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Top 10 Most Polarizing TV Shows

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Television can stir up so much drama. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Polarizing TV Shows. For this list, we’re taking a look at television series that people either love or hate with a passion, or that have largely divided members of the fan community.

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Television can stir up so much drama. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Polarizing TV Shows.

For this list, we’re taking a look at television series that people either love or hate with a passion, or that have largely divided members of the fan community.

#10: “Star Trek: Discovery” (2017-)

As the first “Star Trek” television series in over a decade, “Discovery” was a highly anticipated return to the prime timeline. The series received generally positive reviews from critics, who admired the production values, diverse cast, and overall ambition. Fans were less kind, however, arguing that the plot, characters, and tone just didn’t feel like traditional “Star Trek.” Interestingly enough, some fans gravitated more towards Seth MacFarlane’s “The Orville,” which largely paid comedic homage to Gene Roddenberry’s original series. Where that sci-fi show was panned by critics, it secured an audience score of over 90% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. Whichever show you prefer, at least there’s something out there for every breed of Trekker.

#9: “The Walking Dead” (2010-)

In terms of ratings, “The Walking Dead” has been a juggernaut for AMC, gaining the highest viewership ever for a cable series. While the earlier seasons received rave reviews from critics and fans alike, the show has become more divisive with every passing season. Although numerous people still tune into every episode, others feel that the narrative has become repetitive and the characters have gotten increasingly obnoxious, making watching it feel like a chore. Some would even debate whether or not the show was ever that great to start with, especially compared to the original comics and the Telltale games. In any case, the show still manages to dominate social media even after eight seasons.

#8: “South Park” (1997-)

Ever since its debut in 1997, “South Park” has cemented its place as one of the most controversial shows on television. The animated series’ crude and unapologetically offensive nature has pissed off everybody from parents, to religious organizations, to various celebrities. Of course, that’s also part of the reason why “South Park” became a flagship hit for Comedy Central, exploding into a cultural phenomenon. Critics have even championed it as one television’s smartest and most relevant satires, taking on subjects other shows wouldn’t dare touch. Having won five Primetime Emmys, a Peabody Award, and even inspiring an Oscar-nominated film, “South Park” is clearly here to stay, no matter how many haters boycott it.

#7: “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” (2007-10; 2017)

Modern comedy has given us some pretty surreal shows, although few have proven more divisive than this sketch series. Many viewers just don’t understand the appeal of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, writing their show off as gross, random, and horrifically annoying. The fact that it’s attracted A-list guest stars only makes the show’s success more inexplicable. Fans, meanwhile, have applauded it as a masterclass of anti-humor. The show isn’t supposed to be intelligently written or even funny per se, which in turn makes it hilarious… at least to those in the right frame of mind. Basically, it’s an excuse to troll the audience and your enjoyment hinders on whether you’re in on the joke.

#6: “Teen Titans Go!” (2013-)

“Teen Titans” was an epic, complex, and character-driven show and treated its audience like adults. This spin-off took the complete opposite route with a zany, lowbrow sense of humor geared towards a more childish demographic, which naturally displeased fans of the original series. The writers of “Teen Titans Go!” have actually poked fun at viewers who want the show to be more sophisticated, further enraging fans. That being said, “Teen Titans Go!” has surpassed 200 episodes, scored a couple Primetime Emmy nominations, and actually got a theatrical film that received mostly positive reviews. So even though some have condemned the show as the worst DC property ever, there’s obviously an audience for it.

#5: “Girls” (2012-17)

Winning a Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy, “Girls” was built up as one of the boldest, smartest, and most empowering shows on television. It wasn’t long until some people began to fire back at the series, though, arguing that its four leads weren’t forward-thinking feminists, but whiny, pretentious, unlikable millennials who aren’t nearly as interesting as they think they are and do nothing but promote white privilege. Speaking of which, the show’s lack of diversity resulted in plenty of controversy, as did a sex scene many interpreted as an act of rape. The series finale in particular divided audiences, with some calling it fitting and others feeling unsatisfied.

#4: “Roseanne” (1988-97; 2018)

When “Roseanne” returned to television after twenty years, the revival was met with solid reviews and enormous ratings. While it seemed like a promising new beginning for the classic sitcom, everything came crumbling down when Barr posted a racist tweet, comparing African-American Valerie Jarrett of the Obama administration to an “ape.” In the wake of this controversy, ABC decided to cancel “Roseanne,” although another season had already been given the go-ahead. While this was widely seen as a wise call, it’s been argued that society should separate the artist from the art. People have also debated whether the franchise should continue with “The Conners” spinoff, which will bring back every major cast member except Barr.

#3: “The Big Bang Theory” (2007-)

Like “Two and a Half Men,” another long-running Chuck Lorre comedy, “The Big Bang Theory” has reigned as one of the highest rated sitcoms of the 21st century and even picked up a few Emmys - but many have called its quality into question. The most common complaint regarding the show is that the characters are all stereotypes who don’t properly represent real nerds. Fans, however, view the series as inoffensive escapism that’s always good for a lighthearted laugh. Perhaps the show was never intended to be an authentic portrayal of nerds, but rather a gateway into nerd culture meant to appeal to a broader audience. For more die-hard fanboys and fangirls, there’s always “Community.”

#2: “TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY” (2017-)

Although this teen drama proved to be a runaway hit for Netflix, it’s also been one of the streaming service’s most polarizing shows. Some have praised the series for shedding a light on serious issues like teen suicide, bullying, and sexual assault, but others feel that the show glorifies these issues. Educators have even argued that there could be a connection between the show and real-life instances of self-harm, encouraging Netflix to include advisory warnings. Controversy aside, the show’s entertainment value is also hard to get a grasp on. Where the first season had critics and audiences hooked, Season 2 received a mixed response with many feeling that the premise had run its course.

Before we get to our top pick, here’s one polarizing mention:

“Doctor Who” (1963-89; 2005-)

#1: “Lost” (2004-06)

When it first premiered, “Lost” was unlike anything TV viewers had ever seen, amassing a dedicated cult following and winning the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. As the story grew increasingly complicated, however, audiences weren’t sure if the show had gone off the rails or if it was just too smart for them. While people were on the fence for a while, it was the series finale that officially split everyone down the middle. Depending who you ask, this was either a profound ending to a brilliant show or a disappointing, nonsensical letdown that forever tarnished the show’s legacy. For better or for worse, “Lost” ultimately left behind a huge imprint on the television medium.


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