Happy New Year! We’ve reached the second last day of the Bitch Awards for TV. Tomorrow we’ll discuss the best (and worst) television shows of 2014, but first we need to see who took the runner-up slots.
Let’s bitch it out…
I should have known better than to expect good things from Dominion. After all this is a series that is a de facto sequel to a terrible film, Legion, which would have made my Worst movie list had bitchstolemyremote been active back in 2010. When I caught wind that a telvision follow-up was in development, I was cautiously optimistic that the show would improve on the central concept of a war between angels waged on Earth.
Alas Dominion dashed that optimism pretty early on. The show is set in Vega (as in Las Vegas…in the future!), one of only a few remaining fortified human cities that protects against Gabriel (Carl Beukes) and his band of marauding angels. Humanity is protected by Michael (Tom Wisdom), the only “good” angel who is also watching over Alex (Christopher Egan), the magical baby at the center of the film – now fully grown and doing amazing things…like sleeping with Vega’s princess, Claire (Roxanne McKee) and whining a lot. Alex is one of the main problems with Dominion: he’s the usual white milquetoast reluctant hero, and as played by Egan he’s bland and boring. Far too much time is dedicated to Alex’s desire to escape Vega with Claire and the politics of the city, including the Shakespeare-lite power machinations between Claire’s father, Riesen (Alan Dale) and David Wheele (Anthony Head – the best or the worst thing about the show, depending on your appreciation of his cackling evil character).
The plot is ultimately pointless because it feels like there are no stakes. By sticking with the rich and powerful, we’ve no idea what real life is like in Vega and their petty politics have been done before and better on other shows. The acting is often grandiose and over the top, the dialogue laughable, the special effects merely passable – though not when it comes to the Angels, which are woefully cheesy and sub-par even for Syfy. Whereas Extant poured too many ideas into one mix, Dominion is perfectly safe, telegraphing every development, every attempted twist and leaving every character stranded in dull, repetitive storylines. The series is a dull slog, clocking in at only 10 episodes, it feels like a lifetime.
- # of episodes watched: 10
- Returns: Again, just like Extant, this series somehow escaped the merciful cancellation sledgehammer and will return in the summer
For all four years that we’ve done the Bitch Awards, The Good Wife has either medaled (as it did in the inaugural year) or juuuuust missed the top five. After essentially reinventing itself in its fifth season and then SPOILER killing off its male lead END SPOILER, there was no way that I couldn’t let the year pass without acknowledging TV’s most consistently smart, adult drama. Other series may exhibit flashes of brilliance, or sustain a brilliant season, but The Good Wife somehow maintains its quality year after year at twenty-two episodes a year no less (as the Emmy screener packages cheekily reminded us this year).
This year proved that the show remains as flexible and viable as ever. While most shows start to fade around year five, The Good Wife simply reinvented itself with two dramatic shake-ups: the creation of a new firm and the death of a key character. Last year I highlighted the episode ‘Hitting The Fan’, in which Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies, the show’s rock) jumps ship to start a law firm with former rival Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry), as the best episode of TV for the year. The rest of S5 played out as a war between the new firm – Florrick Agos – and the old firm – Lockhart Gardiner in a variety of delightful ways. Following the SPOILER AGAIN death of Josh Charles’ Will END SPOILER the series carefully investigated the nuances of death, grief, and loss even as it continued to shake things up with the suggestion that Diane (Christine Baranski) would join Alicia and Cary’s firm.
Season six has raised the bar even higher as Alicia moved forward in her bid to become States Attorney and the series has finally done right by Cary, giving Czuchry some meaty dramatic material to play as the DA targets Cary for defending Lemond Bishop (Chris Colter). This six-seasons-in-the-making storyline pays off the tricky moral gray zone that the show’s characters have inhabited since The Good Wife began and lends the show additional heft in its exploration of power and politics (after all, everyone on the show has profited from defending murderers and drug dealers).
In typical The Good Wife fashion the cases remain as complicated, topical and filled with brilliant guest stars as ever. Unlike pretty much every show on the Worst list, The Good Wife knows exactly what it is doing at all times. Every action is calculated, every arc is planned, and (most) every character – main or guest – is developed. The writers’ ability to continually move the narrative forward – through cases, personal issues and, ultimately, a shocking mid-season death – demonstrate masterful control over the possibilities and challenges afforded by long-form television. Quite simply, The Good Wife is the best show that you haven’t been watching and you’re still not watching.
