Over 110 of the Biggest TV Show Flops, Bombs and Misses for the First Half of 2023
In my last article, I looked at all of the films that flopped, bombed or missed in the first half of this year. Today, it’s time to look at TV.
Lately, I’ve seen the take out there that "We don’t know the flops and bombs in streaming." Well, next time you read that or hear that, you’ll know better. This article is basically all of the misses in streaming so far this year. Look at it this way: we know what the absolute ratings ceiling is for most of these shows; basically, it’s less than whatever the lowest rated TV show was that week according to Nielsen, Samba TV or ShowLabs. And that number is almost always very low.1
Ipso facto, these shows were not hits.
But before we get into the nitty-gritty (and believe me, there’s a lot of nitty-gritty to sort through) let me share one takeaway: this exercise really bummed me out this year. Mainly, almost every streamer had at least one TV show that I either loved, or I’m still excited to watch, but it made this list, meaning that people didn’t watch it. (And if people don’t watch these types of shows, Hollywood’s not going to keep making them.) But as I wrote last time, my personal opinion doesn’t really matter; I’m just following the data.
On that dour note, let’s get to the data! (Or lack thereof...) Because there’s a lot to talk about.
Before you email or tweet at me, please read the (very long) explainer in yesterday’s post. (If you’re a reporter though, feel free to reach out.) But here’s some quick reminders (and a few differences from yesterday’s article to today’s):
If I got anything wrong, please let me know! Especially if you think I missed a TV show that bombed. Send me a tweet, note or email.
We’re ordering the streamers from least “DNBs" to most.
We used to focus on “Dogs Not Barking” (find the explainer here) AKA TV shows and movies that failed to make any of the ratings charts that I track, but now I’m tracking all of the flops, bombs and misses. (Most of the titles missed all of the charts we track anyway...) If we do have data for a specific title, I’ll include it after the titles name below.
Unlike past years, I included unscripted TV shows—mostly documentaries and reality shows—this go around. I tend to think that unscripted shows aren’t as big a flop as scripted shows, unless they look expensive or star someone famous.
I cut every kids show and all foreign-language TV shows except for one from a very famous director.
I’m only looking at English-language programming; this report uses US, not global, data, for reasons I explained last time.
My focus is on first-run, exclusive TV shows and films, not re-runs, second run, or syndicated TV shows.
Also, one last gentle reminder for the all PR reps out there that I forgot to include in yesterday’s article: before you send me any off-the-record tidbits, please confirm that our conversation will be off-the-record. I really can’t use “off-the-record” data to change my mind, since my audience needs to see it too. That’s how I “show my work”.
On to the shows!
Bupkis (Nielsen: Week 1: 2.1 million hours but missed top ten charts)
Rainn Wilson and the Geography of Bliss
Honorable Mentions: The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, Queens Court, The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip
It’s a mixed bag for Peacock. Despite having a small (but growing) subscriber base, they had a number of hits this year, especially Poker Face, but also Based on the True Story more recently. Overall, that’s not a bad hit rate, especially compared to their competitors. Plus they’re a streamer that can lean on viewership from broadcast TV shows and hit cable shows as well as originals.
But Peacock certainly had some notable misses. Bel-Air was not a hit in season two. It made the TV Time charts for five weeks, but never made the Nielsen charts and only has 12K reviews on IMDb. (None of the other Peacock shows above made the TV Time charts either.) As for Mrs. Davis, I’m not sure if Betty Gilpin is a star, but Damon Lindleof is in the world of showrunners and TV show creators, and this show, with just 8.9K IMDb reviews, doesn’t look cheap. Also, Peacock was running ads for this show constantly.
As for Traitors, starring Alan Cumming and a host of reality “stars”, I have to ask: why binge-release this show instead of weekly? It’s a competition reality show! Come on!
