There’s more great television right now than ever before and, thanks to cable, that includes even the summer. We have a lot to look forward to this summer, including Breaking Bad, The Bridge, Dexter, the new Showtime series, Ray Donovan, The Newsroom (if that’s your thing, and it is mine) plus Orange in the New Black on Netflix, and if you haven’t seen it yet, last week’s In the Flesh on BBC America was outstanding.
But there’s a lot of so-called “good” television that I’ve found incredibly difficult to get into, not just summer shows, but from the entire year. I mean, I want to like them because they are either popular with people I respect, or critically adored, or because they come from HBO, AMC, Showtime, or FX, and those networks are consistently putting out the best television these days. But try as I might, I couldn’t get in to the following ten series and eventually quit out of frustration, boredom, or indifference. Perhaps you did too.
True Blood — When Alan Ball’s vampire series debuted, I excitedly watched the first half season out of loyalty to Ball for Six Feet Under, but I simply couldn’t get into it. After it exploded to become one of HBO’s most popular and talked about series, I tried again, making it as far as the entire first season before I felt more than indifference to True Blood: I felt hatred. How could a show with this much blood, violence and sex be so miserably dumb, dull, and loathsome? If I were handcuffed to a chair and forced to watch the entire series, I’d gnaw my own goddamn arm off to escape. Sex and violence should not be this unpleasant.
American Horror Story — I was annoyed with how ungodly ridiculous the premiere episode of American Horror Story was, and I wrote it off, despite how intrigued I was with how batsh*t the show was. I kept coming back, though, and for a while, it was fun to watch Ryan Murphy chew through plot and extract the best wall chewing you’ll ever see from actors of that high a caliber. But eventually, because the characters were all despicable, unlikable, and dumb, and because no one was ever safe from not only a character death, but a resurrection, the shock value wore off and the stakes became meaningless. It lost its fun. The final two episodes of the second season, American Horror Story: Asylum are still sitting on my DVR, unwatched, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get around to watching them. I just don’t care.
Hung — I love Thomas Jane, and Hung’s premise — a long-donged high-school teacher who turns to prostitution to pay the bills — seemed interesting enough, but the series never took off. The premise seemed built for good comedy, but Hung was rarely funny, and the drama felt inert. My growing disinterest — I quit after the first season — may have mad much to do with how little I cared for Jane Adams, who played the pimp, or maybe it was simply that a show with as much sex as Hung decidedly lacked in sex appeal.
Enlightened — I will never understand the cult of Enlightened fans (it’s tiny, comprised of about 11 TV Critics and three hard core Laura Dern fans). Seldom has a show featured a lead character so singularly grating as Enlightened, and even if that was Mike White’s point, it’s really hard to invest yourself in a show where the lead character annoys the ever living sh*t out of you. I made it six or seven episodes before I just couldn’t force myself to watch anymore, despite my affection for Mike White. The glowing second-season reviews weren’t enough to draw me back.
Nurse Jackie — Similarly, as much as I like Edie Falco, it was the fact that her character seemed determined to self-destruct that eventually made the show unwatchable for me. It was impossible to root for her because she had no interest in rooting for herself. When you can see, so clearly, the solution to your problems, and you seem to go almost out of your way to dodge that solution time and again, it eventually gets too difficult and unsatisfying to watch.