The 2000s may not seem very far away from this decade, but in terms of the television landscape, it’s almost an entirely different era. Reality television was a circus of ridiculous sensationalism once networks realized how popular it was in addition to being cheap to produce. Socially, it was still pretty acceptable to crack all kinds of bigoted and offensive jokes that would never fly on TV today.
While there are plenty of shows that featured these troubling tropes considered cringeworthy by today’s standards, there are plenty that transcend them. But there are also other shows that don’t.
This list features shows that, for whatever reason, become significantly less entertaining when viewed from a 2018 vantage point. Whether their foundation was built on the kind of humor and stereotypes mentioned above or scandals have rocked those associated with them, the shows on this list just haven’t improved with age.
You also might be surprised how many of them are recently off the air. A lot has changed in television in the past eight years, and some of the entries on this list really reflect that.
That said, some of them probably just shouldn’t have been made in the first place — see if you can spot the ones we’re referring to as you take this trip down this cringeworthy stretch of memory lane.
Here are 16 ’00s TV Shows That Aged Terribly.
HBO’s hit series about Vincent Chase’s rise to stardom and the friends that tag along isn’t without its charm. The guys are initially good-natured and their earnestness makes it easy to root for them even if their biggest problems are very “first world.”
But ten years later, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Entourage was a product of its time. There’s a buffet things that used to make it charming that now make it eye-roll worthy. They’re horribly irresponsible with money, which now feels in poor taste given the economy. And while the guys aren’t abusive, watching them objectify women to the degree they do feels like staring at the sun.
Ari’s arguably the show’s biggest sore thumb now, with his constant harassment of women (and Lloyd) on the show, as well as the fact that actor Jeremy Piven currently has eight separate women accusing him of misconduct.
15. THE OC
Given the amount of television shows (both reality and scripted) set in the area, there’s clearly something going on in the County of Orange that inspires serious drama. Josh Schwartz’s teen soap, The OC, really leaned into it.
The show was a runaway hit when it first premiered and remained a fond memory for everyone who came of age along with Ryan, Seth, Summer, and Marissa.
Maybe our memory is maybe where this show should stay.
Despite the fact that it boasted some killer performances and better-than-average dialogue for a teen drama in its day, there’s too much that’s either dated or ridiculous for The OC to hold up now. Julie Cooper’s affair with Luke Ryan is 100% creepy, Marissa’s “experimenting” with her girlfriend is pretty tone deaf by today’s standards, and the diversity on the show is virtually non-existent. Oh, and there was that time Ryan was a hitman…
No show has abused the episode-ending cliffhanger more than Lost. Every revelation the islanders got regarding their situation was overshadowed by another mystery that grew like a weed in its place.
Season 1’s finale had the internet ablaze for months about what could possibly be down that hatch, and the show would turn itself inside out during later seasons trying to simultaneously solve and complicate its own riddle.
And that’s why it’s on this list. Lost started out with such promise, and then it devolved into a multi-dimensional problem that was impossible to solve. The series finale is famously disappointing, failing to tie up many of the show’s loose ends and featuring a lame twist that undermined half the final season.
13. HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
One of the biggest hits in sitcom history, How I Met Your Mother dominated the airwaves from 2005-2014. It followed the story of Ted, an architect in New York City looking for love and it was narrated by Ted’s future self as he tells his children (wait for it) how he met their mother.
The show baited audiences for years with the identity of “the mother,” twisting and turning as Ted went through relationship after relationship, only to reveal she wasn’t the one.
Then, when they finally did reveal the identity of the mother (tragically terminal Tracy), the finale undermined the show’s entire premise by making it out that Robin was Ted’s one and only the entire time.
12. EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND
Don’t get us wrong, we love Ray Romano. He’s an hilarious comedian with serious dramatic chops. That’s why we recommend you check out some of his other work in The Big Sick and Parenthood instead going back down memory lane with Everybody Loves Raymond.
