Sunday, December 18, 2011

The worst shows of 2011. . . a mixed bag of reality, fantasy and general fan apathy.

What sticks with you more, a good show or a bad show?

I don’t think there’s an easy answer to the question.

While I look back at ‘Lost’ and ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ with genuine fondness and emotion, I also remember Ozzy Osbourne – and rightly so -- breaking his neighbors’ window with a brick when they wouldn’t shut up. Hey, if my neighbors started singing ‘Michael Row Your Boat Ashore’ for no apparent reason – I’d probably do it, too.

As a rule, reality television could probably take all 10 slots on a “worst of” television list. I’ve tried not to let my reality hate overcome me as I do this list, however. Keep in mind, though, for every scripted television show that did happen to make the list, there’s a reality show I would be more than happy to substitute it out with.

So, here we go, the top ten worst shows of the year are:

10. Two and a Half Men: If I’m being honest, I wasn’t a big fan of the show before Charlie Sheen lost his marbles and left the highest rated sitcom currently on television. Winning! In addition, I’m actually not an Ashton Kutcher hater. I don’t think he’s going to win an Oscar any time soon, but he’s not as bad as most people make him out to be. That being said, this show is a mess. It’s only saving grace is John Cryer and, unfortunately, they’ve relegated him to buffoon status. Plus, show creator Chuck Lorre can’t seem to let his feud with Sheen go. Who would have thought Sheen would end up looking like the stable one in this whole mess?

9. Law and Order SVU: There are a lot of aging procedurals that could make the cut, but I opted for NBC’s only remaining ‘Law and Order’ franchise. I think ‘SVU’ had a good run. Twelve years is respectable for any show. So why NBC felt the need to push it and add a 13th season while dumping one of the biggest reasons you had 12 seasons in the first place – series star Christopher Meloni – is beyond me. The two new replacements aren’t bad, they were just unnecessary. I think NBC has said all they have to about perverts in NYC for the time being.

8. Big Love: I loved the first three seasons of this HBO show. I thought it was a realistic and believable program that actually made me sympathetic and curious about the Mormon faith. I mean, come on, who wasn’t curious how a guy kept up with three wives (turns out, it was Viagra). Then, out of nowhere, they decided to add creepy guys who want to create a race of people out of their own DNA and that of their sister (who have no fingernails mind you), a badly thought out murder and a leading man who lost any rooting value when he started mistreating his wives. When ‘Big Love’ was finally put out of its misery this year, thankfully it had a stellar final episode. Too bad its final two seasons were disappointing -- in 'principle' anyway.

7. Gossip Girl: This show was never really “best of” material to begin with. I will admit, however, that it was a guilty pleasure. Watching pretty people parade around Manhattan in designer clothes while backstabbing one another has a voyeuristic quality. Now in its fifth season, however, the show doesn’t seem so shiny and pretty anymore. Chace Crawford and Penn Badgley have actually proven themselves to be the most vacant male actors on the CW (and that’s saying something) while Blake Lively’s leading lady, Serena, is a flustered mess who never sticks with anything for more than two episodes. The show’s only saving grace is signature couple Chuck and Blair (played by Leighton Meester and Ed Westwick – who have managed to sustain their characters chemistry for a really long time now). Chuck and Blair are definitely magical, but they don’t have the power to save the entire show.

6. America’s Next Top Model: This show isn’t aimed at the great thinkers in the world. For me, I only watched it because I found something interesting about seeing a grown woman fall apart because she had to cut her hair, or pose over a hole in the floor. This past fall’s installment however – the All Stars segment – finally pushed me over the edge, though. Conspiracy theories abound about what really happened in the finale. So, what do we know? We know that there were three finalists, the popular Allison and Lisa and the loathed Angelea. We know that all three participated in the final runway walk and photo shoots. We were told that Angelea was ultimately disqualified because of something the show producers found out about her – requiring a hastily pasted together finale that was filmed months after the final fashion show. Internet gossip says that Angelea originally won before she was disqualified. If that’s true, show producers would have had a lot of explaining to do (especially since she was the weakest of the three finalists). As it is, keeping the reason Angelea was disqualified a secret only makes fans weary of the process. We were already weary of Tyra’s need for self promotion on the show. There’s nothing sadder than a former superstar who can’t cede the limelight to the next generation, Tyra.

5. Grimm: It took exactly two episodes before I loathed this show. As a general rule, I think show runners should realize that procedurals are a tired format that doesn’t engage viewers who like to think. So why, when the show was getting decent buzz, would NBC make a fantasy procedural? Given the popularity of ABC’s ‘Once Upon a Time,’ you would think 'Grimm' would be a slam dunk. Not only did NBC bury it on Friday nights – where it goes up against the cult fan bases of ‘Fringe’ and ‘Supernatural’ – but they also sucked any life out of the series by casting a listless leading man that gets overshadowed by the day players.

4. Grey’s Anatomy: The show was good – for about the first four seasons. It’s really not good anymore. I understand that ABC wants to suck the Nielsen marrow out of the show’s bones for as long as they can, but is turning the show into a shadow of its former self part of the plan as well? Justin Chambers and Sandra Oh are carrying the sudsy hospital program – but both should be able to move on to other shows and flex their acting muscles. As for the show’s purported star, Ellen Pompeo? As the worst crier in primetime, I suggest she move on to sitcoms.

