Top 10 Dumbest Network Decisions
VOICE OVER: Raphael Daigneault
Written by Nick Spake
Those fat cat network heads don't always know what they're doing. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we'll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Dumbest Network Decisions.
For this list, we're taking a look at choices television networks have made that have been considered ridiculous and left audiences everywhere asking, “What were they thinking?”
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Those fat cat network heads don’t always know what they’re doing. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Dumbest Network Decisions.
For this list, we’re taking a look at specific choices made by television networks that have been considered ridiculous, leaving audiences everywhere asking, “What were they thinking?”
#10: Fox Cancels “Family Guy”
Premiering after Super Bowl XXXIII, “Family Guy” started strong with 22 million viewers. However, Fox unwisely kept moving the show around the schedule, forcing it to contend with juggernauts like “Frasier,” “Friends” and “Survivor” at various points. The Quahog gang subsequently suffered in the ratings, encouraging Fox to cancel it not once, but TWICE. Nevertheless, reruns and DVD sales gave the show a second life. Realizing they had a goldmine on their hands, Fox corrected their mistake and by bringing Seth MacFarlane’s cartoon back. While you might think “Family Guy” has dipped in quality in the years since, it’s still one of Fox’s most popular and marketable franchises.
#9: NBC & WWF Launch “XFL”
Football meets professional wrestling? Okay… This idea was actually the brainchild of WWE owner Vince McMahon. A collaborative effort between what was then the WWF and the peacock network; “XFL” was intended to fill the void during the NFL offseason. But the game was given a few wrestling twists: for example, instead of a coin toss, every game would open with a scramble, while astro-turf stadiums were avoided completely. Alas, “XFL” failed to entice fans of football or pro wrestling, resulting in NBC and the WWF each losing $35 million – a 70% loss that prompted NBC to pass on a second season.
#8: ABC Overdoses on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”
This Q&A game show and its tense gameplay took audiences by storm at the turn of the millennium, crushing competition in the ratings and becoming a cultural phenomenon. This led ABC to air new episodes three times a week, pulling in upwards of 30 million viewers each night. Naturally, ABC then milked the cash cow harder, churning out five primetime episodes a week. As you can imagine, viewers quickly got sick of “Millionaire” and its ratings took a nosedive. ABC eventually cancelled the nighttime version following its third season. But this wasn’t necessarily the final answer, as a daytime syndicated version is still popular.
#7: ABC Passes on “CSI”
The original “CSI” series lasted an astounding fifteen seasons, becoming a ratings homerun at its peak. Aside from launching three spinoffs, the billion-dollar franchise also inspired books, video games, and numerous other tie-ins. However, CBS wasn’t the first network to catch wind of “CSI:” executives at both NBC and Fox rejected the original spec script. Most notably, creator Anthony E. Zuiker and producer Jerry Bruckheimer met with ABC for a pitch meeting. But, even with Touchstone Pictures championing the show, ABC failed to see its full potential. Their loss CBS’s gain, though; especially since Bruckheimer ultimately produce an entire franchise for the network.
#6: NBC Screws Up “Community”
Even without massive ratings, “Community”’s first three seasons spawned a cult following. NBC responded by renewing the show for a fourth year, but inexplicably fired creator Dan Harmon as showrunner, replacing him with David Guarascio and Moses Port of “Aliens in America.” Unfortunately, the new boys just couldn’t replicate Harmon’s unique voice; whether you call season four “the darkest timeline” or “the gas leak year,” it was definitely a low point. “Community” got back on track with Harmon’s return in season five, but then NBC cancelled the series altogether. In the end, Yahoo! Screen picked up the show for its sixth and final year, leaving everyone to wait for the movie.
#5: Fox Cancels “Firefly”
When people think of TV shows that got canceled way too soon, “Firefly” is usually the first title that comes to mind. This sci-fi series wasn’t a ratings success right out of the gate, but Fox didn’t exactly help the show by airing episodes out of order and misleading audiences with lackluster ads. In the end, they pulled the plug after only 11 episodes aired. But, had Fox given Joss Whedon’s sci-fi creation a chance, it could’ve been the next “Star Trek.” While “Firefly” never got a second season, support from Browncoats everywhere eventually meant that a big-screen follow-up, “Serenity” was released in 2005.
#4: Nicktoons Passes on “Adventure Time”
“Adventure Time” became a runaway hit for Cartoon Network, garnering universal critical praise, inspiring merchandise galore, and marking a significant turning point in animated programming. But, creator Pendleton Ward actually produced the show’s original pilot for the Nicktoons network. Although Frederator Studios approached Nicktoons twice about making an “Adventure Time” series, they rejected the pitch both times, despite the short’s status as a viral sensation and Annie Award nominee. Consequently, the studio took their mathematical show to Cartoon Network and the rest is history.
#3: HBO Passes on “Mad Men”
This period drama put AMC on the map in terms of original content, pioneering a slew of groundbreaking shows and winning the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy four years in a row. But before meeting with AMC, creator Matthew Weiner pitched the series to other networks, including Showtime. Weiner also took the pilot script to HBO, where he’d previously worked as a writer for “The Sopranos.” While the premium cable network seemed like the ideal home for “Mad Men,” they not only passed but also never actually got back to him as to why. However, this wasn’t the last time AMC benefited from HBO’s poor decisions...
#2: Multiple Networks Pass on “The Walking Dead”
“The Walking Dead” might infuriate fans sometimes, but it remains a ratings juggernaut for AMC. Like “Mad Men,” this hard-hitting horror drama was initially pitched to HBO. But, surprisingly, the network reportedly thought the show was too violent. Yes, the channel that later gave us the Red Wedding was worried about violence. In any case, HBO wasn’t the only network that missed out: NBC was also given the opportunity to pick up the series. But seeing as how HBO found “TWD” too gory, it seems unlikely that NBC was ever going to say, “yes.” Instead, it was AMC that landed the biggest show in cable TV history.
Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable, or in this case dishonorable, mentions:
- ABC Picks Up “Cavemen”
- ABC Cancels “Agent Carter”
- Dennis Miller Bombs on “Monday Night Football”
#1: The 2010 “Tonight Show” Conflict
Hoping to keep “Late Night” host Conan O’Brien with the company, NBC offered to make him the next “Tonight Show” host. However, when the time came Jay Leno wasn’t ready to retire. So, he was given his own nightly primetime series in 2009, which served as a lead-in to Conan’s “Tonight Show.” Win-win right? Wrong. O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” failed to maintain loyal viewership, so NBC compensated by moving Leno into the more coveted timeslot and pushing O’Brien back - a move Conan felt would tarnish “The Tonight Show”’s legacy. The Late Night War ultimately ended with Leno returning to “The Tonight Show” and Conan leaving NBC with a $45 million payout in 2010.