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Bad or mediocre shows with great leads

post #1 of 58
Thread Starter 

I think the king here is Dexter. The writing is often lazy or dumb, but Michael C. Hall is so great and charismatic that you can't take your eyes off of him. Jennifer Carpenter also really brought her A-Game this past season too. She deserves an Emmy nomination.

 

Monk. Again, the writing could be weak in this very cozy mystery series that owed a lot to Columbo, but Tony Shalhoub was excellent, alternating between being funny or moving with just a facial tic or gesture, reminding the audience that while what he's doing might be funny, Monk is in a lot of pain and it is not fun for him.

post #2 of 58

House was this at least part of the time. The show got very, very dumb eventually, but Laurie was always good.

 

You could probably fill this thread with failed one or even half season sitcoms from slumming comedians.

post #3 of 58
I nominate 24.
post #4 of 58
Dexter is the poster child for this thread. Good work, Cameron.

Might I put forward Californication? Same issues as Dexter. Showtime should own this thread. Weeds is another great option.
post #5 of 58

Sorry but Californication rules. It's juvenile, sure, but it has a consistantly clearer sense of itself than 24 or Dexter ever had.

And Weeds, even more so.

post #6 of 58
Castle should've ended with season two or three, but God damn do I love Nathan Fillion.
post #7 of 58

Yeah, Dexter and House are the kings of this thread. Large amounts of both series have been outright bad, were it not for the awesome performances of the leads.

 

Monk fits more in the mediocre slot. It's a perfectly ok, inoffensive show that gets elevated by the fact that Shaloub is so great.

 

Homeland is currently running with this title for me. Were it not for the fact that Danes and Lewis are doing fantastic work, that show would definitely not be in my viewing rotation.

post #8 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by commodorejohn View Post

Castle should've ended with season two or three, but God damn do I love Nathan Fillion.

 

Now that's a great choice. Seriously, can we not figure out a way to make that man a humongous star? A guy as funny, charming and charismatic as him should be doing bigger things than a bland procedural.

post #9 of 58

That awful "Protagonist with a personality glitch" also ran series Life starring Damian Lewis fits this thread to a fucking tee. It was Lewis' first big gig after he kicked unholy ass in Band Of Brothers & I stuck with this egregiously dumb show because I wanted to see the continuing adventures of Duck Winters.

 

The same goes for Kevin McKidd a few years ago after he ruled on Rome, he pissed that cache away with the admittedly weak but not terrible Journeyman.

post #10 of 58

I never watched "Lie to Me", but it's a mystery-of-the-week show on FOX, so I'll lazily assume it's bad. But it starred Tim Roth, who I'll naturally assume was great.

post #11 of 58
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Harford View Post

Dexter is the poster child for this thread. Good work, Cameron.
Might I put forward Californication? Same issues as Dexter. Showtime should own this thread. Weeds is another great option.

For awhile, the first three seasons where it would have had a GREAT ending to the show, Weeds really fired on all cylinders. Everyone was good and so was the writing.

 

Duchovny's great on Californication, but everyone else is such a dick that I had to jump ship because I hated them so much. But, I am also a San Diegan and we hate L.A.

post #12 of 58
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Decade View Post

That awful "Protagonist with a personality glitch" also ran series Life starring Damian Lewis fits this thread to a fucking tee. It was Lewis' first big gig after he kicked unholy ass in Band Of Brothers & I stuck with this egregiously dumb show because I wanted to see the continuing adventures of Duck Winters.

 

The same goes for Kevin McKidd a few years ago after he ruled on Rome, he pissed that cache away with the admittedly weak but not terrible Journeyman.


You take that back! Life was great.

 

But, I too, would like to see the further adventures of Duck Winters.

post #13 of 58

post #14 of 58
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ambler View Post


Whatever happened to Pam Dawber? She just seemed to kind of vanish after Mork and Mindy.

post #15 of 58

Pam Dawber's been married to Mark Harmon for over 20 years. She's livin' plush offa Summer School NCIS money.

post #16 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Decade View Post

Pam Dawber's been married to Mark Harmon for over 20 years. She's livin' plush offa Summer School NCIS money.

 

First thought: Did Art Decade just screw up CSI/NCIS joke?

Second Thought: Did I just doubt Art Decade?

