Tag Archives: Under the Dome

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.

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’.

Summer 2013 Review: Under the Dome

3 Jul

Dome-tastic

Under the Dome is an extremely literal title.  The main characters, primarily the residents of the small (presumably New England, since it’s written by Stephen King, but not specified that I can recall) town Chester’s Mill, along with some people who were passing through, are completely trapped from the outside world under a giant mysterious dome.  So far, we know nothing can go through the dome, including sound, and citizens haven’t yet found a way to contact anyone outside the dome.  The only method of communication is through sight on either side of the dome.

So that’s our big premise, taken from a recent Stephen King novel of the same name.  That’s by far the most important part of the first episode.  The second task of the pilot is to get a passing look at who we can guess will be our major characters.  Here they are in short.  First, you’ve got chief of police veteran Duke (Jeff Fahey, pilot Lapidus on Lost), and his younger chief deputy Linda, engaged to a firefighter outside of the dome.  Due to poor timing, many of the town’s police were out of town participating in a parade.  There’s “Big Jim” Rennie, car salesman and town council member (played by Dean Norris, Hank from Breaking Bad).  Big Jim and Duke have a tet a tet most of the way through the episode and appear to be keeping some sort of secret from most of the town involving bringing in lots of propane.

There’s a pair of erstwhile summer lovers, teenagers Junior and Angie.  What was a fun little fling goes bad when Angie doesn’t reciprocate Junior’s love, and Junior turns out to be some sort of psycho and kidnaps Angie and locks her away in a fallout shelter.  Joe, a high schooler, is Angie’s younger brother.  They’re both parentless for the duration of the dome.

There’s a Barbie, an ex-military out of towner who was looking shady at the beginning and could be either good or bad.  He appears to have been on some sort of mission that involved needing a gun and looks a little like Jeremy Renner.  He’s staying with local journalist Julia for the time being whose husband is missing and/or dead and/or having an affair.

Phil is a local radio DJ, and Dodee is his engineer at the station.  Alice and Carolyn are parents just passing through en route to drop off their troubled, rebellious daughter Mackenzie at camp, before they get trapped (if only they hadn’t stopped at that one gas station).

Those are from what I could suss out the major characters, though there may be more introduced later, and some of the characters I described may turn out to be more minor than I could have figured from the premiere.

There are two major fronts then to work with in Under the Dome.  There’s the question behind what the dome actually it is, how the characters find that out, if they can communicate outside the dome, get anything in, etc.

Then, what will probably occupy more time, is how everybody deals with the situation that arises when the characters realize they’re cut off from the rest of the world.  Separating all the characters from the rest of society under the dome should give us a set up for the classic science fiction situation of an external futuristic (or supernatural) power forcing humans into difficult and unusual situations.  They’ll have to decide whether to work together or compete and act outside of the ways they do every day, revealing their true natures. Do people look out for each other and help to store food for the good of the whole town?  Do they form gangs and compete and engage in violence?   It’s a classic Lord of the Flies scenario, and the dome is their island.

As I’ve said time and again, I’m a sucker for high concept serial science fiction shows.  I know by now better than to get too excited from a mere one or two episodes of a series.  Big sci-fi series like these so often disappoint, and they’re a thousand times easier to begin than to end (or to, well, middle, for that matter).  It’s not particularly difficult to think of a wacky situation and create a cast of characters; it’s much harder to flesh out those characters with realistic and believable motivations and create a plot that obeys the rules set out by the show, and is compelling, well-paced, and not anti-climactic.

This has the building blocks.  The reason it’s intriguing is solely the future possibilities but it’s hard to ask for too much more out of a first episode.  There’s nothing about the writing or the characters or the film work that stands out, but I’m affirmatively intrigued due largely to the plot, and with pilots, if the plot is compelling enough that can be enough, especially for sci-fi or fantasy.

Will I watch the next episode?  Yes.  It’s on CBS.  I can’t remember the last show I’ve watched a second episode of on CBS.  I’ve repeatedly faced let downs with these types of shows; I watched multiple episodes of Revolution which I regretted quickly, as well as Terra Nova.  I’m probably never going to learn completely.  All I can do is know my own biases and prepare myself for the likely disappointment.  In its favor, this at least this has some source material by a credible writer to work with, and is created by Brian K. Vaughan, a comic writer whose work I’ve enjoyed.