Remote control was invented for shows like these

May 09, 2002|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,SUN STAFF

SO MANY bad TV shows, so little space to list them all. And yet ... if a few more trees must die to get them all in, so be it.

So today, as promised, we present our list of the worst TV shows of all time, cleverly playing off TV Guide's listing of its 50 best shows last week.

Our list is based partly on reader e-mail responses - close to 200, in fact, proving the vast majority of my readers lead empty, unsatisfying lives and will leap at the slightest distraction, no matter how vapid. It's also based on the thoughtful, well-reasoned opinions of this humble columnist.

The only ground rule for making the list was this: The show had to be bad.

And not just bad. Really bad. Stunningly, horrifyingly bad. So bad you couldn't turn it off - you just sat there transfixed at the sheer, overwhelming badness of it all.

So without further ado (and in no particular order), the worst TV shows of all time:

My Mother the Car: The top vote-getter among readers (e-mailer Henry B. Reiff waited one whole sentence before blasting it), this mid-'60s sitcom about a lawyer (Jerry Van Dyke) whose mother is reincarnated as a talking 1928 Porter was mercifully axed after one season.

Sure, there were lots of stupid shows back then. But this made Mr. Ed look like Hamlet. It made The Flying Nun look like Death of a Salesman.

Cop Rock: Some people remember where they were when JFK was shot, when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.

I remember where I was when this "singing crime drama" debuted in 1990: in my own tacky rec room, a Coors in one beefy paw, watching on a 13-inch black-and-white TV and thinking, Oh ... my ... God.

Singing detectives, singing murderers, singing crackheads, singing juries delivering singing death-penalty verdicts - it was all too much. When, I wondered, had producer Steven Bochco begun dropping acid?

The show lasted three months. Bob Cavalli of Richmond, Va., writes of Cop Rock: "This had to be the most brainless, what-were-they-thinking idiocy of all time."

You, sir, have the soul of a poet.

Knight Rider: In order to frighten me to my core, to disturb my sleep for weeks and set off waves of anxiety that radiate through me from dawn till dusk, you have only to whisper two words:

David Hasselhoff.

This '80s adventure series, about an idealistic young cop (Hasselhoff) fighting the bad guys in a tricked-out Pontiac Trans Am that could cruise at the speed of sound, fly through the air, fire rockets and talk - again with the talking cars! - somehow lasted more than three seasons.

The Chevy Chase Show: In the history of mankind, no one has ever been more ill-equipped to be a talk-show host.

If you were to come to me today and say: "Jay Leno just dropped dead and we need an emergency fill-in and there are only two people available, Chevy Chase or Ted "Unabomber" Kaczynski," my reply would be: "Get Kaczynski into makeup."

The poet, Bob Cavalli, on the debut of this 1993 disaster: "I'm certain that all viewers squirmed as uncomfortably as I did watching the flop sweat drip off [Chevy's] nose."

As Chase drifted aimlessly through his opening monologue and chatted woodenly with first guest Goldie Hawn, you could almost hear "Taps" playing in the background.

The show lasted six weeks.

Battlestar Galactica: You can't help feeling that Lorne Greene, just six years removed from his glory days on Bonanza, walked onto the dopey spaceship set that first day, stared at the goofy costume he was wearing and thought: What the hell am I doing here?

This bizarre late-'70s science-fiction series lasted a little over two years. E-mailer Jane Waligorski called it " '80s kitsch (and I love sci-fi)." But that's giving kitsch a bad name.

Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?: Give e-mailer Lillian Suliga the prize for understatement. "That [2000] show about marrying a millionaire turned out pretty badly," she wrote.

Oh, you think?

Let's see: Women being ogled like it's the lineup for a brothel and answering demeaning questions, all for a shot at marrying a rich guy they've never seen? Then a snappy blond ER nurse with "old-fashioned values" (snort) becomes Mrs. Multi-Millionaire, goes on the honeymoon, gets cold feet and backs out of the "marriage," which is followed by revelations that the bridegroom was accused of assaulting and threatening an ex-fiancee years earlier.

Ain't love grand?

What's next from Fox: Russian mail-order brides mud-wrestling?

Married ... With Children: This enduring late-'80s monument to TV tastelessness featured the most dysfunctional family since the Mansons. Al Bundy was a pig and a whiner, wife Peggy Bundy was a tart and a slob, Kelly Bundy was their trampy, airhead daughter, and Bud Bundy, their dim, under-achieving son, was on the fast-track to the penitentiary.

Bicker, bicker, bicker ... the Bundys made it an art form.

Fear Factor: OK, Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? set the bar low in the reality TV genre, but the slimy Fear Factor wriggled right under it, as numerous e-mailers noted.

For a shot at 50 grand - which should just about cover a year's worth of psychiatric bills - six contestants perform gross-out stunts like bobbing for plums in a snake-filled container, allowing themselves to be covered with 400 live rats and eating worms covered in animal blood.

Where's My Mother the Car when you need some quality entertainment?

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