Third Thought: Jesus, does CBS really think people would watch NCIS: Summer School?

 

Final thought: Ooh, a Kirstie Alley joke.

post #17 of 58

To actually contribute to the thread at hand:

 

Seth MacFarlane. The man is talented, charismatic, and has made a ton of money on a mostly terrible sets of shows. American Dad became much better when he stopped messing around with it. He does good work in other people's shows. Someone, find something for this man to do that would create a masterpiece.

post #18 of 58

I think it's telling that almost all of the examples here are crime procedurals. There's something about that genre that provides actors with material they can rise above.

post #19 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Decade View Post

That awful "Protagonist with a personality glitch" also ran series Life starring Damian Lewis fits this thread to a fucking tee. It was Lewis' first big gig after he kicked unholy ass in Band Of Brothers & I stuck with this egregiously dumb show because I wanted to see the continuing adventures of Duck Winters.

 

Saying this is why Santa won't be bringing you what you really want for Christmas.

post #20 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Decade View Post

That awful "Protagonist with a personality glitch" also ran series Life starring Damian Lewis fits this thread to a fucking tee. It was Lewis' first big gig after he kicked unholy ass in Band Of Brothers & I stuck with this egregiously dumb show because I wanted to see the continuing adventures of Duck Winters.

 

The same goes for Kevin McKidd a few years ago after he ruled on Rome, he pissed that cache away with the admittedly weak but not terrible Journeyman.

 

The weak Journeyman? Duck's next big gig being Life and not the celluloid holocaust that is Dreamcatcher?

post #21 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hammerhead View Post

I think it's telling that almost all of the examples here are crime procedurals. There's something about that genre that provides actors with material they can rise above.

 

It's a really easy type of show to do, and you can remake the same five episodes four times per season, air them on CBS, and no one will notice. And since it tends to make the leads gobs of money, it's easy to attract talent.

post #22 of 58

It takes a lot of effort to make a procedural less than mediocre. All the outright bad ones started off somewhat decent, even CSI: Miami. Shit, the original CSI was pretty cool when it first started.

 

It's an incredibly safe genre that is hard to fuck up. They're simple to write and can produce moderate entertainment with very low risk. Laurence Fishburne on CSI did kind of piss me off though, and his presence on Hannibal also does. Lose some damn weight and try and get more movie roles, Larry.

post #23 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by commodorejohn View Post

Castle should've ended with season two or three, but God damn do I love Nathan Fillion.

 

This season's been better since they more or less dropped The Epic Saga of Who Killed Beckett's Mom, and surprisingly it didn't jump the shark after Caskett finally fucked, but I watch the thing out of habit and because my girlfriend's hooked on it. But yeah, I came to it for the Fillion and stayed for the amusement. Was never a fan of the Serious Episodes. Since it went into syndication, looking back on the first episodes I'd forgotten Castle used to be much more of a dick.

post #24 of 58

Have we come up with a verdict on American Horror Story yet? It needs to be noted though that Jessica Lange is seriously great on it.

post #25 of 58

Ashes to Ashes. It never reached the heights of Life on Mars, and was eye-rolling at its worst but was enjoyable thanks to Keeley Hawes (Who started out shaky but overcame some terrible writing in the early episodes to develop a genuinely interesting, flawed heroine), and of course Phillip Glenister who, well... C'mon. Gene fookin' Hunt.

 

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post #26 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron Hughes View Post

For awhile, the first three seasons where it would have had a GREAT ending to the show, Weeds really fired on all cylinders. Everyone was good and so was the writing.

 

Duchovny's great on Californication, but everyone else is such a dick that I had to jump ship because I hated them so much. But, I am also a San Diegan and we hate L.A.

I really only got into the first season of weeds. I thought it was a pretty strong drama with comedic elements. Unfortunately the later seasons cranked up the improbably plot twists and "wacky" happenings because I feel they were pandering to what they perceived as stoner culture. I much preferred it when it was more character based and focused on Nancy as a realistic human being.

 

Mary Louise Parker is one of my favorite actresses, so I was sad to see the show become about Zooey Deschanel's crazed eskimo stalkers and stuff. I checked out at the end of season three.

 

Californication is fun, but I just feel that Duchovny is SO good that it kind of puts the writing to shame at times. That dude needs to be a bigger star.

post #27 of 58
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrTyres View Post

 

First thought: Did Art Decade just screw up CSI/NCIS joke?

