We’re inching closer to the top as the third annual Bitch Awards continues to examine the best and worst television of 2013.
Read on to see what captured fourth place…
#5: Doctor Who S7 (Part Two)
#4: Whodunnit S1
Reality shows are already at a disadvantage when they’re up against all the heavy hitting dramas that premium cable networks are offering. But ohmylord is Whodunnit ever bad. The premise: contestants arrive at a Bachelor-style mansion and quickly find out that they’re in for a real-life game of Clue – a killer is hidden among them. Contestants are required to team up, survey crime scenes and even take a visit to the morgue to piece together how the victims met their end. At the end of each episode, the contestants who did the worst at reconstructing the murders end up on the proverbial chopping block – at risk of “being murdered” that same night.
It sounds intriguing. Unfortunately the execution for how this all goes down is just painfully awful. Blame the ‘murders’ themselves; they’re absolutely hilarious. Of course, no one is actually “killed”, but seeing commonplace reality contestants act out their flamboyant murders delivers plenty of gut-busting (and likely unintentional) laughs. Some of the choice killings this season were death by mountain lion attack (for reals) and death by hot tub (don’t ask).
The contestants are your typical run-of-the-mill reality characters: the beauty queen, the ex-NFL cheerleader, and the bar trivia host (?!). There are some interesting personalities mixed in that could have produced some intrigue, like the attorney, the bounty hunter or ex-homicide detective. But the murders are so convoluted and silly that all of them just end up looking like bumbling idiots as they try to piece the crimes together and laughably ‘present’ their theories in the confessional room. It’s just all kinds of wrong. What’s even more dismaying is that after a couple episodes aired, some viewers feared that the contestants were actually being killed off week to week (face palm). It’s times like these that make me sad for humanity. Whodunnit very easily earns a spot on my worst list.
- # of episodes watched: all 9 painful episodes
- Returns: With any luck, never, but apparently S2 is still being considered
#5: Once Upon A Time S2
#4: Super Fun Night S1
If you’ve never seen Super Fun Night, then you’re much wiser than me. If you have seen Super Fun Night, the Rebel Wilson sitcom about a lawyer who drags her loser friends out of the house for misadventures every weekend after she is promoted, you’re probably wondering how it’s not taking the top spot.
The series, developed by Wilson, is clearly only on the air because ABC wanted to be in the Rebel Wilson business. After a series of show stealing roles in Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect (a ‘Best Of’ film pick from last year), there’s clearly an appetite for Wilson’s particular brand of humour. Super Fun Night doesn’t feature it. Not only does she unwisely opt to go with an American accent rather than her native Australian, Wilson tries to shoehorn R rated comedy into a generic sitcom formula so there are a lot of “risque” jokes that have been defanged for network television (ex: the surname of her character, Kimmie, is Boubier, pronounced boobie-eh). And then there are the fat jokes, such as the running “gag” that Wilson eats anything and eats constantly – too bad the gag is the opposite of hilarious. And then there are the geek jokes, which feel like reheated leftovers from The Big Bang Theory and teleported from mid-90s sitcoms that thought kooky obsessions, agoraphobic behaviour and a lack of sexual experience were defining traits of people who like genre television.
In short, Super Fun Night is a comedy without jokes, a sitcom that flat-out refuses to develop its supporting cast beyond their caricature status, and is even too bland to be politically insensitive (like Dads) or misogynist (like We Are Men). Even after three attempts (the pilot was reshot, then shelved, then aired as a flashback episode), the show simply doesn’t work. It’s a waste of Wilson’s talents and a black mark on ABC’s programming.
- # of episodes watched: 9
- Returns: January 8, 2013 @ 9:30pm EST on ABC
- Caveat: Compared to the pilot, the rest of the series looks genius (the pilot is that terrible). The best episode is 1×07 ‘The Set Up’ which features some comedy that actually works and moves Kimmie’s relationship with boss, Richard (Kevin Bishop), forward. All of this is immediately disregarded in subsequent episodes, though
#5: The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
#4: Masters of Sex S1
Masters of Sex should earn a place on my best list based on the opening credits sequence alone. Hell, even the show’s logo is brilliant. But the Showtime series is so much more than the titillating tales behind human sexuality pioneers Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and his assistant, Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan). Sure the two are interested in the physiological signs that take place in the human body during sex, but the character development that happens with our two leads is a brilliant counterpoint to the scandalous experiments that take place under their watchful eyes.
