I watched a lot of TV shows in 2016, a fair dollop of them crap, but none so utterly, irredeemably crap as the five failures below.
The first season of Prison Break was truly great TV: fun, funny, shocking, silly, suspenseful, tense, exciting and beautifully, insanely ridiculous. But it never should’ve lasted beyond those first 22 episodes, much less another 4 seasons, a mini-movie and a revival season.
Was there anyone in the entire world who was actually looking forward to this revival, or who expected it to be anything other than a giant bowl of sick-whisked dog shit? I can understand wanting to watch this new ‘mini-event series’ out of morbid curiosity, or because you relish the prospect of picking it to pieces as you sort of half-watch-it, half-browse-for-stuff-on-Ebay, but surely only a die-hard fanatic of the first order, or a victim of failed brain surgery, would anticipate new Prison Break with any sense of relish.
My expectations started low – we’re talking sub-basement-level flat in Hell’s deepest underground multi-storey – and still they were unmet. Prison Break is a show where anything can, and does, happen, so ultimately nothing matters.This is a show where being electrocuted to death and having your head chopped off is no barrier to a return. It just requires waiting for the right preposterous, credibility-stretching conspiracy to come along.
Don’t get me wrong: the show’s bat-shit crazy, devil-may-care, fast-moving, twisty-turny-ness was one of its greatest and most entertaining assets in the beginning, but now it just feels tired and forced and lazy and formulaic. Plus, it’s more painfully obvious than ever before that the two brothers can’t really act for shit. Lincoln spends this season lumbering around the Middle East with all the grace and charisma of a zombie oak tree, while Ed Kemper is probably more effective at emoting than Michael (and I mean Ed Kemper as he is now). The prison break is boring and short-lived; the secondary characters hollow and unconvincing; the villains one step below panto; the Yemeni setting poorly realised and possibly border-line racist; and the various twists even more maddeningly preposterous than usual.
From the moment Lincoln survived being smashed through a windshield at top speed, to T-Bag’s unemotional ’emotional’ moment with his dying son, I sat completely and utterly spellbound – by my own fingernails. I kept wondering how long it would take to scratch my own eyes out with them.
Oh, and on a closing note, writing and production team: good work on the big showdown and shoot-out at a Yemeni train station: you know, Yemen?… The country that DOESN’T HAVE ANY FUCKING TRAINS.
Powerless boasted strong production values, a talented cast (most notably Danny Pudi of Community-fame) and an absolutely on-point, almost perfect title sequence – all of which was ultimately completely useless, because whatever else Powerless had or was, it simply wasn’t funny. And ‘funny’ is a pretty essential component when you’re making a comedy series. It was cancelled after only 9 episodes of the first season had aired.
I guess there have been a lot worse shows than Powerless, but it’s a tragedy that what could’ve been a zany, fresh and inventive comedy looking at life through the lens of a bunch of regular Joes in a WayneTech subsidiary working to protect the little guy from the constant battles between superheroes and supervillains became instead a lacklustre, generic workplace comedy that struggled to conjure up more than a handful laughs (tiny, breathy ones at that) and a smattering of smiles (flat, joyless ones, too).
Still, while the 9 episodes I watched were undoubtedly shite, maybe the show could’ve grown into something special given more of a chance. Shame on you, Powerless. But shame on you, too, American network television.
The twelve-year-old me who spent his days regurgitating Red Dwarf’s catch-phrases and impersonating its characters would be very angry with fat, hairy thirty-seven-year-old me for placing Red Dwarf on this list, but never mind: I’m reasonably sure I could take twelve-year-old-me in a fight.
It’s fair to say that Red Dwarf has had a wildly uneven hit-rate in recent years; from the mild disappointment of its sheeny-shiny, oh-so-cinematic seventh season, to the post-lobotomy lock-down of its lads-and-lager eighth season; from the abominable Back to Earth, to the show’s present incarnation as a darling of Dave, the show has never quite made the case for its own cancellation, but neither has it given much cause for unbridled celebration.
That’s not to say that latter-day Dwarf has lacked classic episodes – there have been some triumphantly funny episodes, even in the midst of the most middling of seasons – but that still only adds up to 6 truly great episodes out of 31. You wouldn’t be happy to get a score of 6 out of 31 in a test, unless it was a test to see how attractive Kevin Spacey found you on a scale of one to 31. Still, despite the show’s somewhat scatter-gun run since the late 90s I felt weirdly, unfathomably optimistic about season XII. I should’ve known better, or at least lowered my expectations.
While the first episode and the last two episodes of the season were pretty good (or at least ‘good enough’), the third episode – Timewave – was so embarrassingly, blood-curdlingly awful that it made me want to remove all traces of Red Dwarf from my memories with a rusty axe.
