Each new year brings with it great hope and excitement. And with that great hope and excitement comes crippling, embarrassing disappointment. It’s with the utmost respect—in most cases—that we shame the movies, TV shows, musicians, and celebrities who dashed that great hope and excitement of ours this past year.
Maybe you’ve seen these movies and TV shows. (You probably didn’t—they did “bomb,” after all—and you should be thankful that you missed them.) Maybe you actually liked some of these albums that tanked. (And in that case you’re an insane person.) And maybe, like we are, you’re willing to give the detonators of 2014’s biggest pop-culture bombs a second chance at impressing us next year. Like we said: new year, new hope.
In any case, here’s our list of the biggest bombs, disappointments, and fails from the past year.
Transcendence was shot for $100 million. It made $23 million at the domestic box office. In its opening weekend the movie Heaven Is For Real (budget: $12 million) doubled its gross. Then again, it’s hard to argue that God is a bigger box-office draw these days than Johnny Depp.
The Expendables 3
There were essentially more people in The Expendables 3’s bloated cast—how they even fit all of them on the movie poster is still a mystery—than dollars the movie made at the box office. That’s an exaggeration. Barely. The film was made with a reported $90 million but imploded with a $39 million domestic gross. On top of that, it wasn’t even fun or campy like the franchise’s first film was. You could say it was—wait for it—expendable.
How I Met Your Mother Finale
Foolish fans of How I Met Your Mother weathered nine seasons of Ted Mosby’s insufferable dalliances, endless red herrings, and wild vacillation between top-notch sitcom writing and miserable, corny dreck. Their reward: what is possibly the most infuriating series finale of the new millennium. In the end, the entire series was a bait-and-switch. It wasn’t the mother that Ted was telling his kids about. Oh no, she died. His main preoccupation over these last nine years was mustering the courage to ask his kids for their blessing to bang their Aunt Robin. Classy.
The Lifetime Biopics Those wigs. That casting. That snooze. 2014 was the year that Lifetime tantalized us with the prospect of scandalous biopics of celebrities with tumultuous lives and tragic ends and TV movies exposing juicy behind-the-scenes drama of our precious childhood culture moments, only to instead produce a series of critically reviled bores. There was The Brittany Murphy Story, dubbed a “colossal mess” by reviewers. Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B was apparently “as bad as you expected it to be,” while Saved By the Bell: The Unauthorized Story, as we proclaimed it, was “just plain atrocious.”
Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” Live Vocals
There are few pleasures in the world more glorious than Mariah Carey singing. And there are few songs more wonderful to hear her sing than “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” So you’d understand the nationwide depression that developed after Carey’s rendition of the modern Christmas classic at this year’s Rockefeller Tree Lighting Ceremony sounded less like vintage Mariah belting powerhouse and more like alley cats being murdered in an echoing canyon. Things got worse for Mimi when isolated vocals of the performance leaked, raising the year’s most gutting question: has Mariah Carey lost her voice?
It had all the trappings of Cameron Diaz’s next There’s Something About Mary and Jason Segel’s next Forgetting Sarah Marshall. With their duel rom-com and raunch-com cred and a titillating premise—happily married couple accidentally leaks their own sex tape to their closest friends and co-workers—Sex Tape should’ve been the extended dirty joke we all really craved. Instead, it was superficially crass and, in turn, barely provocative. Not only did Sex Tape fail to get critics off, audiences weren’t turned on by it either: it only grossed $34 million at the domestic box office.
Kevin Costner was supposed to be having his comeback. The 2012 miniseries he co-starred in, Hatfields & McCoys, was a ratings blockbuster for the History channel. He won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance. Watch your back Liam Neeson, here comes Kevin Costner to steal your older-leading-man thunder! Or not. Draft Day, his Ivan Reitman-directed film about the NFL draft, grossed just $28 million at the domestic box office. His McG-directed thriller 3 Days to Kill grossed just $30 million. And the latest entry in the formerly blockbuster Jack Ryan franchise, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which he co-starred in, earned just $50 million, the worst-performing in the franchise’s history by a long shot.
