November 1, 2017

The shows you hated but couldn't stop watching

Interesting article last week at The Ringer about the shows you hate yourself most for having watched, or, put another way, the shows that caused you to realize that the time spent watching them was time you'd never have back. In many respects, my journey into the heart of classic television was because of this experience; as I became more and more fed-up (i.e. angry) with the shows I had been watching, I started to invest more and more time building a library of shows that I was pretty sure weren't going to raise my blood pressure by another twenty points.

In some cases, the shows were ones I was familiar with and knew I was going to like: The Fugitive, Perry Mason, Hawaii Five-O, The Prisoner. Others, however were either shows I'd never watched (Naked City, Breaking Point) or programs that I remembered from growing up but hadn't really paid that much attention to (The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Peter Gunn); some, like the British drama The Human Jungle, I'd never even heard of until I started going down rabbit holes. Because for the most part I choose my own programming, it's hard to say that I have a show that, in retrospect, I'd consider a total waste of time. The closest I've come to that, however, is probably in the third season of Route 66.

Route 66 was a blind buy for me; of course I'd heard of the show, was familiar with the stars, knew the premise. Until I bought season one, though, I'd not actually seen any episodes. This isn't new to fans of classic television; we often depend on recommendations from others as to shows we might be interested in, and Route 66 was one of the more acclaimed shows out there. For me, the breaking point came with the departure of co-star George Maharis in the middle of season three. He and Martin Milner had spent more than two years traveling the USA in their Corvette, meeting interesting people and getting themselves involved in even more interesting situations, not all of them positive ones. I'd gotten more and more in the habit of muttering, under my breath, "Don't go there. Turn around and get out of town right now!" as they got involved in yet another affair that was really none of their business, one which they'd soon regret, after which they'd make some sanctimonious point.

As my wife pointed out, this was the whole premise of the series. "They're looking for adventure," she said. "They're not going anywhere in particular - why not get involved?" This was true, particularly since if Tod and Buz started playing it safe, Route 66 would soon become as interesting to the general public as one of those nature shows on PBS (no offense to nature fans out there). I might have had some misgivings, but I figured I could live with it.

When Maharis left the series, though, something happened. Until Glenn Corbett came on the scene as Maharis' replacement, Milner was left to carry the show by himself. It was true that he was probably the better actor of the two, and certainly the more professional (if some of the backstage stories can be believed), but without Buz to provide a certain balance, Tod came across as - let's be honest here - something of a prick, impetuous and with a chip on his shoulder, spoiling for fights, convinced that his answers were the best. It was at that point that I started working on other projects while the show was on, something I generally don't do when I'm watching a DVD. (After all, if I just wasn't in the mood, why not save it for another time?) It was as if I simply wanted to get it over with. When, in Corbett's first episode, Buz' character got into what I saw as a needless fight with him, I gave up completely. From that point on, Route 66 went on hiatus, and stayed there for more than a year. I wouldn't have called the past couple of years watching it a waste of time, but it was time to find something "better" to watch.

Eventually, as we cycled through our Friday night lineup, a couple other series we'd been watching came to an end, and it was time to reevaluate Route 66. To tell the truth, my main motivation was that 1) we'd already invested so much time, it was a shame to let it go to waste, and 2) I'd already spent the money on season three, so I might as well finish it, even if I decided against season four. So we went back and wrapped up the last half of the season. It did improve, somewhat; I actually came to view Corbett's character as more interesting and likable than Milner's, although they were basically too much alike to provide the dynamics required for the show to succeed. When the season ended, I felt as if I'd at least done my due diligence.

Now, as I mentioned, there is one more season to go, although most everyone agrees that Route 66 should have wrapped it up after season three. We haven't gotten it yet, and if there's any advantage to having waited this long, it would be because there's a better chance of finding it on eBay for less money. (We tried watching the streaming version on Shout! TV, but the signal kept buffering, so that's not the answer.) It's only 23 episodes, after all.

What about you out there? Are there any shows you've watched, either from the classic era or today, that have sucked the life out of you, that make you think you've wasted all that time for nothing?    TV  


  1. The last two seasons of "12 O'Clock High." Robert Lansing was the steeled, lonely leader of the 8th Army Air Corps who put everyone on his shoulders and flew them across the English Channel. Paul Burke, a strong actor in his own right, replaced him in season 2 and was given the part of an impetuous, spoiled son of a general who Lansing's character had to straighten out in the premiere episode of the series. This is who you replace Lansing with? My friends and I stopped watching the series after Season 1...Our junior high belonged to "Combat" and "Hogan's Heroes" after that....keep in mind that most of our fathers were in WW2, mine in the 8th Air Force.

  2. A long time a go I made the decision when a tv show goes sour for me I'm done. Otherwise it's just Soma wasting my life instead of doing something more interesting.

  3. For (somewhat) current TV shows - "Revenge" - great premise, strong cast, but the show was over as soon as the protagonist achieved her goal, so they stretched the story out in ridiculous ways over 4 seasons - and then completely up-ended their own premise in the last season.

    From the classic era - I can't say I felt my time on Gilligan's Island was well spent.

  4. I've watched Glenn Corbett in many different roles over the years, and he is tied with Bob Dowdell as the most boring, wooden actor I have ever seen on television.

  5. In the modern era, every moment I spent watching "The Office" after Steve Carell left is a moment I spent wondering "why?" (Especially during the James Spader/Will Ferrell episodes.) I'll always wish they'd called it a series with Jim and Pam's wedding; once that sweet and aching yearning at the heart of that show was resolved, it was never the same.

    On the other hand, while a lot of people run down the color episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show," I've been known to enjoy them more than I should, watching Increasingly Uptight Andy become bossier and more short-tempered with each season, wacky misunderstandings making Helen Crump blow her top as predictably as Old Faithful, the locals turning into eccentric soap-opera characters, and so on.

    1. Some TV shows should have remained black-and-white. Both "The Andy Griffith Show" and "The Fugitive" suffered after the transition to color.

  6. With me it was My Mother the Car. Yecch! Like many of you, I had this childhood memory of a certain episode when I was 7 years old. It was one where they went from one phone to the other in their house and I was amazed anyone had that many telephones.

    I've been a nut about telephones since childhood and collect them today and I kept thinking about that episode, so I bought the DVD set. You would just know it turned out to be the very last episode of the series, so I watched all that whole year of awful shows, many of them with just about the same tired plot with Avery Schreiber trying to steal the car, and there at the end was the show I remembered. Not worth it.

    Anyone want a DVD set of My Mother the Car?

  7. I apologize for not answering your question in your post, but I would like to comment on the 4th season of Route 66. I do agree with the critical consensus that season 4 is the weakest.
    However, throughout the series I enjoyed the location shooting and in season 4 they produced 3 episodes in Minnesota. As a life long resident of that particular state I found them fun to watch.
    I may be passing on a tidbit of information you are already aware of regarding the series, but I thought I would make note of it, since you currently reside in the land of 10,000 lakes and have yet not seen the final season of Route 66.
    At any rate, this gives me the opportunity to say that I enjoy reading your blog.
    - Todd

  8. The last season of Route 66 was an unlikely trip toward the U.S.'s most unforgettable highway.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!