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The worst acting performances on Netflix shows

Since launching as an online DVD rental service in the late '90s, Netflix has transformed itself into a content powerhouse with as much clout as any studio in Hollywood. They've done so by taking a fearless approach to programming that essentially gives free rein to the creative spirits in the company's stable. This isn't always a good thing, but with critical hits like Stranger ThingsMindhunter, and The Crown to their credit — not to mention a couple of solid Marvel series to boot — it's helped Netflix birth some of the most exciting original shows of the decade. 

On occasion, that fearlessness has also erred on the side of recklessness, producing a handful of shows that the streaming giant can't forget fast enough — and many of those bombs were fueled by some of the worst acting performances in recent memory. Whether the result of subpar writing, misguided casting, or just poor choices on the part of the actors, these performances were bad enough to ruin Netflix shows.

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Finn Jones — Iron Fist

After delivering solid additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with small-screen adaptations of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, Netflix looked to go four for four with the addition of the ass-kicking, Kung Fu Zen master known as Iron Fist. What they got was an absolute snoozer of a series that — short of a few killer action pieces — pretty much failed on every front.      

Pacing was a big part of the problem with Iron Fist, and it was compounded by the absence of a star with enough charm or charisma to carry the show through its slower sections. Through its first 13 painfully slow episodes, lead Finn Jones delivered an agonizingly stilted performance that wavered between twitchy childish outbursts and super-serious mugging. That approach probably could've worked in other hands, considering this is a character who'd been completely out of touch with the modern world, but Jones never managed to add enough depth or humanity. The character never feels like the emotionally conflicted hero he should be; instead, he comes across as a spoiled brat with superpowers. Throughout his inaugural run, the Immortal Iron Fist is the one hero in the MCU that you almost don't want to root for.

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Naomi Watts — Gypsy

Netflix looked like they'd pulled off a casting coup when they announced they'd green-lit a psycho-sexual dramatic series starring Naomi Watts and Billy Crudup — but critics were scathing in their dismissal when Netflix delivered the listless Gypsy, which wastes not only an intriguing setup (a psychologist injecting herself into the lives of her patients in increasingly daring ways), but also the talents of its accomplished cast.

Most notably, Gypsy found the usually reliable Naomi Watts whiffing in the starring role. That's a bit of a shock as — at least on paper — Watts' character features the sort of spirited intellect, effortless sexuality, and internalized conflict that served her finer performances (i.e. Mulholland Drive and 21 Grams). To her credit, Watts brings a healthy dose of those attributes to her role in Gypsy, but never quite finds the right level of duality, too often allowing overt sexuality to override the intellect or vice versa. None of the character's internal despair rings true, and in the end, Watts' increasingly melodramatic performance prevents the viewer from connecting with the character — or the series as a whole.

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Will Arnett — Flaked

After his scene-stealing supporting turns on hit comedies like Arrested Development and 30 Rock, it seemed only a matter of time before Will Arnett found a starring role to match his talents. When Netflix announced Flaked — Arnett and Mark Chappell's comedy about a recovering alcoholic/self-help guru struggling to keep his life together — it looked like he'd finally found a vehicle worthy of his gifts. 

Turns out Arnett is one of those actors whose talents may be more effective in small doses — an argument made repeatedly throughout all 14 painfully dull episodes of Flaked, which find Arnett shamelessly mugging, overplaying punchlines, and undermining the drama. What's so confounding about Arnett's work on Flaked is that it's built around the character type that's served the actor so well over the years (particularly on his animated Netflix hit BoJack Horseman). Here, however, the in-your-face nature of Arnett's schtick never feels like anything more than that. It's a shame — Flaked might've been an intriguing dark comedy in the hands of a stronger performer in the lead. As it stands, the show is all but unwatchable.   

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Colleen Ballinger — Haters Back Off!

Colleen Ballinger's Haters Back Off! tells the comedic tale of a talentless wannabe who stumbles ass backwards into something resembling fame/infamy. Imagine a Pee-wee Herman movie without the playfulness or Napoleon Dynamite without the heart, and you're sort of in the ballpark of Haters' vibe — which is just as grating as it sounds, and Ballinger's shrill, nasally, wildly over-the-top performance is the biggest problem.      

Yes, Ballinger (who based the show on her own popular YouTube persona) is intentionally playing over the top with Haters Back Off!, but just because an actor makes deliberate choices doesn't mean those choices work. Ballinger's unabashedly antics may work for a three-minute YouTube clip, but they're too much to handle in a 30-minute episode. The show is occasionally quite funny and has some interesting insight on the nature of fame-lust, but her one-note act is simply unbearable, and undoes the show's good intentions. It may well be the most annoying performance on any program in recent memory, and if pointing that out makes us haters, so be it.

