The 10 Worst Shows to Be Top-20 Hits

As CBS and “American Idol” have proven, great ratings don’t equate to intelligent programming. But this isn’t a new phenomenon: terrible shows have been hits throughout TV history, especially before the rise of cable gave viewers more choices. Here are the ten worst abominations to crack a given year’s top-20 highest-rated shows.

#10. “Too Close for Comfort”

Oh my God, that title text. Look how wacky the word “close” looks. I bet it’s conveying that there are too many people living in that red house. It’s amazing that “too” wasn’t written as “2” and “for” as “4.” Prince should get on that. Here’s what I don’t understand: that house is actually a duplex, with mother and father living on one floor, and their two daughters on the other. That’s almost the opposite of too close; if anything, they’ve got too much room. Producers must have realized this when the changed the show’s name to “The Ted Knight Show” for its sixth and (shockingly) final season.

#9. “Good Morning, Miami”

I don’t remember the exact reason why, but a screener copy of “Good Morning, Miami” was sent to my home in late 2001, maybe early 2002. I was 13 years old at the time, and thought it was awesome to receive a VHS copy of a show that hadn’t been on the air yet. I got to control TV! A little card came with the pilot episode, asking my mom and I to send our thoughts about the show after watching it. Twenty-two painful minutes later (which evidently involved a nun, if the picture above is to be believed), we ejected the video from our VCR and literally stomped on it until the thing was in a thousand pieces (literally stomped, figuratively a thousand pieces). The show was that bad. That should have been their motto: “Good Morning, Miami: Boot Stompingly Bad!”

[Editor’s note: I watched several episodes of this solely because the cast included the unstoppably adorable Ashley Williams and a hot Cuban chick. My tastes were formed pretty early.]

#8. “Mayberry R.F.D.”

Like “Frasier,” but with even fewer laughs! When “The Andy Griffith Show” ended in the spring of 1968, viewers were left without the charming tales of small-town folk, like that great episode where Opie gets a job in a grocery store, but gives it to another boy who needs it more. But in the fall, “Mayberry R.F.D.,” featuring nearly every character from “Andy Griffith” minus, um, Andy Griffith, aired, with plots involving the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Civic Youth Day. Not only was it a cheesier spin-off of a spin-off (“Andy” originated from “The Danny Thomas Show”), it was depressing; America was undergoing a cultural revolution in 1969, but millions were still at home, watching a show about the good ol’ days, where black people and long haired rock ‘n’ rollers didn’t exist.

#7. “Touched by an Angel”

True story: in 1998, when “Touched by an Angel” and “7th Heaven” were both at their commercial peak, the preachy, self-righteous writers of the CBS show picked a fight with the cast and crew of “7th Heaven,” accusing them of not being Christian enough. They called out Jessica Biel’s character, Mary, making some remark about her not being a virgin, and really lashed into poor Ruthie, accusing her of being a curly-haired Devil. Okay, none of that actually happened, but have you seen an episode of “Touched by an Angel”? NOTHING HAPPENS. Had to make things more interesting.

#6. “Chicken Soup”

Jews are funny, especially when played by Jackie Mason, as are Irish Catholics. Put ‘em together and you’ve got a show described as “heartwarming and hilarious,” when in fact it’s neither one. Although “Chicken Soup” finished #11 for its one and only season, it was canceled because it regularly lost over a third of viewers from its lead in, “Roseanne.” Between this show and Jackie Mason calling New York mayoral candidate David Dinkins a “shvartze,” a derogatory Yiddish term for African Americans,” 1989 was a year to forget for the comedian. Actually, every year post-1979 that he wasn’t on “The Simpsons” is a year to not remember.

#5. “Daktari”

When the breakout stars on a show aren’t human, it’s probably not quality entertainment. Instead of caring about the do-gooder American family who travel to Africa to work protecting animals, viewers were more interested in Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion and Judy the Chimpanzee, who I hear was quite mischievous. The show’s excellence began and ended with their episode titles: “Cheetah at Large,” “The Chimp Who Went Ape,” “The Chimp Who Cried Wolf,” and “Christmas Ape Goes to Summer Camp.” One of those isn’t actually an episode of “Daktari,” but if it weren’t for Xmas Ape over at KSK, you’d never know.

#4. “Dave’s World”

Of course this show’s theme song was a cover of Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right” sung by some guy from Jersey named Southside Johnny. Here’s a typical Dave Barry quote: “Your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that, as far as chocolate is concerned, there is no need to involve your brain.” Ha? Middle America, retirees in Florida, and Reader’s Digest subscribers eat that kind of sh*t up, though, and “Dave’s World” lasted four seasons, meaning there are more episodes of “Dave’s World” than “Arrested Development,” “Freaks and Geeks,” and “My So-Called Life” combined. I hate both “Dave’s World” and our world for allowing that to happen.

#3. “Marcus Welby, M.D.”

Being one of the first shows to star a well-meaning doctor is reprehensible enough, but what makes “Welby” especially awful is the show’s depiction of homosexuality. In the episode “The Other Martin Loring,” a drunk, overweight, depressed man admits to the Doc that he might be a homosexual and how he’s struggling with this, but Welby insists he only thinks he’s gay, and through some therapy, he’ll return to a “normal” life soon enough. If that’s not bad enough, a year later, “The Outrage” — where a gay teacher sexually assaults a young student — equated homosexuality with pedophilia. In 1970, “Marcus Welby” was the highest rated show on TV.

#2. “ALF”

Did “ALF” really happen? Seriously, did a network TV show about a beer-drinking, wise-talking alien from the planet Melmac really become not only a top-10 hit, and maybe the most popular, ratings-wise, science-fiction show of all-time? The show’s almost weird enough that it’s worth ironically watching, but, nope. ALF was also kind of a dick. There’s, of course, the racist tirade from last year, but Tina Fey once said that “ALF”’s team were the toughest people she had to work with during NBC’s 75th Anniversary Special—even worse than those smarmy bastards from “My Mother the Car.” ALF was also known to cavort around with Joe Namath, and I can only imagine the sick, twisted things they must have done together, or the number of times Namath told ALF to go up to a woman and say, “Can I eat your pussy…cat?”

[Editor’s Note: In “ALF’s” defense, any creature that eats cats is inherently funny to me.]

#1. Random Thursday Night NBC Comedy

NBC Thursday nights have produced some of the greatest comedies of all time, including “Seinfeld,” “The Office,” “Community,” and “Parks and Recreation,” as well as some of the highest-rated, too, like “Frasier” and “Friends.” Any show NBC wanted to make a hit would become one, especially in the 1990s, simply due to where it was scheduled. Here are just some of the top-20 shows that really shouldn’t have been popular, and wouldn’t have been, if aired any other night: “Madman of the People,” “The Single Guy,” “Caroline in the City,” “Suddenly Susan,” “Union Square,” “Veronica’s Closet,” “Jesse,” “Stark Raving Mad,” “Just Shoot Me,” and “Inside Schwartz,” all of which make the atrocious “Perfect Couples” seem like “All In the Family.” After the first season, though, the shows would often move to another night, hoping to become a new comedy tentpole, and fairly quickly burn out and get canceled, leaving viewers to wonder what was really in Veronica’s closet.