It’s hard out there for actors and actresses, especially when the heights of their careers are over and there is a need to find a new project that can revive them – reintroducing them to the public as a new character, or in a new genre, or as an older person altogether.
It can be extremely tricky to revive a career as audiences already have an opinion of you and remember you for something you’ve done. It’s not always necessarily easy to get the general public on board with a new project you’ve become involved with. The blessing of having an iconic character under your belt can sometimes also become a curse, as viewers seem to be incapable of detaching your image from the character they already know and love.
Sometimes, when the right team is behind a popular actor or actress, networks will go bet on star vehicles; projects that one hundred percent rely on an actor’s talent and star-power to attract audiences, even if the TV show itself doesn’t have a clear reason to exist and the story is still being figured out along the way.
Try as they might, these are 15 TV Shows That Failed To Revive Actors’ Careers.
15 ANGER MANAGEMENT – CHARLIE SHEEN
Remembered for his incredible performance in 1987’s Wall Street movie, but mostly known for portraying the iconic character Charlie Harper in the TV series Two and a Half Men, Charlie Sheen did not have an easy 2011 as he fought with studio Warner Bros. and showrunner Chuck Lorre during his exit of the show.
In an attempt to save his career and manage the PR nightmare his Two and a Half Men exit became, Charlie Sheen immediately jumped onto a new project – FX’s Anger Management – to show that he could still be funny and successful elsewhere.
The result, however, wasn’t as great as Charlie Sheen expected. His career was not turned around, the public perception did not soften on him, and Anger Management managed to reach one hundred episodes simply due to the network’s interest in capitalizing on the actor’s personal drama.
14 RINGER – SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR
Sarah Michelle Gellar, who will always and forever be remembered as the actress who played the title character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has quite a respectable filmography when it comes to 1990s hits – Cruel Intentions, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2, to name a few.
But after Buffy ended in 2003, Sarah Michelle Gellar tried many things that didn’t quite land, including the highly-advertised TV series called Ringer, a 2011 thriller that would end up airing on The CW for only one season.
In Ringer, Sarah played two characters – the twin sisters Bridget Kelly and Siobhan Martin. She was joined by Ioan Gruffudd, who had played Mister Fantastic in 2005’s Fantastic Four, and Mike Colter, who would later portray the title character in Netflix’s Luke Cage.
13 POWERLESS – VANESSA HUDGENS
NBC’s Powerless was the network’s first attempt at joining the superhero genre on television since its failure to relaunch the Heroes franchise with Heroes Reborn in 2015. After Vanessa Hudgens’ promising films Beastly (2011) and Gimme Shelter (2013) bombed at the box office, this show was the actress’ very first major star vehicle since Disney’s High School Musical trilogy.
But this “start of something new” was a brief one for Vanessa Hudgens. In total, Powerless only aired for two months and nine episodes on NBC, becoming DC Comics’ biggest and fastest failure ever on TV.
The actress is still a household name due to her successful role in High School Musical, which was a cultural phenomenon. Her career, however, has since been modest, with secondary roles in indie films like Spring Breakers and live TV musicals such as Fox’s Grease: Live.
12 THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW – MICHAEL J. FOX
Everyone loves the Back to the Future franchise and Family Ties, so it was a no-brainer for NBC to green-light 2013’s The Michael J. Fox Show, a star vehicle for actor Michael J. Fox to reestablish himself after his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in 1991.
In the series, Michael J. Fox played the character Mike Henry, who was a fictional cable news anchor in New York City who had to give up on his career after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but was now getting back to work.
Unfortunately, The Michael J. Fox Show just didn’t work at all. The series went on a break for NBC to do its coverage on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but it never really resumed after the Olympic Games were over. That means that the show ended four months after it premiered, and that out of the 22 episodes planned for its first season, 7 went unaired.