Perhaps 2015 will be the year you’ll start?
- Returns: Sunday, January 4 at 9pm EST on CBS
- Caveat: With Archie Panjabi’s planned exit at the end of the season, I have my fingers crossed that Kalinda gets a solid send-off.
- Watch: I began constructing a list, but it quickly just became a list of every episode. I acknowledge that it’s tough to catch up on a show so late in its run, but nearly every episode of this series is worth watching.
#3: You’re The Worst S1
It’s rare that I truly enjoy comedies. Traditionally I prefer dramas because they’re longer (44 minutes vs 22), and therefore A) capable of a broader range of story lines and emotions, and B) offer more nuanced performances and better writing. Dramas just do television better, in my opinion.
With that in mind, it’s something of a minor miracle that so many comedies have snuck into this Best of 2014 TV list. It’s even more stunning that one has broken into the top five. If you had told me at the start of the year that I would be shifting shows like Hannibal and The Good Wife down in favour of a show about a pair of complete assholes who enter into a sexual relationship only to discover they kinda like each other, I would have laughed you out of the room. And yet here we are, starting a new year with You’re The Worst, the little FX show that could, taking the #3 position on my Best list.
This is a show that starts out rocky. I can’t say that I loved the first few episodes, which struggle to introduce Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash), our completely unlikeable protagonists. They are quite literally the worst people you know: they mock other people mercilessly, they are selfish, vain and narcissistic, they shit on the good things in life and they treat even their closest friends poorly. By about episode three, however, it’s clear that there’s something rather delightful about characters who aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. Sometimes it’s upsetting and it’s always confrontational, but Jimmy and Gretchen play on our secret desire to let go of social niceties and let loose a stream of rude, vulgar, inappropriate comments and act solely in our own self-interest.
You’re The Worst is rewarding not only because they do it, but also because they get called out for it. No one thinks they’re nice (the reaction they receive when they announce that they’re sleeping together is classic), but the pair somehow make it work. You’re The Worst may be about terrible people, but it’s also a hilarious send-up of society’s desire (mandate?) to partner people and shame singles and people who engage in casual sex. The series is also unafraid to exploit our familiarity with romantic-comedies, so it’s no surprise that Gretchen and Jimmy slowly but surely fall into the trap of dating, then become monogamous and finally, by the end of the season, realize how much they actually like (maybe even love) each other. The show both goes against and adheres to the conventions of the genre by making you care about these two shallow people, hoping desperately that their terrible romance actually works out.
What I haven’t talked about, though, is how completely hilarious this show is. The things that Jimmy and Gretchen say and do is on par with the antics of the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia crew, but they’re grounded in reality. Also key to the show’s success are the supporting players: as Edgar, Jimmy’s PTSD-stricken heroin addict roommate, Desmin Borges brings surprising heart to the proceedings. But the series’ real secret weapon is Gretchen’s unhappily married best friend, Lindsay (Kether Donohue). Her idolization of Gretchen’s irresponsibility prompts some of the series’ funniest moments, even while it causes no amount of pathos and grief by the season finale (a highlight many reference is Donohue’s pathetic and soulful rendition of ‘This Woman’s Work’ in the last episode). Donohue is a huge star and I hope for big things from her in season two.
Ultimately You’re The Worst is the kind of show that shouldn’t work. It’s diametrically opposed to the existing model of romantic-comedy sitcoms, and yet in a year when cute, nice sitcoms were synonymous with the word cancellation (RIP A To Z and Selfie), this FX series feels like an absolute breath of fresh air. Or maybe I should say a breath of toxic air?
- Returns: Likely summer 2015 on FXX
- Caveat: Much like Broad City, the humour in this show will not be for everyone!
- Watch: 1×05 ‘Sunday Funday’ is easily accessible and highlights how awful (and hilarious) the group is in action
We’re so close. Can you taste #1 yet? Tune in tomorrow at 9am EST to find out which shows take the top two spots (and absolute bottom) of the pile for 2014. Until then, let us know what you think of the runner-ups in the comments below.