50 worst TV series of 2020

December 30, 2020

50 worst TV series of 2020

There were 532 scripted TV series in 2019, a new record for television. If each episode was 60 minutes long, it would take more than 22 days to watch just one episode of each.

Not all television is created equal, of course, and the last year was riddled with TV series running the gamut from virtually perfect to unequivocally dreadful. With that in mind, Stacker gathered data from Metacritic on the worst TV shows of 2020 and ranked them from bad to worse according to their Metascores as of Dec. 9, 2020. New series and old series with new seasons were considered alike, as were limited series and docuseries. To qualify, the show had to have a Metascore and a 2020 release date. Comedy specials, although included under TV on Metacritic, were not included in this list. As a guide for measure, TV series ratings tend to run high, topping out on this list at 60/100 and bottoming out at 35/100. Ties are broken by ranks assigned on Metacritic's site.

Critical reviews, compiled by Metacritic, were also consulted. These reviews are consolidated from sources such as The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Vulture, Decider,, Paste, TV Guide, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Time, and more. All reviews—positive and negative—lend insights into why each series earned its low ranks.

If you enjoy bad TV, this may be the list you've been waiting for—it could actually turn out to be your must-watch TV list. There's certain escapism in bad TV: the show that's so bad it's actually good. The silly characters and nonsensical plot lines that allow you to do other things while you watch TV are often a welcome treat. Not every show needs to be an award-winner—and some of the series that made our list certainly hold a certain degree of (varying) charm. Even the award-winners don't hit all the time. And let's not forget: Every once in a while, the critics even get it wrong and fans fall in love with some obscure show that they're supposed to hate.

Keep reading to bring on the bad TV and find out which TV shows Metacritic ranked as the 50 worst of 2020—and why.

#50. Soulmates

- Metascore: 60
- Release date: Oct. 5, 2020

AMC's “Soulmates,” a dramatic anthology series that has been compared to “Black Mirror,” is set 15 years into the future when a person can take a test in order to match with his or her soulmate. Despite its notable cast, including Malin Akerman, Charlie Heaton, Bill Skarsgård, and Sarah Snook, AV Club critic Shannon Miller gave “Soulmates” a C rating, describing the series as “a collection of chemistry-less performances and outdated tropes, some of which are so egregious that they overshadow any attempt at memorable storytelling.” The showrunners have another chance to make an impression with a second season, expected sometime in late 2021.

#49. Little Voice

- Metascore: 60
- Release date: July 10, 2020

Bess, an aspiring singer, juggles life, love, and dreams in New York City on Apple TV+'s “Little Voice.” There were high hopes for this show, which was created by Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson and produced by J.J. Abrams. While some viewers agree “Little Voice” is charming and genuine, others just can't get past its predictable and overly familiar vibe. Dan Fienberg, writing for the Hollywood Reporter, said even though the show made him cringe, he admitted to blubbering at least once as well as humming to the tunes. 

#48. Your Honor

- Metascore: 60
- Release date: Dec. 6, 2020

Adapted from the Israeli show “Kvodo,” Bryan Cranston stars in Showtime's “Your Honor” as a judge trying to protect his son after a hit-and-run accident in New Orleans. Although the 10-episode limited series features a talented cast, Vulture critic Jen Chaney notes that it “contains so many familiar crime TV elements that it bends toward the tropey.”

#47. Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels

- Metascore: 60
- Release date: April 26, 2020

A spin-off of the 2014 “Penny Dreadful” series, this Showtime supernatural horror show set in 1938 Los Angeles pairs two detectives in a murder investigation. Showrunner John Logan told Entertainment Weekly that “the show was always intended to be about the complex racial and political landscape of Los Angeles in the period.” Many critics and audiences felt that the plotlines of “Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels” were too muddled and even the performances of its talented cast, such as Natalie Dormer and Nathan Lane, weren't enough to save the show from cancelation.

