After five parts of delving into the successes and failures of the 2011-2012 television season, we finally arrive at the final part in this series. Previous parts looked at the best, and worst, shows to air during the period as well as the actors and actresses that left a positive impression or didn’t. Part five focused on the biggest surprises of the season and this final entry will concentrate on the shows that disappointed.
As per usual, these selections are completely of my own choosing, are not influenced in any way by anything outside of my own personal feelings and as such, you may or may not agree with some of the things you see written here. You’re welcome to voice your opinion on what you do or don’t agree on, so long as you’re not of the homicidal type!
As was the case with the previous part, only shows in their entirety will be mentioned in this list as opposed to individual storylines within them, such was how I did things in the earlier posts.
The CW’s quirky show about a pair of twin sisters embroiled in a dangerous game of secret identities starring the magnificent Sarah Michelle Gellar had all the makings of a successful and interesting show. It had a well-established and popular actress playing the two lead characters and a somewhat interesting story to boot. When it launched, it did so to an average reception but still showing promise. As time progressed, however, it was clear that despite what Ringer had going for it, it couldn’t be anything more than a melodramatic typical CW show that inevitably got cancelled before it could ever reach a second season.
Picking out elements that contributed to Ringer’s demise shouldn’t be a difficult task for anybody to complete. One of them would be the cast. With the exception of Sarah Michelle Gellar, the rest of the cast failed to match her calibre at any given time. In fact, the only character who showed any semblance of an interesting personality, and was also played by a decent actress, was killed off before the half-way point had even arrived in a move that whilst surprising, left us with a collection of moving wooden statues to watch for the rest of the season.
Outside of that, the storylines quickly devolved into the realm of ridiculousness. The concept of a drug-addict woman adopting her supposedly dead twin sister’s identity and then ‘becoming’ her is far-fetched in itself but we also had a boring ponzi scheme story introduced, as well as Juliet’s false rape monstrosity and the dead twin sister not being dead at all and instead working to wreak havoc on those she left behind. Over time, the actual main narrative became something of a back-story while the other, far less interesting, stories grabbed more screen time for themselves. It was a befuddled mess from start to finish, which I did not reach because it became so unbearable.
Some would argue that despite Ringer’s many failings, it was still a show that could be enjoyed if you suspended your expectations whilst watching it. That it may have been for some people but I like to watch my shows without having to deliberately expect less from them. As such, Ringer was cast into the dustbin of television disappointments long before it came to an end. The only good thing it did was get Sarah Michelle Gellar back on television.
I have a lot of love for Dexter because when it wants to be good, it’s really good. Its utterly gripping and brilliant fourth season is evidence of that. However, when it stops trying and instead works by an almost paint-by-the-numbers system, we get things like season six being born, which was easily the weakest season of the show since it arrived on the screen.
In some ways, Dexter’s terrific fourth season has harmed the two that have proceeded it because it has left us expecting the same level of brilliance, which hasn’t been fulfilled. Season five was as underwhelming as six was, although it still had an interesting story running through – the Lumen situation – that had its moments of being exciting. However, season six didn’t have that advantage working for it. It was predictable and that is something that Dexter should never have.
Let’s look at what things season six did wrong, of a list that stretches fairly wide: The big big was weak, posed no significant threat to Dexter and never felt like it either; the characters were all over the place in terms of stories and development; Dexter’s sudden interest in religion, which formed a substantial part of the entire season, felt forced and un-natural; the outcome of several plots could have been seen coming from a mile away; and the cliffhanger at the end should have been tantalising but was instead ruined by both idiotic decisions on Dexter’s part and the ridiculous romance forming between the two lead characters. Those are but a few examples of how Dexter hugely underwhelmed in its most recent season.
Season six was nothing short of disjointed from start to finish, failing to surprise the audience in the way it’s excelled at in the past, and taking its characters in the opposite directions of where they should have been heading. The things that Dexter had been so good at in the past were suddenly the things it was failing to maintain in its sixth year. It’s clear that the show is unlikely to be able to repeat the massive success it enjoyed in season four but as a big lover of all things Dexter, I still hold hope that it doesn’t experience another dismal season this year.
Of all the new shows that were to premiere in the season, Alcatraz easily topped the list of most anticipated. It had an interesting concept, a cast featuring both Jorge Garcia and Sam Neill and the J.J. Abrams name sitting in the credits. With all that going for it, one could have wondered how the show could have possibly failed but it did nevertheless and as a result, it was unsuccessful in securing a second season for itself.
Alcatraz had a lot of different elements working together to make it the disappointment it was but before we get to the biggest, let’s get to the cast. I can’t say that anybody was particularly rubbish in their roles as it was more a case of their characters being bland and forgettable. Garcia’s character always felt a little out of place, Sarah Jones’ lead character was forgettable and Sam Neill didn’t have strong material to properly show off what he can do. As I said, I found the actors themselves pretty decent but the weak script left them running around in circles.
The biggest factor that contributed to Alcatraz being such a failure was the way in which it chose to explore its narrative. I have no problem with filler episodes when they’re done correctly but Alcatraz didn’t. At all. It started off with a compelling story that, with a shortened episode count, could have been explored over the course of the season in detail and in one continuous thread. What they actually did was saturate the entire season with ‘prisoner of the week’ episodes, of which there were far too many. The most interesting thing about the show became the thing it was determined to explore the least and as a result, the audience figures depleted, the patience of those at home wanting to see more of the main story ran out and the show was cancelled before it could finish telling the tale it so needed to tell.
