Sighting The Shark: When Good Shows Have Bad Plots
For the most part, we here at the Red Room like to focus on the positive. We rarely dip into what is bad about television and try to focus on what is good. But every show (except The Wire) has a dip at some point. It is inevitable. This article is not about jumping the shark. I would call this more of a shark sighting. Nothing more than a bad idea in a great show that just didn't pan out as the writers intended. It is like when you pull out that old High School yearbook and see your favorite outfit and wonder...Why? SPOILER ALERT. THESE ARE PLOT POINTS THAT GIVE STORIES AWAY.
SIGHTING THE SHARK
1. Alias - Bad Francie. Second half of Season 2. I am in the midst of re-watching Alias for the 3rd time. As more time goes by, I am pretty sure that Alias is going to land in my all time top 10 shows. It is the best JJ Abrams show and is a great piece of long form story telling. Along the way to five years of spying there are ups and downs but nothing as down as Bad Francie. This is such an unintentional piece of comic/bad acting. I don't know if we have the directors to blame or this was just more than Merrin Dungey could pull out of her Lee Strasberg bag of tricks. She plays Franice, Sydney's room mate that is replaced by a double. From this point on she acts like she is playing a robot. My children and I laughed hysterically when someone thanked her and she said, "You're Welcome" like she was saying, "One million dollars" in Austin Powers. Every time she hugs Jennifer Gardner, she turns her face from a smile to a soap opera villain and then back as the hug ends. Who ever allowed this level of bad acting and bad story telling needs to be stuck in a Rambaldi torture device.
2. Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Little sister Dawn - Episode titled Buffy Vs Dracula - Season 5. In the season premiere of the fifth season of Buffy, she comes home to find a new sister that we never knew about. Everyone on the show acts like she has been there all the time. This is so off-putting to the audience that she was universally hated. In later episodes, you find out she is a spell and that is why everyone was tricked into thinking she always existed. It is kind of a cool idea but once they discover this, the writers keep her on the show. This was a mistake because wasn't the cool point to make fun of how other shows just bring on a younger person to keep their demographic young. But then by actually keeping her on the show, they actually went after a younger demographic. So gain points for playing a cool trick, then lose points by making us suffer through it for 3 years.
3. Gilmore Girls - Lorelai chooses Chris over Luke. Episode titled Partings - Season 6 Finale. For five long years they toyed with Luke's heart. Lorelai uses him so badly that he almost because a shell of a character. In season 6, they get them together and then break them apart so Lorelai can choose Rory's dad, yet again. At this late day in the series we are too invested in these characters to do that to them. In a soap opera you can pull people back and forth, but in a character driven show we feel for them too deeply for this bad choice. I never enjoyed an episode again of this once great show.
4. The Practice - Rebecca becomes a lawyer. Episode titled Passing Go - Season 3 Premiere. When out of no where the secretary of Donnell, Young, Frutt, and Dole gets a letter that she has passed night school and is now a lawyer is so dumb you just know it has actor ego written all over it. Lisa Gay Hamilton was cast as the secretary and she had a descent part but making her a lawyer over the summer and letting us believe she studied for the bar without one of these lawyers noticing makes me think Lisa said she wanted a bigger part. I have no proof of that but then again, I never went to law school over a summer hiatus. (CHECK OUT MY TRIBUTE TO DAVID E KELLEY)
5. Twin Peaks - James meets Evelyn. Episode 2.11 Season 2. Honestly, I wanted to pick another plot point from Twin Peaks Season 2 because this plot point has been dealt with so many times it's cliche but this story line is the ultimate bonehead idea. I will say no more on the subject but it HAD to be on the list. (CHECK OUT OUR TWIN PEAKS PAGE HERE)
6. The Sopranos - A computer plays Livia Soprano. Episode titled Proshai, Livushka. Season 3. There is nothing that can be done about the passing of an actor on a television series. Losing someone like Nancy Marchand is a loss no series could overcome but having her come back for another couple of scenes with Tony was an awful idea. The audience understands she is dead. The same scenes could have been acted over the phone with just Tony. But to use old footage where her hair changes shape and style during the scene is unforgivable. Her lines don't even make sense to what Tony says. One of the worst ideas ever. (CHECK OUT OUR SOPRANOS PODCAST HERE)
7. Sports Night - Dana makes Casey date. Episode titled When Something Wicked This Way Comes. Season 2. For a season we watch Casey McCall and Dana Whitaker almost get together but it's never the right time. When all the stars align in the season 1 finale we await the season 2 opener with excitement. But it is the second episode of season 2 that Dana tells Casey she will not date him until he has casually dated others. Have writers of TV shows just never been in love before? When you love someone, you don't want them to have sweet, sweet lovin' with a stranger at a bar. This is right after the other great couple, Natalie and Jeremy, break up in the season 2 premiere. Bad idea from one of the best writers alive, Aaron Sorkin.
8. Bones - They admit love and don't get together. Episode titled The Parts in the Sum of the Whole - Season 5. This was the last episode of Bones I ever watched. So, maybe for me the show didn't just sight the shark. This list is starting to have an unintentional theme as again we have two grown ups say I love you and not get together. Where is this happening? Tons of people never profess their love to others but no one does and the other person says I feel the same and they don't get together. If that happened as much as it has on this list, our species would have died out by now. Bones was my favorite show for a long time but to me, this ruined Booth as a character. He lived by his heart. I just found this end scene totally unbelievable. And before Bones fans yell at me, I know they got together later on, this was just a sighting.
9. Downton Abbey - Mr. Bates is found Guilty. Episode 15. I have gladly accepted that this show is a soap. But finding him guilty of murder was going a bit far. In the first season it was the small things that made us care for Bates and Anna. A stolen moment, a hurtful comment, a trip of the cane. In 1919 if a servant was found guilty of Murder, they would simply hang him and that would be that. There wasn't the appeals courts and DNA evidence to over turn something like that. It is a bad idea in a great show. I understand that if they are happy, there is no show, but why not keep them off balance with the politics in the house. They have shown us over and over that even the servants think there is a hierarchy. So how is the fact that a valet is married to a ladies maid add conflict to their marriage? Keeping it simple keeps us engaged.
So those are some Sighting The Shark moments. The beauty of television is there is always another episode next week to fix any mistakes that are made. I don't judge these mistakes because these are all great shows on this list. But could you now make Sighting The Shark a phenomenon so The Red Room can become famous for it because I like the phrase.
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