Tuesday, December 20, 2011

the eight worst tv seasons of all time (according to stevo)

In what will come as a shock to noone, I fear … I watch way, way, way too much television for my own good. And like a lot of TV junkies, I have my shows that I love.

But sometimes … those shows deliver a season, or a string of episodes, that literally have you chucking empty beer bottles at the television, and hitting up message boards and blogs with a “who the hell greenlit THAT script?!?!” fits of rage.

So tonight’s post? The eight worst seasons of TV shows I loved ever. (Or the eight seasons I really, really hated). Trust me – there’s some clunkers in here from some epically awesome television shows. (And in two cases, epically crappy shows that I love, so deal with it.)

8. “Lost” season three (2006-2007 season).

Reason Season Sucked Something Awful: good grief, where do I begin? For starters, you had two seasons in one – a mini six-episode fall season, and then 18 in a row starting in January. Which would have been fine … had the initial six episodes (and in the second half, episodes 8 and 9, especially) not been so crappy.

Season’s Worst Episode: episode 9 (“Stranger in a Strange Land”). Yes, this show literally spent a freaking hour focused on where, when, how, and why Jack got his tattoos. I swore when this hour of shit was over, that if episode 10 didn’t deliver a knockout punch, I was through with this show.

Season’s Best Episode: (tie). Episode 10 (“Trisha Tanaka Is Dead”) is one of my favorite episode “Lost” ever did. It’s certainly one of the funnest they ever did. But the closing three episodes (“The Man Behind the Curtain”, “Greatest Hits”, “Through the Looking Glass”) totally redeemed the season, and took the show from good … to epically good.

Season’s Most Underrated Episode: episode 15 (“Expose”). I hated Nikki and Paulo as much as any other “Lost” fan … but this was one really fun episode. Right down to how the two of them “die” in the end. Honorable mention to episode seven (“Not in Portland”), which established my favorite “Lost” character in a very good way (Juliet).

Season’s MVP: gotta go with Ben Linus of all people. Hurley saved the season, so to speak, with his “Shambala” moment in episode 10 … but “The Man Behind the Curtain” is so epically incredible, Linus (Michael Emerson) earned his MVP status with that episode alone. (To say nothing of his job in “Through the Looking Glass” two episodes later, and his rock solid effort in the opening six episodes.)

Season’s LVP: (tie) Jin and Sun. I never understood the love for these two awful characters. Too bad the damned spiders didn’t bite them instead of Nikki and Paulo.

Bottom Line: “Lost”, uuh, lost its way in season three for pretty much the first half of the season. It was so bad that the writers (to their credit) went to ABC and negotiated an end date for the series, to prevent another “Stranger in a Strange Land” drag-out / stalling for time episode. Given how good season four was, how incredible season five was, and satisfying season six was, I’d say season three is a fitting sacrifice for what was to come.

7. “NYPD Blue” season eight (2001 season – “Blue” ran non-stop January through May the last six years it was on the air).

Reason Season Sucked Something Awful: again, where do I begin? Danny Sorenson’s character was a disaster. David Milch left after season seven to write “Deadwood”, and the shitty scripts shone through without him. Every cliché known to writers without a clue? Got hauled out in season eight. Kid with cancer? Check. Partners with no chemistry forced into a sexual relationship just because? Check. New cast addition that can’t act but looks good? Check. This season tried the patience of even the biggest “Blue” fan imaginable. (Hey, that’s me!)

Season’s Worst Episode: episode 10 (“In the Still of the Night”). The last five minutes of this episode will have you hurling whiskey bottles at your television, its that awful. Although to be fair, the entire episode deserves its own reserved spot in at least the second layer of hell.

Season’s Best Episode: none. I suppose “In the Wind” (season finale) deserves consideration, if only because it gave you a glimmer of hope that Danny Sorenson was dead. But nothing from this season deserves to be remembered in a positive manner, for the most part.

Most Underrated Episode: episode 13 (“Flight of Fancy”). I always liked James McDaniel’s Lt. Fancy. Give him credit for bailing when he saw the ship sinking. What he couldn’t have foreseen … is that this season was so awful, Steven Bochco had no choice but to clean house … which he did spectacularly well.

Season’s MVP: the addition of Connie McDowell (Charlotte Ross). She gave viewers a reason to tune in once she came on board at mid-season. Honorable mention to Esai Morales’ Lt. Tony Rodriguez, who replaced Lt. Fancy at about the same time. Give Bochco credit – he knew his franchise was going down, and he pulled out all the stops to plug the hole.

