The line between TV and film continues to blur with each passing year. Much of this has to do with the increasing sophistication of televised storytelling, but we mustn't forget the contribution of proper special effects in this equation as well. CGI used to be something almost exclusively reserved for the highest tech and advanced Hollywood blockbusters, but now even the most seemingly mundane TV dramas can use it to great effect.
That said, not every TV show manages to use CGI successfully. Even some seriously prestigious series have incorporated downright terrible special effects over the course of the last few years, and that's what we're here to focus on. We've compiled a list of awful CGI moments from some genuinely great TV series...and others. Check out our list, and let us know what you think of this laughably bad use of the filmmaking technology. We have plenty of examples to get to, so let's kick this list off with a superhero who has actually benefited greatly from advances in special effects in recent years.
The Flash's Speedster Fights
The Scarlet Speedster's series on The CW deserves a ton of credit for the fact that it makes The Flash seem like a real hero. Many of the CGI effects used on The Flash are great, but the slow-motion speedster fights are just downright awful. The show hasn't found a way to make Barry Allen NOT look like a man-shaped balloon while he tumbles against his enemies in slow motion, and it's one of the few areas where The Flash has consistently faltered in delivering strong special effects. How they made King Shark look better than the central hero, I will never know.
The Walking Dead's Deer
Though its walker-flavored gore and splatter are always top notch, AMC's The Walking Dead has showcased a few key examples of some pretty bad visual effects over the course of its seven seasons on the air. Arguably the most egregious and Twitter-inflaming example of bad CGI on the zombie series occurred during Season 7 when Rick Grimes came across a comically bad computer-generated deer while within a rundown carnival. It's a particularly bizarre moment for the series when we consider the fact that The Walking Dead has a long history of incorporating real animals and practical effects into these types of shots; I guess they just couldn't swing those deer handler fees.
Terra Nova's Dinos
When your entire series is predicated on the depiction of awesome prehistoric creatures, you better make damn sure that your dinosaurs look flawless. Sadly for Terra Nova, that simply wasn't the case. The short-lived sci-fi series framed itself with a uniquely engaging premise involving humanity colonizing the past in order to escape a dying future, but it was ultimately held back in part by the downright terrible computer effects that were used to create the show's central monsters. Stephen Spielberg may have innovated CGI dinosaurs with the original Jurassic Park, but these Fox-originated creatures clearly were not ready for the size and scale that a TV budget offers filmmakers.
Supernatural's Leviathan Monsters
Sam and Dean Winchester have faced off against a wide variety of demonic cretaures throughout their twelve seasons on the air. While most of these craetures have generally looked pretty good in their various incarnations, one particular type of monster stands out for being pretty awful looking: the Leviathan monsters introduced during Season 7. Although the basic pitch behind the overall creature design is a fairly interesting and cool concept, the execution of the Leviathan design leaves quite a bit to be desired. The effects involved in creating these "Chompers" is comically bad, and it really has the effect of taking the audience out of a moment that should be scary. Remember The Langoliers TV movie?
Ringer's Boat Scene
Ringer wasn't the most well-received show when it debuted back in 2011, and the mediocre reception ultimately led to a limited life span. However, the show's single season on the air did manage to give us one of the worst modern examples of green screen in recent history. The sequence in question is supposed to see two of the show's characters out on a boat staring over the water at the horizon. Instead, the entire scene looks like it was entirely shot indoors (because it was) and the plainly obvious green screen effect has gone on to become one of Ringer's most enduring legacies.
*Once Upon A Time's Creatures *
Once Upon A Time has easily become one of ABC's most popular shows for its inventive take on classic fairy tales and Disney stories. However, while the show is fun and thrives on its whimsical premise, that doesn't change the fact that it has consistently used some pretty poor CGI to create many of its characters and monsters since 2011. One could make a fairly easy argument that the clearly fake creatures (such as the above dragon) add to the overall charm of the series, but we simply have to include Once Upon A Time on this list for its lofty ambitions and its poor execution.
Pretty Little Liars' Capitol
Of all the entries on this list, this one stands out simply because of how wholly unnecessary it was. During a particularly notable scene during the Season 6 midseason premiere of the series, Spencer Hasting sits down on a bench outside of the U.S. Capitol in D.C.. Rather than film on location, Pretty Little Liars opted to use a green screen to project the iconic building behind the character. As you can very clearly tell from that photo: it didn't work. The shot received the ire of fans almost immediately, and viewers even demanded that the series reshoot the scene in order to fix it for future audiences.
The Entire Sharknado Franchise
Last but not least, we come to the king of all bad TV CGI: the endearingly terrible Sharknado franchise. Over the course of the entire made-for-TV series, the Sharknado films have lived and died by terrible special effects that don't even come close to portraying real sharks or real massacres. That said, unlike the rest of the entries on this list, it's pretty clear that the Sharknado TV films aren't trying to convince you that the sharks are real. They look like they're rendered for the graphics on a Playstation 2, and we wouldn't have it any other way. Never change, Sharknado; we love you for this.
What other bad uses of CGI on TV have stuck out to you over the years? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below! And don't forget to head to our midseason premiere schedule and our summer TV guide to find out what other shows could be delivering abysmal CGI in the future.
Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.
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