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In honor of actor Andy Garcia and his (unintentionally) hilarious reaction to Sofia (Mary Corleone) Coppola's death scene in "The Godfather, Part III."
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The Best of Bad TV

Posted 01-30-2010 at 12:38 PM by TommyJohn
Updated 01-30-2010 at 06:12 PM by TommyJohn

One of my favorite books is one titled What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History by David Hofstede, written in 2004. The book ranks (in his own order) the 100 worst moments on television. I find books with lists (100 Best, 20 worst, etc) like potato chips-there is no reason for them to exist, but one you start in on them, you can't stop. The book is addictive, at some points laugh-out-loud funny. I like a lot of the stuff he wrote, but disagree with his rankings. Just because I am a fan of such things, I thought I'd post his Top Ten Worst Moments on TV:

1. "The Two Worst Hours of Television Ever"-The Star Wars Holiday Special
November 17, 1978

2. "It Was All A Dream"-Dallas
September 26, 1986

3. "Depravity on Parade"-The Jerry Springer Show
September 30, 1991-present

4. "An Apology Is Worth a Thousand Words"-You're In the Picture
January 20, 1961

5. CNN Salutes "sexy" Paula Zahn
January 5-6, 2002

6. The Quiz Show Scandals-The $64,000 Challenge, Twenty-One
1956-59

7. "Scrappy Crappy Doo"-the character of Scrappy Doo

8. "A Gangster's Last Laugh"-The Mystery of Al Capone's Vault
April 27, 1986

9. "With This Ring, I Thee Shed"-Who Wants To Marry a Multimillionaire?
February 15, 2000

10. "The Heidi Game"-Oakland Raiders vs. New York Jets
November 17, 1968

His Number One moment wouldn't surprise you if you read the whole thing. He is obviously a sci-fi fan, particularly of Star Trek (Spock's Brain is another of his worst moments). I do remember the Holiday Special well. I was 10 when it was broadcast for the first and only time. I remember watching just the first part of it, and seeing Mark Hamill in his orange flight jumpsuit. We didn't watch the whole thing, and I don't remember why. Was it bedtime? Did we have to go somewhere? Was it just so bad that we had to turn it off? My dad wasn't a TV critic. There may have been something on that he wanted to watch. I remember that annoying wookie brat kid of Chewbacca's. I also remember Mark Hamill's line "he's not home yet?"

I later found out that I missed out on the whole Life Day celebration, plus the singing debut of Carrie (Not her mother's voice) Fisher. My brother talked to a friend who watched the whole program, and he told him that Princess Leia sang. I didn't believe my brother when he told me. It sounded so absurd that even at that tender age I didn't believe it. I guess that shows that I would not have made a good TV Executive.

I also remember watching the Al Capone's Vault program. What a lame excuse for a program that was. It was fun watching all the history of the 20s that they showed while the digging was going on. I knew they wouldn't find a damn thing. It was just a sealed up wall!! Who thought that some hidden treasure might be behind it, and how did he (or she) manage to sell that to programmers? Favorite memory: A clearly embarrassed Geraldo Rivera singing the first line of "You're My Kind of Town" before handing off the microphone and storming away. he knew that this was the death knell of his career-until the O.J. Simpson case brought him back with a vengance.

Speaking of O.J., the murder trial of O.J. Simpson was nowhere on his list of 100, but it certainly gets my vote for one of the worst events in TV history. From the showboating attorneys to wannabe-star witnesses, to "best friends" and fringe players showing up and writing books to a judge crying theatrically for the cameras, this whole thing was a farce from beginning to end. Oliver Stone in his most virulent "I Hate America" mode could not have dreamt up this kind of script at his most overheated.

One moment that I have read about but never saw was You're In the Picture, a game show hosted by Jackie Gleason. It got huge hype, Gleason talked about how great it was and joked that he would overshadow "that fellow from Hyannisport" who was being inaugurated that day. He did, but not for the reason he intended.

The show had four panelists step into a drawing, then ask moderator Gleason questions in an attempt to guess the scene they were in. Halfway through it was going nowhere. Toward the end The Great One knew he was in a dog, groaning "What am I doing here?" The reviews were united-You're In the Picture was horrid. TV at its worst.

The next week something even more unusual happened. Gleason told the network he was going to on to apologize for the program. They didn't want him to, but he insisted. They had a 13 week committment to Gleason, and they didn't have another program to fill the time, so they let him go on. Gleason sat on a bare set and spent the next 30 minutes apologizing for the previous week's debacle. He told the audience "last week we did a show called You're In the Picture that laid, without a doubt, the biiiiiggest BOMB in the history of television." The audience roared with laughter and Gleason kept talking and entertaining-one of the worst TV programs followed by one of the best.

That could never happen today, of course. No star, no matter how much power he had, would be able to convince a network executive to let him go on and apologize for the putrid suckiness that was a previous program. That would be fun though, wouldn't it? I'm still waiting for Patrick Duffy to apologize for moment Number 2.

Speaking of which, I do remember the uproar that contrived moment caused. It was awful, but it led directly to one of the most brilliant moments in TV history-Bob Newhart ending his second series by waking up in his bed as Bob Hartley, with Suzanne Pleshette next to him. He then described his dream in detail "there were three brothers, but only one of them spoke." Brilliant, classic moment.
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