It’s time for my worst lists to come to an end. Last on the autopsy table are the four shows I thought really sucked this year. I seriously didn’t plan for all my worst lists to be Top 4 lists. They all just came out that way by bizarre coincidence. I’m honestly a little unnerved by it.
But you know what? Whatever. I don’t have the capacity to care. Not if I’m going to care enough to utterly demolish these shows. To make my list, the show didn’t have to premiere or even air this year. I just had to have watched it at some point in 2018 and seen at least one full episode.
This excludes a few shows I think are bad, like Shadowhunters or Riverdale (both of which I discussed last year). Because I already know I don’t like them, I didn’t watch them at all in 2018.
But what shitty shows did I watch this year? It’s time to find out. Here are my Top 4 Worst TV Shows of 2018:
- Mulaney (Premiered October 5, 2014)
I really wanted to love this show. A part of me was convinced it had to have been unfairly canceled, that it had been a problem of viewership and not quality. To my great dismay, I was wrong. So very, very wrong.
The show follows a fictionalized version of comedian John Mulaney. He is hired as a writer for a game show, hosted by eccentric comedy legend Lou Cannon. When Mulaney’s not navigating life as Lou’s writer, he’s dealing with his equally crazy roommates Jane, a personal trainer who emotional issues, and Motif, a fellow comedian.
My first inkling that perhaps the criticism of this show was valid is when Mulaney opens the show with a comedy bit. This, in itself, isn’t bad. The problem is pretty much every scene where he’s doing stand-up is ripped straight from his comedy specials. I get that he wants to use his best jokes, but it feels lazy.
Some of his most famous bits are also used as episode plots. You remember the bit where he lies to his doctor to get a Xanax prescription? It’s hilarious! It’s also a minor plot point in the first episode. I didn’t feel like I was getting anything new out of this show.
The main problem with this show, however, is that it’s a painfully obvious rip-off of Seinfeld. Of course, Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t own including stand-up in his sitcom. Mulaney’s character being a fictionalized version of himself who is also a comedian doesn’t inherently mean he’s copying Seinfeld. But when you add in dysfunctional friends and a loathsome neighbor who always pops in uninvited? That’s when things start to get fishy.
Jane is a strange amalgamation of George and Elaine. Motif is a mishmash of Elaine and Kramer. And Andre, the annoying neighbor, is the lovechild of Kramer and Newman. And where does it all take place? New York City, of course!
I don’t know what Mulaney and Co. were trying to pull with this show, but they can’t have thought we wouldn’t notice. Seinfeld is one of the greatest and most popular sitcoms of all time. You can’t rip it off this blatantly and not immediately piss off your audience.
Moreover, these characters aren’t even likable. Okay, the Seinfeld characters aren’t particularly likable, but they’re enjoyable and memorable. You root for them, even though you know they’re shitty people. But the Mulaney characters are just annoying.
Fake John Mulaney is overly sarcastic, almost to a point of cruelty. Motif’s whole motif (pun absolutely intended) is that he is always writing terrible jokes. Jane is a caricature of a person, excessively vengeful and bitter. Andre seems like he crawled out of his mother’s basement to be on this show. Also, for some reason, he sells drugs.
But the worst offender is emphatically Lou Cannon. I thought I liked Martin Short, but his performance here has given me some serious doubts. This character isn’t eccentric— he’s downright ludicrous. There’s a way to do the egotistical Hollywood legend and this isn’t it. All of his scenes were unbearably grating. This isn’t a human person. He’s an Adderall pill come to life.
I made it through the first two episodes before I had to stop. This show just does not have anything worth coming back for. If I want to hear John Mulaney-style comedy, I’ll watch one of his specials for the millionth time.
That’s part of what makes this whole thing so confusing. John Mulaney is a genuinely hilarious and inventive comic. In fact, he’s my favorite. Why didn’t that translate in a TV show? How did it wind up a cheap Seinfeld knock-off?
I don’t know who was in that writers’ room, but they should’ve invited Mick Jagger to every session. That way Mulaney and everyone else involved would’ve had someone telling them, “NOOOOOO!”
- Everything Sucks! (Premiered on Netflix February 16, 2018)
I don’t know what was going on at Netflix Headquarters this year, but they authorized way too many programs based on nostalgia alone. The decade on display here? The ‘90s, every Millennial’s favorite decade! The problem is, you can’t make a show about a decade. But, gosh darn it, did Netflix try.
