Friday, December 17, 2010

Why your favorite TV show was unworthy of my love

Posted By on Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 5:17 PM

When I ranked the best TV shows of 2010 yesterday, I used a complicated, multifaceted, seven-pronged rubric called: "Did I like it?" I rewarded ingenuity and guts over simple polish and gave credit to shows that improved over the course of the season.

But the most interesting part of any Top 10 ranking is often not what's on the list — it's what left off. ("What? No Desperate Housewives?! Fool!)

Here, then, is my rationale for excluding your favorite show. —-

Mad Men
The end of Season Four left a badtaste in my mouth, with Don making a choice that was out of character and poorly foreshadowed, and an anticlimax tothe Sterling-Cooper plotline. Mad Men hasn't evolved enough over itsrun (especially with characters like Betty) to continue making itan automatic Top 10 nominee. (While you're pouring a martini to prepare your rebuttal, be thankful I'm not as brutal as this blog post.)

Boardwalk Empire
The pilot, with itschaos, overabundance of characters and almost smug "we're prestigetelevision" swagger, turned me off enough that I didn't continuewatching. Fellow Inlander critic Dan Herman, however, says I'm a bad person for not including it.

Oh, Season Six. How you besmirched Lost's legacy. Exactly when the show should have been blowing minds, sparking epiphanies and answering six-year questions, you traipsed around the jungle, introduced directionless new characters, concluded with soft-focus stakes-ruining religious platitudes and — worst of all — turned Desmond Hume, the most beloved Lost character, into something half-man, half-MacGuffin, all deus ex machina.

The Colbert Report
The premise is, like America's border's, wearing thin. As a result, Colbert has to focus on pun-heavy wordplay and half-ironic personality cults, while the Daily Show still pursues straight-up political comedy.

Conan's personality remains fun, vibrant and silly. But the talk show itself is generic. Root for O'Brien over Jay Leno, sure. But not over the rest of television.

Craig Ferguson
Inspired and gutsy but not nearly as tightly packed with clever jokes as the Daily Show

The Office
The major characters (Dwight, Jim, Pam, Michael, Andy) have all been at their worst this year. One guest cameo from Amy Ryan can't save you, The Office.

Sons of Anarchy
Last year, the paceof the plot was that of a roaring Harley, speeding down the highwaywith confidence. This year it was an ambling moped, strugglingvaliantly to make it up a rolling hill.

The quick lapse into procedural television gradually slid this show down my viewing-priority list.

30 Rock
Much improved since Season Three,but still not as good as Season Two and still with too many characters(Jack's mom, Kenneth, Jenna) who I usually find obnoxious. It's so dependent on pure gag-writing that calling it "great," rather than just "funny," can sometimes be difficult.

How I Met Your Mother
Haaaaavveeeee.... you met Barney's stagnant character development? Though it did give us this folk song. Would that all television shows were as generous...

I stopped watching around thefirst season, because I found it morally disturbing. (I don'tlike being asked to root for a deranged serial killer. I prefer my sociopaths to be more grounded in humanity.) And, from whatI read, the season finale was pretty awful.

Modern Family
Sure, you've got a a well-crafted, perfectly cast, tightly written comedy going for you, Modern Family. But you're too perfect. You don't take risks.There's no ambition. Television shows should try to expand what the medium cando, not just work comfortably within the boundaries.

Ever since Chuck downloaded kung fu, the series lost both its pathos and its plotting. And Chuck? There are many evil acronyms that secret agents must constantly battle. DTR isn't one of them.

In Treatment
Two reasons. I didn't have time to finish up this season, and so I didn't feel comfortable including it. And it's almost unfair to include a show that limits itself to one set and one long scene as much as In Treatment does. Its genre, while amazing, doesn't really feel like television. It's an ongoing one-act, one-scene play. Filmed.

Party Down
Maybe this should have made the list. But Party Down's run was too short, its general availability too limited and its pathetic-losers-bound-to-tragedy formula too cliched to include. Also, I forgot about it until now.

The second episode needed to be 40 minutes shorter, and Moriarty was criminally miscast.

American Dad
Honestly, if this was last year, and they had just aired the Jesus-Dates-Francine-in-the-Mad-Max-Apocalypse episode, "Rapture's Delight," this show probably would have made the wild card slot.

This weight-loss camp may be the best thing ABC Family has ever done (Middleman comes close), but occasional lapses into after-school-special moments keep it from greatness. On a scale of one to ten... well, scales are a very sensitive matter for discussing a show like this.

You must be taller than two episodes to ride the "Top-Ten-o-Whirl."

Louie is not a comedy.It's a "show created by a comedian." It's purposefully inconsistent, switching from hilarious "what-an-awful-date" setpieces to lengthy straight-faced descriptions. But that's also what keeps me from connecting with it. I admire and applaud Louie from afar. But the tone was too varied and the outlook too bleak to reallyenjoy it

My God, the chaoticinconsistency. If the show had a semblance of throughline — if it was asgood as it show's flashes made it seem — it could be a contender. As of now,it's [insert lengthy Sue Sylvester-style insult here.]

The inspired later episodes (body-switching, one-way time travelers) were fantastic. But the thuds of the jokes in the early episodes are still echoing.

The Venture Bros.
An excess of characters and chaos sapped away the coherence for much of the season, despite a great finale.

Men of a Certain Age
I'm not of that certain age.

The Big Bang Theory
I've got big problems with every character but Sheldon, Penny and (wildcard choice!) Amy Farrah Fowler.

The League
A few great episodes, but it languishes in frat-guy crassness when it should be clever.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
One of the problems with shows about awful, annoying and repulsive people is that, sometimes, they make the show itself turn out to be awful, annoying and repulsive.

The Pacific
I just can't get into war movies. So I gave up after a few episodes.

Made me feel like the attention-span-less, yawning, "entertain me" dolt that critics like me accuse the American public of being.

Better Off Ted
Maybe the most clever comedy on television. But not the funniest. The jokes were so clever that I gave polite little claps, instead of laughing out loud. Evidently, too cerebral to make my list.

Jersey Shore
The Situation's character arc was stagnant, and that Snooki character wasn't believable as a human being.

Honorable (Non-) Mentions*
I haven't watched Bored to Death, Treme, True Blood, Weeds and Eastbound and Down. So it wouldbe a bit tacky to vote it one of the best shows of 2010.

Defend your favorite TV shows on Twitter to @danieltwalters

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters is the Inlander's senior investigative reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...