The problem with many shows today is that a good deal of them should have just been one-off specials or movies, not full-blown TV/streaming series. The creators of these failed programs either ran with a really great idea and drove it into the ground by rehashing it over and over and over again, or tried to prevent their stories from falling into a repetitive rut by introducing something different immediately. But, by doing so, they ended up hurting the very thing that made their creation awesome.
Basically, the art of cooking up the perfect show is really, really hard to get right. Even though there are so many ingredients involved, just one deviation from the recipe could be (and usually is) catastrophic. Some might say that the pilot is the most difficult part of the process, but those followups are hella crucial too and that’s what we’re focusing on here.
Many of the shows on this list either had a great pilot episode, but then failed horribly afterwards or just should’ve just stopped after that debut because it was just so bad…but didn’t.
15 American Idol
There were many things to love about American Idol. It was always great...nay...utterly enjoyable to watch the dreams of the show’s contestants die; all of whom ostensibly succumbed to what was essentially a vast epidemic that plagued modern America during the show’s run, a malady where the “singer” suffered from a complete severance from reality, whereby they fell under the highly misguided notion that their shrieks and total disregard for the art of singing “on key” would somehow win over the hearts of the judges.
It was an extra bonus when we literally got to watch—in real time, mind you—the joy and anticipation drain from the eyes of the contestants whenever they performed horribly, especially when they broke down in tears or lashed out in anger.
Cry, puppet, cry! And judge Simon Cowell just made it all better.
But let’s be honest. All of this happened in the first episode. In essence, we’ve seen 555 variances of episode 1. Seriously, nothing new has happened since then.
And all we’ve gotten in return are horrible singers who believe they should release a copious amount of their own “original” material because they could sing popular covers. Yes, we're looking at you, Kelly Clarkson.
14 Star Trek: Enterprise
Don’t get us wrong. We love Star Trek (well, at least, this writer does). All of the franchise’s installations that came out prior to this train wreck were glorious.
Even for all those die-hard Trekkies who believe that every reiteration of humanity’s venture into space under the flag of the United Federation of Planets is a masterpiece, it’s not. And “science” is not on their side.
Enterprise’s first episode, “Broken Bow” was quite good. Even critics liked it. One reviewer from The Boston Herald even used words like “impeccable” and “strong” to describe it. But after that pilot episode, things just started to go downhill...or should we say, it cascaded down from the skies like a burning meteorite? Many publications, including Starlog Magazine, claimed Enterprise was broken. Probably the most amusing critique came from Entertainment Weekly’s Tom Russo who said, “It’s dead Jim–almost.”
From this writer’s perspective, the only worthwhile character was T’Pol and that’s knowing full well that she’s probably the most cliché character in the Star Trek universe, meant to be some sort of male version of Spock. That Vulcan/human dicho is old.
Fans around the globe are still crying over Fox’s apt decision to pull the rug out from under their favorite new show, Firefly. But, truth be told, they’re lucky to have gotten anything beyond a pilot.
Not only did Firefly fail to present anything new—jumping on the zombie bandwagon by giving us what can essentially be defined as space “zombies” and presenting a universe where the equity gap between the rich and the poor was at an all-time high—but what it did do differently, failed. Put lightly, there are no awesome giant space battles.
Then, we had Firefly’s ambivalent push towards cramming Western and Eastern cultures into some sort of sick, twisted, deformed amalgamation. Heck, there’s one scene in the original pilot, “Serenity,” when Mal is using chopsticks and drinking from a Western cup. We get it. There’s a mix. Stop cramming it down our throats.
In the end, the only reason why there was a Firefly cult in the first place is because it was the work of Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Making Firefly only gave “oxygen” for his horrific Buffy fan base to thrive on. As a review in MSN said, “All of Whedon’s fingerprints are there: the witty dialogue, the quirky premises and dark exploration of human fallacy.” Firefly is Buffy Part Two…in space.
