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The Most Dreadful TV Shows Of 2019

The biggest TV news in 2019 probably won't be the arrival of some great new classic show for the ages. No, this will be a tube year notable for the end of beloved, extremely popular, long-running shows, particularly The Big Bang Theory and Game of Thrones. All shows must die eventually — a man can't play a fussy nerd or his aunt's lover/murderer forever — and as the circle of life dictates, new shows have to come in to replace the old ones on TV networks' schedules. There's a certain aspect of "throw it to the wall and see what sticks" in television, as Hollywood can never be totally sure what audiences will like, and with every mega-hit and critical darling, there come a few more shows doomed to a quick cancellation. According to the critics, these are the worst shows to hit broadcast TV, cable, and streaming services in 2019.

The Village

Network TV's biggest breakout hit over the last three years or so is unquestionably This Is Us, NBC's sprawling, time-jumping, touching family tearjerker. As that formula has proven successful, other shows similar to This is Us have hit the airwaves, including ABC's A Million Little Things and NBC's own The Village. Rather than focus on a family, it's an attempt at a poignant, heartwarming and emotionally devastating show about the diverse residents of a Brooklyn apartment building. 

It's about how everyone's lives interact in ways both subtle and profound, and feels specifically and cynically designed to get audiences to cry. It checks all the boxes of a This Is Us clone — unexpected visitors from characters' pasts, heartbreaking hospital scenes, wise old people, and lens flares galore. TV critics, however, weren't fooled with the usual machinations. Dustin Rowles of Pajiba says "The Village has no interest in being a decent series; its only interest is in using emotional manipulation to gaslight its viewers into believing that The Village is trying to say something profound about the human condition." USA Today's Kelly Lawler accused the show of "confusing emotion with quality." Ouch.

LA's Finest

More than 15 years after the release of Bad Boys II, the franchise returned to life with a made-for-TV spinoff starring not Martin Lawrence and Will Smith but Gabrielle Union (playing the sister of Lawrence's character) and Jessica Alba. They play an LAPD detective team who are, get this, very different, personality-wise. Add in some crimes, a shootout or two, and you've got L.A.'s Finest, a show that embraces a formula that's been used countless times before in movies and TV. 

Critics were savage (the show earned a 10 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), finding the end results ordinary, outdated, and unnecessary. "Everyone can find another show exactly like this one on Fox or other broadcast networks, USA or other cable outlets, and even streaming services," said Ben Travers of IndieWire, while Joel Keller of Decider said L.A.'s Finest should have hit screens "in 2004, not 2019." Even L.A.'s Finest's rollout is baffling — why expand a well-known franchise by giving it a generic title and then use it as the inaugural show on Spectrum Originals, an obscure streaming platform accessible only to customers of the Charter Spectrum cable network?

Videos After Dark

TV's most popular shows almost inevitably result in a spinoff — Happy Days begat Laverne & Shirley, Cheers begat Frasier, and America's Funniest Home Videos, the fifth-most watched show on broadcast TV for the 1989-1990 season, led to Videos After Dark. What's really odd is that this spinoff debuted in the spring of 2019, decades too late.

Videos After Dark is an attempt to attract viewers too hip or jaded to watch the pet-and-baby-heavy clips on America's Funniest Home Videos (still running on ABC's Sunday night schedule). Producers even brought in Bob Saget to host — he left the flagship series in 1997 to focus on his career as a notably filthy stand-up comic. But Videos After Dark simply can't be the show it claims to be — it's on a highly-regulated television network owned by Disney, so it can't air any clips that are too risqué. ABC introduced the series with back-to-back episodes on March 12, 2019, heralded as a sneak preview of a later, regular run for Videos After Dark. The network has yet to give the show a spot in its schedule.

The Fix

Millions of Americans were shocked in October 1995 when, after a grueling, televised, months-long trial that presented a huge amount of seemingly damning evidence, football star and actor O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Los Angeles district attorney Marcia Clark helped prosecute Simpson, and she understandably couldn't put this trial of the century behind her — more than 20 years after the fact, she co-created the ABC legal drama The Fix

Robin Tunney stars as Maya Travis, a disgraced ex-Los Angeles district attorney who years ago failed to convict movie star Sevvy Johnson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) of the double murder he obviously committed... and who gets a second chance to lock up Johnson when he's linked to another murder. Mark Perihard of the Boston Herald said that "The Fix can be seen as both wish fulfillment and revenge fantasy" on the part of Clark, as the show has clear corollary characters for not just Clark and Simpson, but members of Simpson's high-profile legal team and even the star's devoted live-in sidekick Kato Kaelin.

