Friday, December 13, 2013

Year End 2013: A great year for TV still has some black marks

Year end caveat: I watch TV. Some shows I like. Some shows I don't. You might disagree. That's okay. Some good shows I don't watch or haven't caught up on. They won't be on my top 20 list. Some shows are too bad for me to even bother with. They won't be on my worst of list. Some shows I love ("30 Rock") didn't air long enough in the calendar year for me seriously consider giving them a spot in a very, very good year for television. I hope I'm not offending you. We cool? Cool.

I think last year I got a little carried away with my "worst of" list, so this year I've made a conscious effort to cut down what I think were the 10 worst/most disappointing shows I watched (even if only briefly, but left a lasting bad impression). The list is unranked, presented only in alphabetical order, because even someone as cynical as I feels no need to spend any more time determining which of these shows is worse than any others.

Snark after the break...


While there are no rankings in my 10 worst shows of the year, “Dads” (which I somehow stuck with for three episodes) easily made for my most unpleasant viewing experience of 2013. Yes, it’s ridiculously offensive on a number of levels and egregiously unfunny all the same. But two things in particular really baffle me about this show: one, it really did look like amateur hour in every poorly framed shot, oddly paced scene, and randomly inconsistent scene transition – if this hadn’t come from people who previously worked on Seth MacFarlane shows (albeit, not live action ones), I probably would have imagined the creators walking into “The Big Time Hollywood Talking Picture Store” and buying a “My First TV Show” kit. Second, I was never able to watch “Dads” without thinking, “Isn’t this exactly the kind of boring, stupid show that people who wrote for ‘Family Guy,’ ‘American Dad,’ and ‘The Cleveland Show’ would have hated and mocked to no end?”

Do No Harm 

When it comes to “worst of” lists, some critics try to play fair and only include shows they watched every episode of. Fortunately, only two episodes of “Dr. Face Hands” ended up airing on NBC and I consider watching one of them to be a passing grade on my part. Oh “Do No Harm,” perhaps the most ridiculous show this past winter’s “crazy awful network genre show extravaganza” offered up. Every night at 8:25, he becomes...some guy who’s kind of a partying creep? Who also got to deliver the pilot’s insane closing line, telling a small child to watch out for his stuffed monkey because “monkeys have been known to eat their young”? WHAT?!

The Following 

Hmm. On second thought, maybe this was my most unpleasant viewing experience of 2013, because boy, did two episodes of “The Following” make me feel terrible. Here’s “The Following” translated into the intended reaction of the viewer: “Who’s this person? Hope they don’t die, I guess, even though I have no reason to care about them. Well maybe we’ll start to learn—oops, they’ve been murdered in an unsettlingly gruesome fashion. Wait a minute – the killer was YOU?! But you were one of the good ones!” “The Following” was lazy, unimaginative garbage that didn’t give a damn what it did to anyone on it. As a result, its relentlessly disturbing violence was completely empty and perfunctory. And trying to make the show seem "intelligent" with such deep, esoteric Edgar Allen Poe references as “Quoth the raven, nevermore” only led to embarrassing spiels of faux academia in which serial killer Joe Carroll was said to be “speaking to [his followers] through Gothic romanticism” and taking advantage of “the pathology to today’s Internet techno-bred minds”. Which, if you weren’t aware, has “created a new vacancy in our humanity”. So bad, I committed it to memory.


Look, “Glee” is “Glee”. It’s dumb, schizophrenic, lazy, and self-indulgent to ridiculous extremes. This is well established and there really shouldn’t be any reason for me to put this back on my “worst of” list. But “Glee” insists on scraping the bottom of the TV barrel again and again, this year with a genuinely offensive “school shooting” episode, which was not actually a school shooting but rather an attempt to wring emotions out of viewers through the tears of young people who repeat over and over how much they love the glee club and that its members are their family. And so I will insist on pointing out exactly how bad “Glee” can still be, even if no one pays it any attention anymore. Special subtraction to Sue Sylvester claiming there was no lesson to be learned from the death of Finn Hudson – on a night when the line between that character and the actor who played him was very blurry, there is absolutely a lesson to be learned from what happened to Cory Monteith.

