Five TV Shows That Were Too Terrible to Ever Air
Even the dumbest TV shows take a lot of time, effort and funds to produce. Carpenters got up at the crack of dawn to build sets for ALF, special effects technicians worked tirelessly on Manimal and the vast amount of drug money spent on Charlie Sheen shows could have likely stopped world hunger. So for a TV show to be so bad that its fully-produced, 100-percent finished episodes never see the light of day is a rare occurrence. But it has happened before, with unaired turds such as…
‘The Grubbs,’ A Family Sitcom Starring Randy Quaid and Michael Cera
Back in 2002, we nearly got a half-hour comedy called The Grubbs starring Quaid as a repulsive sleazebag patriarch (way to stretch your abilities, Randy), the great Carol Kane as his put-upon wife and a pre-Arrested Development Michael Cera as their teenage son. Cera’s character was seemingly defined by the fact that he’s obsessively horny for his new teacher, who also happens to be his next-door neighbor. Basically, Boy Meets World, but if Cory was constantly trying to see Mr. Feeny naked.
After watching a few episodes, Fox executives decided to bury The Grubbs for good and (wisely) replace it with the underrated Andy Richter Controls the Universe. And really, just take a moment to consider how bad a show has to be to fall below the standards of the same network executives who gave the green light to multiple seasons of Joe Millionaire.
Dolly Parton’s Supernatural Comedy ’Heavens to Betsy’
Parton is a goddamn legend, and, apart from that ill-considered Civil War-themed dinner theater, she can usually do no wrong. But one of Dolly’s other rare misses was the 1994 TV show Heavens to Betsy, reportedly about an “egotistical country singer” who dies, gets sent to the afterlife and is sent back to Earth “to make amends” (but sadly not as some sort of Dolly zombie).
Things were a mess behind the scenes from the jump. Filming became “complicated” because Parton wanted to shoot in Orlando rather than Los Angeles. Then, the underwhelming scripts led to a pair of new producers being brought in, who later reportedly got into a fistfight with each other in the writers’ room. Eventually, Walt Disney Television decided enough was enough and that the show would “never air.”
‘Friend Me,’ the Groupon-Based Sitcom No One Wanted
“Two guys go and work for Groupon” was once the premise of an actual network TV show, Friend Me, starring Christopher Mintz-Plasse and, in a far smaller role, I Think You Should Leave’s Tim Robinson (who presumably didn’t even want to be around anymore every day on set).
Weirdly, at the time, Groupon claimed to have no involvement with the series — possibly because, judging from the show’s title, the e-commerce company was very likely a last-minute substitution for Facebook. Following the tragic death of the show’s creator, Friend Me was canceled without a single episode airing, perhaps due to CBS’ inability to find a new tech company willing to pay for an extended advertisement full of bad jokes and a Fred Durst cameo.
Fox Made a Reality Show Fueled by Gay Panic Called ‘Seriously Dude, I’m Gay’
In 2004, after some network exec presumably pitched “Survivor, but with more rampant homophobia,” Fox produced a two-hour reality show about two straight guys competing for $50,000 by “trying to pass themselves off as homosexuals.” Yes, Seriously, Dude, I’m Gay followed two heterosexual contestants as they faked coming out by living the “gay lifestyle,” which they described on the show as their “worst nightmare” and like “being trapped in gay hell.”
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation was sent an early copy of the special, which they decried as an “exercise in systematic humiliation.” Fox ended up yanking the special from their schedule and issuing an apology.
‘Mister Dugan,’ TV Legend Norman Lear’s Tone-Deaf Show About a Black Congressman
In 1979, news of an upcoming comedy from All in the Family creator Norman Lear starring Blazing Saddles’ Cleavon Little probably sounded like a surefire TV success story. Yet, Mister Dugan never made it to audiences. As described in TV Guide, Little played a “football hero-turned-congressman who discovers that legislative obstacles in Washington can be tougher than opposing tacklers on the gridiron.”
The series had three episodes in the can, ready to go, before it screened for the Congressional Black Caucus just a week before the scheduled premiere. The reaction from the Caucus was “violently hostile,” with members pointing out that the show was really about an “incompetent” Black politician “ruled” by his white staff. The creators of the tone-deaf sitcom then claimed that the reaction “confirmed our concerns about the show,” so they pulled it and ate the $1 million that had already been spent.
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