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TV Shows That Became Unwatchable With Age

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be, and sometimes, it turns out that the TV shows you used to love actually weren't worthy—and when we no longer see them through the warped lens of memory, it becomes clear that they don't stand up. Not all television is built to last, and here are a few old shows that have served their purpose and should never be rerun again.

Doctor Who

Before you get too upset, let's be clear: we're talking about the original, pre-modern version of Doctor Who. While much of the series' continuity and long-running themes were established during the days of Hartnell, Baker, and McCoy, it's difficult to sit through a three- or four-hour story arc with rubber monsters and a floundering Doctor. Sure, some of it has a bit of value for the ridiculous alien costumes alone, but for viewers accustomed to modern production values during an era in which television has risen to an art form, the camp and general plot-holery make the show hard to endure. Vintage Who barely stands up against Star Trek, and that's some serious camp. Just sit down and watch "Time and the Rani." If you make it out alive, you've probably used up one of your regenerations.


Many kids of the '90s look back on their grungy years of sarcastic indifference with a bit of regret, but at the time, nothing was cooler than casual nihilism. Emblematic of that attitude was Daria, the Beavis and Butthead spinoff that focused on the duo's smart, seemingly utterly indifferent classmate. At the time, it was relatable animation for people who were stuck between being kids and being adults. In retrospect, we know that Daria's unrelenting 'tude was an obstacle to valuable life experiences, and it can be hard to watch today—not to mention that every other character in the show is obviously a terribly broad caricature of high school stereotypes. And it seemed so real at the time.


At its best, Scrubs offered an entertaining comedy counterpoint to the glut of medical dramas on television. And there was even a time when Zach Braff's Dr. John Dorian was a sympathetic character whose everyday trials and heart of bronze was kinda worth watching... but as the show progressed, Dorian became less and less likable—and less insightful during his endless monologues. Finally, Braff left the show partway through the ninth season, leaving it to limp awkwardly to an anticlimactic conclusion.

Full House

If you were like most kids in the late '80s, you were probably parked in front of ABC's family-friendly TGIF block every Friday night. And your parents probably hated every second of it, because a little bit of Steve Urkel's insatiable lust for cheese goes a really, really long way—and Full House's saccharine morality and terrible puns were always hard to stomach. A hundred terrible catchphrases later, we're reminded just how awkward and unfunny the original show was, especially now that the series' continuation, Fuller House, has been given a second season on Netflix.

Married... with Children

Pushing against the borders of television decency was a pretty risky thing to do back in the days of Married... with Children, and no one pushed harder than Fox's original hit sitcom. That level of borderline-repulsive sass was something different in the '80s and '90s, but watching the exploits of Al Bundy now, it's clear that the program was pretty much an equal mix of embarrassingly easy fat jokes and sex jokes... and nothing else. Seeing what Ed O'Neill and Katey Sagal are truly capable of as actors just makes the broad, lowbrow junk of Married more embarrassing to watch. While it has a place in TV history, it should probably just stay there.

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

It's really hard to imagine a time when Hercules was seriously considered a watchable TV show, but six seasons can't be wrong. While the sword-and-sorcery adventure was one of the more popular syndicated TV shows of its era, its villain-of-the-week formula, grating soundtrack, and widespread overacting haven't withstood the test of time. TV audiences have come to expect a sense of continuity in a multi-season TV show, but Hercules completely ignored the linear flow of time and just did whatever, whenever, including rewriting the characters' own stories multiple times without any regard for the past. Once you have Herc witnessing the birth of Jesus, you've gone too far. At least we had Xena...and who needs a plot when you have Lucy Lawless?


It may be sacrilege to disparage any classic Nicktoon, but a show that once seemed like a clever look at the world through the eyes of infants has lost a lot of its charm—not least because it's hard to look past the constant baby talk and the grossly negligent parents. Angela never gets the discipline she needs to straighten out, everyone just keeps on having more babies, and anyone could have guessed that Chuckie would still be just as awkward in the show's unnecessary continuation, All Grown Up! Until someone comes along to animate the characters as balding, overweight 30-somethings struggling with depression and mortgages, we should probably just stick with Doug.

