The Year in Television: The Biggest TV Stinkers of 2011

This is the fifth in a multi-part series, The Year in Television 2011.

Tastes in television can of course be very subjective. One show may be your cup of tea, but not for the person sitting next to you. For instance, I love Louie, but my husband can’t stand it. I thought Torchwood: Miracle Day was a yawner, and yet the show seemed to have its vocal fans right here on AfterElton.

But where reasonable people can differ on any number of shows, the list below we can probably ALL agree on. These are the true TV stinkers of 2011. Now there probably were worse shows in 2011 than what appears on this list (H8R for instance), but all the projects appearing below added insult to injury: they might actually have been good. Our list includes the new shows that totally botched a decent concept… or squandered a good cast. And it includes mature series that suddenly hit the creative skids.

In short, these were all programs that seemed encouraging, but ended up encouraging us to quickly change the channel.

Charlie’s Angels

Goodbye Angels!

What went wrong? The very well-known name brand had a lot going for it, including Drew Barrymore as an executive producer, but the cracks were showing even before the premiere when a preview of the reboot at Comic Con was widely panned.

Problem number one was the casting. We loved Minka Kelly as a Texas cheerleader in Friday Night Lights, but she wasn’t up to the task of anchoring a series of her own. And other than the delectable Ramon Rodriguez as Bosley she got little help from her castmates.

Where was the modern day Farrah Fawcett. Or even Cheryl Ladd? The stiff-as-a-board performances from these latter day angels couldn’t even live up to the work of a Tanya Roberts or a Shelley Hack.

But the bigger problem may have been audience expectations. The original series created “jiggle” TV, and sent pretty girls running and jumping through a typical backlot detective landscape. The Barrymore movie remake turned the Angels into something goofier, almost campy. The new TV series might have gone either of those routes, but instead seemed to take itself very seriously, and the show suffered for that.

By turning itself into typical crime procedural, Charlie’s Angels seemed like another episode of Law & Order… with three dull Mariska Hargitays instead of one.

Desperate Housewives

Oh, how the mighty have fallen from their towering Louboutins.

At one time, Desperate Housewives was one of the sharpest, wittiest shows on TV, filled with delightful characters and twisty stories that people could relate to. It looks like this series has simply run out of ideas and stayed on the air at least one season too long.

This eighth and final season began with the Wisteria Lane housewives secretively burying a murder victim. It devolved quickly into more familiar territory: alcoholism, adultery, impotence, divorce, suicide, and the PTA. The stories were all familiar, and viewers began to wonder about the value of it all. As they wondered, they wandered off.

An unforgivable sin of the final few seasons has to be the way gay characters were introduced and shifted to the sidelines. The show initially invested in Bree’s gay son Andrew, and even introduced his porn star fiancé. New gay neighbors Bob and Lee dropped in from time to time to add some sass and complications, but they too seemed to drop off the block.

It’s a familiar story: top-rated series stays on the air a couple of seasons too long, and limps off the air. This may be the saddest, most underwhelming end to a series in memory.

Dexter

Some say Dexter is spent, that this show reached such dizzying heights in the John Lithgow/Trinity fourth season that it can never recover. While I hope there may be some hot blood still pumping in Dex, I’m afraid they may be right.

This isn’t the fault of series star Michael C. Hall who still turns in an exciting, absorbing performance episode after episode. But after six seasons his “dark passenger” has become predictable and repetitive. Sure, major characters die, Dexter finds more visual ways to kill, and he puts himself in ever greater danger. But somehow, we’re beginning to realize that it all may not add up to very much.

Admittedly, there was probably nowhere to go but down for this series. After the Trinity story arc, when Dexter returned home to find his wife dead and his baby in a pool of her blood – how can you top that?

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