USUALLY, at the start of each production the aim is to produce quality. For some reason, that does not always transpire. Here is an alphabetical list of shows – by people who mostly should know better – that failed to hit the mark this year, in our humble opinion.
Body of Proof (Seven)
Four Weddings was ”nasty”.
THERE have been plenty of shows about socially dysfunctional renegade brainiacs but few have been so utterly charmless as Body of Proof. If you’re going to have a lead character who’s constantly getting people offside, you need to give them something to compensate, such as Dr House’s wit. If they’re going to lack basic social skills, they need to make up for it in some way, as Dr Temperance Brennan does with her adorable bemusement. Dana Delany as Dr Megan Hunt was not witty, adorable or, really, anything that explained why one of her colleagues didn’t stuff her in a body bag and seal it tightly halfway through the first episode.
Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour (Seven)
IF THERE’S one thing the franchise-crazy Americans should be good at by now it’s police procedurals. Yet this dopey CM offshoot was a travesty of the form. The cringeworthy overacting. The atonal direction. The terrible dialogue. The stupid plots. Everything was wrong but most painful to behold was the sight of brilliant Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker slumming it on a show so far beneath him.
The Renovators had too many nail guns.
SURPRISINGLY, given a 22-episode opening order, Crownies had big shoes to fill; no ABC drama had more air time this year. Given such expectations, a show that fluctuated between the blithely lightweight and the merely annoying was always going to disappoint. While the story of a group of young solicitors working for the Office of Public Prosecutions did pick up from early episodes, it continued to value high jinks over moral issues and repeatedly resorted to groan-worthy sexual dialogue.
Dinner Date Australia (Seven)
Sea Patrol was nautical not nice.
THIS cheap knock-off of dating show Dinner Date was designed – in probably less time than it takes to make instant soup – to cash in on the popularity of network stablemate My Kitchen Rules and its appealing co-host, Manu Feildel. Each week, three lonely hearts would prepare a home-cooked meal for a man/woman they hoped to impress. The one who didn’t cause food poisoning then took the lucky, or perhaps unlucky, single on a grown-up date. Feildel, whose corny links rhapsodising about food and ze long-wahj of loff had nothing to do with the unfolding dates, about whom it was impossible to care.
The Event (Seven)
IN THE wake of Lost’s detailed, often magisterial, arc there was a small burst of paranoid conspiracy television series, although the only question that ultimately mattered was whether they could get through an entire season without being cancelled. Rubicon is quietly screening on Nine but The Event arrived first with some fanfare but soon appeared at ever-later hours. Beset by ludicrous cliffhangers and stakes-raising revelations, it ultimately ignored Lost’s lessons: take your time to get the characters right before it all goes haywire.
The Family (SBS)
FROM the start, this local adaptation of the acclaimed British program was defined by what it was not: not Big Brother, not Sylvania Waters and not a cynical reality show in which the contestants were prodded and provoked for your viewing pleasure. Rather, it was a fly-on-the-wall documentary series in which Melbourne’s Cardamone family were instructed to act as normal and ignore the little cameras dotted about their house. Unfortunately, the comfortable ordinariness of their lives made for, well, ordinary viewing. Not awful, just dull.
Four Weddings (Seven)
THIS is one of those shows about which you wondered whether the people who agreed to appear in it had any inkling of how they would appear once the show’s producers and editors had their way with them. Four brides attended and rated each other’s weddings for the prize of an all-expenses-paid honeymoon. Cue the bridezilla, the bride who bought a $50 dress on eBay, the bride who thought she was just that little bit special, the overweight bride whose plan to shed 20 kilos for her big day didn’t pan out – and, once the cameras were rolling when the bitchy comments flew, bingo, you had one of the most crass and nasty shows we’ve seen on TV for some time.
Hardcore Pawn (7mate)
THIS series was unpleasant from the outset, focusing as it did on an unlikeable pawnshop owner and his two equally unpleasant offspring. Les Gold made Shylock look like a sweetheart and the decision by the producers to focus alternately on him and on the people who frequented his store, rather than the objects they brought, might have created a ratings hit (relatively speaking) but it also created uncomfortable viewing. The whole purpose was to be entertained by Detroit’s most downtrodden trying to raise cash by hocking their few remaining possessions and it was when someone tried to sell one of their gold teeth that Hardcore Pawn went on the ”banned” list.
FROM Roseanne to Shameless, there’s a whole host of groundbreaking comedies about life on the wrong side of the tracks. This wasn’t one of them. Dragging out gags that were tired when the Wog Boy films ran with them, hammering lifeless cliches, resorting to shouting f— in a fruitless effort to disguise the complete absence of wit or insight, Housos was so lazily awful it was impossible even to muster enthusiastic contempt. Every 25-minute episode merely felt like an hour of your life you would never get back.
Jersey Shore (MTV and 7mate)
HIDEOUS people talking loudly in grating voices, having sex with each other and occasionally vomiting. That’s really all you need to know about Jersey Shore, yet it became a breakout hit. (It’s MTV’s highest-rating show in history and the cast made Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People list.) Why? That remains one of the great mysteries of 21st-century television, along with why anyone cares about the Kardashians and why Deadwood was cancelled after three seasons. So much on telly represents a real golden age. Jersey Shore is its Stone Age.
Junior MasterChef (Ten)
IT’S one thing to have a bunch of consenting adults attempting to brulee on national TV while weeping about their ”food journey”. It’s quite another to witness steely-eyed Alannah from Surrey Hills (names have been changed to protect the innocent) determined to out-hollandaise her rivals. Ambitious upper-middle-class parents hothousing their precocious little angels in Larousse and the complete works of Elizabeth David are the new tennis mums and dads. Oh yes, it’s all in good fun – until little Jackson ends up in therapy when his souffle doesn’t rise. Aren’t there laws to protect children from this sort of thing?
