For the last several years, I’ve been recapping HBO’s True Blood here on Persephone Magazine. A longtime fan of both The Southern Vampire Mystery series, on which the show is based, and of vampire-based pop culture, I was excited to see HBO pick up the series. I loved the shows initial blend of camp and gore and its willingness to deviate from the source material in unexpected ways.
Seven seasons on, not only is the bloom off the rose for True Blood, my interest in continuing to watch the series is a perverse stubbornness. “Dammit,” I sometimes say to myself, “I’ve spent 6 years with this damn thing, and I’m just gonna tough out the last season!” (Watching it with my kid, who comes into the last year having never seen an episode and attempting to explain what’s going on, has been an unexpected delight.)
After unleashing a string of curses at the TV after yet another you-have-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me development in the laborious Sookie-n-Bill-4vr relationship, I got to thinking about the television shows that have betrayed me over the years, by squandering their fun/exciting/novel/ or just plain entertaining premises to devolve into boring, confusing, messes begging for cancellation. The shows picked are ones that offended me, personally, in their crappiness — please share your own heartbreaks in the comments. In no particular order, I present a brief list of series that went spectacularly downhill:
Has there ever been another show that squandered so much potential so fast?
Months ahead of the season’s premier, Fox released the entire first episode of Glee on Hulu, free for anyone who wanted to check it out. The move did exactly what it was supposed to do — generate a lot of excitement for a quirky little show about high school losers who loved showtunes and could belt out a good cover song. The pilot and the remainder of the first season was charming, lovable, and endearing.
The second season faltered. And then faltered some more. What had been sweet became cloying, and the good natured humor of the show seemed to have morphed into something unpleasant, like the formerly unpopular kid who suddenly finds themselves inexplicably at the center attention, wielding their social cache like a sledgehammer. I barely made it through the second season and haven’t watched a lick of it since. I heard it’s lurching towards cancellation.
At least the music was good.
The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead is an interesting case on this list. The first season of the AMC hit was a success on multiple levels, giving us just the right mixture of plot, scares, and tension. The writers and showrunners appeared to have a clear plan for the show and understood the source material without being overly constrained by it. The casting was superb. The pacing was excellent. The 6 episode run was just enough to leave the fans wanting more.
And then the second season happened. And then the third season happened. Show runners were sacked at an impressive pace. Most of season 2 was stuck running in place, literally trapped in one location with only a rare zombie appearance to spice things up due to budget constraints. Season 3 got us off the farm and gave us promising new characters, but inconsistent plotting, bizarre character choices, and a foreshadowed confrontation that never really occurred continued to dull the shine on this penny.
However, unlike other shows on this list, The Walking Dead actually seems to have learned from its mistakes. Season 4, while not perfect, was notably better than the previous two years, streamlining the plotting, and giving us some of the most brilliantly written and directed episodes of its run. I’m actually eagerly anticipating what next year will bring.
This one breaks my wee black heart. There were so many squandered moments, so many fantastic opportunities for True Blood to just go all camp and leave behind the pretense of saying important things about bigotry and tolerance, but the show could never quite get there, and seemed unable to commit to being what it really was – a supernatural soap opera with some really hot dudes in it. Is there another show with such a bloated cast of regulars and extras on the air right now? Is there another show that would off a series regular off screen and give the world a “no big deal” shrug about it so it could focus on the emotional effect of the death on the character’s mother, who we last saw two seasons ago for less than ten minutes of screen time? Name me another show that has spent so long convincing us that the romantic lead (Bill) is such a scumbag that it has to contortion itself in ways that would make a gymnast blush in order to ram rod the leads back together again?
At least in its last hurrah, True Blood seems willing to make fun of its own ridiculousness, inserting meta commentary into the mouths of the ‘regular folk’ of Bon Tempts. In the past three episodes, various characters have pointed out the bizarreness of living in a town crawling with vampires, that the mayor campaigned on a platform of honesty while hiding the fact he was a shapeshifter, and that the sheriff’s comely teenage daughter was just an infant three weeks ago. Unfortunately, they can’t seem to work around to criticizing Sookie’s incredible sense of self importance and narcissism. But there’s still time folks! Seven more episodes to go until the bitter, blood soaked end.
Law and Order: SVU
Look. I’m just going to say it.
SVU isn’t very good.
I mean, I love my main girl Olivia Benson, but the show’s been on the air since 1999 and age hasn’t been incredibly kind to it. This last season, in which Olivia is kidnapped again, by the serial rapist she nearly beat to death last year, is forced to publicly admit to, on camera, that beating and her subsequent efforts to conceal this from her superiors, the lies she told under oath, the complicity of her staff in covering it up, and still gets a promotion to sergeant, might actually be the fabled shark jump. But the show keeps chugging onward, the little engine that ever could, so that we can finally get the season where Olivia adopts a damn baby already.