3. Hawthorne: The good news is that this show has already been cancelled. The bad news? No one did it before I had to watch Jada Pinkett Smith and Marc Anthony sniff around each other like dogs in heat. Pinkett-Smith is a likeable actress with decent range, but Anthony can’t act his way out of a box of hair grease

2. The Playboy Club/Pan Am: So why did I group these two shows together? I think they suffer from the same syndrome. I think it’s called “We both want to be ‘Mad Men’ itis.” After AMC’s ‘Mad Men’ became a hit, everyone jumped on the period piece bandwagons in an effort to capture older American nostalgia. The difference is, ‘Mad Men’ has a talented cast and capable writers. While NBC has already cancelled ‘The Playboy Club’ the jury is still out on ABC’s ‘Pan Am.’ Given how expensive the show is, though, and its paltry ratings, I don’t think it will make it past the first season.

1. Keeping Up With the Kardashians: Since I couldn’t opt for every reality show on MTV and E!, I just went for the one getting the most press these days. My upcoming rant, though, can pretty much go for all of them. Since when does acting like an idiot mean you get millions of dollars and your own television show? When the Osbournes did it a decade ago on MTV, it was mindless fun because it was the exception, rather than the rule. Now, though, network executives seem to think everyone wants orange New Jerseyites and teenage moms to invade their screens. Here’s a hint: We don’t. As viewers, the success of ABC’s ‘Once Upon a Time’ and AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ should prove that television enthusiasts are hungry for scripted television – they just want it to be quality television. We would much rather watch zombies eat people while they are still alive – especially if it’s germane to the plot -- than try to imagine how Bruce Jenner manages to eat with his incredibly distracting plastic surgery.

And, as usual, what’s a list without honorable mentions? Here’s some other shows that are struggling this season, but I still believe can come out of there funks.

True Blood – What the heck was up with the fourth season? The writing was bad. Bad boy vampire Eric was completely neutered. Oh, and the central villain to the season was really boring. That being said, the finale’s final seconds had a great cliffhanger. Here’s hoping that Alan Ball can right this sinking ship.

Dexter – This show has had a good run and it has come back from a slump before – everyone thank the Trinity storyline for that. I don’t think the show has the legs to come back this time, though. How about a little dignity with death here?

Secret Circle – Since teenagers and vampires were making money hand over fist everywhere, it only made sense to try teenagers and witches. Too bad the CW’s ‘Secret Circle’ is more Secret deodorant ad than anything else.

How I Met Your Mother – Enough already. It’s time to meet the mother. While the show saved itself from making a monumental mistake by saddling Barney and Robin with a kid earlier this season – if they don’t introduce the show’s mother this year, I don’t think many more fans will be hanging around to see the ultimate reveal.

Criminal Minds – The show took a big risk last year by cutting costs and popular cast members AJ Cook and Paget Brewster. Ultimately, cutting Cook was a big mistake while cutting Brewster seemed to give the show new life. Instead of righting one of their wrongs and moving forward, though, CBS panicked at fan outrage and brought both actresses back. Now, the long-in-the-tooth series is kind of limping along without any boost in creativity and a cast that seems to be largely going through the motions.


Blogger George said...

I agree that procedural format is pretty dated and for the last decade has become devoid of intelligence and creativity. I love crime drama but most crime procedurals are lack luster. It's prevented the genre from being innovative and complex. There are so many barely one season done complex crime dramas that were not given a chance. Last spring The Chicago Code was the last attempt at that for Broadcast. Now FX Justified is TV reigning king of Crime drama.

Grimm has not become Game Changer just yet or as engrossing as shows like Buffy or Lost. It has improved slightly though. The Character of Monroe has gotten a mythology boost in the last two episodes.

December 19, 2011 at 8:00 PM 
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Blogger A. said...

Cutting Paget Brewster was the worst decision CBS ever made. Yes, cutting Cook was also a devastating decision, but her character, JJ, did not bring the multitude of emotions and capabilities that Brewster's character, Prentiss, was able to. Even up until her last episode, Brewster's role as Prentiss was absolutely flawless. Her comedic timing, chemistry with the cast has been visible since season 2, but season 6 allowed the audience to delve further into her mysterious past, and she played that role impeccably. Her scene with Garcia (both in the washroom, and listening to the phone voicemail) allowed her to demonstrate her strong range of emotions; she is also a superb dramatic actress.

I think cutting Paget Brewster showed CBS exactly what they were missing. Her character is one of the most complex within the show, and there is still a lot that can be explored.

I believe that cutting Brewster perhaps seemed to give the strong a new life in the sense that her last few episodes saved the further episodes without her. During her three-episode arc, Paget's performance invigorated the show and she left with a bang, leaving numerous possibilities that could be explored following her departure.

However, if you mean that cutting gave new life to the show, as in it was a good decision, then I would have to strongly disagree that cutting Paget gave the show new life; if anything it showed the audience the lack of life that show had without her. Prentiss is a character that has developed a friendship with every other character, and for each character she plays a different role (e.g. she has a sisterly bond with JJ and Garcia, a sibling-like relationship with Morgan and Reid, and a father-daughter with Rossi etc.) She really connects the team and fits in so well that it's hard to believe the character only came in season 2. Emily is an integral part of the team, and the only female profile (until JJ suddenly became one in Season 7, which I still find portrayed unnaturally). Not only was she a strong female role model who showed girls that there can be beautiful women who are also strong and intelligent (you don't see many of them on TV these days), she brought a special quality to Criminal Minds.

Yes, cutting Cook was horrible, but cutting Paget Brewster was tremendously even more disastrous. The only "good" thing that came from cutting her, was CBS realizing that they never should have done it in the first place. Thankfully, both ladies returned.

Nevertheless, Season 7 has been mediocre in my perspective. The season premiere and the latest "True Genius" appear to have reconnected with the show's original roots, and the 150th episode written by the wonderful Breen looks like it will be another memorable one!

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