Prime-Time TV’s Biggest Animated Flops

The Simpsons has been airing for nearly 30 years. South Park has been going for 20. Family Guy has been going strong for well over a decade. But not every prime-time cartoon aimed at an audience of mostly adults has such longevity.

Fish Police

Based on a relatively obscure comic book, CBS debuted this show on Friday nights in 1992 to compete with ABC’s family-friendly “TGIF” lineup of sitcoms like Full House and Family Matters. Except that Fish Police wasn’t exactly for kids, as it was filled with double entendres and it’s an homage to old film nor movies. The action focus on a detective named Gil (the voice of John Ritter) as he tries to solve crimes in the cleverly titled Fish City. That was also a big part of Fish City—the fish jokes. Characters included Mayor Cod, Detective Catfish, and Chief Abalone. Only three episodes of the show aired—“The Shell Game,” “A Fish Out of Water,” and “Beauty’s Only Fin Deep”—before Fish Police went belly up.

The Goode Family

Mike Judge has a track record for making successful TV shows, particularly animated TV shows—he created and voiced main characters on Beavis & Butt-head and King of the Hill. He’s also behind HBO’s tech satire Silicon Valley, but in 2009 he had his only real TV flop of his career with The Goode Family. If King of the Hill poked gentle fun at conservatives, The Goode Family took aim at liberals, centering on a family that was into saving the environment and being political correct…while always wondering if they were going green and being sensitive enough. (They also a vegan dog, who rebelled by eating pets around the neighborhood.) The Goode Family just didn’t resonate and was cancelled after 13 episodes of not-very-goode ratings.

As the Wrench Turns

Even PBS once aired a primetime cartoons. Based on Car Talk, the popular National Public Radio call-in show about car advice hosted by brothers Tom “Click” Magliozzi and Ray “Clack” Magliozzi, As the Wrench Turns was an animated sitcom about the brothers’ wacky misadventures. In one episode, they outsource their radio show to India and it goes poorly; in another, the brothers build a car that runs on pasta. Guest stars included PBS and NPR favorites like Garrison Keillor and Jim Lehrer—in other words, this was a cartoon for people who probably didn’t watch a lot of cartoons. As the Wrench Turns aired over just five weeks in the summer of 2008 before it sputtered out.

Game Over

One of first computer-animated primetime cartoons was this show that aired on the now-defunct UPN in 2004. The premise: what video game characters do after the video games are turned off. Specifically, it followed a family called the Smashenburns—Dad was a driver in a racing game, Mom was a send-up of Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, and a family of kung fu fighters lived next door. Fans of video games seemed to prefer playing video games to watching a show about them, because it was game over for Game Over after five episodes.