It’s been more than a decade since the WB and UPN networks fused together to become the CW. Time enough for the network to air its share of crappy shows.
It's not that the CW is a wretched hive of scum and bad TV. It’s given us Supernatural, The Flash, Black Lightning, Riverdale, The Vampire Diaries, iZombie, and Veronica Mars. It’s also offered a ton of forgettable teens soaps one critic summed up as “because they do not aim particularly high, they pretty much hit what they aim at.” But hey, it’s not as if the other networks have an unbroken string of critically acclaimed series. In the words of science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, 90 percent of everything is bad.
Some bad TV shows become legendary; the screen embodiment of epic fail. Other shows slide quietly down the memory hole, unwept, unhonored and unsung, except in the minds and blogs of fans. The twenty shows that follow fall into category B. They’re forgotten shows that the CW would probably prefer stay that way.
Teen soaps, science-fiction, reality, thrillers and sitcoms - as you’ll see, the CW has something awful for everyone.
Here are 20 Bad CW Shows You Completely Forgot.
20 Pussycat Dolls Presents: The Search for the Next Doll
A biopic about the Pussycat Dolls might have been more interesting than their reality show turned out to be. Created in the 1990s as a burlesque group, the Dolls became a musical group in the early 2000s, then got their own CW reality show in 2007.
The Search for the Next Doll fell in the "You Too, Can Be A Star" genre of reality TV. The contestants competed in various challenges for the privilege of becoming a Doll -- for example cage dancing and shooting deodorant commercials.
Some fans were annoyed that the winner, Asia Nitollano, had already left the group for a solo career by the time the series aired. Given that the Pussycat Dolls went on permanent hiatus a couple of years later, that may have been a good call.
To give 2013’s metafictional Cult its due, it certainly wasn’t same-old, same-old. It managed to suck in entirely new ways.
Cult is about a TV show called Cult, concerning a fanatical cult of criminals led by a Mansonesque mastermind. Cult (the real show, not the fictional one) also deals with the cult that forms around the fictional Cult. Fictional Cult is a complex, Lost-style hit and fans discuss it endlessly online, obsess over details and try to fathom its Easter eggs and meta-messages. But is it possible they’re also re-enacting the crimes? And that the auteur behind it all is encouraging them?
That’s a novel angle, but if the CW hoped a show about a cult TV show would spark a real-world cult about Cult, the network was sorely let down.
18 Beauty and the Beast
Whatever her limits as an actor, Kristin Kreuk certainly provided beauty in this 2012 series. The trouble was, her co-star Jay Ryan just provided more beauty.
The Beauty and the Beast, its movie adaptations, and the 1980s CBS TV show all provide a man-beast who looks as likely to rip his costars apart as to hug them. Can the female lead see the good man behind the animal visage?
In the CW’s take, the Beast is handsome.
Okay, he has a scar on his face, but nobody who checks him out is going to shrink back in fear. Instead, he’s a doctor and military veteran who’s been subjected to mad science experiments that cause him to fly into bestial rages when provoked.
Still, the show lasted four seasons, which is more than most of this list can boast.
17 Emily Owens, MD
What do you get if you mash up a high school drama with Grey’s Anatomy? Judging by 2012’s Emily Owens, MD, nothing good.
In the pilot, the insecure, nervous Owens starts her medical residency, which should be awesome. But her high school archenemy went to medical school too - and she’s in the same residency program! As years of college and medical school haven’t apparently matured either of them, their old rivalry kicks in. And wouldn’t you know, they both like the same boy! Steel yourself for a clash of titans, sort of.
This is the sort of show where the mean girl calls our heroine "Pits" as a nasty nickname.
The show debuted the same season as Arrow, but faded away after thirteen episodes. TV Guide suggested that if nothing else, the contrast helped the CW figure out what not to put on the air.
16 Melrose Place
No, the Melrose Place that ran for seven years in the 1990s. This was the CW’s 2009 Melrose Place, which lasted less than a year.
Set in the same apartment complex as the original, this reboot had the advantage of skipping the original’s earnest first season and getting to the over-the-top stuff immediately. Sydney (Laura Leighton) returns from the original series only to wind up eliminated by the end of the first episode. Spoiler: lots of people had a motive to want her gone. Perhaps the show was borrowing from Desperate Housewives’ success with a murder mystery?
The CW wrung five seasons’ worth of stories out of its 90210, but Melrose Place didn't have the same luck. Perhaps because so many other shows had already imitated the original more successfully.
15 The Catalina
A summer 2012 show, The Catalina was widely derided as “what if we rip off Jersey Shore but set it in South Beach?” It was also mocked as an informercial posing as reality TV.
The creator of the show also owned the Catalina Hotel where the cast hung out, partied, and hooked up.
CW execs who defended the show painted it as more of a documentary: what really goes on at a hotel like that? What’s life like for the staff? Promotional materials described The Catalina as a “true representation of young adulthood in South Beach.”
