Netflix is on top of the world. The company has a library of old television that has made it a go-to streaming service for anyone who’s interested in revisiting an old show, or discovering a new one for the first time, and they also have a collection of movies that’s well worth looking at. In addition to its catalog of shows from other networks, Netflix also produces original content on its own, and plans to produce more and more.
Shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Stranger Things are all evidence that Netflix knows how to put its significant amount of cash behind good projects, but they don’t hit it out of the park every time. Sometimes, Netflix’s original content isn’t the greatest thing to spend a Saturday binge-watching. These shows can be unfocused, unfunny, or just plain boring. The only thing that unites them is their lack of quality.
Here are Netflix’s 15 Worst Original Shows, Ranked.
15 The Characters
In the history of television, sketch comedy has always had a special place. Saturday Night Live has been an institution for generations, and many other hugely important comedy shows have come and gone over the years of its run. Unfortunately, not every sketch comedy show is up to these high standards, and Netflix’s first foray into the genre wasn’t an enormous success. The basic premise of The Characters allowed comedians an entire half hour to write and produce their own sketch comedy.
While the idea of giving young sketch comedians this deal sounds like a good idea, the freedom ultimately led to some pretty hit-or-miss results. Some of the episodes were genuinely funny, and others were far less so. The decision to give these young comedians a chance was certainly a noble one. Netflix’s model seems to be to release creative control whenever possible, and let artists do the hard work. Unfortunately, in this case, that business model didn’t produce outstanding results.
Admittedly, Cooked is something of an outlier on this list. For one thing, it’s not a scripted show. Instead, it follows acclaimed food writer Michael Pollan as he uses food as a vehicle for exploring the world. While it may sound like an interesting docuseries, in reality, Cooked is a fairly dry exercise, and just isn't as interesting as many other cooking shows.
The show also tries too hard to make cooking a profound experience. While it’s true that cooking can be meaningful, Cooked forces that idea down our throats. Cooking may have meaning, but it probably doesn’t summarize the human experience in its entirety, and the show’s attempt to argue that ultimately makes it seem both silly and needlessly profound. Cooking shows are fun precisely because they can help us filter out the noise of our real lives. Cooked tries to do just the opposite, and fails in the process.
13 The Ranch
While it’s certainly true that The Ranch has its fair share of admirers, the general consensus on the show seems to be that it’s a pretty underwhelming affair. The series follows a former football star, played by Ashton Kutcher, who returns home to help his family run their business. While there are certainly things to love about The Ranch, the show as a whole isn’t one of Netflix’s strongest outings.
For the most part, the show’s writing is entirely predictable and stories play out conventionally. The jokes can also feel tired or obvious at times, although there are other elements that compensate for these deficiencies, including the sensitivity given to the characters at the show’s center.
The Ranch is a mixed bag, for sure, but at Netflix, where the quality is often quite high, that’s more than enough. The show might not be particularly bad, but it’s also not very inventive, which sucks some of the joy out of watching it.
12 Haters Back Off
Though ostensibly a comedy, Haters Back Off is often a fairly painful experience. The show follows a fictional character and YouTube star known as Miranda Sings as she strives for fame. The idea behind the character is that she’s spoiled, bratty, and brimming with confidence that she’s almost certainly a star in the making - but she's actually completely talentless. Miranda is a singer, a dancer, an actor, and a model, and she’s very sure she’s great at all of these things.
While the show may work on YouTube in quick bursts, its effect is diluted when the character is put in the longer format of television episodes. The show can also be quite bizarre, and it’s often a grating experience as well. The show certainly knows how to build a joke, and its writer/star is incredibly talented.
Still, the show doesn’t work as well as its YouTube counterpart, and it’s actually quite a terrible viewing experience for long stretches. No amount of laughs is worth that.
11 F is for Family
An animated series in the mold of family shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy, F is For Family is probably too much like its predecessors. The show is given an advantage in that it’s able to use vulgarity more than its network-bound counterparts. Still, F is For Family relies too heavily on this particular brand of comedy, and that often means that its jokes don’t really feel earned.