The series follows a group of teenagers attending the fictional Boring High School in Boring, Oregan (Subtlety? What’s that?). They decide to make a movie together, while dealing with issues like sexual discovery, mental health, and growing up.
Many tropes from ‘80s teen films carried over into the ‘90s, so naturally this show has all of them. The main characters are a bunch of outcasts and geeks. Everybody has a crush on somebody. There’s nothing new here.
Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. The show is more diverse than most ‘90s shows and movies. Luke, the main protagonist, is black. Kate, another of the main characters, begins to question her sexuality. She eventually determines that she’s a lesbian. This isn’t something that was discussed much in ‘90s media, so I appreciate this.
However, there’s also been some controversy over this. There is a scene where Kate and the girl she has a crush on, Emaline, kiss. The problem is Peyton Kennedy, who plays Kate, is fourteen. Sydney Sweeney, who plays Emaline, is 21. Yes, they were acting, but this is still highly inappropriate. If the intent was to eventually get Kate and Emaline together, they should’ve hired someone more age-appropriate to play Emaline.
I appreciate that the casting director(s) mainly hired actual teenagers to play teenagers. For a long time, Hollywood has almost exclusively cast people in their twenties and thirties for these roles. It’s nice to see production companies besides Nickelodeon and Disney Channel changing that. Unfortunately, that means it makes even less sense that they gave the role of Emaline to Sweeney.
That said, hiring age-appropriate actors doesn’t mean the characters are better. As good a job as Jahi Di’Allo Winston does playing the role, I hate his character. Luke is selfish and treats others horribly. Yes, he’s fourteen and has a lot of growing up to do. But this is still such an ugly thing for a show’s protagonist to be.
Luke develops a crush on Kate the moment he meets her. However, she tells him she thinks she’s a lesbian. When rumors swirl that Kate is gay and she starts getting harassed, Luke proposes they fake-date to convince people she’s straight. Kate agrees, under the condition that he tell her if he really starts falling for her. Then they can call the deal off.
In the next episode, Kate breaks up with him because she finally accepts she’s a lesbian and can’t live a lie. Luke, who knew exactly what he was getting into, makes it about himself and acts like a snotty little shit. He takes his anger out on everyone else, nearly ruining the movie. Again, he knew she was gay and would never have feelings for him. What is he acting so entitled for?
Luke also breaks up his mother’s new relationship because she happens to be seeing Kate’s dad. Why? So he doesn’t wind up the new step-brother of the girl he likes but knows is gay and therefore is never going to date him for real anyway? Or because she’s replacing his dad, the guy who left his family years ago? There’s no point to this, aside from selfishness.
By the end of the season, he learns his lesson. He apologizes to Kate and his mom. He tries to get his mom and Kate’s dad back together. But why is this a lesson he needs to learn? Kate tells him upfront what the deal is. He is never blindsided. Why is this, of all things, his arc?
To top it all off, the show is jam-packed with ‘90s references. It just feels like its only purpose is to say, “Hey, remember this thing from the ‘90s? Wasn’t that cool?” It doesn’t add to the setting or help build the atmosphere. All it does it betray the true purpose of the show: to cash in on the current nostalgia craze.
Never before have I seen a show tell its audience of its low quality so bluntly before. But I can’t say they didn’t warn us. Everything about this show does, indeed, suck.
- Insatiable (Premiered on Netflix August 10, 2018)
Remember many moons ago when the trailer for this show dropped and everyone said it was fatphobic? I disagreed at the time— still do, in fact. I was actually excited for this show, hoping for a dark comedy with biting commentary on beauty standards and high school politics. If you spent even a second online back in August, you know that’s not what we got.
The show follows Patty Bladell, an overweight teen constantly bullied for her weight. One day, she is punched in the face by a homeless man and has her jaw wired shut. After being on a liquid diet for three months, Patty becomes thin. Her former bullies welcome her with open arms, causing her to snap and seek revenge on them all. Disgraced civil lawyer and beauty pageant coach Bob Armstrong takes notice of the new Patty and vows to make her a pageant queen.
Where do I even begin? Most people would likely start with the problematic humor, but I don’t see that as the main problem with the show. It’s abundantly clear the writers are using these jokes to be edgy and shocking. I don’t know who told them that’s what black comedy is, but they were sorely mistaken.
The main problem with this show is the inconsistency. The plot makes no sense, jumping from a revenge story to a horror show to a pageant drama to a thriller. Threads are started and then dropped within an episode, never to be mentioned again. The characters behave however is necessary for the current situation. They don’t have any core traits, except that they’re all unlikable as hell.
