At the end of the year, we pause to honor the accomplishments of the creative, talented individuals whose efforts fill our calendar with thrills and laughter. Which gets pretty boring after a while! So let’s end 2011 by remembering those shows that gave unfortunate justification to all the bad things people say about TV.
A few of my usual caveats: I tried to focus this list on TV that was newly and distinctly bad in 2011, so it skews toward newer (and hopefully short-lived) shows and series. If it also sucked in 2010 (and 2009, and probably next year and…) I left it off. Also, this list is far more arbitrary, incomplete and from-the-gut than my best-shows list. While I watch a lot of bad TV for my job, there was probably a lot of stuff that was terrible but obscure enough that it never got on my radar.
Herewith, then, my 10 Worst Shows of 2011, in alphabetical order, because they’re not worth the energy to rank:
Camelot. To say that Starz created the silliest rendering of the Arthurian legend since Monty Python and the Holy Grail might be quite a compliment, if the series were not meant to be a serious drama. Turning Merlin into a cipher, Arthur into a vacuous pretty boy and Guinevere into a character from a CW soap–wondering anachronistically about her betrothed, “What if he isn’t the one?”–was verily sorcery most foul.
Charlie’s Angels. Making a remake of this jiggle-TV-classic-turned movie bad is not necessarily a damning achievement. One could say that it is almost a requirement. Making it bad, and overserious, and boring is unforgivable.
The Donald Trump “Candidacy.” As I said above, I try to focus my worst-TV list on new TV shows, which omits things that are bad year after year–like much TV punditry and cable news. But the political hype machine particularly distinguished itself with the spring frenzy of speculation that the businessman / reality host / birther was “considering” running in the GOP primary (largely ignoring that Trump showily “considered” runs in 1988 and 2000 as well). Trump is now considering, or “considering,” an independent candidacy, so let’s see if we can make it two years in a row!
H8R. Hands down the most obnoxious premise for a TV show this year–and this list includes Kim Kardashian’s wedding. H8R operated on the assumption that minor celebrities like Snooki are being oppressed by Internet commentators who savage them for their undeserved fame, and require the help of equally minor celebrity Mario Lopez to seek out and shame their H8Rs in an unfair, stage-managed confrontation. The show died quickly of low ratings, proving what Jersey Shore stars already know: in this business, it’s worse to be ignored than H8ed.
I Hate My Teenage Daughter. Mean-spirited, misogynistic and above all, not funny, this ugly comedy about mean girls and the insecure single moms who make them that way didn’t even have the courage to be the all-out dark comedy it could have been. As if understanding too late how unlikeable the concept was, Fox’s promos began referring to the show simply as “Teenage Daughter,” which had the benefit of making the title of the show into its own review.
Kim’s Fairytale Wedding. Why call it a “fairytale wedding”? Because Kim Kardashian’s marriage lasted only slightly longer than Cinderella’s pumpkin coach. Her married bliss–well, coexistence–with NBA star Kris Humphries lasted barely more than two months, and scant days after E! debuted this special, which did not prevent the channel from rerunning it approximately two billion times in the interim. You can make a reality show that’s bogus and exploitative; you just can’t be quite this obvious about it.
Last Man Standing. I will give this Tim Allen comedy credit: over its debut in the fall, it evolved from an obnoxiously retro sitcom into a boringly retro sitcom. But for taking a comedy pro and making him into a much less likeable version of his previous primetime incarnation, I have to take note of this effort at Home Unimprovement.
The Paul Reiser Show. There are bad TV shows that make me angry and bad TV shows that make me disgusted. Then there are the bad TV shows that just make me sad, like this attempt to revive NBC’s ’90s star as a PG-rated, de-chutzpah’ed Larry David. Reiser’s an amiable guy, but not, here at least, a memorable character, and the most uncomfortable thing about this show was seeing NBC take one of its old talents and miscasting him as himself.
The Playboy Club. There was a lot of overblown noise around the debut of this Bunny drama about whether it was sexist (because of the subject matter) or empowering to women (the producers’ ill-advised attempt to spin it). But all the controversy obscured what was really at the heart of Playboy Club: a really, really atrocious off-brand Mad Men, starring Eddie Cibrian as the Madame Tussaud’s version of Jon Hamm.
Whitney. Some bad shows are bad for their absolute badness; some, like this one, make the list for their badness coupled with their taking up space that could have been devoted to better shows. Whitney Cummings’ lifeless-in-front-of-a-studio-audience sitcom will swap places with Up All Night at midseason; would that it could be swapped out altogether to make room for Community.