Season’s LVP: the addition of Garcelle Bouvois-Nivon as ADA Valerie Haywood. I may have never hated a TV character more than I hated ADA Haywood. And I never hated ADA Haywood more than the closing scenes of “In the Still Of the Night”.

Bottom Line: again, to Bochco’s credit, he recognized the train wreck when he saw it. He brought in Ross and Morales to revamp the cast, let Schroder go in favor of Mark Paul Gosselaar’s John Clark, who completely revitalized the show, and bought four more years of viewing pleasure out of the changes made as a result of this season. Unfortunately, the season was so awful, it bled nearly a quarter of its audience, and “Blue” was never the landmark show it had been ever again.

(Also hurting “Blue”? Kim Delaney (played Diane Russell) left for a new show, “Philly”, a criminitely underrated drama that lasted one season before ABC cancelled it. By that point, there was nowhere for Delaney to come back to on “Blue”, save for the guest arc in the final season. You bleed off not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, but SEVEN major characters in two years (Delaney’s Russell, McDaniel’s Fancy, Schroder’s Sorenson, plus Sharon Lawrence’s Sylvia, Jimmy Smits’ Simone, Nicholas Turtorro’s Martinez, and Andrea Thompson’s Kirkendall), plus lose your lead writer? You’re in trouble. The fact that “Blue” made it four years after this season, is a tribute to how good a writer Bill Clark grew into … that, or how much us die-hard fans loved this show.)

6. “The Practice” season seven (2002-2003).

Reason Season Sucked Something Awful: the entire Lindsay as a convicted murderer / Bobby as an adulterer themes that dominated the season. Neither plot development was even remotely believable, which probably explains why the show fell from top 20 to barely top 75 almost overnight.

Season’s Worst Episode: episode 19 (“Les is More”). By “Les”, yes, it is THE Les Moonves, guest starring as himself, held hostage by a deranged psycho played by Andie MacDowell. Uum, let the hilarity ensue?

Season’s Best Episode: “Goodbye” (season finale). Written as the series finale until the show received an unexpected eighth season pickup, it actually works quite well, both to close the season and close the series as it existed. Still, the main plot line is insane (woman changes her appearance via massive plastic surgery to go on the lam with her husband-killing boyfriend!), and the resolution of Bobby and Lindsay will infuriate anyone who ever invested any time with those two.

Most Underrated Episode: episode 12 (“Final Judgments”). This show was always at its best when railing against our inhumane capital punishment laws, and it rarely did a better job than in this episode.

Season MVP: Jamie Stringer (Jessica Capshaw). The second best addition David E. Kelley ever made to this show. Her romantic involvement with Eugene was tragically chucked under the bus for season eight.

Season LVP: Bobby Donnell (Dylan McDermott). Any scene with him in it, is excruciating to watch. He’s in full on “mail it in” mode from about episode eight on, and it shows through. An awful all-around performance, week in week out, from the alleged star of the show.

Bottom Line: Kelley bought himself an eighth season by pledging to clean house, and boy did he – out the door were Rebecca, Bobby, Lindsay, and Lucy. In came James Spader, as Alan Shore. Between the 22 episodes of season eight, and the five seasons of “Boston Legal” after that, I’d say the changes season seven forced the creative staff to make, were worth it.

5. “Friday Night Lights” season two (2007-2008).

Reason Season Sucked Something Awful: something about Landry, Tyra, and a murder. To call this the worst major plot line of the 2007 fall season, is an understatement. It nearly roo-eened the show, and probably should have caused its cancellation.

Season’s Worst Episode: episode 9 (“The Confession”). At least it ended the murder sub-plot … but did so in the most ridiculous way imaginable. There’s a reason why “Lights” fanatics like myself pretend season two didn’t exist.

Season’s Best Episode: none. If I never see a single episode from season two again, my life will be better because of it.

Most Underrated Episode: episode 8 (“Seeing Other People”). If only because the whole “Lyla as a born again Christian” plot had potential. Even if, like every other damned thing in this season, it was so unbelievable that it simply insulted the audience.

Season’s MVP: Buddy Garrity (Brad Leland), by default. His was the only believable plot line out of the entire season.

Season’s LVP: the creative staff who “came up with” the Landry / Tyra / rapist murder plot. It single-handedly destroyed the show.

