This Week's Cover: TV's 50 Biggest Bombs Ever!

Sometimes TV networks, producers, or actors do something so stupid, it makes you ask: What the heck were they thinking? In that spirit, we decided to take time out to honor (if you want to call it that) television’s biggest bombs and blunders. We’re talking the decisions both bad (hey, let’s give Felicity a haircut!) and bizarre (XFL, anyone?). And at the top of our list: NBC’s decision to put Jay Leno at 10 p.m. It destroyed not only five hours of primetime programming, but also the local newscasts that followed. However, the floppage of the move doesn’t even stop there: The Tonight Show ratings with Leno’s replacement at 11:35, Conan O’Brien, also took a 50 percent dip. And NBC’s attempt to remedy the situation was just as ugly—asking Conan to move back a half-hour to 12:05am so Jay could return to 11:35. Conan refused and negotiated an exit settlement that UPDATE has just been signed. His last show as Tonight Show host will be Friday, Jan. 22 with guests Tom Hanks and Will Ferrell. (For the latest on Conan and Jay, make sure to check out our Hollywood Insider blog. )

So, what other fantastic flops crack our top 50 list? Well, we’ll give you a few hints:

There’s a slavery-set sitcom, a drama with policemen periodically breaking into song, and a variety show with hosts that barely speak English. (Can you name all three?) And there are plenty of boneheaded career moves as well. How about a network canceling a show that would go on to become the most popular series in the entire world? Or actors who bolted shows for movie careers that never panned out? And guess who passed on the role of Grey’s Anatomy‘s McDreamy? It’s a celebration of dashed dreams and incredible ineptitude. It’s also the only place in the world you are likely to find the words “Coy and Vance Duke” on a top 50 list of anything. So rev up the General Lee and jump on in!

For more coverage of TV’s 50 Biggest Bombs Ever pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands January 22.

Comments (170 total) Add your comment
Page: 1 2 3 5
  • Jane

    Rob Lowe was the guy who passed on Grey Anatomy, if anyone cares.

    • EF

      That’s interesting. Thanks for the trivia.

    • James

      Also the guy that stupidly performed with Snow White at the Oscars

    • LindaT

      He’s also the guy who left “The West Wing”, a hit show, to star in “The Lyon’s Den”, which didn’t survive its first season. I guess Rob Lowe has made a lot of high-profile questionable career moves.

      • bunker

        Wasn’t he also in another show where he played a doctor? It didn’t last very long.

      • Tomm

        Rob Lowe expected ‘West Wing’ to be his show, but the other cast members got more popular.

        He at least now is willing to be part of a group of stars, on “B&S”

      • kevin

        He just quit Brother’s and Sisters too…not a team player!

    • mishka

      He joked about it at the Emmys last year.

    • Stephanie

      I don’t know what show you’ve been watching but Rob Lowe was never on Grey’s!!

      • lisa

        Read much? Go back up to the very top and REread Jane’s post: Rob Lowe *passed* on the role of McDreamy.

  • EF

    Can’t wait to get this issue in my mailbox. Maybe they could do a story on hit tv shows that turned bad.

  • UGH

    I hope they use that same exact cover a few months down the road whenever Leno’s return to “The Tonight Show” hopefully bombs as well.

    • Pfo

      Sometimes dreams come true!
      I wished Leno’s primetime show to bomb horribly and miserably when NBC announced Leno experiment.
      I got my wish.
      The cover is hilarious. Very nice job, EW.

      • Carol

        I wanted to see Jay tank as well at 10pm. I didn’t expect NBC to screw over Conan to correc it.

  • crispy

    Haha, that’s a pretty good cover actually. Color me impressed. I never knew how much Jay Leno looks like Syndrome from The Incredibles.

    • TheObserver


    • Elizabeth

      two points for Crispy for the Leno/Syndrome point.

      And points for EW for printing on the cover that its “an illustration” underneath Jay’s arms. Thanks for (hopefully) not causing another hot-button issue to be discussed at length. I could just see (insert pontificating talking head here) discussing it with a panel for 10 minutes.

    • Ceballos

      “Oh ho ho! You sly dog – you got me monologuing.”

      This Leno/Syndrome comparison works on SO many different levels. (Ok, maybe just two.)

    • Mike

      Ha ha! Well, they both monologue.

    • Weena

      LOL! That’s too too funny!

    • maiv

      hahaha so true about Syndrome! but this cover actually has me really excited. It’s like finding out about all the publishers who turned down Harry Potter.

  • Bobo

    So, there’s “Cop Rock” and David Caruso leaving tv to make the flop “Jade” back in the 90s… What was the slavery sitcom??

    • Via

      Can’t remember the name of it, but I know it aired on UPN (shock) and it starred Chi McBride (sad). I don’t feel like doing an IMDB lookup.

      • gigi

        Oh UPN…aka “The Network of Bombs”. I think EW can just name 50 of their shows and have a cover story.

      • jim

        I think the only series that “graduated” to the cw were Veronuca Mars and Everybody Hates Chris.

      • LadySolitaire

        I think Reba also aired on The CW before the series ended. I remember watching the episode where Kelly Clarkson guest-starred on The CW.

      • rudd188

        Samllville came from the WB to the CW also

      • vincenotvance

        Duder! It’s “The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer”!

        Thank you “Clerks: The Animated Series” for making such “topical” references to bad television sitcoms!

      • casiguapa

        One Tree Hill made the jump from The WB to CW as well

    • Tomm

      “Cop Rock’ was just ahead of its time. Now everyone on EW is orgasmic over ‘Glee’!

