As we're nearing the end of 2013, we're doing what what we do best at the end of each year and looking back at the last 365 days in TV. We've already memorialized the shows and characters we've lost, and we're still counting down the best television had to offer this year with our annual Top 100 Everything list. But just like with most things in life, television exists on a spectrum. There's good TV and there's bad TV. Not every show can be The Good Wife, you know? And sometimes we expect big things from a series, only to feel let down when things don't pan out. And so it's time to discuss this year's most unfortunate disappointments: What fell short for YOU this year? Check out our list, then let's hear yours in the comments!
Editors' Note: In related news, some TV.com users spent the better part of December celebrating the very worst TV of 2013. You can find the results here.
10. Under the Dome is a summer bummer
For those of us who'd never read the source material, it was hard to know what to expect from CBS's Under the Dome, but the basic facts—the show was based on a Stephen King novel, and Lost's Brian K. Vaughan was involved—had us pretty damn excited for some fun summer sci-fi. Unfortunately, Under the Dome was a hot mess that quickly had us tuning in for the wrong reasons—namely, to see what stupid things the residents of Chester's Mill would do next. Consistently confusing and full of dumb characters trapped in inane side plots, the series was a massive letdown, yet it still managed to become a huge ratings hit. As a result, CBS basically had no other choice than to order a second season, even though Under the Dome was initially billed as a "limited series event." So not only were we disappointed by the quality of the show, we were shocked that so many people watched it anyway, and now we're annoyed that it's coming back for another go-round. It's enough to make us want to rip the wings off a butterfly or smash a glowing egg.
9. The new fall shows are mostly duds
Aside from a couple true breakouts like Sleepy Hollow and The Blacklist, this fall's freshman class was severely lacking. There will always be shows that are quickly canceled (ahem, Ironside) and then even more quickly forgotten (sorry, Lucky 7), but this fall was duller than usual with regard to new shows. Maybe our standards were too high, or maybe the networks didn't receive all the hate mail we sent and that led to fewer cancellations of shows that deserved to die a swift death (Betrayal, Dads, Super Fun Night). Thank goodness the midseason looks strong.
8. The Following inspires cries of "Nevermore!"
There are several lessons to be learned from The Following, but the main one is that the combination of Kevin Bacon, murder, and a bunch of Edgar Allen Poe references do not a decent show make. The first couple episodes of The Following showed an inkling of promise—or at the very least, plenty of horror and gore—but somewhere along the line, the series forgot that TV shows have to make sense, FBI agents who are really bad at their jobs are not very compelling to watch, and highbrow (and often incorrect) literary allusions can get real cumbersome, real fast. We were initially intrigued by the possibility that any one of The Following's characters could turn out to be part of Joe Carroll's cult, but contrary to what the series would have you believe, not every plot problem is easily fixed by killing a bunch of people. In 2014, we'll be turning to Hannibal to get our murder-drama fix, not this garbage.
7. The Bridge crumbles
We had high hopes for this drama about a serial killer running rampant on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, but ¡Ay Caramba! Season 1 was broken. The series is guilty of one of the biggest crimes a new show can commit: It never established or maintained a consistent identity. At times it was a fascinating character study, at others it was brilliant social and cultural commentary, and for a few terrible episodes, it was another horrible sub-standard serial-killer drama with ridiculous murder plots. Tuning in each week was an unknown surprise, which is great for Hanukkah but not for a serialized drama. And the way the end of the season dragged, we're not exactly chomping at the bit for Season 2.
6. A Dan Harmon-less Community
If we're being honest, the fourth season of Community left a lot to be desired. The first three seasons were guided by Dan Harmon's careful hand, and even though they too they had their low points, they yielded some of the funniest and most ambitious TV episodes in recent years. After Harmon was ousted from his own show, NBC attempted to keep the Greendale flame alight, but something was... missing. The show was a shell of its former self, painted in broad strokes that lacked Harmon's trademark zaniness, and proving that there IS no Community without Dan Harmon. Thankfully, he's back on board for Season 5, and we're both eagerly and anxiously awaiting what is sure to be a return to form for the series, if the trailers are any indication.