All of this makes the tone inconsistent. Are we supposed to take this seriously? Some claim the show is satire, but unclear on what it’s commenting. Satire has a point, a message it’s trying to get across. This show has none. It’s just a bunch of outlandish things existing side-by-side. Insatiable is the Mad Libs of TV shows.
As I said before, all the characters suck. They’re not unlikable in a fun way. You don’t root for these terrible people in spite of yourself. You just want them to shut up.
Patty and Bob are especially unbearable, as they come with voiceovers. There’s nothing inherently wrong with voiceovers. When used effectively, they can really add to a show or movie.
For example, Cady’s voiceovers in Mean Girls allow us insight into how she views the world. She learns to navigate high school by comparing “girl world” to the animals she knew on the Serengeti. Patty and Bob’s voiceovers add nothing to their characters. In fact, they hinder them.
There are multiple scenes in which one of them does a voiceover where they just… explain what we’re watching on-screen. For example, Patty runs into the homeless man who punched her at the hospital. She confronts him and says she wishes he would die. Then, he does. Patty freaks out, but then looks a little pleased with herself.
As doctors rush into the room, Patty’s voiceover recaps the events we just watched mere seconds ago. She even explains how at first she was freaked out, but then she realized how powerful it made her feel. But, we already knew this based on how she reacts. All this tells us is the writers think their audience is too stupid to understand things without having them spelled out.
It also suggests that Patty is not that deep or introspective as a character. She can recognize how she feels, but she doesn’t know why. She is aware of what is going on around her, but not the part she plays in influencing these events.
This is made especially evident when Christian, Patty’s former love interest, roofies and kidnaps her pageant rival Magnolia as a grand gesture to win her back. He assumes this is what she would want because she’s a bad person. Patty, in a brilliant moment of self-awareness, proceeds to bash his head in, while screaming, “I’m a good person!” over and over again. No, Patty, you’re not. Everything you’ve done this entire season proves that you are, in fact, a bad person.
All right, now we have to talk about the lesbian in the room. Nonnie, Patty’s best friend, is a closeted lesbian. She also has a massive crush on Patty. She is constantly trying to manipulate Patty into kissing her or be close to her in some way. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a predatory lesbian trope on our hands.
While I can ignore most of the problematic humor, this characterization is too egregious to ignore. This isn’t a sad attempt at edgy humor. This is the lone sapphic character on the show being depicted as a harmful stereotype that gay people are still fighting against. It doesn’t matter that Bob Barnard, a gay man (and also a different Bob), isn’t portrayed as predatory. That doesn’t balance it out. Nothing lessens the damage of seeing a gay person portrayed exactly as bigots say we are.
Moreover, it feels like Nonnie’s crush on Patty is supposed to be a joke. The writers make it abundantly clear that Patty is straight and will never return Nonnie’s feelings. Nonnie is depicted as pathetic, a loser dyke that fell for a straight girl.
The problem is somewhat rectified when Nonnie confesses her feelings to Patty. Patty is dismissive and uninterested. Nonnie begins to realize Patty doesn’t care about anyone but herself. A few episodes later, she decides to take a break from Patty and her selfishness. It shows real growth, the only character development in the whole show. Unfortunately, that doesn’t erase her predatory behavior from earlier. In fact, she never seems to realize what she’s been doing is wrong. It is never challenged or condemned at all.
This show is an unfunny hodgepodge of ideas and characters. It’s like someone wrote the scripts using predictive text. Any positive message the story tries to get across is swallowed by the utter nonsense that surrounds it. The plot and characters regularly contradict any that somehow get through.
When the characters take the time to be real, the show has potential. But the showrunners would rather find a way to make each episode more ludicrous and removed from reality than the last. This show is an unpleasant fever dream from which you can’t wake. It just isn’t sustainable in the long run. The success of this show only proves the people are insatiable for controversy.
- Paradise PD (Premiered on Netflix August 31, 2018)
I’m always hesitant to watch adult cartoons because so many of them rely on shock humor to be funny. I probably wouldn’t have tried this one at all, but a couple videos promoting the show went viral. The videos were 911 calls in the fictional town of Paradise. These calls are so dumb, they’re funny.
“Hey,” I thought. “If this is the kind of humor this show has to offer, I’m in.” So I watched all ten episodes. I’m still baffled by what I saw.
The show follows a group of terrible police officers in the small town of Paradise. They’re not dirty cops— they’re just really bad at their job. Each episode is a new, unrelated story, but there is a season-long thread in which they’re trying to take down a drug ring.