There are so many good things about Masters of Sex, but the writing and performances top that list. Our characters, both lead and supporting are so fully lived-in/fleshed-out that it’s almost impossible not to get wrapped up in the drama of it all. Of course the sex study (and everything that goes into legitimizing it) is at the forefront, but there are numerous subplots that pop up during the season that are equally enthralling. Allison Janney is a dazzling addition, playing a woman coming to terms with her passion-deficit marriage to Barton Scully (Beau Bridges), the University provost who has his own skeletons to wrestle with. And wrestle he does – Scully’s closeted homosexuality subplot feels like a tacked on afterthought at the onset, but as the season progresses, some fascinating character development in both him and his wife results.
Similarly, when Dr. Lilian DePaul (Julianne Nicholson) is initially introduced, I quickly wrote her off as a one-dimensional stereotype, but the show almost defies you to discard its characters, allowing them to evolve in the most intriguing ways that it’s impossible not to be invested. By mid-season I was hooked. More accessible than Mad Men, I believe Masters of Sex excels at nailing the 1960s – not only aesthetically, but also how the characters live and breathe the time period, whether it’s in diction, dress or ideology.
It’s not a perfect show (Bill’s wife Libby played by Caitlin Fitzgerald is grating, and the way things have panned out with Nicholas D’Agosto’s Dr. Ethan Haas is dismaying) but I found myself eagerly awaiting the next episode each week, actually caring about the characters and simply enjoying the way their stories unfolded. I’ve just scratched the surface of why you should watch Masters of Sex, but seek this one out if you missed it – it rightfully earns a spot on my best list this year.
- Returns: Likely Fall of 2014 on Showtime
- Watch: Marathon it!
#5: Please Like Me S1
#4: In The Flesh S1
I ended up watching a great deal of foreign television after I moved out of North America earlier this year and the majority was from the UK, a place where unconventional TV appears to be having a renaissance (or perhaps it never went away and I was simply unaware). There were two series “about zombies” that had a major impact on me and I spent a great deal of time deliberating which one would make my top 5 for the year. Ultimately I went with In The Flesh, partially because I think it’s a little more accessible, but also because it didn’t get the same kind of publicity and promotion as my other choice (which I’ll describe in my ‘Best Of The Rest’ post at the end of the week).
In The Flesh is a post-apocalyptic tale set in a small British town. There are some pretty direct comparisons that can be made to AMC’s The Walking Dead, but in terms of quality, there’s no doubt in my mind that In The Flesh is the better show. Clocking in with only three episodes, it’s almost more of a mini-series that chronicles the aftermath of ‘The Rising’, which is what residents called the zombie plague. Militant bands rose up in response after it became clear that the countryside was being overrun, and although a medication has been created that returns the humanity back to the infected dead, there’s still a huge divide between the humans and the undead.
The series is immediately distinct because of this unique approach. The focus isn’t on zombie attacks and survival; it’s about how people readjust to “normal” life. For protagonist Kieren (Luke Newberry), who suffers from partially deceased syndrome (PDS), this means coming home to Roarton where the Human Volunteer Force (HVF) militia continues to hunt people like him. His sister is a member of that group and Kieren’s parents, although well-meaning, are still afraid of him. The result is a drama loaded with tension and dread, with mysteries small (how did Kieren die?) and large (what is the Undead Prophet, a website for PDS sufferers, all about?) driving the conflict. It’s a great allegorical series that isn’t afraid to delve into complex and morally murky waters – a must-see for fans of zombie shows and serious drama alike.
- Returns: Sometime in 2014 with a supersized 6 episode S2
- Caveat: Be aware that like many UK dramas, many plotlines are not resolved by the end of the season
- Watch: Marathon it!
That’s it for day four. Tomorrow at 12pm EST we’ll tackle the hump positions as the Bitch Awards for TV reach the half-way point. If you missed yesterday’s post discussing our #5 picks, click here.