How I Met Your Mother

It's a sitcom about a dad who keeps his kids on a couch for nine years while he tells them, in great detail, about all of his greatest sexual conquests. The show's titular question was barely even answered by the end of the series, and in retrospect, the circuitous non-conclusion to the story fatally undermines How I Met Your Mother's replay value. (The forced in-jokes and cloying humor don't help, either.) Now that the nine-year nightmare's spell has been broken, we can live our lives again. Avoid the reruns; go forth and be free.

Highlander: The Series

Although the production value of Highlander: The Series was widely praised by critics at the time, television fantasy has come a long way since the 1990s. In an age when HBO spends as much as $10 million per episode to create Game of Thrones and audiences are used to seeing big screen quality on their TVs, the CBS show based on the film of the same name now looks terribly dated—and its problems go deeper than aesthetics. What at that time seemed like a sprawling epic has revealed itself as little more than a series of formulaic hourlong confrontations, pitting Duncan MacLeod (clansman and pupil of his movie namesake Connor) against one disposable immortal after another. Worse still, British actor Adrian Paul's performance is nowhere near the bar established by Christopher Lambert in the 1986 movie, lacking the rough edges and cool wit of the original Highlander.

The A-Team

The dramatic increase in TV production budgets over recent years has led to audiences expecting a certain amount of realism, and this is especially true when it comes to violence. As series like The Walking Dead continue to push boundaries, shows made in the days before a man could reduce another man's head to bloody mush with a baseball bat on primetime television begin to look awfully tame. The A-Team falls under this umbrella, a show on which thousands of mags of ammo are used on a weekly basis and remarkably, nobody ever dies. The longer the show went, the more ridiculous it became, getting to the point that a helicopter crashing into a mountainside and falling to the ground in a fireball caused little more than a scratch. Re-watching The A-Team today is guaranteed to awaken a bloodlust that you probably didn't know you had.

Saved by the Bell

While '90s spinoffs Saved by the Bell: The College Years and Saved by the Bell: The New Class have always been nigh-on unwatchable, the original show was once considered essential children's television. Digging out the NBC high school sitcom for your kids to watch today isn't advisable, however, as many of the lessons are painfully dated. The episode "The Mamas and the Papas" makes for particularly cringeworthy viewing, pairing the kids up in an effort to teach them about married life. The tone of the episode is summed up by A.C. Slater's definition of a "women's movement" (when she puts on something cute and moves into the kitchen). It also becomes apparent over the course of the show's four seasons that Zack Morris has a severe gambling problem, with every other episode involving Preppy making some kind of bet at the expense of his friends.

Xena: Warrior Princess

New Zealand-made cult series Xena: Warrior Princess is mainly remembered for the way it challenged female stereotypes and the discussions that raged over its supposedly lesbian subtext, though two aspects of the campy classic that largely escaped criticism at the time were its questionable production values and clumsy directing. This was always a show that asked you to suspend your belief for its duration, but watching it now, it's hard not to notice the multitude of reused extras and recycled sets. The tonal shifts also take some readjusting, with moments of dark violence randomly giving way to full-on musical numbers that make less sense than the show's version of ancient Greece, which is inexplicably rife with American slang. While Aphrodite's Valley-girl persona used to feel like a welcome quirk in a show built around them, in reality it's just one of the many things about Xena that give it a distinctive B-movie feel.

Dawson's Creek

Dawson's Creek was part of the wave of teen films and TV shows that gushed out of Hollywood in the late '90s, created by the writer of the equally angst-ridden Scream movies, Kevin Williamson. The show had its detractors even when it was at the height of its popularity, though the torrent of criticism back then doesn't even come close to how hated this show would be if it aired for the first time today. From its hammy dialogue and excessive self-regard to its habit of severely under-developing its female characters and being generally sexist, the only thing worse than Dawson's Creek as a show is Dawson himself, who's far more condescending and smug than you ever remembered. The only people who should be watching this today are millennials looking for a nostalgia fix—the VHS players, cropped tank tops, and watered-down ska music will have you reminiscing in no time.