The World's Best

After American Idol became a top-rated pop culture juggernaut in the early 2000s, talent shows flooded TV. Viewers looking to see unknowns show the world what they can do have enjoyed plenty of options, including The Voice, America's Got Talent, The X Factor, So You Think You Can Dance, Little Big Shots, Last Comic Standing... and so many more. In 2019, CBS used its valuable post-Super Bowl programming slot to launch yet another entry in the genre: The World's Best. 

In some ways, the James Corden-hosted show is formulaic and familiar. Like The Voice and American Idol, performers compete in front of a panel of celebrities (Drew Barrymore, Faith Hill, and RuPaul). And like America's Got Talent, acts of every stripe are welcome, not just singers. But in its attempt to flip the script and get innovative, The World's Best goes too far and just winds up overly complicated. In addition to doing their thing for the judges, performers are rated by up to 50 experts from 38 geographic regions, purporting to be experts in different forms of entertainment. Then, all the various musicians, comedians, karate masters, etc. compete against each other for the title of "The World's Best" overall new talent. "So very much of the show boils down to the show explaining itself and stretching out the 'judging,' which mostly just consists of the panelists gushing and gasping in awe," said Caroline Framke for Variety.

Proven Innocent

On this Fox midseason replacement series, Rachelle Levefre plays a woman named Madeline Scott, who, after being falsely convicted of a murder, goes to work as a lawyer in a Chicago firm that specializes in exonerating similarly wrongfully convicted individuals. And she seems to always square off in the courtroom against an evil prosecutor played by TV legend Kelsey Grammer... the very man who put her in prison. So then it's one of those dramas about an idealistic young lawyer looking to make a difference and change the system from the inside. 

That's all well and good, but it can make for some really cornball television. "If the show were the least bit campy I wouldn't be so bent out of shape," wrote Nina Metz of the Chicago Tribune. "But Proven Innocent is so convinced of its moral rectitude and righteousness that this kind of storytelling claptrap can't help but feel hacky and deeply uninspired." (Fox later issued its own verdict, canceling Proven Innocent after its first and only season.)

Paradise Hotel

When reality TV hit it big in America in the early 2000s, producers used the format to create salacious dating shows, isolating a bunch of conventionally attractive people together in hopes that they'd mate. While The Bachelor remains a TV sensation, there's a TV graveyard full of forgotten, seedy stuff like Temptation Island, Joe Millionaire, and Paradise Hotel. The show aired on Fox in 2003, on the now defunct Fox Reality Channel in 2008, and in the summer of 2019, on Fox once more. The show remains largely unchanged in its 2019 incarnation: A group of sexy singles hang out at a tropical resort, wear very little clothing, pair off, and compete to be the last person standing, Big Brother-style, and take home $200,000. This Y2K-era reality refugee, hosted by Y2K-era reality refugee Kristen Cavallari (Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County). "Footage of private conversations and intimate moments in bed creates some interesting tensions," said critic Melissa Camacho of Common Sense Media, "but the endless conversations about who has feelings for whom gets tedious rather quickly."

Viewers weren't feeling too nostalgic. Severely low ratings of its first few episodes led Fox to cut the length of the season, and it ultimately aired just seven little-watched episodes.

What / If

What if Netflix made a TV show that played like a cheesy '90s-style erotic thriller? And what if they got an Academy Award-winning actress to star in it? And what if that Academy Award-winning actress played the role to the hilt of camp while the unnecessarily large cast full of other performers around her navigated the show's inexplicable and complicated plot twists as if the whole thing were as deadly serious and important as The Wire

The answer to all those "what ifs" and more is What / If, a steamy primetime soap from Netflix about a high-powered and glamorous Silicon Valley investor named Anne Montgomery (Renée Zellweger) who secretly schemes, screams her frustrations into a stuffed animal, practices archery on human targets, and sets the sometimes tech industry-skewering plot in motion by helping out Lisa Donovan (Jane Levy), an idealistic young head of a biotech company... in exchange for a night with the woman's young husband, Sean (Blake Jenner). The whole thing is such an inscrutable mess that David Opie of Digital Spy thinks "there's a strong chance that the team behind What / If know exactly what they're doing, deliberately setting out to make something that's intrinsically 'bad.'"


