The 80s are fading into myth faster than we, who lived it, could imagine. Let these terrible TV shows someone thought were a good idea, possibly after snorting a shoebox full of cocaine and driving to work in a DeLorean, remind us that we probably shouldn’t try this again. This decade we mean. Yeah. It was worse than the 90s, and bicycle shorts were in style in the 90s. For guys.
Disclaimer: These aren’t all the terrible TV shows the 80s vomited into existence. Rather, we chose to vary our sampling based on the many different types of shows including sitcoms, dramas, and a spinoffs. We also– Seriously though, bicycle shorts! They were basically tights with the pant legs missing. And men wore them! Even when they weren’t going to be bicycling! It’s just wrong. And you know it’s wrong. Dad. Sorry, sorry, we’re getting way off topic here. Please enjoy the article. We’re, uh, going to fix ourselves a stiff drink and pray the nightmares don’t return tonight.
1. Mr. Smith
In the history of TV, there have been many shows about things that talk that shouldn’t: horses, cars, dogs, Snooki, but it turns out America draws the line at monkeys. In 1983, Mr. Smith debuted in September and was cancelled by December, with 13 episodes somehow being made before God intervened and sealed all evidence of its existence into the Ark of the Covenant.
What made Mr. Smith such a piece of excrement? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly. The show featured an orang-utan named ChaCha who first becomes separated from his trainer after a car accident, and then ends up in a research lab. Which he escapes from. Then, probably just for the hell of it, the monkey finds an experimental serum that increases human intelligence. He drinks it and his IQ increases to exactly 256. Oh and he can talk too after this. What do you do with a monkey smarter than you that can talk? You make him a political advisor in Washington, of cour- Oh wait, hold on, no you don’t. You cancel the shit out of this show because wtf?
2. Small Wonder (1985-1989)
Imagine you could build a perfect robot servant. What would it be like? Would it be a small, adolescent girl in a red and white dress? If you answered “yes”, then congratulations, you are or probably will be a registered sex offender in the near future.
Ted Lawson is an engineer who builds V.I.C.I. (Voice Input Child Identicant…a shiver up your spine is the appropriate response), an android meant to help the handicapped. But instead of doing that, Ted takes it home and pretends it’s his real daughter, forcing his family, which includes an actual real, human child, to play along. As if this isn’t already fucked up enough, V.I.C.I. or Vicki comes with super strength, speed, intelligence, and a complete lack of emotion.
To be fair, part of the reason she’s brought home is so that she can learn what it means to be a human. She lives in a small cabinet. Sooooo an abused human we guess?
People loved this shit and it lasted four seasons. They had to “upgrade” Vicki to account for her aging and height gain. Though the boob suppression system Ted must have constructed seemed to work out just fine.
3. Manimal (1983)
A man…that can change into animals…animal man…man into animal…manimal! Yup. That was the show, somehow even worse than it sounds. Dr. Jonathan Chase, using ancient African and possibly Tibetan techniques, proving racism and ignorance really are the same thing, has learned the secrets of what divides animal and man.
With his Manimal powers, Dr. Jonathan Chase or Manimal (We cannot type Manimal enough into this article, so Manimal!) and his friend, Ty Earl, help Detective Brooke Mackenzie solve mysteries and fight crime.
Manimal could change into any animal he wanted to, but almost always chose a hawk and a panther in every episode. Why? Because elephants and lions just weren’t in the budget. And, like the old adage says, you can only see a Manimal turn into a hawk or a panther three times before it gets old. The show got the axe after only eight episodes, but Manimal would return to television in 1998 for an episode of Night Man, a show that did slightly better than Manimal’s own but was still pretty terrible.
4. One of the Boys (1982)
Okay, so if we told you there was going to be a television show starring Mickey Rooney, Dana Carvey, Nathan Lane, Meg Ryan and the guy that gets an axe to the back in the Shining, wouldn’t you be excited? No? Well you would be if it was still the 90s. Though One of the Boys had been thrown together well before most of these people really hit it big, the talent roster here was pretty amazing (considering they all really did hit it big way before or by the 90s).
Welcome to the NBC sitcom named by TV Guide as one of the worst television shows of all time. The un-killable Mickey Rooney plays Oliver, a senior citizen that leaves his retirement home to move in with his Grandson (Carvey) at college. Somehow, this great premise lasted only one season. We know what you’re thinking. How did it even make a whole season?! Not even the internet knows, so we’ll assume it’s the same reason Kesha has a career: A simple pact with Satan. Like most celebrities.
Probably a fun set though: Carvey confusing the hell out of Rooney by doing impersonations of his long dead show business friends. Rooney repeatedly mistaking Nathan Lane for Judy Garland. Or Meg Ryan…uh… doing her thing, you know…
Few remember that after M.A.S.H, the much loved, amazingly drawn out and overplayed mega hit TV show, there was AfterMASH, a show featuring the same themes but without the war and much of the original cast. Producers must have hoped they could squeeze one last ounce of juice out of the original, which lasted longer than the actual Korean War.
AfterMASH starred Harry Morgan (Colonel Potter), Jamie Farr (Klinger) and William Christopher (Father Mulcahy), the only three cast members of M.A.S.H., unsurprisingly, who voted against ending the original series. It featured Potter working at a veteran’s hospital with Klinger as his administrative assistant again. Oh, and Father Mulcahy played the priest! Again!
Despite what was basically M.A.S.H with a skeleton crew, the show actually did semi-decent for its first season, but in its second, ratings dropped lower than Klinger’s self respect. For some reason, the same worn out formula that had ended M.A.S.H., the show with all the cast, including its very popular protagonists, just couldn’t get AfterMASH going. Why? Why?! We just can’t figure it out.
By Paul K Pickett and Trevor J Pickett