Somehow reviewers didn’t buy the idea the show was serious sociology. They focused instead on the partying and hooking up and noted that Jersey Shore had done the same things first and more entertainingly. The Catalina vanished from the airwaves within two months.
Having established itself as a home for sexy teen drama, it’s not surprising the CW’s tried some paranormal variations. Human girl/vampire proved a winning twist in Vampire Diaries but Star-Crossed’s human girl/ET boy was less successful.
The backstory, reminiscent of Alien Nation, had the survivors of an alien spaceship's crash endure bigotry and suspicion from humanity. Ten years later, a high school opens itself up to the first ET/human integrated student body. The writers acknowledged the intentional parallel to black/white school integration, though nobody in the show seemed to notice the resemblance.
One critic dismissed Star-Crossed as Romeo and Juliet but without either poetry or emotional drama. The show opened in February 2014 and ended in May. It left a lot of disappointed fans behind it, but obviously not enough to keep it on the air.
13 18 to Life
Some viewers thought 2010’s 18 to Life was irresponsible for portraying teen marriage as a wacky romp. Other viewers argued it was more responsible than glamorizing premarital teenage relations. Then again, marrying as the outcome of a truth-or-dare game isn’t what most people would call mature.
Although there's a long tradition of teen-marriage films, it's an oddly dated premise for the 21st century, even given it skipped the usual rationale of unintended pregnancy. For the year the series ran, the protagonists coped with astonished friends and outraged parents, plus learning to negotiate married life. One unenthused reviewer suggested it would be perfect for teenagers who were doing at least two other things while watching, so they wouldn’t have to pay too much attention. Not enough teens watched, even under those terms.
12 13: Fear Is Real
Although Sam Raimi was executive producer of this 2009 reality show, and it takes place in an isolated, spooky cabin, 13: Fear is Real did not become the next Evil Dead. Nor was it Ash vs. The Evil Dead. Heck, it wasn’t even Young Hercules.
The cast of Fear Is Real compete in challenges designed by the unseen Mastermind (he communicates by taped messages and notes) to supposedly force them to confront their greatest fears. Who will survive long enough to win the big cash prize? Of course, despite calling the elimination ceremony an “execution” this suffered from an problem: nobody’s going to perish and Mastermind’s not actually scary.
Viewers couldn’t suspend their disbelief and pretend otherwise, so the network executed the series after slightly more than a month.
11 Tomorrow People
2013’s The Tomorrow People was another science-fiction story that coincidentally focused on pretty young people. The “tomorrow people” are the next step in human evolution, running from a government that hates, fears and hopes to exploit them. The protagonist (Robbie Amell), falls in with a mutant underground fighting against the federal agency, Ultra, that wants to control them.
The creators acknowledged the resemblance to the X-Men, but Tomorrow People was based on the same-name 1970s British series.
It finished a full season but ratings just weren’t high enough for the CW to bring it back.
Although glossier than the original series, it’s unlikely to acquire the cult status that '70s show had for many fans. Still, Tomorrow People is easily the best show on this list.
10 Hidden Palms
2007’s Hidden Palms went for a more conventional approach to sexy teen drama than Star-Crossed or The Tomorrow People. Kid moves to California with his family. Kid falls in with other teens. Some of the people around him have dark secrets. Life is full of drama, angst, romance.
That is, of course, a classic recipe for TV drama, but this one didn’t click. Pretty much every card in its hand had been played by other shows — a lot of people saw it as ripping off The O.C. — and played better. After eight episodes, Hidden Palms wasn’t hiding, it was gone for good.
Despite being created by Kevin Williamson, it would go into the failure pile with Williamson’s Wasteland rather than Dawson’s Creek or The Vampire Diaries.
In the movie Frequency (2000), cop Jim Caviezel’s old ham radio contacts his firefighter father thirty years in the past. The changes this causes save Dad’s life, but gets Mom eliminated by a criminal. Can the two men save her?
In the CW’s 2016 take, both father and daughter Raimy are cops. That made sense — it would be harder for a firefighter to hunt a criminal week after week — but it also made the series 90 percent generic cop show.
Raimy (Petyon List) is an embittered, weary burnout. Dad’s undercover gigs have made him do questionable things. Even the idea of cops battling a serial-killer nemesis had been done before (Mentalist, Profiler). Despite the time-travel angle, Petyon and Dad could have been on different coasts instead of decades. Nothing much would have changed.
8 The Beautiful Life: TBL
What was the point of putting both the show’s full name and its abbreviation in the title? Then again, even if we knew would we care?
The Beautiful Life: TBL actually had a good reason for filling the cast with beautiful people: it’s set in the world of modeling. It seemed a perfect fit for the CW’s brand: it had glamor, high fashion, beautiful faces, cutthroat competition, dark secrets, harassment and an innocent protagonist plunged into this strange new world.
It had everything but viewers.
