Our Picks for the Most Disappointing TV Shows of 2017
It’s that time of year again, the time when we look back at the previous turn around the sun and reflect on it. And to do so, we start with TV.
Yes, we know, we are behind the curve when it comes to offering up our 2017 recaps, but we have a weird idea that end of year recaps should wait until, ya know, the end of the year. We’ve done the same thing before, but it actually came up when discussing our December column on the best music of the previous month you may have missed. There were a few albums that could have conceivably earned some recognition in the year-end lists, but solely because they came out after most outlets rushed to put forward their choices, they were completely overlooked. So, like weirdos, we decided to wait until the New Year actually began to reminisce on the old. So here we are.
When it comes down to it, phrases like “best” and “worst” are kind of meaningless. One person’s best is another’s worst, and vice versa. If you need proof of that, do what we did and take about five minutes to read the comments on any political post on any social media site. After being coaxed out of the fetal position, we decided to continue our tactic from years past and instead of starting with the worst, we open up with the most disappointing shows of 2017.
Like a parent that just caught their teenager getting drunk with friends, we’re not mad at these shows, just disappointed. These programs are not the worst of the year – far from it. There are a few that are among our favorites on air right now, but their offerings in 2017 were lacking. So keep that in mind when reading our picks for the most disappointing TV shows of 2017 – especially when you get to Game of Thrones – and keep an eye out for the rest of our 2017 recaps.
Netflix’s Disjointed feels like the type of show that started with an executive saying, “you know what the kids like these days… ?” And from there it all went downhill.
Despite a great cast, Disjointed feels like a comedy that would have been more suited a decade ago, but today feels just ignorant and dismissive. It’s filled with old clichés (the first tie-dye shirt appears almost immediately), predictable storylines, and it seems to think it can appeal to pot smokers – both legal and otherwise – while constantly making fun of them. It’s about as nuanced as a kick to the balls on America’s Funniest Home Videos.
What makes it so disappointing is that with recreational marijuana being legalized in several states, there’s room for interesting storylines that have never been used before because they didn’t exist until recently. There are hints of that, but ultimately it’s crippled by lazy writing and unoriginal tropes. It could have been so much more, but it just didn’t seem to want to try. It’s almost like the writers were, I dunno, impaired or something (see what we did there?).
Friends from College
Let’s play a drinking game. Turn on Netflix’s comedy Friends from College and take a shot every time one of the main cast mentions that they are from Harvard. Then after you slip into a coma and die your family can continue the tradition.
Friends from College takes a smart, likable cast – many of which bring their own fanbases with them – and proceeds to make them all suck. They are annoying, they are morally bankrupt, and they try to justify it by the occasional joke at the expense of even worse people. But hey, they went to Harvard.
There are a few good moments in this show, but they are buried deep under a layer of pretentiousness. That could be forgiven if the show was funny, clever, and/or original, but it is none of those things. It’s not terrible but it is disappointing, especially with a cast this good.
Game of Thrones
Once again, to be perfectly clear, this list is about the most disappointing shows of 2017, not the worst. Season seven of Game of Thrones was still very good, and Game of Thrones remains one of the best shows on TV. but this last season had some big flaws. Search your feelings, you know it’s true.
The seventh season felt different in many ways. It delivered some of the biggest moments in the show’s history, but it was so interested in delivering those big moments in rapid-fire succession that it failed to properly build them up and instead it cheated. Exhibit A: Jaime falls into a deep lake wearing full, heavy armor in order to give us a killer cliffhanger ending. The next episode he and Bronn casually pop up on the other side of the lake, apparently having swum – in full armor – dozens of yards. Bronn is cool and all, but he’s not magical… or IS HE?! (No, he isn’t, it was just a cheap way to resolve a shocking ending).
This season also had a transportation problem that should seem like a minor thing, but if believable movements were a character, it would have been Red Weddinged around episode two. Characters flew across Westeros (and beyond) in no time at all, and they jumped from major moment to major moment. In that, it felt more like a highlight reel or fanfiction than a carefully laid out season. And don’t get us started on the silly and brutally predictable Sansa/Arya storyline.
Blame it on the shortened season and the rush to the finale, but while the big moments were epic, the rest of the season suffered. There was also a shift from unpredictable and often tragic plotlines to more traditional fantasy tropes. It was still a good season, but given the importance of it as the show winds down, it was overall a bit disappointing.