      • EH

        I disagree – Glee works because High School kids in show choir are supposed to sing….Cops? Not so much.

      • erin

        That’s the point of a musical. The characters step out of reality to express their emotions or plot points through song. Musicals aren’t supposed to be a depiction of exact reality.

      • kim in kentucky

        totally agree about it being ahead of its time — I LOVED Cop Rock and would love to have it on dvd!!

  • A

    The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer

    • Via

      Oh, is that it?

      • A

        That’s it

      • Kate

        Oh my God, it also had Dann Florek as “a perpetually horny” Abraham Lincoln!

  • A

    Was the variety show “Pink Lady and Jeff”

    • VP of Programming Rock Golf

      Almost certainly. Pink Lady were a pair of Japanese girl singers who knew little or no English.

    • orville

      It would have to be. Strangely enough, I can remember kind of liking it when I was a kid. Must have been because it was cartoony and colorful.

    • RFootman

      yeah that’s the show, but how can they cal it a bomb? /sarcasm We would never have the term ‘sushi and hot tubbing’ if not for that show. /sarcasm

  • JLC

    Cop Rock is pretty easy. I’m guessing Pink Lady and Jeff for the variety show (it can be really hard to understand Jeff Altman).

  • Melinda65

    I’m going to guess that the variety show with hosts that barely spoke English would be “Pink Lady and Jeff,” although I’ve read that the women actually spoke NO English and had to learn their lines phonetically. IIRC, this show was on NBC.

  • Joe

    A few that come to mind: Viva Laughlin, Rosie Live, and David Caruso leaving NYPD Blue for the film career that never happened.

    • Madd

      Yeah, it’s definitely Caruso.

    • Michael

      How about Shelley Long leaving Cheers? Wayne Rogers leaving MASH?

      • Shaun

        Actually, McLean Stevenson leaving MASH was a bigger mistake… He never had another success again. At least Shelley Long had some films and Wayne Rogers had at least one other successful show (House Calls? Was that the name of it).

      • rod

        All three were very bad decisons. Wayne and Alan Alda had a very unique and very funny chemistry that worked well. Wayne should have stayed. and I’m sure mclean and shelly long second guessed their decisions many times,

  • Shamrock


    • Mongo

      Shut your mouth. Manimal was awesome. :)

      • Shamrock

        So you were the one person to watch that show

      • Johnification

        Best TV series name EVER.

      • Danno

        MANIMAL. I watched that show when I was a kid. wasn’t there a show on right after it where the guy turned into a car or something?

      • GoodWitchPA

        I’m with Mongo – I loved Manimal!

      • Erda

        I don’t get it. A person ask a petfecrly clear plain and simple question, and just because these guys work for network television in Hollywood, they have to give nothing but a smart ass answer. Give the guy a break, all he wanted to know is a ball park figure of all the equipment combined in case he wanted to buy the same rig to use in his own work. Can we for once in life, leave the smart answers in the network or studio coffee room. In answer to the mans question, the all combined equipment rig they used each one was more than likely around 10 to 18 thousand dollars depending on just how you wanted it rigged out and with what camera lens. Your right, it is still expensive and a lot lower than traditional equipment.Photo-John good luck on all your future projects and may you go far in your career. Those guys forget they had to start somewhere at one time their-self.Sincerely,Ron Tyler / Executive ProducerAFP Films / A.F. Productions / AFP Television NetworkHollywood, Ca / Dallas, Texas / Tyler, Texas / New York, NY / Orlando, Fla

    • Linda L

      I remember watching this show with my dad. Wasn’t he a cop that shapeshifted into animals?

  • Shamrock

    The Ropers

    • Linda L

      You mentioning Ropers reminds me of how much I miss THREE’S COMPANY.

    • stryker73

      my god, ‘the ropers’ was an awful show!

  • kate

    They could actually be talking about cop rock, it was an awful show on in the early 90’s I think. Prett sure biggest show in the world was cancelled by NBC, lol Baywatch. The E true hollywood story told me that one lazy sunday.

    • Meredith

      Star Trek was cancelled and is obviously a cultural phenomenon.

      • J S

        Cancelled by . . . wait for it . . . NBC!! Yet another well-thought out action taken by such an excellent network.

      • Tomm

        Best thing to happen to Trek was to get cancelled. If it was on longer, no movies…

      • rod

        from 1966 thru 1969, the ratings were awful, usually finisihing almost last. after each season NBC thought about cancelling it but gave it another chance. after the 1968 season, NBC decided not to renew. again, due to the horrible ratings it was a justifiable decision.

    • Danno

      That reminds me that Baywatch Nights will most certainly be on the list.

  • Roman

    Oh my god, Slimy backstabbing Lamo cover.@@

    • Hank

      Oh please. Get a grip.

      • Shaun

        Why? Sounds like you’ve already got a really tight grip on Leno’s (undoubtedly tiny) penis. Let us know if Leno ever grows any b*lls, will you?

  • Shamrock

    Joanie loves Penis..I mean Chachi

    • Tomm

      “Joanie and Chachi” got OK ratings, it was just that it lost many veiwers from its lead in, “Happy Days”.

      Also, “Happy Days” was winding down and ABC just put them back where they belonged for the final sesaon. 1983-84

Page: 1 2 3 5
Add your comment
The rules: Keep it clean, and stay on the subject - or we may delete your comment. If you see inappropriate language, e-mail us. An asterisk (*) indicates a required field.

When you click on the "Post Comment" button above to submit your comments, you are indicating your acceptance of and are agreeing to the Terms of Service. You can also read our Privacy Policy.

Latest Videos


From Our Partners

TV Recaps

Powered by VIP