Second Thought: Did I just doubt Art Decade?

Third Thought: Jesus, does CBS really think people would watch NCIS: Summer School?

 

Final thought: Ooh, a Kirstie Alley joke.

With that title? I so would.

post #28 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by avian View Post

Saying this is why Santa won't be bringing you what you really want for Christmas.

 

What, the return of the hours that I'd spent suffering through episodes of Life?

post #29 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron Hughes View Post


Whatever happened to Pam Dawber? She just seemed to kind of vanish after Mork and Mindy.

 

I see someone is unfamiliar with the family classic Stay Tuned!

post #30 of 58

Cameron Hughes, Pam Dawber starred in...My Sister Sam.  Her costar opened the door to her apartment and was shot dead by a psycho with a shotgun. 

post #31 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilTwin View Post

Have we come up with a verdict on American Horror Story yet? It needs to be noted though that Jessica Lange is seriously great on it.

 

I think that's the only thing I've heard about it at all.

post #32 of 58
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilTwin View Post

Have we come up with a verdict on American Horror Story yet? It needs to be noted though that Jessica Lange is seriously great on it.

It's wonderfully bat-shit insane, especially Asylum (evil Santa!), and Jessica Lange is the best part, giving a great performance.

post #33 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hammerhead View Post

I think it's telling that almost all of the examples here are crime procedurals. There's something about that genre that provides actors with material they can rise above.

 

Throw "Vegas" in there, too.  Obviously Michael Chiklis and Dennis Quaid, but the little brother deputy and his mob girlfriend have grown on me, too.  Just wish the cast was in a show on F/X or something.

 

Honestly, I bailed on it this season, but Scott Caan in "Hawaii 5-0" too.  You are onto something with your theory.

post #34 of 58

 Lange is even better in the second season of AHS. She is playing a character with depth and pathos, as opposed to Archie Bunker crossed with a wanna be southern belle. The show has gone from fun and twisted to actually disturbing.

post #35 of 58
Thread Starter 

The following are ensembles (except Highlander where Adrian Paul was clearly the star) without any real solid leads. Is Elena on Vampire Diaries considered its lead?

 

Here's a controversial one not many will agree on.

 

Leighton Meester on Gossip Girl

 

I genuinely liked the first three seasons and muddled through the rest. The conceit is over-privileged young people that try to act like adults. Most of the performances were bad (Chace Crawford was AWFUL) or mediocre (Blake Lively) or cheesy but awesome (Ed Westwick) but Leighton Meester really felt like a kid with a very old soul.

 

And then there's The Vampire Diaries. Before it got crazy and awesome in the middle of season two, Ian Somerhalder really carried the first and then half of the second season. It was great, whenever Stefan started acting like a tool, Damien showed up to clown him, smack him around and then maybe kill a totally innocent person.  It'll never be the next Buffy or even Supernatural (It's closest to Angel with its many flashbacks and vampire mythology, but never reaches even that level), but I watch it to see what will happen next and because Somerhalder is clearly having a blast.

 

Not the lead, but Peter Wingfield as Methos really carried Highlander, even though Adrian Paul was a decent action star on it.
 

post #36 of 58
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hammerhead View Post

I think it's telling that almost all of the examples here are crime procedurals. There's something about that genre that provides actors with material they can rise above.

Another one, Christopher Meloni (Who, lets not forget, is hilarious when given the chance, like in Harold an Kumar and Wet Hot American Summer) was often better than the material on SVU. MUCH better. The one with Matthew Modine as a rapist and killer that Stabler has to break, Rage, is fantastic.

 

L&O: Original Recipe usually ha good stories AND actors, but probably because they did it before everyone else on TV. I also think CSI was compelling for a long time because they did it first, but I do have a weird fascination with Caruso on CSI: Miami.

post #37 of 58

Holt McCallany on FX's Lights Out. Good (sometimes great) actor, tried really hard to make it work, show was 80% mehh.
 

post #38 of 58

I thought Lights Out was a great show, lots of Wire alum, and an awesome supporting turn from David Morse. The first season works great as a standalone story.

post #39 of 58
Thread Starter 

 Don Cheadle is really great in House of Lies. It's a great concept, the guys who come in to fix your company and its PR problems, it has no fucking excuse being so boring and dull, but Cheadle (and Kristen Bell) are great.  Ben Schwartz is so hilarious on Parks and Recreation that it's a crime his talent is being so wasted.

