA tests, ultraviolet lights, various scanners, all this time and equipment wasted for cheap scares and “was that…?” moments that are just stupid to watch.
They’ve gone to China and Australia to look at legends there, and for the once respectable Animal Planet to offer this absolute waste of television rather than focus on real creatures makes the network look like a complete joke.
4 2 Broke Girls
Incredibly starting a sixth season this fall, the success of the show apparently rests on the looks of Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs. The series follows Max (Dennings), the sardonic waitress, who forges a partnership with formerly rich Caroline (Behrs).
Max makes jokes about sex and a past of possible abuse treated for laughs. That’s not to mention how the humor goes to constant racist jokes about their short Korean boss, Garrett Morris, making cracks about his past as a drug addict and more very low-brow humor the audience laughs at. Even for Chuck Lorre, this is a badly done comedy and, while the leads can be engaging,the laughs go past cheap to just downright insulting.
Plus, these “broke” girls somehow afford some nice outfits and always look great. So, you can see how this is a “comedy” that should have been taken to the poor house a long time ago.
3 The Real Housewives
It doesn’t matter where it’s located. Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, Beverly Hills, New York, D.C. or Miami. Each installment is the same, as a bunch of women, who are as far away from real as you can get, drink, get together, fight and host lavish parties, all while complaining about their poor lives.
The woman are shrill and annoying to watch. So many of the casts seem interchangeable, and it’s pretty clear how things are being worked and edited to come off far more dramatic than they really are. Even worse is that you can’t blame this on America. There are versions of the show in Australia, England and Canada, which shows how the entire “rich housewife” idea is international, as is the love for some truly awful reality television. Any of these series should have been axed a while ago, as the franchise has lowered the bar for reality TV in so many bad ways.
2 Keeping Up With The Kardashians
Look, we can all admit that Kim Kardashian’s rear end has become something of an icon that’s gained its own amazing pull. We can even see Caitlyn Jenner as a heroine for the transgender community. That doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a clan who put “famous for being famous” on the map and continuing to make things worse.
Whether it’s the main Keeping Up With The Kardashians, or the spin-off of Kourtney & Kim, each episode is just a pack of vapid, self-involved women acting like their petty annoyances are national concerns. True, you have to give it to Kris for turning her daughter’s sex tape into a multi-million dollar empire, but each show is just getting worse with Dash Dolls about the people who work for the Kardashian clothing store. Rob is even about to get his own series with him and his wife. These women are great to look at, but the actual shows are painful to watch. While it may be a bit much to blame them for the downfall of society, there’s no denying that reality TV has hit a new low thanks to them.
1 The Bachelor/The Bachleorette
Somehow, some way, this ABC series has turned into a reality show juggernaut despite how each season is utterly and horribly vapid. The enjoyment of seeing these women/men willing to degrade themselves to win a proposal from someone they’ve known for a couple of weeks faded a long time ago.
It’s now a train wreck of making these participants look like desperate losers, harpies, gold-diggers and bimbos, sending the completely wrong message on how to “win” a husband or wife over the competitions. The staged ceremonies and events are hard to watch and the show has undergone lawsuits exposing how much of it is manipulated.
The female spin-off is just as bad, if not worse, by showing a woman putting up with these guys lusting for her and situations that can come off incredibly sexist. Both series just make love in today’s world look like a joke and send the wrong idea on what people should act like. Both of these shows should have been axed a long time ago to free us from a wave of reality “stars” that make ABC look worse for airing them.