I’m sure you’ve noticed this.
Television is having a renaissance. A grand masquerade-ball of a renaissance.
Gone are the days when shoddy sets wobbled in the corner of the screen and blockbuster action was preceded by a knowing wink. Now we’re offered up a melting pot of quality writers, movie-size budgets and A-list stars on a daily basis, in our own home no less. It’s a glorious thing I’m sure you’ll agree and one that seems to have turned the formerly maligned couch potato into the true king of modern culture.
…And I suppose this was inevitable with such an explosion of creativity at our fingertips; there are also a whole crop of new shows that don’t quite make the grade when it comes to invention and wit. It’s a shame really and completely subjective of course, but I wanted to share with you lovely people a couple of the TV series that I tried to like but pretty quickly lost interest in. Perhaps I should apologise to anyone who’s a fan or maybe even works on the following but the truth must be told my friends or how else could we live with ourselves?
So here we go…
1.) Sleepy Hollow: I have to be honest, I only watched four episodes of this before walking away. Maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance but despite its brooding cinematography, after the initial opener I just couldn’t see how the story of a rampaging headless horseman could be spun out for a whole season let alone multiple ones. It’s a shame really considering Alex Kurtzman’s and Roberto Orci’s TV pedigree (Fringe, Xena, Alias etc) but the writers decisions to focus solely on clichéd supernatural threats rather than a 250-year old man’s awed reactions to the modern world seems like a waste of a solid concept at best. I mean there’s a reason that in the recent Captain America movies Steve Rogers managed to captured our hearts with such ease when he was unfrozen in the future… and it ain’t his star spangled costume, you know?! Predictable, a little lazy and just blah.
2.) Transparent: And on the flipside, here we have a clever title, great indie concept and good casting on paper at least. So how could this Amazon Prime original go wrong, you ask? Well it’s very simple. The tv landscape is crying out for a story like this- a family drama complete with father harbouring long hidden cross-dressing secrets. And actually Jeffrey Tambor is great in the title role; inspiring, embarrassing and caring in equal measure. But his kids…man, their characters are so selfish and unlikeable that it makes it tough to want to spend any prolonged time with them, even on screen. Don’t get me wrong, the dialogue is witty in parts (although not as cutting as I might have liked) and the family dynamic is interesting to watch unfold but to be quite honest the obnoxious behaviour of the Pfefferman children put me right off the show, what with their first world struggles and hipster girlfriends. And I’m sure there will be redemption and realisations scattered throughout the series, I don’t doubt it for a second but I’m just not willing to wade through a whole load of insufferable middle class antics to reach them. If nothing else, a good writer should know that a hint of compassion, just a hint… goes a long way.
3.) The 100: AKA The OC meets Wall-E. I was going to give a long spiel about this one, complete with analysis of the faux science on offer and critique of the show’s oh-so familiar dystopian landscape but I can’t honestly be bothered. Its pretty teenagers shouting at each other while they act out an unrealistic Lord of the Flies teleplay. That’s all you need to know. Bad dialogue, unengaging casting and a terrible tagline (Survival isn’t who you are. It’s who you become-cringe!) all serve to make this a grating experience for anyone over the age of fifteen. So brainless it hurts.
4.) Extant: Actually to be fair, this Amazon series wasn’t technically bad. It had a lot of promise with Halle Berry as the star, big budgets/impressive visuals for each episode and a gripping conceit at its core. The problem lies instead in its narrative structure. After a compelling opening the writers don’t seem to know what to do with their story or how to weave together any of the disparate elements. Robot child questioning his existence? Check. Alien insemination? Check. Secret government conspiracy? Double check. But these ideas all get thrown together in a hodge-podge story which tries to jump genre as often as it can leaving the poor viewer confused and irritated by what they’re watching. Is it a family drama? A sci-fi actioner? A gut-wrenching thriller? The answer is all and none at the same time. And whereas the viewer used to be a lot more forgiving about this, these days we’ve basically turned into a nation of bloodhounds all hunting for stories that are a little more seamless than this. And sad to say, Extant doesn’t quite make the cut.
5.) Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: You have no idea how much it hurts me to add this to my list. Like physically hurts me. I love Marvel. Love the comics, love the studio films. Love love love Clark Gregg and all who sail in him. But since Joss Whedon passed this tv series onto his regular collaborators brother Jed and Melissa Tancharoen the much-anticipated show has barely elicited much more than a giant meh from me. Even guest appearances from Patton Oswalt and Cobie Smulders’ Agent Hill haven’t raised the show’s pulse beyond mildly entertaining and the uneven pacing between standalone episodes and the season’s main arc even managed to dampen that. It’s just not the show we all expected, or the one we hoped for I guess after the trailblazing antics of The Avengers and their constituent parts. I’m still going to watch series two of course, I’m an eternal optimist but if the show continues to prioritise filler over fulfilment, its going to have a rocky road, even taking into account its in-built nerdcore audience.
Ok so there you have it, my major TV disappointments so far this year. Let the discussions begin!