This once-hit sitcom just isn’t that relevant anymore.
Romano plays sportswriter Ray Barone, who’s constantly in the middle of some kind of family drama. Ray’s always tasked with playing peacemaker, but he’s horrible at it, so the show’s a mess of frustrating, abusive relationships. His parents have no boundaries and are always at each other’s throats, and he and his wife have almost nothing in common.
So many of the episodes feature screaming fights for comedic effect followed by a Band-Aid resolution, and that’s a played-out trope. This show was old-fashioned when it aired, and it feels like a dinosaur now.
11. WILL & GRACE
When Will & Grace returned last year, it honestly felt like a long-lost friend coming back from the dead. The original show was a cultural phenomenon — it was the first mainstream network sitcom to put gay characters and relationships at the forefront since Ellen, and it used its platform to address dozens of social issues in its eight-season run.
Those “hot takes” seem extremely outdated now.
Unfortunately, the reboot makes it seem like these characters haven’t evolved at all in ten years, which makes things even worse.
Jack still makes fat jokes about Will, the gay puns and Jewish spinster puns aren’t just corny now, they’re kind of mean. And the fact that Will and Grace are still living together into their 40s regardless of what creative retconning got us there is just kind of weird.
10. FEAR FACTOR
In its nascency, competitive reality was mostly comprised of shows filled with people trying to out-masochism each other, and Fear Factor was the king.
What began as a relatively cool show about people competing in extreme situations designed to be terrifying devolved into a “Who can eat the most of the grossest thing” weekly documentary.
Watching the show will have you wondering why so many people tuned in to see people eat cod egg sacks.
Fear Factor always had an expiration date — there are only so many extreme challenges you can put people through before you have to start actually putting people in danger — and, as of yet, we’re still fine with it living in the past.
9. 7TH HEAVEN
7th Heaven, the Christian-centric story of the Camden family, was one of the WB’s primetime crown jewels. The show toed the line between human stories and religious values, making it an interesting and benign family show. Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons 7th Heaven does not deserve your rewatch time.
Not only is it painfully saccharine (the dog’s name is “Happy,” which was also the dog-actor’s real name) and one of the whitest shows the WB ever produced, it famously skirted any real life issues that could offend its religious base. There are no gay people or terminated pregnancies in Glen Oak, California, and everyone who gets married has children immediately.
8. DAWSON’S CREEK
Dawson’s Creek was a massive hit when it premiered in 1998. The teen drama distinguished itself with complex relationships and sophisticated dialogue. It also gave fledgling network, the WB, a serious anchor in the teen demographic. Unfortunately, this seminal show doesn’t really have the same impact as it did 20 years ago.
The dialogue that once felt cool now feels clunky and the Dawson/Joey relationship is painful and takes up way too much space. Pacey sleeps with his English teacher is actually assault, but the show treats the two like star-crossed lovers, even going so far as to have Pacey (the victim) lie in court to save a woman who, in reality, would’ve been a predator.
7. ONE TREE HILL
One Tree Hill was another early WB then CW teen soap. Its central conflict revolved around teen half-brothers, Lucas and Nathan Scott, and their friends in the fictional North Carolina town of Tree Hill. The show ran for eight seasons, but there are a few things both on-camera and off that makes this show pretty problematic viewing in 2018.
Nowadays, Brook bullying Rachel by posting fat-shaming pictures all over their school would be very disturbing, not just mean. Also disturbing? The casually misogynistic terms these teenage girls are always throwing at one another, sometimes under the guise of affection.
It turns out working on the show was a nightmare for some.
In 2017, 18 members of the show’s cast and crew signed a letter alleging showrunner Mark Schwahn had harassed them throughout the run of the show. The accusations have cast a serious pall on the show’s legacy and cast the writing of the female characters in a very different light.
This show about plastic surgery bros Christian Troy and Sean McNamara was the show that put Ryan Murphy on the map. Nip/Tuck was edgy, stylish, and unabashedly inappropriate, but its strengths would eventually become the show’s weaknesses and it looks like a gruesome circus eight years later.