The show’s sole claim to fame was that it was the first network cancellation of the 2009 fall season. Two episodes aired, then the rest went to YouTube. Series about models often flop (Living Dolls, Models Inc., Paper Dolls) but TBL got itself canceled faster than any of them.
Like Cult, 2011’s Ringer was on the convoluted side.Though nowhere near as convoluted as Cult, it was possibly too much for viewers.
Sarah Michelle Gellar returned to series television as identical twins, one a wealthy socialite (Siobhan), one a lowlife crime witness running from a criminal (Bridget). With nowhere else to run, Bridget drops in on Siobhan; after Siobhan apparently takes her own life Bridget decides assuming her identity is the safest move.
Oops! Siobhan was taken out and now the criminal’s now after Bridget! No, wait, Siobhan actually faked her own end! Now she’s sometimes impersonating Bridget while Bridget impersonates Siobhan. See what we mean about convoluted? The series did complete its freshman season, but no more.
Of course, if it had clicked with fans, everyone would be discussing how cool it was that Ringer was so complex, it made viewers work to follow the plot. But that’s not how it turned out.
Pretty aliens. Pretty mutants. Hey, how about a series with pretty gods?
The premise of 2008's Valentine was that the Greek gods have been living among us, sustaining their godly power by helping mortals find love. Unfortunately their style of matchmaking is totally out of synch with the modern world so they recruit a romance novelist to help them up their game.
Olympian gods in the modern world has been a comedy premise before TV even existed. Just a decade earlier ABC had tried gods as matchmakers with Cupid, then rebooted Cupid in 2009. Neither version lasted. Valentine ran for a month, then the remaining episodes aired the following summer. So technically, it stayed on the air a whole year, which is longer than either Cupid.
5 Significant Mother
If nothing else, the title of this 2015 show is pretty catchy. But that was all Significant Mother had going for it.
The opening of the first episode has hunky twenty-something Jimmy hooking up with Lydia while his roommate Nate’s away. When Nate returns — oh no, Lydia’s his mother! But it's not just a hook up; Jimmy and Lydia are dating!
Friends had a similar plotline that took up part of one episode. The American Pie series had mom/buddy hookup as a subplot. Making it the core of an entire series? That’s a stretch. Of course, good sitcoms aren’t just about the premise, they’re about character, humor and good writing. This show didn’t have any of that. It took little more than a month for the axe to fall
Like TBL, 2010's Hellcats had a reason to fill the screen with young, beautiful stars: it’s about cheerleaders.
The protagonist, Marti, is a pre-law student who desperately needs a scholarship. There’s a scholarship for cheerleaders, but that requires Marti win a slot on the college’s elite cheer squad, the Hellcats. And if the Hellcats don’t win the big contest, the college will cut the cheerleading program. Can Marti help the team to victory?
While nobody claimed the results were art, a number of critics thought it succeeded as cheerfully cheesy entertainment.
Others declared it didn’t even work at that level. Apparently the audience sided with the latter as the show’s ratings declined over the course of its single season. Hellcats didn't get invited back for more.
The 2016 thriller Containment was a limited series, but with the option of running longer if it did well. Apparently the network didn’t think it did well enough; ratings weren’t bad, but they didn’t hold on to enough of the Flash audience.
The show is an apocalyptic story in which a viral plague breaks out in Atlanta. The struggle to contain the disease leads to an imposed quarantine zone. Families are torn apart depending which side of the cordon they’re on, and life inside the zone becomes increasing unstable and dangerous.
Despite the potential in the set-up, nobody seemed to find the results compelling enough to recommend it.
Viewers liked it better, but not enough for the CW to extend its limited run.
Runaway was a miserable failure, but it did earn a minor footnote in TV history.
Debuting in September 2006, Runaway was the first true CW series, as opposed to the show inherited from the parent networks. After three episodes, it became the first series canceled by the CW, though the network did burn off the remaining episodes the following year.
Donnie Wahlberg stars as attorney Paul Rader. Framed for a crime, hunted by the real criminal, he moves his family to a new town to start over. Can they find evidence to clear him before the bad guy catches up? T
he set-up’s been compared to the classic The Fugitive, but The Fugitive lasted 120 episodes. Runaway’s ratings hit the bottom of the barrel so hard, analysts wondered if it was a warning sign about the new network’s future.
1 The Messengers
Teens. Gods. Aliens. Models. Mutants. How about attractive young… angels?
2015’s The Messengers has a mysterious object strike the Earth, endowing five nearby strangers with uncanny powers, like the wave of dark matter on Flash. These powers are mystical, as the End Times of Revelation are on hand and these five will play a key role. Can they stave off the apocalypse? Is it possible some of them will turn to the dark side instead?
Nothing says high stakes like the end of the world, with God and Satan having an no-holds-barred showdown. Yet somehow, nobody cared. Ratings were flat. Critics found the show heavy on mythology, light on character and storytelling.
The CW canceled The Messengers after two episodes, though it aired all thirteen that had been filmed.
Any bad CW shows we forgot we forgot? Tell us in comments.