Here are all the disastrous TV shows we’re glad got cancelled
We live in a golden age of television. The advent of high-profile networks like HBO & AMC, as well as streaming platforms like Netflix & Hulu, has resulted in some of the finest episodic storytelling of all time. That wasn’t always the case, however. It wasn’t too long ago that cable networks were giving the green light to shockingly bad ideas.
In the interest of helping viewers appreciate what they have, we decided to look over the history of failed pilots and catalogue the ones that are so hilariously bad that they seem fictional. We wish they were, but alas, here are the disastrous pilots that we’re glad got canceled.
Heil Honey, I’m Home (The UK, 1990)
Words cannot express how awkward this sitcom was. Heil Honey, I’m Home was about Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, the famously fascist couple who happened to live next to a Jewish couple. The show was meant as a spoof of sitcoms like The Honeymooners and All in the Family, which meant the producers were aware of the absurd premise, but it wasn’t enough to salvage the pilot.
Released in 1990, Heil Honey, I’m Home was met with scathing reviews who singled out the show’s tasteless humor & awkward attempts to undercut the atrocities committed by the real-life Hitler. It was canceled immediately, but the pilot lives on as an infamously bad example of sitcom television.
On the Air (ABC, 1992)
David Lynch is held in high esteem as an artistic genius. His work on Twin Peaks and its sequel series helped usher in the age of prestige TV, but that doesn’t mean he was always on his A-game. On the Air is an example of a rare Lynch flop. This sitcom starred Ian Buchanan as a former movie star who tries to regain his footing during WWII.
The setting wasn’t bad, and the supporting cast was talented, but the show was a one-trick pony that failed to generate much fun. On the Air premiered in 1992, and only ran three episodes before it was canceled in the United States. The UK was treated to all seven episodes, but the additional airtime did not help the series out.
On the Air is a rightfully forgotten chapter of David Lynch’s career. Feel free to seek it out if you are a Lynch completist, but otherwise, steer clear.
Lawless (Fox, 1997)
The pivot from professional athlete to actor is a difficult one. Not many men have been able to do it, and one of these failed instances was Brian Bosworth. The former NFL star was cast to play a private detective in the Fox series Lawless, but the critical reception to the pilot was so bad that no other episodes aired.
Looking back at Lawless, it’s easy to see why it failed. Bosworth has the screen presence of a tire, and the whole thing is written so poorly that the other cast members feel just as stiff. It’s a lazy rehash of every private eye trope in the book, and we are thankful to Fox for pulling the plug on future cases.
Turn-On! (ABC, 1969)
We had to go way back to dig up this failure. It was worth the time, however, because Turn-On! is the only pilot to get pulled from the air before it was even done airing! It was initially pitched as a variety show in the vein of hits like The Dean Martin Show or Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, but the show’s disposition towards politically-charged material and sexually explicit language shocked audiences.
WEWS in Cleveland, Ohio decided to pull Turn-On! after the first commercial break, which means it never came back on the air. ABC pulled it from their weeknight lineup immediately, and it was never heard from again. Now that’s impressively bad.