News that Bill Cosby may be returning to NBC with a new family sitcom, which will no doubt be plugged into NBC’s weak Thursday night lineup, brought back memories of NBC’s glory “Must See TV” years. But the fact that the viewership for the entire NBC Thursday night sitcom lineup could be doubled and still be seen by less than the number of people who watch Big Bang Theory also brings up memories of some of the worst shows during NBC’s Thursday night run.
With all of those amazing years — Cheers, Cosby, Night Court, Friends and Seinfeld — there was almost always one crappy show amongst them, feeding off the popularity of NBC’s Thursday night ratings. In fact, since 1994, the only solid sitcom block they had in all four time slots was the rare times in which they had 30 Rock, Community, Parks and Recreation and The Office on all on the same night (earlier incarnations with Scrubs, 30 Rock, The Office and My Name Is Earl weren’t bad, either).
The point is: The potential return of Bill Cosby has inspired me to reflect on the past. I’m old. I’ve been around long enough to have seen every single one of these shows (and I have, save for Daddio, which I included here simply based on the terrible title). In my opinion, these were the worst 15 sitcoms in the 30 years since Bill Cosby saved NBC’s ass.
15. Outsourced (2010-11) — Ranked 102 in the Nielsen ratings. With the exception of Diedrich Bader, a “Where are they now?” on the cast of Outsourced would be, “Nobody knows.”
14. The Single Guy (1995-97) — With Olivia d’Abo, Ernest Borgnine and Jonathan Silverman. Consistently placed 4th or 5th in the ratings. Was one of the highest-rated shows to ever be cancelled.
13. Perfect Couples (2010 – 2011). Starring Olivia Munn, David Walton, and The Waitress. Was the lowest rated scripted series of all time on NBC, until it was replaced by The Paul Reiser show, which fared even worse (The Paul Reiser Show failed to qualify for this list arbitrarily based on the fact that it only survived two episodes that no one saw).
12. The Michael J. Fox Show — Starring Michael J. Fox and Betsy Brandt. Great, beloved cast from Family Ties, The Wire, and Breaking Bad. Terrible show. The most recent episodes were seen by fewer than 2 million people, which is more than a million people less than Perfect Couples, which held the title of lowest rated sitcom of all time for NBC only three years before.
11. Stark Raving Mad (1999 – 2000). Starring Neil Patrick Harris and Tony Shalhoub. Lasted only one season despite placing 15th overall in the ratings. This is where Neil Patrick Harris was between Doogie and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle/How I Met Your Mother.
10. 1600 Penn (2012-13). Starring Jenna Elfman, Bill Pullman, and Josh Gad. Debuted with a solid 6.88 million viewers, ended 13 episodes later with 1.9 million viewers. That should tell you what viewers thought of it.
9. Good Morning Miami. (2002 – 2004) Starring Mark Feuerstein and Tiffani Thiessen. The show averaged 15th in the ratings, and this line from Wikipedia is almost a brag, like it beat the odds: “Though unsuccessful and unacclaimed, the show lasted in the coveted Thursday ‘Must See TV’ lineup for an entire season.” Wow, impressive!
8. Whitney (2011-13) — Starring Whitney Cummings. The sitcom was renewed after the first season, despite placing 109th in the ratings. It SHOT up to 107t in its second season, and for some reason, NBC still cancelled it, though it’s ratings even at its lowest are TWICE what The Michael J. Fox Show gets. I hated this show, but even I can admit that it was twice better than Sean Saves the World.
7. The Weber Show/Cursed (2000 – 2001) Starring Steven Weber and Chris Elliot. What an awesome cast. Wendell Pierce was also in this, which means he’s on two of the top 15 here. Unfortunately, the only thing good about this show — which dropped its initial premise and changed its name midway through its only season — was the Liz Phair theme song.
6. Rhythm and Blues Cancelled after five episodes, because it was terrible and featured awful black stereotypes, which is evident by the character names: The Love Man, Bobby Soul, and Jammin.
5. Inside Schwartz (2001 – 2002) Starring Breckin Meyer and Maggie Lawson (Psych). Rated 17th during the season. It’d totally forgotten that Maggie Lawson was in this, but thanks to this show and Good Morning Miami, I would spend the next decade confusing Breckin Meyer with Mark Feuerstein. It had higher ratings than all nine season of The Office, but was cancelled after 9 episodes.
4. Sean Saves the World (2013-2014). Starring Sean Hayes. Most recent episode: 2.67 million viewers. I am still confused about the fact that this show was created by Victor Fresco, the same guy who created Better Off Ted.
3. Daddio (2000). Starring Michael Chiklis. Ranked 102nd in the 2000 ratings, despite having Friends as a lead in. That’s impressively awful. The only thing notable about this show was that 13-year-old Hilary Duff starred in the pilot, but was written out after that. She landed Lizzie Mcguire a week later.
2. Union Square (1997 – 1998). Starring Constance Marie. Ratings Peak: #7. Averaged 13.3 million viewers (or, around what Modern Family gets today), and was cancelled after one season. Terrible show. In fact, the only decent clip I could find was this “Where Are They Now?” of the cast, which includes things like, “Jim’s personal details are unknown.” I did learn from it, however, that Jonathan Slavin, who played Phil in Better off Ted, is openly gay and Jewish.
1. Coupling (2003). Starring Lindsay Price and Jay Harrington (another Better off Ted connection on this list). Ratings Peak: #19. This show is the reason why Steven Moffat (Sherlock, Doctor Who) refuses to work in America anymore. I don’t blame him.