Writing for television is a difficult balancing act. Showrunners are unfolding a story over a certain number of episodes, trying to pace everything in the best way possible. There are time constraints, as well as budgetary ones, not to mention a backbreaking schedule. Difficult decisions must be made and unfortunately, they don’t always work out in the show’s favor. Whether a season is twenty-two installments or ten, there is bound to be some filler, regardless of the quality of the writing.
The good news is that none of these less-than-stellar episodes were disappointing enough to mar our memories of these unforgettable series. They just couldn’t measure up to the excellence of what came before or after. These are shows that have stood the test of time, and although nothing is truly beyond reproach, some of of them come come pretty close.
To be fair, most of these “bad” episodes are still better than plenty of good installments that other series have to offer. It’s just that we hoped for more from these shows. Our expectations may have been unfairly high, but that’s only because these series gave them reason to be. We’re not mad, we’re just disappointed.
Here are 15 Terrible Episodes Of Amazing TV Shows.
15 How I Met Your Mother - Bedtime Stories
Although the quality began to wane a bit when How I Met Your Mother hit season 8, it was the next year that it really went downhill. The showrunners wrote themselves into a corner by making twenty-four episodes take place over the course of a single weekend. While many people would argue on behalf of “Last Forever” being the bottom of the barrel, at least there was a point to that episode.
Sure, “Bedtime Stories” gets points for creativity, but writing an entire episode of rhymes would’ve been cooler if something actually happened. Better yet, the writers could’ve used this gimmick in literally any other season and the results probably would’ve been better. It just wasn’t the time for yet another filler episode. Alas, we were treated to a narrative that failed to actually advance the plot in any meaningful way, but at least it did so in rhyme.
14 Lost - Stranger in a Strange Land
Remember watching Lost and wondering about the curious origins of Jack’s tattoos? Yeah, neither do we and yet, that pointless, boring story is exactly what we got.
There were countless mysteries worth exploring on Lost, but “Stranger in a Strange Land” sidestepped them all to tell a tale that no one had any interest in hearing.
Season 3 was the first time that fans were truly disappointed in Lost - it wouldn’t be the last - but thankfully, the second half of the season made up for the way that the first seemed to drag on and on.
This episode is a perfect example of the series being stretched beyond its limits.
“Stranger in a Strange Land” is widely recognized as a series low and not just by fans. Damon Lindelof has cited this installment as an inspiration for setting a proper end date for the show.
13 Game of Thrones - Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken
Pretty much any definitive ranking of Game of Thrones places “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” at the bottom. Jaime and Bronn’s battle with the Sand Snakes has gone down in infamy as GoT’s worst. On a series with so many incredible action sequences, having one this terrible in the show’s fifth season was pretty unforgivable.
Speaking of unforgivable, there is also the treatment of Sansa in this episode. Over the course of five years, the series had taken one of the show’s most bland characters, and evolved her into a much more interesting one. Everyone already knew that Ramsey was a monster, so having him force himself on Sansa added nothing to his character.
It also majorly set Sansa back, torturing her just for the sake of it and failing to advance the plot. In other words, it was completely unnecessary, like the majority of this episode.
12 Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Where the Wild Things Are
Despite being a masterpiece, Buffy the Vampire Slayer did have a few weak links. “Beer Bad” is generally awarded the dubious honor of being the worst of the worst. However, we would argue that watching cave-Slayer spinning around in her chair was infinitely more enjoyable than being forced to view Buffy’s marathon make-out session with her most boring boyfriend - although both episodes do share the same writer.
At least “Beer Bad” had a message, after-school special though it may have been.
“Where the Wild Things Are” revolved around Buffy and Riley being compelled into nonstop escapades thanks to the angry ghosts of abused children. The episode was not only kind of icky, but also had the audacity to be named after a beloved children’s book. The lone bright spot is that we get to hear Giles cover The Who at the coffee shop.
