We’re inching closer to the top as the second annual Bitch Awards continues to examine the best and worst television of 2012.
Read on to see what captured fourth place…
It’s been awhile since I’ve thought about Alcatraz. Earlier this year I began reviewing it and only managed to stick with it for a handful of episodes before promptly wanting to slit my wrists. I had high hopes for this one: a J.J. Abrams produced drama starring Sam Neill and lovable Hurley, Jorge Garcia? Count me in. But this show disappoints significantly as it succumbs to fears about being “too confusing” like its predecessors (ie: LOST, Fringe).
The unfortunate thing is that it has strong serial elements that could prove quite compelling (Time traveling inmates known as the ‘63s! A secret underground room that only two very special keys can open! ) but the show doesn’t explore these elements to any level of satisfaction. Instead it opts for a case-of-the-week format as our main characters chase after the ’63 featured that week. You can check out the formula in one of my previous reviews. It gets incredibly tedious after about, oh, two episodes or so.
There’s also a significant lack of investment in many of the main characters. It seems as though the show is afraid to develop them, so viewers can feel free to drop in and out as they please. This results in big events (like the shooting of Parminder Nagra’s Lucy) happening way too fast, negating any kind of shock or reaction on the part of a disengaged audience. Furthermore, some nagging questions continue to be left unanswered, sloppily thrown in hoping the audience will just ‘accept them’ because they don’t factor into the show’s central mystery. Why, for example, are the ’63s hell bent on being such dicks when they come into the future, killing everyone? It’s clear that the show doesn’t care, which translates to equal detachment by its viewers.
With this much detachment, it’s no surprise to me that the show was cancelled. And so onto the worst list it goes!
# of episodes watched: 7
Returns: Never! Ha ha ha! But it is available on DVD
#5: New Girl S2
#4: Awkward. S2
If you read my reviews of the second season of MTV’s Awkward, this may or may not be a huge surprise to you. If you’ve only read last year’s Bitch Awards, this may be a huge shocker considering Awkward took the #4 position last year…in the ‘Best’ category.
Chalk this up to a case of the sophomore slump (more on this tomorrow when we get to #3). This happens occasionally with a popular show: the second season absolutely pales in comparison to its outstanding freshman season. Awkward‘s second season may not be the worst offender (the gold standard in terribleness remains the ill-conceived second season of Desperate Housewives in my mind), but the show is definitely not the winner it was in S1.
The biggest issue: S2 wants to be all Jake (Brett Davern) vs Matty (Beau Mirchoff) all the time. Often this comes at the expense of protagonist Jenna (Ashley Rickards). The problem is that this isn’t why people watch the show; we tune in because Jenna is a smart, witty, Daria-esque character. In S2 this is all tossed aside in favour of a routine examination of dating (and pining) as Jenna becomes a self-centered, narcissistic beyotch. Meanwhile all of the other characters disappear into the periphery…except for Tamara (Jillian Rose-Reed) who the show apparently considers hilarious (when in fact she’s actually just incredibly annoying). These are not improvements.
Considering how talented the cast is, and how engaging Rickards is, the vast majority of the second season feels like a slap in the face. Fewer genuine moments, storylines that don’t pay off in dramatically satisfying ways (especially the unjustified separation – and reconciliation – of Jenna’s parents) and the promise of yet more romantic triangle shenanigans to come? Awkward S2 proves to be a huge letdown and lands itself on the Worst list for the year – the only show to jump from Best to Worst. Let’s hope the magic returns for its super-sized S3.
# of episodes watched: 12
Returns: Summer 2013 on MTV
Caveat: I enjoyed Ming’s (Jessica Lu) adventures with the Asian Mafia and – as always – anything Sadie (Molly Tarlov) or Lissa (Greer Grammar) is nearly guaranteed to be gold
#4: The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
With all the quality dramas out there, readers may wonder why I’ve put a variety show on my “best” list. But The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson has consistently been on my DVR list for the past four years, and even at five shows a week, I watch each episode with enjoyment and delight. It’s a late night talk show like no other. Ferguson is brilliant in his spontaneity (he essentially improvises the entire show), even going so far as to make a point of tearing up his notes after introducing his guest in order to ensure that the interview has the organic quality (much like a coffee shop conversation).
Beyond the sentiment of “not caring” about silly things like rehearsals or scripted segments, it’s wonderful just to see Ferguson’s comedic mind come up with things on the fly. The ‘end segment’ gag is just one example, which has cycled through “have an awkward pause”, “touch my glittery ball” and “smash a coconut”. It borders on absurdist theatre, but it’s just hilarious to witness, especially with big name celebrities having a riot as they confusingly go through the motions.
With the inclusion of Geoff Peterson (voiced by Josh Robert Thompson), Craig’s gay skeleton robot sidekick, The Late Late Show consistently delivers some of the most hilarious material you’ve ever seen. Take, for example, “Here come the playahs” (what the girls always say when Geoff and Craig go to the club); it always makes me tear up with laughter. The two riff during the tweets and emails segments as Ferguson and Geoff read through viewer questions completely unscripted. The results are almost universally hilarious.
If you start watching the show (which you definitely should) give yourself a couple of episodes to get acclimatized to the craziness of it all. There are puppets on any given occasion and Craig’s horse-costumed interns, “Secretariat” (Who’s that at the door?), resides in a permanent barn on set. Ferguson is continually deconstructing and reinventing the late night formula with increasingly hilarious results. One immediate result is a well earned place on my Best list this year.
Watch: The Late Late Show airs at 12:30am weeknights on CBS.
#4: Spartacus: Vengeance (S2)
A lot of people had difficulty adjusting to the death of original cast member Andy Whitfield, so when Spartacus returned for its second season with Liam McIntyre in the role, there was a period of adjustment.
Eventually McIntyre settled into the role, but early on it seemed that STARZ had made a mistake bringing the show back without the man who helped turn it into a hit. Thankfully those concerns were assuaged relatively early on in S2, affectionately subtitled Vengeance.
Spartacus is a show that has always battled public perception: gratuitous nudity and blood earned it a seedy reputation as soon as the pilot aired. If naysayers actually watch the show, however, they will come to appreciate it for altogether different reasons. Yes there is blood and guts, and yes, people do have sex and you can see the woobly bits. But all of the humping and viscera would mean nothing if it weren’t in service to a series whose plot is downright Shakespearean in its machinations and features what may just be the most beautiful dialogue on television (it’s a surprising mix of cuss words and Victorian prose).
Vengeance upped the dramatic ante more than any other show on television, fearlessly killing off main characters in service to the overall story (not simply for shock purposes). The finale – much like the S1 finale – is an operatic bloodbath that culminates in a shocking suicide the likes of which I have never seen on TV…ever. It’s so dramatically satisfying that it’s a marvel the show’s creators managed to convince their STARZ bosses to give them the greenlight.
The people who have already made up their minds about the show are unlikely to change, but to those who have wondered what the fuss is about, here’s my claim: Spartacus is one of the most well-written, intricately plotted shows on television. And just in case that isn’t enough to sway you, it also features two of the most devious superbitches I’ve ever seen on the small screen: Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) and Lucretia (Lucy Lawless). Watching these frenemies plot and backstab each other is one of the most enjoyable television experiences I’ve had all year. This reason alone is enough to earn Spartacus: Vengeance the #4 spot for the year.
Returns: S3 (War Of The Damned) kicks off Jan 25 on STARZ
Watch: S1, then prequel, then S2
That’s it for day four. Tomorrow at 12pm we’ll tackle the hump positions as the Bitch Awards for television reach the half-way point.