Hollywood is all about hype, but very rarely do buzzy TV shows actually live up to expectations. While there are, of course, many exceptions to the rules, every year the major networks add even more names to the growing list of projects that sounded good on paper, but failed miserably on TV.
With shows like The Player and Scream Queens not living up to expectations this fall, even with stars like Wesley Snipes and Jamie Lee Curtis in tow, we thought we’d take a look at television history to find more examples of bad TV shows headlined by talented actors.
Here is Screen Rant’s list of 10 Times Terrible TV Shows Happened To Great Actors.
Blair Underwood – The Event
Remember The Event?
It was one of those shows with so much promise but terrible execution. To this day we still really aren’t sure what the actual event was, and to be honest we don’t care. In fact that only thing of note here was that it squandered the talent of its cast, including co-lead Blair Underwood.
The idea of a actor of his pedigree playing the President was a smart one, but his character looked as clueless as the rest of the cast. When both your audience and your main characters are continually kept in the dark for an extended period of time, it spells trouble.
While he first had to go through the virtually un-watched Ironside remake, luckily Underwood rebounded with a recurring role on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so Event won’t have a terrible long-term impact on his career. Yet it will be awhile before fans can fully forgive NBC for how bad it botched what could have been a strong series.
Chris O’Donnell – Head Cases
Don’t remember Head Cases? Don’t worry; it was only around for two episodes so it was easy to forget.
The comedy has the dubious distinction of being the first canceled series of its season and it wasn’t hard to see why that was the case. The series starred Chris O’Donnell as a successful lawyer who has a mental breakdown after his career costs him his marriage.
While getting treatment, he befriends another former lawyer (played by Adam Goldberg) with an explosive personality and eventually teams with him to open a new practice. Think of it as a legal buddy comedy that was more cringe-inducing than funny.
Simon Baker, Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen, Amy Smart, Jonny Lee Miller – Smith
If you would have told us a series that starred Simon Baker, Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen, Amy Smart and Jonny Lee Miller would be canceled after 3 episodes, we’d be stunned. Yet that’s exactly what happened.
The crime drama centered on a team of thieves who looked to keep their criminal lives separate from their personal lives. Ray Liotta played the group’s leader, who by day was a traveling paper cup-salesman. That last line should have been a tip-off the show had some off-beat characters, but the problem was they never got a chance to be fleshed out.
Smith was supposed to be a twisty heist series, but it played it far too safe, which proved to be its downfall. Yet the news wasn’t all bad for Baker and Miller, who both went on to front their own successful CBS series (The Mentalist, Elementary) a few years later.
Kelsey Grammer – Hank
Kelsey Grammer is best known for his role as Dr. Frasier Crane of Frasier, a stuffy-shirted psychiatrist who wasn’t always likeable. Yet his role as Hank Pryor made Dr. Crane look like a teddy bear.
Hank revolved around a former Wall St. heavyweight who loses everything and is forced to move his family back to his hometown. The problem was Hank wasn’t at all likeable. Even though he had a wife and kids to help soften the character and make him more relatable, it didn’t work.
Even Grammer realized something was off, as he reportedly was the one who went to ABC executives to pull the plug. The comedy lasted just 5 episodes and was the only sitcom on ABC’s 2009 fall schedule (which also included The Middle, Cougar Town and Modern Family) NOT to succeed.
Laura Benanti – The Playboy Club
Before she was Supergirl’s mom/aunt, Laura Benanti was a Broadway superstar trying to transition to TV. One of her first roles was as Carol-Lynne Cunningham on NBC’s The Playboy Club, which could have very well been her last.
The Playboy Club had no business being on broadcast TV. At the very least this should have been on cable if not a premium channel like HBO or Showtime. For a brand so closely associated with nudity to have to so many restrictions placed on it from the start was a stunning mistake.
Benanti is talented and charming but she was under-used here and the show did a terrible job of helping her break through with audiences. Luckily there was no shortage of suitors lining up for the actress following the show’s quick exit, as Benanti would like book roles on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Nurse Jackie, The Good Wife and Nashville.