11 Gilmore Girls - The Long Morrow
Most Gilmore Girls fans choose to pretend that season 7 never happened. Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino had left the series, which became completely tone deaf in her absence. For the first time in the show’s history, the dialogue was contrived and the plot lines made no sense. Although just about any episode from the show’s final bow could make this list, “The Long Morrow” takes it for being so shocking in its mediocrity.
Viewers knew that without Sherman-Palladino at the helm, Gilmore Girls wasn’t going to be the same show, but still tuned in for the fates of the characters that they had come to love. Alas, the writers tried too hard to recreate the show’s voice, but the problem was that Sherman-Palladino was that voice. Without her, not only was the singer off key, but the words were all wrong.
10 Grey’s Anatomy - Song Beneath the Song
Music played such a large role in Grey’s Anatomy, that an episode based around it wouldn’t be all that crazy, even on a medical drama. The setup wasn’t so bad: Callie gets into an accident and the world around her bursts into song as she fights for her life. However, the execution was all wrong.
While some performances were impressive, the whole episode came off as rather hokey.
In its thirteen plus years, the quality of Grey’s has fluctuated. Still, the series was rarely flat out bad and “The Song Beneath the Song” was just that. Perhaps if there had been some original music, but having the actors cover tracks that had previously appeared on the show just didn’t work. Aside from that, the show had an established tone and the musical just did not jive with that. Even Patrick Dempsey called the episode “a big mistake.”
9 Supernatural - Clap Your Hands if You Believe
Supernatural has had its fair share of bad episodes, from “Route 666” to “Red Sky at Morning”, but season 6 is widely regarded as the worst of the series. Creator Eric Kripke had told his story over the course of the show’s first five seasons and in his absence, the series lost its way.
Season 6 attempted to go back to basics, in a sense, but it was a pretty epic failure.
Despite the fact that there are plenty of episodes that year that could make it onto this list, we would argue that “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” wins out here. Aside from just being an awful episode, it introduced something into the show’s mythology that no one was hoping for: fairies. Despite being written by one of the show’s best writers, Ben Edlund, not even the episode’s humor could save it.
8 Scrubs - My Princess
One might think that Scrubs being given the fairy tale treatment would work out great. However, the most egregious error of “My Princess” is the staggering lack of laughs that the episode manages to elicit. What was ostensibly a Princess Bride homage felt like little more than a gimmick, and this installment failed to make a valid argument for the time and money taken to create it.
Also, Kelso being Chief of Medicine didn’t make much sense, as he had already retired - this was due to the episode order being rearranged on account of the writers’ strike.
Had this just been another episode of Scrubs, it might not have been so disappointing.
However, “My Princess” served as the season 7 finale, as well as the 150th episode. Although, the writers’ strike may have been partially responsible for the placement, it certainly couldn't take credit for the downgrade in quality.
7 Veronica Mars - Charlie Don’t Surf
The first two seasons of Veronica Mars were excellent and unlike anything else on TV. Unfortunately, not enough people were watching it. Although still great, the show’s third and final year was its weakest, which was mainly due to to network interference. Gone was the season long central mystery, and in large part, its complex characterization, especially where the show’s feminist characters were concerned.
One of the biggest offenders was “Charlie Don’t Surf”. Veronica Mars had become known for subverting expectations and although this episode attempted to do that, it fell flat. The reveal that Logan had a sibling was an unnecessary cliché and the subject was never even revisited, making it an entirely extraneous plot line.
Aside from that, what was up with Dick Casablancas being written like a charmer? Let’s not forget Dick’s long list of trespasses, chief among them drugging Madison and encouraging Veronica’s abuser.
6 Friday Night Lights - Last Days of Summer
Throughout its spectacular freshman season, Friday Night Lights proved itself truly excellent at weaving stories from the simple drama of everyday life. However, the stalker plot line raised the stakes with soap-operatic melodrama and ultimately, felt out of place on this show. Once the events of this arc were already set in motion, the writers dealt with the story really well, but that didn’t make it a better idea in the first place.
