The unfortunate consequence of the streaming era is that there are exponentially more terrible TV series than there have ever been before. That was inevitable, since most shows tend to be good or mediocre at best, and only a rare few achieve greatness in the medium. Some series, however, leave viewers flustered, disappointed, and even angry.
Four of these shows even scored renewals, which means barring some drastic behind-the-scenes retooling, they may find themselves back on this list down the road whenever their respective streaming services get around to releasing another season. But for this year, and at this moment in time, these are the ten worst TV shows of 2023.
Aside from the terrible AI-produced opening credits, Secret Invasion had a promising start by moving back towards a more serious tone that’s been missing from the MCU for a long time. Some parts of the show work really well, especially when Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury plays off of Talos (Ben Mendelsohn).
But as we’ve mentioned before, making this show a Disney+ series squandered the scale and reach of the source material. Secret Invasion should have been a Marvel movie event because it had more justification as a Captain Marvel sequel than The Marvels did. Instead of getting an epic blowup between Earth’s superheroes and an army of shape-shifting alien Skrulls, Secret Invasion rapidly lost momentum, and Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) was just another paper tiger villain. Yet the most insulting thing about this series – aside from the way it dispatched two MCU regulars who deserved far better – is that The Marvels completely ignored the events of this show. This was something that happened to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all the time, and supposedly, the MCU Disney+ shows were going to be different.
Don’t watch Secret Invasion on Disney+.
Somebody should tell Arnold Schwarzenegger that the ’90s are over, and reheating his old material isn’t going to cut it anymore. Fubar doesn’t fully rip off the premise of Schwarzenegger’s 1994 film True Lies, where he played a super spy whose wife had no idea about his true career before joining him in his adventurous double life. This time, Schwarzenegger’s on-screen ex-wife, Tallulah “Tally” Brunner, is largely in the dark about Luke (Schwarzenegger), and it’s their daughter, Emma Bartholomina Brunner (Monica Barbaro), who turns out to be a CIA agent before she and her dad discover the truth about each other.
Fubar has passable action, but the jokes never seem to land, and there’s never any real sense of danger, even when the bad guys intrude upon the private lives of the Brunners. Netflix renewed this show for a second season, but that doesn’t make it good.
Don’t watch Fubar on Netflix.
The one really intriguing idea that came out of the Fatal Attraction reboot is that the show’s creative team came up with a dual narrative for the past and the present, so viewers can see the price that Dan Gallagher (Joshua Jackson) paid for his affair with Alex Forrest (Lizzy Caplan) 15 years after the fact. And on paper, the idea of Jackson and Caplan as the leads sure seems like great casting.
Unfortunately, neither Jackson nor Caplan could generate half the heat that Michael Douglas and Glenn Close brought to the original film from 1987. If anything, Caplan’s one-note take on Alex makes Close’s incarnation seem less cartoonishly over-the-top than she did in the movie. The show goes out of its way to replay the events of the affair from Alex’s point of view while attempting to let viewers understand her. But touches like that dragged out the story with an excruciatingly slow pace, and this show just limped along until the bloody end. Fatal Attraction would have been this year’s poster child for not turning a film into a TV show if not for the next series on our list…
Don’t watch Fatal Attraction on Paramount+.
CBS has turned some great movies into bland TV shows before – Training Day and Rush Hour come to mind – but True Lies manages to pull off the rare feat of exorcising everything fun about the original movie. Steve Howey and Ginger Gonzaga might be very good performers in something else, but they’re no Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween Ends).
The pilot episode blows the twist of Helen Tasker (Gonzaga) discovering that her husband, Harry (Howey), is a spy with minimal build-up before she gets to be a spy, too, in the very next episode. There wasn’t even an attempt to let that plotline play out, even though it could have only benefited from it. Do you remember the awful J.J. Abrams-produced husband-and-wife spy series Undercovers from 2010? This was worse than that.
Don’t buy True Lies on Prime Video and other digital outlets.
If we had to name the killer of Saint X, the murder weapons would be in the hands of the plot, the dialogue, and the excruciating pacing. And it’s not as if there was no interesting material to unpack here. In the flashback timeframe of 2005, Alison Thomas (West Duchovny) is on vacation in the Caribbean with her parents and her much younger sister, Claire (Kenlee Anaya Townsend). And in short order, Alison ends up brutally murdered.
The present-day timeline reintroduces Claire when she is going by her middle name, Emily (Alycia Debnam-Carey), and she soon runs into Clive “Gogo” Richardson (Josh Bonzie), one of the men who was accused of murdering Alison before being released without being charged. Emily wants answers from Clive that he can’t give her, and the show has too many pit stops along the way to keep viewers engaged.
