2015 was a tough year for television, but how do we rank the absolute worst TV shows? One way might be to look at the network that did the worst. Sadly, while Fox has been exceedingly brave in breaking the mold with its hour-long dramas, it has almost no idea how to put together a half-hour comedy. Its lineup of new comedies easily comes up as 2015’s worst spate of ideas: “Grandfathered,” “The Grinder,” “Mulaney” and “Weird Loners” all tanked. In fact, the first two only have full-season orders because Fox’s pipeline for new shows is almost non-existent.
Its hour-longs fared a bit better, but while “Backstrom,” “Minority Report,” “Red Band Society” and “Scream Queens” all glimmered with a bit of promise, none of them really ever gave audiences a compelling reason to watch. With the amount of audience previously successful shows like “Sleepy Hollow” and “Gotham” dropped, the network is in serious trouble. Right now, you’re seeing what happens when a network has a single successful show (“Empire”) and almost nothing else (though I’d highly recommend “Gotham”).
Without piling on too much more, here are the five worst TV shows that aired in 2015. Let’s keep it to scripted TV or we’ll be here all day:
John Stamos just isn’t cut out for today’s more “realistic” one-camera comedy. He’s the ultimate actor for the 1990s-style, four-camera, laughtrack-heavy, filmed-before-a-studio-audience sitcom. For today’s brand of less stagey, more personal comedy, he lacks the ability to evoke any kind of empathy from his audience. He simply paces back and forth while waving his hands in the air and hoping viewers consider him emotionally honest.
“CSI: Cyber” has found a foothold among audiences, but the show has almost no real knowledge of how online crime, information technology, or even basic concepts like cloud networking work. It’s a shame to waste Patricia Arquette’s talent like this. Nothing here is sensible and flaws can be identified a mile away by people who possess only fundamental knowledge about computers. These kinds of shows don’t need to be real, but they do have to put some effort into their stories. The complete lack of effort behind “CSI: Cyber” is palpable. But hey, at least James Van Der Beek is still getting paychecks.
One of the ugliest sitcoms this year came courtesy of a “Saved by the Bell” alum. Mark-Paul Gosselaar heads the cast as an ethics professor, whose problems include his fear of sleeping with the babysitter, how to talk to his wife about watching porn, his neighbor’s very young daughter wandering upstairs and seeing his friend’s genitals (what are they thinking at this point) and – gasp! – having lunch with his best friend’s wife. It relies on little more humor than watching two married couples who trust each other so little they never should have been married in the first place.
A show starring Elliott Gould, Nasim Pedrad and Martin Short should be an easy home run, but some of the worst writing on television in the past year torpedoed John Mulaney’s self-titled “Mulaney.” It’s a series dripping with narcissism and chauvinism, and despite Pedrad’s and Short’s best efforts, it’s not enough to overcome some of the smuggest writing ever put to page. There was a self-satisfaction to “Mulaney” that’s so prematurely self-defensive it treads deep into the territory of overcompensation.
“Bones” is a shadow of its former self, and considering what its former self was, that’s not saying much. Yet at least these actors used to exude easy charm and excitement at the make-believe science they were spouting. Seeing these characters in a show that was supposed to be canceled years ago go through the same motions week after week is uninspiring. Emily Deschanel’s acting has gone from unfeeling to uncaring, and the directing has been even worse. It’s like popping in at the first staged reading for each episode. No one has any energy left. They’re all just cashing checks by now. If you’re wondering why this show is somehow still on the air, please see the opening paragraphs about the dire straits in which Fox finds itself. While “Bones” has never been on any Best Of lists, it’s a shame to finally see it as one of the worst TV shows of the year.