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15 TV Shows That Ended Actors’ Careers

Fame is an extremely fickle beast, especially when it comes to actors. You can go from nobody to A-list star with just one hit movie or popular TV show. For most, that rise is much more gradual and actors have to pay their dues doing commercials and such for a few years before they get noticed. But there are a lot of actors who seemingly become household names overnight.

Of course, the reverse is also true. While actors typically have slow declines in terms of their popularity, there are examples of an actor’s career seemingly coming to a screeching halt over a single misstep. Sometimes that mistake is personal, and sometimes its professional– just one bad movie or TV show can be all it takes for an actor to go from hot to not, so to speak.

This list is going to specifically focus on awful TV shows that have seemed to spell the end to the careers of one of the actors in the cast. Not all of these people have ceased to have entertainment careers altogether, but in terms of acting roles, their IMDb pages have been pretty sad since they appeared on the shows in question.

Here are 15 TV Shows So Bad They Ended Actors’ Careers.

15. MULANEY

Without question, John Mulaney is one of the most talented people working in comedy today, from his stellar stand-up comedy specials to co-creating and starring in the Broadway hit/Netflix special Oh, Hello alongside Nick Kroll. Mulaney has proven himself to be one of modern comedy’s most unique and talented voices.

It stands to reason that such a bright comedian taking the helm of his own show would be nothing but a smashing success– and yet, somehow, 2014’s Mulaney completely missed the mark. Critics accused the show of being an unfunny Seinfeld rip-off, and wondered why a comedian as creative as John would go the traditional sitcom route.

Following the failure of Mulaney, John’s potential as a star/leading man seems to have stalled, with one-off “as himself” appearances on other shows and a stint on Big Mouth being the only major acting work he has done since.

14. CSI: CYBER

The various CSI series have been both star-making vehicles for up-and-comers and places for actors with stagnant careers to make big comebacks– if a franchise can manage to make David Caruso a TV star again, there’s some undeniable mojo happening there.

That’s not to say that CSI doesn’t also have the power to end careers, especially for those actors unfortunate enough to find themselves on one of the franchise’s lesser spin-offs. That’s exactly what happened when Bow Wow, previously most famous as child rapper Lil’ Bow Wow, got his big adult acting break on CSI Cyber— only to have the series canceled after two seasons, and with it, Bow Wow’s budding acting career was cut short.

At least he’s still on TV via the reality show Growing Up Hip Hop: Atlanta.

13. STACKED

As much of a punchline as Baywatch was, it was also one of the most popular syndication shows in the world for a time, and Pamela Anderson was one of its biggest stars. She followed that up with V.I.P., another fairly big hit in syndication. Her self-parodying cameos in various movies and TV shows may betray the point– and Barbed Wire didn’t do it any favors– but Anderson really did have a fairly respectable TV career for a time.

Then she did Stacked, the title of which is a double entendre for the fact that she’s well-endowed and works in a library.

That’s about the extent of the cleverness that Stacked had on offer. After its very deserved quick cancellation, Anderson’s acting career never really bounced back.

12. DEREK

Even if Ricky Gervais does nothing else of note for his entire career, he created and starred in the original U.K. The Office and helped to develop the American version. What else needs to be said? Then he followed that up with Extras, another acclaimed, award-winning show that proved that he wasn’t a one-trick pony.

However, third time definitely wasn’t the charm for the comedian. The next major series that he developed, wrote, and starred in was Derek, which aired on Netflix in the U.S. The titular character has developmental issues, and Gervais often walked a fine line between having audiences laugh with the character and at him– though critics felt it was far too often the latter.

The show didn’t get the universal acclaim that Gervais’ past work had– and since Derek, he hasn’t been in anything of note, especially as an actor.

11. THE MICHAEL RICHARDS SHOW

What truly ended Michael Richards’ career was his racist tirade against a heckler that was caught on camera and leaked in 2006. But there was a reason that the Seinfeld actor was taking a stab at stand-up comedy in the first place, and that was because his acting career was already put to rest after the failure of his self-titled 2000 sitcom.

