5 of the Biggest TV Letdowns of 2013

It’s now the beginning of 2014, and usually around this time there are several lists that take a retrospective look of the previous year. Very often, though, these lists are usually “best of” lists. Being the ever pessimist that I am, I’ve decided to take a look at the 5 biggest letdowns of TV in 2013. Television in 2013 had its highs (the breathtaking final 8 episodes of Breaking Bad; the revelation that was Netflix originals House of Cards and Orange is the New Black), as well as its lows (the overwhelming lack of good, new shows — thank God for Sleepy Hollow). In this list I take a look back at some of the biggest disappointments television offered us 2013.

5. A Slow Start for Amazon Studios

Alpha House

Taking a page from Netflix’s and Hulu’s book, Amazon jumped into the online streaming, original series realm. Their flagship series was the political comedy Alpha House starring John Goodman. The premise is four Republican senators sharing a home in D.C. and we are given an inside look into their daily work lives and personal lives as they vie for reelection and political influence. I was looking forward to watching Alpha House because it’s not often you get a show about politics that is fully comedic and satirical. Imagine my disappointment when this show offered very little in the way of laughs. I caught myself chuckling a few times in the beginning, but even those chuckles dwindled to nothing as the season progressed. The characters haven’t been developed enough for my liking, and sometimes the comedy seems too forced (I have no problem with nudity, but showing John Goodman’s butt seemed completely pointless).

The other primary series to come out of Amazon is Betas (is it me, or does Amazon really like the Greek alphabet?). Admittedly, I haven’t seen Betas at all. However, if what I’ve read about it is to be believed, it’s even worse than Alpha House. It’s safe to say Amazon didn’t quite come out swinging like Netflix did. (Though, in fairness, Netflix didn’t always hit it out the park. Hemlock Grove anyone?) I think Alpha House has potential, but there are definite kinks that need to be worked out for the show to have any staying power (I’m still going to stick with it until the end of the season). I still have faith that Amazon will make their original programming work, whether that’s with Alpha House or some other series.

4. Community‘s Lackluster 4th Season

Community Poster

Let me start by saying I didn’t absolutely loath Season 4 like others. There were points throughout the season where I saw glimmers of the kick-ass-ness that was Community Seasons 1-3. I knew going in to Season 4 that a Dan Harmon-less Community likely wasn’t going to be the same. But what happened was the product of new showrunners trying way too hard. Despite the glimmers of the old Community that I occasionally saw, there were even more times when it didn’t even feel like the same series. I felt bad for the actors (and even the characters within the show), as well as for Harmon for losing control over his creation. The whole “Changnesia” plot was quite possibly one of my least favorite plot lines from any show in 2013. There were times when it was convoluted, not fully thought out, and just all around stupid.

Luckily for us Community fans, Season 5 has returned with Dan Harmon back at the wheel. And from what I’ve seen with the first two episodes, we’re in for a good ride. I found both episodes to be a great mix of humor and heart. You could tell Harmon was back on board. Unfortunately for Community, Season 4 will forever leave a scar on a fantastic, though very underrated, television program.

3. The Disappointment that is Dracula

Dracula

One of the new shows of the 2013 season that I was highly looking forward to was Dracula. As a fan of The Tudors, I was excited to see Jonathan Rhys Meyers back on the TV in a lead role. Also, I consider the novel Dracula to be one the best written pieces of literature there is. Mix those two things with my love of the visual medium that is television, and you would think this show would be one that I couldn’t wait to jump in to. Like I said, I was looking forward to it, but before Dracula even aired, something in my gut told me not to get too excited about it. Unfortunately, my gut was right.

Rarely do I call a show “slow.” As a matter of fact, many shows that people describe as slow, I love. However, I found Dracula to be just that … slow, or at bare minimum, something seemed off with the pacing. The pilot episode bored me beyond measure. After three episodes, I had to stick a stake in the heart of this series because I just couldn’t watch anymore. And given the rate at which Dracula is losing viewers, it’s likely to be the end of the series soon.

2. The Cancellation of Happy Endings

Happy Endings

It wasn’t a happy ending for anyone when ABC decided to cancel Happy Endings in the late Spring of 2013 after three seasons. This was definitely a letdown to me. The comedy series was never really a ratings juggernaut, but it was critically acclaimed and never really had the chance to find a stable audience as ABC consistently moved it around on the schedule, leaving the viewers guessing as to when it would actually air. And unlike other comedies, Happy Endings was consistently funny, not just sporadically funny. It is true that Season 3 wasn’t as ah-mah-zing as the first two seasons. But it’s very common for a series to hit a bit of a slump in its third season. And even though Season 3 wasn’t its best, the series definitely deserved to continue.