#46. Animaniacs

- Metascore: 60
- Release date: Nov. 20, 2020

Critics say Hulu's 2020 reboot of the popular 90s cartoon “Animaniacs” feels extremely similar to the original series due to the same characters, composers, manic energy, and joke styles—but not all agree on whether this is a good thing. The Verges Joshua Rivera wrote that the new show “focuses on how messed up the world is now,” which “gives 2020s Animaniacs more of a sour aftertaste that keeps it from being as effervescent as it once was, and could be.”

#45. Truth Seekers

- Metascore: 60
- Release date: Oct. 30, 2020

In this Prime Video comedy-horror series from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, two part-time ghost hunters partner to film paranormal sightings in the U.K. FilmInk critic Anthony O'Connor said while the show is watchable, it “is a slight and only sporadically amusing effort that lacks the panache and wit of previous pairings of Pegg and Frost,” referring to gems like “Shaun of the Dead,” “Spaced,” and “Hot Fuzz.” 

#44. Helter Skelter: An American Myth

- Metascore: 59
- Release date: July 26, 2020

In this six-part docuseries about Charles Manson on Epix, extensive interviews, archival footage, and photos are chronicled—but not much new information is uncovered. Time critic Judy Berman says that the first episode acts much like an hour-long trailer for the rest of the series, suggesting the docuseries might have hit the mark as a leaner, more daring essay film. 

#43. We Hunt Together

- Metascore: 59
- Release date: Aug. 9, 2020

The Showtime suspense series “We Hunt Together” follows two detectives as they hunt for two killers in London. Some critics note that the series lacks tension and originality, with IndieWires Ben Travers calling it a “placeholder” in Showtime's line-up. 

#42. Star Trek: Lower Decks

- Metascore: 59
- Release date: Aug. 6, 2020

The animated comedy “Star Trek: Lower Decks” is a CBS All Access Original Series. Set in the year 2380, the show follows a support crew on the U.S.S. Cerritos, one of the Starfleet’s least important ships. Critics report that the show is sometimes witty, but Polygon's Samantha Nelson says it “quickly fades into a series of lazy sitcom tropes.”

#41. Cursed

- Metascore: 59
- Release date: July 17, 2020

This Netflix fantasy series starring Katherine Langford, follows Nimue (The Lady of the Lake) as she travels with a mercenary to return Excalibur to Merlin. Critics found “Cursed” to be cliche, with a confusing plot, and sometimes cheesy effects, but fans of the show found it fun and entertaining nonetheless. While it hasn't been officially confirmed by Netflix, a second season is expected. 

#40. The Liberator

- Metascore: 59
- Release date: Nov. 11, 2020

This Netflix animated series, which uses new patent-pending Trioscope Enhanced Hybrid Animation technology, is based on a book about World War II U.S. Army officer Felix Sparks and the 157th Infantry Regiment, and how they invaded Italy and freed those at the Dachau concentration camp. Many critics felt that while focusing on the technological effects of the animation, the creators of “The Liberator” may have missed an opportunity to tell this important battle story in detail.

#39. Away

- Metascore: 59
- Release date: Sept. 4, 2020

Hilary Swank plays an astronaut who leaves behind a husband and daughter in order to embark on a journey to Mars in this Netflix drama series. The show was canceled after its first season, leaving fans on a never-to-be-resolved cliffhanger. “Away” was reportedly one of Netflixs most expensive shows, at an estimated $6 million per episode, which Esquires Adrienne Westenfled guesses could have had something to do with it ending after just one season. 

#38. The Comey Rule

- Metascore: 58
- Release date: Sept. 27, 2020

This four-hour, two-night Showtime miniseries is based on the memoirs of former FBI director James Comey, who is portrayed by Jeff Daniels in the show. Politics aside, critics say the drama doesn’t reveal much that the public didn't already know. "The Comey Rule" attracted more than 1 million viewers in two days and reportedly helped Showtime gain a substantial number of subscribers. 

#37. Emily in Paris

- Metascore: 58
- Release date: Oct. 2, 2020

A 20-something marketing executive played by Lily Collins moves to Paris for work in this Netflix rom-com, which critics have called out for being particularly unrealistic and cliché. New Yorker writer Kyle Chayka suggests the show's surprising success is tied to the rise of ambient TV: “The purpose of Emily in Paris is to provide sympathetic background for staring at your phone, refreshing your own feeds.” Despite the lackluster critical reception, “Emily in Paris” has been renewed for a second season. 

