The Best Worst Thing

The floor is open. What are your nominations?
on Oct 9, 2019 · 3 comments

There is a happy phrase bandied about the Internet and, for all I know, in the real world as well: the best worst thing ever. The best worst thing is some piece of art – a song, a movie, a book, a show – that is absolutely terrible and yet somehow riveting. It is so bad it is almost, but not really, good. The Best Worst Thing will stay with you forever, long after the passably good has hopelessly faded. The Best Worst Thing makes you laugh, even if it’s that awkward giggle you do when something isn’t funny but it is. If you don’t laugh, it’s not the Best Worst Thing.

You all, I am sure, have some awful, unforgettable piece of art to nominate for the title. And you would all be wrong, for none of you has seen Finian’s Rainbow.

We all blame our parents for something. I blame mine for exposing me to this movie. I’m sure that, when they made the fateful decision, it seemed harmless. G-rated. 1960s. A musical. Keenan Wynn, an icon of the era. Frank Sinatra, an icon of an even older era. Also, leprechauns. How wrong can you go with leprechauns?

And so the family viewing of Finian’s Rainbow was duly initiated. I wandered into the event a few minutes late. Possibly I missed the best part of the movie, much like the entire eight thousand pages of Moby Dick is downhill from Call me Ishmael. At any rate, I was in time to catch the introduction of the central conflict: Finian had stolen the pot of gold from the rainbow’s end. A leprechaun is now stalking him to steal it back, because without the gold Ireland is doomed.

Admittedly, this is not high art. You might even question why Ireland is doomed without the gold, because if poverty could spell the end of Ireland, the Emerald Isle would have been swallowed by the sea the first century of the British occupation. Still, I can get behind a story about leprechauns chasing gold thieves across the Atlantic Ocean, I really can.

But that wasn’t the plot of the movie. I can’t tell you what was the plot of the movie. Nobody who saw it could. The movie had so little connection with itself. Every scene was a new movie, and every movie was worse than the last one.

I will let you in on something: I never intended to watch the movie, family event or no. My plan was to drop in for a few minutes, confirm that it was as lame as I expected, and then leave, happy with the knowledge that I was missing nothing. My expectations were low. The movie fell far, far beneath them. It got so bad that I simply could not leave; I had to see what they were going to do next.

It all seems like a dream now. Who was that girl who would randomly pop up and mince across the screen, like a mime, and somehow everyone would understand that she was talking about love or something? Did I really watch a love song that included, among other sequences, the happy couple chasing a small pig through grass? Did I really hear the ringing and unironic declaration, “If this isn’t love, my heart needs a plumber”? Did I really see Keenan Wynn in blackface?

No, I really think I did not. It all seems as impossible as a reality TV star becoming president of the United States. I must have dreamed it, and I hope to all that is sweet and pure in the world that I had a 102-degree fever when I did.

Clearly, Finian’s Rainbow never existed. On that technicality, it cannot win the title of Best Worst Thing Ever. So the floor is open. What are your nominations?

Shannon McDermott is an author of science fiction and has been occupied for years with constructing scenarios of the colonization of Mars. Her first Mars-centric novel will be released by Enclave Publishing in late 2024. Her earlier works include “Jack and I” (Once Upon a Future Time: Volume 2) and “The Fulcrum” (Hidden Histories: Third Flatiron Anthologies Spring/Summer 2019).
  1. Brenna says:

    For me: the pilot of the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman television show.

    I LOVED the recent Wonder Woman movie, so when my mother told me she had liked the Lynda Carter show growing up, I thought it would be fun to see a different take on the character– especially since there are people out there who gripe about Gal Gadot’s (phenomenal) performance and claim Lynda Carter was better. I figured if anyone was willing to take that stance, the show must have a lot of merit… and I figured that I loved the character so much, I’d enjoy watching anything that featured her.

    Oof, was I wrong. Where to start? With the oh-so laughable invisible jet special effect? With the ridiculously fake no-stakes “fight scenes?” The lingerie costumes? Or maybe Queen Hippolyta, one of the most grievous offenses… the majestic, fierce sovereign and lovingly protective mother of the 2017 movie here is a complete pushover played by the hammiest actress I’ve ever had the misfortune to watch. And don’t get me started on the mess the show made of Diana herself! Rather than being a compassionate, idealistic hero who wants to end war and bring peace to mankind, she’s motivated to leave Themyscira because she’s attracted to Steve Trevor. She responds with attitude when her mother forbids her from taking him back to the human world, disguises herself in a blonde wig to earn the appointment (during an incredibly cringe-worthy montage of the Amazon Olympics), and then says of her deception, “I did it for you, mother, because I love you so much.” Not only that, but she seems cold and arrogant in nearly all her interactions with people.

    All of this would have dragged down the episode’s quality plenty without the utterly terrible script– which features overt ’70s women’s-lib sermonizing and Hippolyta telling Diana “You will be Wonder Woman!”– the corny villains, and the parts of the plot that utterly destroy suspension of disbelief. For example, Diana, in an effort to earn money, performs on stage, showcasing her ability to block bullets with her cuffs. Meaning that the audience pays for the opportunity to shoot at a performer and/or watch others do so. Cue exaggerated raised eyebrows.

    Thing is, though, the show was so bad that it didn’t even make me angry. Instead, I giggled my way through it. If it had gotten some things right, or seemed to have some promise, then the missteps made might have bothered me, but as it was I could enjoy it for what it is… a laughably terrible television pilot and a wholly different portrayal of the Wonder Woman character. The theme song is pretty groovy and the actor for Steve Trevor actually did a decent job. So I humbly nominate Wonder Woman S1E1 as the “Best Worst Thing Ever.”

  2. You’ve obviously never seen Paint Your Wagon. It features Clint Eastwood singing “I Talk to the Trees.”

    (BTW, that’s Fred Astaire, not Ole Blue Eyes.)

    Kindly let me put in nomination Barney and the Backyard Gang, the original with Sandy Duncan as a mom pretending that a stuffed purple T. Rex really did interact with the children in her backyard. I was an assistant manager at a fast-food restaurant, generally on the closing shift. This show was an uninterrupted half-hour nap with my two-year-old riveted in her little recliner.

    This was before Veggie Tales. This version of the Purple One had an amateur, Sunday School earnestness that PBS later eviscerated by removing adults from the equation ( excepting the occasional fantasy character.)

  3. Travis Perry says:

    Plan 9 From Outer Space.

    Aliens plan to invade Earth by raising the dead. Full of long, boring, unbelievably bad dialogue, terrible special effects, and single scenes that flip from light to night to light in the same scene.

    So bad you will laugh hard and never forget the experience. Though most of the laughter comes after watching it, as if you’re glad you made it through alive…

What do you think?