So, we all know what happens when a TV spinoff goes bad. Sometimes it’s just impossible to recreate the magic of a hit. Others, somebody with a really bad idea just got really lucky. Speaking of bad ideas, some shows just never worked from the start. Post-Ellen, Queer as Folk, and Will & Grace, networks finally decided to tiptoe into the LGBTQ market, producing a number of memorable shows… and a few that landed here on Queerty‘s list of the five worst attempts at queer(ish) TV shows ever…
Will & Grace creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan tried to recreate their success on that show with this short-lived dud starring Michael Urie and a post-Superman Brandon Routh. The premise surrounded longtime friends Joe (David Krumholtz) and Louis (Urie), one gay, one straight, who open an architecture firm together. Their partnership gets tested when Joe partners (ho, ho) off with girlfriend Ali (Sophia Bush) and Louis meets the handsome Wyatt (Routh).
Upon the show’s debut, critics noted that much of the creative team had also worked on a series with the same title that aired on Fox almost a decade earlier. The show also had the same premise. If that incarnation of Partners only lasted a single season, this new “hey, straight people and gay people can be friends” version fared even worse. CBS pulled the show after seven low-rated episodes.
Long before Drag Race went mainstream, former Friends writer Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen created this aberration, basically a remake of Bosom Buddies. Work It followed two former auto employees (Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco) who decide to dress as women to land a job with a pharmaceutical company. Once they improbably land the job, the pair learns to be more sensitive while cavorting with their female co-workers.
Jokes about effeminacy and masculine-looking women abounded, which immediately attracted criticism from queer rights groups. Said jokes did not, by contrast, attract an audience. The show is noteworthy for getting some of the absolute worst reviews in the history of TV, and given that the medium has also hosted Woops! and Heil Honey I’m Home! (seriously, Google them), that certainly says something.
Apparently, Reich and Cohen didn’t realize that people laugh at drag queens because they say and do funny things, not because they are men in drag.
Emily’s Reasons Why Not
In 2006, actress Heather Graham still commanded a fair amount of star power thanks to a string of roles in hit films including Boogie Nights, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and From Hell. With movie roles on the wane, Graham opted to shift into television with this much-hyped ABC sitcom, a sort of attempt by network TV to look as sexy and cool as HBO.
Emily’s Reasons Why Not debuted to much fanfare. The show cast Graham as Emily, a book editor unlucky in love. Sick of dating horror stories, she decides to start making lists of why she shouldn’t date a man after a date. She enlisted the help of her friends including Josh (Khary Payton), a flamboyant gay stereotype.
Worse, the premiere episode followed Emily as she suspected her latest beau, a Mormon, was secretly gay. In fact, damn near everything in the show revolved around some kind of passé gay joke. ABC pulled it after only one episode, despite spending millions on promotion; billboards and magazine cover stories actually went up after the show got canned.
John Goodman followed up his long stint on Roseanne by landing this ill-fated Fox sitcom back in 2000. As originally conceived by creators Bonnie and Terry Turner (of That ’70s Show fame), the series would have revolved around Goodman’s character, a gay man, living in West Hollywood with a straight roommate, Odd Couple-style. A last-minute retool transplanted Goodman’s character, Butch, to a small midwestern town where he struggled to be accepted as a gay man… because he was so masculine. Of course, Butch did have a few flame-out moments where he’d sing the occasional showtune or play beautician to his sister.
Thanks to a winning performance from Goodman, Normal, Ohio might have survived if the series had stuck to its original premise and focused on a gay man helping a straight man navigate a very gay neighborhood. It also might have worked if the writers would have had more time to find a voice for the series, and the right tone of its humor. Unfortunately, Fox ran the show against then-flavor-du-jour Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and it never found an audience. Far from the worst offender on this list, it would still have needed a more–a lot more–to make it worthwhile.
Some of My Best Friends
Before Arrested Development got the world to take Jason Bateman seriously as an actor, the former kiddie star tried to find relevance with Some of My Best Friends, an Odd Couple-type sitcom about a gay man living with a straight man.
Some of My Best Friends was a loose spin-off of the indie film Kiss Me, Guido, which itself had started as a TV pilot, and was co-created by Marc Cherry before Desperate Housewives re-ignited his career. The show focused on Warren (Bateman), a sweet gay guy living in New York with his straight, crass, homophobic roommate Frankie (Danny Nucci). Each week the two would bicker over some triviality, such as lost boxers or adopting a dog, with hilarity supposed to ensue.
Warning bells should have gone off as the show went into production, and saw several key cast members replaced. The writers struggled to come up with a suitable title, as Kiss Me Guido was considered too offensive for network TV. Meanwhile, network CBS had gone into a panic over the disastrous Bette Midler-sitcom Bette (which deserves a feature of its own), and opted for a schedule shuffle to try and save that show.
Some of My Best Friends debuted to middling reviews and flaccid ratings and, as CBS continued to shift its flailing schedule around (the 2001 spring lineup is known as something of a fiasco), it never fully landed with an audience or a time slot that worked. The show was cancelled after only five of the seven episodes had aired.