“Last Days of Summer” was probably a difficult episode to write, considering the season 1 finale left few loose ends due to the fact that it may have been the show’s last episode. Luckily, FNL persevered, which was great, because there were plenty of incredible stories left to tell. Unfortunately, this episode wasn’t really indicative of what was to come, but thankfully, the show found its footing again pretty quickly.
5 Arrested Development - Borderline Personalities
The first three seasons of Arrested Development were undeniably brilliant, but the show’s fouth outing was its most divisive. For some fans, the interconnected nature of the season worked perfectly, an infinitely clever way to return to our favorite dysfunctional family. Others longed for a more familiar format, focusing on the ensemble cast as opposed to one character at a time.
Both the praise and criticism garnered were fair, because when season 4 worked, it was truly excellent, but when it didn’t, it was incredibly boring. This best example of the latter is “Borderline Personalities”.
The second episode of the show’s return focused on George Sr, but arguably, the best moments of the episode had nothing to do with the errant patriarch. The biggest problem was that the episode failed to gain any real momentum. It was utterly forgettable, which is something that AD had certainly never been before.
4 Battlestar Galactica - Black Market
Battlestar Galactica had many positive attributes: complex characterization, insightful social commentary, and clever plotting, just to name a few. Sadly, all of this went out the window in “Black Market”.
This episode not only felt like an installment of a very different series, but was also disavowed by creator Ronald D. Moore. We get a glimpse of what BSG would’ve looked like as a procedural drama and it turns out that it wouldn’t have been a very good one.
The writers attempted to make Lee Adama go dark and it simply didn’t work.
He sleeps with a nightworker who reminds him of a dead love that we’re given no real reason to care about and also kills the baddest of bad guys in cold blood. The episode is incredibly flawed, but perhaps its greatest sin is that “Black Market” is just so boring.
3 My So-Called Life - Halloween
Let’s be honest, there are no bad episodes of My So-Called Life. The series was amazing from start to finish. However, if we had to pick one installment that just doesn’t measure up to the rest, it would have to be “Halloween”. The episode does have several great elements going for it: some delightful interactions between Rayanne and Brian, Danielle’s awesome Angela costume and the Graham/Patty subplot.
The main story itself, however, is pretty weak.
“Halloween” almost feels like a different show, centering on Angela’s strange fascination with the ghost of a long dead greaser. Although, if any teen on TV could convince herself that she’d seen a ghost, it would probably be Angela Chase. Much of her interest is, of course, Jordan Catalano-related, for in Angela’s mind, the two guys are very similar. All in all, this is certainly the worst episode of MSCL.
2 Batman: The Animated Series - I’ve Got a Batman in My Basement
Batman: The Animated Series has long been the gold standard not only of superhero animation, but of any quality cartoon in general. The series deserves all of the praise heaped upon it over the years and has lost none of its edge, despite airing its pilot over twenty-five years ago. All that being said, if we had to choose a weak point, it would definitely be “I’ve Got a Batman in My Basement”.
Batman basically takes a nap for the entire episode while we are forced to watch a group of kids we don’t care about solve mysteries.
This is the installment in which the Caped Crusader wrestles a vulture!
The episode also doesn’t do the Penguin any favors, portraying him as an incompetent joke. In a series so known for adding depth to its villains, this was particularly disappointing.
1 Star Trek: The Next Generation - Code of Honor
This racist installment is not only the worst episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation ever created, but of any Star Trek series. The director was fired midway through making the episode for creative differences and when watching this terrible piece of television, it’s not that difficult to imagine why. The script did not actually call for the Ligonians, aka the “noble savages” to be people of color and yet, here we are.
Perhaps if “Code of Honor” was made in the ‘60s, it would’ve just been a dark reminder of prejudices of the time, but we’re talking about the ‘80s. One might assume that this wouldn’t have made it to screen, as it kind of undid many of the lessons that the original series tried so hard to impart. Let’s also not forget that the plotting was poor, the dialogue cringeworthy, and the characterization nonsensical.
What episodes of amazing TV shows do you think are the absolute worst? Let us know in the comments!
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