#36. neXt

- Metascore: 58
- Release date: Oct. 6, 2020

This sci-fi Fox series inspired by an Amazon Alexa device follows a former tech CEO played by John Slattery as he tries to help Homeland Security stop an AI digital killer. Roger Ebert critic Brian Tallerico says the series reminds him of an earlier generation's storytelling, referring to “90s cautionary tales about runaway technology.” Variety reported Fox would not renew the show for a second season after only airing a few episodes due to low ratings and COVID-19-related production issues

#35. Tommy

- Metascore: 58
- Release date: Feb. 6, 2020

A woman NYPD officer is hired to become the first female LAPD police chief in this CBS drama starring Edie Falco. While critics enjoyed Falco, she was not enough to hold together the predictable storyline and lackluster dialogue, and the show was canceled after its first season. Hollywood Reporters Daniel Fienberg called the series “just another mediocre broadcast show that probably could have been a lot better.”


#34. Council Of Dads

- Metascore: 58
- Release date: March 24, 2020

NBC's drama-heavy “Council of Dads” begins with a terminally ill dad asking his friends to step in as father figures for his children after he's gone. AV Club critic Caroline Siede says the show “is so eager to balance its inherently sad premise with some emotional catharsis that it rushes to an endpoint that's anything but earned.” NBC canceled the show due to its low ratings.

#33. Big Sky

- Metascore: 58
- Release date: Nov. 17, 2020

This ABC suspense-drama series follows two private detectives as they search for two kidnapped sisters, only to find that there are more missing. Critics say that time and talent is wasted on this disappointing series from writer-producer David E. Kelley, who has delivered TV shows like “Mr. Mercedes,” “Big Little Lies,” and “Boston Legal.” 

#32. Unsolved Mysteries

- Metascore: 57
- Release date: July 1, 2020

“Unsolved Mysteries” has returned to television. This time it’s on Netflix, with no host, and each episode focuses on one unsolved cold case instead of several. The narration often repeats what is said by family members or shown in reenactments, which made some critics question the lengthiness of the episodes. IndieWires Kristen Lopez suggests “the show needs to do something to situate itself as Unsolved Mysteries and not another quasi-HBO documentary series.”

#31. Coastal Elites

- Metascore: 57
- Release date: Sept. 12, 2020

“Coastal Elites” is a 90-minute series of five monologues that was originally written to be performed on stage, but moved on-screen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The satire involves five personalities, including Bette Midler, Issa Rae, Dan Levy, Sarah Paulson, and Kaitlyn Dever, talking directly into the camera about how much they dislike President Donald Trump. The Guardians Charles Bramesco called the project “a tone-deaf attempt to speak to a divided America.”

#30. The Twilight Zone

- Metascore: 57
- Release date: June 25, 2020

The complete Season 2 of “The Twilight Zone” was released by CBS All Access in June. Critics say this season is better written than the first, but that Jordan Peeles reboot still hasn't reached the potential or impact of the original series. CNN critic Brian Lowry points out the irony in that “the original series speaks to the strange times through which we're living more directly and profoundly than the new one.”

#29. Utopia

- Metascore: 56
- Release date: Sept. 25, 2020

Based on a British show of the same name and created by Gillian Flynn (author of “Gone Girl”), the Amazon Prime suspense series “Utopia,” starring John Cusack, follows fans of a comic that predicts world events and contains secret messages. Critics of the show say theres an over-reliance on violence and too many characters to follow. Amazon canceled “Utopia” after its first season. 

