The following shows are considered the 10 worst television shows of all time, according to a 2002 list from television authority TV Guide. Here we’ve got reality shows, sitcoms, and even a musical police procedural from across the decades of television history. TV Guide’s list counts the response from critics and viewers, as well as ratings, to give a complete picture of how much these shows truly bombed. The top entry is a daytime talk show that is almost universally despised but somehow is still on the air today. Here’s counting down the 10 worst TV shows ever made.
10. Hee Haw Honeys
There are a lot of spinoffs in this list, as spinning off formerly loved television series is what can sometimes make a bad show even more hated than it would be if it wasn’t ruining material and characters that viewers liked. This spinoff of the country music show Hee Haw features Kathie Lee Gifford and Misty Rowe as sisters running a roadside diner where, like on the original program, many popular country artists stop by to perform a song or two.
The show features the original’s hillbilly cornpone humor and country, bluegrass, and gospel music, embracing southern, rural, and country culture. It’s based on the sketch “Lulu’s Diner” and is named after the scantily clad buxom farm girls called the Hee Haw Honeys (pictured above) from Hee Haw, but never gained the popularity of that show.
Musical guests included Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, and Ronnie Milsap, among others. Hee Haw regulars featured on the show include Rowe, Gailard Sartain, Lulu Roman, and Kenny Price. While the original Hee Haw is considered important despite its corniness due to the caliber of its musical performances, Hee Haw Honeys never obtained that distinction. The show ran for just one season, from 1978 to 1979.
9. The Jackie Gleason Show
The Jackie Gleason Show existed in various iterations between 1952 and 1970. It was at times a variety show, a game show, and a talk show, all run by host Jackie Gleason. The longest-lasting version of the show was the variety show, which saw him playing different comedic characters and was influenced by vaudeville. The most famous version was the game show called You’re in the Picture, which was so bad it only lasted one episode and prompted Gleason to issue an apology to his viewers the following week.
On that episode, a panel of celebrities stuck their heads into cardboard cutouts of a famous scene or song lyric, then had to ask Gleason yes or no questions to figure out what it was. The game show was an attempt by Gleason to demonstrate versatility after his success with the variety show and Honeymooners. Needless to say, it failed. Time magazine ripped the show apart and later cited it as an example of why the 1960-1961 TV season was the worst in TV’s history thus far.
8. Cop Rock
This show made it onto an earlier article of the worst TV shows of the 1990s. The 1990 series was part police procedural and part musical, but with none of the parody or irony necessary to pull off such a weird combination. The series got terrible reviews when it came out and is generally thought to be one of the most bizarre shows of all time.
It attempted a serious tone regarding some heavy subject matter, but then the characters would randomly break out into song at the strangest of moments. Even more embarrassing for ABC was the high production costs of the show, as creator Steven Bochco had been very successful with the cop show Hill Street Blues, so the network was willing to throw a lot of money his way for this one.
“What did I learn from that experience?” Bochco said in a telephone interview with The New York Times after the show was cancelled. “Don’t put music in a cop show. Don’t have characters burst into song.” The series was cancelled after 11 episodes. During the last episode, the cast broke character and joined the crew in performing the closing song.
Here’s another spin-off for the list, this time of a show that has time and again been voted one of the best television shows of all time. This one made it onto a previous article of the worst shows of the 1980s.
M*A*S*H is considered one of the most beloved shows of all time, having been voted the 25th greatest TV showof all time by TV Guide, but after 11 seasons that ended in 1983 and saw the show lasting longer than the actual Korean War, most of the players involved felt it was time to hang it up. Unfortunately, a few involved felt that a spin-off was necessary, and of course CBS wanted to keep profiting on the massively popular show.AfterMASH was set at a veteran’s hospital after the war was over and featured just three members of the original cast: Harry Morgan (Colonel Potter), Jamie Farr (Klinger) and William Christopher (Father Mulcahy).
Similar themes of the ethics of war were discussed, but this was basically just M*A*S*H running on fumes. Somehow it kept going for two seasons right after the original show ended in 1983. It ended up not only on TV Guide’s list of the worst shows of all time, but also on Time magazine’s list of the 100 worst ideas of the century. Ouch.
6. Celebrity Boxing
This Fox special only aired two episodes in spring 2002. It is what it sounds like: D-list celebrities who need the attention boxing each other on TV. In the first episode, Danny Bonaduce beat Barry Williams, Todd Bridges beat Vanilla Ice, and Tonya Harding beat Paula Jones. Episode two featured four fights, while in the interim, many celebrities declined to appear on the show.
Darva Conger beat Olga Korbut, Dustin Diamond beat Ron Palillo, Manute Bol beat William Perry, and Joey Buttafuoco beat Joanie “Chyna” Laurer, whom Weird Al Yankovic had been approached to fight but had decided not to because he didn’t think fighting a woman on television would be a good career move. It’s also possible that the former WWF superstar, bodybuilder, and porn star Chyna would probably have killed Weird Al.
