10 TV Shows That Actually Benefited From Bad Acting

Twin Peaks' stilted, awkward acting only makes it that much weirder.

William Shatner Captain Kirk Star Trek

There's no denying that even a great script and sharp direction can be completely undermined by bad acting, be it from fundamentally miscast actors or genuinely terrible performers doing all the wrong things.

In a two-hour film this is one thing, but in an ongoing series which audiences will be tuning into for many hours and potentially even many years? In extreme cases it can be damaging enough to derail the entire show.

Yet sometimes bad acting can inexplicably be to a show's net-benefit, for one of several unexpected reasons.

Maybe a shameless overactor ends up charming the hell out of the audience, perhaps the wooden actor's lack of emotion accidentally informs their spaced-out character perfectly, or maybe their sloppy work only enhances the show's campy tone.

Whatever the reason, these 10 TV shows ended up benefitting from performances that, in isolation, are absolutely poor, and yet within the context of the wider TV series totally worked.

In each case the directors and showrunners seemingly knew what they had and leaned into it, in turn creating unforgettable characters and guilty pleasure shows alike that audiences couldn't look away from...

10. Star Trek: The Original Series

William Shatner Captain Kirk Star Trek

William Shatner's indelible performance as Star Trek's original Captain Kirk is iconic for many reasons, one being a certain Family Guy parody which introduced a whole new generation to his deliriously hammy work on The Original Series.

Shatner's time on Trek was defined by his larger-than-life turn in front of the camera, or if we want to be blunt, his blatant overacting.

Shatner left no piece of scenery unchewed throughout the series, his energy shifting unpredictably within scenes while also taking odd, unnatural pauses during dialogue.

Throw in his restless movements and hand gestures and it's clear that Shatner was always playing for the cheap seats, somewhat fitting given that he trained as a classical Shakespearean actor.

While most theatre actors rein in their projection for the small screen, Shatner continued to go big. In a different project it wouldn't necessarily work, yet in something as heightened as Star Trek it absolutely did, in large part because of Shatner's charming, unrelenting commitment.

Even in the weakest Trek episode, it was worth tuning in just to see Shatner's idiosyncratic line readings and wild gesticulations.


Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.