Tag Archives: Luther

Ranking the Shows I Watch – 2014 Edition: The Outcasts

14 Jan

Breaking Bad

It’s time for an annual beginning-of-the-year tradition over here at Drug of the Nation, the ranking of the shows I’ve watched during the previous year. This is my fourth annual ranking, and I’ll repeat the caveat I placed atop last year’s ranking introduction:

Because the TV season is no longer the fall-to-spring trajectory that it used to be, I arbitrarily rank things on a calendar basis, and that leads to strange situations where I’m occasionally ranking the end of one season and the beginning of the next season in the same ranking. It’s strange, and not ideal, but I have to pick some point in the year to do the rankings, so I’ll roll with the punches and mention within the article if there was a significant change in quality one way or the other between the end and beginning of seasons covered in the same year.

I’m only ranking shows I watched all of or just about all of the episodes that aired last year; if I’m just two or three behind I’ll rank it, but if I’ve only seen two or three, I won’t. I’m ranking three episode mini-British seasons but not shows with one-off specials (Black Mirror’s Christmas special is the most notable example this year) . These rules are arbitrary, admittedly, but any rules would be. No daily variety programs like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are eligible either.

The rankings this year were incredibly difficult, and a generally weak fall slate of TV shows had me forgetting just what an utterly strong year on the whole 2014 had been for television. I was forced to put shows I liked a lot towards the bottom of these rankings, and unlike previous years, there are just about no shows on this list that I’m one bad episode away from stopping, or that I’m just stringing out due to past loyalty until they finish. It’s absolutely brutal, and although I was forced to make tough choices, that doesn’t mean I don’t genuinely enjoy just about every show on this list. TV is that good, folks.

We start, as last year, with the shows that made last year’s list but didn’t make this year’s for one reason of another. This year these are almost entirely because they ended or didn’t air in the calendar year, so I’ll just run through them quickly, with some additional notes about the few that didn’t fall off due to simply not airing last year. This year I’m going to additionally throw in where a show ranked last year for context.

Here’s a quick link to last year’s final ranking as well. Now, on to the outcasts…

Breaking Bad – 2013: 1

Treme – 2013: 4

Eagleheart – Last year: 6

30 Rock – Last year: 10

Venture Bros. – 2013: 12

Top of the Lake – 2013: 15

Arrested Development – 2013: 17

Childrens Hospital – 2013: 21

Broadchurch – 2013: 23

Happy Endings – 2013: 24

NTSF: SD: SUV – 2013: 31

Black Mirror – 2013: 36

Family Tree  2013: 37

Siberia – 2013: 38

Luther – 2013: 45

The Office – 2013: 46

Dexter – 2013: 48

Enlightened – 2013: 6.5 (Initially, an embarrassingly mistaken omission)

Ben and Kate – 2013: 23.5 (Initially, an embarrassingly mistaken omission)

Take a deep breath. All of these shows did not air in 2014, so that’s the simple explanation why they’re not on the list. Many of these shows ended, Top of the Lake was a miniseries, several have extended offseasons and will be back in 2015 or later, and a couple are in extended hiatus, waiting to see whether they will return or not (looking at you, NTSF: SD: SUV). Easy enough.

Homeland – 2013: 41

Homeland

After a season and a half of utter frustration with the show’s inconsistency at best, and downright lousy and lazy writing at worst, I cut the cord, deciding not to watch the fourth season after a third season that really was not a very good season of television. People have told me the fourth season is better, and if a critical consensus emerges I’ll consider coming back, but I’m not that close to it. I got so sick of the show and Carrie and Brody in particular; if I had cut out earlier, I might have been more easily convinced to come back. It’ll always have an absolutely all-time first season, and is worthy fo remembering just for that, reminiscent of an athlete like Mark Fidrych who blows away the league in his first season only to never do anywhere close to the same again.