Hugh Jackman – Viva Laughlin
Even Wolverine couldn’t save this one.
In fact, Viva Laughlin was so bad it nearly put a dent in Hugh Jackman’s impenetrable armor and was put down after just two episodes. Jackman, who was also an executive producer, was set to recur on the show as Nicky Fontana. Fontana was a casino owner with a penchant for breaking out into song. At this point it should be pretty easy to see why this one didn’t pan out.
What’s interesting though is that two years later Fox debuted Glee which actually made the spontaneous singing element work out rather well. Laughlin may have been a little ahead of its time, but it was also extremely over-the-top, which didn’t help.
Michael Chiklis – No Ordinary Family
The Shield’s Vic Mackey is one of the toughest bastards ever to appear on TV. Every bit as corrupt as he was imposing, Mackey is a memorable character. No Ordinary Family’s Jim Powell, on the other hand, was not memorable at all, at least in a good way.
The common thread there is that Michael Chiklis played both of those characters. With Mackey he won a Emmy, with Powell, he won… well we wouldn’t say he actually won in this case. We get it, The Shield was over, Chiklis’s star was on the rise and a broadcast series seemed like a good idea. Yet this was the wrong choice.
No Ordinary Family followed a family that slowly realized they had super powers following an accident. Of course it became apparent quickly the only real power they had was to lose ratings in a single airing. Chiklis (and the cast) deserved better than this, and mercifully the series was axed after one season.
Terry O’Quinn – 666 Park Ave
Lost became a incredible hit largely because of its talented cast, which included Terry O’Quinn, one of two members of the ensemble to win a Emmy. Following the show’s end, O’Quinn became a very hot commodity and chose ABC’s 666 Park Avenue as his next leading role. It didn’t turn out well.
The series was based on a popular book and, while the plot seemed fun and interesting, the final product was neither. O’Quinn played the owner of a building in which all of the tenants had seemingly made a deal with the devil for their success. Although there was clearly no deal in place for this show which never got off the ground floor and was quickly shuttered.
Dylan McDermott & Toni Collette – Hostages
The problems with CBS’s Hostages are plentiful, but most apparent was its clear waste of the talented ensemble headlined by Dylan McDermott and Toni Collette. Above all else, we’ve seen this plot over and over again and it didn’t really lend itself to a long-term series format.
Hostages starred Collette as a doctor chosen to operate on the President, but that honor becomes a nightmare when a group of terrorists (led by McDermott) threaten to kill her family unless she kills her famous patient.
With powerhouse producer Jerry Bruckheimer as one of the showrunners and this type of A-list cast, the hopes were high for Hostages, but that hope didn’t last. Aside from a unoriginal plot, the network kept teasing viewers about how open-ended the eventual finale would be, leaving audiences unsure if they wanted to make a commitment. Many quickly bailed and the series became a dead show airing.
Collette has since gone back to film, while McDermott returned the following season with CBS’s Stalker. While Stalker was remarkably better received than Hostages it also was one-and-done. Regardless, we expect to see McDermott back in the pilot pool this season.
Sam Neill & Jorge Garcia – ‘Alcatraz’
Alcatraz has always been one of those places that captured the interest of our society. After all, it’s a giant prison in the middle of the ocean, what’s not to be intrigued about? Because of that, everyone had high hopes for Fox’s Alcatraz, especially considering it had J.J. Abrams as a producer.
The Lost/Star Trek/Star Wars mastermind is usually spot-on with his audience’s interests, but something was off here. The idea of a new prisoner returning every week from seemingly out of thin air was a great concept, but eventually it got overly procedural. It also didn’t help that when audiences got clues as to the larger mystery they were too complex to be satisfying.
Yet the appeal of Jurassic Park’s Sam Neill and Lost’s Jorge Garcia was enough of a draw to get viewers interested in the beginning. Unfortunately we got to a point where you began feel like even the cast was at loss for what was actually happening.
These were only a handful of examples and we know there are tons more like them (after all the list grows every year). Did we miss any that you think deserve a call-out? Hit the comments and let us know.
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