More Emmy Thoughts; Also, Worst Episode By a TV Show In Its Prime? -

More Emmy Thoughts; Also, Worst Episode By a TV Show In Its Prime?


Not much TV stuff to post today — except about the Emmy nominations, which are just not all that interesting. One thing I forgot to mention in my post below, though, is that the show I’m most worried about based on the nominations is Community. Most shows’ survival is not dependent on Emmys, but 30 Rock has proven that a show with low ratings can survive based on Emmy love. It’s not an absolute thing; Fox had to cancel Arrested Development eventually (but even that show might have lasted longer if it hadn’t lost the Emmy in its second season), but on a weak network like NBC, it’s just possible for shows to hang on if there’s a perception that they bring in some prestige.

What I’m getting at is that Community will need a lot of things to go right if it’s going to make it to a third season, and its Emmy shutout may make the network less inclined to stick with it. I certainly hope I’m wrong, but the ratings are bound to be low, due to the doubly difficult time slot (leading off an evening and up against very tough competition). That means it will come down to a question of whether the network considers it important enough to protect, the way they protect 30 Rock; the lack of Emmy nominations could be a data point against it, suggesting that it isn’t really respected by The Industry(tm). Again, I hope I’m wrong.

I’d say that Parks & Recreation has a stronger hand to play, which is an odd thing to say because the network didn’t even have enough confidence in it to bring it back in the fall. But that show, while it didn’t get the Best Comedy nomination it deserved, did at least get a major acting nomination for a performer, Amy Poehler, who is important to the network. (Though not for Nick Offerman, who is the best thing on the show.) That makes it closer to a prestige item for NBC. And coming back in mid-season may help it hang on; the precedent is CBS’s Rules of Engagement, a comedy nobody really likes or hates, but which has gotten a longish run based primarily on being a perennial midseason replacement for the network’s flops. P&R could quite possibly hang on and replace shows like Outsourced for a while.

Speaking of comedies, and to go over to another network, ABC has announced that its new fall comedy Better Together has changed its title to Better With You. (The show has already had other titles in development, including “Leapfrog,” which sounds like an even worse animal-related title than “Cougar Town.”) As I said about Rookie Blue, a title change can sometimes work — if the title is improved in the process. A last-minute title change that doesn’t make the title any better, on the other hand, has got to be a warning sign. It seems to be a show with some potential, mostly because of the casting, but as the network’s only multi-camera comedy it’s in a difficult position already — if it under-performs, the network will be inclined to drop it much more quickly than an under-performing single-camera show — and the sudden, pointless title change doesn’t suggest the network has a lot of confidence in it.

Finally, here’s a TV question I’ve been thinking about: what is the worst episode by a hit show in its prime? By “in its prime” I don’t necessarily mean creative prime; I mean in the prime of its popularity: a show that produced a truly appalling episode while it was still a huge hit, as opposed to bad episodes produced after the show has already lost its popularity.

To me, there’s one episode that stands out; when I was younger I saw this episode of Happy Days about Al Molinaro being cursed by some crazy old lady who wore an eyepatch and made a voodoo doll in his image. It had some of the worst acting, music, writing I’d seen, yet when I looked it up later I discovered that Happy Days was the # 4 show in America at the time this episode aired (the sixth season). Granted, since Happy Days invented Jumping the Shark (see below) there’s a lot to choose from, but this one just kind of stuck in my mind as the ultimate horror of what a once-good show could produce while it was still a hit.

There are others that come to mind, of course, like some of the more problematic 24s, and then there are the hit shows that were never very good to begin with and therefore offer lots of bad episodes right out of the gate. But do you have any episodes that make you wonder how that show could possibly have been a hit at the time?


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More Emmy Thoughts; Also, Worst Episode By a TV Show In Its Prime?

  1. If we're not talking comedies, the "Black Market" episode of BSG was pretty weak.

    • We're not, no, so that counts and so does "Exposé" from Lost.

    • The only reason people hate that black market ep of BSG is that it's basically the only ep of the entire series that focused almost entirely on a stand alone story. It's remarkably under-rated.

      • In fact, the entire fourth season of BSG was such a mess that even bringing up any of the earlier eps is ridiculous.