It may have taken Julia Louis-Dreyfus a few tries to get a successful post-Seinfeld sitcom, and Jason Alexander never had one, but nobody failed as spectacularly in trying to follow up their success on the iconic “show about nothing” than Richards.

Not only was The Michael Richards show a flop with critics and audiences alike, but it was the last time anybody was willing to give him a shot on anything of note– until comedy club Laugh Factory, that is. We saw how well that turned out.

10. DADS

In what might be the worst-reviewed show on this entire list– partially because some of the lesser shows are older and predate the days of internet review score compiling– Dads has the distinction of having a 0% Rotten Tomatoes score. The most common complaint leveled against the show, beyond it just not being very well-written, is that it relies heavily on racial humor that isn’t handled particularly well and just comes off as offensive.

A particular target of the short-lived show’s insensitive gags was Asian-American actress Brenda Song, whose character was frequently the butt of jokes about her ethnicity. Song had seemed to have successfully transitioned from Disney star to a legitimate actress before Dads, scoring a recurring role on New Girl and appearing in the Oscar-winning The Social Network. Following her ill-advised role on the dreadful Fox sitcom, her acting prospects have been far less promising.

9. GRACE UNDER FIRE

It might seem obvious that this entry would focus on Grace Under Fire star Brett Butler, whose battles with substance abuse ultimately sank a once-popular series and, for a time, Butler’s career. Butler eventually bounced back, and would later make a comeback with a recurring role on the FX sitcom Anger Management.

Jon Paul Steuer, one of several actors to portray Butler’s son Quentin on the show, didn’t have as successful an escape from the troubled sitcom. Steuer was having a stellar career as a child actor, scoring such roles as Worf’s son on Star Trek: The Next Generation and in the cult classic sports comedy Little Giants. Following his time on Grace, however, Steuer’s career seemed irreparably damaged.

He would soon abandon his floundering acting career to become a musician and restaurateur.

Steuer died earlier this year, just two months shy of his 34th birthday.

8. ARLISS

Arliss is a weird case, a show that was on the air for seven seasons, and yet all anyone ever seems to talk about is how terrible it was. Chalk it up to it being one of HBO’s first original shows, and it not needing much of an audience to justify it staying on the air in those early days.

While Arliss didn’t seem to hurt the prospects of Sandra Oh, it didn’t do much for its star and creator, Robert Wuhl. The comedian’s acting career was just starting to pick up steam before Arliss, scoring sizable roles in such major movies as Bull DurhamGood Morning Vietnam, and Tim Burton’s Batman.

Post-Arliss, all he seemed able to line up was parts like “man with lighter” and “angry customer”– and the latter was in the movie Good Burger.

7. JOANIE LOVES CHACHI

It’s not exactly a spoiler which of the two stars of this ill-fated Happy Days spin-off had their career ruined by it.

Scott Baio somehow managed to remain a star for much of the ’80s and even into the ’90s, following up Chachi with arguably the biggest role of his career: the lead in Charles in Charge.

Erin Moran wasn’t so lucky.

After a strong career as a child and teenage actress, Moran got the role of a lifetime as Joanie Cunningham in Happy Days, and probably thought her star would only continue to rise once she got to co-headline her own show. For some reason, Joanie Loves Chachi‘s spectacular failure took Moran down with it, and the actress never had another notable role. She passed away last year at only 56 years old.

6. EMERIL

In the case of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse– who you might know best as the guy who always says “Bam!” when he’s cooking– his acting career started and ended with his self-titled 2001 NBC sitcom.

While there are plenty of opportunities for celebrity chefs to be on TV just cooking, Lagasse apparently felt that he needed to play a fictionalized version of himself on a scripted TV show about a celebrity chef. After the pilot took the ill-advised approach of focusing on Lagasse’s character’s home life, the show quickly shifted to being about Lagasse’s character’s show, which was a fictionalized version of his real Food Network show.