Australian comedian Chris Lilley comes along every couple of years with another virtually one-man production. He writes, directs, produces, and is the primary actor in the sketch comedy series Summer Heights High, Angry Boys, and the new Netflix show Lunatics. 

Lilley's work in Lunatics is decidedly not subtle: He wears tons of makeup, wigs, and garish costumes and affects loud, broad accents to portray — and thus make fun of — a series of misfits and oddballs in mockumentary-style filmed profiles. But Lilley's targets in Lunatics are curious, a combination of easy targets and those who don't necessarily deserve scorn. In the former camp, there's Keith Dick, a pretentious fashion guy who runs a store called "My Dick" and is in a relationship with a cash register. Then there's dude-bro real estate agent Quentin, who has a really large behind. In the latter category, there's Becky, an outrageously tall girl who bumps into things, and Joyce, a pornographic actress-turned-hoarder.

"The jokes, such as they are, wear down within minutes, making the relatively-brief 35-minute runtime into an unbearable slog," said Joel Keller of Decider, one of many critics who didn't go nuts for Lunatics. It has achieved the dubious and rare distinction of earning a 0 percent critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Another Life

Katee Sackhoff, the breakout star of the classic 2000s reboot of Battlestar Galactica makes her triumphant return to sci-fi television with Another Life, a tense Netflix drama about a spaceship full of humans on its way to make first contact with aliens. At least, we hoped it would be triumphant. Unfortunately for Galactica fans, Another Life is not quite the worthy follow-up they wanted. This ambitious show is part workplace drama, as starship commander Niko Breckenridge looks after the Salvare, the craft headed to a far-away alien planet which sent a giant, creepy crystal to Earth. Giving her plenty of guff is her number-two, Ian Yerxa (Tyler Hoechlin), the now-demoted former captain of that very ship. Awkward. 

But Another Life also has another plot line. Back on the home front, a scientist named Erik tries to unlock the secrets of the alien crystal... which conveniently landed right by the house he shares with his daughter and wife. Well, he used to share it with his wife; she's up in space now, because she's Niko Breckenridge. He's left on Earth to deal with his own workplace struggles and deal with the drama of being a single dad. There's a lot going on with Another Life, and Alex McLevy The AV Club calls it "an unwieldy mashup of Arrival and any number of space-odyssey adventure serials," noting that it "struggles to maintain clarity or depth." 


While this CW summer science-fiction series shares a name with the fantastical alien planet in Avatar, Pandora actually takes place primarily on Earth. Nevertheless, it cribs heavily from plenty of other popular sci-fi. Pandora is a Star Trek series set at the space travel training ground of Starfleet Academy in everything but name. It begins in 2199 on a Tatooine-like space world called New Portland, where a college-age woman with the futuristic name of Jax (Priscilla Quintana) is the only survivor of a devastating attack. So, she's shipped off to Fleet Training Academy on Earth, where she'll study under the tutelage of her uncle and alongside a number of familiar sci-fi character archetypes, like the dashing dude, the not-quite-human Spock-like dude, the weird and violent alien, and a cyborg. All the while, Jax may have a special, secret, and true identity which may affect the very future of humankind.

Lightweight and exceedingly familiar can be fine, especially for a summer TV show. But Pandora doesn't quite strike that tone. "I watch a lot of TV pilots for work — including ones for shows that never make it to air — and Pandora's is quite possibly one of the worst I've seen in years," said Beth Elderkin of io9. Elderkin isn't alone — the series currently holds a 0 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Bluff City Law

It seems rare that a TV season goes by without a show featuring small-screen veteran Jimmy Smits in a starring role. He's been a big part of popular, well-received series such as L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, The West Wing, Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, and 24: Legacy... as well as forgettable flops like Cane, Outlaw, and The Get Down. Unfortunately, Smits' newest TV project, Bluff City Law, falls into the latter grouping. 

First of all, "Bluff City" is a not-universally-known nickname for Memphis, Tennessee, where the crusading and awkwardly aptly-named civil rights attorney Elijah Strait (Smits) plies his trade, assisted by his daughter, Sydney (Cailin McGee). Not only is there courtroom tension each week in the emotionally-driven cases the Straits take on, but there's personal drama too — Elijah and Sydney haven't spoken for years when she returns to the firm in the pilot.

Bluff City Law feels like a throwback to shows like Smits' L.A. Law, with Hank Stuever of the Washington Post likening the series to "a pilot from some random yesteryear's fall TV season." But could it be a comforting, non-challenging throwback to old TV shows? Probably not. "Despite the cast, the cases in Bluff City Law are just too generic for us to stay interested," said Joel Keller of Decider.