After its cancellation by ABC, there was much talk about Happy Endings getting picked up by a different network (a la Cougar Town). There were negotiations with a few networks whom expressed interest in acquiring the series. For a month or so, it was a guessing game of will they or won’t they. Sadly, the deadline for an official decision to be made came and went, and Happy Endings was sent to the television graveyard. Am I a sucker for thinking Happy Endings will pull an Arrested Development and be resurrected from the grave in the future? One can wish, right?

1. What the Hell was with Low Winter Sun?

Low Winter Sun

I still think one of the things that killed Low Winter Sun was scheduling. On paper it seemed like a genius move to schedule it after Breaking Bad. I mean, Breaking Bad had so much momentum in viewership in 2013 that it just seemed logical to put a new series on right after it. If Low Winter Sun could have consistently retained at least 60% of Breaking Bad‘s audience, I think it could have been viewed as a success — at least in terms of ratings. However, airing such a mediocre show after Breaking Bad (arguably one of the best series of all time), really highlighted the plethora of flaws with Low Winter Sun. I also don’t think it sat too well with Breaking Bad fans that AMC showed promos for next week’s Breaking Bad episode after Low Winter Sun started its episode, forcing Breaking Bad viewers to watch Low Winter Sun just to get a sneak peek into next week’s episode — a cheap ploy knowing us Breaking Bad fans were as addicted to promos just like the drug addicts in the show were addicted to meth.

While I don’t think scheduling helped at all, really Low Winter Sun‘s true downfall was in its horrible writing. There really is nothing else to say except the writing was atrocious. I don’t think it was ever likely the series was going to be as great as Breaking Bad, but had the writers of Low Winter Sun at least come up with decent material, I think more people would’ve stuck around to watch it. I think the biggest lesson we can learn from Low Winter Sun is that maybe us Americans shouldn’t be remaking series already made great by the British (I’m looking at you upcoming Broadchurch remake).

(Dis)Honorable Mention

My (dis)honorable mention goes to the mess that was The Following. It premiered at the very beginning of 2013, so I should have left this unfortunate memory in the recesses of my mind. But with a second season rapidly approaching, I’m forced to recall it. Honestly, I’m a bit shocked it was renewed. The first three or four episodes showed great promise. But after that, the scenarios became just too crazy for me to take anymore — and I’m usually pretty good about suspending disbelief. Not to mention, I love Poe, but the show got way too heavy-handed with the Poe references for my liking. It all just became overkill.

If we’re comparing 2013 to other years in television, my overall assessment is that 2013 was a rather lackluster year for television. Don’t get me wrong, there were many great things about television in 2013: great new series like Showtime’s Masters of Sex, BBC America’s Orphan Black, and Fox’s Sleepy Hollow, to online streaming shows actually winning Emmy awards. But, in general, 2013 gave us unfortunate cancellations and a ridiculously high number of bad shows. However, it’s now a new year and there’s tons more television to be watched over the next 12 months. So let’s raise a glass to great television in 2014… hopefully.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Posted on by
Grad student with an interest in pop culture broadly and television and film more specifically. I have television on the brain 24/7. It's safe to call me a TV addict.

Want to write about TV or other art forms?

Create writer account

30 Comments

  1. NBC doesn’t give a darn about Dracula, they basically seem to have abandoned the show. It was a serious mistake to air a 2 hour Grimm and not air Dracula on December 13th. Every single article about Dracula I use the comment section, also I try to promote the show on Twitter. I can tell you that one of the exec producers of the show is quite upset with the promotion (or lack of) I love the show and really hope they will give it a season 2.

    • Dan Jimenez
      0

      For some reason NBC is completely incompetent in this department. You hear the exact same complaint regarding its really amazing shows, Community and Hannibal. When Community got syndicated to Comedy Central, they even made commercials making fun of the fact that NBC didn’t promote the show well.

  2. Patti Cobb
    0

    Happy Endings is too smart for most people, i.e, most people are dumb, hence why the show doesn’t get good ratings.