Marvel’s The Defenders
There are three Marvel TV series on this list (given how many Marvel shows there are that’s actually not all that bad a ratio), but of them all, The Defenders was the most disappointing thanks to its huge expectations.
For years now, Netflix’s Marvel shows have been building toward The Defenders. Four shows and five seasons, and it all led up to the eight part mini-series that was… well, it was boring. In some ways, being bad would have been an improvement. If it were bad, people could find some passion in their dislike of it. Plus, fans could assign blame while still retaining hope kind of like how Zack Snyder is seen in regards to the DC films. But to be boring is to be forgotten, and that’s exactly what happened with The Defenders.
Seriously, if you are one of the many that watched the show when it first debuted, do you remember more than a few scenes? But who needs plot when each character has their own fancy color scheme! The producers also deserve credit for taking an international organization of supernatural ninjas and making them really dull. So congrats?
Thanks to three of the four Marvel/Netflix properties being really good, there is a solid chance we will see another season of The Defenders. If so, hopefully they can improve the pacing, make the bad guys interesting, and generally make it worth a damn.
It is shows like Marvel’s Inhumans that are the reason this list exists. Inhumans had a lot of money thrown at it, and yet the sets were unimaginative and boring, and some of the costumes looked like cheap Halloween outfits (see Medusa’s outfit above). The location shots in Hawaii looked ok, but a warehouse or a random field is still just a warehouse or random field even if it has a tropical backdrop. The cast was talented, but they weren’t given nearly enough to do and their storylines were powerfully, painfully dumb. It was disappointing on many levels.
Years ago, the show 24 – back when it was young and the story wasn’t totally ridiculous – was in the middle of its second season. It was obvious that the showrunners had the semblance of an idea for the main plot, something that allowed Jack Bauer to torture terrorists to his heart’s content, but no one seemed sure how to fill the rest of the time. Enter the infamous storyline pitting Jack’s danger magnet daughter Kim (played by Eliza Cuthbert) against a cougar while escaping an abusive father who just killed his wife and wants his daughter – who Kim absconded with – back. And the best part is that it was totally random and just happened to be going on while her Kim’s dad is trying to stop a nuclear bomb. It’s every bit as dumb as it sounds.
Episodes two through seven (of the eight-part series) of Inhumans are pretty much just like that.
Inhumans just felt pointless. It didn’t really have much of a story to tell or an original angle to differentiate it. It also ignored Marvel’s greatest asset, the shared universe. You can argue that it couldn’t really do much given the division between TV and film, but it barely even tied into Agents of SHIELD, which theoretically set the entire show up. And the worst part is that we all saw it coming.
From the start, there was a huge red flag with Inhumans as it was overseen (and partially written) by Scott Buck. This was actually his second Marvel TV show, the first being the next entry on this list.
Marvel’s Iron Fist
Somewhere, producer Scott Buck must have a shoebox full of incriminating material on Marvel Television executives. That seems like the most logical explanation given that he still was given the keys to Inhumans even after the mess that was Iron Fist.
Iron Fist should have been a relatively easy show to make, even with the difficulties inherent in a property deeply set in Asian culture starring a white dude. It’s a kung-fu series set in Netflix’s Marvel universe, which is meant to be as grounded as possible. It takes hard work to make a show like that boring, yet somehow Buck – with a huge assist from Finn Jones (who plays Danny Rand/Iron Fist) – pulled it off.
Jones is just badly cast in the role. Part of it isn’t his fault. The show never seemed to know what it wanted to do with Danny Rand. One minute he is an enlightened bohemian street fighter, the next he is a surfer dude emulating Keanu Reeves, the next he is the poster boy for white privilege. He was also consistently unlikable and actually condescending to his much more interesting costars, so he had that going for him. Jones wasn’t all that great at the martial arts either, which is something of a problem for a show about martial arts. Plus the show needed to focus heavily on the Hand as part of the shared Marvel/Netflix storyline, and the Hand is dumb. It just… it just wasn’t good.
The Defenders helped recalibrate the character of Danny Rand and Iron Fist has been renewed for a second season sans Buck, but new showrunner Raven Metzner has his work cut out for him.
Powerless seemed like it had the potential to do something really original by creating a true comedy set in the DC universe. It also featured a solid cast that included Christina Kirk, Danny Pudi, Ron Funches, Alan Tudyk, and more. Vanessa Hudgens was the star though, and that was the first problem.
