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
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
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
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
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?
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).
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.