The fridge pack (plus one): The unlucky 13 of the decade

“Chicagoland” was nothing more than an eight-hour infomercial for Rahm Emanuel and dragged the city into the mud.

There are flops, and then there are….flops. For every success in the most recent decade, there were products coming off so badly, you don’t know how the hell they were even conceived in the first place – you basically had to see it to believe it! If you thought the 2000s version of “The Dirty Dozen” were bad, they have nothing on this bunch as we have an insufferable mini-series about Rahm Emanuel, a radio station failing with TWO Spanish-language formats, two terrible local morning TV shows, and a program about couples having sex with each other in a box. Yes, you heard me – in a box.

Here are the 13 biggest blunders of the 2010s in Chicago media, television, and tech, ranked in no particular order:

– Chicagoland. No doubt the worst TV show of the entire decade by far, this eight-hour mini-series on CNN premiered in 2014 as some dubbed it an infomercial for then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The program documented crime in Chicago’s black neighborhoods and struggles at a local high school and made Emanuel come out smelling like guest-room soap. It was later revealed Emanuel actually manipulated the show with several scenes being edited out, including being booed at a basketball game. The show was a critical and ratings failure, and was nothing but an embarrassment to Chicago.

– Chicago: Not Your Kind Of Town if your name isn’t Dick Wolf.  While Dick Wolf and NBC made a successful franchise of Chicago based shows (Med, Fire, and P.D.), other shot-in-Chicago shows weren’t so lucky. CBS’ The Red Line and Fox’s Chicago Code and APB each suffered from terrible writing, poor plot structure, and mediocre acting, dooming each series after one season. In addition, a CBS reality-based dating show based in Chicago in 2012 called 3 didn’t even reach its third episode – it was canceled after only two.

– Inhumans. On paper, this couldn’t miss: Marvel has had success at the box office and this new ABC series could have been the next big television franchise. But a ridiculously unprepared presentation at both Comic-Con and the TCA Summer Press Tour and scathing reviews ended any hope ABC had for this show.

– SexBox. The official listing from The T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame: Um, WTF is this? A couple bang each other in a “box” on stage and tell about their “experience” to a psychologist in front of a studio audience in hopes to improve their “relationship”? Are you kidding me?” One of the most odious shows to ever air on TV, SexBox was demolished by the We network after only five episodes, five more than necessary.

Megyn Kelly was the $69 million-a-year mistake for NBC as she lasted all of two years.

– NBC hiring Megan Kelly. NBC lured Fox News personality Megan Kelly away in 2017 with a lucrative $69 million deal and handed her a prime-time newsmagazine show (canceled in August 2017) a daily 9 a.m. show, pushing out Al Roker and Tamron Hall in the process. The program was a total disaster in every way imaginable, botching interviews with Jane Fonda and the cast of Will & Grace. After making controversial comments about blackface on her show in October 2018, it was curtains for Megan Kelly Today – and her time at NBC.

– Monsters and Money In The Morning. In a desperate ploy to boost very low TV ratings in the early morning, CBS-owned WBBM-TV brought in former radio sports show hosts Mike North and Dan Jiggetts in early 2010 (both did a similar show called Monsters In The Morning for Comcast Sportsnet) and added financial expert Terry Savage and Mike Hedgeus. The show lasted all of six months as this blog noted at the timeit could be considered the biggest bomb in local television history”.

– Mancow Experience. In order to provide some first-run programming in a tough morning daypart, Fox-owned My Network TV affiliate WPWR (known as My50) signed shock jock Mancow Mueller to simulcast his syndicated radio show from the ground floor studios of sister station WFLD in 2012. Ratings for the show scored even lower than the reruns and infomercials it replaced – including a stretch in September 2014 where Mancow scored a landmark 0.0 Nielsen rating on numerous days. Surprisingly, Mancow’s show lasted two LONG years before the plug was pulled.

