© 2024 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Worst of TV's Fall Season, According to Critics


The new television season is upon us now, and perhaps not surprisingly not every program is a winner. NPR's Neda Ulaby checked in with a few television critics about the worst of the new fall season, and she has this offering on what to avoid.

NEDA ULABY: Of the many stinkers that litter this fall's TV landscape, the absolute worst, says Linda Holmes, is an NBC comedy called Twenty Good Years. Holmes is a blogger for the Web site Television Without Pity. The pity here, she says, is that Twenty Good Years stars two comedic lions. John Lithgow of Third Rock from the Sun and Jeffrey Tambor of Arrested Development play a couple of older men who decide to live it up.

Ms. LINDA HOLMES (Blogger, Television Without Pity): Those are actors who between them have 16 Emmy nominations and four wins, and in the very first scene that they play together, Jeffrey Tambor takes a racquetball to the groin.

(Soundbite of Twenty Good Years)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. HOLMES: And that's not a good sign in terms of making the best possible use of the resources that you have. You have a jockstrap joke. In the same half hour you have John Lithgow in his Speedo going for the sort of ha-ha-ha here's John Lithgow in his bathing suit.

(Soundbite of Twenty Good Years)

Mr. JOHN LITHGOW (Actor): (As character) I am the reborn!

(Soundbite of laughter and applause)

Ms. HOLMES: It's enormously cheap and I honestly can't imagine what would possess those two actors to be in that particular show. It's just horrifyingly lazy from a creative standpoint.

Mr. PETER AMES CARLIN (TV Critic, The Oregonian): How did this happen? I mean, this is so - it's so not funny.

ULABY: That's Peter Ames Carlin. This show made him choose between his professional obligations as a TV critic for the newspaper The Oregonian and his humanity.

Mr. CARLIN: When I watched that show, a lot of it was with my hands in front of my eyes. 'Cause I just sort of felt like - I felt so bad for these guys.

(Soundbite of Twenty Good Years)

Mr. LITHGOW: (As character) I wish you were a woman.

Mr. JEFFREY TAMBOR (Actor): (As character) Pardon?

Mr. LITHGOW: (As character) Think about it. You're my only successful marriage.

Mr. TAMBOR: (As character) Why can't you be the woman?

(Soundbite of laughter)

ULABY: On the dramatic side, Carlin and Holmes both agreed that the absolute worst was a CBS show called Jericho.

(Soundbite of Jericho)

ULABY: Jericho concerns the unlucky residence of a Kansas town that seems entirely God-forsaken.

Mr. CARLIN: They come to understand that what appears to be nuclear bombs have blown up Denver and Atlanta and maybe other major cities in the U.S. All you know is that the apocalypse has arrived and there are dead birds all over the place. And it's just very unpleasant.

ULABY: A relentlessly unpleasant show is made more so, says Linda Holmes, by its jarring Hallmark sentimentality, which fits oddly in a plot otherwise notable for a dark concept and enigmatic characters.

Ms. HOLMES: What you have there is fairly obviously an attempt to capitalize on the success of Lost. It's a bunch of people who are isolated. They're in this disastrous situation and of course it ultimately has a lot to do with the triumph of the human spirit. So it's very schlocky but also extremely upsetting.

(Soundbite of Jericho)

Unidentified Child (Actor): (As character) Please, I think they're dying.

Ms. HOLMES: There's a sequence in which there are a bunch of imperiled children, and any show that can't get through the first hour without a bunch of imperiled children saved by its hero is already going pretty deeply into the toolbox of bad.

ULABY: A dissenting pick for worst new TV show comes from comedian Andy Kindler. He critiques TV in his standup act and he's been a sitcom actor.

Mr. ANDY KINDLER (Comedian): The one that was the most annoying was a show on ABC called Men in Trees.

(Soundbite of Men in Trees)

Ms. ANNE HECHE (Actress): (As Marin Frist) Hello, I'm Marin Frist. I am a relationship coach.

ULABY: Anne Heche stars as a glamorous woman's self-help author.

(Soundbite of Men in Trees)

Ms. HECHE: (As Frist) How many of you think that finding the one is going to make you happy?

ULABY: Her patter and techniques struck kindler as unimpressive.

Mr. KINDLER: Like, for example, she uses like road signs to say, if you're in a relationship, sometimes you've got to stop.

(Soundbite of Men in Trees)

Ms. HECHE: (As Frist) You've got to watch out for the signs.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KINDLER: If he's not treating you well, you have to detour.

(Soundbite of Men in Trees)

Ms. HECHE: (As Frist) You are never going to be able to...

Mr. KINDLER: Merge?

ULABY: Not every new show is a dead end, say our critics. If you're looking for good TV, they recommend the following: Studio 60 Live on the Sunset Strip, Friday Night Lights and Betty the Ugly.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.