Friday, December 21, 2007

Sepinwall on TV: The dishonor roll (aka Happy Festivus!)

Today's column, as promised, is the annual Festivus list of TV disappointments:
Festivus is two days away, everyone! Are you ready for the Feats of Strength?

I traditionally avoid writing a list of the year's worst shows, because a sense of journalistic pride would require me to expose myself to enough bad TV to say with authority why "The Hills" is worse than "Rock of Love" (or vice versa). Instead, taking a page from the alterna-holiday created by choleric "Seinfeld" dad Frank Costanza (and/or by "Seinfeld" writer Daniel O'Keefe's dad), I like to gather my TV friends around the aluminum pole to explain how they've disappointed me over the past year.

So keep in mind that Festivus isn't over until you pin your father, and let's get with the guilt trips:
To read the full thing, click here. Top 10 and related stuff coming up next Friday. (The Ledger feature section devotes the final week of the year to every critics' Top 10 list, with me and our film critic traditionally going on the last day.)

30 comments:

jcpbmg said...

nice list alan, i like that you didn't hold back with regards to shonda and the disaster that has become greys (and private practice).

it would hav ebeen nice if you placed the emmy/golden globe voters on that list for continuing to snub Chandler/Britton (and really the entire FNL crew).

also I'm surprised sorkin didn't make the list since the last few episodes of S60 did air in this calendar year

Alex R said...

Interesting article, Alan, a lot of meat here to digest.

What I agree with from you:

Heroes.

Abso-freaking-lutely. Then they made the mistake of not killing off Maya after they at least dumped Alejandro. Plus, they claim "two deaths" with nathan and Nikki/Jessica, and it appears neither will likely die.

At the very least, this show has no guts. And bad writing.

Ryan Seacrest.

I can't stand this little, camera hogging pipsqueak and since I think AI is evil, I don't want to see him. But Hugh Laurie? Yuck again. Why am I the only person who thinks he's the most overrated actor in the history of TV, NOT named Patricia Arquette or Mariska Hargitay?

24.

It was still entertaining in the last several episodes so it redeemed itself, but yeah, this was its worst season to date.

Bionic Woman.

Abso-freaking-lutely. Michelle Ryan was downright awful and they missed entirely not picking Katee Sackhoff instead.

Reaper.

Yes. I didn't think the pilot was that brilliant, but I want to add my utter dislike for Brett Harrison - his lazy acting and dull persona is what makes this show hard to watch and why I quit watching during its run.

What I disagreed with:

Hugh laurie.

Again, he's the reason I don't watch "House" and can't even stomach five minutes of the show.

Friday Night Lights.

You continue to pick on one of the best shows on TV, for a story that was actually entertaining and at the very least, extremely well acted by its participants.

The Writer's Strike.

Well, I agree the writer's strike sucks but I am so beyond livid with the WGA for THEIR tactics, I am at the point of rooting for this blowhard union to be ripped up. For the love of God, I cannot live in a world of reality TV and game shows. Please give me my shows back.

You left a few MAJOR items off your list, however.

One is "The Sopranos" ending. Sorry, but David Chase thumbing his nose at his loyal audience should be included.

The other is the season finale supposed shocker on "Mad Men". The best show on TV in 2007 (besides "30 Rock", "Friday Night Lights", "Lost" and "The Shield"), brought their brilliant year down a big notch with that pregnancy dud. As someone who just became a new dad, I can absolutely promise you that what Peggy didn't realize she was going through for 9 months, only to then deliver a perfectly healthy baby, is downright impossible.

CarolMR said...

I agree with Alex about Hugh Laurie. While I generally enjoy HOUSE, I think Laurie has been way overrated. He's a Johnny-One-Note actor (at least on this show) and he shows none of the nuances and complexities of, say, Gandolfini's Tony Soprano.

And I have heard and read that it was Mr. Laurie who declined to host the Emmys.

Robin said...

I know I'm in the very tiny minority on this, but the one thing that would have to go on my dishonor list would be the season finale of Lost. After the utter brilliance of the Locke/Jacob episode and the cliffhanger of seeing Locke lying in that hole, we went back to the neurosis of Jack and his whiny ways. Never has a season finale left me so underwhelmed and bored at the thought of seeing the next season.

Of course, all of that has changed with the new trailer running on ABC. :)

J said...

Ooooo, good call on Seinfeld. Though it's a bit rough getting angry at Idol for spending time on a (weird and unwatchable, but still charitable) charitable event.

curious george said...

An excellent list, although I was surprised not to see Jamie Murray for her recent stint on Dexter.

Kudos to you for identifying the central problems with the awful Californication. The other irksome bit about that show is that Duchovny's character's writings, which are supposed to be novel and fresh, are as stale and clever as something someone posted on Usenet in 1995. Yawn.

