10 Television Series We Wanted To Like But Just Couldn’t, Despite Our Best Efforts

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.

Episodes — One of my favorite premises ever, Episodes is about two British television writers who bring their respected series to America to adapt it, only to be saddled with Matthew LeBlanc as the lead. Matthew LeBlanc plays himself. There were so many opportunities, especially in LeBlanc playing himself, for a great satire and brilliant inside jokes, but they squandered the premise by focusing on the romantic life of the British couple and Hollywood politics so absurd (and absurdly boring) as to be detached from reality. I watched the first season just waiting for that magical episode to arrive to make it all worth it, and two episodes into the second season — after it became clear that Episodes would never turn the corner — I quit.

The Big C — I will grant that the season finale of the first season was a powerful, tear-jerking episode, but for a show about a woman staring down the barrel of death, Laura Linney’s character still managed to be unbelievably petty, selfish, and unlikable. I expected a life-affirming series about a woman dealing with cancer, but what I got was a constant reminder of what a drudge life could be. I stuck through the first season out of respect for Oliver Platt (and Idris Elba’s arc), but nothing could convince me to stick around for a second season of a cancer-stricken person who refused to take advantage of the limited amount of time she had left.

House of Lies — I absolutely adored the cast — and with Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell, and Ben Schwarz, how could you not? — but an intriguing premise (a show about the lies behind the lies of consulting) ultimately proved to be as empty as the bullsh*t at the center of the show. Within a season, the show evolved into another version of Entourage, only with consultants, and not even Matt Damon’s guest appearance could compel me to go on. It’s not a bad show at all; it’s just not an interesting one.

Falling Skies — I gave it a shot. It wasn’t terrible, and I didn’t really have anything against the series, but four episodes into the first season, I forgot it was still on. Three seasons later, and I still barely realize its existence.

Rubicon — Nearly everyone that stuck it out to the end swears that the show redeemed itself, but goddamn, it was a slog. I like a slow burn, but Rubicon was glacial, and I never felt any kind of burn. It felt stubbornly slow, as if trying to prove a point. IT’S GOOD BECAUSE IT’S SO SLOW. By the mid-point in the season, I didn’t care enough about the story or the characters to care what happened, and though people will insist otherwise, I just can’t imagine another six episodes could’ve made it all worth it.