The most disappointing shows of 2016
We have a crazy idea here at Dead Beats Panel – end of year recaps should be held until, you know, the year has ended. We’ll have several of these lists over the next few weeks, but to begin with, we look at the most disappointing shows of 2016.
There isn’t really a set list of rules as to what makes a show a disappointment. You could argue that a show with a bigger budget potentially offers a bigger disappointment, but that’s not really the case. It’s more about the potential of the show, and those that don’t live up to that.
Naturally, for this type of article there is a lot of personal preference (and even bias) at work. If you disagree with out pics and why we made them, let us know in the comments below.
So without further adieu, here are our most disappointing shows of 2016.
This listing is specifically referencing season four of The CW’s Arrow. The current fifth season has made huge improvements, but it might not be enough to win back some of the audience the fourth season alienated.
To be fair, Arrow began having issues during the third season. The first and second seasons were exceptional, offering some of the best superhero TV ever seen. It was on the level of Marvel’s Netflix shows, with well-constructed and thought-out stories containing logical storylines that were wild, but obeyed their own logic. The show kept you guessing, then offered satisfying resolutions. Then it became a soap opera, buoyed by filler episodes and formulaic fight scenes that became exceedingly dull.
The third season made major mistakes with consequences that carried on. First, it basically abandoned its own story in favor of making Oliver Queen into a thinly veiled version of Batman. In doing so, it also became more of a comic book show, relying on comic book tropes – notably the idea that no one stays dead. That robbed Arrow of a lot of its emotional weight, but it paled in comparison to the other problem – Felicity and Oliver.
The characters Felicity Smoak and Oliver Queen could work together, but they don’t. The writers changed Felicity from a quirky and interesting character with a lot of depth to a crying mess and damsel in distress. To fix this in the fourth season, they overcompensated, making their relationship a pointless and annoying distraction. It wasn’t helped by an overarching story with a villain that never connected and a flashback storyline that could have been wrapped up in three episodes.
The third season was bad, the fourth season was awful. The fifth season has already helped to correct some of those issues, but it will need to stay consistent to win back fans.
When it first launched, Empire was a family drama set in a world of music and crime. Somewhere along the way, however, it became a pure soap opera. When you start injecting tropes like the “crazy woman seeking revenge” and multiple kidnappings, it feels a bit desperate and lazy.
And the sad thing is that it really didn’t have to go that route. There’s a legitimately intriguing story about a family fighting over control of a musical empire, but it is repeatedly pushed aside for more ridiculous and clichéd storylines. The exceptionally talented cast is able to almost miraculously keep the plot moving, but they often feel buried by the circumstances of their characters.
The music is also not nearly as good as it thinks it is. It feels dated. That’s a fairly obvious risk with writing a show where original music plays a huge part, and it doesn’t always work on Empire. Sometimes the music is passable, rarely it is good, most often it is just forgettable.
For a show claiming to be original and cutting edge, Empire is anything but.
This may be a somewhat controversial pick because some of the Gilmore Girls revival was great.
After years of hope followed by months of hype, Gilmore Girls finally made a long-hoped-for return on Netflix under show creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino. The Palladino’s were forced out of their show during its seventh season, and the quality instantly dropped. The Netflix revival was the chance for the showrunners to correct that and give fans an ending they could savor.
The result was a mixed bag. The four episodes were inconsistent, with the first and fourth – both written by Sherman-Palladino – significantly better than Palladino’s second and third. But there were deeper flaws and it’s not fair to blame him. The most glaring problems were the changes and inconsistencies in the series stars, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore.
Lorelai had some moments that were just weird – most notably at her father’s funeral and during a brief discussion about having another child, but arguably the single biggest issue with the revival was the change in Rory. Although masked by a veil of witty banter, Rory was kind of an asshole. She consistently cheated on her running gag absentee boyfriend, insulted her way out of a job offer she looked down on, and generally replaced her charm with bitterness disguised as a mid-life crisis that would have made more sense in her twenties or forties.
The show still had its trademark snappy dialog, and there were plenty of moments that reminded us why the show gained a cult following, but the story would have made more sense for an eighth season, not a return more than a decade later. Still, it is a must watch for fans and a better conclusion than the painful seventh season.
The Last Man on Earth
Will Forte’s vehicle about a man dealing with being one of the last people alive started out fairly well. The early episodes where he was living a lonely, but outrageous lifestyle were original and hilarious, but the more people that were introduced, the more Forte fell into a familiar and annoying pattern.
Basically, every new storyline continued to show that Forte’s Phil is a monster, but he was the star of the show so he was granted a more sympathetic view than he deserved. Plus, Forte himself is a likable guy, but his character literally considered killing others to steal their women, and frequently schemed to cheat on the one person who actually liked him, and then he’d apologize and the show would go on like it was no big deal. It often felt like The Walking Dead played for laughs.
The show seems unsure of what it wants to be. One minute it is an absurd comedy, then next it is a brutally dark drama where beloved characters are murdered for a few dark laughs. The third season ended on a somber note that was surprisingly effective, but the tone of the show remains inconsistent.