Like several of the shows on this list, F is For Family is more of a mixed bag than it is an outright disaster. The show has been praised for its depiction of a family that’s remarkably realistic. Despite its graphic surface, this animated show also has a fairly big heart, uncharacteristic of shows in this genre.
F is For Family also has nice animation, but it’s not enough to save the show from its own vulgarity, which is funny for a while before becoming downright excessive.
House of Cards showed Netflix that audiences have a taste for soapy political intrigue, but replicating that formula didn't pan out - at least not with Marseille. The show, which follows an old mayor who’s challenged by his protege, was rife with many of the problems that separate great political television from its dumber counterparts.
The series is built on the idea that viewers will be compelled by all of the various political machinations that the show’s many characters put into place. In reality, the show relies heavily on the same tropes that have come to define many cable shows in the era of prestige television. In the end, the show's far too silly for its own good, and it's filled to the brim with plot twists that were more than a little difficult to swallow. Execution still matters, and the writing on Marseilles proved that not every show that’s dressed up like a prestige drama pays off on the promise.
While Chelsea isn’t a scripted series, that doesn't mean it wasn’t poorly conceived. The show features host Chelsea Handler discussing various important issues with her guests in the usual talk show format - the only difference being that the show is available to stream. While the show is supposed to be an innovative and exciting new format for a talk show, it often comes up short in that regard.
Still, if this was the show’s only flaw, it would likely be a forgivable one. Unfortunately, Handler’s show also fails to be both smart and funny. In an era where late night television is flourishing, even on more conventional programs, Chelsea does very little to separate itself from the pack, and it actually does things that actively make it less interesting than many of its competitors. The idea of a talk show with fewer hard and fast rules and a looser format sounds appealing. Unfortunately, in this instance, it gave us Chelsea.
8 Marco Polo
Set in the 13th century and following the titular explorer, Marco Polo is one of the few shows that Netflix has outright canceled. The show did run for two seasons, but it never gained a following the way some of the streaming service’s other properties have. The largest problem with Marco Polo was that, unlike similar period or fantasy shows like Game of Thrones or even Vikings, this show never had interesting characters worth watching at its center. Instead, it was much more interested in conventional plotting that didn’t give viewers any reason to stick with the show.
While it may be interesting to explore the complex culture of the far East, the intrigue of Marco Polo could never stand up against the strongest genre shows on the air. Marco Polo’s travels certainly made him a legend worth considering, but Netflix’s attempt to make him an icon fell short of the mark.
Give credit to Between for having interesting ideas. The show follows a pregnant teen who intends to give up her child and leave her small town, until a virus strikes the town and forces a quarantine inside of the town, and the young woman must stay and deal with her issues. Unfortunately, Between couldn’t decide whether it actually wanted to be a show about the outbreak of a virus or about the hardships of a young woman.
In the end, it was neither, and the show suffered for this lack of clarity. It also suffered for its heavy reliance on cliche, especially within the apocalyptic genre that’s incredibly popular these days. Between was hurt by its weak lead performances, which made the show’s reliance on conventions even harder to swallow. In many ways, Between is a pretty irredeemable show, and it’s certainly one of the worst outings that Netflix has produced.
6 Hemlock Grove
Another idea that sounds good on paper, but was flubbed in its execution. Set in a town divided sharply into haves and have-nots, the story of Hemlock Grove follows the occupants of the town as we gradually come to understand the various secrets that they’re keeping. The premise, at least, sounds a lot like Twin Peaks, which was a highly praised show that also focused on a small town filled with secrets.
Unfortunately, the magic of Twin Peaks wasn’t around for Hemlock Grove, which proved to be a show filled with problems. The intrigue the show relied on didn’t feel like it came with any original ideas. Part of what made Twin Peaks so remarkable was the way it packaged its straightforward procedural plot with plenty of surreal twists. Hemlock Grove, though it tried to be an imitator, couldn’t quite live to the high bar of other shows that it had a lot in common with.