ESPN listed 20 reasons why this show turned out unintentionally hilarious, embarrassing, and cringe-inducing. It stopped production likely as much because it couldn’t find D-listers willing to embarrass themselves on it as because of how bad it was. It’s really saying something when a show is so bad even waning celebrities won’t go on it to get some more attention.
5. Hogan’s Heroes
The tagline of this World War II POW comedy is “If you liked World War II, you’ll love Hogan’s Heroes!” Just let that sentence sink in for a moment. This comedy set in a German POW camp during WWII was on air from 1965 to 1971, and it was generally well-received and even won two Emmys.
But it landed deservedly in the fifth spot on TV Guide’s list for grossly trivializing German prisoner of war camps, the Holocaust, and the atrocities of World War II in general for the sake of pretty offensive comedy, given the context. The show starred Bob Crane as an Allied colonel coordinating an international Special Operations group within the camp. The Germans running the POW camp were portrayed as being hilariously inept and incompetent.
The Allies are essentially using the entire camp as a base of operations for the Resistance and are aided greatly by the stupid Germans running it. While the show might’ve been funny enough to get Emmy nominations for best comedy series and its lead actors, it’s hard for that really politically incorrect premise not to leave a bad taste in one’s mouth.
4. The Brady Bunch Hour
When the members of The Brady Bunch got their own variety show, it ended up being one of the most awful moments in ‘70s pop culture history. The Brady Bunch was so popular that ABC wanted to make money off it any way possible, even though most of the actors had little experience with singing or dancing.
Sid and Marty Krofft, the producers behind the super successful variety show Donny & Marie, weren’t even enough to save this, though their clout was what convinced many of the cast members from The Brady Bunch to sign up. The premise is that when the Brady family is chosen to star in a new show (a show within a show) for ABC, family patriarch Mike Brady (Robert Reed) gives up his career as an architect and moves the family to Southern California to pursue show business.
Each of the variety hour’s nine episodes had song-and-dance numbers, as well as a storyline about the show within a show’s production. Even most of the people involved could see how bad this was, but participated for the cash and to keep audiences interested in the original show.
Star Robert Reed was infamously dissatisfied with all the Brady spinoffs, but for some reason really embraced this hour of awful with gusto. “The Brady Bunch Hour was incredibly bad,” Barry Williams, the actor who played Greg Brady, writes in his memoir Growing Up Brady, “but even more incredible was the fact that Robert Reed (who you’d expect would be foaming at the mouth about this mess) really enjoyed being on it.”
A lot of people, including Reed’s own co-stars, have made fun of his passionate attempts at the song-and-dance thing on this production.
This wasn’t a TV show, per se, but an attempt to make a new sport out of a combination of football and professional wrestling. World Wrestling Federation owner Vince McMahon attempted to make this alternative to the NFL in 2000. X.F.L. combined the regular football of the NFL with the theatrics of the WWF.
The show was heavily promoted, but ratings were low, and it was cancelled after one season. McMahon’s company lost $35 million from the attempt at creating a new sport, and the league disbanded in disgrace, with McMahon admitting it was a failure. It didn’t help that McMahon doesn’t have the best reputation in the sports world, so X.F.L. was widely mocked by sports journalists throughout the entire effort.
NBC’s Bob Costas said to Conan O’Brien: “It has to be at least a decade since I first mused out loud, ‘Why doesn’t somebody combine mediocre high school football with a tawdry strip club?’ Finally, somebody takes my idea and runs with it.” The whole thing was viewed as a big joke.
2. My Mother the Car
This 1965 fantasy series has one of the most bizarre premises of a TV show of all time. My Mother the Car tells the story of a man whose mother dies and is reincarnated as a 1928 Porter automobile. While now the show is widely cited as one of the worst of all time, it was actually ahead of its time in terms of the quirky sitcoms that came after it like I Dream of Jeannie, My Favorite Martian, or Mister Ed, all of which are comedies with kooky premises.
The show’s co-creator Allan Burns actually went on to have a very successful TV career, making acclaimed series including The Mary Tyler Moore Show, among others. The main character of the series is an attorney who needs to buy a second car, when he discovers the dilapidated Porter at a used car lot.
It begins speaking only to him in his mother’s voice via the car’s radio; cue the insanity jokes. He purchases the car and has it restored so he can have his dead mother close to him, but an avid car collector is constantly trying to trick him into selling it. There were three cars used in the filming of the show. The existence of one is not known, but the other two are in Edmonton, Alberta, and Gatlinburg, Tenn., at the Star Cars Museum.
1. The Jerry Springer Show
And the worst, most hated show of all time is one that has been on the air since 1991 and somehow just keeps going. The daytime talk show is the epitome of all things tasteless and trashy, with Springer’s guests often breaking out into fights as they debate the paternity of their children or whether to pursue sexual relationships with their relatives.
The studio audience makes for the loud hum of an angry mob rather than a laugh track, and that noise is interspersed with bleeped-out profanities every other second. People with sad and pathetic lives go on the show to scream at each other, air their dirty laundry, and not solve their problems in the slightest. Springer has been referred to as the anti-Oprah, and as long as there are people who want to scream and fight on television, this show will, unfortunately, probably stick around.