Whether it is due to poor ratings, bad acting, too high of a budget, or a ridiculous premise, several TV shows fail every year. But not all of them fail this hard.
Here are some of the biggest failures ever to grace the small screen. Recognize any of them?
Set in 2149, Terra Nova followed a group of colonizers that traveled to a parallel time stream to a prehistoric version of Earth. Why? Current Earth couldn’t sustain lasting life due to the heavy cost of depleting resources. The show’s plot was reflected behind the scenes, as the show itself died due to heavy costs.
The show’s pilot reportedly cost between $16 to $20 million! Afterward, each episode cost an average of $4 million due to the extravagant sets and visual effects. The show needed to be a record-breaking hit to justify the costs, but it fell short, leading it to be canceled after one season.
The show billed as “The Love Boat but on a futuristic, nuclear-powered train” was the most expensive TV show ever made at the time. NBC’s Supertrain was incredibly costly, partly due to the $10 million that was spent on models of the trains that would often crash.
If the production costs weren’t bad enough, the show was slammed by critics and viewers tuned out due it’s poor paper-thin plots. The show got derailed and was canceled after only nine episodes had aired. This show in conjunction with the boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics nearly bankrupted NBC at the time.
The Bionic Woman (2007)
The 2007 reboot of the 1970s show cost way more than an actual Six Million Dollar Man. The Bionic Woman cost $7.4 million to produce, had a $4 million per episode budget, and spent $15 million on marketing alone. In spite of the financial backing, it couldn’t fight against bad ratings and worse luck.
The show failed to win over critics and viewership was dropping, but the 2007 strike by the Writers Guild of America immediately caused production to stop after only a handful of episodes had aired. When the strike ended, interest in the show completely died so the show itself died along with it.
As a fictional royal drama set in the current day but loosely based on the biblical King David, Kings was already a tough sell. Yet NBC believed in the concept enough to reportedly feed $10 million to Kings’ pilot episode and allocating $4 million for each episode afterward.
However, this king’s ransom didn’t pay off.
In spite of mostly positive reviews, the show declined in the ratings. NBC moved its time slot and underpromoted it, which only lead to even lower ratings. In part of these odd marketing moves, the show was not renewed and was canceled after 13 episodes.
Camelot was a highly priced TV show based on the lore of King Arthur, costing the Starz network $7 million per episode. Reviews were mixed but leaning towards positive for the sword-and-sorcery series, but viewers just weren’t tuning in. The show was canceled after a single season.
The costly nature of the show and competing against the fantasy drama Game of Thrones, which had a more mature storyline. Also, production for a second season was unlikely due to the conflicting schedules of the show’s high profile stars, Ralph Fiennes and Eva Green. With that in mind, Starz pulled the plug.
NBC must have thought, “If you’re going to bother to have an event, you’re gonna have to make it The Event!” The network spent $15 million marketing The Event and it is rumored that the pilot for the show itself also cost $15 million. The story of space aliens being hidden in plain sight or imprisoned by our government can’t fail, right?
While the pilot was praised and got huge ratings, The Event failed to keep the momentum. The show’s narrative technique heavily used flashbacks, which made it difficult for some viewers to keep track of the story. Due to the heavy expenses and low ratings, The Event was only a season long.
FlashForward follows the lives of several people after a mysterious worldwide event caused them to lose consciousness for 137 seconds and glimpse at their lives six months into the future before waking up in their own time. Oddly, it seemed like the show’s plot happened to its producers since they seemed to know what was coming.
Before the end of the first season, showrunners Marc Guggenheim and David S. Goyer left the show to pursue other ventures. While the show had good reviews, the low ratings and high production costs were enough reason for ABC to not renew the series after its first season.
An adaptation of the BBC series Blackpool, Viva Laughlin was a musical-comedy-drama focused on a businessman trying to open a casino in Laughlin, Nevada. With movie star Hugh Jackman as one of the stars and producers of a proven property, the show looked like a hit on paper.
Then the pilot aired.
The $6.8 million pilot episode tanked in the ratings and was skewered by critics. It failed so hard and so fast that CBS pulled the show off of its schedule after only two episodes! America just wasn’t ready for a casino drama that is interrupted by musical numbers.
Battlestar Galactica (1978)
While the 2004 reboot of Battlestar Galactica had commercial success, its initial 1978 series barely left our star system. While the show initially had good ratings, its financial issues and the sitcom All in the Family took it down faster than any Cylon spacecraft.
The show reportedly cost $1 million per episode (over $3 million after inflation) and struggled after CBS moved All in the Family into its time slot. On top of that, the show got into a costly lawsuit with 20th Century Fox, who claimed the show stole 34 distinct ideas from Star Wars. ABC shut the show down after 24 episodes.
Co-created by Martin Scorcese, Mick Jagger, Rich Cohen, and Terence Winter, Vinyl had all of the ingredients to succeed. Set in the 1970s, Vinyl followed the exploits of a record executive as he tries to forge a career through New York City’s diverse music scene.
So what happened?