Almost Family

Almost Family may be a light drama, but it's got both a bizarre premise befitting a wacky '90s sitcom and the bland title of a forgettable, sugar-sweet '80s sitcom. Fertility clinic communications liaison Julia (Brittany Show) learns that her boss and father (Timothy Hutton), a renowned fertility doctor, is also an extraordinarily unethical creep. The reason he so successfully helped so many women get pregnant was because he used his own sperm. 

In real life, such a revelation would fracture a family unit. But for only child Julia, it's a chance to potentially connect with all of her 100 or so of half-siblings out there. She mostly just pals around with two sort-of-sisters: down on her luck ex-gymnast Roxy (Emily Osment) and defense attorney Edie (Megalyn Echukunwoke), who also just so happens to be Julia's former best friend who married Julia's ex-boyfriend. What a coincidence! It should also come as no surprise that all three women are very different from one another, per unspoken rules of television. 

Critics can't get over the show's heavily contrived conceit. "I would be all for a show about three adult women learning they're sisters, but Almost Family leans heavily on a gimmicky premise it doesn't need," said Emily VanDerWerff of Vox. Daniel D'Addario of Variety said the Fox series "can't overcome the fundamental grossness" of its setup.

The I-Land

Ever since Lost transformed and elevated TV in the mid-2000s with its blend of science fiction, psychodrama, and spirituality, plenty have tried to re-create that magic. Only the most hardcore TV fans remember The Nine, The Event, or Day One. Certain to be lumped into that pile comes the Netflix miniseries The I-Land, which doesn't even try to alter the premise — it's set on a weird and spooky island. 

It all begins when ten people who probably don't know each other find themselves on an island... and they don't know how they got there, who they are, or anything else for that matter, because their memories have vanished. Like Lost, their new island home is beautiful but fraught with bizarre peril, and like on Lost, the group (which includes Natalie Martinez, Kate Bosworth, Alex Pettyfer) struggles to unite. 

Critics almost universally wished for The I-Land to get lost, and they brought out the big adjectives to make their disgust known. Depending on who one asks, The I-Land is "a bafflingly horrible sci-fi show" (Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com), "ridiculous" and "laughable" (Aaron Pruner of Thrillist), and even among "the worst shows" ever (Dan Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter).

Mad About You

It's not that the original Mad About You was a terrible show — it was just inoffensive and quiet, especially when compared to its classic, enduring, innovative "Must See TV" brethren like Friends and Seinfeld. Its only real progressive contribution was that it was a domestic sitcom about a young married couple (and their dog), as opposed to the usual domestic sitcom about harried parents and their brood of kids. To revisit Paul and Jamie Buchman (Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt) more than 20 years later — yep, they still love each other and still bicker and have nutty extended families — just seems... unnecessary. 

Even NBC, which aired the first run of Mad About You from 1992 to 1999, thought as much, rejecting the reboot and letting it get snatched up by Spectrum Originals, the relatively obscure in-house streaming service of the Spectrum cable company. Dan Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter calls the Mad About You sequel "middle-of-the-road stuff and you never feel like NBC made a mistake in not wanting this reboot." Ben Travers of IndieWire thinks the whole thing is just sad and awkward, comparing the show to visiting real-life old married couples with whom "there's still not much to be said, or that many laughs to be had."

Merry Happy Whatever

This Netflix original is at least something new: an eight-episode, self-contained miniseries, but presented in the traditional sitcom format, complete with a laugh track. Merry Happy Whatever is set in a single holiday season, from just before Christmas to New Year's, and revolves around the Quinn brood, headed up by Don Quinn (Dennis Quaid), a widowed Pennsylvania sheriff who meddles in the lives of his four adult children when they descend on the family home for the holidays — against their better judgment and the lingering fears of their father.  

The series is just as slight and cliche-driven as the many basic cable holiday movies that are ostensibly Merry Happy Whatever's competition, albeit with different cliches. Each member of the Quinn family seems to suffer from a well-trod-in-TV personal problem, be it divorce, infertility, late-in-life dating, or cross-generational misunderstandings. It doesn't exactly conjure too many yuletide warm and fuzzy feelings, either. Karen M. Peterson of Awards Circuit calls Merry Happy Whatever "flat and uninventive," full of "tired and unfunny jokes."