#28. Social Distance

- Metascore: 56
- Release date: Oct. 15, 2020

Filmed remotely and set during the pandemic, Netflix’s “Social Distance” is an eight-part anthology series with each episode lasting roughly 20 minutes. Critics say the series tends to feel unambitious despite what it may have set out to accomplish. Roger Ebert critic Robert Daniels notes there is “clear-eyed acting from an impressive ensemble,” including “The Offices” Oscar Nuñez, “When They See Us” Asante Blackk,  and “Luke Cages” Mike Colter. But Daniels still asserts things like the rushed narratives and discrepancies in the small details got in the way of the series reaching "the caliber of the actors delivering it.”

#27. Hollywood

- Metascore: 56
- Release date: May 1, 2020

This Netflix limited series created by Ryan Murphy follows a struggling actor as he accepts a job at a gas station pumping gas and begins prostituting in order to make it in the “Golden Age” of Hollywood. Critical reviews were mixed on this series, with some admiring the entertainment value and others feeling it lacked substance. Brian Tallerico, critic for Roger Ebert, went as far as to call it “the most disastrous project” of [Murphys] career,” adding that the series “attempts a degree of social commentary that can only be called insulting.”

#26. Snowpiercer

- Metascore: 55
- Release date: May 17, 2020

This TNT series is based on a 2013 film (and French graphic novel) about humans who live on trains that never stop moving once the world has frozen. Critics call it an inferior version of Bong Joon-ho's film—even though he is credited as a producer—and say it doesn’t start to pick up momentum until the second half of the season. Daily Dot critic Gavia Baker-Whitelaw suggests, “this show works best if you didn't watch or enjoy the original Snowpiercer.’”

#25. Love in the Time of Corona

- Metascore: 55
- Release date: Aug. 22, 2020

A four-part limited drama series on Freeform and available on Hulu, “Love in the Time of Corona” follows three married couples and two roommates as they go through quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hollywood Reporters Inkoo Kang says the show, which features actors Leslie Odom, Jr. and Nicolette Robinson, “ultimately manages to rouse with its grand romantic gestures, but too much of the preceding material feels unimaginative, expository, and dramatically DOA.”

#24. Intelligence

- Metascore: 54
- Release date: July 15, 2020

Created by co-star Nick Mohammed and released on Sky One and Peacock, “Intelligence” stars David Schwimmer as an NSA agent who’s transferred to the U.K.’s equivalent agency, and struggles to take over. CNNs Brian Lowry says the shows “quirky assortment of characters has a very sitcom feel to it (just the slightly dry British kind).” The series has officially been renewed for a second season in 2021. 

#23. Love Life

- Metascore: 54
- Release date: May 27, 2020

Set in 2012 at first, HBO Max’s anthology rom-com series “Love Life” stars Anna Kendrick as Darby, a 20-something fumbling her way through relationships in New York City. Critics found the charm of Kendrick endearing, but say the show’s narration can be distracting and the series leaves the viewer yearning for Darby to find some authentic human connection. The show has been picked up for another season, but this time Good Places” William Jackson Harper will be in the leading role.

#22. Interrogation

- Metascore: 54
- Release date: Feb. 6, 2020

This CBS All Access drama series is based on a real-life case that spanned 20 years in which a 17-year-old was convicted of killing his mother. Viewers are told that they can watch the episodes in any order, much like a cold case would be handled. Each episode follows a different character within the case. Variety critic Daniel DAddario suggests that “Interrogation is just good enough to be frustrating for the ways in which it isn’t yet better, and most of them stem back to the original sin of the show’s format.”

#21. Brave New World

- Metascore: 54
- Release date: July 15, 2020

Based on Aldous Huxley’s novel, “Brave New World” lasted just one season on Peacock and is now being pitched to other outlets. The story is about a utopian society that prohibits monogamy, money, family, and privacy. Ultimately, great-looking sets and lots of risque behavior couldn’t make up for the dull script. Ed Cumming, a critic for The Independent, says the adaptation lacks risk, surmising that Huxley “would surely have been disappointed.” 

#20. Hunters

- Metascore: 54
- Release date: Feb. 21, 2020

This Amazon Prime Video drama set in 1977 stars Al Pacino as a Nazi hunter in New York City. New York Times critic Mike Hale says the show doesn't do enough with Pacino, the rest of the stellar cast, or the premise. However, Hunters, which is produced by Jordan Peele, has been renewed for a second season. 

