I want to make a special call-out here for some of the worst popular programming in TV history, particularly the worst, insufferable situation comedies of all time. But worst probably isn't quite the right word. Lots of cheap, shoddy shows are made — but some of these I'm thinking of sometimes have some passing spark of wit. But any possible artistic merits are drowned out by egregious offenses against Geometry and Theology.
What I'm after here are the most actively annoying situation comedies ever, particularly ones representing special trendsetters in crappiness. These are the shows that send me into Ignatius J Reilly mode, wanting to throw empty Milk Duds boxes and popcorn at the screen, while screaming for the writers and actors to be put to the lash post haste! Who told you this crap was a legitimate show? How dare dumb down the world with these ridiculous affronts to Geometry and Theology?
In short, I hate these shows so bad that I would actively walk across the room to turn off the television rather than watch. I would not watch them while getting high. I would not watch them bye-and-bye. I would not watch them while drinking a float. I would not watch them with a goat.
I even give credit and forbearance to some fairly cheesy shows, if they have a little personality. As Jules would say, personality goes a long way. Gilligan's Island ran aground pretty quickly, but they did have some characters with a little personality. Even the dreaded Brady Bunch now looks like some kind of gay camp bourgeoisie parody. It's not high art, but it had flava. Then there are endlessly re-run shows that I'd about as soon take a beating as watch.
Without further adieu then, and in my best Comic Book Shop guy voice, here are the WORST SITCOMS EVER:
The Cosby Show
Worse than being really bad, The Cosby Show was utterly mediocre. The writing was nothing memorable. I know I have ended up watching probably half the entire run of the series, and I can't remember any of the story lines now. I broadly remember there being a couple of obvious plot points, like the son going to college. It wasn't particularly a comedy of manners like Seinfeld, delving into issues of the day like All in the Family or real family issues like Bernie Mac or even the Simpsons.
The whole appeal of The Cosby Show was as a setup for Bill Cosby to mug and make funny faces for the camera. Best I remember, it mostly looked like cookie cutter supporting characters doing uninteresting things till they get to the point in the script marked presumably something like "Bill Cosby talks baby-talk in funny voice and makes funny faces." There's only so far that's going to get you without characters, personality, or plot.
He's got a special thing though that gets him specifically the top spot for most insufferable sitcom ever: his hateful attitude with his TV children. His sitcom character seemed to be really full of resentment toward his offspring. The main point of ongoing humor I remember is his constant snarky remarks about how much he looked forward to getting these kids out of his house. Not that the dark sides of parental resentment aren't legitimate fodder for art, but he didn't go anywhere with it other than being merely hateful. I didn't feel the love, but I got all the constant resentment. I find it neither entertaining nor edifying.
The Simpsons started at the height of the Cosby show run. Their parody of the Cosby character Dr. Hibbert has developed more personality in mostly minute long or less cameos over time than Cliff Huxtable ever did with his own live action show.
Will and Grace
This was not entirely without wit — but they weren't nearly as clever as they seemed to think. I just cannot bear their cheap sense of how great and daring they were. Look, we've got queers, aren't we bold and daring? Yeah, whatever — but it takes more than carrying on about how gay and sleazy you are to make a show. Got it. You're here, you're queer, I'm bored with you.
Everybody Loves Raymond
I might be missing something, because I've never been able to sit through a full show of this at once. I just find myself overwhelmed with a strong desire to kick Raymond right in his vagina. The wussification of America in recent years has been reflected in sitcoms with shrewish wives dominating whining husbands. This show is the top popular actualization of that stereotype. It's a special archetype of modern sitcom awfulness.
If the show had anything interesting to say on the topic, some perspective on what's wrong with these petty whiners, it could be the basis of interesting if perhaps less than palatable art. This isn't anything that skillful. It's mostly just a constant stream of mundane displays of boring, low level family resentments. They just don't appear to have anything else on their minds.
This may be the least commercially successful show to annoy me enough to make the list. It was never popular, but supposed tastemakers did manage to browbeat the FOX network into keeping this thing in production for three seasons. They certainly had their
This show actually started out to be somewhat funny before the creators completely disappeared up their own collective ass after the first season. They became so overly impressed with how smart they were that we were supposed to be wowed by the thick layers of self-referential nonsense, as if we were expected to get our jollies from watching them jacking each other off in the back room with the inside-baseball crap. The network cut their order for shows in the second season, so they made a story in the show where orders for Bluth built homes get cut. Yeah, and the punch line of this joke is…?