11 MAKING HISTORY – LEIGHTON MEESTER
Fox’s Making History had a very promising team behind it – actor Adam Pally (of The Mindy Project and Happy Endings fame), comedian Yassir Lester (a prominent writer in Girls), and executive producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the duo behind The LEGO Movie and 21 Jump Street). But most of all, it was meant to mark the return of Leighton Meester, the eternal Blaire Waldorf of Gossip Girl, to mainstream TV.
That’s not how it happened, however. Making History was a total bomb for everyone involved, breaking the hot streak of successful enterprises that involved Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and driving Leighton Meester’s career into unknown territory.
Making History only aired 9 of the planned 13 episodes it had in store, being cancelled only two months after its March of 2017 premiere.
10 GO ON – MATTHEW PERRY
Matthew Perry has had an incredibly extensive career that ranges all the way back to the 1980s, but it wasn’t until his portrayal of Chandler Bing in Friends that his name really took off.
After Friends, Matthew Perry seemed to be more interested in writing, directing, and producing other projects, but he gave acting another go in 2012’s Go On, which was very clearly a star vehicle that intended to capitalize on the actor’s “big comeback” to comedy on NBC.
The network was so invested in this idea that it started to heavily promote that Courtney Cox – whose character was a love interest of Matthew Perry’s character in Friends – would make an appearance in the series, but that didn’t happen until the 20th episode of the first season.
While it had its good moments, Go On did not make it past the first season. At least it aired the 22 episodes it had produced?
9 THE KENNEDYS – KATIE HOLMES
The highlight of Katie Holmes’ career was between 1998 and 2003, when Dawson’s Creek aired. In 2005, she had an important role in Batman Begins as the character Rachel Dawes, and was propelled into the spotlight once again as she started to date Tom Cruise – a huge movie star who at the time was very public about his relationship with her.
But after Katie Holmes was substituted by Maggie Gyllenhaal in 2008’s The Dark Knight and rumors began swirling in 2011 that the actress’ marriage to Tom Cruise was falling apart, she was attached to a project that had a lot of traction behind it and was meant to reboot her career once and for all: The Kennedys.
Unfortunately, the miniseries did not make a splash in any way. In the U.S., The Kennedys ended up airing on a virtually unknown cable network called Reelz.
8 THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE: TBL – MISCHA BARTON
The Beautiful Life: TBL was a 2009 series on The CW that wanted to capitalize on the network’s huge success with Gossip Girl.
TBL centered around male and female models who lived together in New York City. The show featured Mischa Barton as a protagonist and intended to reboot the actress’ career since her time as Marissa in The OC had come to an end in 2007.
But nothing about The Beautiful Life worked, and The CW decided to cancel the show five episodes in. Executive producer Ashton Kutcher then decided to distribute the unaired episodes on YouTube, a strategy that was ahead of its time but that didn’t necessarily save TBL from failing. Mischa Barton hasn’t been cast as the protagonist of a major TV series ever since.
7 DON’T TRUST THE B IN APARTMENT 23 – JAMES VAN DER BEEK
Another Dawson’s Creek alumni – he played the titular character – James Van Der Beek scored a very interesting character in ABC’s 2012 comedy Don’t Trust The B In Apartment 23: himself.
Van Der Beek played a supposedly heightened and quite obnoxious version of himself in Don’t Trust The B, which was actually a funny and great addition to the series’ lineup of despicable characters.
Even though Don’t Trust The B In Apartment 23 went on for two seasons, it failed to attract a huge audience, reboot James Van Der Beek’s career, or launch Krysten Ritter as a major actress (she would only achieve such success later, in Netflix’s Jessica Jones).
The show is still quite remembered even after so many years, but it ultimately failed to hit the mark during the time it was on the air.
6 SMASH – ANJELICA HUSTON
Smash carried a lot of weight on its shoulders. NBC planned this TV show, which had Steven Spielberg as an executive producer, with the intention of producing a real Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe called Bombshell.
Simultaneously, Smash wanted to replicate the success Fox had with Glee, attempted to launch the television careers of American Idol alum Katherine McPhee and Broadway veterans Megan Hilty and Christian Borle, and tried to provide actors such as Debra Messing (of Will & Grace fame) and Anjelica Huston (Morticia in 1991’s The Addams Family) with a new successful project.
