By the usual standards of excellence, you wouldn’t find the goofy TGIF legend Perfect Strangers, which premiered 30 years ago this week, on anyone’s list of great TV shows. Indeed, some might call it bad. But here’s the thing about “bad”: it has degrees, gradations, nuances within its definition. A series may suffer from uneven writing, absurd plotting, overacting (or all three) — but one function of TV is to provide comfort and escapism, and by those measures, our list of the 30 Best Bad Shows of the Last 30 Years is a hall of fame of some of the warmest, most blissfully enjoyable shows millions of people have ever enjoyed. And so as you read our nominees and our little hymns to their longevity in our hearts during this week-long countdown, bear in mind a couple of things. These are not shows that we “hate-watch”— we love the way they make us feel. And these are not “guilty pleasures” — there can be no guilt, if a show gives you pleasure. Which is what each and every show on this list does for an awful lot of people. See which ones make you smile at the memory of them.
30. Criminal Minds (Sept. 2005-present, CBS)
Why It’s So Excellently Bad: The most common knock on the show is its gruesomeness — and that’s coming from the drama’s first lead, Mandy Patinkin. “I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year,” he said. But that’s kind of the point. If SVU is a thriller, Criminal Minds is a horror film — dredging up our worst nightmares, cutting them down to 42 minutes, and allowing us to share them with our BAU family.
Signature Moment: There are plenty of classic episodes: “Uncanny Valley,” where the killer turns women into living dolls, and “Masterpiece,” featuring Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander as a killer obsessed with the Golden Ratio, to name two. But the real signature moment is the first time Morgan calls Garcia “baby girl.” It sounds dismissive, even rude, but between the two of them, they turn it into something sweet. It’s a camaraderie, a platonic love that grounds the darkness around them with a humanity for the rest of the series.
Where You Can Watch It: The first 10 seasons are on Netflix; the latest season is at CBS.com. —Robert Chan
29. Animal Practice (Aug.-Oct. 2012, NBC)
Why It’s So Excellently Bad: Justin Kirk as a vet who’s bad with people and JoAnna Garcia as his former love, both fine actors upstaged by Crystal the Monkey, who plays Dr. Rizzo? What’s not to wince over? Believe it or not, there are some laughs, as suggested by the presence of Community’s producers Anthony and Joe Russo, as well as Crystal, who played that show’s Annie’s Boobs.
Signature Moment: Kirk to monkey: “Dr. Rizzo, scrub in.”
Where You Can Watch It: In your dreams… (or Amazon and iTunes). —Ken Tucker
28. Harper’s Island (April-July 2009, CBS)
Why It’s So Excellently Bad: A dime-store horror novel come to life, Harper’s Island did exactly what it promised: Killed nearly every single character over 13 episodes — all unfortunate souls who traveled to the titular locale for the Destination Wedding From Hell — in comically lurid ways. The final reveal was deliciously fiendish (SPOILER): One-half of the serial killing duo was super-sweet bridegroom Henry, played by perennial TV nice guy Christopher Gorham.
Signature moment: When Harry Hamlin’s Uncle Marty falls partway through a rotting footbridge — and then gets sawed in half by a chainsaw — in episode one. (Gorham agrees: Read our Q&A about his time on the show.)
Where You Can Watch It: Amazon. —Kristen Baldwin
27. Life As We Know It (Oct. 2004-Jan. 2005, ABC)
Why It’s So Excellently Bad: A grab-bag of elements lifted from past teen dramas — from Degrassi High to Dawson’s Creek and The Breakfast Club to American Pie — there isn’t an original bone in Life As We Know It’s body. And the series recognizes that, merrily ticking off all the requisite high school boxes. Handsome jock with a low sense of self-worth? Check. Geeky guy who worries his girlfriend is too cool for him? Check. Teacher/student affair? Big ol’ check. After a while, Life’s blatant thievery becomes part of the fun, as you sit there wondering which iconic show and/or movie the writers are going to rip off next. And then there are the hilariously mismatched romantic pairings, like poor Kelly Osbourne trying to strike sparks with a clearly disinterested Chris Lowell, or the glamorous Marguerite Moreau throwing herself at Jon Foster, who was 20 years old at the time but looks barely-shaving age. It’s only appropriate that a series about the most awkward time in a person’s life would be so goofily awkward.
Signature Moment: The first eight minutes of the pilot perfectly showcase the series’ strident derivativeness, right down to the main characters directly addressing the camera with supposedly revealing but actually embarrassing monologues.
Where You Can Watch It: All 13 episodes — including two that never aired on ABC — are available on a complete series DVD set. —Ethan Alter
26. Zoo (June 2015-present, CBS)
Why It’s So Excellently Bad: Based on a James Patterson bestseller about animals turning on humans worldwide, Zoo is a perfect summer show: it places an extremely likable cast — led by James Wolk and Billy Burke, playing two of the folks out to save mankind through science that always seems to be either too simple or too complicated — in increasingly ridiculous situations that no one should survive. The producers get bonus points for bringing on alums of their old show October Road to kill them off.
Signature Moment: While we’ll always remember that time a bear followed a French woman from room-to-room in her home undetected, it has to be the death of Ray (guest star Warren Christie). Spoiler alert: As we recapped at the time, Ray was cocky enough to venture into the woods alone with a tranquilizer gun after the team arrived in Zambia to search for a leopard whose stem cells could be combined with the “mother cell” to make an antidote. Ray returned to deliver the immortal line, “Nothing there. Looks like we live to die another day” — just as a leopard pounced on him.
Where You Can Watch It: Season 1 is streaming on Netflix, so there’s time to catch up before Season 2 begins June 28. —Mandi Bierly
25. Out of This World (1987-’91, Syndicated)
Why It’s So Excellently Bad: The show is based on a pretty ridiculous premise — an alien named Troy fathered a daughter with a human woman. That girl, Evie (Maureen Flannigan), starts to exhibit superpowers on her 13th birthday, including the ability to stop time by pushing her fingers together. Nearly every episode is about Evie messing things up with her powers, then fixing them. The weird cast of characters includes Uncle Beano, the clueless town mayor, and the costume-loving Buzz, who manages a diet clinic. Oh, and there’s Evie’s dad (voiced by Burt Reynolds), who talks to her through a glass cube.
Signature Moment: Who could resist the catchy theme song, which was an adaptation of the Oscar-winning tune “Swinging on a Star.” Hear it in the clip above, though be warned, you’ll be humming it all day.
Where You Can Watch It: If you speak German, Amazon has Season 1 on DVD. Otherwise, a devoted fan has put all four seasons on YouTube. —Kelly Woo
Come back to Yahoo TV on Tuesday, when the countdown continues with #24-19.