Under the Dome – 2013: 47

 

Under the Dome

Oof. Under the Dome’s first season makes the third season of Homeland look like the fourth season of Breaking Bad. It’s still stunning to me that I made it almost to the end of the first season (I never actually watched the season finale; either with only one left, I couldn’t bring myself to). The plot was incredibly stupid, the acting was generally pretty bad, and the characters were horrible. It’s hard to imagine a time when it could have been decent, but alas, a sneakily bad show is bound to end up getting watched sometimes when you watch so many shows.

Advertisements

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: 48-45

27 Dec

Time to start these rankings in earnest – remember, even being relatively low on the list isn’t an insult – the fact that I’m watching the show at all probably means I think it’s at least pretty good. That said, there are a couple of exceptions, seasons of shows I didn’t particularly care for but I watched anyway for a variety of reasons, most often because it was a lousy season of a show that had been good in the past. The first couple of entries in the list should more or less sweep through that first bunch.

48. Dexter

Clean yourself up, Dex

Bringing up the rear is Dexter. The eight season of Dexter truly was a putrid, awful, horrible, terrible no good very bad final season of television. I try not to think about it to avoid a feeling of Lost-like instant frustration. I I actually believed the season to last season of Dexter had a chance to be good, but it wasn’t, and I already harbored pretty low expectations for the last season. Still, the season started not great. The season got worse as it went along, the finale was worse than the season, and the last two minutes of the finale may have been the worst part of the episode. The writers were clueless, lost, and wasted a chance to do something really interesting Dexter could have only done as it was ending. Alas. The last four seasons, and the last three seasons in particular (five isn’t really that bad) shouldn’t take away from Dexter’s stellar first four seasons, but as someone who hasn’t rewatched the series, the bad is fresh in my mind, and the good a long way off.

47. Under the Dome

Under the Dome or Under the Minidome?

Ick. Why did I watch this entire season of television? I don’t really have a good reason. The first episode really was not bad. I was telling a friend that, and he laughed it off. He rightfully gave me an “I told you so” just a few weeks later, after two or three weeks of me insisting the show still had upside. The concept may have but the show didn’t, and it just got worse and worse and more insipid and silly and stupid and it went on. Mysticism and mystery isn’t entertaining for its own sake, and the idea that the dome had a will of its own just seemed dumb rather than interesting or mysterious. There was a mystery, but that doesn’t do any good if no one actually cares about it, and no one should have. Dean Norris deserves better. It was possibly worse than this season of Dexter (possibly) but I’m giving Dexter the last slot because of the negative associations it created with something I previously liked; thankfully I had no positive associations with Under the Dome that the show could ruin right off the bat.

46. The Office

The Office

This was also a putrid, awful, horrible, terrible no good very bad final season, but with one exception that places it clearly ahead of Dexter (and Under the Dome). The season was awful but the finale was actually good. It’s almost as if the writers farmed out every other episode in the season to a bunch of six year olds or one terrible writer and spent the rest of the time working on the finale. It’s hardly an all-time classic finale, and has nothing on a couple of other finales we’ll get to later, but it served its purpose, was appropriately heartwarming and funny and cameo-filled, and it left a good taste in my mouth after a bad season, unlike Dexter. There were so many things wrong with the last couple of seasons, that it was nice to have the last moments we spend with the lovable Dunder Mifflin crew be joyous.

45. Luther

DCI Luther

I recently wrote an article which says my thoughts in far more detail than I’ll say them now. This is a show that I probably never would have watched if it wasn’t as short as it was and if it didn’t star Idris Elba, but it did have redeeming features that make me keep watching through the first two seasons. Sadly, these redeeming features were largely not present in this third season. The best character in the show barely appeared and her appearance was uninspired and felt forced, and Luther, the character, has run out of interesting things to do. The best part was always the villains and this season’s villains largely didn’t match up to previous years’.

