Bad Episodes of Good Shows
When judging the quality of an episode of a show vs. the quality of a movie, I tend to give a little more leeway to episodes of TV shows. After all, movies can take years and years to produce. However, with a TV show, they are expected to have stuff out on a WEEKLY basis. Yeah, there are summer breaks, but – again - with a movie, they can take until they have something to finish their project (…most of the time). With a TV show, they may have breaks, but sooner or later, it’s back to business. So that’s why I let the occasional weak episode slip through the cracks. After all, if it’s good show, the weak episode will just pass and soon it’s back to the good stuff.
But sometimes, there are just episodes that test my forgiveness. These aren’t the episodes that I just disliked, forgot about and moved on with my life. These are the episodes that rubbed me the wrong way. Some of these came while these shows were riding high. Some of them came after the shows’ quality started to dip. One thing’s for sure, they all suck.
Curb Your Enthusiasm “The Smiley Face”: The eighth season of Curb was a bit of a letdown. To be fair, the season was not a total loss. There were some really good episodes, some genuine laugh-out-loud moments and it should come as no surprise to anyone I gushed over the episode with Michael J. Fox. But the problem is that Larry David brought in some of his old Seinfeld writers. What’s wrong with that? Seinfeld is awesome, right? Well, even if it is one of my favorite shows, I will admit there are certain things that rubbed me the wrong way about that show. Unfortunately, the writers brought all of those things with them. Forced catchphrases? Check. Relatively boring plots? Check. Subplots that do not really connect? Check. If there is one episode that epitomizes everything I just discussed it would be this episode! The main plot of the episode involved Larry going out with a woman who works at his favorite restaurant. He had full intents of breaking up with her and still continuously eating at the restaurant. While the temptation is to say this makes Larry seem unlikable, with Larry David, that just seems redundant. But what separates this from activities like stealing flowers from a roadside monument or being upset that his girlfriend has cancer because he can’t break up with her? Those were funny! This sort of thing just is not outrageous enough to maintain interest. The B-plots do not fair much better – just a very boring story about Larry having to share a cabinet with someone. Compared to most episodes in the series, this one felt like it played in slow motion.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia “High School Reunion” – Without question, I think the seventh season of It’s Always Sunny was its funniest. Throwing caution to the wind, the people behind the scenes decided to do less conventional and favor more out-of-box episodes – the gang plays a board game. The gang breaks into a house, etc. One of the only weak links in the season was one about Frank’s past, where he ran a jazz club with his brother. I disliked that episode, but it was kind of just mediocre and at least it was ambitious. So I was not bothered thinking it was the worst of the season… until this episode came along.
With how good every other episode in this season was, I was blown away at just how bad this one was! It seemed that instead of the inspired madness of the previous episodes, the gang decided to retread a bunch of tired jokes about high school politics. The revelation of Mac’s name had me rolling my eyes too. Part 1 was bad and I remember thinking it was just the build-up to something better. And wouldn’t you know it? Part 2 was even worse! I actually laughed once or twice at Part 1. Part 2 was one of those rare episodes that actually garnered zero laughs from me. The dance number was painful and the final joke of the episode – mind you THE SEASON – was so bad and forced, it made me want to hurt something.
My Name is Earl “The Bounty Hunter”: My Name is Earl was a good show that was ended too soon. But good gravy, did it have some lousy episodes! I have a feeling anybody who followed the show as long as I did is probably surprised I did not select an episode from the third season when Earl was behind bars or in a coma. Being honest, there were plenty of awful episodes to choose from that time frame. But I selected this episode because it… angered me. In this episode, we learn that Earl dated a girl named Jessie before he married Joy. Joy took umbrage to this and literally KNOCKED JESSIE’S TEETH OUT! Problem # 1: Watching Jessie just writhe in pain after having her chops knocked out is just… mean! So Jessie became a bounty hunter. And not just any bounty hunter: She studied martial arts. She was such a lean, mean fighting machine that she even whooped her trainers! Showing what a tough lady she has become, Jessie has gotten gold teeth to replace the knocked out choppers. And she has a new target: Joy.