When you are adapting a source material that is outside of the mainstream, it is completely acceptable to make changes, even major ones. Preacher comes from a very mature comic that is over-the-top, darkly humorous, and challenges conventions that will offend a lot of people. Changes to the TV version were expected, maybe even necessary.What we got, however, was an unnecessary extension.
What we got, however, was an unnecessary extension.
The comic told the story Jesse Custer’s time in the small Texas town of Annville in one issue, while the show takes an entire season to do the same. The comic understood that the story of a guy getting a power similar to God’s is far more interesting than a story of a Preacher fighting to win back his congregation of miscreants. The stories were dull and unnecessary, and the ten episode season could have been boiled down into a two-hour pilot and conveyed the exact same messages much more effectively.
To make it worse, the bulk of the first season was rendered completely moot with a twist at the end that was supposed to be a joke, but just felt more like the showrunners needed a producer to tell them when and where they are getting self-indulgent. One moment literally renders the entire season – minus three or four points – completely pointless.
The good news is that one of the things that did work were the three main stars. The first season seemed to finish close to where the comic begins, so there is hope for the future. Hopefully the showrunners will learn from their mistakes and get on with it in season two.
The loss of Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond was always going to cast a heavy shadow over the return of Top Gear, but few expected the trainwreck we actually received.
Utilizing a stable of hosts held together by the semi-permanent presence of former radio personality Chris Evans and Friends star Matt LeBlanc, Top Gear tried to recapture the magic injected by its former hosts. They had plenty of wacky segments, fast cars were heavily featured, and there was a lot of humor. It felt like a pale imitation, however.
The BBC seemed to hire its hosts without giving any thought to the chemistry. It also seemed to go for outrageous without giving much thought to the consequences – as evidenced by the uproar caused by a car doing donuts in front of a war memorial. Oddly, it was host Evans complaints about that stunt that caused friction between himself and LeBlanc, and eventually led to Evans resigning and LeBlanc being confirmed to return next season.
The revamped Top Gear never clicked on any level, and with the former hosts returning to their roots with The Grand Tour (and doing pretty much the same thing they were doing, just with a bigger budget), Top Gear needs to reinvent itself once again.
On paper, HBO’s Vinyl should have been a hit with audiences and critics. Coming from the team responsible of Boardwalk Empire, including Martin Scorsese, and adding the musical knowledge of Mick Jagger, Vinyl should have been HBO’s next big hit with Golden Globes and Emmys almost guaranteed. Instead it will go down as one of its most expensive failures.
Audiences never connected with the story set in the 70s, possibly because it was a well-trodden story laid on top of a much more interesting one. You have a likable lead in Bobby Cannavale, a music exec waiting for the next big thing to arrive. It’s a fascinating period filled with big personalities and a huge shift in pop culture. But rather than focusing on that, the show falls into familiar 70s tropes of drugs and crime.
The music was very much a secondary piece of the story, which was a major disappointment. Sure, the show needed to sell itself based on the characters, but it feels like a tease to talk about this incredible – and at that point still mostly unknown music scene – then just ignore it in favor of something we’ve seen countless times before.
Vinyl was initially renewed for a second season before the bulk of the first even aired. HBO quickly corrected that, however, and the show is dead.
The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead has remained true to its core concepts, but it is also wearing very thin. To help bolster the show, the writers have begun to rely more and more on gimmicks, and in a show where the stakes every episode are life and death, there’s nothing more frustrating than toying with fans.
When a show is all about the threat of killing characters, doing things like using trick camerawork to make it look like a character died, then waiting multiple episodes to surprise audience with his return, is a bad look. It makes the actual deaths feel hollow. Then adding a cliffhanger where one character is brutally murdered but we have to wait for the new season to figure out who it was is a weak move. It shows that the showrunners are more interested in findings ways to keep the audience committed rather than giving a good story to keep them engaged. It’s a trick and an obvious one.
The Walking Dead has always been willing to spend five episodes to tell the story that could be done in one or two. Its pacing has always been slow, but when you mix in gimmicks, it just highlights those flaws and feels a bit insulting.
Even with the huge ratings drop, The Walking Dead is a beast. It will continue for years to come. If it wants to return to its previous glory though, it needs to focus on what works and not just on what has people talking.
The highly anticipated revival of The X-Files had a few moments of brilliance – particularly Darin Morgan’s episode “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” – but overall it just never came together, and the final episode destroyed a lot of the goodwill the return generated.
This was a return people dreamt about for years. It seemed like a pipe dream, but then things changed – and quickly. The show’s return in the form of a mini-series (or a truncated season ten if you prefer), was a gift to fans. It just failed on several levels.
The good news is that there were flashes of the old show buried in the overwhelmingly convoluted mythology, so the chance that there may be more X-Files on the way is a good thing. The bad news is that the larger story stopped making sense around season seven, and there’s every indication that it will just get worse if/when the show returns.