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Worst TV shows of 2016: ‘Mariah’s World,’ ‘Vinyl’ and more


In "Mariah's World" on E!, the promise of an inside look at Mariah Carey never came to pass. Photo Credit: E! Entertainment / Roger Do Minh

Welcome to our annual anti-Emmys telecast — the awards show that celebrates the least, the last and the lost. There’s no hype here, no celebration here. These are 2016’s anti-winners, or those shows which were vivid reminders that not all that glitters is necessarily gold in this golden age of TV.

Congratulations to all. This wasn’t easy, but you made it look easy.

These shows didn’t go far. These shows were unloved by critics. Evidence indicates they were unloved by you too.

But these shows were interesting for the most part. Interesting failures are always better than boring failures, so . . . you are all winners!

(A program note: These are only the shows I actually watched this year. A gorgeous bounty of other contenders is therefore not included. “Coupled” . . . “Heartbeat” . . . “Kocktails with Khloe” . . . “Pitchslapped?” Don’t take it personally. There’s only so much time in the misbegotten day.)

15. “Vinyl,” HBO

The promise: Jagger! Scorsese! Cannavale! HBO! The ’70s rock scene! New York!!!

The reality: Replace those “!’s” with “?’s” and we can begin this discussion. Really . . . why? “Vinyl” was an idea in search of a story, or a story worth caring about.

14. “Brain Dead,” CBS

The promise: Star showrunners, Robert and Michelle King (“The Good Wife”) and a premise that offered genuine relief from our ongoing national nightmare (ants that eat the brains of Washington politician).

The reality: Problem here of matching material with creators. The Kings are (well) the Kings — not Ed Wood.

13. “The Passion,” Fox

The promise: Remake of a hit Dutch TV event, with Tyler Perry at the controls.

The reality: With a mixture of the sacred and profane, of the hokey and the holy, the “live” network spectacle takes a rare detour — to flubsville.

12. “Game of Silence,” NBC

The promise: Intriguing remake of a Turkish show about some kids who go into juvie after a prank gone wrong, and well . . . we’re getting long-winded at this point.

The reality: Actually, this turned out to be mostly a remake of “Sleepers.” Also a snore.

11. “Harley and the Davidsons,” Discovery

The promise: A deep history of a beloved bike.

The reality: Not terrible, and strictly for fans, but six hours? With actors? And dramatizations? And motorcycles? And exhaust fumes?

10. “Dice,” Showtime

The promise: One of the biggest standups of the late ’80s . . .

The reality: To cite Newsday’s assessment, “Hickory dickory dock, this review won’t come as a shock. The show is bad, the star a bit sad, his shtick as old as a rock.”

9. “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,” FX

The promise: Great cast, Denis Leary, and a second season that maybe (just maybe) would improve on the first.

The reality: No improvement but regression. Wrong direction.

8. “Bordertown,” Fox

The promise: Voiced by Hank Azaria, and potentially a smart satire on the border debate.

The reality: Pedantry instead of satire. And oh so dull.

7. “Maya and Marty,” NBC

The promise: Maya (Rudolph) and Martin (Short).

The reality: Oh, come on, not so bad! Oh yes, so bad. But fun-bad, and weird-bad. You almost suspect that was the goal. How else to explain bits like “Everybody Poops?” Really: How else?

6. “Mariah’s World,” E!

The promise: Mariah Carey.

The reality: Instead of a candid Mariah, viewers got a candid picture of her manager (Stella Bulochnikov).

5. “Roadies,” Showtime

The promise: Attention should be paid whenever an Oscar-winning, “Almost Famous”-directing, Pearl Jam-hanging, cult movie-writing star decides to lend his considerable talents to TV. That would be Cameron Crowe.

The reality: In hindsight, perhaps not too much attention. Some of the same problems as “Vinyl” — only more so.

4. “Feed the Beast,” AMC

The promise: Heck of a cast, including David Schwimmer, John Doman, Jim Sturgess and Michael Gladis.

The reality: This series about a wholesale wine salesman in the Bronx also included a character — a ruthless mobster — who was known as the Tooth Fairy (alas, poor Gladis). Before he extracted his “vig,” he extracted teeth. Enough said.

3. “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders”

The promise: The return to a major prime-time series of Alana de la Garza who (other than a short-lived series here and there) hadn’t been on a major one since “Law & Order.”

The reality: Sure, nice to have de la Garza back, but the series? With feet of clay, it took a familiar formula, stoked the familiar paranoia, and stomped all over the familiar franchise.

2. “Crisis in Six Scenes,” Amazon

The promise: Woody Allen

The reality: Woody Allen, circa 1970 — at times doddering and gaseous, with ersatz material that sounded a little bit too ersatz. Nevertheless, fascinating for what it was — Allen’s first TV series.

1. “Who Killed JonBenet,” Lifetime

The promise: After 20 years, a moment of dignity, or reflection, or of something not too creepy or exploitative.

The reality: Ghastly, ghoulish, grisly. Even with good actors — like Michael Gill (who played John Ramsey) or Eion Bailey (Det. Steve Thomas), nothing could save this from receiving our top anti-Emmy of the night.

And that’s it. Thank you for watching. See you back here next year.


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