What Was the Worst TV Show This Season?

Plus which dramas and comedies stole our hearts.

With the announcements from television networks about their upcoming seasons, it is the official end to the 2011-2012 TV season. And thank the baby Jesus that it’s over. This TV season was one of the most underwhelming and frustrating seasons in years. Shows that were to be the next big thing (Terra Nova, Alcatraz) fizzled. Shows that were to redefine TV (Smash) ended up being been-there-done-that melodrama. Yes, there were a few bright spots (New Girl) and pleasant surprises (Suburgatory). But many shows felt like networks’ desperate attempts to fill time (¡Rob!, How to be a Gentleman).

As we look back over the season, here are my picks for the winners and losers.

Winners of the 2011-2012 TV Season

New Girl’s Schmidt

When Fox began promo-ing New Girl, it was all Zooey Deschanel, all the time. But as the show progressed, another character started getting the attention: the forever douchey yet equally charming Schmidt, played by Max Greenfield. With great writing and great acting, Schmidt has become one of the breakout characters of the TV season. (“We built this Schmidty on Tootsie Rolls.”)

Parks and Recreation

The smartest, sweetest, funniest, most consistent comedy on TV. Period.

Whitney Cummings

Say what you will about Whitney Cumming’s critically lambasted Whitney (NBC) and the not-funny-enough 2 Broke Girls (CBS); both shows were just picked up for second seasons.

Cougar Town

It was a stressful year for the fans of Cougar Town (ABC). Not on the fall schedule and not initially announced for spring, the quirky, low-rated show finally returned in February—but cancellation still seemed imminent. Thankfully, the show will move to TBS and air its 4th season in early 2013.

HBO

This past month of HBO programming has (almost) made us forget about the luckless series Luck—which saw low ratings and the death of three horses on set—from earlier this season. The nerdtastic Game of Thrones (or as a friend calls it, Game of Boobies), the much-ballyhooed Girls, and the uncomfortably hilarious Veep, keep many away from network TV on Sunday late nights.

ABC Wednesday comedy line-up

The Middle. Suburgatory. Modern Family. Happy Endings. Four very different shows, but a very funny night of television.

Losers of the 2011-2012 TV Season

Mad Men Wannabes

They tried as hard as they could. But Pan Am (ABC) and The Playboy Club (NBC) were all style, but no substance. (Both were cancelled.)

NBC

Why certain shows are picked up and supported, while others are left to flail is a mystery to me. Take the atrocious Whitney, for example, which just got renewed for a second season. Why did this subpar show receive full support from NBC, while the charming Bent and Best Friends Forever were left to wither on the vine? We’ll never know.

ABC

Perhaps GCB didn’t get out of the gate nearly as fast as ABC had hoped, but in its short run, it had already amassed a fervent following. With pitch perfect performances (especially from Annie Potts and Kirstin Chenoweth) and over-the-top, campy situations, it was a show that many talked about (and quoted). Too bad ABC decided to cancel. With time, it could have been a hit.

Fox

It was a disastrous year for Fox. Of eight new shows, six were cancelled. (Only New Girl and Touch will see a second season.) What makes this even more devastating is the pedigree of these failed shows: Terra Nova (Steven Spielberg), Alcatraz (J. J. Abrams), and the cartoons Allen Gregory (Jonah Hill) and Napoleon Dynamite.

Toss-Ups of the 2011-2012 TV Season

Smash

Smash could be a great, behind-the-scenes look at the New York theater world. Instead, it is often mediocre soap opera that focuses more on overwrought plotlines than theatrical artistry. It also gave us the most annoying, obnoxious, poorly developed character of this and many other TV seasons: Ellis.

American Idol

There is no denying the continued staying power of the reality brand (each week still brings millions of viewers). But with The Voice and other voice competitions, how much longer can Idol remain relevant?

The Walking Dead

For a show about zombies, it was one boring season.

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  • Mark Cofta

    I would call “Community” a winner, for its innovative culture commentary and its tight plots,snappy Seinfeldian dialogue, and great ensemble cast, but it apparently hasn’t won much of an audience. Whitney Cummings won the TV lottery (ka-ching!), but her shows are standard situation comedy punchline dreck.

  • suburbdog1

    “Community” and “Happy Endings” are great, funny, well acted shows. Can’t stand “New Girl” mainly because I’m sick of the media trying to tell me that Zooey Deschanel is cute, quirky and funny. She is none of the above. She’s a weirdo, or at best the poster child for ADD. To make matters worse, the acting is so bad on New Girl that you are praying that a meteor will come crashing into their apartment and take away these whiny, “My life sucks so bad because I’m good looking” characters. Damon Wayan’s Jr was smart to leave New Girl for Happy Endings – he saw the writing on the wall.