In this second part of the six-part series where I discuss what I believe to be the highs and lows of the most recent television season, I will discuss what I considered to be the shows that achieved the least, and why. If you’d like to read part one, where I talked about the shows that impressed me the most, then you can do by following this link.
Also, as I always say, your thoughts and opinions on the shows I mention here, as well as your own choices, are highly welcome.
The Worst Shows
Oh Bones, how I used to love you so dearly early in your life and how much that disintegrated before my eyes as you got older.
I’ve made no secret of the fact I heavily disliked season seven’s inconsistent, shaky foundations, but nevertheless, I still found myself watching season eight when it premiered–and I stayed around for some time, too. But eventually, after yet another poor episode attempting too hard to maintain the same status quo, I gave up.
I wrote an article a while back where I discussed my feelings–and decision to stop watching the show–at more length, but I’ll cover some of those points again here. The reason why I had to stop watching Bones, for the sake of my own sanity, was because it’s just the same formula repeated on a constant loop, week after week, season after season. It worked for the show in its earlier seasons, but there comes a point where a show, especially one with a procedural-esque nature and not much working in its favour, has to try and not be the same thing it’s always been–and Bones has just never tried that.
I estimate that I watched roughly 10-12 episodes of Bones’ eighth season, and I will admit that they were stronger than season seven, but that wouldn’t have been difficult anyway. Even with that, however, I felt like the show was going nowhere; the central story arc with the ongoing activities of Pelant was only showing up infrequently, and it wasn’t enough to sustain my already dwindling interest. I watch a LOT of television shows and if I don’t find myself particularly interested in something, I’m not inclined to continue with it. I struggled with Bones for a while before giving up on it, and it was only my sense of loyalty that kept me going for as long as I did, but that eventually ceased during season eight–and it will never be rekindled.
Once Upon a Time
I’ve talked about Once Upon a Time several times over the course of the season, usually in my ‘Week in TV’ posts (and almost always in an exclusively negative manner), but I feel like I need to reiterate just how unimpressed I was with the majority of the show’s second season. Its debut year wasn’t perfect, but it managed to maintain a sense of consistency that I could appreciate; season two, in comparison, was just all over the place, with inconvenient story developments being washed away poorly and with little payoff (and that was the least of its problems).
I’ve talked at length previously about how I felt that the writing was Once Upon a Time’s main, most problematic, issue during its second season, and I maintain that belief now. There were some episodes during the season that weren’t necessarily poor (“The Miller’s Daughter”, for example), but some were just so absurd that I cannot fathom how anybody could’ve thought they would be a success (“Tallahassee”, “Selfless, Brave and True”, “The Evil Queen”…I could go on). Overall, the negatives far, far outnumbered the positives, and it formed a very inconsistent, sloppy picture for the show’s second season.
It’s a shame that Once Upon a Time had such a mediocre year because, despite everything working against it, it still has the potential, the ideas and the characters–when they aren’t being murdered by the writing–to be an excellent show. I’m still not completely sure whether or not I’ll be returning for the third season, but if I do, there is absolutely no way I will be able to tolerate another year of the same sloppiness that I endured week after week this season. The writing has to improve or things will continue to be dragged down into the dirt.
I can’t even think of Netflix’s second attempt (this year, anyway) at home-grown content without having an overwhelming sense of amusement fill my body. I feel that way because this show wasn’t just bad, or underwhelming–it was freakin’ TERRIBLE, and arguably the worst show I watched in the entirety of the television season.
I almost don’t even know where to begin with discussing Hemlock Grove’s faults. I could start with the appalling acting from many of the show’s cast members, or maybe with the slow, going-nowhere-anytime-soon story that took an age to get where it wanted to go. Perhaps, even, with the many gratuitous sex scenes thrown in for no reason at all, or with the many, many disastrous lines of dialogue that were so bad I thought I had taken a ‘vitamin injection’ in my rear end, as per an episode in this season of Mad Men. Ultimately, however, it doesn’t matter where I start because it all adds up to the same summation: the show was HORRIBLE.
Hemlock Grove also wasn’t helped by the fact it was the show to follow House of Cards–Netflix’s first attempt at home-grown content in 2013, and something indeterminably stronger than its second. Following a show of that stature only highlighted its gaping failures with a luminescent marker pen. Terrible as it was, however, it’ll undoubtedly return for a second season, but don’t mistake that for an indication that the show was anything remotely resembling a success. It was trashed by both critics and viewers alike, and it deserved every last drop of negativity thrown its way. Every. Last. Drop.
I’ve had problems with True Blood for a while now. I loved it in its first two seasons, didn’t like the third so much, and enjoyed the fourth. But season five, however, was in another league of its own, because as much as I wanted to like it, and as much as I tried, I was unsuccessful at almost every point.
