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TV’s Biggest Flops: A Look at the Biggest TV Failures

HBO’s recent cancellation of “The Idol” marks yet another colossal swing and miss for the world of television. Created by Sam Levinson of “Euphoria” and featuring Lily-Rose Depp and Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, the show revolved around a troubled pop princess and her tumultuous relationship with a sleazy nightclub owner and cult leader.

Criticized for its perceived nastiness, excessive sensationalism, and plagued by behind-the-scenes production issues, “The Idol” is one example of a high-profile TV series that crashed and burned. This article looks closely at some of television’s most notorious flops, from ambitious sci-fi endeavors to star-studded dramas.

“Terra Nova” (2011)

In 2011, Fox attempted to capture the magic of “Lost” with the one-season series “Terra Nova.” With none other than Steven Spielberg as an executive producer, the show embarked on a high-concept sci-fi journey.

Terra Nova/ Instagram | Terra Nova aired on the Fox Network for one season from September 26 to December 19, 2011.

It followed James Shannon (Jason O’Mara) and his family as they escaped their dystopian present-day reality to establish a colony 85 million years in Earth’s past, complete with dinosaurs. Unfortunately, one scathing review dubbed it “Stargate” meets “Dr. Seuss.” Despite its $14 million premiere price tag and Spielberg’s involvement, “Terra Nova” couldn’t escape its extinction.


Showtime’s one-season dramedy “Roadies” seemed poised for success with its music world backdrop and Cameron Crowe (“Almost Famous”) at the helm. Starring Luke Wilson and Carla Gugino, it delved into the lives of a touring rock band’s road crew.

Reviews were mixed, and the audience turnout was dismal, with just 500,000 viewers for the finale. This series was a stark reminder that not all filmmakers’ talents effortlessly transition to television.

Peakox/ Instagram | The series premiered in the 2011 fall lineup and ended in 2012 with the unfortunate cancelation despite the show’s international success

“Pan Am” (2011)

In 2011, ABC attempted to ride the wave of “Mad Men” with the one-season show “Pan Am.” This period-piece drama centered around airline pilots and stewardesses in the ’60s and featured a star-studded cast including Christina Ricci, Margot Robbie (pre-fame), and David Harbour (pre-“Stranger Things”).

While visually slick and stylish, critics eviscerated the writing, with one review likening the scripts to “as inert and useless as a grounded jet.” Not even the combined star power of Robbie and Harbour could keep this show aloft, suggesting that perhaps the world wasn’t quite ready for them yet.

“Vinyl” (2016)

Before “The Idol,” HBO had already experienced a colossal flop in the music industry with “Vinyl.” Airing in 2016, this one-season show boasted creators like Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese, with a reported $30 million spent on the premiere.

Set in 1970s New York, it followed Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale), a record executive navigating the shift from the era of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” into the disco age. Unfortunately, it was an overdose of everything: too much cocaine, too much yelling, and an overdose of rock ‘n’ roll clichés. Although initially renewed for a second season, “Vinyl” was silenced due to low ratings and mixed reviews.

NBC/ Instagram | Emerald City is one of the better Wizard of Oz reimaginings in that surprisingly robust subgenre.

“Emerald City” (2017)

In 2017, NBC took a dark and gritty approach to “The Wizard of Oz” with the one-season series “Emerald City.” Attempting to blend the iconic tale with the tone of “Game of Thrones,” the show followed an adult version of Dorothy (Adria Arjona) on her twisted journey through a land filled with drugs and murder.

Highlights included Dorothy getting waterboarded, flying monkeys as drones, Toto as a German Shepherd (because a terrier wasn’t dark enough), and the scarecrow (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) suffering from amnesia. Even the munchkins were transformed into an Indigenous-esque tribe. The result was a show that felt like it was trying way too hard to be “hardcore.”

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