Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Jenn's Pick: 5 Shows I've Stopped Watching This Season, and Why

A few years ago, it used to be rare that I would give up on television shows. I would stick them out, no matter how terrible, because I was determined to be a completionist and watch the show from start to finish. So I watched Glee with the kind of snark only a person who has watched a lot of Glee can develop. I watched Smash, long after it fell into the category of “abysmal” in terms of writing. I kept chugging through Community even when it began its slow decline into absurdity. 

But as I’ve grown, I’ve realized something: you shouldn’t watch bad television just for the sake of live-tweeting it, or because everyone else is watching. There are far too many good shows that can be watched in the space of time in which it takes you to watch the bad ones.

So this year, I shoved aside more television shows than usual (more than are even on this list!) in order to embrace new ones: gems like Daredevil and Master of None and The Magicians and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. There are five shows in particular that I’ve stopped watching this season. Shows that I used to love, and whose stories and characters used to captivate me. I’ll discuss why, exactly, I’ve stopped watching each of these. And feel free to hit up the comments with shows you’ve stopped watching this year, too. (And we’ll even have a special roundtable soon with shows that, over the years, our staff has seen sharply decline.)

Let’s get started!

5. The Mindy Project (previously on FOX, now on Hulu)

I watched the first episode or two of The Mindy Project when it began its Hulu run. And then... I stopped. I had been an avid fan of the series during its second season, and had re-watched the show’s first year in order to garner more appreciation for it. But then, something began to subtly shift in season three, and it’s taken until the Hulu series for most people to pick up what I’ve noticed for years: Danny is a horrible person. Back when season three was airing, I noticed a pretty disturbing pattern on the show: Danny would insult Mindy, break her trust, or do something in order to hurt her; Mindy would walk away; Danny would make a ~grand romantic gesture~; Mindy and Danny would reconcile. If you watch most of the episodes through that lens, you’ll realize that the show began to subtly create this break in their relationship — a little fissure, if you will — in which Danny was constantly the one in the wrong, and never learned anything about his behavior.

The way that he talked to Mindy and about her was generally pretty horrible. He mistreated her and she (for the most part) always forgave him when he proved, at the episode’s end, how much he cared about her. Danny was never my favorite character, but for a while, he was redeemable. As The Mindy Project has progressed, everything about him that was endearing has been slowly chipped away. And what was left was a problematic male romantic lead who manipulated and used the woman he supposedly loved, and she forgave him. After the first episode on Hulu, I stopped watching the show. I couldn’t root for Danny and Mindy’s love story anymore, because it was toxic.

And, as I’ve been reading about the show from various friends and critics, it appears that I escaped at just the right time. Now, more and more people are realizing what a horrible human Danny is and the show isn’t shying away from that. Good job, at least, on the part of the writers to acknowledge that the character’s actions are problematic and — in some cases — totally inexcusable. I just wish the show would have realized that last season. Maybe I would have stuck around.

4. Supergirl (CBS)

I really tried to get into Supergirl. I did. I adore Melissa Benoist. I think Jeremy Jordan and Mehcad Brooks are endearing. Callista Flockhart is fun, and the supporting cast (including Chyler Leigh) is great. But there was just something about the show that didn’t click or hook me. I never was able to watch it live (my Monday night television allegiance always swayed toward The CW), and perhaps catching up two episodes at a time on my DVR wasn’t beneficial.

But I think what really clinched it for me was the fact that the show’s not exactly sure what it is yet. Is it light-hearted and fun? Does it care about plot holes? Does it care about characters discovering Kara’s secret? (Okay, the whole retconning Cat discovering Supergirl’s identity as Kara was absurd, and maddeningly frustrating.) In spite of its charismatic lead female character, did the show care enough about its women to keep me hooked? Was I invested in the love triangle (er, square)? I’m not sure the answers to any of those questions. Supergirl herself is great and I think that Melissa Benoist is the kind of actor that Grant Gustin is — where she can automatically endear herself to anyone because of how talented and bright she is.

