I’m not generally a fan of the phrase “jumped the shark.” I think it’s presumptuous; as if I personally decided the standards with which a show should continue, and how it should be evaluated. I know what you’re saying “but… that’s exactly what you do.” Yes, yes it is. But that doesn’t mean I don’t oftentimes feel bad about it.
So when it came time to think of what aspect of 2011’s television offerings I would break down for your perusal, a nagging feeling piqued in the back of my mind – a lot of what’s on television should no longer be on television. And I’m not just talking about shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, or any other number of programs that have worn out their proverbial welcome in the Neilsen households of America. No, I’m referring specifically to the handful of TV shows that chose 2011 as the year to hammer that final nail in the coffin of television irrelevancy. Just what, pray tell, are these shows that I’ve deemed no longer worthy of filling my DVR?
Read on, and when preparing the hate mail, remember that Mikela has one A, not two.
When Glee had its late spring preview in 2009 (which, I’ll note, was on my birthday – a win-win!), I was sold. It had pretty much everything that I love. Misfit teens? Check. Karaoke-style impromptu jams? Check. Journey? Check. An adult figure clearly a graduate of the Timberlakean school of black-white-guy soul singing? Double-check. At first, this show was so overwhelmingly charming; it felt hard to stomach (but in a good way.) It captured the awkwardness of teendom with a finesse only previously possessed by Judd Apatow in his brief turns on television (RIP, Freaks and Geeks & Undeclared, you left us too soon). And any show that can give Jane Lynch a primetime vehicle with which to showcase her talent deserves praise for that alone.
However, when you take a mid-season break that’s more than 3 months long, you’re bound to lose some steam, and that’s exactly what happened. When Glee returned in April of 2010, it wasn’t the same, even though most of us kept watching. What’s on now (from what I surmise, I fully admit that I’ve stopped watching the show) is a different animal altogether. Gone are the quirky storylines about teacher-populated a-capella groups, and in their place are preachy tales that make the show less about its characters, and more about its agenda. Additionally, the characters have moved ever so dramatically away from what they once were, and that I just cannot abide. Also gone are the fun, iPod playlist-esque song choices; replaced now by devoted theme episodes so creatively stretched to include the music that they seem more like an hour-long presentation of music videos (the Britney Spears episode, anyone?). I blame Ryan Murphy, ever the victim of his own creative megalomania.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. This is a show that elicits an overwhelmingly strong reaction out of people. People don’t just like Dexter. They LOVE Dexter, in an “OMG DID YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENED ON DEXTER??!?!” sort of way. It’s a thing. I’m guilty of this, too – so entranced by Michael C. Hall’s ability to transform from the awkward and emotionally tortured David Fisher of Six Feet Under to the even more emotionally tortured Dexter Morgan that I plowed through the first two seasons on DVD in an embarrassingly small number of days. I even subscribed to Showtime so I could keep up with what he, Deb (easily one of TV’s least likable characters), Batista, Laguerta, and even Rita were up to. The roster of guest stars only fed the already deafening buzz surrounding this show. I mean, John Lithgow? His portrayal of the Trinity Killer STILL gives me nightmares, a feat only achieved previously by the one-armed man being hunted by Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. Dude freaked me out, you guys.
So you can imagine the pain exuding from my fingertips as I express my realization that this show is so far past its prime now that it hurts to even admit. As if it were not awkward enough for us as an omnipresent audience to watch leads Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter portray siblings on-screen, while going through a marriage then a divorce off-screen, the writers have decided that, oh, yeah, this makes sense as a plot point. And while Dexter lost his best shot at normalcy with Rita (spoiler alert, but if you don’t know this by now, you’re doing the internet wrong), is he so whacked out that we’re supposed to believe that even he thinks it’s socially acceptable to be fielding doe-eyes from his adopted sister? I’m gonna go with no.
The Walking Dead
Oh, I know what you’re thinking. “This show again?!” Bear with me. When this gruesome Zombiepacalypse fell upon us in 2010, I was all over it. Who wasn’t? If you couldn’t talk about it on November 1st, you were pretty much deemed socially unacceptable in conversation. Just saying. Sure, the show was a bit of a reverse slow burn – starting out with a bang, sustaining on a whimper, and ending once again, with a bang (both literal and metaphorical – zing!).
However, it was an interesting enough concept that when season 2 premiered nearly a year later, it was welcomed with a record tune-in for AMC. Well, color us disappointed. Over the course of a lackluster season, the characters emerged as some of TV’s least likable people. Don’t believe me? Check out my character annoyance index. Plus, not nearly enough people get eaten. It’s a zombie show, AMC, we don’t expect everyone to make it in the end. Liven it up a little.
Many would contend one of two things – 1) this show jumped the shark long ago, or 2) there needs to be a shark established, in order for a show to jump it. I know it’s not exactly highbrow television, but this campy vampire saga has sucked me in since day one, and I’ve been able to forgive a lot of its shortcomings – the meat statue; Sookie; Tara; Tommy Mickens. This season, however? Sorry, Alan Ball. You lost me.
I could almost give it a pass, based on the sheer adorable-ness of Eric Northman, amnesiac, but when you throw in Werepanthers, Petunia Dursley as a possessed witch, and Andy Bellefleur’s inexplicable splendor in the grass with Sookie’s Fairy Godmother, yeah I’m done. There are too many cooks in True Blood’s mythical creature kitchen, so I’m going to go ahead and step out.
Again, I can hear the groans now – “this show hasn’t been good in years.” I disagree. Sure, not every episode can be as winning as “Benihana Christmas,” and I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed as hard as when Michael Scott ran over Meredith in the parking lot, but Dunder Mifflin was still having its moments up until recently. When Pam and Jim got married, I cried. When the gang walked down the aisle spoofing the Youtube wedding gag? I laughed. When Holly assumed Kevin was mentally challenged? That’s comedy, folks.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and I fear we’re nearing that point. With the departure of Steve Carell’s Michael Scott, so should have come the departure of this show as a whole, because things just aren’t working out. Funny and aloof as he may be, Andy “Nard Dog” Bernard simply isn’t a strong enough character to anchor this office, and the pranking of Jim vs. Dwight has worn thin. Poor Pam just seems to be pregnant all the time, and James Spader’s Robert California has moved past intriguing and into dick-ish territory. It’s time, Office writers. Let’s give Mindy Kaling the freedom to pursue other projects, shall we?
There it is, your weekly installment of curmudgeonly corner. What do you think about what’s on TV right now? Did I miss any shows that are living out their golden years less-than-gracefully? We should just put them in a TV show retirement home. It’s what they’d want.