Heavily promoted shows that turned out to be huge flops

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TV shows are as popular now as they ever have been. Thanks to online subscription services like Netflix, we can sit at home for hours on end binge-watching entire seasons of a show if we want to. With audiences moving toward these subscriptions, the regular and cable TV networks have been fighting back by heavily promoting their new shows, hoping to entice viewers away from their online competitors. The hype surrounding new TV shows can make millions of us tune in to check it out, after all, it could be the next big thing, and you’ll want to get ahead of the game to avoid any spoilers. The networks are spending big bucks on promoting, so there is a lot of pressure on the shows to perform well in the ratings. A successful promotion campaign will bring in the initial viewers, but then it is up to the TV show to keep them there.


Sometimes the storyline is not good, and those people who were eagerly anticipating a promoted new show are left frustrated that the final product is so poor. The view count will drop off dramatically, and the networks are forced to pull their expensive shows off air to try and claw back as much money as possible. Have you ever been hyped for a show only to be left disappointed? We have looked at some of the biggest flops in TV history that were victims of their massive promotion campaign.

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Vinyl, HBO

HBO tried to combine music and drama and used two experts in each field to try and make that succeed. Legendary rocker, Mick Jagger, and legendary director, Martin Scorsese, were the executive producers on Vinyl, but even their collective expertise could not save this project from failure. The networks spent a lot of money on this project, and it is estimated it cost roughly $10 million per episode. Things did not get off to a good start which might be why it failed so spectacularly. The show kicked off with a two-hour pilot episode, something that proved to be too much for most viewers as many did not return for the second and subsequent episodes.

Lone Star, Fox

This show was to feature an attractive man who had been labeled as the next George Clooney. No pressure then on the male star of the show, James Wolk. With much hype surrounding the show, many thought this critically acclaimed drama had plenty of legs in the TV ratings race. Sadly that was not the case, it had a very limited pilot audience, just over 1 million viewers, and, after just two episodes it was pulled from the network. Audiences failed to connect with the bad acting and hard to follow script. The only thing that might have saved this project would have been if they had managed to actually cast George Clooney in the leading role.

The Fugitive, CBS

Harrison Ford played the main character in the 1993 movie, but the actor cast to fill his shoes for the TV show spin-off in 2000 couldn’t manage the tough task. Tim Daly played the main character who was framed for a vicious crime who escapes his jailers and hunts down the man who set him up. There was plenty of cash spent in promoting the TV show, but it just couldn’t capture the feel of the movie, or the 1960s original TV series.

Manimal, NBC

The idea behind NBC’s Manimal was a strange one. The story follows Dr. Chase, a man who has the ability to turn his body into any kind of animal he could think of. The show was great fun for younger audiences, but in 1983 it was competing with the A-Team, and it fell way short of the large audiences that show was getting. There was a huge budget spent on the technology to transform the doctor into the animals, but the transformations didn’t look convincing, and viewers soon turned off.

Marvel’s Iron Fist, Netflix

Netflix had a few successful TV shows set in the comic book Marvel universe. They had successfully brought Daredevil to life, banishing many people’s bad memories of the Ben Affleck movie in the early ‘00s. Jessica Jones was a popular TV show too on Netflix, and when it was announced they would be bringing comic book fan favorite Iron Fist to the screen, Marvel fans were eagerly anticipating the next installment. The show aired and has been considered a flop by many, despite the massive budget.

The Event, NBC

This 2010 sci-fi series was anticipated to pick up fans of Lost who were waiting for another TV show to get their teeth into. NBC reportedly spent around $15 million just on promoting their new project, and with a pilot episode costing roughly the same again, it seemed as though it would be a big success. Initially, viewers tuned in but after ten episodes viewer interest had waned and the show was unable to bring them back. The Event ended up being canceled after just one season.

Supertrain, NBC

Supertrain is considered one of the biggest flops in TV history. There was a huge budget spent back in 1979 to try and cash in on the sci-fi market that Star Wars had recently helped to boost. NBC spent heavily on the marketing and production of the show and had high hopes for its success. The show failed to connect with pretty much anybody who watched it and it is reported to have almost entirely bankrupt NBC due to the money they put into it before hauling it off air.

Camelot, Starz

Sometimes when a show works, the massive budget spent on it doesn’t matter so much; shows like The Crown, Westworld, even Friends all had episode costs of around $10 million. Those shows have huge viewing figures though, and one show that had a similar budget but not the same number of viewers was fantasy series Camelot. The show aired just two months before Game of Thrones and once that show came out, Camelot lost its viewers before being canceled after only one season.

You’re in the Picture, CBS

Back in the ‘60s, Jackie Gleason was one of TV’s biggest stars. There was much buzz after TV fans heard he was going to be presenting a new game show. The contestants were made up of celebrities who had to stick their heads through a famous picture, and the other guests would have to describe the scene. It had terrible reviews and was canceled after one episode. The next time it was on air Gleason just sat in an armchair apologizing for 30 minutes for how bad the show was.