#19. Filthy Rich

- Metascore: 54
- Release date: Sept. 21, 2020

Based on a New Zealand series, “Filthy Rich” on Fox follows Margaret Monreaux (Kim Cattrall), the wife of a rich Southerner who dies and leaves her in charge of the business. Three illegitimate children are named in her husband’s will, and Margaret must deal with them. The show has been called campy and soapy, and the acting, including Cattrall’s Southern accent, has left much to be desired for some critics. The show was canceled after it aired its first five episodes. 

#18. White Lines

- Metascore: 53
- Release date: May 15, 2020

This Netflix suspense 10-episode series follows a British woman who travels to Ibiza to investigate her brother’s two-decade-long disappearance after his body is found. Odd plot twists, subplots, and character changes midway through the series don’t seem to make sense, while overdramatization appears to be the glue keeping some viewers held to the story. Roger Ebert critic Nick Allen says the show is all aesthetics, with little underneath,” calling it a beach read you can watch. Netflix canceled White Lines after its first season. 

#17. Deputy

- Metascore: 51
- Release date: Jan. 2, 2020

Western meets cop drama in this Fox drama that follows the new L.A. County Sheriff Deputy, played by Stephen Dorff. A fifth-generation lawman, the new sheriff isn’t used to big-city rules. Riddled with clichés and inconsistencies, critics say “Deputy” delivers little more than the typical cop show.

#16. Amazing Stories

- Metascore: 51
- Release date: March 6, 2020

This Apple TV+ anthology series is a reboot of Steven Spielberg’s 1985 series. Most critics offered mixed reviews, saying that the show was OK for families, but that it lacks what viewers have come to expect from Spielberg. IndieWire critic Steve Greene called the Amazing Stories premiere fluffy and safe. 

#15. Ratched

- Metascore: 50
- Release date: Sept. 18, 2020

This Netflix series starring Sarah Paulson was inspired by the character Nurse Ratched in the book “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Chicago Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper says despite the “breathtaking” production design and “a few dark laughs,” the drama can be tedious and the horror is more gross than scary, resulting in “one big bloody bore.”

#14. Motherland: Fort Salem

- Metascore: 49
- Release date: March 18, 2020

In this supernatural, alternative-reality drama airing on Freeform, three witches enlist in the U.S. Army. Numerous story ideas, an uneven tone, and a somewhat clunky dialogue have made “Motherland: Fort Salem” a confusing show to follow. Variety critic Caroline Framke says the series fails to be "as nuanced or interesting" as the actual history of witches.

#13. Space Force

- Metascore: 49
- Release date: May 29, 2020

Steve Carell plays Gen. Mark R. Naird in this Netflix comedy series that tells the story of the new Space Force branch of the U.S. military. Despite it’s big, talented cast, including John Malkovich, Lisa Kudrow, and Ben Schwartz, “Space Force” does not deliver on the promise of comedy or an interesting enough storyline for many critics. Audiences appeared to appreciate “Space Force” more than critics though, as Netflix renewed the show for a second season.

#12. The Walking Dead: World Beyond

- Metascore: 48
- Release date: Oct. 4, 2020

The latest AMC “Walking Dead” horror spin-off picks up after the zombie apocalypse when the first generation is coming of age. Critics say this new series doesn’t live up to the original, and with no character connection to past “Walking Dead” series, it’s hard to get into the show. TVLine critic Charlie Mason suggests this third series “feels more than a little bit like beating an undead horse.”

#11. Selena: The Series

- Metascore: 48
- Release date: Dec. 4, 2020

This Netflix musical drama series chronicles the life of murdered Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla played by Christian Serratos. Critics agree that the first season missed an opportunity to tell more of Selena’s story, instead choosing to focus more attention on the male figures in Selena’s life. Hollywood Reporter critic Inkoo Kang says the show never gets at what made her such a star.