Bottom line: the show never recovered from the murder plot. It bled its audience weekly. NBC committed to a shortened season three, but the damage was done. Seasons four and five aired on DirecTV first, and NBC bumped their contractual obligation to air the episodes to Friday nights in the summer, when nobody watches TV. In fairness? The murder subplot was so awful, “Lights” probably deserved that fate. But the other four seasons are amongst the best in television history.

4. “American Idol” season five (2006).

Reason Season Sucked Something Awful: what, aside from the fact that the three best contestants finished 3rd, 4th, and didn’t reach the top 12 (due to his own choosing)? I know – the fact that Katherine McPhee finished 2nd! Or that Taylor Hicks won this thing because … well, I’m still not sure how the hell that happened. But when your options are Katherine McPhee or Taylor Hicks, uum yes, I voted for Taylor. Repeatedly.

Season’s Worst Episode: Elvis Presley Night (top four). Hicks, McPhee, Elliott Yamin, and Chris Daughtry. Who would you boot? Amazingly enough, the American public booted … Daughtry. Insane.

Season’s Best Episode: 2000s Night (top ten). Kellie Pickler nailed Sara Evans. Ace Young nailed Train. And oh yeah, Elliott Yamin established himself as my puppy / pony / rooster / rubber chicken in this competition with an incredible performance of Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Wanna Be”.

Most Underrated Episode: Country Night (top nine). Taylor covered John Denver, Elliott covered Garth, and Kellie Pickler’s “Fancy” was epically good. To say nothing of Daughtry covering Johnny Cash.

Season’s MVP: Chris Daughtry. At worst, he’s the third most successful star this show has ever launched, behind Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. Unlike Kelly and Carrie … Daughtry didn’t even get a homecoming episode, let alone win this season.

Season’s LVP: Katherine McPhee. Words cannot express how much I despise this chick.

Bottom line: “Idol”’s worst season (in my opinion) … was followed up by “Idol”’s best season (in my opinion). The reason? Beats the hell out of me. Season five had every bit as much talent and depth as season six did. But unlike season six, the two least qualified of the talent pool somehow made it to the final.

3. “Hunter” season seven (1990-1991).

Reason Season Sucked Something Awful: uuh, no Dee Dee McCall? Stepfanie Kramer left “Hunter” after season six to pursue other interests. And to “Hunter”’s credit, they replaced her with a rock solid partner in Chris Novak (Lauren Lane). Unfortunately … there were thirteen non-Novak episodes to open the season, with Darlanne Fluegel as Sgt. Molenski. To call her episodes unwatchable, is an insult to the word “unwatchable”.

Season’s Worst Episode: episode seven (“Oh The Shark Bites”). “Hunter” was always at its worst when it had a Captain Devane centric episode. (Like “Lost” with a Kate-centric episode, you just kept grabbing cold ones out of the fridge to get through it.) This one takes the cake – Devane with mob ties! Please, do yourself a favor and NEVER pull this episode up on Hulu.

Season’s Best Episode: episode twenty (“Cries of Silence”). This actually is one of the best episodes “Hunter” ever did, across any season, and showed just how dialed in “Hunter” was by the end of the season. Unfortunately, the show had bled off so much of its audience due to the first 11, 12 episodes of the season, that it didn’t matter. So please, do yourself a favor, and DO pull this episode up on Hulu. You won’t regret the 48 some odd minutes spent with it, especially with the “wait … what?!?!” final scene. (OK, fine, I’m a sucker for “dude sacrifices everything he has for the girl he really loves” moment. What can I say, I’m retarded like that sometimes.)

Most Underrated Episode: episode twenty one (“Ex Marks the Spot”). I kind of wish this had been the series finale (it was the next to last episode). It’s a very funny episode. Don Rickles guest stars as a sleazy dry cleaners owner. Yes, hilarity ensues. Its that, or episode twelve (“Fatal Obsession Part One”), where Molenski is killed off. And trust me – after forty minutes of watching her “act”, you’re rooting for the serial killer to off her (which she does). Trust me – her acting is SO epically awful, you root for a cop killer to kill a cop. Sign 1,032,295 you’ve created an awful, awful, awful television character: when you root for her to die at the hands of a serial cop killer!

Season MVP: Chris Novak (Lauren Lane). Nearly single-handedly saved the show from cancellation, completely revitalized the show, and stole the scenes she was in. Lane would parlay this ten episode run the next fall into a role as CC Babcock on “The Nanny”, her role of a lifetime. She earned it with this ten episode run. Honorable mention to the season seven theme song, the best version “Hunter” ever did. And yes, seeing Charlie “hustle” at the :55 second mark still makes me laugh out loud 21 years later. Uum, not that I ever owned that Members Only jacket, (verne lundquist voice) no sir! … let’s just move on.