Terra Nova, Fox

Not many TV shows can spend money getting their show promoted in movie theaters at the screening of blockbusters like Harry Potter and X-Men. Terra Nova did though, and the spending didn’t stop there; they also spent around $16 million on the pilot and even more on the special effects that brought the dinosaurs featured in it to life. The show didn’t do as well as Fox had hoped and, instead of commissioning another hugely expensive season, canceled Terra Nova after just 13 episodes.

Battlestar Galactica, ABC

Another show hoping to ride on the sci-fi coattails of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica was a big flop in the late ‘70s. It had a huge budget for the time and after initial success soon began losing viewers. With movie-like trailers, much was expected of this show, but when it was being out-viewed by sitcom All in the Family, NBC decided they would pull it from their network at the end of the first season. The show was rebooted in 2004, and this time it was a success.

Viva Laughlin, CBS

This musical drama was pulled from the air pretty quickly, it lasted just two episodes. It was hugely expensive to make and even having Hugh Jackman behind the project was not enough to save it. Jackman was at the height of his popularity in 2007, and even his appearance in the two episodes that did air couldn’t convince many people to watch this expensive flop. The show was described as the worst in history by TV critics at the time.

The Get Down, Netflix

The Get Down was a musical drama directed by famous writer/director Baz Luhrmann. There was a colossal budget behind the show, estimated around $120 million in total, but despite the hype surrounding it, Netflix didn’t feel the number of viewers it was getting justified giving it a second season. The hip-hop musical featured many industry experts behind the scenes, but collectively their knowledge just didn’t turn The Get Down into a show that connected with many viewers.

Cop Rock, ABC

Cop Rock was a musical drama about police officers going about their duties. It was marketed by ABC heavily, and because of this, there were a lot of people who tuned in to the show in 1990 to see what all the fuss was about. ABC really tried to convince audiences their show was going to be a hit and when they delivered their project audiences were convinced it was not. There were 11 episodes broadcast before the network had to pull the plug on the show.

Father of the Pride, NBC

NBC were hoping to bring some adult humor to the animated world. DreamWorks had recently released Shrek, and the movie was a huge hit, so NBC wanted the animators to produce this TV show following the adventures of magicians Siegfried and Roy’s famous white tigers. Unfortunately for NBC, one of the real-life tigers mauled Roy at a live show and audiences thought the show was in bad taste. The show was promoted at the 2004 Summer Olympics, but audiences just weren’t biting when it was finally aired, the show lasted only one season.

Marco Polo, Netflix

Marco Polo cost Netflix around $200 million over the two seasons they aired it. Many critics drew comparisons to Game of Thrones and described it as a watered down version of HBO’s fantasy hit. The series was ambitious, and Netflix kept throwing money at it to get it off the ground. Despite the large budget, it was canceled after just two seasons. Marco Polo failed to captivate audiences and Netflix ultimately decided the show was not worth the money they were putting into it.

The Bionic Woman, NBC

The Bionic Woman was a reboot of a much-loved show from the ’70s, and NBC thought that viewers would love the rebooted version of a classic TV show. They spent over $15 million on promoting the show, and the pilot episode was said to cost around $7 million. The show came out in 2007 without much critical praise, and with the unfortunate timing of the writer’s strike, the show was running out of viewers faster than it was running out of money.

Kings, NBC

Casting a brilliant actor such as Ian McShane might be enough to save some TV shows, using the British actor as much as possible will undoubtedly keep audiences attention focused. One of the problems for Kings was that it was a retelling of the story of King David, a Christian historical figure, but the show made no mention of its religious undertone during the marketing campaign. It was expensive to make, and the slow moving story caused NBC to cancel the show after one season.

Flashforward, ABC

It is estimated that ABC spent huge sums of money on Flashforward’s production and marketing costs. The 2009 show featured many of the cast of TV drama Lost, and it seemed to follow a similar plot. In Flashforward everyone on Earth fell unconscious at the same time, having visions of the world in six months time. It was a confusing story, and after the disappointing ending to Lost, viewers didn’t want to hang around for the same thing to happen again. It was canceled after the first season.

Joey, NBC

Joey starred Matt LeBlanc as he reprised his role as Joey Tribbiani from the hugely popular sitcom Friends. Friends fans were looking to fill the void that Friends had left after it finished in 2004 and it was thought that Joey could help fill that gap. The show was given a huge promotional push, but once audiences began watching the sitcom, they quickly turned off. The show did get a second season, but with audience figures dwindling, NBC finally pulled the plug on the Friends spin-off.

Scream Queens, Fox

Scream Queens looked as though it was going to be the next big thing for sure. It was heavily promoted by Fox in the lead up to its 2015 release. Fans of slasher horror movies and serial dramas were licking their lips expecting to have found their new favorite TV show. While initially there was some intrigue, excluding a small core of loyal fans, most TV audiences had switched off by the time the second season was drawing to a close, causing Fox to pull it from their lineup.