There are a lot of shows out there that were critically acclaimed or immensely popular during their run. However, how much do those shows deserve the kudos they get? On reflection, it becomes clear that a lot of TV’s most vaunted shows are vastly overrated when you get down to it.
The Big Bang Theory
‘The Big Bang Theory’ is a show that has garnered generally positive critical reviews, and one of TV’s largest audiences – which should make us all feel bad. The show, which revolves around a group of nerds and their one non-nerd friend, is considered by many to be one of the most overrated in recent memory.
The supposedly unique concept soon falls away to reveal your average sitcom set-up – but with far worse jokes.
Game of Thrones
If we’re talking shows that are overrated, we have to talk about ‘Game of Thrones’. The gritty fantasy show crashed onto all of our screens in 2011, promising to be a revelation in prestige TV and fantasy storytelling. Many reviews came to the conclusion that, in the end, it was neither. They said GOT was obsessed with twists and being fantasy-but-not-really, which drastically hampered the storytelling of the show.
Plots became increasingly contrived, characters increasingly erratic, and the fantasy washed out and unoriginal. Ultimately, a show that wanted to be everything ended up being mostly nothing in some people’s eyes.
The West Wing
Aaron Sorkin’s ‘The West Wing’ was heralded as a thoughtful and artistic look at the ins and outs of the American political system, and is still seen as one of the greatest TV shows ever. Not everyone agrees, though.
There are many who think that the glitz and glamor, the snappy dialogue, and all the embellishment of ‘The West Wing’ seems designed to distract from the fact that it’s just a high-budget soap opera. A glitzy facade over a hollow shell, ‘The West Wing’ is all style and no substance.
It seems like everybody loves ‘Friends’, right? The cozy sitcom about six friends in New York took audiences by storm from day one, and is lauded as one of the greatest comedies of all time. Unfortunately, on re-examination, ‘Friends’ is much less engaging to lots of people than it once appeared.
The cast still has a pretty undeniable chemistry, but what was once snappy, free-flowing dialogue can come across as stilted and kinda bland. What’s more, the show never really changed, which means the show’s first season is almost identical to its last.
The Walking Dead
AMC’s zombie drama ‘The Walking Dead’ appeared like a comet blazing across the sky of 2010, winning acclaim for its meticulous pacing, tense storylines, and deeply engaging characters. However, despite the fact that people still insist the show is top-tier watching, there are plenty who think it hasn’t really been great since that dynamic first episode.
From the moment the plot began in earnest, the show started dragging interminably. Storylines were painfully slow, characters kept making the same silly decisions, and a show that once seemed to have momentum became a shuffling zombie.
When ‘Lost’ first started airing in 2004, it seemed like the perfect TV show in many ways – an unbelievable mix of strong performances, involving mysteries, and masterful writing. However ‘Lost’ was never really the masterpiece it was said to be in the eyes of many.
Despite a strong first season, people think that across the rest of the show, J.J. Abrams didn’t really know where he was going, making everything up along the way. While this can work, in ‘Lost’s case it left lots of fans with poorly-conceived mysteries, needlessly drawn-out storylines, and an ultimately unfulfilling plot.
Mystery thriller ‘The X-Files’ is a unique show, taking its protagonists Mulder and Scully across a whole slew of adventures – dealing with everything from haunted dolls to aliens over the years. While the show has involved some truly excellent episodes, those are shining high-points in an otherwise murky and messy whole according to reviews.
‘The X-Files’ is capable of great storytelling in contained episodes, but never manages to pull all its disparate elements together when it comes to the overarching plot. A great anthology show? Yes. A great series? Many would say not so much.
The king of sitcoms, ‘Seinfeld’ is often described as a show about nothing, and how accurate that is. That might seem a little harsh, but bear with us. On re-examination, it’s hard to believe that ‘Seinfeld’ ever got enough traction to become so popular.
The show really is about nothing – with jokes and storylines seemingly designed to lack substance – and past a certain point lots of people find that unwatchable. ‘Seinfeld’ just slides right off your brain, as the main cast do an admirable job of trying to make truly nothing dialogue funny.
Sitcom ‘Modern Family’ landed on TV screens with a sprightly bow – a fresh-faced, irreverent, and often absurd comedy. While this seems like the perfect package, ‘Modern Family’ soon outstayed its welcome on the screens of many fans – becoming more like that relative you try not to visit anymore.
The problem is that the beats of the show never change – producing the same jokes across the same routine unfailingly. This means that the freshness needs to come from unique episode storylines – and at 11 seasons, ‘Modern Family’ ran out of those long ago.
