1. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant
Great Show(s): “The Office” and “Extras”
Dud(s): “Life’s Too Short”
Over reliance on guest stars, an exhausting protagonist who didn’t have enough (or any) interesting people around him, the mere presence of the now-polarizing Ricky Gervais, a lack of memorable scenes, even fewer memorable jokes — “Life’s Too Short” had ‘em all in season one, and felt like a show about nothing at all.
2. Mitchell Hurwitz
Great Show(s): “Arrested Development”
Dud(s): “Sit Down, Shut Up”
Expectations were high for “Sit Down, Shut Up,” Mitchell Hurwitz’s post “Arrested Development” series. It was unlikely that it was going to be great as the best sitcom of the 2000s, even if the voice cast included Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Kristin Chenoweth - but it didn’t even turn out half as good as AD’s worst episode (this is a discussion for the comment section, but I’d go with “Exit Strategy.”) “Running Wilde” wasn’t so great, either.
3. Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein
Brilliant Show(s): “The Simpsons”
Dud(s): “The Mullets”
Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein wrote many of “The Simpsons” greatest episodes, including “Sideshow Bob Roberts” and “Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy,” and even acted as showrunners during the series’ famed seventh and eighth seasons. They left in 1997, and six years (and one “Mission Hill”) later, they created “The Mullets,” about two brothers with the titular haircut. Even for UPN, it wasn’t very good (though it did keep David Hornsby very briefly employed) — it was canceled after eight episodes.
4. Mike Judge
Brilliant Show(s): “Beavis and Butthead” and “King of the Hill”
Dud(s): “The Goode Family”
Much of Mike Judge’s work, from “King of the Hill” to Extract, is political, but politics aren’t necessarily the point. “The Goode Family” was defined by its liberal tendencies (or, more actually, the show’s skewering of the far left), and like the early seasons of “American Dad,” that left little room for laughs. Maybe it would have gotten better time — again, like “American Dad,” which is now one of the funniest shows on TV — but we’ll never know. ABC canned the show after 13 episodes.
5. Jerry Seinfeld
Brilliant Show(s): “Seinfeld”
Dud(s): “The Marriage Ref”
It must be nice to have so much money that you simply stop caring.
6. Norman Lear
Great Show(s): “All in the Family,” “Sanford and Son,” “Maude,” “The Jeffersons,” and “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”
Dud(s): “a.k.a. Pablo” and “704 Hauser”
I suppose when you’ve created more than one great show, to the point where you can say you revolutionized TV more than once, you’re allowed to have a dud or two. But honestly, even with “a.k.a. Pablo” and “704 Hauser,” Norman Lear has one of the industry’s most impressive IMDb pages, right up to his voice work on South Park as Ben Franklin.
7. Danny Arnold
Great Show(s): “Barney Miller”
Dud(s): “A.E.S. Hudson Street”
Shows with Abe Vigoda > Shows without Abe Vigoda.
8. Garry Marshall
Great Show(s): “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley”
Dud(s): “Me and the Chimp”
The only great thing about “Me and the Chimp” is this Wikipedia factoid: “[Star Ted] Bessell refused to participate when the title was first given as The Chimp and I.” THIS SHOW HATES GOOD GRAMMAR. Happy days, they were not.
10. Ed Weinberger
Great Show(s): “Taxi” and “Cosby Show”
Dud(s): “Baby Talk”
“LOOK, IT’S A BABY,” America said as a whole about Amy Heckerling’s Look Who’s Talking some 23 years ago, “BUT IT’S TALKING…WITH BRUCE WILLIS’S VOICE! Now THAT’S comedy.” ABC took advantage of the misguided baby-speaking-with-a-grown-man’s-voice craze by adding “Baby Talk” to their otherwise spotless TGIF lineup. Even with George Clooney and the thinking man’s George Clooney, Tony Danza, “Baby Talk” only aired for two terrible seasons and was canceled in 1992. Luckily the country had Look Who’s Talking Now to fall back on.
11. Steven Bochco
Great Show(s): “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blue”
Dud: “Capitol Critters”
“Cop Rock” is the obvious choice here, but I honestly believe that if that show premiered today (if only), people would watch it. Some would even like (and “Like”) it and create slash videos on YouTube between Paul McCrane and Larry Joshua’s characters with the show’s theme song, “Under the Gun,” silently playing beneath the titillating dialogue. “Capitol Critters,” on the other hand, was an animated series about vermin that lived in the White House. No, no, not Karl Rove (TOTALLY TOPICAL ZING!), but actual vermin, like mice and roaches. No one would ever even ironically enjoy that.
12. Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick
Great Show(s): ‘Thirtysomething’
“Gee, we already created an honest depiction of what it’s like to a baby boomer-turned-yuppie in the 1980s — what else should we do in our careers? I know! Let’s do the same thing again, but with twentysomethings and have it be about social networking. Everyone loves video bloggers! We’ll start as a web series, but I bet no TV network will be dumb enough to pick us…oh, hello, NBC? What’s that? You love our show, you say…”
13. Dick Wolf
Great Show(s): “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: SVU”
Dud: “Law & Order: Trial by Jury”
Haha, “Trial by Jury.” More shows should have such overly literal names: “Anarchy by Sons.” “Ads by Men.” “Walking by Dead.” “Study Group by Students.” CLANG CLANG.
14. Jim Henson
Great Show(s): “The Muppet Show”
Dud: “Little Muppet Monsters”
According to the show’s storyboard artist Scott Shaw, via the indispensable Muppet Wiki: “The concept of [Little Muppet Monsters] was neither simple nor particularly well-developed. A trio of new (live-action) Muppet Monster Kids, working from the basement of the adult Muppets’ home, create their own television station which broadcasts only to the TV sets in the house upstairs…I’ve always felt that the juxtaposition of live-action and animated Muppets invited an unfavorable comparison, to which the cartoon version inevitably suffered; the puppetry was just too good. Also, due to a lack of development time, the concept — and therefore, the writing and designs — never quite jelled.” It was Henson himself who pulled the plug after only three episodes.