But as Smash failed to do everything it intended to do, no career suffered more than Anjelica Huston’s, whose biggest accomplishment since that show ended has been a recurring role in Amazon Studios’ Transparent.
5 STATE OF AFFAIRS – KATHERINE HEIGL
Katherine Heigl became very famous because of Grey’s Anatomy – not only because of her breakout performance but also due to the drama that followed her exit from the show (and public feud with showrunner Shonda Rhimes).
The actress wanted to move on from TV and establish herself as a movie star, securing leading roles in films such as Knocked Up, 27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth, and Life As We Know It. But as her hot streak in cinema began to slow down, Heigl decided that it was time for her big comeback to television, which culminated in the star vehicle State of Affairs on NBC.
The bottom line? The show aired 13 episodes in the span of three months and was then cancelled.
4 DOUBT – KATHERINE HEIGL
After the State of Affairs fiasco, Katherine Heigl played the title role in the LGBTQ-themed movie Jenny’s Wedding and shared the screen with Rosario Dawson in the drama Unforgettable, which only grossed $15 million.
Another TV comeback was then set up for the actress in CBS’ new drama Doubt, which also featured Dulé Hill (from The West Wing), Laverne Cox (from Orange Is The New Black), and Dreama Walker (from Don’t Trust The B In Apartment 23) in the cast.
Doubt performed even worse than State of Affairs, which meant that only two episodes of the series went on to air on CBS, leaving a total of 11 episodes unaired. No plans regarding an online distribution through the CBS All-Access streaming platform have been announced, either.
3 CSI: CYBER – BOW WOW
Shad Moss – otherwise known as Bow Wow – the eternal Calvin from Like Mike and the rapper responsible for hits such as “Let Me Hold You” and “Shortie Like Mine”, definitely needed a career reboot as his success began to feel like a distant memory from the 2000s.
As CBS enjoyed the great success of its CSI franchise, which includes the hit TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, and CSI: NY, the network decided to give one more spin-off a try: CSI: Cyber.
This new spin-off featured Patricia Arquette, who had recently won an Oscar for Boyhood, and James Van Der Beek, who was previously mentioned on this list. It also featured Bow Wow, who played an FBI analyst who was formerly a hacker.
As CSI: Cyber failed to attract the same numbers that other CSI shows brought in, Bow Wow’s career was once again left up in the air. This television fiasco added on to the struggles he also faces in returning to music and film.
2 CLIPPED – ASHLEY TISDALE
Ashley Tisdale has enjoyed an enormous success in Disney properties such as High School Musical, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and Phineas and Ferb. As she tried to branch out and reboot her career as an adult in TBS’ 2015 sitcom Clipped, things did not go that well.
Clipped was a show about people who went to high school together but didn’t necessarily get along back then. As adults, they were brought together by a job opportunity. The show seemed to rely on friendships the same way that Cheers, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and How I Met Your Mother did, but the execution wasn’t as great.
The show aired ten episodes in the span of two months and was not renewed for a second season. It also received a very low score of 33% on Rotten Tomatoes.
1 TIA & TAMERA – TIA AND TAMERA MOWRY
Tia and Tamera Mowry, the twin sisters who became famous for the sitcom Sister, Sister, were never really able to advance their acting careers much further after the TV show ended in 1999.
In 2011, they launched the reality show Tia & Tamera on the Style Network (later rebranded as Esquire Network), which meant to reintroduce the sisters as adult actresses who were still landing gigs. The series, however, failed to capture the attention of the public and didn’t really help Tia’s or Tamera’s acting careers.
Tia went on to star in a Nick at Nite sitcom called Instant Mom, which aired from 2013 to 2015. In 2013, Tamera became a permanent host in the daytime syndicated talk show The Real. The sisters are currently trying to reboot the Sister, Sister sitcom.
Did you watched any of these failed star vehicles? Which star would you like to see get a career reboot? Let us know in the comments
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