Most bizarre TV flops in history

Television is a pretty weird place, but it's almost guaranteed that you've never seen the weirder parts of it. Entertainment history is full of television shows that were so strange and terrible that they barely survived their first night, despite making it through the dozens of checks and balances to get into production in the first place. Here are some of the stranger and more notorious TV flops. If you're lucky, you may be able find a few on a back-alley bootleg VHS today.

The Briefcase (2015)

Disturbingly close to an episode of The Twilight Zone, The Briefcase gave two lower-class families a briefcase filled with over $100,000 and forced them to decide, after hearing sob stories from the other side, if they were going to keep the money or give it away—all without knowing that the other family was in the same position. Producers wanted to frame this as uplifting television, but this poverty porn was little more than exploitation of vulnerable people. Every family gave away some portion of their cash, but after six episodes, the gut-wrenching series was cancelled.

Osbournes Reloaded (2009)

Even though The Osbournes was a huge success for MTV, the reality TV kinda-documentary ran its course in by 2005, when Ozzy's do-nothing trash children actually decided to do something with their lives. By 2009, the family decided to revive their antics, and the revival came in the form of a bizarre variety show called Osbournes Reloaded, which featured poorly-written skits, celebrity cameos, spraying people with foam, throwing fries at drive-through customers, and the usual variety show fare… but made intentionally offensive. The show was so bad that countless Fox stations outright refused to air any episodes after the premiere, leaving five presumably terrible episodes in a vault somewhere.

Cavemen (2007)

Using a product mascot as a full-fledged entertainment property is rarely a great idea, but, y'know, it worked for Ernest. As such, ABC Studios decided to develop Geico's old caveman mascots into a half-hour sitcom. The premise sounds almost surreal enough to work: Cro-Magnons still exist in modern society, and they struggle daily against unfair stereotypes. It's nothing that a hundred ethnicity-based sitcoms haven't done before, but this time, without being mired in existing prejudices. Unfortunately, the show's writing never seemed to find an audience, and only a few episodes aired in the US before disappearing forever, never even appearing on DVD.

Heil Honey I'm Home (1990)

Criticized by some as being too ironic, and criticized by others as simply being in terrible taste, Heil Honey I'm Home was a British parody of terrible American sitcoms, featuring Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, both with grotesquely American accents, living in a domestic situation with Jewish neighbors. Despite portraying Hitler as a misguided idiot and the entire situation as absurd, showrunners admitted that none of the final product communicated what the original concept tried to convey, whatever that was, and the show was cancelled after one episode. The fact is that 1990 was just too early for anti-comedy, and pretty much any time is too early for elaborate, sitcom-sized Holocaust jokes.

Cop Rock (1990)

If Law & Order and Glee had a terrible, ugly baby with unmentionable problems, that baby would be called Cop Rock, and yes, it's exactly what it sounds like. A bizarre combination of a serious justice drama and Broadway-styled musical numbers for no actual reason, the amalgamation of genres was just too weird and never found a demographic that appreciated both realistic gunfights and flouncy, theatrical songs about race relations. Cop Rock lasted 11 painful episodes before the whole thing disintegrated into a free-for-all finale with everyone dropping their characters and joining the crew in song.

Manimal (1983)

The premise of Manimal is that if you know a white guy who can use ancient African secrets to turn into animals, you can invariably solve any crime. While animal powers seem like they might be useful for a segment on The Late Show, or even if you just want to skip out on taking the bus, not even the greatest imaginings of science fiction could make Manimal interesting. After eight episodes, the animal man was laid to rest—except for a cameo fifteen years later in Night Man, which was a about a man who got powers by being struck by lightning while playing a saxophone. How Night Man lasted two full seasons is anyone's guess.

Supertrain (1979)

See, it's like The Love Boat, except the boat is a ridiculously huge train, because you just can't tell the same human interest stories on a cruise ship that you can on an implausible nuclear locomotive. As the most expensive TV show ever produced by 1979, Supertrain was kind of like a soap opera version of Snowpiercer, which is something that no one really ever wanted to see. After nine strange episodes and the appearance of a rogue Tony Danza, the impossibly expensive production was cancelled, nearly destroying NBC in the process.

The XFL (2001)

The XFL was marketed as a cross between professional wrestling and actual NFL football, but with fewer rules and even less clothing on their cheerleaders. Unsurprisingly, nearly everything about the media experiment was a disaster. Lax safety rules resulted in numerous injuries and one death, poor planning placed one Western Division team in the east, and despite airing on three networks, the whole thing collapsed after one terribly aggro, obnoxious season when the XFL couldn't find an audience between wrestling fans and serious football fans. This thing had problems to the very core: "XFL" was supposed to stand for "Xtreme Football League," but no one realized that someone had already copyrighted that name. So the XFL literally stood for nothing.

Skins (2011)

Despite being a relatively large success in other parts of the world, the American version of teen drama Skins was deemed so inappropriate that it was actually threatened with child pornography charges. The American version came across as exploitative of underage, amateur actors, and many sponsors pulled their ads from the show. Ultimately, the British series creator basically accused US audiences of being too prude to understand his vision, and Skins ran for only ten episodes, because it's hard to recover from accusations of pedophilia.

Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

We'd be remiss in not including the best-worst TV flop of all time: the Star Wars Holiday Special. Aired in the time between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, the 98-minute variety show mostly focuses on Chewbacca's non-verbal family grunting at one another in celebration of Life Day, a non-denominational sci-fi surrogate for actual December holidays. Grandpa Itchy gets all excited watching softcore porn, Mark Hamill has barely recovered from his car accident, and it's a miracle that the Star Wars franchise survived the debacle. It only aired once, and Lucasfilm has subsequently declined to acknowledge that it ever happened.