The great Woody Allen once said, “In Beverly Hills, people don’t dispose of their garbage. They turn them into TV shows.” Well, in recent years that seems to have been proven true, with the advent of MTV-related reality shows like Teen Mom and Jersey Shore, and the garbage shown on TLC like Sex Sent Me to the E.R., or ABC’s remake of Charlie’s Angels. But it’s not just the 2010s; the boob tube has been a means for people to turn their mental vomit into television shows for the masses to consume. Of course, there have been great television shows like Doctor Who, The X-Files, Twin Peaks, Friends, Breaking Bad and so much more. Even the bad shows I’m sure you’ve heard of- hell, I mentioned a good number of them at the head of the article.
However, there are a certain number of TV shows that are obscure. Some don’t deserve it, a sad lot do. Before writing this list, I had a whole bunch of them in my head, but it was hard to narrow it down to just 5. So I hope you enjoy this list of some truly painful experiences related to TV I’ve endured, because I don’t wish for any of you to have these awful shows inflicted upon you any time soon.
5. SKINS (2011)
I bet most of you reading this list looked at that title above and were immediately booking flights and packing weapons to come to my home to murder me. Well, save your money and weapons, because I am not referring to the British TV show by any means. Skins, the UK show, is an absolutely brilliant series and one that anybody can enjoy, mainly due to its realistic depictions of issues that youth in high school face every day. It even had Peter Capaldi as a chain-smoking, cursing dad. And Billy Elliot. And Dev Patel… the list goes on and on.
No, in fact, I’m referring to its American remake. Yep, you’ve read that right, for some reason, Bryan Elseley approved and co-produced an American remake of the show which debuted on MTV, which debuted such classics in the same vein of The Wire and Breaking Bad known as 16 and Pregnant and Teen Wolf. (yes, that was sarcasm.) And since it’s MTV, obviously they can’t say “fuck” or show titties or teenagers snorting coke and smoking, right? Well, sort of. In fact, what’s worth noting is that the pilot episode is an almost shot-for-shot replica of its British counterpart.
The difference, though? The British version is actually, um, good. The American version is beyond bad, and it’s not just beause it’s a remake. For starters, how do you take a script full of words like “wanker” and “tosser” and “cunting” and translate it for American audiences? Spoiler alert: you can’t. For starters, there’s no swearing aside from the occasional “shit”, and not that shows need profanity to be good, but with that alone, you may as well call this Degrassi 2. Yet strangely enough, for some reason, British slang creeps into the script at times. Have you ever heard an American teenager refer to weed as “spliff”? Yeah, me either. Another problem is that watching a cast comprised of mostly 17 year olds is a very uncomfortable experience. In fact, the show came under fire for not unjustified claims of child pornography. Yes, we regularly saw tits and ass and sex in the British version, but that’s because the actors were established actors over the age of 20 at the age of filming.
Additionally, the show also made substantial changes, 99.99% of them bad. I could make a whole list of them here, but it would take the length of the whole show to list them, but treatment of LGBT characters was a huge one. Those of you familiar with the British version probably consider Maxxie, the gay guy who wants to be a dancer, one of the best characters (and rightfully so). Get ready for him to be replaced by… Tea, the lesbian cheerleader (another way of trying to make it all hotter and sexier, natch). And her sole character arc involved sleeping with a guy. Um, homophobic much?
WHY HAVEN’T YOU HEARD OF IT?
Skins lasted one season and aside from the aforementioned controversy, even the MTV marketing team couldn’t be bothered to sell it properly. In Canada, it may as well be an urban legend; it got aired on the Ontario movie networks and its ratings were practially unheard of. In a genius move, MTV apparenly didn’t learn from their mistake and decided to remake The Inbetweeners. I’ll let you figure out for itself if it worked well at all.
4. TRIANGLE (1981-1983)
Have any of you ever been on a ferry? It’s not the most glamourous method of transport, is it? You just drive onto some boat and do fuck all for 30 minutes while being taken across the water to your next destination. Not exactly TV material, is it? Well, the British would disagree. In fact, they’d be justified in disagreeing; ferry travel in the UK is more substantial as they use ferries to fravel to different countries. Having been on a British ferry, it is pretty shazzy. Cafeterias, bars, arcades, viewing decks, casinos, you name it are on there. And so with that in mind, with The Love Boat being a huge success in the US and Canada years earlier, it’s natural they’d want their own. So instead of something glamourous like Croatian island hopping, they decided to make a soap opera set on a north sea ferry. The result was Triangle, BBC’s notorious flop that baffled a nation for 3 years.