Ostensibly, Utopia was to save reality television. Instead, it might have ruined it for good. Admirably ambitious in concept, Utopia was supposed to be the most aggressively voyeuristic reality series yet, a lavish $50 million production that would follow a group of strangers 24/7 for 12 months as they attempt to create a new society. The series lasted just two months, which, truthfully, longer than anyone should have been forced to spend with TV personalities as alternately boring and vile as the ones in Utopia.
When critics and advertisers started branding Mulaney the next Seinfeld, its affable star and creator, former SNL writer John Mulaney did a good amount of self-aware pushback. Just because he’s a skinny white guy interrupting his self-titled sitcom with stand-up sets discussing his cultural observations about—yep—nothing didn’t mean he was purporting to be next Seinfeld. Maybe it was the way that branding took on a life of its own. Maybe it was the gargantuan amount of good faith Fox put in the series before it even aired, giving it a full-season order out the gate. Or Maybe it was that it just was funny. Whatever it was, Mulaney was a ratings disaster for Fox, earning the distinction as one of the fall’s biggest TV flops.
Lily Allen’s Sheezus
You know how you know a comeback album is bad? The singer behind it admits it. Lily Allen explained away the poor sales and ho-hum critical reception to Sheezus by…basically blaming other people. And also her baby. “I put my trust in other people, which I don’t usually do,” she said. “I usually go with my own gut feeling but maybe I wasn’t feeling as confident as I have in the past because of all the hormones.” (Allen gave birth to her second daughter in January 2013.)
I Wanna Marry Harry
It’s already been reported heavily that Fox’s highly touted reality TV series was a ratings disaster. The biggest misfire here, though, was the notion that anyone would believe that this dude looked at all like Prince Harry.
A Million Ways to Die in the West
After the blockbuster success of Ted, which was as funny as it was profitable, expectations were high for A Million Ways to Die in the West, Seth MacFarlane’s star-studded follow up co-starring the likes of Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, and Neil Patrick Harris. But dear lord was this movie bad. With a paltry 33 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, all notions that MacFarlane was establishing himself to be something of a modern day Mel Brooks went out the window. Insult to injury, its $43 million gross was less than one-fifth of what Ted took in.
Jennifer Lopez’s A.K.A.
Jennifer Lopez is a peculiar pop-culture study. She is constantly relevant and never successful. She’s Hollywood’s biggest paradox. She’s always working—it’s just that nothing she’s worked on lately has done particularly well. American Idol is getting its worst ratings ever. None of her last five movies (with the exception of an Ice Age sequel she voiced) has grossed more than $50 million. And her latest album, A.K.A., on top of being woefully bland, sold a pathetic 30,000 copies in its first week. (To compare, Lana Del Rey sold over 100,000 copies that same week.) The confusing thing, however, is Lopez has never been hotter. The music video of “I Luh Ya Papi” was legitimately good and subversive, and “Booty” deserves to be as all over the radio as all of the thinkpieces about her butt in it are all over the Internet. And yet, her album was a bomb. A big, huge bomb.
The Family Guy/Simpsons Crossover
As TIME TV critic James Poniewozik wrote, “Introducing the Simpsons into a bloated episode of Family Guy was like having the Sistine Chapel repainted by the guy who draws Mallard Fillmore.”
Chris Rock’s SNL Episode
Chris Rock is killing his publicity tour right now. Top Five, to begin with, earned rave reviews. And in the lead up to its release Rock attempted the impossible—change Hollywood from within without alienating himself by brutally criticizing its antiquated flaws—and maybe even succeeded. It’s all been so glorious that we’re tempted to forgive and forget that despicable embarrassment that was his hosting stint on Saturday Night Live in December. Because holy hell was that bland, unfunny, uncomfortable, and just plain confusing. There are reports that Rock brought in his own writers for the gig, which would explain why the rest of the SNL cast seemed so stilted and unsure of the material. It’s rare that an episode Live From New York is so dead on arrival—especially from a comedian as seasoned in the halls of Studio 8H as Rock.
It’s the best thing that ever happened to Idina Menzel’s career—by evidence of the fact that the world know, unequivocally, knows her name—but it’s also one of the stupidest things to happen to John Travolta’s career. And lately, that’s saying a lot. It’s all legend now: Travolta was supposed to introduce Idina Menzel to sing “Let It Go” at the Oscars. He squints. He totally butchers her name. Gays around the world gasp. Idina Menzel, which doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue, becomes a household name, and Travolta is vilified.