It was almost as though Alcatraz was swallowed by its own size and scale. It had a story that was rather huge to contend with and they probably expected it to be strong enough for the audience to sit patiently while they spent the next seven episodes chasing down another prisoner that disappeared from the facility. That would’ve worked for a well-established show but not for something that wasn’t even three weeks old before it began going down that route.
Alcatraz needed to focus on its strongest elements in order to keep the viewer coming back and I imagine that it would be returning for a second season had it done that. Instead, it collapsed under the weight of its own size.
Fox made a lot of noise about its latest sci-fi project – Terra Nova – last year. It had a massive budget, the likes of Steven Spielberg attached to it and special effects that were meant to amaze. Even before it launched, my biggest concern was that they would spend so much time, money and effort into making the show look nice that they would neglect to make it actually good. The pilot calmed my fears on that belief but eventually, as the season progressed, it became clear that my concerns were for a good reason.
Terra Nova, like the previously mentioned Alcatraz, suffered due to its incredible scale – something which it never succeeded in making use of. It had so many characters all congregated in an unknown setting and not one of them was anything beyond a cardboard cut-out, with the family at the heart of the entire show containing possibly some of the dullest characters of the whole cast. Also, the stories were bland, contained far too many cliches and were so predictable in how they would turn out that you may as well have written them yourselves. Plus, for a show that had dinosaurs as one of its main attractions, it sure did neglect to actually show any for vast amounts of time, which in turn made their predicament seem less threatening and hostile than what we were supposed to think.
I didn’t manage to reach the end of the first – and only – season of the show because after ‘What Remains’ – the fourth episode – I had simply had enough. To be able to almost correctly predict the events of an episode from start to finish is not my idea of a job well done, as was the case with the aforementioned title. I stuck around for another episode after that but once it became clear that things were unlikely to improve, I got out.
It’s not as though Terra Nova didn’t have any good ideas to speak of. For example, the story surrounding the mysterious ‘sixers’ was intriguing, as were the events of the future that caused the group to travel back in time in order to survive. Unfortunately, these arcs were left to simmer while other, more mundane, stories were pushed to the forefront. Who wants to watch an episode with a clichéd virus plot when there are far more interesting narratives to concentrate on? Very few, yet it happened anyway.
Terra Nova, unfortunately, was a case of style over substance and to be honest, its special effects weren’t as fantastic as one may have expected from the pre-launch hype. They threw a lot of money at Terra Nova in the hope that it would be a huge success but the portal must’ve closed before that happened. Such a huge disappointment.
Awake’s inclusion in this list is a strange one. It’s not here because it failed to leave an impression, or because it wasn’t good. It’s here because it was fantastic and creative, yet completely bombed in the ratings and was ultimately cancelled long before it should have been. The audience just never gave it a chance.
Awake never launched to spectacular viewing figures, but they were somewhat acceptable nevertheless. However, as time went by, they got smaller and smaller until it finished on truly abysmal ratings. The trouble here, of course, is that Awake never deserved any of it. It had a good, thought-provoking concept that was always at the forefront – even in the more procedural of episodes – and provided a compelling twist to the familiar police procedural format. Not only that, it had a recognisable and strong cast all working together, in turn providing memorable scenes as the lead character struggled to decipher whether he was awake or asleep, with the audience equally as puzzled. His interactions between his wife and son – one of which was dead in both realities – were well-acted and packed an emotional punch as his predicament became clearer.
So, with all of these good things going for it, how did it manage to do so badly and get cancelled at such an early stage? Well, it might have been just a little too complex for some people. I, personally, had no issue with following and understanding the dual realities concept but I can imagine that some people would’ve lost track of what was going on and where. I’m not implying that television viewers are morons who can’t understand things if they’re not made as clear as possible but even I can see where some may have gotten frustrated with Awake’s baffling concept.
I didn’t manage to finish the only season of the show but that wasn’t because the quality was dwindling; I left because I knew it would get cancelled, and I didn’t want to grow attached to it only to have it torn away. There was no way that any channel, let alone NBC, would’ve renewed a show with such awful ratings and I didn’t want to be around to suffer those consequences.
Awake deserved so much more than it got. It dared to try something interesting and unique and it unfortunately didn’t work out the way it would have in an idealistic world. I don’t know where the viewers were but they clearly weren’t where they needed to be.
And so we come to the end of this series. It’s a little unfortunate that it’s ended with a post concentrating on the negatives but there you go. On a side-note, I have massively enjoyed writing this series and I really can’t wait to do the same thing again next year. Until then, there’s a whole season of television sitting between them and the sooner it arrives here, the better!
You may have also wondered why there was a lack of comedy shows that featured in these posts. It’s quite simple – I can only talk about the shows that I watch/have watched and because I’m not really a great fan of comedy shows, I can’t include them without an opinion of them.
Also, starting next week, I will be running through a list of my top twenty episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I have still yet to actually finalise the list and I am dreading the prospect of only selecting twenty episodes from a show as brilliant as Buffy.
Did you agree with any of the choices above? Anybody else feel the same way about Awake? Perhaps you have your own choices for this particular category. If so, use that comment box below will ya?
Here are some links to previous posts in this series should you wish to catch up on them.