The 10 Worst Shows That Aired After ‘The Simpsons’ in the 1990s

The 10 Worst Shows That Aired After ‘The Simpsons’ in the 1990s

“The easiest way to be popular is to leech off the popularity of others.” 

— Patty Bouvier, The Simpsons, “A Star is Burns”

The buzz leading up to The Simpsons premiere was so palatable that FOX already knew it was onto something by the show’s launch on December 17, 1989. Slotted to air just before the network’s flagship series Married… with Children, its faith in The Simpsons was vindicated as the premiere was FOX’s second highest rated show for the week, just behind Married….

But what was the follow-up to that iconic hour of television history? A series no one remembers: Open House. It would be the first in a long line of single-season failures unable to soak up viewers from The Simpsons’ wave. While some of these shows were decent efforts that just couldn’t find an audience, most were not. 

The following isn’t a complete compendium of the worst offerings FOX unleashed upon 1990s audiences. (Looking at you, The Chevy Chase Show.) It’s just the one-season ghosts that haunted the coveted post-Simpsons time slot on Sunday (1989-90, 1994-present) and Thursday (1990-94) nights... 

Open House

Time Slot: Sundays at 9:30 p.m.

Airdates: August 27, 1989 to May 6, 1990

Back to Open House, it’s unique in that it was a spin-off of one of FOX’s first series, the somewhat successful but now unknown Duets. It followed a former studio executive turned real-estate agent dealing with her over-the-top employees, one of whom was a sassy, man-hungry secretary played by Ellen DeGeneres. The rest of the cast was talented enough but couldn’t overcome the show’s floundering audience retention.

FOX replaced Open House with new episodes of In Living Color during the summer of 1990 when most other shows were in repeats. Meanwhile, the network took a significant risk and moved The Simpsons to Thursdays at 8 p.m. that August, directly competing with NBC’s super-popular The Cosby Show.


Time Slot: Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.

Airdates: September 13, 1990 to May 19, 1991

FOX’s first Thursday follow-up attempt threw out the typical sitcom formula. On the surface, Babes was quite progressive, featuring three very different sisters sharing a small apartment in New York City and dealing with the challenges of life, relationships and work. Produced by Dolly Parton, the show was created by women, had a healthy staff of female writers and starred a cast of four overweight women, none of which were commonplace during the era. But the deluge of fat jokes still led to criticism from several groups. And while it would become more positive dealing with the characters’ weight, it held little in common with what the average Simpsons viewer would be interested in sticking around to watch.

Drexell’s Class

Time Slot: Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.

Airdates: September 19, 1991 to March 5, 1992

Dabney Coleman has had a fantastic career spanning over 60 years, but even he couldn’t make Drexell’s Class work. Airing for one (incomplete) season, Coleman starred as Otis Drexell, a convicted corporate raider sentenced by a judge to work as a teacher at an understaffed school to pay off his back taxes. Also featuring future stars Jason Biggs as one of his students and Brittany Murphy (RIP) as his daughter, Drexell's Class was dismissed after 18 episodes. The Simpsons mourned the loss by featuring the show on a tombstone at the beginning of “Treehouse of Horror III.”

In the fall of 1992, FOX finally found success filling the post-Simpsons slot with Martin, starring Martin Lawrence. The sitcom would last there for a year before bouncing back and forth between Sunday and Thursday nights for the rest of its five seasons.

The Sinbad Show

Time Slot: Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.

Airdates: September 16, 1993 to April 21, 1994

Martin was replaced on Thursdays with The Sinbad Show, likely trying to capture the same audience. The show focused on a bachelor played by comedian/not genie Sinbad taking in two orphans. It also featured early appearances by future Oscar nominee Salma Hayek, who guest-starred in three episodes, and future Kim Kardashian sex tape star Ray J, who played one of the kids. The show was funny enough, with fans lamenting it getting canned. Looking at the numbers, the show held much of The Simpsons’ lead-in viewership but was one of several shows featuring predominantly Black casts axed by FOX around the same time. This would lead to Reverend Jesse Jackson calling for a FOX boycott due to "institutional racism," while the network claimed race played no part in the cancelations.

Entering its sixth season and just passing its 100th episode mark, The Simpsons moved back to Sunday nights in August 1994. Trying to stabilize the hour, FOX just doubled down on Simpsons, showing back-to-back episodes for a month. What followed after that was a year where the network just seemed to be throwing darts at the wall.


Time Slot: Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.

Airdates: September 4, 1994 to November 4, 1994

In the middle of the 1994-1995 baseball strike, FOX had the brilliant idea to greenlight a sitcom about a fictional MLB team to satiate America’s appetite for big league ball. The cast featured a collection of character actors, including the likable Bruce Greenwood and Mike Starr, along with the less-likable Joe Rogan and an angry mascot named Hardball. The show was created by Married… with Children vet Kevin Curran and Simpsons vet Jeff Martin, but as Rogan explained on his podcast, both were removed early on, with FOX bringing in a “terrible” new showrunner that Rogan would often clash with. Struggling to find an audience between two heavyweight shows (Married… with Children followed it), it was dropped after only nine episodes.