Period drama ‘Downton Abbey’ is literally prestige TV, centering around the inhabitants of the eponymous stately home, and their various trials and tribulations. Since debuting in 2010, ‘Downton’ has won critical acclaim and garnered a huge fanbase – but not in everyone’s eyes.
Despite a big budget and A-list actors, many see ‘Downton Abbey’ as little more than a very expensive soap opera. The characters and plotlines are all wafer-thin, serving no purpose other than to show off extravagant costumes and saccharine sentiment.
‘Arrested Development’ was always an odd duck – languishing in ratings but lauded critically for complex and cerebral jokes that put it far above most other comedies. Many would say that this, however, is a slightly too generous appraisal of ‘Arrested Development’.
The show’s format and delivery is unique, sure, – and some of the conceits are truly genius – but the jokes themselves aren’t so far above a standard sitcom to warrant the groundbreaking light it’s often cast in. Is ‘Arrested Development’ great? Yes. Does it stand head-and-shoulders above everything else? Not in many people’s opinions.
Dark fantasy show ‘Supernatural’ began airing on the WB (now CW) in 2005, and has run for 15 seasons since, developing a fanbase that is deeply devoted to the show. Unfortunately, not everyone thinks ‘Supernatural’ is worth such devotion.
The show began interestingly enough, featuring the exploits of two demon-hunting brothers trying to solve supernatural mysteries. However, nothing can stay fresh for 15 seasons, and ‘Supernatural’ seemed to fall flat for some fans. Before long, increasingly outlandish storylines and convoluted resolutions left the show bloated and meandering – with each new season just adding to the pile.
In 2016, ‘Stranger Things’ debuted on Netflix, becoming one of the shows that established it as a new cultural force. The show was praised for its cast, writing, and 80s aesthetic – coming to be regarded as one of the best shows in recent years.
However, lots of people did not agree with this glowing reputation. The show’s first season is admittedly excellent – but lots feel its second and third seasons are simply rehashes that lack the luster of the original.
Medical drama ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is often seen as something of an oddity among its fellow shows – having run without dipping in ratings or acclaim very much for 16 seasons and counting. This success, however, tends to make it seem that ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is more substantial than the medical soaps that have come before it…
Whereas there are many who would beg to differ. The plots and characters are often considered to be neither more daring nor more skillfully rendered than any standard medical drama – with the show consistently occupying territory that is safe, not noteworthy.
13 Reasons Why
Premiering on Netflix in 2017, ‘13 Reasons Why’ immediately drew attention and acclaim for its dealing with sensitive topics – and quickly amassing a legion of devoted fans. However, there are another group of reviewers who believe the truth is that ‘13 Reasons Why’ is an immensely clumsy show, that handles the topics it deals with poorly…
And then expects plaudits merely for trying to deal with them in the first place. It is often seen as self-congratulatory and indulgent, and many think the most impressive thing ‘13 Reasons Why’ does is pat itself on the back with such ease.
Running for seven seasons between 2011 and 2018, sitcom ‘New Girl’ won acclaim and a fanbase for the off-beat and unique sense of humor that pervades it. Starring Zooey Deschanel as Jess, it features the hijinks of a Los Angeles based group of friends – but many people believe it lacks much beyond said hijinks.
‘New Girl’ relies on a facade of quirkiness to hide the fact that its jokes are, in some people’s opinion, somewhat stale and the characters largely empty.
American Horror Story
‘American Horror Story’ is a bit of a weird one. The anthology horror series has put out some truly great seasons of television, winning high praise and an extremely devoted fan base for doing so.
However, at nine seasons and counting, the show has had the chance to put out some real duds – and some fans think they’re starting to outweigh the good seasons. Despite some stellar seasons, ‘American Horror Story’ is all-too-often weighed down with confused plots, contrived and disappointing twists, and weak concepts to impress some viewers.
Historical fantasy drama ‘Outlander’ has been airing since 2014, and strives to be an enthralling and unique television show. Unfortunately, despite an interesting premise in which a nurse is transported from 1946 to 1700s Scotland, many think ‘Outlander’ is much more average than it would like to be.
The show is simply unable to escape the cheesy dialogue and somewhat shallow characterization that plagues so many historical romance dramas. ‘Outlander’ is a perfectly enjoyable show with a fun concept – but don’t expect it to change the landscape of television any time soon.
Running for eight seasons between 2004 and 2012, medical drama ‘House’ garnered a reputation as a slick, well-written drama with one of the most engaging TV protagonists in years. ‘House’ is not any of those things, though, in the eyes of some critics, instead being seen as your average medical drama hidden behind a sheen of circuitous dialogue and one of TV’s least likable characters.
