Was the 1977-78 television season the worst ever?

These 13 duds support the argument.

Half of the television schedule, scrapped. By May 15, 1978, a whopping 45 of 96 shows had made the canceled list — and more cancelations were on the horizon. The casualties were reported in a syndicated news story that proclaimed, "TV's Worst Season Slowly Nearing an End." The TV listings were littered with sitcom corpses and dud dramas. Even celebrity vehicles like The Betty White Show, The Ted Knight Show and The Richard Pryor Show failed at the start.

ABC was sitting pretty with the top three shows on television — Laverne & Shirley, Happy Days and Three's Company — neatly bunched together on a blockbuster Tuesday night. With Love Boat, Fantasy Island and Soap, ABC could also claim some of the hottest new series. CHiPs and The Incredible Hulk clicked for CBS. But elsewhere, the debuts fizzled at an alarming rate.

Looking over the list of premieres from the 1977-78 season, it's a real Who's Who of "Huh?" Here are 13 unlucky busts. Did you watch any of them?

1. Mulligan's Stew


NBC quickly called a mulligan on this shank, the lowest rated new show of the season. Lawrence Pressman, perhaps best known as the boss doctor on Doogie Howser, M.D., played the patriarch of a very Eight Is Enough–ish family. Just six episodes were produced.

Image: CBS Television Distribution

2. Sam


Jack Webb was a TV giant, bringing pioneering realism to police and rescue procedurals like Dragnet, Adam-12 and Emergency! However, the K-9 unit would prove to be his Achilles heel. Mark Harmon, who had also featured in the backdoor pilot for an Emergency! spin-off titled "905-Wild," starred alongside a cute Labrador retriever named Sam. Six episodes were produced, the last of which contained the final screen appearance of Vivian Vance.

Image: NBCUniversal Television Distribution / markharmonfanwiki

3. San Pedro Beach Bums


Not long ago, we asked, "Do you remember the show San Pedro Beach Bums?" You answered with a resounding, "No." We can't blame you. The SoCal "bums" were an assorted handful of Sweathog-like characters — the tough guys, the ladies' man, the dweeb, etc. They were named Stuf, Dancer, Moose, Buddy and Boychick.

Top image: ABC / sitcomsonline

4. Quark


With Quark, Buck Henry looked to do to Star Trek and Star Wars what Get Smart did to the spy genre. (Mel Brooks would have far more success with Spaceballs.) The madcap adventures of a space garbageman, the sitcom featured sexy twins, a plant man, a disembodied head and a transgender engineer.

Image: Columbia Pictures Television

5. Sanford Arms


It's just like Sanford and Son! But without Sanford. And the son. Both Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson were nowhere to be found, as an old Army buddy of Fred Sanford takes over the property and runs a boarding house.

Image: Sony Pictures Television

6. Man From Atlantis


It's hunky Patrick Duffy! As (not technically) Aquaman. Actually, the undersea hero was closer to Namor, the Marvel legend. Marvel published seven issues of a Man from Atlantis comic, which almost matched the 13 episodes aired. Duffy did have a nice butterfly kick, though.

Image: Warner Bros. Television Distribution

7. The Oregon Trail


The educational computer game The Oregon Trail began to become a familiar school presence in 1974. What most children of the era will remember about the game is the familiar fate of "You have died of dysentery." That could explain why just six episodes of this Western aired on NBC. Or it could be because audiences had fallen out of love with Westerns.

Image: NBC / Universal Television

8. Young Dan'l Boone


Further evidence that the era of the television Western had ended was this CBS flop, which only managed to air a meager four episodes. Rugged Renaissance man and karate black belt Rick Moses played the titular pioneer.

Image: 20th Century Fox Television

9. Big Hawaii


Imagine Dallas set on a tropical island. Perhaps people were expecting more Hawaii Five-O.

Image: MGM Worldwide Television

10. Rafferty


Patrick McGoohan was famously known as the Prisoner, but he truly felt trapped in this medical drama. "A disaster ... the most miserable job I've ever done in my life ... a total frustration from start to finish," the actor later reflected.

Image: CBS Television Distribution

11. Logan's Run


The spin-off from the 1976 sci-fi film roped in D. C. Fontana and other vetern Star Trek writers, yet schedule changes lost any potential audience. The show's failure forced the Mego toy company to cancel plans for Logan's Run action figures.

Image: MGM Television

12. Operation Petticoat


Operation Petticoat was a hit comedy film in 1959 for Tony Curtis and Cary Grant, and Petticoat Junction was one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1960s. However, this was 1977, and the market was not hungry for more petticoats nor WWII humor. John Astin headlined, adding more nostalgic flair, while Tony's daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, offered a blood link to the original.

Image: ABC

13. We've Got Each Other


Beverly Archer, who would go on to play neighbor Iola Boylen on Mama's Family, starred in this sitcom about a working couple. Other TV vets such as Tom Poston and Joan Van Ark could not compensate for plots like "Stuart tries to become a professional magician."

Image: MTM Enterprises / CBS



The prior season had its busts, too. Can you say SzysznykREAD MORE

Top image: TV Guide 1976 Fall Preview / sitcomsonline

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JD401 29 months ago
I got hold of Rafferty on DVD... HORRIBLE picture quality but at least I can finally see what the show was like, and YES, McGoohan was right in saying it was a bad. A real shame, though...
racerboy 30 months ago
I was sad to see Rafferty disappear. McGoohan was my favorite actor thanks to The Prisoner, and episodes of Columbo. I loved his eccentric line readings.
Nightshade1972 30 months ago
The only one I actually remember is Man From Atlantis. My father and I would watch it together while my mother was at work.
JohnF 42 months ago
CHiPs was NBC.

Despite all these flops 77-78 was a powerhouse season. You’ve mentioned several of them in this article but there was also Six Million Dollar Man, Bionic Woman, Charlie’s Angels, Barney Miller, Hawaii 5-0, Columbo, The Jeffersons, Kojak, Quincy, Rockford Files and on and on. Any season that includes all of these shows - most of which were at their best - can’t be considered the worst of all time.
StephenGarvey 42 months ago
Quark was a lot of fun tho...at least as I remember it as an 11-year-old!
wanderer2575 65 months ago
Yeah, "Sanford and Sons" without Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson. Who was smokoing what when they thought this would work?
RedSamRackham 70 months ago
* Golly gee I liked Quark as a kind of sci-fi sitcom parody of Star Trek type shows. Those twin gals would never agree on which one was the clone. But the transgender character should've been played by 2 people with special camera effects. Yet those other shows were indeed most forgettable. ☺
VBartilucci RedSamRackham 30 months ago
Betty was the clone and Betty was the original - everybody knows that.
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