 

 I have a feeling that Liev Schrieber's upcoming Showtime series, Ray Donovan (What an exciting and eye-catching title!), about a Hollywood version of Michael Clayton, will also be bad with a great lead.
 

post #40 of 58

D.B. Sweeney on Strange Luck

post #41 of 58

Strange Luck was kind of intriguing. I feel like if it aired today it would be one of those shows that wobbles a bit on takeoff but eventually becomes really great. Back in the mid-90s, with TV having a somewhat lower bar, maybe not, but I still don't think it belongs in this category.
 

post #42 of 58

I'd probably put it one notch above mediocre for a solid supporting cast and some occasionally great writing, but Psych wouldn't be nearly as watchable if Roday and Hill didn't have such great chemistry. For me it falls into the same category as Beerfest, a movie that succeeds partly on merit but also in large part because everyone involves seems to be genuinely enjoying themselves and that makes it fun to watch. To be fair, I've only made it up thru Season 5, so the shtick may well have worn thin at this point. Except making fun of The Mentalist. That will NEVER stop being funny.

 

I'd also throw D'Onofrio, Erbe and Noth from Law & Order: CI in there as well. Setting aside the dumb criminal POV element, it's just so formulaic compared to the other L&O series, to the point of being Matlock-esque. By adhering to this Holmes/Watson dynamic, we just get the same repeated schtick of D'Onofrio brow-beating a suspect into blurting out a confession while Erbe looks on and barely chimes in. Swap in Noth for D'Onofrio and **** for Erbe and you've basically got the shows entire run. I think the three of them honestly deliver as much as they can, and there are some good character moments scatter throughout, but it's an uphill struggle against awful material.

post #43 of 58
Ed O Neil in Dragnet. He was great, but the hour long procedural was dull and lacking the humor of the original or even the film.
post #44 of 58

Don't remember his name (sounded German, if I remember correctly) but this guy from Hex was better than the show around him.

 

post #45 of 58

Ah, Fassbender... you're what Clive Owen could've been had he bothered to shave once in a while.

post #46 of 58

I don't think that Brimstone was mediocre but it never got the full run, sadly. But it was Glover that really elevated it above the norm. He matched Fichtner's Accountant from Drive Angry as something better than the material as written.

post #47 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilTwin View Post

Have we come up with a verdict on American Horror Story yet? It needs to be noted though that Jessica Lange is seriously great on it.

Apparently Season 2 is amazing but Season 1 certainly fits the criteria of the thread. The cast nailed it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Decade View Post

Ah, Fassbender... you're what Clive Owen could've been had he bothered to shave once in a while.

Hahaha. Though I do love seeing him look like hammered shit at awards shows.
post #48 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by dude hallenbeck View Post


Apparently Season 2 is amazing but Season 1 certainly fits the criteria of the thread. The cast nailed it.
Hahaha. Though I do love seeing him look like hammered shit at awards shows.

 

There's still two more eps to go but I'm confident in saying that AHS season 2 is legitimately good.   As for Lange, she is killing it on this show.   Here's proof...

 

post #49 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrTyres View Post

Ed O Neil in Dragnet. He was great, but the hour long procedural was dull and lacking the humor of the original or even the film.

 

 

The original was serious as a heart attack (which doesn't change the fact that it's funny TODAY but only in an ironic way). 

 

I thought Ethan Embry (? - he changed his last name for some reason) was OK in it as well, but yeah, the show's downfall was that it was SO SERIOUS and really had no hook that distinguished it from any other procedural. 

post #50 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilTwin View Post

Have we come up with a verdict on American Horror Story yet? It needs to be noted though that Jessica Lange is seriously great on it.

 

 

My own personal verdict is that the show is so fucking out there that it is beyond "bad" or "good" - for fuck's sake, this season Nazi doctors making mutants, a demonically possessed nun, babies abducted by aliens (well, sorta - it's complicated) are all TERTIARY storylines, and Al Swearengen as Rapey Claus only got one episode. 

 

 

God, that show is glorious. 

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