12 The Walking Dead
We’re going to try and cram as many bad puns into this “intro” sentence as possible. What made The Walking Dead such a walking disaster was that it freakin’ dove into a world filled with such a gratuitous amount of blood, gore, and violence that it ended up cannibalizing upon itself until it was nothing more than a stumbling zombie.
But you’re probably thinking, “Hey, The Walking Dead has the highest total viewership of any series in cable television history!”
We don’t care! Basically, there’s so much senseless killing that even those who suffer from extreme bloodlust (like this writer) start getting bored. Plus, the first episode is such a blatant rip off of 21 Days Later that it just begs the question: Why couldn’t the creators just try to come up with something a little different?
It was only popular because people like the same old story told at them again and again. Just pressing replay on that first episode is going to give you the same exact things that you’d get from later episodes. So why even bother?
11 Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The very premise of this “show” is oxymoronic. In a world of superheroes, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), a high-ranking non-metahuman, works with his fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. humans…but without superheroes.
Why in the name of Thor would you focus on not just the most boring characters in a particular franchise but focus on the most boring characters who are not superheroes in a franchise that is all about superheroes? By creating this show, you’ve only added to the secret agent/spy/police/CSI-type white noise that saturates the airwaves.
The only reason why S.H.I.E.L.D. stands out is because the creators were able to slap the word “Marvel” to the show’s title, automatically putting it into the now-cool superhero category, even though it has nothing to do with superheroes.
Here’s a good data point: Despite TheWrap.com identifying the pilot as the biggest network drama debut in four years, ratings declined sharply immediately afterwards. Superheroes sell. But, oops! There are no superheroes here.
10 Grace And Frankie
While we’re sad to include this Netflix Original Series on the list, there’s a reason we did. Sure, the show has had its fair share of moments (which, admittedly, are becoming scarcer and scarcer with each episode), but it’s been unable to top that glorious pilot.
That inaugural step into the realm of Grace and Frankie had it all. It illustrated a life-altering blow that was, almost immediately, dealt to two elderly yet highly vivacious women (a blow that can be defined as nothing short of devastating) and portrayed it in a highly dynamic way that was both terribly amusing and yet impressively realistic by artfully intertwining the right (dare we say perfect?) level of humor into a dramatic moment of self-discovery without drowning it. Heck, that period was enhanced by it!
While the show has continued exploring the complexity of how both Grace and Frankie have adapted to their new life, it has, however, lost the core of what made Netflix’s series so compelling and resonate. Grace and Frankie are no longer defined by their past respective marriages. Sure, allowing Grace and Frankie to overcome something almost insurmountable has empowered them, but the ways in which both women originally tried to cope with their new life, based on their initial relationships with their husbands was what made the show truly shine. Now it’s gone.
9 Parks And Recreation
Parks and Recreation was a confusing beast. It basically jumped on the coattails of The Office by trying to live on (and in turn, create more of) the fumes that drove the latter—a “mockumentary” style of production which was already sputtering out by that time. Except, rather than taking place in a failing paper supply company, this new “mockumentary” mocked the hell out of the goings on in a parks and rec government department in a fictional town known as Pawnee, but set in a very real state, Indiana. This Office-Parks-and-Recreation comparison was all the more blatantly obvious by the fact that a previous character who appeared on The Office was now one of the main stars in this “remake”—Rashida Jones as Ann Perkins.
But what was even stranger about Parks and Recreation was that the lead protagonist, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), began as basically a female carbon copy of The Office’s Michael Scott (Steve Carell). However, this “copycat” version of Michael lasted for only a few episodes before Leslie’s character grew into her own. Sure, she was still quirky as all heck, but Leslie didn’t suffer from extreme stupidity as Michael did.
Even though this stark replication was originally unwanted, by the time Leslie became less like Mike, it soon became apparent just how much she needed to be like him. Now she was just annoying. And she was just going to get a whole lot worse.