Kyle and Jackie O’s Night with the Stars (Seven)
THE King of Vile and his snivelling sidekick spread like a virus from the airwaves to the TV screen with their misnamed chat show Night with the Stars. Stars? They must have meant preternaturally preserved former model Janice Dickinson, retired Playboy bunny Kendra Wilkinson and Jersey Shore himbo Mike ”the Situation” Sorrentino (feel free to Google them; we had to). Proving there is a TV god, viewers turned off in droves, prompting the chivalrous Sandilands to commit what we can only pray is career suicide by calling a female entertainment reporter a ”fat slag”.
Million Dollar Drop (Nine)
REALITY TV meets game show: a couple are given $1 million, then asked eight questions whose answers are written on trap doors. They place money on the doors, the amounts reflecting their confidence in the answer. But they can use only three, meaning they can lose it all in one go. It held promise but the more you watched, the worse it got as the novelty wore off and the naked avarice and – it must be said – stupidity of the contestants turned Million Dollar Drop into an experiment in game-show sadism. Whatever happened to quiz shows in which people were rewarded for their intelligence, not punished for their greed?
My Kitchen Rules (Seven)
THE initial promo looked promising – Ke$ha’s track Tik Tok playing over visions of laughing contestants dabbing cream on the ends of each other’s noses – but as soon as they were in their respective kitchens, it just got dull. Professional chefs and judges Manu Feildel and Pete Evans never looked entirely comfortable, either. The word ”passion” was thrown about a lot but it was rarely felt.
The One (Seven)
IF YOU are making a show about home renovations, you wouldn’t cast people who don’t know one end of a screwdriver from the other. By the same measure, it would help if a show that promises to find Australia’s most gifted psychic included people with at least a modicum of sixth-sense nous. In what was almost an unintended spoof, a clutch of psychics undertook a series of challenges designed to test their mettle. Week in, week out they’d fail abysmally, though the very concept of a TV show that sets out to ”test” paranormal abilities is risible anyway.
The Only Way Is Essex (LifeStyle You)
WE DON’T like the show but we dislike ourselves more for watching past one episode of this ”reality” series about a bunch of over-tanned, vapid twentysomethings and a miniature pig named Mr Darcy. Blonde Lydia, who has trouble walking and talking – at the same time – does nothing to dispel the cliche. The rest of them – man-child James ”Arg”, Mark, who has some interesting things to say about his sister’s boob job, and beautician Amy – party, fight, make up and … we’ve lost interest.
The Renovators (Ten)
TOO many people, too many nail guns, too many trucks. The small moments that help viewers connect with a contestant were smothered by the scale of the production. Every episode looked the same and the show’s heart got lost in a cloud of plaster dust.
Sea Patrol (Nine)
Proclaiming itself to be the most expensive Australian drama made, Sea Patrol was a classic case of over-promising and under-delivering. At times it felt more like a recruitment ad for the navy – replete with eye-glazing chunks of nautical jargon – than an action-based drama. Making matters worse was its stodgy dialogue, lack of chemistry between the romantic leads and the tendency of characters to spend hours standing on deck, staring into the distance. Perhaps they were looking for a decent script. Or an offer from another network.
Sarah Palin’s Alaska (TLC)
Even by the standards of Discovery (owner of TLC), this was an egregiously cynical, content-free cash-in on a fleeting public infatuation. To pick a nadir at random, how about the episode where Sarah Palin decides to restock the freezer the traditional Alaskan way – by chartering a plane to fly 800 kilometres so she could kill a caribou she took six shots to hit?
Silent Witness (ABC1)
Its Friday-night slot on ABC1 suggests a middle-aged audience fortified by milky tea and sweet biscuits – the kind that would get all hot and bothered by gratuitous TV nudity. But, curiously, they can’t seem to get enough of Silent Witness’s stomach-churning gore. Each episode generally features a blend of rape, dismemberment and rotting corpses being sliced open on cold metal tables. For those who can handle such graphic depictions, the series offers tightly written, layered storylines. Those with a normal gag reflex are advised to take anti-nausea medication before viewing.
Today Tonight (Seven)
It’s hard to say what hurts most: that TT continues to sit high on the list of most-watched shows most weeknights or that it should do so in the face of the lively, thoughtful current affairs so bravely attempted by Ten and George Negus earlier this year. The weird thing is, even people who watch these shows think they’re crap. Yet they watch. Sigh.
Top Design (Nine)
This tacky attempt to cash in on the perceived appetite for home renovation shows and the appeal of Jamie Durie failed to do justice to either. Durie’s star power appeared distinctly faded as he struggled to generate excitement in yet another design competition that pitted people against each other under the pressure of ridiculous deadlines. Competitors predictably bickered about budgets and taste as they endeavoured to construct and decorate, say, an inviting outdoor living area in the middle of a multistorey car park. And the show was overloaded with clumsy product placements and sponsor promotions.
The Undercover Princesses (ABC1)
The contract we enter into with some reality TV shows is: we’ll relax critical faculties in return for something fun, fast and cheesy. Undercover Princesses welshed on the deal. Could have been fun, funny, illuminating. It was slow and stodgy.
Written and compiled by Frances Atkinson, Larissa Dubecki, Debi Enker, Melinda Houston, Paul Kalina, Michael Lallo, Craig Mathieson, Bridget McManus, Andrew Murfett, Brad Newsome and Jim Schembri