The episodes are sometimes considered to be convoluted pretzels of plot pretending to be clever, Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) is thought of as a bad Sherlock Holmes rip, and if you’ve seen three episodes then you’ve seen them all.
Created by Matt Groening of ‘The Simpsons’ fame, ‘Futurama’ is an animated sci-fi comedy lauded for its unique take on sci-fi living, deft and frequently absurd humor, and a surprising amount of heart.
‘Futurama’ is a vastly overrated show in many people’s opinion however, that uses its sci-fi concept to wallpaper over the glaring cracks in its facade. The characters are sometimes seen as shallow, the design is painfully dull for some, and the comedy consists of the most obvious sci-fi jokes you could imagine.
Keeping Up With the Kardashians
Now, this isn’t a show that’s won much critical acclaim, but reality TV show ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ does have a huge fan base. It’s tempting to read ‘KUWTK’ as a guilty-pleasure show – a cheap thrill based on seeing the messier parts of celebrity life, but it isn’t even that, according to many.
Many think that the show is so thoroughly – and obviously – planned that it loses that joy that inhabits so many similar reality shows, and becomes a joyless spectacle devoid of energy.
The Office US
An adaptation of the UK series of the same name, ‘The Office’ was a big deal – winning a massive audience and several years of continuous acclaim. To this day, it’s pointed to as one of the great comedies in TV history.
There are viewers, however, who believe ‘The Office’ is undeserving of such praise. While the writing is solid and the cast is very talented, the show never develops sufficiently in character or comedy – to the point that a large number of episodes are essentially identical to each other, vastly diminishing its freshness.
It seems as though critics couldn’t get enough of this musical drama, with an impressive Metascore of 78. However, it seems as though viewers didn’t feel the same way.
In fact, as more and more people look back at Glee from when it first started in 2009, it seems as though many of them cannot understand why it was so popular in the first place. Many viewers have also recently pointed out some of the more problematic topics the series portrayed.
Two and a Half Men
Men, men, men… You know the theme tune by now, right? Critics quite liked the sitcom that first starred Charlie Sheen and then Ashton Kutcher as the lead. In fact, it received a pretty respectable Metascore of 67.
Unfortunately, viewers didn’t exactly feel the same way, calling it “unfunny” and “borderline offensive.” Oh. Perhaps that’s why CBS decided to call it quits back in 2015 after the twelfth season. Kutcher only starred in the final two seasons of the show.
With a Metascore of 80, it appears that the critics really rated the predominantly female comedy-drama series, Desperate Housewives. Unfortunately, however, TV fans didn’t feel the same way.
It received a score of 66% on Rotten Tomatoes, meaning that the general public clearly didn’t rate it as highly as the critics. The show spanned eight years and took over from Charmed as the longest-running hour-long TV series featuring all female leads. Despite plenty of awards, it just wasn’t meant to last…
This is one of those TV shows that plenty of people seem to talk about, but has anyone actually watched it all the way through? Critics loved it, giving it a Metascore of 69 and praising the whole concept.
However, dig deeper into what viewers think, and you’ll be given a different story for the comedy-drama series. With a less than impressive Rotten Tomatoes score of 66% and plenty of people calling it “overhyped,” perhaps Entourage wasn’t as popular as we all remember it being.
The Vampire Diaries
Thanks to the rise of vampires in books and movies, such as Twilight, the late noughties saw plenty of bloodsucking TV shows come out of the woodwork. One of the seemingly most popular was The Vampire Diaries, which started back in 2009.
Critics seemed to love the show, and fans did too… In the beginning. However, as our love of vampires began to wear thin, so did the viewing figures for The Vampire Diaries. The final episode was aired in March 2017, after eight seasons on the air.
This is another one of those TV shows that you may have heard plenty of people talking about, but do you even know what it’s about?! This legal comedy-drama series starred Calista Flockhart as the titular character, as she joins a prestigious law firm and narrates her inner thoughts.
Critics absolutely loved the concept, giving it a 73 Metascore, but TV lovers were less than generous with their reviews. Despite finishing back in 2002, people are still watching the series and letting the world know their thoughts now…
With an all-star cast, including Terence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, Empire followed a fictional hip hop music company called Empire Entertainment. Critics were enthralled by the premise, and the hype around the show brought in millions of viewers.
However, not everyone was so enchanted by the whole thing. Despite bringing in 17 million viewers for the finale in September 2019, plenty of people thought that the entire show could have been done better. Well, you can’t please everyone!
