Monday, June 25, 2012

TV Year In Review, Part I

Another season of television is in the books, and I'm sure everyone is waiting with bated breath to know my take on the year's finest programming.  I can picture everyone turning off their televisions and saying, "Well, I guess that was okay, but I can't form my own thoughts until I hear what Mark says."  My god, do I ever have an inflated view of my own opinions.

Of the 33 shows I regularly watched over the past year, I've divided them into three subgroups, and we'll start today's entry with the least of the lot.  Pretty sure Marketing 101 states to not lead with your weakest material first, so it may be a poor idea for keeping blog readers interested by saying, "Hey, these shows all sucked, but stick around to find out about the good stuff!"  Then again, perhaps I'm intentionally making bad scheduling decisions as a tribute to NBC.  The world may never know.

Not even I can watch everything, so here's the list of shows I haven't yet watched (or may never get around to watching) and thus they won't be appearing on any of the three lists….Awake, Big Bang Theory, Boardwalk Empire, Boss, Downton Abbey, Game Of Thrones, House Of Lies, Justified, The Killing, The League, Parenthood, Revenge, Shameless, Southland, South Park.

Onto the crap!

33. Dexter
Already ranted last January about Dexter's terrible sixth season, and lo & behold, it ended up being the worst thing I saw on TV this year.  Great.  And, I'm locked into watching next season simply to see how the cliffhanger possibly resolves itself.  Double great.

32. Don't Trust The Bitch In Apartment 23
I gave it only four episodes so if DTTBIA23 ends up finding its feet and becoming a comedy classic, I'll give it another shot.  But yeah, there wasn't much to those first four eps.  The 'star plays goofy version of themselves' trope can probably be officially called a cliche now that even James Van Der Beek is getting in on the action.

31. The Office
It almost seemed like the Office was getting its fastball back during the 'half the group goes to Florida' story arc, which was pretty funny and a clever way of freshening things up.  But overall, as feared, the show essentially fell apart without Steve Carell.  Andy Bernard isn't a strong enough character to serve as the anchor, STIILL nobody cares about the Andy/Erin relationship, James Spader ended up being a complete dud as Robert California, the usually funny Catherine Tate brought nothing to the table as Nellie, we got the news that Mindy Kaling is leaving for her own FOX show, Paul "Toby" Lieberstein is leaving as showrunner and apparently Rainn Wilson may be leaving as well for a Dwight spinoff.

So aside from that, good season?  My only hope for next year is that the legendary Greg Daniels (returning as showrunner) breathes new life into this old warhorse before we have to take it behind the barn at Schrute Farms.  In terms of pure quality, Office should be a few more slots higher on this list, but it's dropped this low out of sheer disappointment.

30. The Cleveland Show
29. Family Guy

Same old, same old.  FG goes a bit higher since I guess I have a bit more long-term affection for the characters.  Of note, Family Guy aired some of the series' worst-ever episodes within its first 5-6 airings this season before righting the ship somewhat and returning to its usual "elevated hit-and-miss" ranking.

28. Amazing Race 20
I'll cover this one as part of the entry for TAR19, which unfortunately is coming up pretty soon

27. Up All Night
Christina Applegate and Will Arnett have fantastic chemistry, and I think "spoof of a low-rent Oprah" might finally be the role that Maya Rudolph is fit to play.  Other than that, not much to see here.  Question for actual parents: do you find shows about the difficulties of parenting to be as tiresome and I do?  Do I need to procreate to enjoy 'Up All Night' more?  It's a pretty big commitment to make for a program, but geez, if I can tattoo a jail's blueprints on my back as a living tribute to Prison Break, I can surely generate a kid.  Check back in nine months for my glowing review of Up All Night S2.

26. Survivor: South Pacific
It had a quality winner, but this was not an interesting Survivor series.  The bright side is that the producers seem to have scrapped the brutal 'redemption island' gimmick.  Let's hope that for the next season (which will feature three returning players who had to originally leave due to injury) that the producers also learn their lesson about not giving the returnees 90% of the camera time.

25. Amazing Race 19
So yeah, the two Amazing Races.  It's hard to have a 'bad' TAR since the show's gimmick is so interesting and if all else fails, at least you get to see some lovely scenery.  This year's two editions were both pretty lacklustre, however, with mostly uninteresting teams, winners that were hard to get behind and a number of somewhat repetitive challenges.  I'm still all-in on Amazing Race but the producers need to pick up the pace on casting.

24. The UK Apprentice
Whereas TAR's basic premise is still watertight, UK Apprentice's premise shift to "Lord Sugar invests in the winner's business plan" may have irreparably damaged the show.  As I noted last summer about the seventh season, you don't actually hear anything about the candidates' business plans until the very last episode, and without this information, you're not getting a full sense of why Sugar is firing people.  This problem really continued in the eighth season, when virtually none of the candidates stood out during the tasks, making them even more irrelevant than ever.  I can understand the real-world reason why the premise was changed (apparently none of the 'Apprentices' actually stayed employed with Sugar for very long, so Sugar wanted to make the prize more relevant) but it doesn't translate to great TV.  Sure, I realize it's a reality show and is all hogwash anyway, but at least let me buy into the conceit.  Otherwise, I'm just watching a London travelogue….admittedly, that's not a bad thing in itself, but still, c'mon, Lord Sugar.  Don't turn into a Trump.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the current Office writers just don't know how to write new lead characters. When they introduce a new lead character each writer puts their own spin on the character for the episode they write so there is little continuity from one episode to the next. Robert California changed drastically from one episode to the next. James Spader was probably getting seasick from the way his character's personality bounced around from one episode to the next.

If they don't get the writers working together to produce characters that hold true from one episode to the next they might as well just throw in the towel right now! I loved The Office and I love James Spader, but I now wish he had skipped doing this show because they gave him crap to work with...I pity any other new actor who gives this show a try if they don't correct the writing issues.