What makes a bad TV show truly awful? Normally, it’s a combination of things: poor production quality, questionable directing, sub-standard acting and weak scripts. The best TV shows are often celebrated, but those that fail to impress tend to be completely forgotten, forever consigned to the scrapheap of small-screen failures.
It’s probably for the best that way, but let’s remind ourselves of the shows critics hated the most by using data compiled by review aggregator website Metacritic. Their all-time list of the worst TV shows (from 1995 onward) ranks show seasons according to their critical reception.
Prepare yourself for some cutting comments as we count down the top 25.
25. ‘Hawaii’ (2004)
Police shows generally have great luck on TV but “Hawaii” was guilty of the crime of being dull. This NBC series starred “The Terminator’s” Michael Biehn and Sharif Atkins as new partners on the job in that beautiful state. The Dallas Morning News pulled no punches in its review of the show’s first — and only — season, writing, “This is no ‘Hawaii Five-O.’ It’s ‘Hawaii Zero.'” Only seven episodes were aired before it was thrown to the sharks.
24. ‘Happy Hour’ (2006)
This short-lived series came from two writers from the beloved series, “That ’70s Show” but it didn’t fare nearly as well. “Happy Hour” aired on Fox in 2006 for just four episodes before being relegated to the junk pile. The show was about a guy who moves to Chicago for a girlfriend and a job but loses them both upon arrival, leaving him stuck with a new roommate. John Sloan and Lex Medlin were the stars, along with Nat Faxon, who would get more acclaim in the FX series, “Married.”
23. ‘The Trouble with Normal’ (2000)
Of the 13 episodes of “The Trouble with Normal” ordered by ABC, only six were aired before the series was canceled. The show, which follows the lives of four men (played by John Cryer, Larry Joe Campbell, David Krumholtz and Brad Raider) and their therapist (Paget Brewster) in New York City, was universally panned by critics. One review in The San Diego Union-Tribune described the “rhythm and cadence of the show” as “fake as a current coffee commercial that’s a satire of ‘Friends’.” Ouch.
22. ‘Tucker’ (2000-2001)
NBC’s coming-of-age comedy, “Tucker,” starring Eli Marienthal (“American Pie”) in the titular role, failed to hit the spot with critics or viewers and was canceled after 12 episodes. “A dopey comedy deserves a dopey assessment: ‘Tucker’ sucks. Please make it go away,” wrote the Detroit Free Press. Most recently, Marienthal has starred in the comedy web series, “The North Pole,” produced by Rosario Dawson.
Netflix’s black comedy, “Insatiable” caused controversy when it first aired in 2018. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition likening its premise of an overweight girl losing weight and becoming popular to fat-shaming and demanding the streaming service cancel the show before it even aired. Critics weren’t much more supportive; Business Insider called it “an offensive mess that goes way beyond fat shaming,” and The Hollywood Reporter called out “an egregious amount of voiceovers that are not only annoying and unfunny, but mask weak plotting.”
20. ‘Killer Instinct’ (2005)
Fox’s police drama series, “Killer Instinct” details the most unusual crimes committed in San Francisco and the efforts of law enforcement to solve them, led by Detective Jack Hale (Johnny Messner) of the city’s Deviant Crimes Division.
“You won’t see any worse acting across the broadcast spectrum,” warned the San Francisco Chronicle. “The writing is atrocious. The series is horrifically bad.” It was axed nine episodes into its 13-episode run.
19. ‘Unan1mous’ (2006)
Hosted by J.D. Roth, the Fox reality TV series, “Unan1mous,” aired for only eight episodes. Ratings were actually pretty good, with audiences apparently on board with the concept of nine strangers being locked in a bunker, with no contact with the outside world, unable to leave until they unanimously agree to award one of the contestants the substantial prize money. However, critics were scathing. The Washington Post called it “tortuous” and “flat-out dull.”
18. ‘Woops!’ (1992)
Another Fox flop, the post-apocalyptic comedy, “Woops!”, starred Lane Davies, Evan Handler and Meagan Fay as survivors of a nuclear holocaust, trying to re-establish civilization from an abandoned farmhouse. It only reached 10 episodes before it joined the ranks of canceled TV shows, much to the relief of critics.