– CW 50 Chicago. In 2016, The CW shocked everyone by moving their affiliation in Chicago from Tribune’s WGN-TV to WPWR, marking the first time a Fox-owned station became a CW affiliate, rebranding as CW50. But continued low ratings overall and no social media presence (CW 50 didn’t even have a station website) led the network to shift their programming to Weigel’s WCIU after only three years as WPWR reverted back to “My 50”.

– 95.5 En Espanol. Turning to Chicago radio: In 2009, Clear Channel (now iHeartMedia) dumped WNUA’s Smooth Jazz format after 22 years for a Spanish-language CHR/Top 40 format branded Mega 95.5. Three years later, it switched to another Spanish-language format as El Patron, playing Regional Mexican music. Either way, WNUA couldn’t complete with heritage Spanish-language stations WOJO-FM and WLEY-FM, and in early 2015 returned to an English-language format as Country station Big 95.5 (WEBG-FM.)

– FM News 101.1. In 2011, newly-formed Merlin Media – run by Randy Michaels, decided to jump into the all-news game by launching “FM News” in New York City and Chicago, replacing heritage rocker WKQX-FM in the process. Merlin hired strong talent such as Rob Hart, Charlie Meyerson, and Monica DeSantis, among others. Unfortunately, FM News’ presentation left very little to be desired and due to very poor ratings, FM News wound up in the dust bin after eleven months. Alternative rock returned to the 101.1 frequency two years after FM News demise as 101 WKQX.

WNUA’s “Mega 95.5” was a mega flop so in 2012 it became something else that didn’t succeed.

– The Alliance of American Football (AAF). Unlike the XFL (which is making a comeback this year), the play in the AAF was actually well received and its first broadcast in prime-time on CBS was decently rated. However, the league quickly ran into financial problems after Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon took over operations and in April 2019, the league ceased operations after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in just two months of operation, without crowning a champion or even holding a single playoff game. Worse, the closure left many players on their own, reportedly forced to pay their own hotel and medical bills.

– The first version of Apple Maps. Turning to tech: to compete with Google Maps, Waze, and other mapping apps, Apple released their own version for their iOS devices in 2012. But it was filled with numerous errors (i.e. the Willis/Sears Tower was in the wrong location) and gave inaccurate directions (including turning onto railroad tracks.) It was so bad at one point, the police department in the Australian city of Mildura warned the public not to use Apple Maps because the mapping service showed Mildura…right in the middle of a national park 40 miles away where it was supposed to be.

– Playstation Vue. Hoping to cash in as cord-cutters were increasing in numbers, Sony launched Playstation Vue in 2015 after its namesake video gaming system as a cheaper over-the-top offering with live TV and a cable bundle for less than traditional providers such as Comcast and DirecTV. But Sony fell behind the curve as Hulu, Fubo, and Google’s YouTube TV were more successful in drawing more subscribers and moreover, lost the rights to carry Viacom’s networks and couldn’t strike content deals with other content providers. With an estimated 750,000 subscribers, Sony pulled the plug on Vue in October 2019 with the service shutting down January 30 of this year.

Runner Ups

– Wii U. Nintendo released this follow-up to the wildly successful Wii in 2012 and was their first gaming console in HD. But with a hard-to-use controller (which was actually a tablet) and the scarcity of games available, the Wii only sold 13 million units total and was discontinued in 2016. Nintendo can take solace in the success of Switch, which has sold over 35 million units worldwide to date.

– Work It. ABC premiered this show in 2012 about two men who were forced to cross-dress in order to keep their jobs. Terrible ratings and even worse reviews sunk this show after two episodes.

– Allen Gregory. This Fox animated series featured Jonah Hill as a seven year-old know it all, an unlikable character you would love to smash in the face. Even though it lasted seven episodes in 2011, it did lay the groundwork for a similar, live-action show now airing on CBS: Young Sheldon.

– Sinclair’s pursuit of Tribune Media. In 2017, Sinclair proposed a $4 billion purchase of Tribune Media – and tried to scam around FCC rules by intentionally undervaluing Tribune’s New York and Chicago stations, prompting the FCC to refer the matter to an administrative law judge, effectively killing the deal.  The Tribune stations were later sold to Nexstar.



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