End of Season Report: Luther, Season 3

9 Dec

Luther and his nemesis

British cop drama Luther aired its third season this year, although it’s a very British season, made up of just four episodes. The first two seasons were solid but unspectacular fare that largely relied on television police tropes, particularly the cop-that-breaks-all-the-rules-but-is-always-right. Still, the seasons had their moments, starred the always wonderful Idris Elba, featured one really interesting character named Alice, and well, there weren’t that many episodes so the quality didn’t have to be as high to make the seasons worth watching (I’m aware that’s a very backhanded compliment). 

Normally I try to make some broader points in these end of season reports and hit on a number of key plotlines. Here, though, there was one element of the third season that basically ruined it for me and that’s pretty much what I’m going to focus on.

Here’s the problem with Luther season three, the most frustrating and worst season of the show to date. They took a good idea and executed it exactly the wrong way,which led to a season which was worse than if they good idea had simply been absent altogether.

Let me explain.

Here’s the good idea. Luther is an unethical police officer who violates both ethical and legal boundaries to solve cases and punish guilty offenders. This is something that would be extremely controversial in real life, is fairly controversial in the show, but it’s something viewers have occasionally been taught to root for in their television heroes. Heroes don’t play by the rules and they get things done anyway they have to; technicalities be damned. Thus, this season, the Luther writers smartly decided they were going to introduce someone who looks into Luther’s  misdoings and tries to find out if they’re true, and if so to take him down within the system.

That’s a good idea. Here’s how you do it right. The internal affairs-type people looking to get Luther are completely neutral and simply interested in finding the truth. They’re not interested in personal vendettas; they’re interested in people following procedures that exist for a reason. Internal affairs-type people always tend to come off as bad guys in TV shows for the same reason borderline unethical cops come off as they good guys; the cops are trying to get results, while the internal affairs people are worrying about bureaucratic bullshit while the real cops go after criminals. So, the key to have this plot thrust work is ensuring that the agents coming after Luther are trustworthy and passionate, so they’re on an even playing field with Luther, and it makes you think, well, maybe Luther, this character that I’ve been rooting for, maybe there are good reasons that he should go down and get investigated and possibly punished for his indiscretions.

Here’s what they did. The head internal affairs person investigating Luther, George Stark, is a drunk absolute nut job who cares much more about railroading Luther than he does about justice or law or really anything. It’s unclear why he cares so much since we’ve never seen him before and it’s unclear what kind of official permission he even has to be conducting his investigation. At least his helper and second in command has been at odds with Luther for some time and has a legitimate beef. Stark comes out of absolutely nowhere, despises Luther for reasons that are unclear, but is far from being above using the same exact underhanded tactics to get Luther that Luther might use against a criminal. Not only is it unbelievably hypocritical, but Stark has an insufferable superior attitude about the whole ordeal which makes him all the more despicable.

I’m open to rooting against Luther. I could be convinced. He rubs me the wrong way often and I’m tired of that cop-who-disobeys-the-rules being portrayed as the hero . Still, when this is the other option, I’ll root for the devil I know any day of the week. I know this show can do better. Luther is already a show with many limitations and a not particularly nuanced view of crime or policework, but it could craft a more convincing and compelling investigation into Luther’s misdeeds.

This investigation into Luther was all leading to the final episode. I was already kind of fed up with this plot by this point which was ruining most of the enjoyment I had from the other angels of the first three episodes. Stark’s investigation into Luther in the final episode became unbearable and almost made me stop watching then and there. Luther’s partner is killed, and the killer comes after Luther’s girlfriend. Somehow, however, Stark believes that Luther conspired with the criminal to come kill his girlfriend for some reason, well, I obviously can’t even fathom what reason. Come on. How are they taking this seriously? Say what you want about Luther, and there’s a lot to say, there’s a lot that he’s actually guilty of that he should be fired for and maybe more. But that he arranged a deal with the villain to kill his girlfriend? What? How does that even make sense for two seconds?

I’m aware plausibility only goes so far on TV often, but there has to be limits. Stark is also mindbogglingly incompetent and his utter confidence that Luther is behind every plot in the show ends up leading to his death and almost several others.