Does your head hurt yet? Needless to say, Emeril was off the air more quickly than it takes to preheat an oven. Not only did Emeril’s acting career come to an end, but his popularity as a chef dimmed as well.

5. VR.5

If the name Lori Singer doesn’t ring a bell, you’ll no doubt be familiar with her work: the actress played the female lead in the 1984 Kevin Bacon classic Footloose, and also earned a Golden Globe as part of the ensemble cast of the 1993 Robert Altman comedy Short Cuts.

What happened to Singer’s career? Virtual reality.

More specifically, a bad ’90s TV show based on virtual reality happened. The 1995 Fox sci-fi show VR.5 was one of many failed attempts at trying to capitalize on the very early stages of the VR craze, which wouldn’t come anywhere close to being a mainstream reality until well into the 2010s.

Singer was the show’s top-billed cast member, being the most famous name among a cast of mostly-unknowns. When VR.5 got its plugged pulled after only two months, it also meant game over for Singer’s career.  

4. ULTIMATE FORCE

To be fair, Ultimate Force is probably the biggest hit on this list and the closest among the group to being an actual good show. Although the show found fans, it was never appreciated by critics, with Daily Mirror referring to it as “Ultimate Farce” and mocking the acting performance of star Ross Kemp.

Force was meant to be a star vehicle for Kemp, who was brought into the show via a very lucrative contract.

Because he was so pricey, the show was soon retooled to revolve around him, which seemingly gave him a big head and reports of his being difficult to work with ran rampant. The combination of the show’s poor critical reception and Kemp’s alleged diva-like behavior eventually soured the industry on Kemp as a star, so he decided to reinvent himself as a respected, award-winning journalist instead.

3. LIFE WITH LUCY

Lucille Ball is a legend. Nothing is ever going to take that away from her. But the fact that she ended her career on the worst thing she’d ever done is a noticeable blemish on an otherwise stellar legacy.

It’s easy to say that, at 74, Ball shouldn’t have been trying to head up a new show– but that was the era of the smash-hit Golden Girls. It’s not as though old lady-led shows had no place on television at that time. The difference is that Golden Girls is a great show, and Life with Lucy is one of the worst– of all time.

Ball passing away just a few years after Life With Lucy‘s short run meant that her acting career was going to be “over” by default anyway, but it’s tough to imagine her being able to recover from such a major miscalculation.

2. HELLO LARRY

Although he had a major role on one of the biggest hit shows of its day, McLean Stevenson wasn’t satisfied with only playing a supporting character on M*A*S*H. The veteran actor set off to make a name for himself as a TV show headliner. It was a goal he was never able to reach.

After the self-titled McLean Stevenson Show failed to be a star vehicle for the actor and didn’t even last a full season, Stevenson should’ve just cut his losses and tried something else. Instead, he followed that up with In the Beginning, another show that came and went quickly, before finally finding moderate success with Hello Larry.

Still, the show was ultimately a critical flop that barely lasted two seasons, and with his third strike, Stevenson was out. He would never again find a role post-M*A*S*H that came anywhere close to matching even the tiny bit of success that Larry achieved.

1. THE CHEVY CHASE SHOW

How can Chevy Chase’s acting career have “ended” two decades before he’d appear in the acclaimed series Community? Sure, the veteran comedian may have made a brief comeback via his role on the ensemble sitcom, but his golden era ended with his disastrous 1993 talk show.

After a string of hit movies and spending the ’80s establishing himself as one of the best comic actors in Hollywood, The Chevy Chase Show seemed to signal the end of Chase’s time at the top. After the show’s cancellation following an embarrassingly short five-week run, Chase’s career took a nosedive, with a string of forgettable ’90s comedies– and easily the worst of the Vacation series, Vegas Vacation.

His reputation as being difficult to work with had also come to the fore. Chase burned so many bridges that, by the time of his cringeworthy 2002 Comedy Central roast, none of his famous friends showed up.

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