Here's hoping that "Blink" and the first episode of "Jekyll" make your best of the year list.

Homertojeebus said...

Alan, et al, I need your help remembering something. I'm 39, so I think we share TV touchstones. when I was a kid, there was some show on ABC, I think, Saturday mornings,that was live action, and shot on video, and featured stories from bicentennial times. I remember one story about a girl who ice-skated some plans to the colonial army, but gets shot by a redcoat. Does anyone remember this? I'm thinking it had to be 1976.

Homertojeebus said...

Also, right on with the TV Juniors. They were extremely self-indulgent.

LA said...

Before the Cult of Oprah, there was the Cult of Seinfeld. Never a fan, I stood at the sidelines and watched, fascintated yet not comprehending why people worshipped at his altar so fervently.

With this Bee Movie PR misstep, I'm thrilled to see his fans falling away like Salome's veils.

Kat said...

I pretty much agree, but I do have to confess that I'm a bit sick of critics picking on Friday Night Lights over and over again. We get it, I'm sure Jason Katims gets it, and the actors probably do as well: the murder storyline was a mistake. It was, however, well-acted and well-produced. The idea, rather than its execution, is at fault. I think it's significant that even with a misguided murder plot, FNL is light-years better than Grey's Anatomy's been in a year and a half.

And while I didn't love the murder storyline, and thought it was out of character, it certainly made for gripping, interesting, controversial television. It didn't ruin the show by any means, whereas Shonda Rhimes has pretty much ruined Grey's for me with the George/Izzie mess.

barefootjim said...

Actually, the Cult of Oprah predated the Cult of Seinfeld. Long before Jerry Seinfeld became a cultural touchstone, David Letterman was bagging on Oprah for having "all the money."

Here's the thing about Jerry Seinfeld: he got lucky. Larry David was one of the greatest TV comedy writers ever; and the other three were deft comedic actors. Seinfeld the show is rightly celebrated.

But his stand-up wasn't funny before (which was why I didn't watch it until the second season); his appearances on talk shows have always been painful; and there is no reason to think that he'll ever come close to creating something that awesome ever again.

Which is OK: none of us will, either.

Alex R said...

I don't even acknowledge "Grey's" as I find it to be the Hugh Laurie of TV shows - extremely overrated. it's a glorified soap with the only questions being "which hot doc is sleeping with which other hot doc".

The acting, the storytelling...it's maybe slightly better than dreck like "Desperate Housewives" but if it walks like a duck....

todmod said...

Since you were a fan of the show, I'm surprised you didn't include Rescue Me. This past season was basically unwatchable - I think it was right up there with the collapse of 24.

Alan Sepinwall said...

also I'm surprised sorkin didn't make the list since the last few episodes of S60 did air in this calendar year

To have disappointed me in 2007 would imply that I still had expectations for Studio 60 (which was near the top of last year's Festivus list) in this calendar year.

Alan Sepinwall said...

One is "The Sopranos" ending. Sorry, but David Chase thumbing his nose at his loyal audience should be included.

I know a lot of people feel that way, but I loved the ending.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Though it's a bit rough getting angry at Idol for spending time on a (weird and unwatchable, but still charitable) charitable event.

If Idol Gives Back had happened in another season, I would have been fine with it, but given how marginalized the kids already were, it was just another reminder that the actual point of the show was getting lost. They say they're going to do it again this year, but they're also going to focus a lot more on the contestants this year, so I hopefully won't feel the need to complain about the idea of it. (The execution, as you note, is another matter.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

An excellent list, although I was surprised not to see Jamie Murray for her recent stint on Dexter.

I didn't like Lila, but her presence would have had to do far more damage to "Dexter" than it did, IMO, to make the list. On the top 10 list (spoiler alert!), I mention her as a problem in the midst of otherwise praising the series.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Since you were a fan of the show, I'm surprised you didn't include Rescue Me. This past season was basically unwatchable - I think it was right up there with the collapse of 24.

As with "Studio 60," there's the whole lack of expectations issue. I hated most of the previous "Rescue Me" season as well (which made last year's list). I wasn't disappointed by this year -- even though it was worse -- because I didn't go in expecting it to be good.

Bobman said...

I know a lot of people feel that way, but I loved the ending.

The more I see people STILL mad about that ending, and still talking about it, the more I love it (and I loved it a lot to begin with ).


On another note, I'm amazed at all the Seinfeld bashing lately, not because it's misplaced, but in the words of Denny Green, he is who we thought he was. What I always loved about Seinfeld was his smug refusal to pretend to be a nice guy or pull punches. Now it's 20 years after he popped on the scene, and nothing has changed, and people are suddenly surprised?

Theresa said...

