Spike’s Idiot Box: Trimming the Fat

As a gainfully employed, functioning, non-hermitic member of society, I’ve been finding it impossible to keep up with all the television shows I’d like to watch. As far as that goes, the good news is that enough time has passed for me to make some decisions about which new series I’m ready to give up on, and a lot are getting the axe. I still haven’t found time to start on some of the shows I really want to watch, like ‘Homeland’, ‘Masters of Sex’ or ‘Hello Ladies’. Hopefully, I can get in some good bingeing sessions with those soon. This week, I’ll start by culling the herd.


We Are Men‘ was cancelled by CBS after two episodes. I saw both of them, and I have to say that the show deserved its fate. Tony Shalhoub and Jerry O’Connell couldn’t redeem this ugly mess that seemed derivative of ‘The League’, only not funny and not as wonderfully crass.

Hostages‘ is simply not my cup of tea. Even though it has a great cast, I found the writing to be utterly absurd. It’s too hard to swallow, and with so many other great options for drama, I’m happy to be done with it. I much prefer its head-to-head competitor, ‘The Blacklist’.

I’ve decided to stop watching ‘Mom‘, the new Chuck Lorre sitcom on CBS. It’s not the worst of the new comedies out there, but the stories and the characters are just not compelling enough for me to tune in every week.

Ironside‘ is history for me as well. I gave it a second chance, but even though it ratcheted down the macho silliness a bit, it’s still bogged down with boring plots and uninteresting supporting characters.

Goodbye also to ‘Super Fun Night‘, ‘Welcome to the Family‘, and ‘Sean Saves the World‘. All of these probably sounded good on paper, but they’ve been executed poorly. To my way of thinking, the only one that stands a chance of survival is Sean, but even that is not very likely.

Welcome Back, Old Friends

American Horror Story: Coven‘ is everything it’s cracked up to be. My expectations were unrealistically high for this one, yet they were exceeded, somehow. The show has taken a completely different direction in style, substance and vibe, and it has a cohesion of narrative elements not seen in previous seasons. The talent pool is also mind-bogglingly deep. If you haven’t watched the first two seasons, you don’t really need to (although I highly recommend them). Each season stands on its own as a unique, independent storyline. Don’t expect high art. It’s absolute filth and complete trash, wildly perverted and has zero redeeming value. It’s obscene. It’s tasteless and destructive. I mean all of these things in the best possible way, of course.

Sons of Anarchy‘ is well into its sixth season. I was a bit leery of the show’s future after the first episode, which included a school shooting that made me worry that it was headed into Very Special Episode territory. As it turns out, that fear was unfounded. Despite a shaky start, I think this is shaping up to be the best season in quite a while, especially after the last two episodes. These included a Nazi massacre (it’s not a good season to be a Nazi – see also ‘Breaking Bad’), Otto taking out U.S. Marshall Toric in a grand suicidal gesture of violence, the murder of the pledges, SAMCRO getting out of the gun-running business, and the total destruction of the club headquarters. I still find Jax an unconvincing club leader. He looks and acts more like he should be playing the lead in an Axe body spray commercial than a violent motorcycle gang chief.

Parks and Recreation‘ remains delightful. In this season, Leslie has traveled to Europe to accept a leadership award, Ron and Diane have gotten married, Pawnee has absorbed neighboring Eagleton, and the characters have met their doppelgangers (of sorts) from that same city.

South Park‘ is a bit of an institution at this point. I’ve been happy so far with the new season, in which the gang has taken on the NSA, George Zimmerman, social networking and forensic documentaries (murder porn) on channels like Dicovery ID. In the last episode, we got to experience the pleasure of seeing the cartoon version of Zimmerman executed over and over again in an electric chair. What’s not to love about that?

Eastbound & Down‘ is back and just as funny as ever. Kenny Powers (full of pent-up suburban rage) quit his car rental clerk job when he got the opportunity to become a sports commentary panelist with a group of other former athletes. After an inauspicious and humiliating debut, Kenny has risen from the ashes to make it his own. The show is as vulgar, filthy and offensive as ever, and his new job presents plenty of potential for Powers to strut his nasty stuff.

The Good Wife‘ remains gripping, sophisticated fun. It’s one of the most stylish and involving episodic dramas on network television. This season, Alicia is caught up in a secretive revolt with Cary as they try to create their own firm with some of the other staff. She’s struggling to juggle her priorities and her split allegiances. Peter is the new governor, which adds a whole new level of political undertones to weekly proceedings. And the weekly topics du jour remain fascinating.

PBS’s ‘Frontline‘ provides some of the best investigative journalism and documentaries on television. This week, it kind of outdid itself with ‘League of Denial’, a look into the NFL‘s embarrassing and terrible handling of concussions and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), which causes dementia, depression and complete loss of self. The NFL should be ashamed of itself, and everyone should see this documentary (it’s currently streaming at the PBS website), particularly parents of children interested in football.

Middle of the Pack

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘ and ‘The League‘ are both back on FX’s spinoff channel FXX. These shows are both a bit long in the tooth at this point, but are still dependably funny, filthy fun.

In case you didn’t know, ‘COPS‘ has moved to Spike TV for its 26th season. There’s nothing new here. It’s the same old ‘COPS’, but I’ve considered this a guilty pleasure for decades now, and I still enjoy it in a rubbernecky, voyeuristic kind of way.

How I Met Your Mother‘ is in its final season, and honestly it’s about time. The show is still good for the occasional laugh, but it’s well past its sell-by date. The entire season takes place during the two days prior to Barney and Robin’s wedding, and presumably when Ted finally meets his future wife.