    This is why most people would rather watch NCIS even though I can figure out who the killer is before the first commercial break. I’m pretty sure most people just watch for the slaps to the back of the head. I think it reminds them of the brain cells they’ve lost.

    • Christopher
      0

      Few reasons why I don’t like it:

      – The show spends to little time focusing on the main to people. You know, the couple that split during their wedding? What attracted me to this show was Elisha Cuthbert. I’ll watch anything she’s in…and being that she’s supposed to be one of the 2 main people on this show, it’s rather a put off to watched this huge group of people blabber on.

      – The Wayans guy reminds me of his father. Neither is funny. And it’s rather comical that you say how most people aren’t smart enough to get the humor. Wayans Sr is known for being involved with stupid humor (ie Scary Movie for example). And before you start the “well he isn’t on this show” routine, keep in mind he does produce this show.

      I’ll also say that I watched all of the first season and part of the second. Loved the first couple episodes. Why? Because it focused on the main to people….as it should. Became less and less from there, which lead me to be less and less interested. Shame really. I really enjoyed the first 3-4 episodes.

      Not surprised in the least to see this show cancelled.

  3. Nice list. I have only watched Low Winter Sun and thought it started out strong but it began to gradually deteriorate in quality. The finale episodes felt extremely rushed but then the pacing has been all over the place in general and that’s one of the main things that turned me off. That and how Frank and Joe’s character development was handled. Just incoherent.

    • Robert Humphrey

      I think your assessment is spot on, and incoherent is the perfect word to use. On the whole, it was all just an unfortunate disaster.

  4. Vic Millar

    I really hope Happy Endings gets a resurrection. I’m not really into throwing Coach back into New Girl, I’d rather see Wayan’s Jr. as Brad again.

    • Robert Humphrey

      I am not for throwing Coach back into New Girl either. Brad > Coach. Speaking of which, this season of New Girl is another thing that has been rather disappointing.

  5. Jessica Koroll

    I don’t find myself agreeing with too many internet lists of this sort but I can get behind a lot of the points made here. This was a terrible season for tv premiers and Low Winter Sun was easily one of the top offenders. Dracula, also, I think mainly suffered from the fact that it didn’t seem to have a clear idea of where it was going. I think I watched five episodes and nothing ever escalated. It was really disappointing overall. I’m happy to see that you mentioned Orphan Black and Masters of Sex though. The former is brilliant and the latter deserves so much more attention than it seems to be getting.

    • Robert Humphrey

      I have to say, as the network that brought us Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and Mad Men, I have to wonder how AMC thought Low Winter Sun was a good enough show to air. Anyway, I think both Orphan Black and Masters of Sex are great, and, even though this was a “letdowns” list, I still somehow felt guilty about mentioning them in such a passing way, as to give them very little credit for their greatness. So, I’m glad you picked up on them and I completely agree with your assessments of both shows.

    • I think that Dracula has improved recently though. The plot is starting to make more sense, though I think that the writers should have stuck to the darker and more recognizable Dracula story line.

      • Jessica Koroll

        I haven’t been keeping up with recent episodes so I can’t really say anything on them, but I certainly hope so! I agree that the writers should have stuck closer to the Dracula storyline if that’s what they really wanted to base their show on. What they have now could be interesting on its own, but trying to include the Dracula thing on top of it seems a little forced to me.

  6. Kevin Licht

    I don’t know if I agree it was a lackluster year for TV in general comment. How many years do you really get a bunch of new great shows. In 2013 we had what? The Fall, Top of The Lake, Orange is the New Black, The Americans, and for a new comedy we were given Brooklyn Nine-Nine among others.

    I personally think the problem with TV is that there’s just too much out there.

  7. Netflix stories seem fresh and original with edgier characters central to the development, writing and filming. Amazon’s show seemed to be developed from concepts, messages and a story or agenda that the writers had and the characters were created to fit that message. Netflix seems they opted for shows whose writers created these amazing characters first and developed interesting and entertaining ways to tell the stories of each character. In fact each of Netflix’s shows could take place in a different time or place in the characters’ lives and I’d keep watching, as the prison and seat of goverment are simply a set for part of the character’s stories. It’s a difference in making the viewer want to care what happens to the characters or not.

  8. Alan Cannon
    0

    I watched the first 3 episodes of low winter sun. It was good, but these days a show really has to grab me if im gonna stick around for the long haul. This is good new though-now Lenny James is free to become a regular on the Walking Dead.