Christian Troy’s horrific treatment of the women in his life is part of what makes him such a striking antihero, but by today’s standards, being so selfish and abusive makes him really hard to root for. Remember when had relations with a patient only after she put a paper bag over her head?
Aside from Troy, there’s also Ava’s (Famke Jansen) love triangle with her adopted son that ends with him ending his life in front of her after he learns she’s also dating Sean’s son Matt. And Sean pretending to be paralyzed so he doesn’t have to perform surgery? Let’s not even get into The Carver.
5. THE SWAN
If you’re unaware of this plastic surgery makeover show that premiered in 2004 and ran for two seasons, consider yourself lucky.
The Swan was a low-point in reality television’s early days, and that’s saying something.
“Homely” women competed with each other to see who would, after hard work and extensive plastic surgery, emerge to become the fairest one of all. Yup, that is exactly as terrible as it sounds.
Not only did the show promote unrealistic standards of beauty (if you need plastic surgery live up to the standard of beauty, the standard is unrealistic), it also did so at the expense of real women who were clearly being told that they were less than because of their looks. It was horrible watching it then, and it’s even worse now.
4. TWO AND A HALF MEN
Chuck Lorre’s drama-filled comedy about two brothers and the boy they were raising ran for 12 seasons. It survived the loss of two of its main stars (Charlie Sheen and Angus T. Wilson both left before the series’ end) and no small amount of acrimony behind the scenes.
While the show endured during these trials, it’s hopelessly outdated and unfunny today.
Charlie Sheen’s Charlie Harper is a full-blown alcoholic, but the show treats his behavior like a joke. The sitcom also frequently depended on lame sexist, homophobic, and transphobic jokes for way too much of its comedy, and the women are either idiots, stalkers, or Holland Taylor. The show’s too full of too many silly stereotypes to stand up in today’s TV landscape.
We know we’re going to step on some toes here, so we want to make it clear that we love Smallville very, very much. It was a seminal teen superhero drama and helped make the CW’s current SuperLineup possible.
Despite how much we love it, because there’s so much good superhero television to be had nowadays, Smallville is hard to watch without noticing its shortcomings.
The show’s just of a different time in literally every capacity.
The romance is too melodramatic, the special effects are terrible, and the music is so, so very dated. If you’re nostalgic for Smallville, you’ll probably be able to overlook these things, but if you’re new to the show, it might have a hard time winning you over.
2. BOSTON LEGAL
David E. Kelly ruled primetime legal television for an impressive number of years in the ’90s and ;00s. He started with ultra-serious defense drama, The Practice, then moved on to pioneer the concept of the “dramedy” with Ally McBeal, and then finished up with Boston Legal, a direct spin-off of The Practice, in 2004.
Boston Legal combined the zaniness of Ally McBeal with the hard-hitting subject matter of The Practice and ran for five seasons, ending in 2008.
We wish we could say it was worth a rewatch.
The inter-office romance between superiors and subordinates is now laughably inappropriate, as is the constant harassment women endure at the hands of two of the firm’s senior associates, best friends Alan Shore and Denny Crane. If you’re going to give this one another go, just try to focus on Candice Bergen.
Glee started off so well — Ryan Murphy remains the first showrunner to produce an entire musical for each episode of a network television series. Plus, it actually tackled socially relevant issues like teen pregnancy, sexuality, and mental illness with both humor and sensitivity. Then it just kind of ran away with itself.
For a show that claimed to be about joy, it sure missed the mark.
After the first few seasons, the show really struggles to maintain and evolve the elements that made it popular in the first place. The social issue storylines that made the show relevant became more and more outlandish, and trying to introduce a new glee club crop to the Ohio half of the story after all the interesting characters moved to New York proved futile.
What other shows from the 2000s haven’t aged well? Let us know in the comments!
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