The premise of this show was interesting because it revolved around a fictitious high school glee club. But that “intriguing” premise was also the very thing that undermined its status as a television show.
The force which drove Glee were the songs, not the show itself. Sure, the glee clubbers dealt with social issues, such as s*xuality, race, and relationships, but all of those were just fillers. What we wanted were the songs. Everyone’s conversation with their TV went something like this during each episode: “Shut up and just sing already!”
This irony was exemplified by the time in which Glee aired (from May 19, 2009 to March 20, 2015). Music videos were, even then, going the way of the buffalo. No one cares about MTV. And yet, Glee was essentially trying to revive the concept of “watching” music…and inevitably failed.
This can be proven just by looking at what their songs achieved (outside the realm of television) in comparison to how the show did as a whole. For one, 25 singles from Glee charted on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2009, which is a tremendous deal, seeing as no other artist had been able to get that many songs on the Billboard in one year; save for the Beatles, who were able to chart 31 in 1964.
What’s more, Glee shattered its already impressive record (and in turn, the Beatles’ feat) the next year by getting 80 songs on the Billboard Hot 100. Now onto the show itself. On Rotten Tomatoes, the show’s ratings have never been able to surmount its first reason, steadily going down from one to five (minus Seasons 4 and 6), scoring 88, 86, 60, 69, 40, and 67, respectively. In other words, Glee should have been a performing group. Not a bunch of TV stars.
7 A Series Of Unfortunate Events
We really wanted to like this show. We really did. The atmosphere was gloriously dark, complete with ample doses of satire and sarcasm. All of which just added extra icing to an already deliciously well-iced cake.
Unlike many shows on this list, even the pilot of this particular Netflix Original Series was unwatchable.
The problem with Barburton’s performance was not his fault. He was the show’s very involved narrator (kinda like Rob Serling in the Twilight Zone). At first, all the times in which he jumped into the story to narrate something that happened was most welcome. But after a while, his appearances became annoying interruptions, even blatantly unwarranted.As for Harris? He’s just How I Met Your Mother’s Barney Stinson with an abnormally large nose.
People like to hate on Friends because it was crazy popular. Heck, it still is. Remember when Netflix added the show to its streaming service? We’re still surprised this didn’t break the internet.
While there are many problems with Friends, we’re not going to touch it. We will, however, touch the heck out of Joey (pun intended), mostly because of what NBC did to this lovable character portrayed by Matt Le Blanc.
Kevin S. Bright, director of this commercial flop, explained it best. In Friends, even though Joey was a womanizer, we still loved him because...well...his exploits were humorous and even innocuous. He was also a “solid friend” and a guy you “could count on.” But then, in Joey, Joey “became a pathetic, mopey character.”
Numbers don’t lie. Even though NBC pushed the heck out of it (Joey premiered on the former time slot of Friends), its ratings continued to fall until NBC canceled it...in the middle of its second season.
5 The Brady Bunch Hour
We’re going to show you just how bad this spin-off series was by talking about That ’70s Show.
Huh? Bear with us.
In an episode of That ’70s Show, the entire Forman family decide to watch the Brady Bunch Hour but are forced to stop because of how bad it is, with Red going so far as saying “This show is crap!” Red was right. The show is crap.
Aside from the fact that the premise of The Brady Bunch Hour shamelessly promoted the network on which it aired (ABC), the story was equally as shallow. The Bradys, because they are so awesome, get a gig on ABC in Southern California, forcing us all to watch these fictional ABC episodes, complete with embarrassing song-and-dance performances as well as “behind the scenes” footage of the Bradys living in their new home.
It was so bad that TV Guide ranked it at number four in its 2002 list of 50 worst television series…in American history. History! But wait, there’s more! In later Brady Bunch revival series and TV reunion movies, the characters were apparently so “ashamed” by what went on in Southern California that they never talked about it...ever. Not even briefly.
