By Chasen Stern
I realize that this post is easily my most inflammatory one yet as each of these shows have large, diehard fanbases that will not even consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe their favorite program is flawed. I’m not saying all these shows are terrible either (although some of them are). Rather, my problem with them is that they masquerade as groundbreaking television on par with the likes of Mad Men and The Wire when really they’re nothing more than hyped-up soap operas with pseudo-original twists. They’re not necessarily as bad as the garbage sitcoms CBS is putting out or the never-ending CSI-flavored shows that numb the minds of television viewers everywhere, but they certainly aren’t phenomenal either.
Most of the following shows have their moments and values, which Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of the Internet will confuse for genuine, consistent quality. But don’t be fooled. These shows are not as great as your boyfriend or freshman roommate believes them to be. Truth be told, these shows all kinda suck.
I really struggled with my decision to include Dexter on this list. But after a few days of deliberation and conversations with astute analytical minds, I decided it was necessary. Sure, Dexter was original and unlike anything on TV when it first aired in 2006. But its novelty quickly wore off and was replaced by predictable plot twists, repetitive story-telling, uninteresting antagonists, and an unrealistic, overarching premise that should have been wrapped up years ago.
With that said, my real problem with Dexter is its inconsistency. It has great seasons that leave your expectations unbelievably high, which only devastate you when the following season is dreadfully unwatchable. And the unwatchable seasons leave you with drastically lowered expectations so the following season, regardless of its retrospective quality, seems like must-see TV.
Seasons three and five are two of the worst seasons of television I’ve ever been subjected to and yet the online community still raved about them and went apeshit when Dexter inevitably one-upped his generic adversary with a steak knife to the chest. Truly great television does not require lowered expectations to impress its viewership.
4. The Walking Dead
When The Walking Dead aired on Halloween night two years ago, I was a little drunk and found myself totally captivated by the pilot. It was ambitious, gory, and featured a grown-up version of Short Round from Temple of Doom. There were tons of zombies and characters that I truly empathized with. Then Frank Darabont stopped writing and directing episodes and it immediately went downhill.
Sure, on paper an ongoing narrative about a ragtag group surviving in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies sounds nearly perfect. But when you throw in shitty, unsophisticated writing and cliched melodrama amongst unlikable characters, you get just another mundane serial relying too heavily on what the producers are passing as an original environment.
Also, where the fuck were the zombies in Season 2? There’s a ten episode story arc on a farm that is totally void of the titular characters. It’s one thing to want to create a character-driven piece that strives to show raw human emotion and necessary sacrifices in the most dire of times, but don’t promise your viewers a show about zombies and not show any fucking zombies.
Granted, Season 3 has been pretty sexy so far, but I can no longer trust The Walking Dead. Inevitably, as soon as I become invested in it, the writers will throw in a few more flat characters and try to shove some more nail-on-the-head dialogue down our throats. The Walking Dead was a great premise that turned into a complete let-down when it came to execution. Despite this, you will never see a critical view or complaint on your Facebook newsfeed following an episode. AMC even dedicates a whole show after each episode just to talk about how amazing it was.
The Walking Dead may have some appealing characters, and it may even have an occasional zombie beheading, but it does not possess the depth, originality, and overall quality the Internet is convinced it does.
3. Sons of Anarchy
Sons of Anarchy is another show that seemed impressive and innovative early in its run, only to plunge into mediocrity soon after. It’s the cool, badass story about a gang in Northern California that ride around on loud motorcycles, have sex with lots of women, and beat the shit out of anyone who disagrees with them. You can totally see how guys in frats and your high school’s football team would go nuts for a show like this.
Now for my own personal experience: I burned through Sons of Anarchy’s first season on Netflix in two days and immediately began the second. The constant edge-of-your-seat tension and hyper-violence was addicting. I wanted more and more. Then I found myself bored. The second season still had all the sex, violence, and bearded men that I loved about the first season, but it just wasn’t entertaining anymore.
Without getting too wordy, Sons of Anarchy overdoes it. There’s too much GO-GO-GO and not enough down time. Never once does the show stop and allow the audience to absorb the previous episode’s events and see how they play out, affecting each of the characters and their relationships. It’s pretty dumb Twitter, so stop posting shit like this:
2. True Blood
One day in the seventh grade, I was minding my own business on the playground during recess. All of a sudden, some prematurely bitchy girl kicked me in my undescended testicles as hard as she could, leaving me in pain for the rest of the day. Watching an episode of True Blood is a lot like that.
1. American Horror Story
American Horror Story is the least original, least creative, and least groundbreaking show on television. It’s also the most overhyped. On Facebook alone, AHS has over two million fans and every single one of them will make statuses about their televised passion before each episode, during each episode, and after each episode.
AND IT’S FUCKING ANNOYING.
So there are three things I want to talk about. The first is Ryan Murphy’s insistence on throwing in as many gay characters as possible. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay or having gay characters, Murphy now has three shows on television in which he writes characters as gay instead of giving them other well-developed characteristics. To simply put a gay character in your show to seem edgy or push boundaries is both cheap television and fairly offensive. He also loves to throw in unnecessarily sexually explicit scenes because his show is a horror and, you know, nothing is scarier than Dylan McDermott’s bare-naked ass as he masturbates and proceeds to cry.
My second complaint is that American Horror Story steals everything. The first season is part-Amityville Horror, part-Shining, part-Rosemary’s Baby, with a dash of Sixth Sense thrown in because, let’s face it, FX, your viewership has not seen those first three films. I guess the second season takes place in a psychiatric asylum, so that’s original.
Oh, except Alfred Hitchcock did that almost 70 years ago!
And lastly, my largest complaint is the overly simplistic structure of this show. Here’s how it goes: The first episode is just as intriguing as it is confusing. We’re introduced to all sorts of seemingly interesting characters and frightening occurrences and are able to infer that they’re all connected somehow. At the end of the 45 minutes, we’re left mesmerized with a Lost-esque number of questions running through our heads. The show follows that by giving us twelve episodes of pure expository bullshit. 94% of a season of American Horror Story is spent explaining the first 6% to us. Nothing new is ever introduced. Nothing new ever develops.