Will Arnett has a truly great Netflix show. It’s called Bojack Horseman, and it’s absolutely one of the best shows on television. Unfortunately, his live-action outing Flaked didn’t exactly live up to that high bar of quality. The show, which follows a recovering alcoholic who lives in the insulated community of Venice Beach, California, tries to be everything all at once. The idea behind the show was that although Arnett's character presents himself as being full of wisdom, he's just as lost as everyone else.
Unfortunately, Flaked can’t decide whether it wants to be dramatic or funny, and it ultimately doesn't nail either tone. The central character's confusion and disordered life aren’t compelling, and they actually become a turn off pretty quickly. At the same time, Flaked makes it abundantly clear that these kind of self-indulgent projects aren’t always interesting. In fact, many of them, Flaked included, can be rather dull and lifeless.
Pompidou doesn’t have much going for it. The British comedy series, which was also available on Netflix, is supposed to be experimental, but it ends up being downright uninteresting. The show follows Pompidou, an eccentric billionaire who lives in a caravan outside of his crumbling estate. While that may sound strange enough, the show gets even weirder from there.
Pompidou has no meaningful dialogue. Instead, all of its comedy is visual. That may sound like a fun idea, but in practice, it ends up being a fairly painful exercise for audiences. The jokes are almost always telegraphed, and Pompidou proves to be a rather unlikeable central figure.
On the whole, it’s a waste of valuable time, especially in the era of peak TV. The show would eventually go on to hold the title of Netflix’s lowest rated original series, a distinction that proves that there isn’t much of an audience for silent comedy these days, even on a service with an audience as diverse as Netflix's.
3 Iron Fist
While prior entries in the MCU television canon have been met positively by critics and fans alike, Iron Fist didn’t fair quite as well. The show follows Danny Rand, a character who may as well just be Arrow. Danny’s incredibly wealthy parents died at a young age, and Danny was raised by warrior monks, and ultimately came to possess many of their secret powers. The show follows Danny as he returns to New York to reclaim his inheritance and defeat the people who threaten his parents’ legacy.
Unfortunately, Iron Fist is both uninteresting and was heavily botched in its execution. The show’s fight scenes are incredibly sloppy, and cliched plot isn’t much better. Everything about Iron Fist is kind of a disaster, and it proves that Netflix’s Marvel content isn’t always worth a watch. While it’s true that it has a few promising moments, there’s really no motivation or momentum behind the plotting. Instead, things just kind of happen.
2 Real Rob
Rob Schneider is notorious for his mediocrity, and that same spirit infects Real Rob. The show depicts an exaggerated version of the comedian’s actual life, and is mixed in with clips of him doing standup sets. While the idea of this show might sound remarkably similar to the premise behind successful shows like Louie and Seinfeld, Schneider’s comedic voice simply isn’t as interesting as the work of those other comedians.
Schneider also has a tendency to play into offensive stereotypes about everyone he comes across, which means that the show isn’t just unfunny, it’s also pretty offensive. Very little about the show really works, and Schneider’s observations about his own life are far less interesting than those of other comedians who have been given the opportunity to make similar projects.
Schneider's ideas aren't original in the slightest, and Real Rob doesn’t exactly break new ground. In fact, it may do just the opposite.
1 Fuller House
The dreaded reboot to Full House is one that it seems like no one wanted, and yet here we are. The rebooted version of the show focuses on two of Danny Tanner's daughters, who live under the same roof and deal with the foibles of life and motherhood in much the same way that their father once did. Basically, Fuller House is trying as hard as it can to be a carbon copy of Full House.
While that original show may have had its fair share of love when it aired in the '90s, the rebooted version just doesn’t work in the present day. While this hasn’t kept the show from being an incredibly popular Netflix property, it has kept the show from being particularly good. The jokes are stale and played out, and everything that was confusing or silly about the show when it originally aired has only gotten worse in this version.
Fuller House isn’t supposed to be particularly good, but that doesn’t make its badness any less offensive.
Which Netflix original show do you think is the worst? Let us know in the comments!
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