And yet, was that enough to keep me watching each week? No. I’ve fallen so far behind on the show, only tuning in to see the crossover with The Flash’s Barry Allen. I don’t quite know why I stopped watching Supergirl, but I know that I don’t feel as if I’m missing anything revolutionary by not watching.

Maybe that’s the problem.

3. The Flash (The CW)

Guys, I loved the first season of The Flash. I absolutely loved the introduction to Barry Allen on Arrow (and I’m not going to lie, there’s a part of me that still ships Barry/Felicity because JUST THINK OF THEIR GENIUS, HAPPY BABIES). But this show’s slow decline in season two (beware, everyone, of the dreaded sophomore slump) has led me to stop watching it temporarily, perhaps permanently. And the worst part is that I can’t really pinpoint WHY I stopped watching the show. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was accidental. I just fell behind on episodes when New Girl returned in the same time slot, and I haven’t had the desire to catch up since then.

Deb’s weekly reviews of The Flash, in fact, pretty much tell me all I need to or want to know about the series and its characters. That’s kind of problematic, if you feel like you don’t need to watch an episode because you’re not missing anything. And maybe that’s it — this season I don’t feel like I’m missing anything spectacular if I skip the show. Last season, the series packed all the punches: emotional, comedic, villain-of-the-week, insane special effects. And this season, I just don’t feel like I’m as invested in Barry’s journey or the journey of any of the other characters. It feels like The Flash got tangled up in the stories it wanted to tell, and is trying to tell them all, to little success.

I’ll admit it: in comparison to Arrow, last season of The Flash was the thing I counted on to be my saving grace. I would watch Oliver act absolutely absurd and wildly out-of-character, but then take solace in the knowledge that Barry Allen could restore my faith in comic book superheroes the following Tuesday. Barry, however, has become less and less dependable this season for that (and I desperately needed him to be because we all know this season of Arrow is not my favorite thing in the world either).

I don’t know exactly what changed. I wish I could pinpoint the exact moment I decided to stop bothering catching up on The Flash, but I truly can’t. And perhaps that’s the problem: the show just became uninteresting to me, so I didn’t WANT to catch up. It somehow lost its spark.

It’s odd, but it’s what managed to happen. Sorry, The Flash. I really am.

2. Jane the Virgin (The CW)

The fact that I’ve actively stopped watching Jane the Virgin makes me really sad. Because I absolutely adored this show in its first season. It was brilliant, it was funny, and it was soap-y and melodramatic in a way that was completely and totally endearing and fit for the genre. The show always focused on Jane first and foremost, and her relationships with the women in her life. This show might have appeared to have been an ensemble, but it was always about Jane first. And this season, Jane the Virgin sacrificed a lot of that for the sake of a love triangle.

Don’t get me wrong: I love that the show managed to focus on a love triangle in the first season without making it overtly so. I genuinely didn’t feel like I was trudging through a Rafael/Jane, Michael/Jane soap opera every other week. Things felt more organic in season one — relationships included. The problem is that Jane the Virgin always worked best when there was this sort of tension between the things Jane wanted and the things Jane needed. It did an excellent job of that in season one, first with her unexpected pregnancy, and then with her relationships, and then with her family, and finally with her schooling. That was what made Jane a compelling lead character. She was relatable because she struggled and did so with grace.

Let me first preface this next part by saying that I am not Team Michael. At all. But the decision for the show to pursue Michael/Jane as (assumedly, since I’ve stopped watching) endgame is problematic to me because of Michael’s character. The whole “I’m just such a gosh darn nice guy” trope is irritating, at best, and unrealistic at worst. Michael has so few flaws that it’s unbelievable. And my problem was always that Michael was presented as the comfortable option – he was the one Jane knew the longest. Heck, he was pretty much a part of her family. Rafael, in contrast, seemed like the worst option in the world. Jane barely knew him. He had a past! He lied! GASP. The more Jane the Virgin delved into the love triangle, the more they purposefully skewed toward Michael because of the fact that the show basically gave us no reason to believe Michael had flaws.