“‘Woops!’ is moronic on so many levels,” wrote Newsday. That title is also truly terrible, right?
17. ‘Modern Men’ (2006)
Clueless about the opposite sex, childhood friends Tim, Kyle and Doug seek the help of renowned life coach Dr. Stangel (Jane Seymour). When its network, The WB, merged with UPN to form new network The CW, a lack of available time slots, combined with low ratings, led to the cancellation of “Modern Men.” And then there were the reviews.
“A waste of money, time and only an elder generation of talent,” wrote Daily News. Meanwhile, The Philadelphia Inquirer described it as “one of the most flat-footed sitcoms of the year.”
16. ‘October Road’ (2007-2008)
In soap opera terms, “October Road” was on TV screens for the equivalent of five minutes. It follows Nick Garrett (Bryan Greenberg) on his return to his hometown of Knights Ridge, Massachusetts, after ten years away. It aired for two seasons on ABC before being axed, which makes it one of the longer-running shows on the list. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette didn’t hold back in its criticism, calling the pilot episode “one of the most clumsily plotted, illogical drama pilots to be produced in years.”
15. ‘10.5: Apocalypse’ (2006)
The sequel to 2004’s “10.5,” the NBC miniseries “10.5: Apocalypse” follows volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and other catastrophic disasters triggered by an apocalyptic earthquake. Starring Beau Bridges, Dean Cain and Kim Delaney, it wasn’t received well by critics.
“Everything about [it] is so lousy, it’s difficult to pick just one failure,” said Entertainment Weekly. Both miniseries were said to be full of factual errors about what would happen in such a situation.
14. ‘I Wanna Marry ‘Harry” (2014)
Before Prince Harry married Meghan Markle and became a doting husband and father, he was a single royal about town. Someone at Fox actually thought this was the ideal basis for a reality TV show. In a nutshell, 12 American women were presented with a fake “Harry” — whether they actually believed he was the real deal is debatable.
“The women’s cluelessness is profound,” wrote People, while the Los Angeles Times summed it up as “a practical joke in the form of a reality show.” Only four episodes aired, so we never got to find out who “won.”
13. ‘Identity’ (2006-2007)
“Identity,” the reality/game show hosted by magician Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller fame) drew comparisons to “Deal or No Deal,” but failed to replicate that show’s huge success. NBC only aired the show for 12 episodes across 2006 and 2007 before it disappeared from the airwaves forever.
“‘Identity’ is to game shows what a gastric bypass is to dieting: a choice that defies convention and social niceties,” wrote The New York Times.
12. ‘Uncle Buck’ (2016)
The 1989 movie, “Uncle Buck,” will always be a family favorite; the reboot TV show … not so much. This ABC comedy series only aired for one season, and while critics recognized the talents of Mike Epps in the titular role, his performance alone wasn’t enough to make the show a hit.
“‘Uncle Buck’ offers a relative minimum of offensiveness, very few laughs, only hints at Epps’ actual capabilities and runs a decent cast through stories you’ve seen done better on countless sitcoms,” wrote The Hollywood Reporter.
11. ‘Knight Rider’ (2008-2009)
Some 26 years after the original “Knight Rider” aired (giving the world David Hasselhoff, if nothing else), the 2008 reboot, with Val Kilmer as the voice of the original smart car, KITT, aired on NBC. It only survived one season, with the season order of 22 episodes getting cut to 17 partway through. The Philadelphia Inquirer called it “a remake that stays true to the awfulness of the original. It’s so bad it’s good, in a bad way.”
10. ‘Do Not Disturb’ (2008)
Multi-camera Fox sitcom “Do Not Disturb,” starring Jerry O’Connell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Dave Franco as employees in a once-great New York City hotel, was canceled after only three episodes aired.
“This is a show that could bury the [sitcom] genre altogether,” wrote The Hollywood Reporter. The Boston Globe called it “a sitcom that bombards you with a whole mess of loud, stupid, obvious, politically incorrect material, hoping it will make you forget about the pervasive pointlessness.”