Hudgens tried her best, but the writers never seemed to be sure what to do with her. Her character was a pale impression of Amy Poehler’s always optimistic Leslie Knope, but it never found the balance that Parks and Recreation did. Maybe it would have given more time (the first season of Parks & Rec wasn’t that great either), but the show’s issues ran deeper than that.
Powerless more often than not felt almost cowardly. It offered a world that featured nearly infinite comedic potential, but it just went for the lazy sitcom tropes again and again. The entire superhero premise felt like a skin rather than a core identity, and even the better episodes were a little disappointing because of it. It was a superhero comedy written by people that didn’t seem to really have much interest in superheroes. Where are Kevin Smith and his Superman sex jokes when you need them?
It was a shame the show never had the chance to correct its issues, but it’s also not surprising that this disappointing comedy didn’t even make it a full season.
While Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley continues to have some great moments of biting satire, the connecting story of a startup trying to navigate the treacherous waters of tech is bordering on obnoxious. Each season seems to follow the same playbook. It starts with the Pied Piper team working toward something incredible, then someone screws it up usually by being a prick. Despite that, it seems like things will still somehow work, but then it all falls apart. In a stroke of luck and/or genius, at the last minute, the team pulls off a miracle and the startup is saved, hooray! Rinse and repeat.
It’s almost like the show doesn’t want you to like or care about the characters. If so, it is doing a spectacular job. Four years in and they are showing almost no growth or change. In a serialized show with an expanding storyline, for the characters not to grow or learn makes their continued mistakes – and they are always the same mistakes with a slight variation – aggravating. If an entire season could be resolved by one character learning the simple lesson of just shutting the hell up, then that season is deeply flawed to begin with. That joke works once or twice, even three times, but when it derails a season over and over and over again it is just painful.
What makes this recent season of Silicon Valley so disappointing is that some of the takedowns of the real Silicon Valley culture are spot on and are as funny as they’ve ever been. But it’s getting harder and harder to care about the main characters and their situation. Silicon Valley is in need a new direction, and hopefully it will be able to handle that when it returns.
Top Chef (Season 14)
No list focusing on mostly American TV would be complete without a reality show, and year after year Top Chef remains one of the best reality/competition shows around. The contestants are always insanely talented, the results are stunning, and the format mostly works. So why the producers decided to drastically alter things in a way that led to predictably dumb results in season 14 is baffling.
Top Chef has been on the air since 2006, so it’s understandable that the producers would want to mix things up a bit. There’s nothing unusual in that, but the big twist this year was to pit eight veteran competitors against eight new ones. Technically, it was everyone against everyone, but the veterans were so much more prepared for the competition than the new contestants that it was frustrating to watch. Of the top six finishers, only one was new (and he finished fifth).
In a show like Top Chef, being a talented chef is only one part of it – to make it onto the show the contestants are very good in the kitchen, that’s a given. The show is a competition, and part of what makes a contestant successful is learning how to operate in that structure. Bringing in people that know how to do exactly that against people that don’t was painful to watch.
All-star seasons are fine, but the season 14 format was just a bad idea that should never have made it to TV. Thankfully, season 15 (which is airing now) has gone back to the traditional format. There are still a few major twists and gimmicks, but they haven’t made the show worse like they did in season 14.
Ultimate Beastmaster (Season 2)
This one is going to take a little bit of explaining since it aired two nearly identical seasons in 2017.
Ultimate Beastmaster is basically a Ninja Warrior clone that airs on Netflix. It features international teams and a brutal course that seems to actively want people to fail. If someone was hurt seriously, you can almost imagine the course coming to life and laughing.
Part of what made the first season, which aired in February, so memorable was the inclusion of Terry Crews and co-host Charissa Thompson, who displayed a genuine sense of enthusiasm while giving an alternative to the bro-fueled, cliche dominated commentary of American Ninja Warrior. Then, for some reason, they were both replaced in season two with the moderately likable but predictable Tiki Barber, and comedian Chris Distefano, who missed his calling as the annoying sidekick in an average 90s sitcom.
It’s not clear why the original hosts didn’t return. It may have been down to scheduling (although each episode is filmed in a day and there are only ten per season), but even so, their replacements are uninspiring to the point where it is almost better to just watch the show on mute – unless you really like hearing puns and bad jokes about the foreign competitors names that aren’t so much racist as they are just dumb.
It’s such a simple thing, which makes the change all the more disappointing.