Our Picks for the Most Disappointing Shows of 2018
There were a lot of great TV shows this year and several not so great – in-between these are our picks for the most disappointing TV shows of 2018.
There were plenty of TV shows on the air this year, some of them good, some of them, well, not so good. And then there were the shows that fell somewhere in between, the shows that may have had good moments but for one reason or another they disappointing. That’s where this list comes in.
We should clarify what we mean by “disappointing” shows. These aren’t necessarily bad shows, but there was something about them that left a sour taste. They are all also taken from our very narrow fields of interest, so in most cases there was a touch of geek-centric and genre flair to them. Last year’s list included sci-fi, guilty pleasures, action serials, and more. This year stick close to that model.
We’ll have more lists in the coming days and weeks, including our picks for the best shows, the most underrated shows, our favorite guilty pleasures, and our most anticipated shows for next year. Now on to our picks for the most disappointing shows of 2018!
When The 100 debuted in 2014, it hit the ground running. The story was unpredictable with just the right amount of grit, and in traditional CW fashion, it was filled with very pretty people. Over the years, the show has had its ups and downs but a common theme running through it is that everything is terrible and everyone sucks. That can work – and a huge percentage of TV relies on that these days, but The 100 seems to have taken that idea as a personal challenge.
In season five, the show introduced yet another world-ending threat – it was literally the fourth or fifth apocalypse since the show began – and this may have been (at least) one apocalypse too far. After killing off a huge portion of the characters in the first four seasons, the fifth introduced a whole new group of characters just to create yet another new way to end the world. And in the process, it also made a few likable characters wretched, killed off several others, and dragged out a plot over 13 episodes that should have taken two or three, tops. So it wasn’t just depressing, it was also dull and at this point, hopelessly repetitive.
There were, however, a few points that made fans remember why the show was worth watching, which just made it more disappointing. The setup for the next seasons was interesting though, so maybe the show can bounce back.
All Marvel’s Netflix Shows
To be clear, this is not a reflection of the quality of the Marvel Netflix shows that debuted this year, all of which ranged from very good to amazing. Even the woeful Iron Fist saw a huge improvement in season two, and the recent season of Daredevil was one of the best things Marvel has done on TV to date. So why are they disappointing? Well, if you follow entertainment news, you know why.
Netflix is currently on a tear and appears to be hellbent on canceling all of its Marvel TV shows. Despite improvements, it wasn’t a shock to see Iron Fist canceled, and although Luke Cage was a surprise there was at least an explanation once online engagement numbers showed a significant amount of people were no longer interested. But demand for Daredevil remains extremely high (and possibly the ratings too, but Netflix doesn’t release those numbers). That seemingly confirms the popular theory that Netflix is canceling all of its Marvel shows due to reasons that have nothing to do with the shows themselves.
We may have to wait for the unauthorized book or series of articles on TMZ from a disgruntled employee forced out under suspicious circumstances to know what really happened, but it doesn’t look good for future shows. Season three of Jessica Jones and season two of The Punisher are still on the way, and whether it’s because the costs were more than Netflix wanted to pay, or Disney was putting pressure on Netflix, both series are probably doomed. That makes them a little disappointing to watch, even though they are the best thing on this list.
Netflix’s Altered Carbon was ambitious and visually stunning, with a wild premise. You can’t fault it on its originality, and overall it was mostly entertaining… but it could have been much better.
The idea of transferring a consciousness from one body to another is a fascinating concept, but the rest of the story – a futuristic noirish detective drama – didn’t make complete use of that setting. The characters were also underdeveloped and the deeper points about class warfare were presented with the subtlety of a hammer. It was all style and a moderate amount of substance. It was still a good show, well worth watching, but it didn’t live up to its potential.
A new season is on the way with an all-new cast led by Anthony Mackie. Hopefully, the second season can fix the problems of the first and a good, but slightly disappointing show will find its groove and be great.
Based on past experience, this one shouldn’t be all that surprising – and yet it is based on expectations. With a resume that features The Simpsons and Futurama, Matt Groening’s latest series should have been a massive hit. Throw in the Netflix pedigree, and it’s a recipe for success. The reality, however, was a little underwhelming – Disenchantment wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t that great – or funny.
To be fair, it took a while for both of Groening’s earlier shows to really hit their groove, and that may be the case here. But despite a few legitimately funny moments, the show wasn’t all that engaging. The story wasn’t strong enough to really carry the plot, the world wasn’t really explored or established, and the characters aren’t living up to their potential.
The second part of the first season will be released in 2019, and a second season will be released the following year. If Groening’s previous history is any indication Disenchantment will work it all out, but the first season was disappointing.
The premise of Heathers seems like the kind of thing that someone would have come up with at a bar, five shots deep while hanging out with a buddy and casually rambling about how they would update properties they loved when they were kids. And then the next day, the person that came up with that idea would forget all about it because it’s a terrible idea. Somehow that wasn’t the case here.
