This week we’ve honored the best TV shows of the year, as well as the top 10 new series, but now it’s time to shift gears in a more cringeworthy direction and spotlight the year’s most disappointing shows.
To be clear, “most disappointing” is not the same as “worst.” When you can see a clunker coming from a mile away—say, Wisdom of the Crowd, the third tedious show in the past year to unconvincingly argue that egomaniacal tech gurus should be entrusted to “fix” essential public services—it’s not a surprise when that program ultimately lives down to expectations. Instead, this list is devoted to the 2017 shows that I had the highest of hopes for … that is, until I actually watched them.
Brace yourself for a walk down heartbreak lane, because here are the year’s biggest misfires:
10. Friends From College (Netflix)
Just like you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a new series by the caliber of its cast. That’s too bad, because Netflix assembled an impressive group of comic actors—including Keegan-Michael Key, Fred Savage, Nat Faxon and Cobie Smulders—for what ended up being a mirthless show about a group of Harvard pals who reunite two decades later in New York City. Of course, Netflix renewed it anyway, but it's not worth keeping in touch with these friends.
9. Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders (NBC)
I didn’t expect Dick Wolf’s attempt to replicate Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story—creating an anthology series in which each season will focus on an infamous criminal case—to measure up to the likes of The People v. O.J. Simpson. However, I at least hoped the peerless Edie Falco (who plays criminal defense attorney Leslie Abramson) wouldn’t be forced to carry the entire venture on her back. Alas, that’s what ended up happening; the detectives, who should be an essential part of any Law & Order show, barely register here, nor did the actors playing Lyle and Erik Menendez. All that's left is a real missed opportunity.
8. Gypsy (Netflix)
Yes, Netflix reflexively renews almost all its shows, but not even they could justify picking up a second season of this tepid drama. The show—about a therapist (a wasted Naomi Watts; at least Twin Peaks: The Return had fun with her this year) who crosses too many lines to count by becoming involved with the people in her patients’ lives—is so on-the-nose that it opened with Watts literally descending a flight of stairs to enter a coffee shop called The Rabbit Hole.
7. The Young Pope (HBO)
It feels like five years ago that everyone on Twitter had a blast with Young Pope memes back in early January; it was one of the last times that social media wasn’t singularly obsessed with President Trump. However, despite stunning direction from Paolo Sorrentino, the actual show—starring Jude Law as the impenetrable new Pope, the first ever chosen from America (and, by the way, did you know he’s young?)—was never remotely as entertaining or engaging as the many memes it generated.
6. Marvel’s Iron Fist (Netflix)
Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage … the first three “street-level” heroes around which Marvel created this Netflix series, building up to their team-up in this summer’s The Defenders, certainly held their own and commanded the attention of audiences. But that streak unfortunately skidded to a halt with the company’s fourth Netflix series lead, Iron Fist. Played by Finn Jones, the character ultimately had neither the charisma or supporting cast to gallop with the others in Netflix’s stable. Iron Fist was a drag on The Defenders as well, but at least the other three heroes provided camouflage. No such luck in Iron Fist, which was the first Marvel live-action series to be entirely skippable, though it wasn't the last (even in this list).
5. The Gong Show (ABC)
The latest summertime revival of a ’70s/’80s game show/competition series wouldn’t have been on my radar had the show’s producers (including Will Arnett) not convinced Mike Myers to come out of semi-retirement, don heavy prosthetics, and host as a fictional British comic called Tommy Maitland. (Producers and ABC execs honored Myers’ wishes and never used his name in any promotional material.) Any hopes that Maitland was Myers’ next brilliant comic creation a la Austin Powers or Wayne Campbell were quickly dashed by the finished product, which—like many of the show’s amateur contestants—was an idea far better in theory than in execution. Please, someone, bang the gong!
4. Taboo (FX)
FX has one of the best track records in the industry, so when the network does stumble creatively, it really stands out. (Though in this case, because Taboo was a BBC co-production, FX only gets half the blame.) Starring and co-created by Tom Hardy, this meandering drama set in 1814 London was reminiscent in several ways of another recent period flop from FX, The Bastard Executioner, as well as The Comedians. The takeaway: Starpower can’t compensate for feeble execution.
3. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
While I’m usually wary of revivals, I was thrilled when Larry David decided to return to Curb after a six-year hiatus. While I thought he was joking when he said this summer that he made another season because he was tired of being asked about it, I’m now inclined to believe him; there’s no other explanation for what was by far the weakest season in Curb history, in which David mostly seemed to be going through the motions. By the time the season stumbled to an end, with a pair of bloated (45 minutes!) episodes, my enthusiasm had officially been curbed.
2. Marvel’s Inhumans (ABC)
DC has been deservedly dragged through the coals post-Justice League, but in its ongoing competition with Marvel, at least the company can take comfort in the fact that it has never made a worse movie or TV show than Marvel’s Inhumans (no, not even Green Lantern!). It wasn’t just that the series was awful and laughably low-budget, but Marvel decided to double-down on the wretchedness by airing the first two episodes in Imax theaters for two weeks, where its flaws were amplified on the country’s largest movie screens. Even though the series—which already finished its season—is probably gone for good, its failure deals another blow to Marvel’s possibly overextended TV brand.
1. Every show starring, or made by, someone accused of sexual harassment
The first sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein just 10 weeks ago emboldened hundreds of people to come forward with their own devastating tales of alleged sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood—and elsewhere—during the past several decades. This list of affected TV shows is unfortunately growing by the day, but currently includes Today (Matt Lauer), House of Cards (Kevin Spacey), The Early Show (Charlie Rose), Transparent (Jeffrey Tambor), Project Runway/Six/Scream (executive producer Weinstein), The Royals (showrunner Mark Schwahn), The Chew (Mario Batali), Better Things/Baskets/One Mississippi (executive producer Louis C.K.), Wisdom of the Crowd (Jeremy Piven), The Circus (Mark Halperin), Arrow/The Flash/Supergirl/DC's Legends of Tomorrow (executive producer Andrew Kreisberg), The Ranch (Danny Masterson), Prison Break/iZombie (Robert Knepper) and literally every Amazon show (ousted Amazon Studios chief Roy Price). Most of these men have already been let go from their respective shows as a result of investigations surrounding the allegations, while the fate of others remain up in the air.
The pain that these men allegedly caused their victims—and in many cases, the toxic environments they created at their shows—is most heinous of all. Beyond that, they have also tainted their respective shows by association. While most of these programs can (and likely will) shoulder on without them, they’ll do so with a stigma that audiences may not be able to shake.
Our look at the best and worst of the year in television will conclude tomorrow with the five best TV performances of 2017.