The Millers‘ got a lot of terrible reviews. Poor Will Arnett…he tries over and over to find a comedy worthy of him, but just can’t seem to do it. I have to say that I liked this show a bit more than most critics. It’s not great, but it has potential and a fine cast. It doesn’t have quite as many fart jokes as some have complained about (admittedly, none would be better), and the family relationships are ultimately sweet.

Other shows that are dependably good but fairly unremarkable include ‘The Big Bang Theory’, ‘Parenthood’, ‘The Simpsons’, ‘Bob’s Burgers’, ‘Boardwalk Empire’, ‘The Blacklist’, ‘New Girl’, ‘Top Chef: New Orleans’, ‘Modern Family’, ‘The Crazy Ones’, ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’, ‘The Goldbergs’, ‘Trophy Wife’, ‘Back In the Game’ and ‘The Michael J. Fox Show’.

Bottom of the Barrel

Saturday Night Live‘ is struggling after the mass exodus of talent last season. To be fair, the abundant cast of new players haven’t had time to find their mojo yet, but the show is still just not very funny. It hasn’t helped that, with the exception of Tina Fey, the hosts this season haven’t been very interesting either. I’m talking about the execrable Miley Cyrus and the boring Bruce Willis. I don’t know if I’ve had more than two or three laughs at all this season.

I caught a couple of episodes of ‘Two and a Half Men‘ this season, just out of morbid curiosity. If you’re wondering if the show is still as horrible as ever, the answer is an unequivocal YES. Probably more so.

2 Broke Girls‘ is a show I sometimes watch, but I always feel a little dirty after I do so. I can’t explain why I keep coming back to it, and I’m a bit embarrassed to even admit that I do. It’s terrible, of course, but I still find myself laughing at it – canned laughter and all. But I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

At this point, I’ve touched on most of the shows on my fall syllabus. Going forward, my comments will be a bit more episode-specific, and I’ll probably limit them to those that stand out as either good or bad, leaving the mediocre out of it for the most part.

As always, join the conversation in the Comments below!


  1. William Henley

    I honestly am surprised Two and a Half Men is still going. I actually like catching the reruns late at night, but to me, Charlie Sheen was the show, and the rest were just supporting actors. Charlie Sheen is a dick, as is his character on the show. I tried catching a couple of episodes after they replaced him, but the show sucks now. The show is also really starting to feel worn, and it has been on for so long, it should really be called Three Men and an Irate Little Mom now.

    Funny that longer running shows such as South Park and The Simpsons can still seem fresh all these years later (although this may be due to the fact that the characters don’t age).

  2. Michael Spike Steinbacher

    Two and a Half Men has definitely been helped by syndication. It’s still highly rated, and CBS is no doubt milking it for as much money as they can. Which I suppose is understandable. But the show is just garbage. I’m sorry, but Ashton Kutcher is truly horrible.
    You know what I miss about South Park? For a very long time they used to do Christmas specials every year. I can’t remember the last time they did one…but it must be around ten years or so.

  3. Michael Spike Steinbacher

    There are some others I’ve never watched that I’d like to give a try, as well. Such as Person of Interest, Scandal, and Nashville. I don’t watch any “comics” TV shows right now, though. So…

    • shawn

      You definitely need to watch Scandal. It is a highly entertaining show. You should also give Arrow a try, if your a comic reader there are lots of easter eggs to find.

  4. Super Fun Night was one of the Super Awfulest Shows I’ve ever seen. It was the epitome of train wrecks where things were going on on screen and you kind of suspected that nobody working on it knew what the hell they were doing.

  5. Bill

    No mention of Revolution? The show with the most unlikeable cast in TV history. I’d like to see the electricity come back just so they can be electrocuted.

  6. NJScorpio

    I’m amazed that SoA can keep up their forumal of betting more intense, more violent, and more crazy. I didn’t care much for the prior seasons’ story line of building up Rico just to have it wiped away by the CIA/Mexican cartel. I very much like the direction this season is heading, with the looming war with the Irish. I hope that this plays out, and isn’t just skirted around by some random agreement that sees everyone basically where they were in the start of the season.

  7. Michael Spike Steinbacher

    Bill – I tried Revolution last year. After a few episodes, I ran screaming.
    NJScorpio – I pretty much agree with your SoA assessment. Fingers crossed that they can keep the momentum up.

  8. Eric

    Is it just me. I think Person of Interest should for sure be on the Welcome Back Old Friends list. That show is such a good show and is always entertaining.

  9. Michael Spike Steinbacher

    When that show started, I thought it had no chance. But from what I’ve heard, it’s consistently good. I wish I had started it…at 50 episodes, that would require a lot of time. Alas…it’s not streaming anywhere that I’m aware of.

  10. Tom

    The Masters of Sex seems to be really good. I’ve been let down by It’s Always Sunny. There have only been about 2-3 good episodes this season. Homeland started off slow but the third episode was so weird, but very interesting.

    The new cast of SNL actually seems funny as their two skits these have easily been the best ones. But it is indeed still terrible as it really has always been since the Will Ferrell days.

  11. Michael Spike Steinbacher

    In a way, I’m kind of glad I haven’t started Masters of Sex or Homeland yet. Simply because I’m fairly sure I’ll really like them and can plan for some serious binge-fests accordingly.

    Sunny is kind of disappointing in a way, but it’s been slowly getting worse over the past few years, anyway. I still manage to find some enjoyment in it. But there’s a lot to be said for going out on top. I DID love that episode with the Rashomon-like fantasies from the perspective of each character during the convenience store robbery.

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