9. ‘Sons of Hollywood’ (2007)
A&E’s reality show, “Sons of Hollywood,” starring Randy Spelling (the son of Aaron Spelling), Sean Stewart (the son of Rod Stewart) and agent David Weintraub, held little interest for audiences. Basically, nobody really cared about the efforts of kids of famous men trying to become, well, more famous.
The Boston Globe wrote, “Once again, reality TV invites us to marvel at the idiocy, futility and self-destructive tendencies of the rich and famous. But this petty, home-movie-level material wouldn’t even fly on YouTube.”
8. ‘Momma’s Boys’ (2008-2009)
NBC’s reality show, “Momma’s Boys,” centering on a group of moms trying to find the perfect women for their sons, attempted to answer the age-old question: “Who is the most important woman in a man’s life?” It turned out that nobody cared all that much, and the series was canceled after a single season of six episodes.
“The show, executive produced by self-labeled momma’s boy Ryan Seacrest, is totally stupid, but you knew that already,” said The Boston Globe.
7. ‘The Real Wedding Crashers’ (2007)
Capitalizing on the hit 2005 movie, “Wedding Crashers,” Ashton Kutcher’s comedy/reality series, “The Real Wedding Crashers,” saw a real bride and groom team up with improvisational comics to “crash” their own wedding. What was the point? To prank their guests, of course. If this sounds like the worst idea for a wedding theme ever, you’re not alone in thinking so. It only aired on NBC for one season, perhaps because — in the words of The New York Times — “one crashed wedding can be entertaining, but a steady stream could wear thin.”
6. ‘Cavemen’ (2007)
Based on the Geico commercials that claim their service is so simple “even a caveman can do it,” the series “Cavemen,” starring Julie White, John Heard and Nick Kroll, was described by ABC as a “unique buddy comedy that offers a clever twist on stereotypes and turns race relations on its head.” An initial season of 13 episodes was ordered, but only six aired before it was canceled.
“It became clear to me that ‘Cavemen’ is extinct on arrival,” said the New York Post.
5. ‘Work It’ (2012)
When two out-of-work friends (played by Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco) decide the only way to get jobs in the poor economic climate is to pose as women, the differences between the sexes quickly become apparent. This premise made it ripe for negative reviews before it even aired. Time called it “the kind of bad dumb show you will use for years to come as a benchmark for other bad sitcoms.” It turned out to be a prescient assessment of the series, as it sits high on this list.
4. ‘Category 7: The End of the World’ (2005)
The four-hour TV miniseries, “Category 7: The End of the World,” starring Shannon Doherty, Gina Gershon, Randy Quaid and James Brolin, aired on CBS in two parts. It got impressive viewing figures, but was criticized on several levels for poor acting, poor production quality and numerous factual errors. The network was also slammed for airing it only months after two devastating hurricanes (Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita) wreaked havoc in the U.S.
“The miniseries is about as enjoyable as toenail fungus or that sickening commercial for its cure,” declared The Washington Post.
3. ‘Stalker’ (2014-2015)
The police procedural drama, “Stalker,” starring Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott, aired on CBS for one season. As has been the case with many short-lived series, it left viewers with the worst possible ending: an unresolved cliffhanger. The reviews were overwhelmingly negative; The Huffington Post wrote that “this shoddy program is nothing more than exploitative, misogynist trash.” After 20 episodes aired, CBS executives filed a permanent restraining order against “Stalker.”
2. ‘Dads’ (2013-2014)
Best friends since childhood, Eli (Seth Green) and Warner (Giovanni Ribisi) are the stars of the live-action sitcom, “Dads,” which aired on Fox for one season. It was panned by critics, with The Washington Post highlighting “the utter absence of originality, spirit or even new jokes.” The Miami Herald called it “a crass generation-gap sitcom with the wit if not the intelligence of an elementary school flatulence contest.”
1. ‘The 1/2 Hour News Hour’ (2007)
The worst TV show of all time — according to Metacritic, at least — is “The ½ Hour News Hour,” which was a TV news satire show that aired on Fox News. Hailed as “The Daily Show” for conservatives, it barely limped its way through one season. The Chicago Tribune described the humor as “so predictable and so stale that it fails to produce any laughs,” and The Philadelphia Inquirer labeled it “slow torture all by itself.” Among the doomed show’s cast were actors Kurt Long and Manny Coto.