In an effort to be contrary and shocking, the show’s antagonists are depicted as kids who are archetypes that are traditionally seen as the victims of bullying. If the show had handled that a little better, it might have been a darkly funny twist, but instead it attacks the lifestyles of people that are in real life often attacked. So rather than offering a clever take steeped in social comedy, or even aim to be a satire, it just feels like a bunch of assholes piling on.
That’s probably less a problem with the concept and more an issue of poor writing from people that think they are much funnier than they actually are. On top of that, the story is just dull, the acting is sometimes painful, and the “snappy” dialogue is often cringe-worthy. And given that it is based on a memorable and iconic movie from the 80s, it is immensely disappointing.
House of Cards
When House of Cards first began, it redefined Netflix. It was a quality TV show that had a sense of humor, an engaging storyline, and excellent acting. But over the years it lost its charm. Rather than continuing down its guilty pleasure path, it opted for violence, brutality, and a reliance on a warped spin on current events. It was like the showrunners felt their creation needed to be culturally important rather than just a good, interesting show.
Now six years later, House of Cards is more melodrama than prestige TV – and that’s not even counting Kevin Spacey’s fall from grace. If anything, Spacey’s departure was a chance for the show to re-evaluate itself and go in a completely different direction. Instead, it is even more of a soap opera than before.
The show is done and the recent season was its final offering. It’s a shame to see how far House of Cards fell, but given how disappointing it was, it probably won’t be missed.
Few shows in 2018 had as much marketing and exposure as Amazon Prime’s Jack Ryan, so in some ways that makes it the most disappointing show on the list – but only technically. Jack Ryan wasn’t bad, but it was boring and deeply derivative. Basically, a bunch of Middle Eastern terrorists want to kill a bunch of people. And go. The show didn’t even have the originality to make the terrorists Australian or Japanese – just anything other than Arabic people, Russians, or white supremacists. It stuck to a very well worn script and offered no new takes on it.
On top of that, part of what made the Jack Ryan character in Tom Clancy’s books and the previous movies memorable was that he wasn’t an action hero but kept finding himself in action situations. In the new TV show, he’s like a thousand other heroes running around with his gun drawn and shooting baddies. They try to hide that behind his protests that he just wants a quiet life, but it comes off as disingenuous.
But the bigger issue is that Jack Ryan is just so predictable that you keep waiting for a twist and it just never comes. It also ties up plot lines using sheer coincidence, a hallmark of lazy storytelling. Overall it is immensely disappointing, and given its high profile, doubly so.
Prequels inherently suck. You know where the story is going, and usually the characters have their fates determined long before the prequel begins. Prequels also put a huge amount of faith in the popularity of the property they are prequels to, and that isn’t always the best move. Krypton tries to pretend it is different, but it isn’t. And on top of that, the show quickly exhausts its few promising ideas and devolves into tedium.
Although the show was somewhat doomed from the start given the prequel nature, it is still a comic-based show, which means it could feature existing and beloved characters – plus, the rules of a comic-based universe are there to be broken and anything can happen. Instead, the first season became a disappointing slog through a background that no one really cares about, featuring characters that are destined to die. It was a disappointing waste of the Superman mythos.
Star Trek: Discovery
The first season of Star Trek: Discovery is one of the most divisive TV shows that aired in 2018 (and 2017). Some people praised it as a compelling sci-fi story with great acting, solid effects, and plenty of twists, but there was just something that never clicked. Plus, the show is a prequel (see above), which means it came preloaded with all the problems a prequel generates.
For Trek fans, it just didn’t feel like a Trek show. The hope and optimism that has helped keep the property viable for half a century was absent – and not just because the storyline depicted a war, it just wasn’t in the show’s DNA. But even if you aren’t a Star Trek fan, the show was pointlessly gritty, most of the characters never really had a chance to shine, and it never really created an identity of its own. The story also ended up converging and depending on an idea that was never more than a gimmick in the original series.
Discovery is set to come back with a second season, and hopefully it will find its footing. It’s still a prequel though, so there will always be limits on what it can do. And if people are watching Star Trek mainly to see younger versions of characters as opposed to watching it for the show itself, that’s a problem.
Troy: Fall of a City
When the BBC and Netflix announced that they are collaborating to create a historical mini-series set in the Hellenistic era, many people immediately thought that Troy could be the next Rome. The problem is that Rome was an amazing, award-worthy show and it still got canceled after two seasons. And Troy is no Rome.
Troy has moments of brilliance where you can clearly see where the showrunners wanted it to go, but then one of the characters will open their mouth and the dialogue will be painfully bad, or there will be lengthy and gratuitous sex scene that goes on just long enough to start to feel creepy, and from there you begin to see the rest of the flaws. Troy is the type of show that assumed it was a great show before it even began filming. It wanted to be prestige TV so bad that it skipped a few steps along the way and never earned its lofty assumptions. It had goals before it had a vision, that is almost always a recipe for disaster.
Despite all of that, the show was still entertaining, but there are moments where you can see where the show borrows from other, better shows rather than doing something original. It’s not a bad show, but it is a bit disappointing.