What makes Triangle so bad is not one particular thing but many. For one, I have been on a British ferry multiple times. All times, it was to Calais, France to get to different parts of Europe and back from Dover. Sure, the weather is nicer heading to Calais, but even with that in mind, even British ferries aren’t that glamourous. Even worse, this is set on the North Sea. I’ve never been there, but it’s notorious for being grim and depressing. This is best established in the opening scene of the first episode, where Kate O’Mara’s character sunbathes on what is a clearly freezing deck. The sky is grey and she is visibly shivering. Furthermore, who sunbathes on a Ferry? Am I missing something or is there even enough time to do such a thing?
Why is it called Triangle? Well, as the opening title sequence shows, the ferry sails a “Triangular” route between Felixstowe, Gothenburg, and Amsterdam. Never mind the fact that such a route would cause logistical problems for the ferry; the show’s plots were cliched as all hell and dealed with little else than bitchy customers or bickering staff- it’s a soap opera after all. But the final nail in the coffin were the technical problems. For starters, for some brilliant reason only the producers would know, they shot onboard a working ferry at sea. Which meant that they had to deal with bad lighting, cramped space, and risk of seasickness al the time. The crew were apparently prone to seasickness and shooting had to be halted on a regular basis. The cameras used could apparently be used out of the box- but shooting on video, audio problems plagued it. All of these flaws were there for all to see in the final product.
WHY HAVEN’T YOU HEARD OF IT?
Unless you lived in the UK in the 1980s you probably have only heard of this show by my mentioning of it. I saw the pilot episode on Youtube and that was all I could handle. In Britain, it was mocked mercilessly; it was on the recieving end of much backlash from BBC’s radio shows and even The Young Ones had a hilarious jab at it, in an episode where a character infamously remarked, “Even the couches in Triangle look less cheap!”. Making things better, it was voted the third worst British television show of all time in a poll in 2010. Ouch.
3. TRAIN 48 (2003-2005)
Finally, this site’s own country of origin gets its time to shine, if that’s how you want to put it. Canadian TV is just as much a mixed bag as many other countries, and when Canadian TV is bad, it’s horrific. Many will debate what the worst Canadian TV show is, but most will certainly include Train 48 in their lists, and rightfully so. Strangely enough, this is a remake of an Australian TV dramedy called Going Home, about a bunch of workers coming home from the night shift on a commuter train and discussing topics with other commuters such as sex scandals in the media and outbreaks and their personal lives. For some reason, the person who decided to copy the formula for Canada made it a soap opera. Both shows shared the gimmick of being written, shot, edited, and aired in the same day. So why was it so bad?
Just watch at least 5 minutes of that 30 minute video above. That is some of the most amateurish, unprofessional television there has ever been. Now, I haven’t seen the original Aussie version so I can’t compare, but it looks like there was something the Aussie version had that this version seems to have been missing.
Improvisation was how the show got by; the writers would often write a basic outline for the actors and the actors would have to improvise the thing themselves. This was a major mistake, because as shown in the video above, the actors seem to gave absolutely zero flow. Improvisation works for a line or two here and there, but there are constant pauses and dead spaces.
It’s not just that; the plots seemingly got more cliche and nonsensical as they went on. I’ve been on GO Trains before and for one, they’re crowded things, and for another, there’s nothing glamourous about them. So why bring in plots like people having sex in the bathroom, shootings and beatings, someone letting their pet snake loose on the train, the list goes on and on. Even worse, though in the plot outline it read that the people were from Burlington going back home from their jobs in Toronto, it was never outlined where they were from, so they had to end the show with the characters stepping off the train onto the Burlington platform.
WHY HAVEN’T YOU HEARD OF IT?
Probably because you don’t live in Canada, and even if you did, I’m sure you’re likely to look at me and say “Train forty what?”. But I can hardly blame you. It was thrown into the 7PM slot on Global and hardly anybody tuned in. It’s amazing it lasted until 2005.