While the critics’ reviews of the show were mixed to positive, Vinyl just plain didn’t get the ratings it was promising. Nostalgia for the 1970s only did so much and the uneven storytelling led HBO executives to give it the ax, thinking that it wasn’t worth their time to retool it. Ouch.
The Fugitive (2000)
The remake of the 1960s TV show, 2000’s The Fugitive essentially had the same plot. Tim Daly played Dr. Richard Kimble, a man wrongfully accused of murdering his wife and on the run from the law, trying to find the real killer.
While the show garnered critical praise and award nominations, it didn’t get the viewership numbers. Being that it was an adaptation of a previous series and a successful movie of the same name, most audiences thought the plot was stale and played out. The show’s $7 million pilot episode didn’t help the show either in terms of its budget.
Manimal was an action-adventure show featuring a man who can shape shift into any animal… as long as it was a hawk or a panther. While sometimes he could transform into a third animal on occasion, it wasn’t enough to get sci-fi fans or, well, anyone interested.
The show did so poorly in the ratings that it was put on hiatus after only four episodes had aired. The show reappeared a month later to showcase its final four episodes before it was finally put to sleep. It has made several “Worst TV Shows of All Time” lists, including this one.
“What if a police drama was also a musical?,” said the person who created Cop Rock. In 1990, viewers were “treated” to the sing-song exploits of the Los Angeles Police Department. With scenes involving a judge delivering sentences via song and a Gospel-singing jury, it didn’t connect with most viewers.
After eleven episodes, the Cop Rock experiment was canceled due to low ratings. Even crossovers with characters from Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law couldn’t save it. While the show is universally seen as terrible, it was still re-broadcasted on VH1 and A&E Networks under an “it’s so bad it’s good” mindset.
In order to compete against HBO’s hit show, Game of Thrones, Netflix spent $90 million for 10 episodes of Marco Polo. Executives thought that a drama featuring Polo’s time with the Mongols could compete in popularity with George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic. They were dead wrong.
Critics gave the show negative reviews, and the show got little buzz from Netflix subscribers. Netflix officials put more money into the show for a second season but did not renew it for a third due to an even cooler response. In the end, Netflix reported a $200 million loss on Marco Polo. Yikes.
Father of the Pride
Father of the Pride was doomed from the start. The show centered around a family of white lions, with the father being a show lion in Siegfried & Roy’s Las Vegas show. Computer animation takes time, so while the show was conceived in 2002, it couldn’t debut until 2004.
During production in 2003, Roy was attacked by one of his lions.
The poor timing of Roy’s incident combined with the bad writing led to weak ratings, in spite of being heavily promoted during the 2004 Olympics. The cost of promotion and the animation also led to its downfall, with the show being pulled from the air after 15 episodes.
The ½ Hour News Hour
Fox News had long wanted a conservative bent on news satire shows such as The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update segment, so they decided to make one of their own. The ½ Hour News Hour featured comedy sketches featuring comedians and notable conservative figures such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.
The show was universally panned by critics, stating that the jokes were predictable and felt uninspired. Audiences felt the same. In spite of an initial spike in the ratings, the show’s popularity took a nosedive week after week since its debut. It was canceled within its first season.
2013’s Dads was a simple story of two video game developers whose lives are completely rattled when their dads decide to move in with them. While the premise had a modern twist on the classic “two generations trying to understand each other” story, audiences found the story and the jokes staler than the overplayed premise.
Television critics gave the show heavily negative reviews, and the general public was quick to follow suit. For a while, Dads held a rare (and atrocious) 0% rating the Rotten Tomatoes review website. With poor ratings and terrible reviews, Dads only lasted a single season.
In 2012, some bright minds at ABC thought the world would enjoy a sitcom about two men who have to dress up as women in order to keep a job in a bad economy. That was the idea behind Work It. This idea was both a bad idea and a very costly idea for ABC.
Due to its controversial nature and hacky humor, the show was torched by critics while audiences simply changed the channel. The show was so poorly received that only two of its 13 episodes aired. The other 11 episodes were never released on streaming or DVD.
One famous Geico commercial tagline was “So easy, even a caveman can do it.” This successful ad campaign made executives at ABC think that the mildly amusing cavemen were good enough for their own sitcom, not just car insurance commercials. In fact, they thought the show would be a good metaphor regarding race relations.
Audiences disagreed. Early viewings of Cavemen‘s pilot were torn apart, with critics saying that it was racist comparing cavemen to African-Americans. The pilot never aired on TV, but the other 12 episodes were scheduled. Only six of them made it to air before ABC pulled the show due to low ratings.
In the 1970s, the spy show Charlie’s Angels provided equal parts of female empowerment and male fantasy, at least for that time and era. To repeat a successful formula, ABC decided to reboot a new version of Charlie’s Angels in 2011.
Considering only seven episodes aired in the US, it didn’t work.
Critics knocked the show’s poor acting, needless action sequences, and confusing plot lines. They also the serious nature of the reboot hurt the show since most audiences were expecting some campy elements like in the original series. Bad reviews and bad ratings killed the show and gave it angels’ wings.