Don’t watch Saint X on Hulu.
The greatest mystery that Citadel never tries to answer is this: How is this the most expensive TV show in history?! Where did that $300 million budget go? It almost certainly didn’t go to the screenwriters of this overhyped show that massively under-delivers. Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas co-headline the series as Mason Kane and Nadia Sinh, both of whom were master spies for an organization called Citadel.
Or rather, they were spies before their memories were erased. Now Kane believes he’s a family man named Kyle Conroy, and Nadia thinks she’s just Charlotte Vernon, a regular restaurant manager. Years after living in their assumed identities, both Mason and Nadia are called upon once again to face a mutual enemy. Prime Video was so sure that Citadel would be a hit that it already ordered a second season and set up multiple international spinoff series. That’s a costly mistake that Prime Video has yet to rectify.
Don’t watch Citadel on Prime Video.
Netflix does tend to take shows that worked well the first time and repackage them with new stars and a handful of performers from the original series. So just as Full House begot Fuller House, That ’70s Show has spawned That ’90s Show, a series so derivative of the first incarnation that it makes That ’80s Show seem like it was divinely inspired.
All of the old stoner jokes and teen angst that seemed to work so well on the original series just seem lifeless and dull here. The only really joyful moments on this series are the rare occasions when the former cast members guest star and reunite with full-time returning characters Red (Kurtwood Smith) and Kitty Forman (Debra Jo Rupp, still one of the best TV moms ever). Beyond them, it’s tempting to tell the next generation of kids this PG version of Smith’s famous line from RoboCop: “Witches, leave!”
Don’t watch That ’90s Show on Netflix.
Some have gone so far as to call The Idol one of the worst TV shows ever made. That’s a stretch, considering that we think it’s only the third-worst series on TV this year. But it is proof that even HBO can have a massive misfire. Johnny Depp’s daughter, Lily-Rose Depp, goes full nepo baby as Jocelyn, a pop star whose life and career are spiraling out of control. That sends Jocelyn straight into the arms of The Weeknd’s Tedros, a sleazy dude who soon takes control of Jocelyn in every way that he can.
HBO was quick to pull the plug after only one season. The only real surprise is that the show is still streaming on Max.
Don’t watch The Idol on Max.
TV networks seem to love the idea of doing a Batman series without Batman. Even Max has a Penguin series spinning out of The Batman in 2024, which comes only a year after Max canceled Pennyworth: The Origin of Batman’s Butler. The 2003 Birds of Prey TV series and Batwoman both concocted reasons for Batman to have fled Gotham City. But none of these Bat-pretenders had the gall of Gotham Knights, which immediately killed off Bruce Wayne and framed his adoptive son for the crime.
If you know your Batman comics, then you’re well aware that Bruce Wayne has no shortage of surrogate sons: Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake, a.k.a. the first three Robins. Bruce’s biological son is Damian Wayne, the current Robin in the comics. However, the people behind Gotham Knights decided to introduce a new adoptive son for Bruce, Turner Hayes (Oscar Morgan), who has nothing close to a compelling personality like his predecessors had.
This series was on the wrong track from the start, and it never captured the essence of the supporting characters, including Duela (Olivia Rose Keegan), Carrie Kelley (Navia Robinson), Harper Row (Fallon Smythe), Cullen Row (Tyler DiChiara), and Stephanie Brown (Anna Lore). However, Misha Collins as Harvey Dent wasn’t a bad choice at all. On a better show, he would have done well. It’s too bad he was saddled with a stinker like Gotham Knights.
Don’t watch Gotham Knights on Max.
Velma may be the most mean-spirited reboot we’ve ever seen. It’s as if this show was created by people who absolutely despise Scooby-Doo. This isn’t the first time these characters have been put in adult situations, but Robot Chicken and Harvey Birdman treated Scooby-Doo and his pals with more respect than Velma. This show’s humor falls flat, the writing is beyond clunky, and no one on this series rings true to their original characters.
Mindy Kaling’s take on Velma is particularly disappointing because Kaling had long expressed her desire to do right by the character. And yet almost all of this series’ missteps fall on Kaling herself since she co-developed it and helped shape its interpretation of these cartoon icons. It says a lot when a show is this despised by the fan base, and there are very few Velma defenders out there. Inexplicably, Max ordered another season of this show, so someone must be watching it. But Velma deserves all the hate that it gets. This is the worst series of 2023, and if anything should have been cut by Warner Bros. Discovery and buried forever for tax purposes, it’s Velma.
Don’t watch Velma on Max.
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