Warning: This post contains spoilers, albeit of shows I do not recommend that you watch.
First, the usual disclaimer: these are not, necessarily, the 10 Worst TV Shows of 2014. If it’s hubris for me to declare that I have seen the best things that aired all year, it’s even more so to pretend I could isolate the worst, much less rank them.
It’s physically possible, at least, for a critic to screen enough of the year’s good TV to identify the best of the best. But millions of hours of TV is piped over cable a year. There must be awful, awful things that I have not seen–because they are awful, because I do not seek them out, because life is a gift that it is a sin to waste. There are probably many bad things I have seen and forgotten, because the human brain protects itself from trauma. And there are shows that began terribly and got better, or slightly less bad.
So the below are not the 10 Worst TV Shows of the Year. They are simply the worst things that someone who watches a lot of TV for a living can recall seeing. And for now, that is good, or rather bad, enough. Alphabetically:
The Brittany Murphy Story. It was a banner year for Lifetime movies, badness-wise; this was also the year the channel gave us The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story and Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. But this poorly conceived, poorly cast, rubbernecking biopic had the bad taste to put it over the top.
How How I Met Your Mother Treated Its Mother. HIMYM itself wasn’t the worst comedy of the year, and for much of its run it was one of the best sitcoms on air. But its final story arc, which introduced, then killed off, a love interest in order to got Ted and Robin together, was an example of the danger of sticking to a show’s original plan no matter what.
I Wanna Marry “Harry.” I’ve defended reality TV more times than I can count. I even defended Joe Millionaire. But this crass, sexist Buckingsham, roping women into a dating show with a fake prince, was indefensible, unwatchable and quickly cancelled.
Marco Polo. If not the worst TV show of the year overall, at least the worst in terms of dollars-to-quality: Netflix’s reported $90 million budget bought sluggish drama, laughable nude martial arts, and a Silk Road caravan laden with embarrassing Orientalism.
Mixology. ABC’s dating comedy at least had an interesting concept–one night out at a bar, over the course of a season–but in practice, it was a tumblerful of singles-sitcom clichés shaken into a nasty cocktail.
The Mysteries of Laura. NBC’s detective drama was at heart an unremarkable, old-fashioned, corny whodunit. But the premise–she’s a cop and she has kids! can you believe it!–managed to have it all, in all the wrong ways.
The Newsroom, “Oh Shenandoah.” After a promising start to The Newsroom‘s final season, an episode focusing on campus rape and digital culture combined the worst of this show’s preachy tendencies into a perfect storm of hot air.
“The Simpsons Guy.” Introducing the Simpsons into a bloated episode of Family Guy was like having the Sistine Chapel repainted by the guy who draws Mallard Fillmore.
Stalker. Even by the standards of TV’s most exploitative crime stories, this lurid women-in-peril drama was slimy. Naturally, it’s been picked up for a full season.
Utopia. It was the fall’s most promising reality-show concept–a group of people spend a year building a society, in rural isolation–but, filled with irritating personalities for maximum conflict, it managed to be both depressing and dull. But it did at least get cancelled, leaving our own world a little bit closer to perfect.
Again, this is only an incomplete list, for the sake of my own sanity. Share the worst things you’ve seen on TV in 2014 in the comments–and better luck in 2015.