Tag Archives: The Office

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


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.

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’.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 Edition: 33-31

1 Feb

So, finally, we’re ready to get into the rankings for real.  Check out my intro for the details on qualifying for the list. Shows 33, 32, and 31 follow.

33.  Suburgatory

The dangers of suburgatory

If I was to create a television version of WAR (Wins Above Replacement, an all-encompassing measure of a baseball player’s worth that counts how many wins he is worth in a season above a fictitious replacement player), Suburgatory would be a great stand it for the replacement player.  It was right at the border of whether I’ve seen enough episodes to put it on this list, and frankly this was the only show that was a difficult call in terms of making the list at all – generally, I either had seen almost every episode of a show, or just one or two.  I decided eventually to keep it on as a marker, if nothing else, of the exact current limit of my viewing.  I pretty much never go out of my way to watch Suburgatory but if I’m cruising the on-demand section of my TV and find nothing else new, there’s a fair chance I’ll throw one on.  It could easily be replaced by something better, but there it sits.  It’s not particularly laugh out loud funny, and it’s over the top cartoonish drawing of a posh suburb can be a little bit unsubtle and on the nose, but I really like the two leads, Jane Levy and Jeremy Sisto, who are by far the two most normal people in the town, and the best characters, as they both struggle to fit in.  Maybe there’s something to be learned that in this show, the super quirky characters who are pretty much designed purely for humor are significantly less interesting, and funny, than the two major more well developed characters.  Suburgatory could still get better, but will probably stay the same, which is okay.  This is where it belongs.

32.   The Office

Strange poster

This season of The Office may actually be worse than Suburgatory, but I do watch The Office every week, so that alone will keep it ahead.  I’ve complained loudly and often about The Office’s recent struggles, and how they’ve gone from a hitter with a mere slump to a player on his way to retirement  and as we all know by now, retire The Office will, in just a few months, and thankfully so.  I still hope the last few episodes will be better because I don’t want a show of the caliber of The Office to go out on such a down note.  Many other shows I’d simply stop watching, but The Office has had such a strong run over several years, that I’ve given it far more benefit of the doubt than I would to many other shows.  This leeway The Office has pretty much showed it doesn’t deserve by just totally running out of new ideas, creating serial plots which viewers have no interest in, and reshuffling the characters in ways, after Steve Carrell’s exit, that just don’t make sense.  Even if they didn’t realize it before, they should have been able to figure it out by now, and shift things around, since it’s been two seasons of slightly lower than mediocrity, but they haven’t reacted as I’d hoped.  Dwight’s still funny; so there’s something nice about the show.  While the other characters change personalities, or grow, or are just boring, Dwight pleasantly remains the same.

31.  Top Chef


Every season I’ve watched Top Chef, which is since the fourth, I’ve gotten into mini-bouts where I get kind of obsessed with the show, and heavily invested in who wins; like in sports, I take an emotional hit if my guy loses, and especially if my arch-enemy wins.  This peaked in Top Chef Season 8, All Stars, in which I rooted fiercely for Richard Blais to win, and was thrilled when he actually pulled it off.  That peak though was short lived, and as so often happens, my obsessiveness largely fell away quickly after, in the next season Top Chef 9, where a string of gimmicks helped to siphon my interest, along with a top group of contenders which only featured one person I actually wanted to win.  That contestant did win, thankfully, but it was more of a relief than euphoria, especially since the last couple episodes featured some out and out terrible challenges which were often based on elements other than the contestants’ ability to cook, such as chiseling ingredients out of ice and hitting targets with rifles to acquire ingredients; thus if you were bad at marksmanship, you’d have trouble cooking (I shit you not).  The season ended and left a bad taste in my mouth.  I started up this new season with less hope, and though I dutifully watched the first few episodes, I found myself often falling behind, only watching the previous episode once I was planning on talking to my friend who is also a viewer, to discuss the episode with him, rather than for my own edification.  Anyway, odds are about even as to whether I’ll finish the season, though I don’t think it’s been as disheartening a failure as The Office, which is why it’s higher, but not much.  You’ll notice a pattern, that this tier of shows on my list I all watch dutifully, but ambivalently, and Top Chef fits right in.

The Sad Decline of The Office

21 Nov

I’ve been reading some Onion AVClub episode recaps about Seinfeld, one of the best comedies of all time, and I’m getting to the last couple of seasons, and while Seinfeld’s last seasons had great moments and some very good episodes, they clearly weren’t as consistent as Seinfeld at its peak, and there’s some very interesting reasons for it, that tv writers would be wise to study.

There’s a lot more to say about the general ends and declines of shows, but that’s for another article.  Today, this had me thinking more specifically of the sad decline of The Office.  I’ve been a consistent defender of later seasons of The Office, but there’s no defending it anymore.   The show is mediocre at absolute best and I’m probably only watching this season because it’s the last, and because I’ve watched the whole show and I still have very fond feeling towards it, which makes its struggles all the more frustrating.  The Office is that baseball or football player who starts struggling as they age, and you convince yourself, that it’s just a matter of time til they start at least resembling a shadow of their former self, and then eventually come the conclusion that they’re probably done (think Jason Bay on the Mets).

What has particularly surprised and disappointed me was how rudderless the show has seemed since Steve Carell and his iconic Michael Scott character left at the end of Season 7.  I had thought of the idea of replacing Michael Scott a couple of seasons early as a way to keep the show fresh and forestall decline, because his character had a lot of inherent limitations (which just makes it more impressive that Carell kept him consistently tolerable enough) but the way the writers handled the post-Carell era make me glad they held on to Carell as long as they could have.  It’s just disheartening that given Carell’s growing film career and the fact that he could have left at any time, the writers couldn’t have cobbled together a better succession plan.

