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john doyle: television

Oh eff it. And frig it. Sometimes you look for a little relief, a distraction. You turn on the TV and you're all "Whatever, here I am, entertain me." And then you get annoyed. Last thing you need.

Happened to me recently. One night I watched Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. A police procedural to pass the time after a day of dealing with matters that make you demented. Some ultra-rich New York city socialite, an arrogant floozie was the suspect. Floozie lands in the hoosegow but says they'll never hold her there. Hires a gang to free her. Turns out the gang is, you know, the cops in disguise. A car blows up and stuff. I'm staring at this is disbelief. So tired is Law & Order that it has morphed into The Mod Squad.

Which got me started. There's a lot of tired TV. And stuff that was a mistake to begin with. Herewith, a list: These Shows Blow. Add your own, if you like. I'm open to suggestions.

Law & Order: SVU. It wasn't just that episode. After 12 years, the series became formulaic and then became just plain ridiculous. A strength of the show (and the original Law & Order) at the start was its focus on middle-class criminals - well-off professional people who had a hidden dark side and committed terrible crimes. Then it concentrated on perverts. And the cast seemed to be on autopilot. At least one has recognized the impasse - Chris Meloni, who plays Detective Elliot Stabler, has said he intends to leave the series when his contract is up after next season.

Survivor. Oh please. After 10 years of the show it has come to this - Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, which starts this Thursday on CBS and Global. That's so old and tired. Maybe - just maybe - if the show put the increasingly ridiculous contestants in the snow and ice somewhere, instead of the jungles and a desert island, it could be revived. Or not. The contestants are too self-consciously obnoxious, sneaky and attention-seeking these days.

Accidentally on Purpose. An example of an appalling comedy - a low-rent, lame TV version of a rom-com movie - that continues to exist only because it is "hammocked" between two successful shows. Jenna Elfman (Dharma & Greg) plays Billie, a journalist (ha!) who gets pregnant from a one-night stand with a penniless younger guy. The only thing more annoying than Elfman is the grating canned laughter. A show watched only accidentally by people who've just seen watched How I Met Your Mother or tuning in early for Two and a Half Men. Never watched on purpose.

The Bachelor. Sleazy, cheesy and somehow always capable of rounding up a passel of women eager to debase themselves on TV. This season they played touch-football in their sleepwear. Kill it off and let The Bachelorette rule - the men battling to woo the Bachelorette are priceless idiots. Enough with the catty-women contestants.

Agent vs. Agent on HGTV. Seen this? Real-estate agents competing "to find desperate home buyers the house of their dreams." All phony aggression and awful people. The agents are described as "the shamelessly confident, warts-and-all types, who are not afraid to say it like it is." Or exaggerate, flatter and freak out. It's inanity epitomized.

Love Incorporated on Slice. Shallow, crass docu-soap about married couple Justin and Annabelle, who run FastLife, a matchmaking and speed dating company. They're forging a new marriage - will it survive their constant work for all those sexy, needy singles? That's some sick premise.

Connect with Mark Kelley on CBC News Network. CBC says: "Each weeknight, Connect with Mark Kelley turns the day's news into a personal experience. He peels back the layers behind the big stories that everyone is talking about and shows us what is missing." The "missing" is Kelley informing us what people are saying on Twitter and Facebook, as if that was a secret, and then overemoting about it. Look, if I want to overemote, I'll do it myself, watching this irritatingly self-aggrandizing hooey.

Right. That feels better.

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