4 Keeping Up With The Kardashians
The outcry from critics that’s spawned from the trainwreck that is Keeping Up with the Kardashians is so prolific that the sheer number of negative critiquing are, while remarkably impressive, actually overshadowed by how diverse and profound the “Kardashian bashing” pool has become…and continues to grow.
Probably the main highlight can be found from what Rob Sheffield, in a Rolling Stone article, said about these “characters.” In his analysis, Rob generated a rather extensive, colorful list where he accurately pointed out the things in which viewers desperately look for in a reality TV show (and ultimately find in the Kardashians), but shun in real life: “Their gargantuan egos, their petty jealousies, their catty feuds, the effort-vs.-eye-roll they put into reciting their lines [and] their commitment to frivolity at all costs.”
By so doing, Rob in turn, identified an important truth about human nature—we lavish in the stupidity of others just as long as we don’t know or care about the people doing them…and don’t try to imitate their dumbness.
3 Jersey Shore
Do we really need to explain ourselves here? Not really. But it’s quite enjoyable jabbing this easily “jabbable” show.
Aside from the stupidity that is reality TV, Jersey Shore did a whole lot of swimming…that is, swimming in controversy…more so than in the actual waters beyond the shores of New Jersey in which the series was set. Much of its well-warranted criticism spawned from the ways in which MTV unabashedly tried to promote the show’s characters by liberally throwing around the term “guido,” an ethnic slur used to describe Italians and Italian Americans. This led to the Italian American Group asking MTV to cancel the show, in addition to UNICO National, the National Italian American Foundation, the Order Sons of Italy in America, and the internet watch-dog ItalianAware.
Heck, even Governor Christie got involved. He vetoed a $420,000 tax incentive which was awarded to the show by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
2 Hannah Montana
The main problem with Disney’s Hannah Montana isn’t that we were exposed to and literally dragged through the muck of not one, but two, different examples of teenage life (your average snot-nosed brat experiencing everyday “schoolgirl” problems and the “glamorous” life that is a recording artist which only exacerbates the bratty-ness of adolescence). No. It’s the fact that Hannah Montana gave the “star” of the show, Miley Cyrus, the means to actually pursue a career in “music” and the freedom to explore her distasteful, controversial lifestyle.
Interestingly enough, Cyrus began “experimenting” in living provocatively during the later years of the show, in what would soon be her shtick. JSYK, an AOL-owned service, recognized her as the worst celebrity influence in 2010 and 2011. While others, like the Culture and Media Institute and New York Post, described her as the epitome of the anti-role model for young girls and blaming her for duping her young audience, respectively.
In other words, if Disney had just dropped the show after the pilot episode, we may never have been subjected to the horror that is Miley Cyrus in pop. Why couldn’t she have been more like Hilary Duff!?
1 Uncle Grandpa
These days, cartoons tend to delve into the grotesque and are normally set in LCD-esque worlds that feel as though they’re actually composed of hallucinogenic properties. It’s surprising (and a blessing) that kids worldwide don’t suffer from severe panic attacks every time they watch them.
Uncle Grandpa is probably the most terrifying of the bunch, and it really makes you wonder what the hell the executives at Cartoon Network were thinking when they gave it the green light. Uncle Grandpa, as his name suggests, is a terrifying figure who is related to everybody. While never said outright, the fact that he’s known as the uncle-grandpa and brother-dad of every child and adult means that he must've had “intimate” relations with every woman on the planet (and even traveled through time to perform these acts), making the world some sort of cesspool of inbred freaks.
And the deformed way everyone is drawn supports that.
The “premise” is positive enough. This so-named Uncle Grandpa basically visits the houses of his brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, sons, daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters to see how they’re doing and helps them out through their own troubles (and, seeing as they’re all inbred, it’s not a surprise that they have a myriad of problems). But it’s how he “helps” them that’s truly terrifying.