#10. Crossing Swords

- Metascore: 47
- Release date: June 12, 2020

From the producers of “Robot Chicken,” this highly anticipated adult animated stop-motion series on Hulu follows squire Patrick, voiced by Nicholas Hoult, as he discovers the kingdom is corrupt. Viewers who appreciate vulgarity and crassness may enjoy “Crossing Swords,” but those who don’t should give it a pass, according to critics, who seemed to like it a lot less than audiences

#9. Messiah

- Metascore: 46
- Release date: Jan. 1, 2020

In the Netflix series “Messiah,” a CIA agent played by Michelle Monaghan is recruited to help with the case of a man who travels around the world allegedly performing miracles. Critics say the show frustrates its audience by piquing interest and curiosity without ever offering a satisfying conclusion to anything. Netflix announced there would be no second season just a few months after the first season began streaming. 

#8. AJ and the Queen

- Metascore: 46
- Release date: Jan. 10, 2020

RuPaul Charles stars as a drag queen named Ruby Red who ends up with a 10-year-old stowaway in his RV in the comedy-drama “AJ and the Queen” on Netflix. Critics say the show, which was not renewed for a second season, was fun, but Salon critic Ashlie D. Stevens notes that “the series is riddled with scripting snags, potentially by virtue of trying to balance camp and commentary in hour-long episodes.”

#7. The Politician

- Metascore: 45
- Release date: June 19, 2020

Despite its creator being Ryan Murphy and featuring stars such as Bette Midler, Judith Light, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Ben Platt, Netflix’s second season of “The Politician” struggles to keep the attention of viewers. Critics say the show is filled with talking points that don’t go anywhere and a plot that seems pointless and shallow. A third season is planned, but not expected for a couple of years. 

#6. Too Hot to Handle

- Metascore: 43
- Release date: April 17, 2020

In this Netflix reality series, 10 single contestants are told that they can split $100,000 if they refrain from sexual contact with one another. While producers may have been wanting to do something different from the typical dating reality show, critics say this one fails on most accounts, pointing to its shallowness and lack of direction. 

#5. The Goop Lab with Gwyneth Paltrow

- Metascore: 40
- Release date: Jan. 24, 2020

Wellness topics, some unconventional, are explored in this Netflix series with Gwyneth Paltrow and her team at goop. Bloomberg critic Polly Mosendz compared the six-episode season to an infomercial, calling it a “three-hour-long pseudoscience marathon.” Despite the poor reception from many critics, “The Goop Lab with Gwyneth Paltrow” has been renewed for a second season. 

#4. Helstrom

- Metascore: 40
- Release date: Oct. 16, 2020

Based on Marvel comic characters, Daimon and Ana Helstrom use their gifts to deal with supernatural beings in this Hulu fantasy series. Unfortunately, “Helstrom” the series is very dissimilar to “Helstrom” the comic, according to critics, and the result is dull and creepy.

#3. Indebted

- Metascore: 36
- Release date: Feb. 6, 2020

In this NBC sitcom, grandparents played by Fran Drescher and Steven Weber show up broke at their son’s house and need to move in. The parents struggle with boundaries when it comes to their son and his young family. Boston Globe critic Matthew Gilbert says the show “feels more like the typical tossed-off network sitcom.” NBC canceled “Indebted” after its 12-episode first season. 

#2. The Duchess

- Metascore: 35
- Release date: Sept. 11, 2020

Netflix’s semi-autobiographical comedy series “The Duchess” follows a London-based single mother Katherine (comedian Katherine Ryan) as she considers having another child with her ex. Telegraph critic Michael Hogan says one of the frustrations with this show is that it feels like “there's a far better sitcom inside it, fighting to get out,” Hogan says despite its “intermittent killer lines,” it lacks “coherence and heart.”

#1. Hoops

- Metascore: 35
- Release date: Aug. 21, 2020

This Netflix animated series follows a foul-mouthed high school basketball coach, voiced by New Girls Jake Johnson. Rife with stereotypes, excessive cursing, and profanity, multiple critics said the show becomes exhausting to watch. IndieWires Ben Travers says, there’s no satire here, or anything beyond the surface-level ugliness. 

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