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Rob Schneider — Real Rob

Ever wonder what the world looks like through the eyes of Rob Schneider? Probably not, but that didn't stop Netflix from greenlighting a Schneider-led Curb Your Enthusiasm knockoff. Rather than delivering a sneeringly insightful or hilariously self-effacing portrait of himself, Schneider's Real Rob instead plays as a shamelessly self-indulgent hodgepodge of ideas that worked better on other, much funnier shows. It also proves that Schneider's comedic stylings are more than a little outdated.  

It's worth noting that Schneider is not now, nor has he ever been, what one might call an actor. If you've seen him in lowbrow fare like Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo or The Animal, then you already knew that, but Schneider's hacky hamming on Real Rob is a new low even for him. The only thing less funny than Schneider's performance on Real Rob is his standup act, interspersed throughout. The most astonishing thing about his work on the show — he also wrote, directed, and produced every episode — is that Netflix let him do it for two full seasons.

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Britt Robertson — Girlboss

Britt Robertson is a talented up-and-comer, and she'll almost certainly be a big star in the very near future — but her portrayal of self-made millionaire Sophia Amoruso on Girlboss was, while occasionally charming, the most wildly off-kilter element of a show all but consumed by them.

To be fair, Robertson feels like the victim of bad casting and poor writing more than anything here. Still, a slightly more seasoned performer might've found a way to balance out the writing's "warts and all" approach to the character with some sort of humanizing humility, and Robertson wasn't up to the task. The acerbic coarseness she brought to Girlboss' more biting moments feel a bit too harsh, and the quieter, humanizing moments come across as soulless plot contrivances. What makes it so difficult to watch is that you can see Robertson working. You can see how hard she's trying to look funky and cool, how hard she's trying to be tough and mean, and how desperately she wants to appear soulful. Unfortunately, if you can see an actor acting, that means they aren't doing it very well. Girlboss feels utterly vapid as a result.

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Miles Heizer — 13 Reasons Why (Season 2)

Based on Jay Asher's bestselling book of the same name, 13 Reasons Why arrived on Netflix with a touch of controversy and a wave of critical praise. The controversy came via the show's touchy subject matter — a story that revolves around a teenage girl posthumously explaining why she decided to take her own life. Brought to life by a terrific young cast and a stable of talented filmmakers, the first season was so self-contained that a second season seemed completely unnecessary — but Netflix went ahead and renewed the show anyway, only to watch it slide to the opposite end of the critical spectrum.

Throughout 13 Reasons Why's poorly scripted second season, some of the problem areas that were tolerable in season 1 were thrown into relief. Most notable was the performance of Miles Heizer, whose frustratingly deadpan emo affectations from the opening season turned emotionally vacant in a second run that found him incessantly mumbling variations on "that's messed up," fumbling awkwardly through dramatic scenes, more awkwardly through lighter scenes, and generally draining the show of emotional energy. Here's hoping Heizer — who's been solid in indie fare like Rudderless and The Stanford Prison Experiment — finds something more interesting to do in season 3.

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Candace Cameron Bure — Fuller House

Never underestimate the power of nostalgia. Full House was never a critical darling, but it delivered healthy ratings throughout its long run — and remained a favorite for millions of grownups who continued to binge reruns in syndication, prompting Netflix to produce a reboot that stands as one of worst programs in recent memory.

Fuller House lazily recycles the same premise of the original show, swapping out widower Danny Tanner, his pal Joey, and his brother-in-law Jesse with Danny's kids — the adult (and also widowed) D.J., her sister Stephanie, and their pal Kimmy. The show tries to jazz up its stale trappings with a winking sense of self-awareness, but it doesn't work, and if you thought the acting was bad the first time around, just stand back and let Candace Cameron Bure do her thing. Bure, who's been working steadily since Full House was canceled, is back to deliver a performance just as hammy as the one she gave as a kid during the original show's run. It's almost impressive in a way.

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The entire cast of Friends From College

As poorly as Fuller House was reviewed, it still fared better with critics than Netflix's ensemble comedy Friends from College — surprising, given how many talented folks are behind the latter show. Proven comedic stars like Cobie Smulders, Keegan Michael-Key, Nat Faxon, and Fred Savage are in front of the camera, and it was co-created/directed by Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets). A pedigree like that should've at least produced a watchable, occasionally funny bit of comic distraction.

It didn't. From writing to pacing and everything in between, nothing really clicked in season 1 of Friends from College, but the biggest letdown was the cast. From one episode to the next, their flat line readings and absurdly exaggerated facial expressions left a trail of broken punchlines and missed opportunities, their incessant overacting made dramatic moments unintentionally silly, and their utter lack of chemistry left one believing that not only were these people never friends, but that they'd never liked each other to begin with.