Television is a strange medium, isn’t it? Certain shows bring with them a measure of hyperbole before they even debut, while other programs build a reputation that lasts long after they’re gone. And then there are the overrated series. They can be cult favorites or supposed classics, but in the long run, these shows bear the weight of critical or popular love that isn’t completely justified.
Here are the seven most overrated television programs of the last two decades. Enjoy!
Friends was a nice little show in its day, but unlike a true classic show, it just doesn’t hold up all these years later. Looking back at it, I don’t laugh nearly as much as I did during its original run. The only exception for me is Lisa Kudrow, whom I still love in scenes like this:
I have to admit, I was a fan of “Lost,” even though I didn’t get hooked on the show until the middle of the third season. The story of plane crash survivors on a mysterious island took viewers on a six-season ride full of twists and turns, flashbacks and flash forwards, with terrific acting and smart writing. It truly became appointment television, because fans couldn’t wait to see what happened next.
Alas, “Lost” collapsed under the weight of its own mythology, and the head-scratching ending left some fans who had devoted six seasons of their lives to the show a bit underwhelmed. One fan (whom you’ll meet at the bottom of this page) said that “Lost” “isn’t about the story; it’s about how the story is told.” Unfortunately, an unsatisfying ending left some devotees disappointed with the story itself. And that’s how a show you love can still be overrated.
Here’s a decent recap of the entire history of the show in three minutes from the fan whose quote I borrowed:
5. “The West Wing”
I actually know a few conservatives who like “The West Wing,” but it was a darling among the Left during the Bush years. In fact, Rush Limbaugh once said of the show:
Important to remember is that many liberals who live in Fantasyland really ended up believing that “The West Wing” was the real presidency. They were so disheartened, so unhappy with Bush that Martin Sheen actually became the president.
The hallmarks of the show were Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire dialogue and the fact that, the vast majority of the time, liberalism worked. For just about every conservative who had something to say, the presidential staff had a righteous retort that made conservatism look foolish.
For example, here’s liberal President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) hectoring a radio talk show host on the Bible with the same tropes the Left uses out of context time and time again:
Perhaps a little more partisan balance — or a little less earnest dialogue — might have made a difference. Watch a couple of episodes, and you’ll discover how Aaron Sorkin’s chatty liberalism wears thin pretty quickly. If you want to hear Sorkin’s writing at its best, check out the woefully underrated late ’90s comedy “Sports Night” instead.
4. “Family Guy”
Some shows try terribly hard to be so clever but fall short, and “Family Guy” is one of those. It aims to be a slightly subversive family comedy like “The Simpsons” but pales by comparison — especially to the glory days of Bart and his family. The characters are flat-out annoying and unlikable, and there’s nothing funny about them.
“Family Guy” also seems to reach for the type of satire that “South Park” does so well, yet the former cartoon merely offends with crude humor that has nothing of real substance to say. Even their “Star Wars” parodies are dumb.
Then again, it all makes sense when one realizes that “Family Guy” stems from the mind of the odious Seth MacFarlane, who has a strange cult following. But what good is a cult following if you can’t be funny or insightful? As with so many cult shows, “Family Guy” isn’t as good as the reputation its fans give it.
3. “The Walking Dead”
“The Walking Dead” must be the Plexus Slim of television programming. Apparently if you watch it, you have to post as much about it on social media as possible. The countdowns to new episodes. The memes. The breathless post-episode reactions. Good Lord, they’re all over the place!
Viewers act like this about a show that’s either truly innovative or high camp. “The Walking Dead” is neither; in fact, it falls somewhere in between, relying on shock after shock to sustain the drama. Some of the Southern accents are pretty bad too.
I probably shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, seeing as how the show pumps quite a bit of money into the economy around Atlanta, but I just don’t buy the fuss about “The Walking Dead” or understand the rabid fandom.
2. “The Big Bang Theory”
Here’s another show with a rabid following that I just don’t understand. “The Big Bang Theory” had a pretty good concept — a bunch of dorks and their hot neighbor — but for the life of me I just don’t understand how nasally voiced nerds making socially awkward jokes has held up for nine-plus seasons.
Maybe it’s because I don’t get most of the “Star Trek” references. Or maybe it’s because the promos for later episodes all feel so been-there-done-that. Or maybe it’s the broad caricatures that wear thin after too long. Whatever the reason, this show just doesn’t compute for me, and I’ll never understand why people think it’s so funny.
As a singer and a lover of music, I had such high hopes for “Glee” when it first debuted. Fox sold the show as a fun little musical about a school glee club and the lovable misfits who call it home. But then the show began pushing its agenda and didn’t let up for the rest of its run.
I enjoyed the first handful of episodes, but “Glee” lost me when the football team performed a dance to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” to make the gay kid who joined the team to impress his father feel at home.
I remember shouting, “Delay of game! You’re going to get a flag for delay of game!” at the screen. But, knowing the contempt the makers of the show displayed toward, well, pretty much anything traditional, I shouldn’t have been surprised. But ultimately, I think the agenda killed “Glee” — and the hype surrounding it.
Well, there you have ’em! Share your picks for overrated shows in the comments below.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.com / Ollyy