We’ve reached the mid-way point of our best / worst television countdown for 2011. Read on for our third picks…
#3: Ringer S1
I want to like Ringer. I really do. I like more than 50% of the cast. I love melodramas full of soapy goodness. I’m also willing to overlook the ridiculous notion that one twin can impersonate the other without any one noticing - that’s how badly I want to like this show.
But I can’t. The show is a hot mess, and not in a fun so-good-its-bad kinda way. It’s bad in a so-bad-I-want-to-throttle-the-writers kinda way. Sarah Michelle Gellar has proven that she has dramatic and comedic chops on Buffy. Nestor Carbonnell served up mysteries aplenty for multiple seasons on LOST, and Jaime Murray added a flair of dirty sexiness and camp during Dexter’s second season. So why is this show so boring? And illogical? And not fun?
Like the majority of the shows that made my dishonourable list, the main problem with Ringer is the writing. It’s clear that although the writers have some kind of plan for the show, they’re taking the tortoise vs hare approach and letting the story unfold at a glacial pace. And they confuse what makes for engaging television, by not only ignoring the cardinal rule of showing not telling, but by refusing to allow their characters to react in any kind of genuine or believable fashion. It took multiple episodes for Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Bridget to spell out why she needs to stay in New York when someone is trying to kill her/her sister, and even then the rationale isn’t overly convincing. Siobhan, the other half, is a well-dressed Charlie (ala Charlie’s Angels), pulling the strings from Paris with a diabolical agenda that has yet to be revealed in ten episodes, and granted only two lines of dialogue each episode.
Awful line delivery. Underdeveloped characters. Characters that exist simply to reduce the median age of the cast in order to appeal to The CW’s 18-34 demographic. Lazy plotting. More interest in the fashion and narcissistic giant self-portraits than the plot or relationships between characters. I don’t even think I would care so much if I could simply let the show become the drinking game its writers seem intent on making it.
But then they pull something off. Gemma (Tara Summers) finds out about her husband’s affair with Siobhan and the imposter scheme is revealed…in the fourth episode! Gemma goes missing and is presumed dead in episode five! These are schemes that most shows would hold for mid-season or finale time. And I get reeled back in, only to be brutally abused by lame cop outs like when Siobhan’s lover meets Bridget and it seems like the whole truth will come pouring out in front of her husband…and we cut to the aftermath as though we wouldn’t care about seeing how it played out. WTF Ringer?!
I once elaborated that the show is like an abusive relationship: that each week is a toss-up and you never know if you’ll get the show that respects your intelligence or the one that kicks you in the crotch. I know that I’ll keep up with it because I still have hope that it will turn into the former…consistently. But every time that goddamn daughter shows up, I have to flinch…and gird my loins.
# of episodes watched: 10
Returns: January 13, 2012 @ 9:00pm EST on the CW
#3: How To Be a Gentleman (Canceled)
This was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it series as CBS only aired four episodes before giving it the axe. And I’m not surprised since it lands on my worst list. The premise – an ‘etiquette” columnist, Andrew (David Hornsby from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) for some unknown magazine is about to get his pink slip if he doesn’t adapt his column to more modern times. Naturally, he recruits his high school bully, Bert (Kevin Dillon fresh off Entourage) to help out. Yep! Meet the new odd couple of 2011! And yes, the three episodes I watched were as tired and trite as my summary makes it out to be.
I will say that I enjoyed Rhys Darby’s (Flight of the Conchords!!) Mike and Mary Lynn Rajskub’s Janet in their supporting roles. Yes, their characters were equally as one dimensional, but even in the three episodes I saw, there was potential. Darby delivered the only laughs for me. In fact, all of the actors have appeared on far better shows. Oh well, hopefully they’re all able to pursue bigger and better things.
The core problem here is the far too simplistic, male stereotypes. You’ve got a juicehead and, how do I put this…a non-juicehead. My issue here is this whole concept of the “gentleman” vs. “the man”– just because a guy doesn’t walk around like a Neanderthal does not make him effeminate and in need of a testosterone injection. Just because he doesn’t spend every waking moment at the gym and is actually considerate to women, does not make him ‘less than.’
Example – in order to get the hot neighbour to go out with him, Bert tells Andrew to treat the girl like dirt. And guess what? She loves it and off on a date they go. Great! Even more offensive stereotyping!
What gets me is that the grunting asshole is called in to bring the “gentleman” into modern times. How twisted is that logic? Essentially you have the “wimpy” (and please note my over-use of quotations…) kid all grown up, but instead of being proud that he has made his own way without following the jock-path, he’s still made to feel like he needs to change. It’s just mean-spirited. Plus, how tired is this formula of the hyper-masculine vs. no-so-much? Haven’t we seen it a million times before? Good riddance.
# of episodes watched: 3
Laughs: Only from Darby. Go watch Flight of the Conchords if you want more. (a helluva lot more)
#3: Revenge S1
If Ringer is the equivalent to an abusive relationship, then Revenge is the relationship that no one can believe I’m in. The show is pure night time soap: many have called it the season’s guilty pleasure, which I would agree with except that nothing about it makes me feel guilty. Au contraire. Of all the shows I watch (and there are many), this is the show that I most look forward to because I’m guaranteed a good time.
