My unofficial list of the most popular NBC Thursday night sitcoms is as follows (noting that a couple of these also spent some time on other nights): Wings, Cheers, Frasier, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Will & Grace, Mad About You, Friends and Seinfeld. The networks have tried on several occasions to take stars from those shows and recapture the magic of those successful sitcoms, and most of those occasions, they have failed miserably. Most recently, they failed with Michael J. Fox’s The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Hayes’ Sean Saves the World, two of the ten shows that NBC has cancelled on Thursday nights since Community premiered.
In fact, the top ten failures are so bad that shows liked Cursed with Steven Weber and Cosby Mysteries with Bill Cosby don’t even make the list because they survived longer than the 10 below. Hell, one of the most talked about failures of the Must See TV era, Joey, survived a full two seasons, which is a huge success compared to these ten.
Below I’ve ranked the ten biggest busts starring the biggest stars of the Thursday Night Must See TV era. They’re ranked in order of the number of episodes they aired before they were cancelled.
10. Sean Saves the World (2013) (Sean Hayes, Will & Grace) — Terrible show about a gay single father trying to raise his daughter and continue his career, the series was cancelled two weeks ago after airing only 13 episodes after its audience dipped to 2.5 million viewers.
9. Mr. Sunshine (2011) (Matthew Perry, Friends) — Matthew Perry has actually had three failed series (Go On and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip both made it full seasons), and like the other two shows, Mr. Sunshine actually wasn’t a bad show at all (and Allison Janney’s drunk boss character was phenomenal). Nevertheless, the series — about an operations manager for a second-tier arena in San Diego — managed only 13 episodes before ABC sh*tcanned it.
8. The Michael Richards Show (Michael Richards, Seinfeld) (2000) — Reteaming with three of his Seinfeld writers, Michael Richards created a sitcom built around what was essentially Kramer as a clumsy private detective. Airing on Tuesdays, critics hated it, and audiences quickly abandoned it. It was cancelled after 8 episodes.
7. Kelly Kelly (1998) (Shelley Long, Cheers) — This WB series basically had one joke: Shelly Long played a Lit professor named Kelly who married a fire chief with the last name of Kelly, making her “Kelly Kelly.” That joke only managed to sustain the series for seven episodes, despite the presence of Chrissy Seaver from Growing Pains.
6. Kate Brasher (2001) (Rhea Perlman, Cheers) — This drama starred Rhea Perlman as the co-worker of the title character (Mary Stuart Masterson) at an inner city community advocacy center. Critics said it was both too quirky and too preachy. It was cancelled after six episodes.
5. The George Wendt Show (1995) (George Wendt, Cheers) — Based on NPR’s Car Talk, Wendt starred as one-half of a pair of brothers who ran a garage and hosted a radio talk show about car repairs. The series, however, tended to focus on wacky hijinks that had nothing to do with cars. NBC cancelled it after six episodes.
4. Eyes (Tim Daly, Wings) — Daly’s show, which also starred A.J. Langer and Natalie Zea, was about a guy running a risk management firm and using less than legal means to investigate crimes the cop wouldn’t. It only managed 5 episodes before it was cancelled, although four years later, the entire 13-episode season aired on DirectTV.
3. Hank (2009) (Kelsey Grammer, Cheers) — Kelsey Grammer’s second shot at a sitcom following Frasier (his first, Back to You, managed only 17 episodes), Hank was about a Wall Street broker who lost his job and had to reconnect with his small-town family. Only 5 episodes aired before CBS pulled the plug.
2. Bob Patterson (2001) (Jason Alexander, Seinfeld) — Debuting in October of 2001, Jason Alexander’s Bob Patterson didn’t even make it until the end of that month before it was cancelled after airing only 5 episodes. Alexander starred as a self-absorbed yet insecure motivational speaker, and author of I Know More Than You, I Still Know More Than You and the To the Top!. Critics loathed the show, and though the pilot was re-tooled, and it was moved after two weeks into a better timeslot, it still failed to catch on. (Two years later, Alexander made another stab with Listen Up, a CBS sitcom loosely based on the life of Tony Kornheiser. It managed 22 episodes before cancellation).
1. The Paul Reiser Show (Paul Reiser, Mad About You) — The Mad About You star waited 12 years to get back into television, but apparently it wasn’t long enough. The Curb Your Enthusiasm-like show — about a Dad and the friends he ended up meeting through his kids — managed only two episodes before it was cancelled.