FOX, again, decided to fix the problem by throwing more Simpsons at it, replacing Hardball with a repeat episode of The Simpsons for the rest of 1994.

Get Smart

Time Slot: Sundays at 7:30 p.m.

Airdates: January 8, 1995 to February 19, 1995

In a world full of reboots and franchises, we mustn’t forget that Hollywood has always been doing this. Rather than a brand new show, FOX decided to take a chance on a mid-season revival of Get Smart, complete with original cast members Don Adams as Maxwell Smart and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, amongst others. Newcomer and future celebrity cocaine dealer/sex offender Andy Dick starred as Max’s son. The reboot, however, failed to recapture the spirit of the original, and it lasted only seven episodes. So FOX replaced it with — you guessed it — more repeats of The Simpsons.

House of Buggin’

Timeslot: Sundays at 8:30 p.m.

Air dates: January 8, 1995 to April 23, 1995

On the other side of The Simpsons time slot came the sketch comedy show House of Buggin’, starring John Leguizamo, Luis Guzmán and a cast of mostly Latine comedians. Intended as a replacement for the recently canceled In Living Color, the show was hit with poor reviews, although since has been praised for providing a comedic voice for the Latine community when no other shows had done so. Ratings dropped in half by the end of the season, but FOX was willing to give it a second season if Leguizamo ditched his entire cast for non-Latin comedians. He refused, and the show was canceled after 11 episodes. In the fall, FOX would then air the sketch series MADtv, which featured David Herman, the lone white person from House of Buggin’.

The Critic

Time Slot: Sundays at 8:30 p.m.

Airdates: March 5, 1995 to May 21, 1995

The lead-in ratings for The Critic didn’t drop by much, so the main reason the show was unceremoniously canceled was that the (brief) president of FOX hated it. The shifting scheduling would reflect that: The Critic replaced House of Buggin’ for five weeks, starting March 5th until April 2nd. Then FOX replaced The Critic with House of Buggin’ for two weeks (April 9th, 16th). Next, FOX moved House of Buggin’ to 9:30 p.m. and replaced it at 8:30 p.m. with The Critic again on April 23rd. The former never aired again, while the last new episode of The Critic was a clip show on May 21st. 

Through most of the summer, The Critic was shamelessly repeated to consistent ratings with The Simpsons, despite no intentions from FOX to renew it. 

Too Something and New York Daze


Time Slot: Sundays at 8:30 p.m.

Airdates: October 1, 1995 to December 9, 1995; May 26, 1996 to June 30, 1996

The next new show was a sitcom that was perhaps FOX’s masterpiece of scheduling destruction: Too Something. The series revolved around roommates — an ambitious writer and budding photographer — working through personal and professional life in New York City. (The premise of 40 percent of shows during the Seinfeld and Friends peak.) Featuring a young Portia de Rossi in one of her first gigs, it went on hiatus after eight episodes due to ratings woes. It would receive a second (short) life starting in late May 1996 after being renamed New York Daze, but it had such a poor reception that FOX only aired four of the additionally filmed 16 episodes before killing it for good.

The Show

Time Slot: Sundays at 8:30 p.m.

Airdates: March 17, 1996 to June 6, 1996

Between the mainstay Martin and Too Something (part two) in the spring of 1996, FOX squeezed in another mid-season tryout called The Show (because TV ran out of names). Its premise was about a white writer joining the staff of a Black television series. In its defense, the show at least attempted to push some boundaries. Interestingly, acclaimed actor Paul Giamatti almost got his break in the series, but his character was cut after the pilot episode because, according to series writer Larry Wilmore, FOX “thought he wasn’t good-looking enough.” 

The Show aired five episodes in the Sunday time slot, before FOX put it on hiatus for a month, and then scheduled it on Thursday to die for its final three episodes.

A Change of Programming Luck

For the next few years, FOX’s Sunday night viewers didn’t get any new shows. All appeared lost until the network finally cracked the code. 

King of the Hill was an instant hit on January 12, 1997, keeping virtually all of The Simpsons’ audience. In the fall of 1998, FOX moved it to Tuesdays, making way for another monster hit: That ‘70s Show, which dropped on August 23, 1998. It also moved to Tuesdays, replaced by a new show called Futurama on March 28, 1999. FOX then moved Futurama to Tuesday nights after two episodes, with Family Guy replacing it on April 11th. After Family Guy completed its brief seven-episode first season, Futurama returned to the post-Simpsons slot in the summer of 1999. 

Despite these shifts, the audience stuck with the shows through the rest of the year, with would later become known as FOX’s “Animation Domination” block on Sunday nights. 

As a postscript, Malcolm in the Middle, arguably FOX’s most critically acclaimed live-action sitcom, would premiere on Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. on January 9, 2000. For the first time in its existence, a new show premiering after The Simpsons actually beat its lead-in in the ratings. 

It only took 10 years.

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