Tuesday, September 15, 2015

WE RANK 'EM: Shows That Were Awesome and Then Sucked

In no particular order...

1. Lost

For a while, I dedicated any and all free time to binge-watching Lost via Netflix. I had no idea what was going on, but that was all part of the fun. "The Others? The numbers? The Dharma Initiative? GIMME MOAR!" Then the show reached its natural end point with the season 3 finale and...kept going. Only now it was about time travel and something.

It isn't that seasons 4-6 were bad, per se; it's just that show lost its focus and went on tangents that eroded the sense of wonder developed in the first 3, while never quite replacing it with something of equal value. Instead we watched that rarest of rare birds--the 'A' grade network TV drama--slide into 'B-' range.

2. Revenge

In its inaugural season, Revenge introduced us to a corrupt financier and his wife, who once betrayed her lover to protect her husband's assets; and to Emily Thorne, the daughter of said lover and a highly-trained revenge ninja, who is now singularly focused on exacting vengeance from all involved. It was ridiculous and over-the-top, but delightfully so. Then, in season 2, we found out that it was really all the work of some illuminati-style conspiracy and the eternal struggle of the revenge ninjas to stop their evil plotting. BARF! Though the showrunners tried to right the ship in season 3, the magic was gone. And so were the ratings.

3. Heroes

Heroes was cool before the Marvel cinematic universe really pushed superheroes into the moving picture spotlight (yes, I know--there had been major superhero movies prior to that, but let's face it: superhero films are bigger and more important now than ever). It had likable characters, a strong central mystery and just enough moving plot pieces to keep you riveted without getting overcomplicated. Unfortunately, the second season was poorly plotted, featured tiresome romance tangents and characters who suddenly began behaving out of character. (Mohinder the spider, anyone?) Ratings plummeted by 15%; the show sputtered on for a couple more seasons, then died an unceremonious death.

4. The Simpsons

Unarguably the greatest television show of all time...for a few years. That thing that has the form of The Simpsons but neither its heart nor soul, and which has continued to run since the year 2000? I don't know what that hot garbage is.

5. Law & Order 

I used to watch a LOT of this, and by a LOT, I mean the new one every week and a shit ton of episodes in syndication per week. There was a formula: cops discover scene of crime; cops investigate crime; early suspect turns out to be wrong; second suspect turns out to be right; lawyers build case; lawyers often but not always get a conviction. The high point, in my opinion, were the Briscow/Green and McCoy/Southerlyn years. But the formula was plug-and-play--you could pick any number of cop and lawyer combinations, and provided the formula remained (and the show remained physically in New York, not some fake-ass "New York" set at Universal Studios), you could be guaranteed a watchable show. Yet in the later years, the showrunners evidently thought we really wanted more plot twists, because that's what we got. Twist after after fucking twist. So many, in fact, that Law & Order was cancelled after an epic 20-season run--the vast majority of which had not involved said unwanted twists. Oh, and SVU? Same as above, only worse with the twists...and inexplicably still on the air! Occasionally I get the urge to watch it. This is invariably a very bad life decision.

6. True Detective

This is it, folks--a descent from the absolute pinnacle of small-screen achievement to midway down the $5 bargain bin at Best Buy. No, scratch that--if there is any justice in the world, Best Buy will refuse to sell you a DVD of season two on principle. So what went wrong? Well, think on this: season one worked because creator Nic Pizzolato had a singular vision, which was then executed to perfection by director Cary Fukunaga and actors Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. It featured: (a) a complex narrative structure; (b) haunting visuals; and (c) absurdly good performances. And that stuff was so good that we not only forgave the hokey, "dude in college who took philosophy 101 and hangs out in cafes trying to impress girls with how deep he is" dialogue, we ate it right up! So how do you follow that up? With a story that lacks all of these things, and worse, replaced its auteur with...the guy who directs Fast and Furious movies. Now try pairing that with "dude in college who took philosophy 101 and hangs out in cafes trying to impress girls with how deep he is" dialogue, and see what it gets you. As far as I'm concerned, well, now now I want to punch that dude in the face. I have never, and probably never will be, as disappointed with a TV show as I was with season two of True Detective.

Oh, and future showrunners note: when the thing you're putting out there is hot garbage, you *might* want to reconsider taking that cheap shot at the guy who made people want to watch it in the first place. Truly embarrassing.


POSTED BY: The G--purveyor of nerdliness, genre fanatic and Nerds of a
Feather founder/administrator (2012).