Walker, Texas Ranger

The fact that Chuck Norris has become a living parody of this character is almost—but not quite—enough to prepare you for a return visit to the unapologetically patriotic Walker, Texas Ranger. From the annoyingly catchy theme song "Eyes of a Ranger" (performed by Norris himself) to the one-dimensional, gravelly-voiced villains and the awkwardly staged fight scenes that invariably end with the star's trademark roundhouse kick, this show used to be so bad it was good. Now, it's just bad. While Norris is clearly a skilled martial artist, he struggles with pretty much everything else asked of him here. He could be delivering a motivational speech to a class of schoolkids or doing something as simple as answering the phone—no matter what, he looks uncomfortable, itching to move past those pesky moments of dialogue and start beating the hell out of Texas one small-time crook at a time.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

While things certainly became less formulaic as the show went through its numerous reincarnations over the years, the monster-of-the-week format relied upon in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers meant that there was a constant lack of genuine adversity in those early days. Of course, there were the rare occasions on which the Rangers would lose their powers and find themselves in the odd dire situation, but generally speaking there was no problem that Megazord couldn't easily solve. One thing that becomes obvious when watching early Power Rangers episodes today is that the show wasn't made from scratch in Hollywood. The first season simply stole its fight sequences from the Japanese show Kyouryuu Sentai Zyuranger (Dinosaur Squadron BeastRanger) and hired American actors to fill in the gaps, a clever ploy from producers looking to make a buck in the U.S. market without having to spend money on big set pieces. It worked, even though it's painfully obvious that most of the actors couldn't pull off some of the stuff they managed to do behind their masks.


Baywatch existed in a time when the definition of steamy television was very different than what it is now, and that seems to be the only reason this show managed to survive for a full decade between 1989 and 1999. At its height the California lifeguard drama was one of America's most highly coveted exports, commanding over a billion weekly viewers from over 148 countries at one point, but looking back at the show today it's plain to see that the skin routinely on display was literally the only appeal. With nowhere near enough drama to warrant an hourlong slot, Baywatch fills the gaps with copious amounts of running, normally presented in slow motion to not only capture the female cast's bouncing chests in all their glory, but to make up for the fact that there isn't much else going on. To be fair, critics at the time were well aware of the show's limitations, with the Washington Post describing it as "Flipper without the dolphin" in their preview.

Knight Rider

If you thought Baywatch was as dated as David Hasselhoff gets, think again. Even though that show's stars were basically well-toned bags of meat in tight red swimwear, they were still more interesting than KITT, the talking car who served as the star of Hasselhoff's '80s sci-fi series Knight Rider. The artificially intelligent car simply doesn't make for a very compelling sidekick for the crimefighting Michael Knight, and the fact that "he's" a vehicle severely limits the show's plot opportunities, but at least the state-of-the-art special effects made up for it...in the '80s. Even the most ardent consumer of the decade's nostalgia will have a hard time swallowing this today, which is exactly why an updated Justin Lin-produced reboot of the story is on the cards for 2017.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air still has a lot of interesting things to say about class division in the U.S., routinely touching on topics that even modern American sitcoms seem content to ignore. The trouble with the show as far as rewatchability is concerned isn't the message it sends, but rather the tact it takes in doing it. Formulaic to a fault, The Fresh Prince follows a painfully predictable pattern in which every episode is neatly wrapped up with a bow, invariably finishing with an important moral lesson for whichever character has gotten themselves into a misadventure that week. And then there's the performance of Will Smith, which improved dramatically over the course of the show's six seasons, but left a lot to be desired in the beginning. Hired purely on the basis that he appeared affable, Smith was a rapper with almost no acting experience at the time, and it showed. The first season of the show appears particularly amateurish nowadays, with Smith visibly mouthing along with his co-stars' lines.

Sister, Sister

Sister, Sister is a '90s sitcom in the spirit of The Parent Trap, made before Disney decided to reboot the 1961 film about twin sisters randomly reunited after being separated at birth. In this instance, Tia and Tamara bump into each other at a shopping mall and discover that one has it way better than the other, leading to both girls and Tia's mother Lisa moving in with Tamara's well-off dad Ray. The twins fight off advances from their neighbor Roger and get into all the scrapes you'd expect of teenage girls—which was all well and good at the time, but really doesn't resonate today. Those who grew up watching Sister, Sister are now adults, and re-watching the show now reveals how poorly constructed the grownups were. Single mother Lisa is a walking, talking stereotype and Ray is even more one-dimensional as the square widower. Their transparently constructed romantic subplot is randomly abandoned, making room for more car dates and adolescent anxieties.