Earl is trying to help Joy escape because he feels guilty about what he perceives as a wrong he did to Jessie. Joy relieves Earl by admitting it was her fault. Aw, that was nice of her. Sadly Joy’s generosity is short-lived as we enter Problem # 2. Joy beats the crap out of Jessie. How did she did she manage to rough up someone who had serious martial arts training? You see, she watched Jerry Springer. Bad jokes aside, I just want a clip of Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek saying “That is incorrect” to that statement. Either way, Joy knocks out Jessie’s gold teeth to pay for her bail. And I must discuss Problem # 3 since it is the biggest of all. This is episode is just amoral! Earl has to meticulously make up for every bad thing he has ever done in his life no matter how minute while Joy is permitted to beat someone up and steal from them without any penalty? The third season may have had some rubbish episodes, but none of them hurt me quite like this one.
Sanford and Son “The Family Man”: I hate backdoor pilots. As far as I can tell, backdoor pilots are a relic of older sitcoms that have gone the way of the dodo. For those of you who do not remember them, backdoor pilots were episodes of shows that were used as pilots for other shows. Shows like Welcome Back, Kotter, The Brady Bunch, and Married… with Children pulled these, and they were all dismal failures. The only one of these I actually like is “A Star is Burns” from The Simpsons. Of course, it helps that that episode was a backdoor pilot for The Critic, one of my favorite shows. Either way, this episode was meant as a pilot for Grady. It is easy to see why Grady would be a candidate for his own show. When Redd Foxx took a leave in the third season, episodes were written around Grady as the one watching Fred’s business. And they were really funny. In fact, “Fred’s Treasure Garden” is one of my favorites. So why is this episode so bad? For starters, Fred and Lamont are nowhere to be seen. Yeah, that was a common trait of backdoor pilots - the lead characters took a back seat.. if they appeared at all. Instead, the focus is on Grady’s family. And they are not particularly funny. Grady actually did pick up as a series, but it was very short-lived. Maybe some characters should just remain supporting characters.
South Park “A Million Little Fibers” – I wanted to avoid frequently obvious choices – hence why Seinfeld’s series finale is absent – but this is one I can not forget about. Even though I am a fan of South Park, I am not going to sugarcoat my feelings. I rarely like their gimmick episodes. While many people hate the character Towelie in general, the original idea was kind of funny – lampooning a character created just for merchandise just to make him the worst character possible. He had a golden moment or two when he first debuted, but overall, he was best in small doses. Unfortunately, Parker and Stone received letters requesting more episodes with the character. If these people fess up, I promise to make their punishments relatively painless. This episode is just so bland and monotonous, and Towelie’s schtick gets really old, really fast. The episode is a less-than subtle spoof of Oprah’s “Million Little Pieces” scandal. While some episodes of South Park serve as humorous reminders of the past, the episode follows the incident so precisely that it will probably alienate anyone unfamiliar with that incident. The only moment that made me laugh was a spoof of Oprah giving her guests cars. She encouraged them all to check under their seats for weapons to attack Towelie with. Remember what I said about how backdoor pilots were annoying because the lead characters either take a back seat or don't appear. This episode feels like a backdoor pilot for Towelie so most of the main cast does not appear. This is one of the most famously episodes of the series and for good reason!
Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Outrageous Okona.”: Despite being a huge fan of Next Generation, I will admit they had a good share of dud episodes. Some of them are so notorious – “Sub Rosa,” “Shades of Grey” – that I deliberately avoided them. Though I kind of wonder whether or not I would actually hate those episodes as much as this one. The Enterprise crew rescue Okona and become embroiled in a dispute between worlds who each want him. The title character Okona is depicted as a womanizer and a rogue. Characters like this can be hard to pull off because without the right care, they can come off as obnoxious. Guess which category he falls into. He is played by Billy Campbell who most people would probably recognize as the Rocketeer. He was likable in that role so the guy has it in him. And obviously, it is the writing. Even if he were likable, this situation just feels too insignificant and sitcomish for a show that was known for big ideas and grand scale plots.
To add insult to injury, there is a subplot about Data trying to learn humor from a holodeck comedian. That is not a terrible premise in theory, but execution is everything. The comedian is played by Joe Piscopo. Popular opinion is to make fun of Piscopo, but I did like him in Johnny Dangerously. So I know he was funny at least once… once! However, the humor this comedian teaches is just a little too old-fashioned. Either way, here’s a lesson on comedy Data could have used. When you try to be serious and fail, people do not notice as much. When you try to make people laugh and fail, it really hurts. Overall, this episode feels less like Star Trek, more like a bad episode of Full House. And do you know what’s ironic? This was one of the first episodes of Next Generation I ever saw. It is amazing how I ever got into this show…
I also excluded any Simpsons because I plan on doing a separate list for that one. But in the meantime, if there are any episodes of shows you hated, or if you want to agree/disagree with my picks, feel free to comment.
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