Also, everyone who watches Luther loves Alice. Alice is the best character. But her coming in out of absolutely nowhere to steal him away from his convey with grenades? Come on. A poisoning? Sure, I’d believe that. But this seems more than a bit much, as does Luther walking away with her at the end of the show, still barely a day, if that, after his partner died.

This is a much more minor note, but the dialogue between Luther and his new girlfriend Mary when they get together at the end of the second episode is just terrible.

Honestly, this is just a very disappointing season of television. I’ll have to consider whether I want to watch any more if a fourth season comes about.

Show of the Day: Luther

20 Aug

British drama Luther is a House M.D. of crime.  Detective John Luther is an eccentric, kind of crazy, but extremely devoted and brilliant policeman who gets stuck with the big hard-to-solve cases.  He also has an extreme temper problem, and possible internal sanctions hanging over his head after, in the first couple minutes of the show, he drops a probably guilty man to the ground in a chase on a bridge rather than arrest him.  Luckily, the victim is in a coma and can’t talk.  Additionally, his ultra-driven career has led to him losing his wife and love of his life Zoe to another man.  Luther works with a team of generic cop characters to solve a new crime in every episode, generally involving serial killers, but with a kidnapper and the like here and there.

There’s one very intresting character in Luther, and it’s not Luther.  Luther’s good, well, because Idris Elba (um, Stringer Bell from The Wire is actually British, and speaks with a British accent – too weird) is good.  Otherwise, Luther isn’t really that interesting.  We’ve seen this character before, as mentioned before, he’s good, he’s damn good at what he does, but he’s angry and tormented and obsessive.  Every time you want Luther to do something just slightly different than you would expect, he almost never comes through.  He’s still the second most interesting character in the show by a long shot.  Also, it’s worth noting that Luther, the show, and Luther, the character, have absolutely no sense of humor, which, as House showed (House, the show, and House, the character, had some issues, but plenty of good points as well), would lighten up the show and the character a little bit (Humorless shows can work; not every show needs humor in its arsenal, but there’s a risk run of episodes really slogging along without it).

The most interesting character is Alice, who I haven’t mentioned before in the short sum-up, because her role actually requires an explanation.  First episode SPOILER – in the first episode, Luther attempts to solve the murder of Alice’s parents, and while he’s nearly certain Alice did it the entire time, he’s unable to prove it.  Instead of ever being found guilty, Alice gets away, and Luther develops a grudging respect for her, while Alice, who is a sociopathic nihilist, but not always nefarious, comes to respect and like Luther.  Over the course of the season, she acts somewhat as Hannibal Lecter to Luther’s Clarice Starling, helping him solve other crimes by viewing them through a sociopath’s perspective.  Not only is Alice the best character in the show, but Luther is also at his most interesting when dealing with Alice, and their tet a tets discussing Luther caring too much and Alice caring not at all are the best parts of the show altogether.

Here’s the other problem with Luther.  When extremely dramatic events occur late in the first season, you realize that not only do you not really care about the characters, but that you barely known any of their names.  Cop who is kind of friends with Luther and he talked with for five minutes in the first episode?  Cop who is his boss and is generally friendly to him but sometimes restrained?  Cop who is his younger protégé and new partner?  I don’t know what their names are and I finished the first season.  I know it’s only six episodes, but that’s enough time for a modicum of name-saying.  I don’t really care about any of them either either.  As long as they get the murderer in the end, that’s pretty much what does it for me.

In short, here’s what’s good about Luther; you mostly watch it for the cases, you watch it for Alice, and you watch it for Idris Elba.  For six episodes that’s enough, and I have four more in the second season which I’ll watch soon.  The cases are actually well executed and interesting and enough to make the show somewhat compelling as a simple procedural without all the baggage of Luther’s temper and personal problems.  It could be a lot better, but it slides in above the worth watching line, especially for so few episodes, if not much higher.