If there’s one problem–above all the many others–that True Blood suffers from the most, it’s having too many characters and not knowing what to do with them, throwing tedious subplots in to occupy their time. The strongest–and worst–example of this would be the smoke demon story from season five, which was arguably one of the worst things the show has ever done; it sprang from thin air, was largely uninteresting for its duration, and once it was finished, was never mentioned again. So, in summary, the story took up a decent portion of screen-time and did absolutely nothing with it. Why? Just because Arlene, Terry and new arrival Scott Foley (I don’t even remember his character’s name) needed something to do.
But even with the problem that True Blood has with its unexciting subplots, its main story wasn’t particularly strong in season five, either. Exploring the Vampire Authority was a story that held significant potential (as was the casting of Christopher Meloni as the one to spearhead the organisation), but the execution was poor and extremely unimpressive, and Meloni’s talents were criminally wasted. The story seemed to flop uncontrollably across the season until it came to an end, with the perpetually tiresome Bill ostensibly becoming the main villain for season six to revolve around. Sigh.
To say I wasn’t pleased with True Blood’s fifth season would certainly be putting it lightly, but I’m still checking in for season six (though not for long if things don’t improve). In my opinion, the show’s principal issue is with the fact it has more characters that it can deal with, and it fills its time trying to give them things to do when, quite frankly, nobody is interested. I would really love to see them chop the cast down considerably and concentrate on making the stories that actually matter stronger. But I can only live in hope.
Every once in a while, I will continue to watch a show even though I know that, at heart, it’s terrible. I’m not entirely sure why this is, but I suspect it’s because the act of being terrible provides some form of entertainment that wasn’t originally intended. It’s because of this that I continue to watch Falling Skies–and yes, it is still terrible.
I almost begrudge to criticise Falling Skies for being a rubbish show too much because post-pilot, I’ve always been aware that this is the case. In its first season, it seemed to head nowhere for most of the duration until it reached the season finale, and although season two made some movement in the time between its premiere and its finale, it still seemed to move at a speed comparable to continental drift.
You would probably think that my problem with the show’s slow pace means that I have trouble with all shows that move slower than normal, but that’s not the case; I’m a big fan of Mad Men, and that’s one of the slowest shows currently on television. When something decides to move slower, I generally tend to look for strong character work to engage me while I wait for the story to progress, but Falling Skies doesn’t really have this. Granted, Noah Wyle’s character is interesting, as is Will Patton’s, but they are the only two I find interesting to watch. The rest just seem to exist purely for the sake of existing.
Even with its problems, I’ll say that season two was a stronger effort than its first, but it’s still a below-average show. So why do I still watch it? Honestly, I think I’m acutely aware that the show isn’t going to provide stellar drama, or strong character work, but in a Summer lacking in television shows to watch, I’ll take anything that has aliens. If this were a show being aired in the midst of all the other shows I watch, however, I would’ve dropped it a very long time ago.
I think you can safely assume that my relationship with Falling Skies is a peculiar one.
We all know exactly what Downton Abbey is–it’s a soapy drama that’s best absorbed when you don’t take it too seriously. And it works well in that regard, just as it did for the show’s first two seasons. But while I largely enjoyed those offerings, its third year just seemed to be something of a step back.
Firstly, I’m not going to declare the entire season a disaster because that wasn’t the case at all. For a start. it gave us Matthew and Mary’s wedding (FINALLY) at the very beginning, as well as the remarkable, not to mention heartbreaking episode where Sybil died a horrible, agonising death moments after giving birth. Needless to say, that episode took the award for my favourite of the season–and one of my favourite episodes of the entire series–but for every success it achieved with stories like that, there were several more lurking around the corner, and definitely not approaching the same calibre.
Of course, I think that anybody who watched the show’s third season will know what I’m talking about when I say that the plot involving Bates and Anna was interminably tedious, and for some reason dragged on for such a long time, as though Fellowes and co. were under the impression that it would provide entertainment. It didn’t, nor did the tiresome plot surrounding the potential financial collapse of Downton. And let’s not even mention the frankly awful Christmas episode where literally nothing of any value whatsoever happened until the final moments, where Matthew died in a car crash because Dan Stevens decided he wanted to ruin Christmas. Whatever.
Overall, I think it’s fair to assume that I was unimpressed with Downton Abbey’s third season. It had some excellent moments, but they were eclipsed by tedious stories that just weren’t interesting and/or dragged on for far too long. I will stick with the show as it goes into its fourth season, because I know what it’s capable of and how much I’ve enjoyed it in the past, but this year wasn’t its finest at all.