Picking on bad shows like Viva Laughlin is just too easy. There's enough low-hanging fruit being broadcast to fill a whole bushel of awful from 2007. And then there are those shows that represent how TV fails us, how it fails itself, how it just plain fails. In other words, here are the top five things that make me wish I could pull an Elvis on a 25” RCA.
5. The Bionic Woman (NBC) Not the worst on TV, certainly, but by far the worst in terms of wasted potential. This show had it all going for it: a big budget, a good cast, and a built-in fan base anxiously awaiting the return of Jaime Sommers. Sadly, the real Jaime Sommers never showed up—and I don’t mean Lindsay Wagner, though her presence might have helped. What we did get was a series of ridiculously thin and generic sci-fi scripts that failed to take advantage of the property’s strengths. A bionic hero without an Oscar Goldman? Unthinkable. Slot number five goes to the shows whose producers think a ton of money alone can turn crap into caviar.
4. Hey Paula (Bravo) Here’s the thing: I know Paula Abdul is nuts. We all know this. We accept, at this point, that she’s sober enough to (usually) do her judge gig on American Idol, and other than that, she exists in some sort of blurry world made of pink satin and overblown ego. So I don’t need to see a reality show that proves this to me. Slot number four goes to all the shows that do nothing more than prove crazy people will subject themselves to degradation for cash.
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3. SpikeTV Is it fair to make a blanket indictment of a network? When all the offerings are as insipid as SpikeTV’s, then yes. Any negative aspect of masculinity, and they’ll make a show about it. Violence? Oh, yeah, for sure. Wrestling, Ultimate Fighting, anything you’d like. Sex? Absolutely—they even have hot-chick links on their website. Both together? Sure…how about TNA Impact! (No, no, the TNA doesn’t stand for Tits and Ass…it stands for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling! How could you possibly make that mistake, despite the fact that the word “wrestling” is purposefully left out of the titular acronym?) Slot number three goes to TV’s tendency to pander to the most base elements of our nature. And boy, is this a big category.
2. The “No-Chubbies” Ads I wouldn't normally include ads on a list like this, even reprehensible ones like these—but these commercials really ruin my evenings watching Gordon Ramsey yell at restaurateurs. (And seriously, if you’re worse than Kitchen Nightmares...) These ridiculous ads were already skewered brilliantly by Joel Warner here in Westword’s blogs, so I won’t waste any more digital space complaining that they exist. Just get them off my TV. Even FOX should have better taste than this. Slot number two goes to all the stations that allow irresponsible paid messages just because they’re paid for.
1. The Writers' Strike Okay, this one is probably an easy call, but it’s definitely the worst thing to hit television in the past year. And I’m taking According to Jim into account here. The strike took the Fall season out at the knees, and probably brought about casualties of which we’re yet unaware, both in terms of established shows and new and promising series, too. Whether or not you support the writers in this (and I do), there’s no denying that the only winner so far has been reality TV. And when reality TV wins, humanity loses.
Many of these complaints come down to the Jerry Springer effect, which postulates that there is no answer to the question: how low can television go? There is no bottom to the barrel, Grasshopper. For every skank, for every moron, for every break in the quality of television, there’s always someone or something worse, waiting for the spotlight. Here's to looking into the yawning abyss of what 2008 could bring. -- Teague Bohlen