Welcome to our second week of the Bitch Awards. Last week we revealed our favourite (and least favourite) films of the year, and this week we’re turning our attention to a topic we know even better: television.
Let’s start off with our number five picks of the year…
Much like our film picks, we have a few disclaimers to explain our lists:
- We love TV, but we don’t watch everything. Some shows we’re big fans of and we’ve seen every episode. Some we hate so much that we couldn’t stomach a fourth episode. In the interest of being fair, we’ve screened at least 2-3 episodes of all of the shows on our lists.
- Both new and old shows are fair game. We’ve identified the season so that it’s easier for you to track which batch of episodes we’re discussing.
- Please Note: We’ve done our best not to be excessive, but it’s really difficult to explain why we love or hate these shows without talking about what happens in them. So expect spoilers moving forward. Consider yourself warned.
And so, without further ado, let’s begin.
#5: Doctor Who S7 (Part Two)
It pains me to put Doctor Who on my worst list, especially when it topped my best list two years ago. But sorry guys, this past season was just not good. For those who don’t know, Doctor Who follows a 1000+ year-old Time Lord and his human companion as they travel the whole of time and space in his spaceship, the TARDIS.
Make no mistake – it’s not the performances of the lead actors, Matt Smith who plays The Doctor and Jenna-Louise Coleman as spunky companion Clara, that are responsible for my displeasure. It’s the content that they’re working with. I’ve said it several times in my episode reviews for S7: Smith and Coleman consistently delivered excellent performances, but on the whole, I found myself disappointed week after week. It seemed that every episode had me scratching my head in confusion, bitching about gaping narrative holes or rolling my eyes at all-too-convenient plot devices.
As much as I think Clara injected new energy into the TARDIS, the entire ‘Impossible Girl” storyline got incredibly tedious, incredibly quickly. It dragged on from episode to episode, rarely answering any questions or producing additional intrigue. The series opted for a mediocre ‘monster of the week’ format rather than building on the central mystery of who or what Clara was. When it was finally “resolved” (if you even want to call it that) the revelation was buried in so many confusing details that I couldn’t even tell that we were getting answers to the season-long mystery.
There are dozens of unanswered questions that still remain from the S7 finale, but now that our Eleventh Doctor has regenerated, I’m forced to try and find closure from by scouring through the graciously shared explanations from the devoted fan base on the interwebs. Ultimately S7 (The 50th Anniversary Special excluded) made me feel ostracized, like I wasn’t ‘Whovian’ worthy to watch the show. Hardly a good feeling. And for that, Doctor Who S7 regrettably earns a place on my worst list this year.
- # of episodes watched: 104 (S1-S7 + Specials)
- Returns: Fall 2014 on BBC America
#5: Once Upon A Time S2
I tried. I wanted to like this show, I swear. I gave it 44 hours of my life that I will never get back. But something about the “revised fairytales for families” show has never fully come together, as though creators Horrorwitz & Kitsis think their show improves the more familiar characters they introduce. The problem with this approach is that these characters are given nothing to do; it’s the equivalent of inviting a group of Disney characters to the party and then asking them to stand around.
Occasionally there’s a glimmer of ingenuity in the way the story comes together, but more often than not, the writers on the show seek out the most dramatically inert solution rather than telling interesting tales. Either that or they hoard major plot developments until the mid-season or season finales and leave the majority of episodes with nothing to do (hence the interminable number of episodes of Jennifer Morrison’s Emma wanders around Far-Away-Land early in S2, as well as the Neverland forest episodes in S3).
Add to this the show’s propensity for having characters make stupid or contradictory decisions (chief among them are Lana Parrilla’s Regina, Ginnifer Goodwin’s Snow and Josh Dallas’ Charming), truly appalling special effects and one of the worst child actors in Jared Gilmore, and Once Upon A Time is a hot mess of a series that coasts solely on the goodwill it has accrued from viewers’ affinity for all things Disney. Family audiences deserve better.
- # of episodes watched: 44 (S1 & S2)
- Returns: S3 resumes Sunday, March 9 at 8pm EST on ABC
#5: The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
It’s probably a bit of a cheat to put The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on my best list again this year, but I can’t help it. This show really was (and is) one of the best shows on television. I debated whether of not I should include it, as my write up from last year holds true again this year. The format remains the same – Ferguson hosts the talk show with reckless abandonment, improvising about 90% of each episode. He’s aided by his gay robot skeleton, voiced by Josh Robert Thompson, producing hours and hours of gut-busting laughs. The tweet-mail segment is consistently the best part of each episode, especially when the two start to break. Here’s just one example:
Although the banter between Craig and Geoff is the main draw, Thompson ups the ante by taking on more this season in creating a plethora of characters on the fly. Examples include Jerry from room service (produced by ringing a concierge’s bell five times) or Alfredo Sauce, band leader of the “Shy Fellas” (library music disguised as a band that hides behind the curtains because they’re too shy to be seen). Thompson is just as integral to the show as Ferguson and their chemistry alone is worth the price of admission. Check out this recent clip in which Craig and Josh randomly take on personas from the German electronic band, Kraftwerk:
Secretariat has also developed much more of a personality, which is a feat considering it’s just two interns in a horse costume. Confused? I implore you to watch (or PVR) just a couple of episodes, and join in on the madness that is this show – it is guaranteed hilarity. It’s a bit of a cop-out to place this show on my list again, but a show that delivers laughs so consistently rightly deserves a spot on my best list.
- Returns: Ongoing on CBS, weeknights at 12:35am EST
#5: Please Like Me S1
Please Like Me is the Australian equivalent of HBO’s Girls: it’s a series written and acted by a talented wunderkid, exploring the contemporary life of a twenty-something who is still discovering who they are.
Unlike Lena Dunham’s HBO show, however, Please Like Me isn’t deliberately trying to be provocative or edgy. As created by Josh Thomas, the series is a hilarious, insightful and occasionally melancholy slice of life depiction of a 20 year old, his friends and his family. The first episode opens with Josh getting dumped by his girlfriend Claire (Caitlin Stasey) because she thinks he’s gay. It turns out that he actually is (he’s got a boyfriend before the end of episode 1), but unlike a more traditional comedy, Josh’s sexuality isn’t the focus of the series – it’s more of an entry point to get to know the hodgepodge collection of characters that comprise the show.
Everything about the series feels amusingly authentic as the best comedic bits originate from innocuous everyday events (proper etiquette at a rugby game, getting naked in front of a new sexual partner and encouraging a friend to break-up with an unsuitable girlfriend). On the surface things seem very lightweight and inconsequential, particularly since Josh, as a character, reacts to people and circumstances in an unorthodox way that is ripe for comedy. Upon closer examination, however, there is a great deal of pathos and drama running underneath as the series tackles homophobia, religion, suicide, death and pregnancy. It’s not until a significant development occurs late in the series that you realize just how invested you’ve become in these characters. By the end of the brief six episodes, you find yourself laughing and crying alongside them.
Please Like Me is an audacious debut for Thomas and the fact that the series was greenlit for a second season before the first even debuted in North America doesn’t surprise me. I can’t recommend the series enough for those looking for something different enough to feel original, and familiar enough to be comforting.
- Returns: A 10 episode second season has been ordered
- Watch: Marathon S1
What do you think of our fifth place picks? Sound off in the comments!
Be sure to tune in tomorrow at 12pm EST for the reveal of our number four TV picks.