The year ending has seen its share of turkeys, which our critics had to endure. Fortunately, they survived and they can now report back on the worst of the worst in TV, movies, music and theater.
1. “Megyn Kelly Today” (NBC): No show — scripted, news, or otherwise — was more misguided than this one, no host more miscast. Along with a salary that could feed whole nations, Kelly arrived with baggage that had been carefully packed at her former employer, Fox News. Viewers of Fox weren’t about to forgive her for her betrayal of Fox; viewers of NBC weren’t about to embrace her either. She was left to forge a middle-course, as a morning happy talker with a glib approach to issues, other than #MeToo, in which she cast herself in a leading role. A talented, hard-nosed interviewer, Kelly seemed to abandon that, but then was hard-nosed at the worst possible moment about the worst possible issue: Blackface. In defense of that which is indefensible, she lost her job while the industry and the few viewers were left thinking — what was NBC thinking?
2. “Here and Now” (HBO): This maddening series was stuffed with fashionable “-isms,” New Age platitudes and magical mystery detours but like Matthew Weiner’s “The Romanovs,” was condemned mostly for what it wasn’t rather than for what it was. What it wasn’t was much “good,” and because it was created by one of HBO’s most successful showrunners, Alan Ball, that made its failure all the more baffling.
3. “Rise” (NBC): Speaking of which, this limited series from Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights”) about an English teacher in a Rust Belt Pennsylvania town who takes over the theater program at Stanton High (from my review) “plods along as a collection of prefabricated moments that demand viewer engagement as opposed to ones that are organically built and which breathe on their own and ultimately succeed on their own.” In a word (or two), this stage drama was stagey.
4. “The First” (Hulu): Visually compelling with a nicely pensive music score — courtesy of Colin Stetson of Arcade Fire and Bon Iver — “The First’s” first season was otherwise plodding, padded, dull, listless, weary and Mars-less. For a series that was supposed to be about the thrill of discovery and the beckoning of the Red Planet, “The First” mostly seemed like an afternoon spent at the laundromat.
5. “LA to Vegas” (Fox): Memories are funny — or perhaps memories are selective of this sitcom about a budget airline — but I remember very little of this. The few remnant shards do hint at something that was pretty awful. I do believe the shards are accurate. — VERNE GAY
1. “Gotti”: John Travolta plays John Gotti, narrating from the dead, in this abysmal biopic based on a memoir by the mobster’s son. The acting is desperately bad, the writing wretched (Google Travolta’s “five boroughs” speech) and the whole movie looks like it cost about 10 bucks. Patchogue’s Kevin Connolly tries to direct, but not even Francis Ford Coppola could have saved this thing.
2. “The Happytime Murders”: The combination of Melissa McCarthy and a cast of debauched puppets sounds like comedy gold, but director Brian Henson (son of Muppet maestro Jim Henson) goes for the lowest-hanging jokes — sex stuff, mostly, but also profanity and violence. It’s awful.
3. “Vice”: Christian Bale’s transformation into Dick Cheney is impressive, but the actor is trapped in a biopic that utterly despises its subject. Cheney certainly isn’t Mr. Warm-and-Fuzzy, but was it really necessary to mock his multiple heart attacks? This partisan piñata-party, from writer-director Adam McKay, is exactly what we need less of right now.
4. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”: More YouTube-caliber dancing and singing to Abba tunes. Total domestic gross: $120 million. If this is all it takes to make a hit, why does anyone bother with anything?
5. “Venom”: Tom Hardy plays a journalist who ingests an alien parasite and becomes a schizophrenic superhero. It’s even worse than it sounds, but thanks to Hardy’s whacked-out performance, “Venom” is never boring. It’s almost so bad it’s good. — RAFER GUZMAN
1. 6ix9ine, “Dummy Boy” (Scumgang): When historians look back on the craziness of 2018, the ridiculous success of controversial Brooklyn rapper 6ix9ine will be a prime example. His album hit No. 2 while he was in federal custody on racketeering and firearms charges and on probation for posting a sex tape of a 13-year-old girl. Yet somehow this notoriety helped him land A-list collaborators, including Kanye West and Nicki Minaj, for his mediocre rhymes about thug life.
2. Lil Xan, “Total Xanarchy” (Columbia): Maybe now that he has gone to rehab Lil Xan will realize how bad this album is. He wasted the major-label deal and big-budget collaborators like 2 Chainz and Rae Sremmurd for terrible rhymes like “I got tick tock, tick tock. I got Gucci flip-flops.”
3. Iggy Azalea, “Survive the Summer” (Island): It takes a special artist to cram so many annoying elements into a song that’s not even three minutes long. Iggy manages to accomplish that feat six times in a row, using a variety of terrible hip-hop styles.
4. Justin Timberlake, “Man of the Woods” (RCA): Even a rollout that included the Super Bowl halftime show could not convince people that this album was interesting. Or that the talented Timberlake actually believed his own interest in country music.
5. Thirty Seconds to Mars, “America” (Interscope): That multitalented Jared Leto is somehow responsible for this derivative rock — think Imagine Dragons with their passion replaced by empty sloganeering — is one of the year’s biggest mysteries. — GLENN GAMBOA
1. “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical”: This was a hot mess, to paraphrase some of the singer’s most famous lyrics. The biographical musical, which closes on Dec. 30 after universally vicious reviews, had all the late Queen of Disco’s best songs, but the story got muddled by confusing time jumps and odd characterizations. And the show virtually dismissed major events like her abuse by a pastor and her conflict with the gay community.
2. “Escape to Margaritaville”: All the margaritas in the world (and there were plenty on sale in the lobby) couldn’t save this jukebox musical. Again, all the Jimmy Buffett hits were there, but working “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and the like into a coherent plot worthy of Broadway didn’t cut it. The show closed in July after 29 previews and 124 regular performances.
3. “Gettin’ the Band Back Together”: Blink and you missed it. The play about a middle-aged New Jersey man trying to resurrect his high school band started previews in July, opened on Aug. 13 and closed on Sept. 16. In an unusually candid blog post, lead producer Ken Davenport blamed the slow ticket sales on tough reviews, most of which agreed the show lacked anything truly memorable.
4. “King Kong”: Your eyes do not deceive you. Yes, this was on “the best” list for the amazing spectacle of the massive animatronic puppet. As for the story and songs in the multimillion-dollar production, well, if it’s on this list, you can probably figure it out. — BARBARA SCHULER