2. SET FOR LIFE (US version)/FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE (UK version) (2007)
Oh, game shows. They’re always a gamble. For every Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, there’s a You’re in the Picture. I think we can all confess that we loved them at one point, and I myself still enjoy a few of them. They’re exactly what they say on the tin. They’re unpretentious fun. Hell, I’ll even take it a step further and admit I would love to go on Don’t Forget the Lyrics!. One thing that game shows seem to love hyper-focus on is the reward part. And one show, well, two shows seemed to love focus on the reward part a bit too much. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Set For Life/For The Rest of Your Life. They’re both the same show with just a few differences, but both are very bad. So I’ll dwell on the US version for the most part, which really is the worse version, but that isn’t saying a lot.
Set For Life came from the same people who made Deal or No Deal. It was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. The player of the game was sent on a mission that required literally nothing but pulling sticks out of the studio floor, and going up a sort of “money ladder”. That’s it. No skill, no mathmatic skills, etc. Just pulling metal canisters with a lite-brite peg in the top out of the thing sticking out. Yeah. There are 4 red sticks and 9 white sticks. Whites add to the money pot and reds subtract, and pulling all the reds ends the game. That’s it.
Alright, I was kind of lying when I said “that’s it”. There is something of a twist here, which would be welcome if it made any fucking sense at all. Basically, the player has some sort of offscreen “guardian angel” who can help the player out at any time, but the reason it makes no sense is that the player has to end his game in order for people to figure out what he chose. Meaning, basically the player played the game for nothing. Yeah. And I know what you’re thinking: “isn’t there some round where the player has to determine how much they’re playing for?” Well, there is, and Jimmy Kimmel did mention in an interview that it was something like a few numbers and an envelope. Well, Jimmy, I think we all would appreciate it if the actual qualifying round was shown!
Fortunately there is something of an improvement in the British version, but not much. In For the Rest of Your Life, they handle both the guardian angel and qualifying round parts differently, and at least they show it on air. The couple picks a pound amount, then plays a version of the sticks game with 3 reds and 9 whites. As for the guardian angel part, they player can quit at any time, as long as he has pulled at least one white. Well, it is better and more truthful, but it doesn’t make the game any less boring.
WHY HAVEN’T YOU HEARD OF IT?
Well, both shows got the invisible advertisment treatment. The US version was shot in early 2006, and got shelved until summer 2007. 12 episodes were filmed, but only 6 were ever aired. The UK version ran longer, but due to dwindling ratings, it was canned well into its run.
1. THE BIG BOW WOW (2004)
Most of you here know Emmett Scanlan from BBC3’s zombie drama In The Flesh. Or you may know him from the terrifying psychological thriller The Fall. Or even Hollyoaks. Or his split second cameo he made in Guardians of the Galaxy. But if there’s one thing he doesn’t want you to know about, it’s The Big Bow Wow. It’s an insipid Irish drama that is notorious in Ireland for its true shitness. In fact, bring it up around ANYONE there, and I’m sure they’ll want to throw you into the sea for even a mere mention of it.
The show was basically about a group of friends who hang out at a nightclub called The Big Bow Wow. The aim was for something in the same vein as a cross between Friends, Skins, and This Life. But instead, it was a complete joke. The whole thing felt like a Dublin Tourism ad, as it depicted people partying around the clock and visiting pubs and clubs every night as representative of Dubliners. In particular, one laughable element was how it tried to be “edgy” with such a casual treatment of drug use, but they created a fictional drug just so they wouldn’t be accused of condoning drug use. And then they spun it around and tried to turn it into an anti-drug message.
Other problems were the sheer implausibility and the cliches. For example, there was one notorious scene where a cop went undercover for a drug bust at a record store. A dealer came in and asked for help finding Miles Davis records. The “owner” directed him to the Blues section. A real record store owner would know that Miles Davis is Jazz, so he must be a cop, right?
WHY HAVEN’T YOU HEARD OF IT?
Well, for one, it was practically unheard of everywhere but Ireland. It got a DVD release in North America (which sold it as a UK show- you know the problem right there). The show was given the can after 6 (of 13) episodes. The writers were so sure of it being a hit that they immediately began writing the second series, but nope.