TV Surveillance’s Best of 2010: Most disappointing veteran series

2010 has been a fantastic year for television. This year brought us a slew of great new programs and if we include the second halves of all the series that debuted in the fall of 2009 (which I am for these features), we have probably just experienced the best run of newbies since 2004. While we were just getting comfortable with great new series like Justified, Boardwalk Empire and Louie, we had to unfortunately say goodbye to the likes of Lost, 24 and Law & Order. NBC mishandled its attempts to correct its late night situation and continued to dig itself deeper into a primetime hole. Meanwhile, the ever-popular True Blood and a stable of great new series helped HBO regain its early-aughts swagger. 2010 gave us a reborn Coco, awesome Survivor tribal councils, the Rally To Restore Sanity, “The Rocky Horror Glee Show,” the World Cup and even more awesome episodes of Jersey Shore. LeBron made his decision, CNN brought David Blaine on as an analyst during the Chilean Miner Saga, Dancing With The Stars became about politics and President Obama made appearances on more non-news programs than I can even count. Broadcast ratings might be down, but 2010 yet again proved that “television” does not always happen on the big screens in our living rooms. It’s everywhere, it’s everything and this is my celebration of it.

Throughout the next week or so, I’ll be going through all sorts of random categories and giving out fake awards for the best, worst and all that was in between for television in 2010.

It’s time to take a dip back into the pool of suck today folks. Even though there has been a slew of great television on the air this year, 2010 has not been without its disappointments. The newbies brought a lot of that to us this calendar year, but there were a few returning series that were not up to snuff in 2010 either. It’s important to note that with these two cases there were good moments this year, but for the most part, it was one disappointment after another. I expect more — perhaps in one case, way too much — and this year both of these series let me down.

Most disappointing series, hour-long edition: True Blood (HBO)

I know, True Blood isn’t supposed to be good and probably hasn’t ever be good. But season two convinced me that the HBO powerhouse could be at least something interesting. The characters were more defined, the stories seemed have a little more heft to them, etc. In season three all of that was all gone, replaced with an unbelievable amount of new characters and poorly paced narratives that added up to a whole lot of nothing. True Blood has its audience and has obviously decided to appeal to that audience that wants more sex, more blatant violence and a whole lot of soapy stupidity. I think True Blood brought in 492 new characters in season three and outside of King Russell and Alcide, they all sucked and took away from the few likable people the series already had its disposal. And even when the series decided to give well-liked characters such as Jason or Sam something to do, it was downright awful. When I’m hoping they juts kill Sam, who is one of the series’ best characters, you know something is right.

Again, I understand that True Blood will never be a “good” series in the most traditional ways that we define good television. But this season was just plain awful.

Most disappointing series, half-hour edition: The Office (NBC)

This slot was up for grabs between two long-running comedies, but unfortunately, the NBC stalwart “won”  the battle versus How I Met Your Mother. Though I found season six of The Office to be a bit better when I went back and watched it again on DVD this fall, most of those positive feelings stemmed from the episodes of S6 that aired in 2009 rather than the messy Sabre episodes of 2010. The fall run of S7 has been a major improvement over the drivel that was S6, but it’s still not quite there every week. There have been some really great individual moments or episodes — most notably “The Sting” and “Andy’s Play” — but the series still doesn’t really seem to have any idea what it is going to do to say goodbye to Michael Scott or more importantly, what it is going to do afterwards. There has been obvious attempts to make us like Darryl and Andy, and that’s fine, but I’m not so sure they could carry the series moving forward — nor could anyone else for that matter.

It doesn’t help The Office that it is now the worst of the four main NBC comedies, and by a fairly wide margin. Great seasons from 30 Rock and Community plus a buzzy Parks and Recreation suggests that NBC doesn’t really need The Office around anymore, but obviously, they do since it is still the network’s highest rated scripted program. Interestingly, I’m less upset about giving The Office this distinction than I am True Blood, as I have basically resigned myself to the series’ decline over the past few years that I can’t even bother to really care that it isn’t as good as it was once. I still watch The Office every single week, I still really like it, but times have changed and that’s just unfortunate. Much like How I Met Your Mother, The Office has picked up the quality in recent weeks, but someone had to take home this glorious crown.

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