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Vacation Robo-Post: The Worst TV of 2012

It is time, as Frank Costanza would say, for the airing of grievances. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… the 10 Worst TV Shows of 2012!

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As 2012 draws to a close, it’s time to gather together and remember what was best in our various fields of endeavor. But not right now: it is time, as Frank Costanza would say, for the airing of grievances. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… the 10 Worst TV Shows of 2012!

A few of my usual caveats: I tried to focus this list on TV that was newly and distinctly bad in 2012, so it skews toward newer shows and series. If it sucked the year before (and the year before that…) I probably left it off. (Though not necessarily. Read on!)

Also, I’m sure you can name 10 other shows as bad or worse. This list is far more arbitrary, incomplete and from-the-gut than my best-shows list. While I watch a lot of bad TV for my job, there was probably a lot of stuff that was terrible but obscure enough that it never got on my radar.

(MORE: The Top 10 TV Episodes of 2012: The Best and the Rest)

Herewith, then, my 10 Worst Shows of 2012, in alphabetical order, because all bad TV is bad in its own special way:

Brickleberry. When Daniel Tosh was not uttering unfortunate rape jokes in 2012, he was producing this crude monstrosity of an animated sitcom (whose pilot included, among other things, unfortunate animal-sex-abuse jokes) that made Family Guy look like Masterpiece Theatre.

Fox and Friends. I did say that this list generally disregards shows that are bad year after year. But in this election year, watching F&F’s amalgam of insipid morning chat with brazen partisanship was like attending a re-education camp run by Ken and Barbie. The high/low point: a four-minute attack video on President Obama in May (featuring giant falling moneybags of “debt” and a piggy bank falling down a staircase) that was so over-the-top even Fox disavowed it.

Guys With Kids. What’s the funniest thing about men trying to parent the babies that they fathered? Based solely on watching this broad-concept new fall sitcom, I still couldn’t tell you.

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. I’m going to be honest: I sometimes really enjoyed this TLC point-and-gawk show, at least for the Thompson family’s defiant pride in being themselves. But it was still mostly a gawking fart-and-fat-joke anthology, and I’m sure deep down even the people who made it redneckognize that.

Liz and Dick. There have been many awful TV movies; there will be many more. But this Lindsay Lohan disaster was something more–a catastrophe America could see coming days away, which made hate-watching it into something like a national event.

NBC‘s Olympics Opening Ceremony coverage. NBC distinguished itself by running the games live online, not so much so by holding back some big events from live TV. But its biggest flop was the opening-night coverage, which–besides typically shallow play-by-play–omitted a performance intended as a tribute to the victims of a terror attack.

¡Rob! This Rob Schneider sitcom, about an Anglo guy marrying into a Hispanic family, was more ethnically alienating than the 2012 Republican primary, using a fine cast (including Cheech Marin and the late Lupe Ontiveros) as thin stereotypes. Fortunately, it didn’t last long enough for me to memorize the location of the ¡ on my keyboard.

The SCOTUS Screw-Up. In the rush to read and report the Obamacare Supreme Court decision, CNN and Fox were fast—and baldly, embarrassingly wrong, reporting the ruling as overturning the health-care law it upheld. And CNN was particularly slow in correcting the false report its digital news operation quickly spread worldwide.

Smash. There may have been 10 objectively worse shows on TV this year–hey, the Golden Globes nominated it! But sometimes “worst” is a matter of taking potential, a good cast and a zillion dollars of hype and blowing it. (See also The Newsroom, which but for a couple improved episodes toward the end of the season I might list here too.) NBC is retooling it, and here’s hoping season 2 (in February) is better, but the first season was one long, meandering off-note.

Work It. Sometimes a dumb-sounding TV show can be a delightful, entertaining surprise. And sometimes a dumb concept—here, with two guys in drag because all the good jobs these days are going to the wimminfolk—is exactly as dumb as you think it’s going to be.

MORE: Vacation Robo-Post: The Worst TV Shows of 2011


@TIME @TIMECulture Revolution really should be on this list.


@TIME I'd have to disagree, Smash wasn't that bad! I loved it!


@TIME In Italy, doesen't exsist bad or good #TV. It is simply #unwatchable! ( this refering to #mediaset channels, in particular) #vaderetro

Swachtor like.author.displayName 1 Like

@TIME @timeculture Fox and friends and not msnbc? What a joke.

LadyBugLeto like.author.displayName 1 Like

@TIME @TIMECulture / Almost everything on it-I HATE REALITY shows-as real as most of the boobs in Hollywood. .


@TIME @timeculture Honey Boo Boo, worst of the worst. All the money and psychiatrists, will never put the poor baby back together!


@TIME @timeculture


I would add Boss, based solely on one watching - the pilot.  I lived in Chicago for several of the Daly years (Battle of Chicago, 1968, veteran status), and would have loved seeing a show about real big-city politics, but watching Kelsey Grammar go through temper tantrums because of *dementia with Lewy bodies* (just looked it up) was about as disappointing as watching something you thought might be a psychological thriller waste most of its screen time on car crashes.  And "dementia with Lewy bodies"?????  I'm certain there are people out there suffering with this condition, and it should be taken seriously, but "Lewy bodies"?????  I'm making jokes to myself about it already.  And at my age, I probably shouldn't.

Thank you for the Tosh/Brickleberry take-down.  I never watched either one of them, but sometimes had to suffer through one last icky attempt at a joke if I tuned into the Daily Show too early.  I could sometimes be heard caroling "lalalalalalala" from my room in the moments before the Daily Show intro.  Sometimes wondered if I had outlived my comedic relevance.

anon76 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Lucelucy The astounding thing to me about Tosh is that after James did his write-up on the rape 'joke', we were actually swarmed by angry Tosh-followers. How something that obviously mediocre could get that intense of a following ranks right up there with Loch Ness in terms of mysteries of the natural world.

Lucelucy like.author.displayName 1 Like

@anon76 @Lucelucy Aside from being astounded that I misspelled Daley, I was astounded that Tosh had any kind of a following.  I watched and listened to the end of the show a couple of times to see if there was anything there that I might be missing?  And every time it was, huh?  What in the bloody 'ell is the emmereffin' point?  As you can see, I'd be run out of the prude caucus the first time I opened my mouth, but as far as I could tell, nothing was actually funny.  Merry Christmas (from a paganish atheist).  I'm in it for the metaphor!