Bad Episodes of Good Shows Volume 3
Even the best of us can have our off days. The fact that this series is up to its third iteration is proof of that! If you don't see one you thought would be a sure fire pick, be sure to check out volumes one and two.
Check Out Parts 1 and 2
Doctor Who “Fear Her” – I love modern Doctor Who, but the series is no stranger to bad episodes. When a show has more episodes per season than a typical BBC series and explores such wild ideas, there is bound to be a flop here and there. As a matter of fact, this episode follows the similarly maligned “Love and Monsters”. The underlying problem with this episode is that it feels more like the kids’ version of the series – as if we’re watching an episode of Doctor Who Jr. The premise is that a little girl captures people in her drawings. Scenes such as the Doctor being trapped in a kid’s drawing and the doctor being attacked by a scribbly line are more comical but are taken so seriously in the context of the show that this episode can’t even be enjoyed as a guilty pleasure. Is there ANYTHING good about this episode? Well, the image of the Doctor carrying the Olympic torch is memorable, and this episode does prelude the much better season 2 finale. But if the urge arises, watch “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday” instead.
Family Ties “Vacation” – I realize this episode’s stance as an episode is somewhat borderline since it is technically a TV movie in the guise of an episode. But considering shows like Sherlock and Columbo have entire episodes that are movie length, this counts. In this episode, the Keatons venture to England because Alex has been accepted to Oxford. Malory becomes involved with a British guy, and there is some kind of a heist. This episode feels completely out of place – Alex Keaton was accepted in Oxford and he’s never there again? Family Ties was a good show about discussing politics and family situations – reduced to some cornball heist. And more importantly, this episode is not funny. The only laugh I got was the revelation that Mallory’s passport photo was a professional head shot – and that wasn’t a big laugh, just kind of a chuckle. And by not being funny, this episode is BORING! Adding insult to injury, because this episode is movie length, instead of ending at a semi-tolerable 30 minutes, this special drags on for an insufferable 90 minutes - and managing to feel even longer than that.
Malcolm in the Middle “Graduation” – And with this episode Malcolm in the Middle joined Seinfeld and Dexter as the unenviable distinction of ending on quite possibly its worst episode. As the name implies, Malcolm finally graduates high school. On face, this episode might have been decent – there was kind of an overabundance of plot as the episode also tells the tale of Hal trying to procure money for Malcolm to go to Harvard (Breaking Bad jokes are too obvious) and Reese being excited about taking a job as a janitor. In fact, there are good jokes among the crowd here. What taints this episode, and puts it in the echelon of bad episodes is the final act. Malcolm is offered an insanely cushy job which Lois intervenes and declines on Malcolms’s behalf. If that weren’t bad enough, Reese’s container of… um… Number 2 explodes onto the entire family. Lois then reveals that she declined that job offer because she wanted to sabotage Malcolm’s life so he’d become President who actually looks out for people like Lois and his family. This idea is just ludicrous. Malcolm in the Middle worked because many of the show’s plots were plausible but had absurd twists to them. Lois’s plan borderlines on supervillain! Also, they REALLY hammered in the whole “Life is unfair” thing. Was mentioning it in the opening credits of every episode not enough? This is also the kind of ending that not only ends the series on a sour note, but kind of casts a dark shadow over the entire series – was Lois just sabotaging Malcolm’s life this entire time? Lois does get her comeuppance in the form of finding out she’s pregnant again, but that hardly undoes the damage. Very few people probably expected this show to go out on a happy note, but this was far too mean-spirited and ham-fisted finale to a once stellar series.
Roseanne “Sweet Dreams” – You really thought all the bad episodes occurred after Roseanne got lotto fever? This was one of those fantasy gimmick episodes that was really popular in the 90’s. When people think Roseanne, they think of humor wrapped in real world problems, snarky humor, but a family who loves each other through it all. This episode fails in most of those categories. It’s a gimmick episode about Roseanne dreaming she’s in some fantasy spa replete with song numbers – yeah, for those of you who wanted to hear Roseanne Barr and John Goodman sing. (There’s a certain generation with the benefit of not knowing Roseanne Barr’s controversial National Anthem performance.) This may have been forgiven, except the episode is NOT FUNNY. Like a lot of these gimmick episodes it’s a whole lot of dress-up and very little laughs.
The Simpsons “Funeral for a Friend” – In order to understand why this episode stinks so much, it is worth giving a blow-by-blow recount of the events and boy does this episode blow. The Simpsons buy a TiVo (My goodness, technology has evolved quickly). During a recording, they find an ad for a restaurant which just happens to be the perfect match for every member of the Simpsons clan. Amazingly, NOBODY else goes to this restaurant. And that’s good news for the man who staged this whole thing – Sideshow Bob. Bart’s arch nemesis has all of the Simpsons tied and ready for termination when Lisa corrects him on a quote. So he runs back in, only to get arrested. Alright, I’m cutting to the chase. Sideshow Bob goes on trial, and everything ended up being a ruse – THE ENTIRE THING. This means that Bob had chance after chance to do away with Bart and blew them all to deliberately elongate this ludicrous plan AND involve his family when he could have done his own dirty work. The most baffling part is the fact that he deliberately misquoted a line knowing Lisa would correct him – Yes, blowing a perfect chance to kill Bart for that plan to go into effect was so crucial! The writers may have been going for humorously absurd but instead accomplished wall-banging stupidity.
South Park “Ass Burgers” Stan has become so cynical that he sees and hears everything as poop. That would be enough to consider this a bad episode. His depression is mistaken for Asperger’s and he learns that Asperger’s is nothing but people like Stan who are cynical and think the world is turning to crap. While I don’t exactly expect sensitivity from Parker and Stone, but claiming that Asperger’s syndrome is just people who are too cynical and see the world like The Matrix is… it’s… Yeah, that’s part of the reason the joke does not work. It’s hard to figure out what angle they are coming from. Are they trying to be offensive and say that Asperger’s syndrome is just some phony bologna disease? Or are they trying to say people with Asperger’s really are on a smarter plane of intelligence than the rest of us? And these guys have done good episodes about mental conditions. GOOD episodes such as “Le Petite Tourette” or “Tonsil Trouble” which skewer our perceptions of illnesses such Tourette’s syndrome and AIDS while making clever social commentary. Also, as the name implies, there is a B-plot about Cartman selling hamburgers from his derriere. That is as painfully unfunny as it sounds.
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