We’ve hit the halfway point in our annual countdown of the best (and worst) television of the year. Time to tackle the hump slots!
I had such high hopes for The Following. Kevin Bacon on network television is an automatic tune-in, but throw in James Purefoy as the diabolical criminal mastermind that Bacon’s ex-FBI Agent Hardy is in pursuit of? Count me in. But boy oh boy is The Following ever a let down. Bacon and Purefoy aren’t to blame as they do indeed deliver strong performances, but unfortunately the rest of the cast isn’t anywhere near up to par. Ultimately the writing is the worst offender. The situations are preposterous and the characters are either incredibly stupid or utterly unlikeable. And let’s no forget the continually terrible dialogue.
I only managed to get through four episodes, but even after such a small sampling, I knew The Following would enrage me to no end had I kept with it. The premise is simple: Joe Carroll (Purefoy), evil incarnate, has developed a cult-like ‘following’ of minions across the country to do his bidding while he resides in a maximum security prison. Hardy is called to consult with the FBI (a pacemaker and a drinking problem prohibit Hardy from being on the FBI’s payroll) to stop the minions. Perhaps if we spent more time watching Carroll taunt Hardy, the show would be tolerable.
Instead, we spend an inordinate amount of time with the ‘followers’ – individuals who behave like whiny, needy idiots. They show up whenever it’s convenient and are so one-dimensional that it’s literally painful to watch. My favourite was the follower who apparently committed suicide by eating his own hospital bandage and choking to death. Sigh.
But it’s not just the followers who are stupid – it appears that everyone in the FBI are equally as dumb. Hardy continually makes one bad decision after another; it’s no wonder that the bumbling cult followers best him time and time again. And I haven’t even mentioned how ridiculous the Edgar Allen Poe references are. The Following is a hot mess and it should come as no surprise that it ends up on my worst list this year.
- # of episodes watched: 4
- Returns: Sunday, Jan 19 at 10pm EST on FOX
There have been a few times I wondered if I was being too hard on NBC’s “lights out” drama, Revolution. “Maybe this show doesn’t want to be good?” always runs through my mind as another stupid plot unravels, or as characters make yet another grating decision or deliver another earnestly naive proclamation about freedom or heroism. Then Tracy Spiridakos’ Charlie shows up and my only interest is whether I’ll get to see her be punched, slapped or shot.
Perhaps it’s unfair to place so much blame on a single character, but Charlie symbolizes much of where Revolution has gone wrong. She’s a pretty girl who makes amazingly stupid decisions, constantly requires saving, whines and generally sucks the intelligence out of any scene. It’s unclear why writers are obsessed with her other than the fact that Spiridakos has a rocking bod.
Revolution is the only show to make my ‘Worst Of’ list two years in a row. That’s a dubious honour. A lot of shows start poorly and get better, or have an off-year. Revolution started poorly and has stayed bad, never improving in the middle. Even after the show was overhauled between S1 and S2, the stupid factor continued to infiltrate the plot – primarily because the showrunners refuse to cut dead weight such as Zak Orth’s Aaron or mistakenly believing that the audience gives two sh*ts about seeing the power come back on. The interminable quest to reach the Tower that dominated the end of S1 never paid off and the launch of nuclear weapons feels like an excuse engineered to move production of the show to Texas to take advantage of real life tax breaks. New developments such as the introduction of the Patriots in S2 haven’t really paid off and the reliance on things like nanotechnology and Aaron’s insufferable girlfriend continue to drag down the plot.
Add to this a talented cast playing thoroughly unlikable characters who have been reduced to Star Wars prequel levels of bad acting. Double negative points go to Elizabeth Mitchell, who has destroyed all of her Lost goodwill playing loose canon Rachel, though the laughably bad duo of Billy Burke and David Lyons aren’t far behind. When Spiridakos is the most improved of the lot, you know you’ve got a bad show. Cancellation looms for this turd.
- # of episodes watched: All S1 and 3 episodes of S2
- Returns: Wednesday, Jan 8 at 8pm EST on NBC
I’ve loved every season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but for some reason, S9 stands out as one of the series’ best – primarily because of the narrative risk-taking it employs. There are examples from previous seasons that play with narrative structure, but S9 shows a kind of confidence in experimentation that wasn’t present before.
Following a gang of underachieving misfits, the “adult comedy” in the show is consistently hilarious, never shying away from controversial content. A light-hearted intent sets the series apart from others, as its potentially offensive material could easily devolve into mean-spiritedness in less capable hands. Instead S9 has undoubtedly produced some of the most creative episodes of the series.
‘The Gang Saves the Day’ (9×06), the show’s 100th episode, is a standout. This is the episode when the gang gets caught in a convenience store during a robbery and we see how each of them envisions getting out of the sticky situation. The individual fantasies are so unique, it’s utterly delightful to watch. Charlie’s (Charlie Day) is particularly awesome, emulating the story (and style) of Pixar’s Up (Docter & Peterson, 2009). It’s quite fitting considering Charlie’s child-like personality. The episode is like a Rashomon homage and demonstrates how inventive and interesting the series can be in even though it’s confined to a 30 minute format vs. the much more liberal, hour-long variety.
In “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award” (9×03) the episode brilliantly satirizes how a sitcom with the same premise would play out on network television. Although it’s done in a completely obvious and blatant way, it still comes off as tactful and witty. “Flowers for Charlie” (9×08) is another winner, this one penned by Game of Thrones‘ showrunners, David Benioff & D. B. Weiss. If bigwigs like Benioff and Weiss are chomping at the bit to write an episode of Sunny, it’s a clear testament to the show’s rich characters and narrative potential.
It’s best to watch the series from the start if you haven’t yet encountered it – trust me the ride is well worth it. S9 easily earns a top spot on my best list this year.
- Returns: Fall 2014 on FXX
- Watch: Start all the way back with S1!
- Caveat: I defy anyone not to laugh at “The Gang Makes Lethal Weapon 6” (9×09)
Every year a lot of crime dramas make it onto the air. And most of them are pretty conventional. And then there’s Broadchurch.
This emotive drama chronicles the police investigation into the murder of young Danny Latimer in the small UK town of the title. The lead investigators, memorably played by David Tennant and Olivia Colman (in a star-making performance) are a mismatched pair: Tennant’s Hardy is a battle-scarred cynic and Colman’s Miller is a naive idealist. Over the eight episodes they come to a begrudging respect as they investigate the residents, uncovering dark small town secrets before exposing the shocking truth behind the murder.
What this description fails to convey is how powerful Broadchurch is: each character in the community is immaculately constructed and portrayed, particularly Jodie Whittaker as the grieving mother. Unlike other season-long mysteries <cough The Killing cough> here the red herrings enrich the characters and deepen the drama. Thematically the series is just as interested in investigating the impact of tragedy, fractured families, perceptions of sexual deviancy and the effects of grief as it is in revealing the identity of the killer. By the time that the terrible truth comes out, viewers and characters alike have been put through the emotional wringer. Broadchurch isn’t simply another crime drama; it elevates the genre to previously unseen heights. It’s the most emotionally compelling series of the year.
- Returns: A prequel has been ordered but has no airdate. A US remake, Gracepoint, is currently being developed by FOX
- Watch: It’s eight episodes – take a day and go for it
We’re over the hump now! With only two days remaining, will your favourites make the cut? Come back tomorrow at 12pm EST to see what clocks in at second place on the 2013 Bitch Awards