Season LVP: Joanne Molenski (Darlanne Fluegel). Fifty years from now, TV professors will be showing her episodes as examples of wooden acting, lack of talent, lack of passion, and horrific casting.

Bottom Line: to be fair, the series probably should have ended when McCall left after season six, as to many fans of the show, it died when she left. But Lauren Lane’s Sgt. Novak showed what could have been, and salvaged the final thoughts of the show in most fan’s eyes.

OK, fine, it salvaged it in my eyes. “Hunter” is one of the two crappy shows on this countdown that I will not apologize for loving. (The other one is up next). What can I say, my Saturday nights as a 9, 10, 11 year old were spent on the couch watching NBC with my mom. “Golden Girls”, “227”, “Amen”, “Empty Nest”, and “Hunter”. Which, to be fair, is still a better prime-time lineup than NBC has on ANY night of the week in 2011, save for maybe Sundays in the fall.

2. “Good Times” season six (1976-1977).

Reason Season Sucked Something Awful: believe it or not … Florida’s return. Nah, I’m just kidding, that was by far and away the season’s highlight. No, the season sucked something awful because (hang on, suspend ANY and ALL belief in reality right … about … now …) a first round draft pick of the Chicago Bears, from Northwestern, falls in love with Thelma (note: that ain’t the unbelievable part) … then somehow blows out his knee walking down the aisle (note: STILL not the unbelievable part) … then LOSES his contract with said Bears for most of the season! Now, I know 1976 was a long time ago. Christ, I was still in my mommy’s tummy at that point. But not even 35 years ago did NFL teams, I don’t know, CUT THEIR FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICK BECAUSE OF A RECOVERABLE INJURY! Even more outrageous? (wait for it …) The Bears gave Keith a contract in the season finale for MORE than they offered in the season opener! Wait, what?!?! And you wonder why this season ranks only second? (florida evans voice) So do I child. So do I!!!

Season’s Worst Episode: episode four (“Florida’s Homecoming: United We Stand”). JJ taking money from a pimp to pay for his sister’s wedding? Totally believable. Said pimp accepting a worthless locket in repayment because Flo says its so? Color me shocked – shocked! – that this show tumbled from a top 20 mainstay to an after-thought literally overnight.

Season’s Best Episode: episode twenty (“A Matter of Mothers”). If you loved season five (and I did), then the payoff here is worth wading through 19 half hours of abject bullshit to get to. This might be “Good Times” final seasons’ finest hour. Screw that – it is its finest hour.

Most Underrated Episode: episode nineteen (“The Physical”). Not a great thirty minutes of television … but seeing a rant against the insanity that is our medical system … as well as seeing a ten-years-early Captain Devane, makes it all worth it.

Season MVP: Gotta go with Keith (Ben Gordon). An awful, awful cast addition who is so awful … that you just can’t turn away, in a trainwreck kind of way.

Season LVP: Also gotta go with Keith. Trust me – by the time you get to the inevitable “Keith’s an alcoholic” episode, you’ll be chugging right along with him. This season was so epically awful, its an embarrassment to call it “Good Times”.

Bottom Line: show was cancelled midway through season six, and CBS burned off the remaining episodes in the summer. Smart call. This season was horrific. Somewhere in the great beyond, the great Esther Rolle is rolling over on a cloud, regretting for all of eternity her decision to return to attempt to right the sinking ship. Not even a semi-decent series finale can salvage this 12 hour run of horseshit from history’s graveyard of horrific ideas.

But your “winner”? A season of a television classic that, in hindsight … looks worse than it did at the time. Although it did have a few bright moments …

1. “Roseanne” season nine (1996-1997).

Reason Season Sucked Something Awful: I know the obvious answer most people will give is “because the Conners won $108 million dollars in the Illinois state lottery!” And you would be wrong. I actually loved the lottery subplot, and if you go back and watch the first three episodes from season nine, the season started out as good, if not better, than any season of “Roseanne”. What KILLED the season was episodes four through eleven, when John Goodman left the show. By the time they backed the Brinks truck up and bribed Dan Conner back onto the set, nearly a third of the audience was gone, and after not one, but two so ridiculously unbelievable, unfunny, and utterly retarded episodes had aired, that nobody took the show credibly anymore.