5. People weren't kidding when they said Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wouldn't be super
Earlier this year, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. looked like it was going to be THE show of the fall. I mean, it was a spin-off of one of the biggest blockbusters of 2012 and it was Joss Whedon's return to TV—how could we not look forward to such a series? The pilot was a great jumping-off point that introduced the team of agents, had real stakes, and successfully mixed action with Whedon's trademark quips. There was even a patented Whedon Meaning of Life Speech! But so far the series has failed to live up to the expectations we formed after the shiny, exciting premiere. While it isn't necessarily bad, it's not exactly good, either. Perhaps the best way to put it is that S.H.I.E.L.D. is squandering its potential. With Marvel as a backer and Whedon attached—even if only slightly—the series should be much better than it actually is. Many of the characters are in sore need of development, the overarching storyline only pops in once every five episodes, and the series can't seem to balance its procedural and serialized elements. When the series is on it's on, but in 2013, it was too often off.
4. Netflix's resurrection of Arrested Development burns us like a Cornballer
For years, fans clamored for more Arrested Development, the comedy that went on to achieve cult status after Fox axed it in 2006. And for years, series creator Mitch Hurwitz and the cast said they wanted to make more Arrested Development. When it was finally confirmed that Netflix would produce a fourth season (to be released all at once!), the universe nearly imploded with glee and excitement. Suddenly, Netflix was good for more than just re-watching old episodes of Supernatural at 3am or for burning through obscure British films from the 1980s. But when Season 4 premiered in late May, it was met with mixed reactions. Some people absolutely loved it and wanted to marry it and have cute little babies with it because they were going to love it no matter what. But for many others, Season 4 was a chore to get through. Yes, there were still moments of brilliance—we certainly didn't hate it or anything—but since the new episodes were written with Netflix's binge-watching audience in mind, and since the production schedules made it very difficult for the cast to film together as an ensemble, Season 4 generally felt very disjointed and uneven. You almost had to watch it as one long movie, and it didn't help matters that most of the storylines didn't really come together until the end of the season. We know we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth or whatever, but sometimes, maybe we're better off letting our favorite shows live on in their respective DVD cases, and just accepting that what we once had was special.
3. Dexter's last stand
Is anyone actually surprised to see Dexter on this list after that series finale? By the time it reached its end, the series was like an ex who we knew was no good for us, but who we kept letting back into our hearts because they promised they'd be different. And for awhile, Dexter WAS different. But then the final season went off the rails somewhere around Episode 4, and the series finale was one big mess defined by historically stupid scenes (the whole sequence with Dex arriving at the hospital on his boat was something "special") and boring inaction. Capping the show with Dexter driving into a hurricane and somehow ending up in the Pacific Northwest acting out his best Brawny Man fantasies is about as dumb as dumb gets.
2. The opening act of Homeland's third season
Homeland started showing cracks [choose one: at the end of Season 1/halfway through Season 2/anytime Dana was on the screen/when Brody took a car-wash shower to wipe away the murder], so a quality drop in Season 3 wasn't totally unexpected. But oh lordy, Allah, and everyone else! Did anyone expect it to be THAT bad? The first third of the season was a total disaster full of aimlessness, audience trickery, and teen-girl rebellion that barely felt like it was part of the same show we were raving about during the first two seasons. And now that Season 3 is over, the flaws in this opening act are even more glaring. Can anyone explain why we needed to see Dana trade in her mom's car? What was the real importance of Brody's heroin addiction? The middle of the season fared only slightly better, and by the time the end of it righted the ship, it was too late. The first four episodes of Homeland Season 3 left a Langley-bombing-sized crater that the show is still struggling to drag itself out of.
1. The start of New Girl Season 3 has us threatening to break up with the series
After one of the finest—and funniest—seasons of television in recent memory, the downslide New Girl took in the first half of Season 3 was one of the year's toughest pills to swallow. It's one thing to be disappointed when a series doesn't live up to its hype (ahem, S.H.I.E.L.D.), and it's simply crushing to be let down by something you know can be truly great. New Girl's second season, led by the budding romance between Nick and Jess, consistently left us in danger of peeing our pants with laughter. So what happened in Season 3? Many people have blameed Nick and Jess's relationship for the show's troubles, but it goes deeper than that. Schmidt dating both Elizabeth and Cece was a terrible decision that took Schmidt from douche to Douche, making his character almost unlikable at times. And as much as it pains me to say it, Damon Wayans Jr.'s Coach has messed with the chemistry of the loft. Here's hoping 2014 treats everyone better.
What's on YOUR list of 2013's biggest TV disappointments?