  2. How about the MASH episode when Hawkeye and Hotlips kiss in a mortar while being shelled…
    btw – Way to make an Ebert tweet!

  3. I seem to recall a Dallas episode where they erased an entire season to bring somebody back from the dead in one episode by explaining it as a dream? That one has to count for something…

  4. My vote would be for the finale of Seinfeld. Larry David comes back to write the finale, and just comes up with a bunch of tedious references to earlier, better episodes. Yeah, thanks, Larry. Jerry never could have written all those boring and annoying jokes without you!

  5. There's an episode of the X-Files in which Mulder and Scully hunt something supernatural in some sort of virtual reality game. Absolutely terrible, though I'm not sure if it occurred in the X-files "prime" or not.

  6. The Simpsons – Lisa becomes President, Bart is her stoner brother and Homer is looking for Lincoln's gold. Dreadful.

  7. Any "Simpsons go to…" has my vote

  8. If we are talking current Emmy nominees, I would say this season of 30 Rock's "Winter Madness", where the show's writers travel to Boston. The only episode so far in which I did not laugh at all.

    BTW, this category should exclude clip shows, because those are near-universally garbage.

  9. Not exactly answering the question, but having watched Jerry Seinfeld's show since day one, I sensed a decline about halfway through the run (and stopped watching). Came time for the finale, and Entertainment Weekly ran an episode guide to what they loudly trumpeted as a brilliant sitcom — except the grades for all of the episodes after the fourth season averaged around B-. Yes, I felt justified….

    • Definitely season 6 of Seinfeld has some surprisingly weak episodes, and that was the first year it finished #1 in the annual ratings. A lot of them played like parodies of Seinfeld instead of the real thing. This was when the writers started getting lazy and fell back on the usual Seinfeld formula: Jerry frets over some minor habit his latest girlfriend has, George tries some selfish scheme that backfires, Elaine gets into some absurd situation, Kramer does something goofy, and a Catchphrase of The Week.

      • I am reasonably certain that this has been discussed on this blog, but it seems that a lot of sitcoms lose the ability to keep their characters nuanced. So, Homer goes from being careless and dumb to being near-malicious and bag of hammers stupid, Michael Scott becomes the most obtuse annoying person in teh universe, George Costanza becomes a walking disaster area etc etc…

        Looking back, I think that Cheers (of all sitcoms) did a reasonable job avoiding this with Sam for quite a while, and following on that, Frasier lasted 6 or 7 seasons. I just think even the most creative minds run out of new situations, so they have to exagerrate characteristics to find the funny.

  10. 1. Episode of Mork and Mindy where the guest star was Racquel Welch as an evil alien out to seduce Mork.

    2. All musical episode of Xena Warrior Princess.

    3. Over-preachy drug addiction episode, first season of Star Trek the Next Generation (the one with Merrick Buttrick and Judson Scott).

  11. Jack's tattoo-centric Lost episode is by far the most boring episode, much worse than Exposé which, although embarassing, has its strengths too.

    The West Wing's bizarre "Let's focus soley on CJ's life by sending her to her dads" were also pretty poor, even though they did at least have good intentions.

    House had a shocker with S3's alien-abduction storyline and the Office frequently turns in bad episodes, even though it is usually amongst very good ones (although this year it seems to have been the exact inverse…)

    • Yes to that West Wing episode (The Long Goodbye?). I remember watching it and being terribly terribly bored. It wasn't even necessarily a bad episode. It just wasn't a West Wing episode.

  12. How about the "Beer, Bad" episode of Buffy? Though Buffy made some bad episodes even in its best seasons — the forgettable "Go Fish" aired right in the middle of the Angelus arc.

  13. My Buffy vote would definitely be for "Gingerbread" from season three, where the dead Hansel & Gretel kids tell Joyce and Willow's mom to burn Buffy and Willow at the stake. It's surrounded by all-time classics on either side – "Lover's Walk", "The Wish" and "Amends" before it, and "Helpless" and "The Zeppo" right after. It's the show's all-time best period in my opinion, and it has a big giant stinker right in the middle.

    As for other shows, the first one that came to mind was "The Injury" from The Office season two, where Michael burns his foot on the George Foreman Grill. It's not that it makes Michael too stupid, because a lot of really funny episodes do that. It's just that almost none of the jokes are any good.