I am beyond pleased that Shonda made the list twice. She took one of my favorite shows and one of my favorite characters and ruined them both. Although the podcasts from last season tried to justify the George/Izzie pairing, the storyline this season has clearly given that up, thank goodness.

Also, I am upset by the whole strike thing; I miss new, non-reality programming.

BigTed said...

What's to disagree with? You're right about it all.

Of course, if the writer's strike goes on too long, we may well find that the worst of 2007 is still better than anything we see in 2008.

marcus said...

I actually liked the Sporanos ending too, but Chase's attitude of "why should I have to explain anything to you fans" turned me off. He had to know what the reaction was going to be when he filmed that ending and for him to act so surprised that most people wanted closure struck me as condescending.

the2scoops said...

Was your lack of expecations the reason "John From Cincinnatti" and David Milch weren't on the list? I can't recall if HBO ending Deadwood was this year or 2007, but it would qualify as a dishonourable discharge.

Andrew said...

Deadwood was cancelled in 2006, so it doesn't qualify. And Alan liked John From Cincinatti, so that doesn't qualify either.

KC said...

I so agree with you about Seinfeld. Starting back with the whole Michael Richards apology fiasco on Letterman, his smug, ego driven Bee Movie appearances were like nails on a chalk board.

Totally there on "Heroes". I knew it was bad when I found myself flipping to "Dancing with the Stars" I ask what happened?

The Izzie/George thing... a disaster. Should I say how often I shouted 'Stupid, Stupid!' at the screen.

Ditto with the "Lights" murder subplot, but I still love this show, Kyle, Connie et all.

Couldn't place why "Entourage" felt so lacking, but I see now how it lacks tension when you realize golden boy never loses.

David Chase was truly wise, he made the perfect ending for The Sopranos. Everyone will come to realize this, some sooner than others.

I'll add a big festivus disappointment to the NBC execs for not picking up Journeyman. Now that was truly a disappointment. Can someone go back in time and erase that decision?

SJ said...

I have watched the first 3 season of Grey's over the last 2 months. And you are right...the 3rd season is quite a disaster....they totally ruined George and Izzie. And I absolutely loved Addison (still do to an extent), but they made her into such a mess.

Jim said...

Homertojeebus said..

I vaguely remember a show that I think was called "the Liberty Boys, teenagers fight the Revolutionary War, but not by actually fighting.

Since Oprah and Letterman have come up tangentially, their reconciliation was a great disappointment to me. I'm not an Oprah-hater, to each his or her own. But with her being everywhere, his relentless sarcasm was a healthy antidote. As for her holiness pretending not to know why people thought they were feuding... maybe it was when his show was in Chicago and you not only cancelled your scheduled appearance, but flew out to LA to appear on Leno the night it was to air?

I've always found Jerry Seinfeld barely tolerable. I watched his show in spite of him for the supporting cast. His using his celebrity to strongarm Letterman into airing that bizarre phone in from Michael Richards was way over the line, especially scolding the audience.

Bruce Reid said...

I have to second bobman's comments on Seinfeld; yes, he was smart enough on his show to surround himself with excellent talent (and when did that stop becoming a sign of intelligence and talent in itself?), but there was a real bravery in the nasty solipsism of Seinfeld's portrayal, and never a hint that he was good enough of an actor to pull off the transformation whole cloth. So the dislike at the man redounding upon what he pulled of with Seinfeld is odd, since it's exactly what he'd displayed for 9 (?) years.

Alex R and carolmr: Anyone's free to dislike Hugh Laurie or consider him overrated, of course; but if you've never seen his uproariously moronic stumbling doofus turns in Blackadder or Jeeves and Wooster, I'd say give it a shot. If you have and still can't stand him, fair enough.

My contribution to the dishonor roll: every second I heard anything about The View.

Nicole said...

I was going to defend Hugh Laurie, but Bruce beat me to it. Also, add to the list "A Bit of Fry and Laurie" and I dare you to say he is one note.

He is more than eminently capable of handling the host duties of an awards show and it's a sad state of affairs if his British accent would confuse Americans. He is not always given the writing he deserves on House, but I don't think this procedural would have made it this long if Laurie didn't bring anything to the table.

I also support Alan on the Sopranos ending because I can live with untidy endings and it is a great TV moment.

T. said...

The Heroes drop in quality makes sense, as one of the main writers is a comic book writer named Jeph Loeb, a hack to the first power. His comic stories are the same as Heroes. Rips off, I mean "homages" classic works in a way that makes it seem like the set up to a great story is coming. Then he runs out of things to rip off and the story comes crashing down.

Also, I didn't think the first episode of Reaper generated all that much goodwill. It just seemed like another slacker-geek-fratboy style show where you want to punch the lead manchild in the mouth. Similar to Chuck and the Apatow movies.