Bombs of the First Six Months: Bupkis
The big “winner”/loser for Peacock is obviously Bupkis, a “comedy” that looks more depressing and filled with ennui than it is fun and funny. And clearly it didn’t resonate with viewers. It has less IMDb reviews that Mrs. Davis: 4.4K!
Plus there’s so many big names either starring in the show—Edie Falco, Joe Pesci, Brad Garrett, Bobby Cannavale—or guest stars like Charlie Day, Kenan Thompson, Sebastian Stan, Steve Buscemi, Method Man, Jon Stewart, Al Gore, J. J. Abrams, Jane Curtin, Machine Gun Kelly, John Mulaney, Nathan Fillion, Jadakiss, Eli Manning, Ray Romano, and more.
I sure hope that Peacock didn’t have to pay all those people!
And Just Like That... (Samba TV: 465K million households in first 4 days)
Downey’s Dream Cars
Fired on Mars
Funny or Die’s High Science
The Other Two
SmartLess: On the Road
What Am I Eating? With Zooey Deschanel
Honorable Mentions: 100 Years of Warner Bros., The Dog House: UK, Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?
For the most part, Max née HBO Max has almost completely changed its strategy. Max now leans on TV shows from other channels (mainly HBO, but also Discovery, HG TV and others now) and popular movies (Warner Bros. movies but also others) that went to theaters, instead of Originals.
But the occasional exclusive original title still comes to the streamer. The Other Two didn’t make the Nielsen or Showlab charts and recently the show has been cancelled/the stars decided to end it amid an HR investigation. The fact that Warrior went from “maybe popular” on Cinemax to “anonymous” on Max seems notable too!
Things weren’t much better for famous superhero-produced reality shows like Aquaman/Jason Mamoa’s rock-climbing show, The Climb, or Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr’s reality show, Downey’s Dream Cars, neither of which made the ratings charts. Same goes for other famous celebrity reality/docu-series shows like What Am I Eating? With Zooey Deschanel and SmartLess: On the Road.
Bombs of the First Six Months: And Just Like That… and Velma
My editor/researcher and I actually disagreed over who “won” for Max. I pointed out that Velma got renewed and had a five-week run on ShowLabs. He pointed out that it had epically bad IMDb scores, and no one seemed to like it.
Meanwhile, And Just Like That... has had such a slide in its second season—Samba TV pegged it as going from over a million viewers for its premiere last year to 400,000 this year; it never made the TV Time charts—well, it’s worthy of a win in my opinion. But take your pick.
American Born Chinese
America’s National Parks
Doogie Kameāloha, M.D.
Ed Sheeran: The Sum of it All
The Muppets Mayhem
Secrets of the Elephant
Honorable Mentions: Chasing Waves, Matildas: The World at Our Feet, MPower, Star Wars: Visions, Voices Rising: The Music of Wakanda Forever
Don’t you think that Disney+ should be able to launch more hit shows, à la Netflix? Outside of MCU and Star Wars shows (or movies that went to theaters) it seems like Disney+ can’t get anything on the charts, including their nature documentaries (America’s National Parks, Secrets of the Elephants), new Muppets TV shows (The Muppets Mayhem), and docu-series starring famous people (Rennervations, Ed Sheeran: The Sum of it All). Not one of those shows, above, even made the TV Time charts. Only one of these shows even had more than 5K reviews on IMDb, and even that’s really low.
And some of these shows are huge flops. The Crossover, yet another LeBron James/The SpringHill Company production, has 284 IMDb reviews. 284.
(I should mention that Secret Invasion, like Citadel, reportedly has a gigantic budget of over $200 million. But it’s averaging seven million hours on Nielsen, and it’s doing really well on the TV Time charts and the Samba TV charts, regularly besting binge-released Netflix shows. So did this show makes its money back? Probably not, but it’s not a flop either.)
But of all the types of shows that flopped, the “winner” for the first half of the year is the most concerning type of show that Disney+ seems utterly incapable of figuring out...