I actually found the show fairly funny, though now I can’t remember a single joke. I also don’t remember most of the plots. What I do remember is that, despite thinking it was kind of funny, I hated this show.
First of all, those hilarious 911 calls aren’t even in the show. They were just promotional content. But not only are they not in the show, the humor isn’t there either. The show uses an entirely different style of humor to what the promotional material suggests. Can you guess what it is?
Yes, the world is now saddled with yet another adult cartoon that uses shock humor to get a laugh. More than that, the show is actively offensive. The only character I really like is Bullet, a talking police dog addicted to the very drugs he’s tasked with guarding. Sometimes this gag works, other times it doesn’t. All I know is he’s the only character I didn’t roll my eyes at or actively hate.
Let’s talk about the most offensive character: Officer Gina Jabowski. She is aggressively violent. It’s not funny, it’s just disturbing. But the worst part of her character is that she regularly sexually harasses her co-worker, Officer Dusty Marlow. The joke is that he’s really fat and she has a fat fetish. Oh, tee hee.
The next couple paragraphs will be discussing her actions in more detail. If this is something that is too upsetting or triggering for you, please skip the next five paragraphs.
Dusty explicitly tells her, almost every episode, that he doesn’t appreciate her advances and wants her to leave him alone. He has a restraining order against her of which she is never not in violation.
For Christmas, she asks for a kiss on the lips. He tells her he’ll kiss her if she helps him bring Christmas spirit back to Paradise. Later she confesses to Bullet that she’s going to make Dusty kiss her vagina because she “never specified which lips.” Thankfully, this doesn’t come to fruition because what the absolute fuck.
In one episode, she dresses up as a cat and sneaks into his house. When Dusty’s cats gather to bathe him (yes, that is a thing that happens), she pretends she is one of them and proceeds to “groom” his genitals.
So, yeah, uh, THIS IS RAPE. That’s not a joke, it’s sexual fucking assault. Not only is she pretending to be someone else to trick him into letting her do this, he’s still telling her no. He does not want anyone to do that. Once again, THIS IS RAPE.
What’s the joke here? That it’s a woman doing all this? That Dusty is obese and stupid? I genuinely don’t see how anyone could find this funny. Sexual harassment and assault are wrong no matter who the perpetrator is. Men can and are victims of both. There are women who sexually harass and assault men. There is absolutely nothing funny here. This is just sick.
Okay, now let’s go back to talking about aspects of the show that aren’t this upsetting. Is it a bad idea to say that I hate Dusty? What Gina does to him is awful, no question. He’s just also a really annoying character. You know what? I’ll just leave it at that.
The season finale also serves as the show’s Christmas episode. It’s a bit longer than the other episodes, roughly forty-five minutes. And I hated every single one of them. This is, hands down, the worst episode of this already god awful show.
Part of what makes this episode so terrible, I’ve already addressed. But there’s more. Dusty, a grown ass adult, still believes Santa Claus is real. He believes Santa hasn’t been coming to Paradise because the citizens have lost their Christmas spirit. He begins a crusade to bring it back.
Meanwhile, Kevin (son of the police chief and newly-fired cop) thinks his dad is the drug kingpin for which the squad has been looking. Using a phone he got from a drug dealer, Kevin sets up a meeting with the kingpin. Before he can go, he gets arrested. So, he calls Dusty and sends him to the meeting in his place.
And then it turns out Santa is real and has been the kingpin all along. He and Dusty fight, and Dusty kills him. Santa’s body disappears in a flurry of magic.
Chief Randall Crawford, Kevin’s dad, finds out about the meeting and bursts in with the squad. They think Dusty is the kingpin and arrest him. The end (except when it turns out there’s a third kingpin, another cop on the squad).
Do you know what to make of that plot? Because I sure don’t. It’s the only episode plot I remember because it’s so wild. It’s somehow both tonally out-of-place from the rest of the show and a perfect example of what this show is like. It is as I said at the beginning: baffling.
Maybe I should just stick to Bob’s Burgers because every other adult cartoon leaves me feeling gross and somehow stupider for having seen it. Paradise PD is offensive and mind-boggling. Despite garnering a few laughs, it’s ultimately just another reason to question Netflix’s judgment. When will they realize they don’t have to greenlight every program proposal? All I know is this world was closer to paradise without this show in it.
Do you agree with my list? What are some of the shows you hated this year? Tell me about them in the comments!
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