Why do I love bad television? Let me count the ways. I love bad television because it makes the good television seem all that much better. I love bad television because it's memorable. I love it because it reminds me that the possibilities of this remarkable medium fall short so often, and with such craven, disastrous results. I love it because it's fun. Because it's interesting. Because it's strange. Because it's hilarious. I love it because it makes me laugh, and cry.
I wrote this post a few years ago, and of course time and bad TV marches on. Give me a day to think and cringe, and I'm sure I'd come up with another fourteen shows. So what follows is an incredibly, blessedly, brief list of shows that accomplished all of the above, from the beginning of the century. They aren't representative, but a mere sampling, and also cautionary to makers of bad TV everywhere: Best not leave behind incriminating evidence because it will eventually find its way to lists like these...
LIZ & DICK (2012)
Grant Bowler, as the Richard Burton to Lindsay Lohan's Elizabeth Taylor (inadvertently one assumes), captured the spirit of "Liz & Dick," Lifetime's entirely inept biopic, with this one snatch of dialogue: "The performers know the lines, but they just keep coming out wrong..."
'SARAH PALIN'S ALASKA' (2010) & 'BRISTOL PALIN: LIFE'S A TRIPP' (2012)
Watch Mama Grizzly go fishing! Watch Mama Grizzly go hunting. Watch Mama Grizzly chop down trees. Watch Mama pretend to get along with Kate Gosselin at a picnic. "Sarah Palin's Alaska," this thrilla in Wasilla, wasn't so much "terrible" as much as a shrewdly constructed piece of political stagecraft, filled with iconography and subliminal messages. (OK, nevermind, it was pretty terrible -- but mostly nice to look at.) Much worse: Daughter Bristol's show, "Bristol Palin: Life's a Tripp."
$#*! MY DAD SAYS (2010)
May as well quote my own review on this: "$#*! My Dad Says" is a grim, soulless trek through a swamp of sitcom hackery. What can you say about a show that advertises its content in the title? Caveat emptor, I suppose.”
I WANNA MARRY 'HARRY' (2014)
Hard as this may be to believe, Fox actually found a Prince Harry look-a-like, and actually found some women (including two Long Islanders) who didn't know the difference, and actually produced a dating reality show on this -- which was canceled long before "Harry" got "married."
PRINCESSES: LONG ISLAND (2013)
The Bravo reality show "Princesses: Long Island" -- TV's purest representation of the term "tin-eared" -- insulted Jews, the FDNY, the town of Freeport and pretty much everyone on the entire length and breadth of Long Island.
KIM'S FAIRYTALE WEDDING: A KARDASHIAN EVENT (2011)
A $10,000 wedding cake -- or was it $20,000? Not one, not two, not... lost count... Vera Wang gowns. Four hundred and fifty guests. E! caught it all during Kim Kardashian's August 2011 wedding to NBA baller Kris Humphries, for millions in rights fees -- rights fees! The televised extravaganza was an embarrassment to all involved, viewers included, considering the bride infamously filed for divorce 72 days later.
VIVA LAUGHLIN (2007)
CBS's "Viva Laughlin" was a remake of a Brit series ("Viva Blackpool") and was meant to be a "musical comedy/drama," though the subtleties of such an unwieldy formula were lost on viewers when star Hugh Jackman waltzed through Vegas casinos lip-syncing songs like "Sympathy for the Devil" while doing a two-step on a craps table. It was canceled quickly, before inflicting further damage on Jackman's career.
WHO WANTS TO MARRY A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE (2000)
It was an ominous start to the 21st century with this beast. The star of "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" was a "multi-millionaire" who had an earlier restraining order filed against him by a former girlfriend. Fox canceled the show but hardly learned a lesson, considering the sewage sludge of bad reality that went on to consume viewers in its putrefactive wake.
OSBOURNES: RELOADED (2009)
Taped before a live audience, "Osbournes Reloaded" was the worst variety show in all of human history. It consisted of sketch comedy featuring the family, including one bit where Ozzy danced to "What a Feeling" (from "Flashdance"), concluding his performance with flatulence.
JOE MILLIONAIRE (2003)
It's hard to believe now that "Joe Millionaire" was a phenomenon, but it was, and to compound the injustice, Fox mounted a second season -- this time with women from places like the Czech Republic. But entire viewing nation suddenly saw the truth in that old saying, "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me." "The Next Joe Millionaire" would be the last.
FATHER OF THE PRIDE (2004)
"Father of the Pride," a prime time animated comedy about Siegfried and Roy's lions? With big cats talking dirty? On NBC? Produced by Jeffrey Katzenberg (and DreamWorks)? Seriously? Seriously? Seriously... awful. Production was delayed when Roy Horn was nearly killed by one of his lions in real life.
CHARLIE'S ANGELS (2011)
2011's "Charlie's Angels" was an extravagantly dreadful remake of the '70s hit that desperately advertised its dreadfulness even in the promo, with lines like "Bring it on," "Trust me, I'm no angel," and "You know why Charlie calls them angels? Because they show up when you need them the most."
DR. VEGAS (2004)
Hey, it seemed like a good idea: A Harvard grad, last in his class, must work at a Vegas casino. Hey, actually, no -- "Dr. Vegas" did not seem like a good idea, and how not-good was demonstrated in one episode, cruelly surviving on YouTube as culpatory evidence, in which the doctor (Rob Lowe) is asked to sign the breasts of a woman with a felt-tip marker.
ROSIE LIVE (2008)
"Rosie Live" was a blessedly brief, overstuffed turkey filled with overstuffed indulgence. A highlight list: Conan gets pied; Dancing Turkey (a plastic one); Dancing cupcakes, and so very much more. Rosie O'Donnell's attempt to re-start the variety format died after one outing. (Neil Patrick Harris -- are you paying attention?)