Once Upon a Time
The concept for this fantasy show is definitely an interesting one, as it takes viewers into a fairytale world full of all your favorite childhood characters. When it started back in 2011, critics were blown away by the characterization and the special effects.
It received a pretty decent 66 Metascore, too. However, it was one of those shows that TV lovers just couldn’t fully get behind. The final episode aired in 2018, after seven years on the air.
Pretty Little Liars
To be fair, not even all the critics were sold on Pretty Little Liars, which has an okay Metascore of 52. This mystery thriller is based on a series of novels of the same name and follows a clique of girls who find their ‘leader’ has disappeared.
The mystery takes us on a whirlwind to discover who ‘A’ is, but fans started to lose all hope they’d ever find out. By the time the finale was aired in 2017, everyone had pretty much given up on the show. As for who ‘A’ was? Well…
Critics gave this sci-fi drama series a respectable 67 Metascore, but viewers of the show weren’t as kind. In fact, Heroes has a measly 55% on Rotten Tomatoes! It was the kind of series that many people thought would last forever…
But dwindling viewing figures and people slating later episodes meant that they decided to pull the plug after the fourth season. When you think about it, only four seasons is not that great for a series that could have gone on for a lot longer…
Everybody Loves Raymond
This sitcom has a really impressive Metascore of 74, meaning critics love it! However, it seems as though viewers believe the whole show is completely overrated.
Starring Ray Romano as Ray Barone, a successful sports journalist, the entire show was slammed for having less than “top-notch writing” and not exactly the best sitcom on the air. Despite all that, they still managed to squeeze a whole nine seasons out of it. Maybe it wasn’t that bad, after all?
Beverly Hills, 90210
We may be scratching our heads a little at this one. After all, if viewers think Beverly Hills, 90210 is overrated, then how come there were nearly 300 episodes?! Plus, all of the spin-offs that came out of the original.
Not only that, but BH90210 has just been rebooted on Fox. Either way, people must be watching it! However, according to thousands of voters on Ranker, it is the 44th most overrated TV show ever.
With a Metascore of 51 and an IMDb rating of 6.9 out of 10, it seems as though no one was really sold on the sitcom Cougar Town. Not even Courteney Cox could save this one, it seemed.
Despite not receiving the best ratings in the world, a lot of people still tuned in for six whole seasons, just to follow the recently divorced mother (Cox) navigate dating again. It also catapulted the whole concept of ‘cougars’ into popular culture.
This action drama series has one of the highest Metascores on the list, with critics giving it a whopping 88. The series features Kiefer Sutherland as counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer, as he takes on baddies one day at a time.
Each episode was in real-time, with a whole series being 24 hours in his life. It was a really clever concept, but people started to find it tiresome. Some viewers felt like the show was dragging, and it ended after nine seasons… So we only saw nine days of his life!
How I Met Your Mother
Premiering in 2005, sitcom ‘How I Met Your Mother’ scooted right into the void left by ‘Friends’ finishing – and seemed perfectly suited to the job. Centered around a group of pals in New York, the show had an extra edge of absurdity that seemed perfect for an audience five years past the new millennium.
The show was lauded for its zany vibe and out-there concepts – but these are all many feel that ‘How I Met Your Mother’ had, ultimately being critiqued as empty beyond its quirky set-ups and overused running jokes.
‘Mad Men’ is seen as one of the pinnacles of prestige TV. The period drama, dealing with advertising agencies in the 60s, seemed to have everything – slick dialogue, strong performances, and a great 60s aesthetic.
However, in the opinions of those who have scratched beneath the surface, ‘Mad Men’ is little more than an average drama in a sharp suit. The show is unnecessarily drawn out, with indulgent plot lines that serve to show off the costumes more than they do the characters. While that might be fine for one season, it gets tired after seven.
Another bloodsucking TV show which came out around the same time as the Twilight movies. True Blood is also based on a series of novels, like the Twilight films, and seemed to ride the wave of this trend pretty well.
Critics gave it a relatively impressive Metascore of 64, but plenty of TV viewers can’t help but think this show was overrated. It also didn’t last as long as The Vampire Diaries, finishing after seven seasons back in August 2014.
2 Broke Girls
Critics gave this sitcom a reasonably decent score of 66 on Metascore, so you’d think it would have been a hit. Right? Starring Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs as two waitresses, there were plenty of laughs to carry the show through six seasons.
However, it seems as though the premise started to wear thin as viewing numbers dwindled, and CBS decided to cancel the show back in 2017. It only received a score of 6.7 out of 10 on IMDb too.