Rob Grant’s pointless and puerile attempt to reflect the current political climate by placing the crew on a ship where all criticism was outlawed was the unfunniest thing since… well, since nothing. It’s literally the unfunniest thing that’s ever been produced, and that includes genocide and Mrs Brown’s Boys. It’s the single worst episode of any show I’ve watched this year, and quite possibly the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life, and that includes granny porn.
Timewave effortlessly earns Red Dwarf its slot in the top five. It’s so bad it’ll keep Red Dwarf on this list every year for the next ten years, even if it never returns to air.
THE WALKING DEAD
Never before has all-out warfare been so mercilessly, miserably, unforgivably dull. The Walking Dead has been shedding healthy flesh at an alarming rate since the beginning of its sixth season, and now shambles twice-yearly into our schedules a rotted husk of its former reassuringly-gory glory. While even in its younger, better days it was never in the same league as shows like The Sopranos, Mad Men, or The Wire, The Walking Dead was at least exciting and emotionally resonant, and capable of turning out some truly powerful, haunting or barn-storming episodes. Season 8, thus far, has been full of action, but devoid of feeling and substance.
Rick is an infuriatingly inconsistent protagonist at the helm of an infuriatingly inconsistent show. Well, perhaps it’s not infuriatingly inconsistent anymore, because use of the word ‘infuriating’ would signify that I still cared about the content or direction of the show. And I don’t. I really, really don’t. Negan is a crushing bore of a bad guy (mishandled and miscast); the Saviours/war narrative continues to unfold without any concessions to logic, sense, physics or geography; the (Poor Man’s Mad Max) People of the Trash Pile are too dull to be kitsch, and too fucking ridiculous to be a credible threat; and there are too many characters on the show, especially when they’re all so thinly-sketched and bent so easily to the will of the plot. Game of Thrones gets away with having eight billion characters, because it’s a very well-written show and as a consequence its characters are deep, well-rounded and interesting.
I used to care about the show, I really did, but now I wouldn’t care if Carol and Daryl formed a Romeo-and-Juliet-style death pact and shot each other through the head, at the same time as Negan sewed Rick’s severed zombie head onto the neck of Ezekiel’s dead tiger. I didn’t even care about Ezekiel’s tiger, and I’m usually a sucker for animals in on-screen peril. And I certainly didn’t care when it was revealed that Karl had been bitten. Actually, that’s not strictly true. I did care, but only because I’m pretty sure he isn’t going to die, and I really, really wanted him to. In summary, then, let the tiger die. Let them all die. Let the zombies come back to life so they can all die again, too. The Walking Dead’s a dead show walking, and I wish they’d pull the plug so I wouldn’t have to keep watching the bloody thing, masochist that I am.
Hey, it’s the beautiful, elven-looking woman from Vikings, and Clay Davis from The Wire; you know, the one who says ‘shhheeeeeeiiiiiiiittttttttt’ all the time. And Frances Conroy, of Six Feet Under and American Horror Story fame! Oh, and it’s a Stephen King adaptation; an adaptation of an adaptation, I may add, of a film of which I’m rather fond. Mist, monsters, madness, religious mania, a good old-fashioned struggle for survival: what could possibly go wrong?
Well… everything, in fact. Everything. Not even the massive foghorning beasts that lumber from the mist in the cinematic The Mist could rival the horror of this now-mercifully-cancelled misfire (and I mean ‘horror’ in its most pejorative sense here; I’ve just realised that ‘horror’ can serve as a compliment when discussing actual works of horror. There’s no compliment here, believe me). Most of what emerges from the mist in this adaptation comes in the form of hallucinatory supernatural visions , which – a few notably bat-shit moments aside – get incredibly boring almost instantly. Whilst a great deal of the action unfolds in the local mall (the short story and the movie were set almost entirely in a mid-sized supermarket) the series loses vital focus and tension by spreading its characters out across the town. I understand that having a bunch of characters rushing to a focal point for a big, meaty finale, especially when some of those separated characters hold different pieces of an explosive secret, can be thrilling to watch, but not if the writing and the acting has never moved you to care about any of the characters.
The ‘plot’, such as it is, is redolent of those post-watershed, too-hot-for-TV episodes that British soap operas occasionally indulge in, complete with sketchy characters you can’t seem to bring yourself to give a fuck about, heaped servings of am-dram histrionics, and narrative contrivances powerful enough to make your eyes roll back in your head like jackpotted Vegas slot machines. In the end, The Mist is just a bunch of people chasing each other down smoky corridors with spades, or being pursued by duff CGI, as you check the clock every 90 seconds, wondering why you aren’t doing something more worthwhile with your free time, like cheese-grating all the skin off of your face and feeding it to your cat.