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The cast of the new Canadian sitcom Package Deal.
The cast of the new Canadian sitcom Package Deal.

john doyle

I’ve got a little list: Five TV disappointments of 2013 Add to ...

List time. The good, the naughty and the nice.

In the TV racket there’s so much made and aired that starting a year-end summary can be bewildering. So let’s start with disappointments.

Canadian comedy

Seed, which I wrote about on Monday, emerged as a strong, off-kilter comedy series. Inventive and charming. Two others fell flat; examples of mediocrity that speak volumes about the low-grade material that Canadian broadcasters are willing to air and expect the public to appreciate. Package Deal, the Rogers-made sitcom shot with a live audience and a laugh track, arrived after much postponement. It wasn’t worth the wait. It wasn’t thin on laughs, it was anorexic. The gist was that Danny White (Randal Edwards), a lawyer with a nice life, was obliged to persuade his new girlfriend to put up with two interfering brothers. The best thing about it was Julia Voth as the girlfriend, a hard role to play.

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CTV’s Satisfaction, another urban comedy about twentysomethings, was so offensively empty-headed it was instantly forgettable. I said of it, “Less a comedy than a cry for help,” and that was utterly true. Meanwhile, This Hour Has 22 Minutes was rejigged slightly. With plenty of politics to chew on – the Senate scandal and Rob Ford – it rode hard on political satire. Yet it seemed too male. Both Cathy Jones and Susan Kent are seriously underused on the show.

American sitcoms with big stars

It was a shock to discover that the Robin Williams vehicle The Crazy Ones (CBS) wasn’t funny at all. The bizarre blend of forced, wacky moments and sentimentality turned out to be more off-putting than funny. Sean Hayes, always funny on Will & Grace and as a talk-show guest, turned up to star in Sean Saves the World and duly embarrassed those in the world who thought he was hilarious. Likewise, Tony Shalhoub, always excellent and dryly funny on Monk, was outright awful in the disaster called We Are Men. And then there was the Fox show Dads, which came star-studded, with Seth Green, Giovanni Ribisi, Peter Riegert and legend Martin Mull. It was the comedy people hated.

Previously great dramas that drooped

The second season of Girls was painstakingly slow to find its feet. And then it never did, really. Lena Dunham’s Hannah character struggled, as twentysomethings are supposed to do, but what unfolded reeked of narcissism, not a true struggle to define herself. Also in the premium-cable arena there was the deeply unsatisfying final season, and end, to Dexter. Uneven for several seasons, Dexter should have ended two years ago, obviously. In the final episodes, Dexter’s actions were worthy of ridicule. And in the series finale, Dexter Morgan faking his death and emerging as a lumberjack was ludicrous.

Remakes and prequels

Sure, some NBC exec thought that a remake of Ironside would work, but the contemporary version, starring Blair Underwood, was merely mind-numbingly bad. As for The Carrie Diaries (The CW), the idea of remaking Sex and the City as a teen drama was wildly terrible. Cheesy and air-headed, it must have made Sex and the City fans cringe. But the worst was Beauty and the Beast (also on The CW), which featured a “beast” guy who was, as anyone could see, very beautiful.

Music shows

From competitive performance shows to series-about-music, there were multiple disappointments. Both American Idol and X-Factor failed to create much excitement about the amateurs they attempted to turn into stars. Smash, the NBC drama about Broadway musicals, meandered everywhere and failed to find any meaning. Nashville, such a strong series in its first season, seemed to fall out of love with country music in its second season.

Airing tonight

American Country Awards (Fox, 8 p.m.) features LeAnn Rimes, Justin Moore, Brad Paisley, Lady Antebellum, Florida Georgia Line and Jake Owen, Jewel and Dwight Yoakam. Meanwhile, Taylor Swift leads the ACA nominees with eight nominations. But Swift is also appearing on The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show (CBS, Global, 10 p.m.), so go figure.

All times ET. Check local listings.

 

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