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10 worst TV show adaptations, ranked

Dylan Minnette in "13 Reasons Why."
Netflix / Netflix

Television can’t always do shows 100% right, especially when it comes to adapting preexisting stories. However, there have been many series that simply dropped the ball when it came to presenting beloved franchises in a new way.

Whether this was due to stark deviations from the source material or just an unsatisfactory product, these 10 shows left audiences wanting more or wishing said adaptations weren’t made at all.

10. Westworld (2016-2022)

Evan Rachel Wood in "Westworld."
HBO / HBO

Based on the 1973 film of the same name, the first season of Westworld made for one of the best shows HBO ever produced. However, many can agree that’s where the series peaked and probably should have ended.

From then on, the story lost the element of surprise and only grew too complex for general audiences as the writers tried to pad it with new ideas. By season 4, it felt like the show was telling an entirely different story, and thus, most of its viewers had left the ride before it even ended.

9. Under the Dome (2013-2015)

People staring at the dome in "Under the Dome."
CBS / CBS

This sci-fi series depicts a town that is suddenly placed under a clear, indestructible dome, with its inhabitants struggling to survive as the world outside tries to set them free. Like Westworld, this Stephen King adaptation started strong, despite its creative liberties, only to experience a sharp decline in quality after the first season.

As the writers tried to expand upon the mystery of the dome and exceed what was laid out in King’s novel for extra seasons, the story grew more convoluted and less immersive for the audience. Even King agreed that the series went “entirely off the rails.”

8. The Stand (2020-2021)

Frannie Goldsmith and Randall Flagg in "The Stand."
CBS / CBS

Another Stephen King adaptation, this series depicts a world destroyed by a genetically altered superflu in which the survivors side with either the holy Mother Abigail or the demonic Randall Flagg. Despite having an all-star cast, as well as a larger budget and more episodes than the 1994 miniseries, this show doesn’t do enough to bring King’s expansive epic to life.

While Owen Teague (Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes) gives a fantastic performance as Harold, the show didn’t focus enough on fleshing out its other main players, and its nonlinear narrative ruined much of the suspense for viewers. Even with a new coda written by King himself, most viewers couldn’t stand to see this series through to the end.

7. Earthsea (2004)

Danny Glover in "Earthsea."
SyFy / SyFy

Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle has had a rough time getting adapted for film and TV (let’s not go into that Studio Ghibli movie from 2006). Much of the backlash over this fantasy miniseries came from how it whitewashed the many racially diverse characters from the books, which is what made them so subversive in the first place.

It also tried to cram two books from the franchise into one plot, made several deviations from the source material, and rid the story of its nuance as it fell back on cliché tropes. Many adaptations take some liberties with the original story, but many people, including Le Guin, pulled no punches when expressing their displeasure over how unrecognizable the show was from what was featured in the books.

6. Ferris Bueller (1990-1991)

Ferris Bueller next to a cutout of Matthew Broderick in "Ferris Bueller."
NBC / NBC

This sitcom opened with the claim that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was based on it, but at this point, audiences would rather forget the showeven existed. Without the original cast or even writer John Hughes, this series couldn’t capture the magic of the film and got canceled after 13 episodes.

It also didn’t help that it had to compete against the minor hit Fox show Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, which arguably did a better job at doing Ferris Bueller on TV than the actual Ferris Bueller show.

5. My Big Fat Greek Life (2003)

Nia and Thomas in "My Big Fat Greek Life."
CBS / CBS

After My Big Fat Greek Wedding became a smash hit in theaters, a sequel series should’ve worked in theory, especially with much of the original cast reprising their roles. But all this potential was seemingly squandered after CBS aired only seven episodes.

For some reason, this sitcom changed Toula and Ian’s names. But more importantly, the show reduced the film’s satisfying and well-paced story to a patch of unfunny jokes uttered one after the other. The film may be considered a guilty pleasure, but this series was just guilty of not being enjoyable.

4. 13 Reasons Why (2017-2020)

Hannah Baker in "13 Reasons Why."
Netflix / Netflix

Netflix couldn’t hide behind its trigger warnings for this one. While Katherine Langford may have done a terrific job as Hannah Baker, that still doesn’t excuse how the series sensationalized suicide as her character takes her own life to exact vengeance on others. This same critique also goes for the show’s graphic depictions of sexual assault, bullying, and gun violence, which didn’t address such issues as well as they should have.

It didn’t help that Netflix tried to go beyond the source material by stretching the show to four seasons, with reviews growing more negative with each one. Despite any good intentions, there are many reasons why this series wasn’t the best idea.

3. Marvel’s Inhumans (2017)

The cast of "Inhumans."
Marvel Television / Marvel Television

Based on the characters from Marvel Comics, this short-lived series is widely remembered as one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s biggest flops. Featuring cheap visuals, flat characters, and an uninspired story, Inhumans came across as a lazy attempt to make lesser-known characters a popular substitute for the X-Men (to which the studio didn’t have the rights yet).

It’s no surprise that the series has hardly been referenced in the MCU since (except for a multiversal cameo in the second Doctor Strange film).

2. Velma (2023-present)

Velma looking scared while on the phone in HBO Max's Velma.
Max / Max

It’s not a good sign when both left-wing and right-wing audiences hate the same thing. Adapting the characters of Scooby-Doo into an adult series seemed like the perfect way to reinvigorate a beloved franchise. However, from the very first scene, Velma loses its audience with its subpar meta humor and one-dimensional characters.

The protagonist garnered the most hate for her dismissive, holier-than-thou attitude as she deflects almost all criticism and flaunts her intelligence to everyone around her. All in all, the cringe series feels like a half-baked, wish-fulfillment project for Mindy Kaling, with the only saving grace being that Scooby-Doo was spared from appearing in it.

1. Caillou (1997-2011)

Caillou in "Caillou."
Teletoon / Teletoon

Adapted from the books written by Hélène Desputeaux, this Canadian cartoon may be meant for children, but its titular character is certainly not a role model. Each episode basically shows the bratty Caillou acting out and throwing tantrums, with his parents hardly doing anything to discipline him, even when he terrorizes his baby sister.

The series has garnered hate from countless audiences, with some going as far as labeling Caillou a sociopath. There’s barely any story going on or any lessons learned by its whiny protagonist, making it one of the most annoyingly awful shows ever made.

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Anthony Orlando
Anthony Orlando is a writer/director from Oradell, NJ. He spent four years at Lafayette College, graduating CUM LAUDE with a…
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