Season’s Worst Episode: (tie). Episode eight (“Roseambo”) and episode nine (“Home is Where the Afghan Is”). My God, how do you pick between these two piles of garbage? “Roseambo” is exactly what it sounds like – Roseanne, on a train, “rescuing” her family and passengers as Steven Seagal himself guest-stars. Yes, this episode actually occurred. Someone actually not only green-lighted this ridiculous plot, they got paid for it.

But as bad as “Roseambo” was … “Afghan” might have been worse. By this point, Roseanne was just chucking stuff against the wall to see what stuck, and in the ultimate “what are the f*cking odds?!?!” plot twist of a century … she has her mother, written as a conservative Republican who hates gay people for EIGHT FREAKING YEARS before this, out herself as a lesbian at Thanksgiving dinner. She pretty much single-handedly ensured her cancellation with this episode.

Season’s Best Episode: Episode three (“What a Day for a Daydream”). The 200th episode of the series, the third of the season, and it’s amongst the 5 or 6 best episodes the show ever produced. The plot is basically the Conner clan sitting around the table having dinner, with Roseanne tripping out every so often into fantasy land … and it delivers. The Conners on “Jerry Springer”? As funny as you’d expect it to be. Roseanne winning the Miss Universe pageant? As repulsive in a swimsuit as you’d expect her to look (and yet, it works, you’ll be laughing at the visual). And the best moment – Roseanne and Jackie posing for Playboy wearing nothing but a tub-full of cash? You’re damned right the great Mr. Hugh M. Hefner not only signed off on this, he guest-starred in this episode. (For those of you who have ever wondered, my Hugh Hefner quote I love to use in various posts, “this is going to be something … (dramatic pause) … REALLY special!”, comes from this episode. It’s a great 30 minutes, right down to the “you won’t nominate us for an Emmy? Fine, we’ll nominate ourselves!” eff you closing scene that’s so piss poorly acted (intentionally), that you’ll be crying from laughing so hard at DJ “portraying” Moses. (It sounds insane, but again, it works.) One of the few bright spots of a horrific season.

Most Underrated Episode: episode eleven (“Home for the Holidays”). For three reasons. (1) Dan returns, and for the first 20 something minutes (right up until the scene on the closing credits), it seems like the show is back on track. (2) The gift exchange scene, when Roseanne gives Dan his main gift for Christmas 1996, will make any fan of this show, who stuck with it for the prior eight years, stand, applaud, cry, and cheer right along with the Conner clan. It’s a really, really neat moment. Really neat. And (3) that closing credits scene? Whatever last link to the previous eight years of goodwill, humor, and meaning this show had in its ninth season? Was tossed under the bus. Because of ALL the insane, ridiculous, “there is no f*cking way this would EVER happen” plotlines of season nine, the one this closing scene launched was the most insane, ridiculous, “there is no f*cking way this would EVER happen” of all of them.

Season MVP: (tie) Leon and Scott (played by Martin Mull and the greatness that is Fred Willard). This show criminitely under-used these two once they married them in season eight. But these two are just comedic gold in any scene they’re in together.

Season LVP: Prince Philip (played by Jim Varney). Yes, THE Jim Varney, playing a prince who sees Jackie in a tabloid, and spends the first half of the season trying to win her over. Let that sink in – Jim Varney, “Ernest P. Worle”, playing royalty. Truly, it is beyond amazing that ABC’s Tuesday night lineup that fall did as well as it did with this show as a lead-in – “Spin City” established itself as a breakout hit, “Home Improvement” was a top three show, and “NYPD Blue” was in the top ten. With this crap as its leadoff hitter.

Bottom line: if you ever want to see how NOT to write a sitcom, this season is it. The first three episodes are not only completely re-watchable, they show the potential the lottery subplot held. And then … the floor falls out. Its almost like nobody considered what to do AFTER the Conners won the lottery. “OK, they win … now what?” If you had jaunting off to Cape Cod, extended spa stays, Rambo ripoffs, gay mothers, cheating husbands, premature babies, a fifteen year old knocking boots with a co-ed attracted to him only for his family’s money, AND resurrecting the corpse of Wellman Plastics as a storyline as the answer, well, then you’re dumber than the writers and producers who actually used all those plotlines as season nine unfolded.

The season opened strong, and it actually finished with two rock-solid episodes. It’s the 18 in between that earned its designation as the worst season of television I’ve ever watched. And man, did those episodes “earn” that designation …

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