Last season was a total mess, as the writers threw a bunch of ideas at the wall with a frustratingly low percentage of success, like a lousy shoot-first guard in the NBA (Nick Young?).  James Spader’s Robert California was an amusing one-joke character that got less and less funny in every episode he appeared in.

New boss Andy has become an entirely different character that sometimes isn’t even a character, changing his personality to serve the needs of a particular episode, and has been portrayed too often a poor man’s Michael Scott, rather than as his own character.  New character Nellie was just terrible, and increasingly irritating as the season went on.  The subplot involving a random new female character (Jordan?) hitting on Jim completely missed the mark.  The plot involving Darryl trying to get with random warehouse worker Val?  Swing and a miss.  The show said goodbye to Gabe at the end of the season, one of the few highlights of the last couple of seasons.

I, for some reason, had hope for this last season, because knowing exactly how many episodes there are left can often be liberating for a show, even a largely non-serial comedy, just in the ability to put everything out there.  However, if anything, this season has been even worse.  The two replacements for Kelly have done nothing for me and the strange plot of the non-Clark Duke employee slowly establishing a rapport with Erin while Andy acts increasingly erratic I don’t really understand and don’t have any interest inn.  Andy has evolved further into Michael Scott territory, and as much as I’ve always liked Ed Helms, it both makes me appreciate Carell, and wonder why they can’t create a consistent character for Andy.  Jim and Pam just have nothing left; the major plot this year involves Jim wanting to leave work to start a new company with his friends in Philly, but it’s really hard to care.  The show has tried, for some reason, I don’t understand at all (non-refundable contract?) to redeem Nellie, deciding to simply forget completely how irritating and terrible a character she was for her first few episodes.

There’s not to say there aren’t occasional laughs to be found; it’s just that they’re fewer and farther between than ever before.  Erin is possibly the best part of watching the last few seasons of The Office, and Dwight’s ridiculousness holds up better over time than the antics of Jim, Pam, and Andy.  I laugh at these occasional moments when I watch now; but if this was the show I was watching new from the beginning, I have a hard time thinking I’d keep watching.  Anyway, I still hope against hope that the second half of the last season will leave us on a better note, but they haven’t provided much reason to keep watching.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 14: The Office

13 Oct

Let’s put this right out there.  I know quite a fair number of people who were long time Office fans for the first three, four, or five seasons who just don’t watch it anymore.  It’s over the hill they say, jumped the shark, however you want to put it.  To me, that’s a lot of shit.  Has that happened in shows before?  Certainly.  I’ve complained about it myself.  And I’m making no claim that The Office as of 2011 and seventh or eighth season is as good as it’s ever been in its entire run.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not quite good and funny and enjoyable.

Admittedly this season was particularly strange, paving the way for the departure of Michael Scott, with guest star Will Ferrell as a potential replacement boss appearing in the last few episodes of the season.

Some people have said, Steve Carell is leaving, maybe that’s a sign you should just end the show, whether to put it out of its misery, or whether it’s going out on top.  Normally, I’d think they have a good point. It can look desperate to replace a major character in a comedy, and worse than appearances, there’s a huge risk of it simply not working.  The show got so far because of the chemistry and laughs generated by the core current cast.  When you risk throwing that off, you could have a show that would never make it on air as a pilot, but automatically gets a season because of the show’s pedigree.  In this instance though, I’m not particularly worried, at least about Steve Carrell leaving, although, of course, who they bring in is another matter.  I’ve been advocating Steve Carell leave the show for another boss for a couple years now.  Not at all because I think he’s done a bad job. On the contrary, I think he’s been able to make a character awkward and funny in a way I think very few actors could pull off.  Still, the character has inherent limitations and it’s a credit to him and the writers that they were able to continue to generate laughs until the end, but fresh blood can be a good thing.

Just looking through the episodes of the most recent season I recall funny segments.  In the last episode with Will Ferrell the oddly hilarious dunk attempt that landed him in a coma –  I can’t explain exactly why, but my friend and I laughed for five minutes straight and had to pause the show.  Dwight at the garage sale, starting small and then trading up, until he is sold on Jim’s magic beans.  Dwight and Jim gags may be the most resilient part of the show.  By all rights, they should get old, but they never do.  Ryan’s grilling of Pam about her Christmas comic book gift was fantastic and emblematic of the newest and best iteration of Ryan’s character as a pretentious hipster.

A word is also worth saying about how the Office’s attempts to add new blood (new blood?  fresh blood?  same difference) with new receptionist Erin and corporate liaison/stooge Gabe have very much worked.  Gabe becoming wholly unhinged by Erin’s awkward and extremely public break up with him turned into what may have been one of the funniest running arcs of the season, highlighted in the last episode when he quizzed Andy, during his interview, about the sun, and when Andy knew the answers, ordered him to “Shut up about the sun!” Erin carefully walks the line between adorable empty-headedness and maybe-she-has-an-actually-problem with the defining moment possibly being her believing that disposable cameras were for disposing immediately after you took the pictures.

Why it’s this high:  It’s still The Office, more or less, Dwight and Jim antics are hilarious, they continue to do good work

Why it’s not higher:  Yes, you should still watch it, but no, it’s not as good as it was during maybe the third season

Best episode of the most recent season:  There’s no obvious choice but I’ll take “Andy’s Play” which had one of my favorite scenes of the season at the end – Michael’s word-for-word rendition of a Law & Order episode as an audition