1. Work It, ABC It was Bosom Buddies without the fun and without the talent of a Tom Hanks or a Peter Scolari. Actually, you'd think in these more enlightened, transgender-friendly times, someone could come up with an intriguing TV show about men passing as, and reveling in becoming, women. But this was the year's most pointless new show.
2. Animal Practice, NBC Justin Kirk and JoAnna Garcia Swisher didn't deserve to be stuck doing these tedious monkeyshines. Promoted by NBC as though it knew that the network's only shot at success was to make a star out of Crystal, who played monkey medical assistant Dr. Rizzo, Animal Practice was 2012's silliest botch.
3. Anger Management, FX After his "Winning!" tour in 2011, Charlie Sheen made a thudding return to television this year as a womanizing therapist on a show designed to surround him with amusing eccentrics. It didn't work, but no matter some mixture of curiosity and fondness for Sheen's previous work attracted sufficient ratings for FX to commit to 90 episodes, although I doubt I'll ever watch another.
4. House of Lies, Showtime It's easy to pick shows that were worse than Lies 2 Broke Girls and Kourtney & Kim Take New York, for example but the squandered promise of this production is what lands it on the list. How could a show with such a talented cast be so boring? When you take performers as beguiling as Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell, and Ben Schwartz and turn them all into smug, oily management consultants, that's a bit of an artistic crime.
5. American Idol Season Finale, Fox A fitting end to a lousy season: tedious judging, little suspense, and a fine-grade-sandpaper-voiced winner in Phillip Phillips, who was also, unfortunately, very bland.
IN MEMORIAM Dozens of shows died or rather, were mercy-killed in 2012. Here, we commemorate some of the year's most short-lived series by noting when they left us, and how many episodes they aired. Pan Am ABC, Feb. 19, 14 episodes Rob CBS, March 1, 8 episodes A Gifted Man CBS, March 2, 16 episodes The River ABC, March 20, 8 episodes I Hate My Teenage Daughter FOX, March 20, 7 episodes Alcatraz FOX, March 26, 13 episodes Are You There, Chelsea? NBC, March 28, 12 episodes Ringer THE CW, April 17, 22 episodes GCB ABC, May 6, 10 episodes The Secret Circle THE CW, May 10, 22 episodes The Finder FOX, May 11, 13 episodes Missing ABC, May 17, 10 episodes Awake NBC, May 24, 13 episodes The Firm NBC, July 14, 22 episodes NYC 22 CBS, Aug. 11, 13 episodes Boss STARZ, OCT. 19, 18 episodes Animal Practice NBC, Oct. 24, 6 episodes Partners CBS, Nov. 12, 13 episodes