    • Strickland
      0

      In my opinion, there was no point to the show. I watched all of season 1 and after it finished I prayed it wouldn’t get renewed so I wouldn’t have to watch season 2. I know no one is holding a gun to my head forcing me to watch this show, but if I watch the whole first season of a show and it gets another season, even if I didn’t like the 1st season, I need to see what’s going to come next. So I’m just glad I don’t have to keep this show in my busy TV show schedule.

      There was some pretty good acting in some of the episodes though.

    • Jake Wheeler
      0

      I like Mark strong a lot. He would be a great luthor and not just because he’s bald! He’s just good at playing a guy who feels he’s superior and more intelligent than everyone else. Examples. Green lantern, sherlock

    • I love how the premise of the show from some of the trailers and promotions was that two cops kill another cop and stage the perfect murder… until the end of episode 1 when the police rule it a murder. Boring show full of unlikeable uninteresting people. And Detroit.

  9. Jon Lisi

    Fun article. It also reminds us that there is just as much lackluster TV out there as there are movies. Low Winter Sun, especially, was a complete misfire. Not only was the show poorly executed, but I think we’ve all had enough of the male anti-hero, and the end of Breaking Bad and (soon) Mad Men will hopefully move TV producers into new directions.

    • Robert Humphrey

      Breaking Bad and Mad Men are fantastically amazing shows, but I agree about the male antihero thing. I really don’t think I’ve ever given it much thought until you mentioned it, but there is an over-saturation of male antiheroes on TV. I do think there is a finite route to go in that direction, and it’s going to take a completely revolutionary idea and TV show to make the male antihero character feel fresh — and LWS didn’t do that at all.

  10. Mette Marie Kowalski

    I am just SO happy I didn’t watch Dracula. Like you, I was very excited when the trailer came out, it looked so unique and original! I also haven’t followed up on Masters of Sex, Orange is the New Black and many other great series – but Hannibal was one of my favorite new discoveries of the last year.

  11. Nicola Kahler

    I agree with most of this list, especially the cancellation of Happy Endings.. absolute heartbreak 🙁 The Following though? I personally loved the show, it was one of the few dramas of 2013 that kept me on edge throughout the whole season.

    • Robert Humphrey

      I was on the edge of my seat for the first few eps, but I really grew bored with it after that. Difference of opinions, I guess 🙂

  12. KatieFeehan

    Yeh Dracula was a complete waste of time. What this insistence on reinventing classic literature that’s emerged recently? It’s always going to be difficult to both honour the original source material and reinvent it in a way that’s interesting and refreshing.

  13. I could not agree with you more in regards to Dracula. I too was a big fan of Johathan Rhys Meyers and The Tudors so I was really looking forward to this series. There hasn’t been a lot of breakout network TV shows lately and this one seemed to have all of the right ingredients. What a let down! The show had potential, but I think it was limited due to being on a major cable network. Not that a show needs sex appeal and swearing to succeed, I think we would have seen a different show had it been on HBO or Showtime and perhaps we would have seen a different outcome. Here’s to hoping that 2014 will offer fresh and exciting new programming for us!

  14. Happy Endings was a great show. I don’t understand how audiences could just let that gem of entertainment slip away. I guess I’ll just have to watch all the seasons over again and hope that the show gets picked up at some point.
    As for the other shows, and shows in 2013 in general; it really was a pretty disappointing year for television. I haven’t found one show on cable that I feel excited about watching or that I can’t miss.
    Thank goodness for Netflix and Hulu. I can at least watch old episodes of good shows.

  15. Max Lin

    So much about the fourth season of Community felt off, especially in terms of pacing and characterization. They even refer to it as the gas-leak year in the latest season. Still, I’m grateful for what the writers of that season did to keep the show afloat during Harmon’s departure. Without them, there could be no hope of six seasons and a movie.

    • Robert Humphrey

      I found the gas-leak mention to explain last season to be brilliant and hilarious. But, yes, despite my feelings of season 4, I will forever be thankful that someone carried on with Community, because if no one stepped up, we would be without it in our lives.

  16. Jillian Fields

    Everything you say about community is so true. It’s a wonderful show that has been repeatedly trodden on by NBC, and yet has somehow persevered.

    • Robert Humphrey

      I think season 5 has been great so far, and word is that a season 6 renewal is quite possible — not guaranteed, but definitely a possibility.

Leave a Reply