Marvel has some of the most successful superhero-based movies and television shows in history, but the Inhumans is considered by many as its greatest failure. Inhumans follows a superpowered monarchy settling in Hawaii after it flees a military coup. In spite of a built-in audience, the show was canceled after eight episodes.
Audiences were saturated with so many other Marvel entertainment and felt that Inhumans was underwhelming in terms of its story, its acting, and all other facets compared to Marvel’s other shows and films. The low ratings and the unfavorable response from superhero fans led to the show’s demise.
Stalker was about two cops, one who has a problematic history and one that was a stalking victim, teaming up to take down dangerous stalkers before they go too far in their obsessions. While realism in TV shows is important, it is still entertainment and the characters have to be likable.
Critics of the show found it off-putting due to its portrayal of the sensitive subject matter, making it difficult for viewers to suspend their disbelief and enjoy it. The characters, specifically Dylan McDermott’s Jack Larson, were also difficult to root for. The show was canceled after a single season.
$#*! My Dad Says
Ever watch a sitcom based on a social media account? $#*! My Dad Says was a 2010 sitcom based on a Twitter feed run by Justin Halpern. The account is full of hilarious words of wisdom and politically incorrect musings uttered by Halpern’s father. But the sitcom failed to achieve the Twitter feed’s success.
In spite of getting William Shatner as a featured lead, the show struggled in the ratings. There was also a controversy with the FCC regarding the show’s title, being that it highlighted an explicit word. With that hassle and its low ratings, the show was canceled in a single season.
Knight Rider (2008)
Based on the 1980s hit, 2008’s Knight Rider was focused on the son of Michael Knight from the first series and following in his father’s footsteps as the crime-solving driver of a talking supercar. By trying to appeal to those nostalgic for the old show while trying to be a new show, it pleased no one.
The show was scheduled to run for 22 episodes but had its number reduced to 17 after so-so ratings. There was also a period of retooling, having the show focus more on Michael and KITT but it wasn’t enough. The show’s ratings were side-swiped, so it was not renewed after its first season.
The Dana Carvey Show
In the early 1990s, Dana Carvey was one of the hottest sketch performers on Saturday Night Live, so naturally, ABC wanted him to develop a sketch show for their network. On paper, it was a home run, but things went afoul when The Dana Carvey Show was paired next to the family sitcom Home Improvement.
While it has since become a cult favorite, The Dana Carvey Show was loaded with crude humor that went against the family-friendly programming of its time slot. After losing sponsors due to its content and declining ratings, the show was pulled after only six episodes.
Joanie Loves Chachi
For 255 episodes, audiences enjoyed the antics of the Fonz on Happy Days, so naturally, it spawned successful spin-offs such as Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy. So ABC thought another hit was on the way when they decided to give longtime Happy Days characters Joanie and Chachi their own show.
The show didn’t set the world on fire, getting low ratings due to the show’s writers being unfamiliar with the characters among other reasons. After 17 episodes, the show was declared a dud and was canceled. Joanie and Chachi returned to Milwaukee to get married in the Happy Days series finale.
I Wanna Marry “Harry”
In 2014, twelve American women competed for the affections of Prince Harry on a reality TV program. What these women didn’t know was that “Prince Harry” was actually a look-alike actor. Fox thought that the premise was hilarious. Audiences did not.
Critics thought I Wanna Marry “Harry” was too similar to Joe Millionaire, a reality show that had a similar premise. Many viewers also thought it was too cruel of a trick or felt that the contestants were too stupid to root for, as “Harry” was had a questionable resemblance to the real prince. Only four episodes aired before it was axed.
The Chevy Chase Show
In 1993, Fox wanted to have their own version of a late-night talk show. Based on his successful movie career and fanbase, they tapped comedian Chevy Chase and offered him $3 million to host his own show. The Chevy Chase Show only lasted five weeks before being taken off the air.
Advertisers were promised that the show would bring in five to six million people watching per week, but the show barely broke two million viewers. Chase was also halfway out of the door, focusing more on his upcoming film Cops and Robbersons. Low ratings and Chase’s lack of interest in the show itself led to its cancellation.
The CBS sitcom, Rob, starred comedian Rob Schneider as a man who marries into a close-knit Mexican family. The sitcom focused on the culture clash and Rob trying his best to connect with his wife’s parents, leading to “hilarious” results.
Only eight episodes aired.
The show had several unfavorable reviews among TV critics, citing that the show relied on Mexican stereotyping and criticism regarding the lack of Latin-American writers and producers on the staff.
The cringe-worthy jokes only managed to turn audiences, and their televisions, off. Midway through the first season, the show was canceled due to such low ratings.
My Mother the Car
While shopping for a used car, an attorney discovers that a broken-down car in the lot actually contains the spirit of his deceased mother. He buys it and gets life advice from his bizarre hybrid mom/vehicle. This is the absurd plot of My Mother the Car, a show that actually existed.
The bizarre premise of this sitcom couldn’t rev up viewership and it stalled in the ratings. The show was flooded with mother-in-law jokes and had a cartoonish villain, Captain Mancini, a man obsessed with obtaining the mother-infused car. The show only lasted one season because of course, it did.
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