Jul 26, 2014

Whose Ideas Was This?

Sean Fox looks at the worst ever premises for a TV show

Whose Ideas Was This?

How often do you turn the TV on and see a show, or a commercial for a new show, and think to yourself, “Who comes up with these ideas?” Granted, somewhat “out there” ideas like Lost and Glee became international sensations, but for every one of those smash hits there are many more Joey-like failures.

Sometimes TV shows that started off as horrible ideas actually end up becoming quite good, but it’s far more common for them to crash and burn. The following list is populated by some well-known and some more obscure shows that were, for various reasons, horrible ideas.

Cavemen – Take a group of ugly, obnoxious characters from a series of car insurance commercials, give them their own TV series, and what do you get? A really bad TV show. Not only did someone come up with this idea, pitched it with (presumably) a straight face, but some executive thought it was a good idea. The show lasted for one 12-episode season on ABC, but only half of them were ever aired on American TV.

Viva LaughlinGlee has proved that audiences are willing to get behind a TV show full of singing and dancing, and it’s somewhat surprising that a show set in a high school in rural Ohio was more successful than one set in Sin City. However, most musical television shows are abject failures, and this CBS gem is no different. Spearheaded by Hugh Jackman, who starred in the first episode, the series was canned after its second episode.

Curb Your Enthusiasm – Follow around an old guy and vicariously experience the minutiae of his (fictional) daily life. Doesn’t exactly sound like compelling television. However, Larry David makes it work. David created Seinfeld, famous for being a show about nothing, and Curb Your Enthusiasm seemed to follow in this mold. David’s social ineptitude can reach points where it’s physically painful to watch, which makes the show all the more entertaining.

Poochinski – Seriously. Who comes up with these ideas? Give me that job because I can do a whole heck of a lot better. A police officer is killed in the line of duty and gets a second chance at life… as a dog. Rather than spend his time humping the legs of strangers, however, this special pup helps solve crime. I think there may be a contest between networks to see who can get the most brain-dead viewers to watch a criminally idiotic show.

Cop Rock – Is there anything less intimidating than a police officer spontaneously breaking out into song while trying to arrest a criminal? I know I would be tempted to rob every bank in the area if that’s what the local police force was like. The show aired 11 episodes on ABC in 1990, and luckily it seems to have remained mostly in the past.

My Mother the Car – Knight Rider is one thing. At least you can make the argument that Kit is an example of highly advanced artificial intelligence. This NBC “classic,” which aired one season in 1965, operated on the premise that a dead woman communicated to her son through the radio of an antique car. How does this make any sense? And more importantly, who would want to watch this?

Television has been the preferred media of entertainment for American families for decades, and so it’s no surprise that the struggle for network supremacy has produced some awful stinkers. However, it boggles the mind how most of these shows, and others like it, get made.

Were the scripts for new pilots so bad during these times that they had to resort to creating TV that is more effective as a parody of the genre than as legitimate entertainment? I don’t think we’ll ever know.

That is, unless someone decides to make a show about a network that makes TV shows.

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