Next month in New York City, the broadcast networks will unveil a whole new batch of comedies that could either follow in the footsteps of The Big Bang Theory — or fall flat like I Hate My Teenage Daughter.
So that got us thinking: Just how many half-hours over the years, failed or otherwise, have become go-to synonyms for bad TV sitcoms? We know what you’re thinking — by golly, I’ve lost count! But here are 10 that have (and always will) serve as convenient punchlines.
Baby Bob (CBS, 2002-03)
An unspeakable crime — and not just because fan faves like Adam Arkin, Elliott Gould, and Holland Taylor opted to star in a comedy about a six-month-old talking baby.
Shasta McNasty (UPN, 1999-00)
The subject matter wasn’t that heinous; it was basically an ensemble comedy about three male roommates. How these young “men” chose to spend their days, however, is what torpedoed this show: They wrote rap music, reneged on rent, and scoped out beach chicks. Snooze. And did we mention it starred Verne Troyer?
Yes, Dear (2000-2006)
From a business perspective, this multi-camera comedy wasn’t a failure. On the contrary, the sitcom that starred Anthony Clark and Mike O’Malley (Kurt’s dad on Glee!) still repeats fairly well on cable. But critics turned up their noses because the “yuks” relied on tired tropes like henpecked husbands (Clark) and nincompoop neighbors (O’Malley).
Cavemen (2007, ABC)
It would be easy to blame this comedy’s quick cancellation on the fact that it went on hiatus (and never came back) because Hollywood writers went on strike. Instead, it stands as one of the most cynical examples of network programming ever — that a popular commercial from GEICO could make a seamless transitions to series TV.
Homeboys in Outer Space (UPN, 1996-97)
The show was meant as a send up to Star Trek, but all it did was attract the ire of the NAACP for depicting black men from the ghetto and their travels on a Space Hoopty, a low-riding rocket that was operated by a sassy black woman. (Hi, Vivica A. Fox!)
Joanie Loves Chachi (ABC, 1982-83)
This Happy Days spinoff actually lasted two seasons, but ratings took a nose-dive in the second year — probably because viewers eventually realized that no one else at Arnold’s Drive-in mattered except Richie and the Fonz.
Stacked (2005, FOX)
We’re not sure what’s more shocking: that an entire comedy was largely built around Pam Anderson’s massive ta-tas or that it came from the otherwise clever mind of Steve Levitan, the guy responsible (with Chris Lloyd) for the massively successful Modern Family. (But he probably wipes away the bad memories with his million dollar paycheck).
According to Jim (2001-09, ABC)
Another example of a successful family comedy that critics absolutely loathed — mostly due to the fact that everything on the series seemed recycled from stale sitcoms whose own comedy and wit had expired long ago.
The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer (1998, UPN)
UPN, at it again: The netlet thought it would be different to offer a light-hearted take on America’s greatest sin. Chi McBride starred as an English nobleman sold into American slavery who ends up working in the White House as President Lincoln’s valet during the Civil War. Hijinks!
Work It (2012, ABC)
You’d think the networks would have learned their lesson on how NOT to make a tasteless sitcom. But nooooo; just last year, ABC thought it would be a knee-slapper to do an updated version of Bosom Buddies. It lasted all of two weeks.