The show is pure escapism at a politically astute moment. In the day and age that Time magazine puts ‘The Protestor’ as its person of the year and Occupy <Insert Location> movements have taken over North America, Revenge has tapped into the public disdain for the rich, the privileged and the beautiful. Man we hate them, but boy do we love to watch them on television. The beauty of Revenge, however, is that we get the opulence of the rich, but also the satisfaction of these rich bitches getting taken out by our protagonist – bad girl playing nice, Emily (Emily VanCamp, finally breaking free of goody two-shoes typecast). For the first few episodes the show had a nice, albeit safe and predictable, rhythm: Emily identified a target responsible for the wrongful imprisonment of her father, took out her chest of memories, circled their faces from a corporate picture and got her REVENGE on (it’s a drinking game, folks! Go with it). And then one week something happened: someone took a nosedive off a building. Oh sure she survived, but it wasn’t supposed to go down that way – at least not according to Emily’s plans.
With that, the show switched gears. Suddenly the stakes were higher, and people weren’t just losing their businesses, or going to jail for things they deserved. No – shit got real. Suddenly Emily wasn’t always in control, and although she still came out on top more often than not, thanks to help from her billionaire not-quite-partner Nolan (Gabriel Mann), the game had clearly changed. As an audience, we knew that this was coming since the pilot opens with a murder that occurs at the end of the summer before flashing back to build up to that moment. But after a few more generic episodes, it would have been easy for the show to simply have a take-down of the week. Instead the writers went for it, surprising me and most critics who had previously written the show off as simplistic and forgettable.
On top of its razor wit and surprising twists, the cast is fantastic. This is no easy feat when the actors are written to spout off some fairly ridiculous dialogue, or commit some reprehensible actions. Leading the charge is Madeleine Stowe, who I’ll freely admit to adoring. This woman knows how to turn the simplest line reading into a work of art (and sheer malice), and she has rightfully been nominated for a Golden Globe for her work as Grayson matriarch. The other stand-out character for me is a bit more polarizing since audiences love to hate him. I’m referring to bisexual social climber Tyler Barrol (Ashton Holmes), who has thus far, slept with Nolan, blackmailed papa Grayson (Henry Czerny), tried to take friend Daniel Grayson’s (Joshua Bowman) place in the company and in the previews for the first episode back in January holds up a dinner party with a gun because he’s off his schizophrenia meds. Essentially the guy is totally crazy pants and he brings an electric energy to the proceedings because you never know what he’s going to do next.
And that’s the appeal of the show. It’s wild, and unpredictable, but somehow satisfyingly familiar enough that you can settle in with a large glass of wine and just enjoy the show. What more can you ask for from a show than to end hump-day with murder, mayhem, and maybe – just maybe – a touch of REVENGE?
Returns: January 4, 2012 @ 10:00pm on ABC
#3: The Walking Dead S2
After the first season of The Walking Dead, I knew that I liked the show, but wasn’t particularly invested in it. Boy did that change over the first half of this second season. Within seven episodes, I find myself completely enthralled by this series and itching for its return in February.
The turning point for me was Shane’s (Jon Bernthal) game-changing act on Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) in the season’s second episode, ‘Bloodletting’. I could not stop thinking about what he had done and was desperate to talk about it. Although there were hints of what would happen due to the show’s tactful use of flashfowards and flashbacks (use quite sparingly but pretty significant when they do pop up) when it did actually happen, I was still surprised- mouth agape and just speechless.
The show then became so much more than one simply about the zombie apocalypse. There are hints of that in the first season, but for some reason it didn’t hit me until that pivotal scene, which I’m taking pains not to reveal here. Perhaps I just want you to see it for yourself if you haven’t already and jump on the discussion bandwagon. This show is about character arcs, about evolution (or devolution) and how things need to change when faced with life-threatening situations.
Essentially what I enjoy about the show, and the dystopian genre overall, is that it demands we think about the moral boundaries that we presume are so black and white. It’s so easy to say “I would never do that!” but when it’s do or die, do you really know what you would or wouldn’t do? When forced into survival mode, I find it fascinating to see what humanity is capable of.
Aside from that, I felt that this season was just filled with really great drama and character development. Previously, the two characters that I rolled my eyes at every time they entered a scene were Shane and Darryl (Norman Reedus). Now these two characters have become the most interesting of the bunch all in the span of a couple of episodes. Many have complained that this season has been painfully slow as nothing really “happens” (i.e. not too many walker-attacks) but I beg to differ. The drama component is what has completely sold me on this show.
And who could forget that barn-showdown in the season finale, ‘Pretty Much Dead Already‘? Perfectly capturing why the show is such an excellent, compelling drama. I was completely arrested during those final minutes. I couldn’t move or speak – I just took it all in. Moments like those are what great television is about.
There are only 13 episodes currently out there. I encourage you to get caught up and join our discussion when the season resumes. It’s well worth it.
Returns: February 12, 2012 @ 9:00pm on AMC (Currently, mid-season 2)
We’re almost there. Check back tomorrow for our number two picks of the year and remember to chime in with your thoughts in the comments below. We love to hear from you!