This was symbolized in the show by the incest theme which involved half the damned cast by the end. Many folks thought Penn and Teller ran out of gas trying to get a 90-minute movie out of the aristocrats joke. These people tried to make an entire sitcom based on it. The presumptions of superiority by the supposedly smart set that liked this show were as unearned as the smug presumptions of superiority by the Bluth family. Thing is, the creators of this show seemed to like themselves so well that when they were told to go screw themselves, they probably considered it a compliment. Thank you, I think I will.
This was one of the most absolutely bland major hit sitcoms ever. As much money as they made on this huge hit, you'd think they could have afforded to buy a personality to split between them. These are the most white bread, colorless friends you could have.
This was a dumb show about the trivial interests of a bland dumb jock football coach. Why would anyone watch such bland nothingness for nine seasons? This gets bonus demerit as the replacement for the short-lived Jackie Mason series Chicken Soup. They axed the funny, clever, thoughtful guy after a few shows to make way for one of the worst lobotomies of a show ever conceived.
Being of rural persuasion, I've always been partial to the rural comedies. The Beverly Hillbillies is still one of my half-dozen favorite all time television shows. But this spin-off is the one that just had nothing going for it except some cute girls running around. I hated Uncle Joe particularly. I just find him worthless — a whole character with no interest other than avoiding work. The Clampetts had some great social satire, and Green Acres had some characters. Arnold had personality, and that counts for a lot. The residents of Petticoat Junction were just bland. Maybe a jug of Granny's medicine would have brought out some flavor.
Sex and the City
Perhaps I'm just not the target market, but this fave of the literati totally leaves me cold. I'm all in favor of all these actresses. Square Pegs was a much better show, though. The characters had personality. These city girls just seem to be stupid spoiled sluts trying to decide who to sleep with this week. Why does it really matter? Is there some reason why any of these characters would be considered interesting? I fail to see what makes these girls significantly more substantive than Paris Hilton. Of course, people can't get enough of Paris, so what do I know?
Again, there were worse shows on television — but not many as prominent. This bland mediocrity had one small bit of interesting premise. There was a generation gap with a conservative son the least bit vaguely rebelling against his liberal hippie parents. However, these characters lacked personality or writing. This was no All in the Family by any long shot.
They specifically make this all-day-suckers list for high crimes of the Very Special Episode variety. They committed a special high offense against any decent system of Geometry and Theology with cloying pretensions to meaning in the episode in which the conservative son decides that he believes in God. By the end of that cheesy excuse for a dark night of the soul, I was ready to send Alex P Keaton to meet his God and remove all doubt right away. Geez, but I hate Republicans.
This final selection represents a special rung of TV hell. People often make fun of the more sentimental happy family stuff from the '50s and '60s, Father Knows Best and My Three Sons. But the Beaver never began to touch the kind of cloying and maudlin offenses of cheap emotional manipulation and string pulling like this show. The cute little orphan girl being raised by her uncles premise broadly sounds like Family Affair from a generation earlier, but even that wasn't so bad. Besides being better written, Buffy and Jody had a real man there with Uncle Bill, which mitigates the offensiveness versus the multiple pathetic manchild uncles of Full House.
In fairness though, come the revolution I will counsel forbearance against punishing the Olsen twins for their part in this Travesty. They were underage pawns in the emotional pornography ring that was Full House. Bob Saget, however, must pay with his life.
Bonus badness: Here's a short run show that managed to pack an exceptional lot of crappiness into two quick seasons:
This show was cursed with talent. It was just an awful, stupid idea that should never have seen the light of day. Two guys dress in drag and pretend to be girls to get a hard-to-find apartment. The title of the series is about the limit of the scope. By any rights, this should have had a merciful death after two or three episodes. The idea's way dumber even than John Ritter's homosexual act on Three's Company.
However, they had no less than young, hungry Tom Hanks anxious to make a name. The premise and the writing were awful, but Tom Hanks could just about create a sympathetic character full of interesting and appealing human emotions based on reading the phone book.
That's pretty much what he was doing here for a couple of years. Apparently, a lot of the basic repartee between Scolari and Hanks was simply ad-libbed. You can tell. It was a dumb premise that couldn't last, and wasn't good while it did.Powered by Sidelines