How I Met Your Mother 

I have nothing new to say about the excruciating shell game “How I Met Your Mother” has become these last few years. Somehow, though, I left it off last year’s “worst of" list. I’m not going to rehash the show’s larger issues (I’ve already done that here), but specifically in 2013, “HIMYM” decided to use a 56-hour wedding weekend between two characters who are completely unlikeable and ill-suited for each other as the primarily location for its final season. Creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas claimed it would be a sparingly used framing device to tell stories about Ted and the mother in the future, and to fill in blanks from the past. Instead, the mother was left out of at least five consecutive episodes (and most of the show’s run this fall) in favor of stupid, unfunny, out-of-character wackiness at the Farhampton Inn. While the show frustrates me enough in given episodes that I still threaten to quit on it this close to the end, I started and I’m finishing. 12 more episodes and “HIMYM” is done. Then, I will pretend “How I Met Your Dad” doesn’t exist and in ten years I’ll revisit some of the show’s good early episodes and also pretend that the show was cancelled after season 2 so “The Class” could begin a long and storied run on CBS.

The Million Second Quiz 

You will find fewer people more forgiving of a fairly weak game show than I. But I would have had to at least understand how “The Million Second Quiz” was played before I could have ever considered liking it. With half the game played out on second screens, NBC forgot to put any thought into making the first screen an enjoyable experience with any continuity. It’s as if the conversation at the network played out like this: “You know what would be an awesome game show?” “All big money, suspense-driven game shows from the last 15 years combined into one Frankensteined trivia battle?” “That’s what I was gonna say! Do you think the contestants should sleep in weird futuristic sleep pods in the middle of Manhattan sponsored by Subway, rather than us not being cheapskates and offering proper hotel accommodations with bathing facilities and any sense of privacy?” “Duh, what do you think?” In trying to create a game that would be all things to all people, “The Million Second Quiz” became a game that was nothing to no one.

Modern Family 

I’m not a fan of “Modern Family” anymore, which began with some creative drive behind it that went missing in its second season. But even if I was a fan, I hope I would be perceptive enough to realize that 2013, particularly the fall run, has been a down year for the show. It continues to use recurring guest stars like Fred Willard, Rob Riggle, and Nathan Lane as crutches, and they’re almost as transparent of walking joke machines as the regulars. Trying to write characters that are funny people is really dangerous, and the creators of “Out of Practice” and “Back To You” just aren’t up to the challenge. If “Modern Family” were a three wall, multi-camera sitcom shot in front of an audience, I would probably be much more forgiving of it. But in its actual, basically nonsensical format, it feels like it’s trying to pull one over on me. I’m still watching, but really not sure why other than the show only requiring 20 minutes of my week. It will take a pretty significant creative resurgence to keep me with the show next season, and nothing the show has done for the last few years gives me any reason to expect that will happen.

Ready for Love 

You know what’s wrong with dating? Girls. Dumb girls, man. Thankfully, we had “Ready for Love” to point that out to us. When relationships fail, it’s never the man’s fault. Men are perfect, and now it’s up to women to rise to their level. They needed some help though, so relationship experts were brought in to remind the women not to be bitches, because men won’t like them. In the world of courtship according to “Ready for Love,” men are prizes that women must vie for. Rounding out this disgusting, misogynistic mess was a competition format, involving elevators raising women up and down almost as if props in a showroom (which would make them...objects...huh), that made about as much sense as the rules of “The Million Second Quiz”. In a world where torture porn like “The Following” succeeds, I was very pleased to see the rather large audience for “The Voice” soundly reject this form of emotional torture porn. And if I were Donald Trump watching this show nine years after hiring host Bill Rancic as my first “Apprentice,” I would have wished I’d hired Kwame instead. It was all Omarosa’s fault anyway!!! #KwameGotScrewed

The Walking Dead 

Since I couldn’t wait to express my disappointment with last week’s mid-season finale, I explained here why I really don’t like this show anymore, and why I’m finally done.

Under the Dome 

I can’t remember the last time a show like this fell so easily into the trap of “we can do anything we want if our characters are just complete idiots”. When a giant glass dome drops onto your town and you have neither any idea why it happened nor any way to contact the outside world, you’d think there would be mass panic over how to ration a limited food supply and conserve vital supplies. Instead, it was almost as if business went on as usual, with the dome only amplifying melodramatic stories (don’t get me started on Junior kidnapping the girl and keeping her in the bomb shelter) that, again, don’t make any sense considering in theory, the entire world has changed for these people. “Under the Dome” is entirely shiny objects being dangled in front of a good show that might actually deal with the problems of being randomly detached from society at large. But the issues of society at large are perhaps the last thing this show is concerned with.

Monday: The best of the best in an outstanding year for television