Until his anger issues. Until his fight with Rafael ended with Mateo getting significantly hurt. That should have been the end of Michael/Jane forever. I don’t really care who you are or what you claim, but if your actions caused the injury of my child, I’m not letting you back into my life. Because anger issues aren’t things that magically disappear within a few months or can just be absolved without consequences. And yes, Michael did have consequences to his actions but also... did he really? Wasn’t Michael — in spite of all of that — still elevated for the sake of villainizing Rafael? So Michael’s fight wasn’t REALLY bad, because Rafael lied in the first place.

That’s where the show pretty much lost me.

I’m all for complex characters, and I don’t really care if the shows I watch set up different endgames than I would prefer in terms of romance. What I do mind, however, is when one character is presented as the perfect option for Jane without any explanation as to why. I don’t care about Michael. At all. He’s boring and bland and apparently even his flaws (anger issues) aren’t even HIS fault. Meanwhile, Rafael is — by contrast — presented to be a horrible option for Jane. The show set up the two as equals in the way they treated her in season one, and — very quickly afterward — made sure that it tore down any sort of equality between them. The playing field, essentially, was never level. The writers just made us think that it was.

Ship issues aside, the characters I cared about suffered as a result of the uneven writing in season two. I stopped watching the show months ago and haven’t — as with most of the shows on this list — felt like I’ve missed out on anything stellar since. This once-promising show has slipped into a decline and I’m left clutching the beautiful little series I once loved as a result.

1. The Blacklist (NBC)

If any show on this list fell fastest into a steep decline, it would be The Blacklist. In the first season, the show struggled a lot to set up its premise and establish itself as something other than “just another procedural on network television.” The presence of James Spader greatly added that much-needed difference. And the relationship between Red and Lizzie was always the crux of the show. Even when Elizabeth Keen wasn’t at her best (or, more accurately, the writing of her character), Red and Lizzie’s relationship was the thing that made sense. It separated The Blacklist from most other procedurals out there.

But, quite quickly, The Blacklist began to decline. It focused far too much on asking a billion questions and only ever providing one answer for every one hundred. That was maddeningly frustrating to watch, so I fell off here and there in keeping up with episodes. The overarching mystery of Red and Lizzie’s relationship kept me engaged, and when we finally discovered her identity, I felt satisfied. Moreover, the show’s decision to shake things up by having Lizzie on the run with Red was the kind of refreshing change of pace (and scenery) that the show desperately needed. For a while, the show began to climb again. But then, with the reappearance of Tom and focus on a new big conspiracy, the plot threads that the writers had left dangling resurfaced in wholly frustrating ways.

The fracturing of Liz’s agency as a character is pretty much the point in time where I stopped watching the show. I cared about Liz as a character when she was strong and taking charge of her own destiny. In the first season, that happened a lot. She was the one with the power. But over the years, The Blacklist has become less and less about Liz having any sort of power or control, and more about things just happening around her and to her. That’s not only difficult to watch as a female viewer, but deeply problematic in the construction of a heroine. You can’t create a character, strip her of her free will, and expect audiences to relate to or care about her.

That’s what happened on The Blacklist. And nothing — not even James Spader’s brilliant scenery chewing — has brought me back since.

What shows have you stopped watching this season, and why?


  1. I'm with you on Supergirl. Benoist is really captivating, but I can't stop thinking of the Johansson Black Widow parody on SNL when I watch it. Ther is a valid female super hero storyline that needs to be on television, but too often Supergirl is too corny and sweet to pull it off.

    I struggle with Flash in S2, and I think part of it is the evolution of Barry, and how the show keeps dangling hope out of reach. S1 always tried to maintain a since of hope, but S2 has been darker, and as important as it is in storytelling, it has just looked awkward on Barry.

    Blacklist has the longevity problem. They have outrun the original premise of the show, and they have struggled to re-establish a new dynamic that works. Lots of shows work from this list formula (S1 Arrow, Blacklist, Blindspot are the obvious current shows), but the problem always comes back to the end of the list or the end of the list as a productive structure to resolve problems.

    Probably the network shows, Gotham has been least watched. I have shows I watch to fill voids, but Gotham is the one I use last, and it probably has to do with the darkening of Gordon and the crazy of Barbara. These attempts retell canon is always going to be problematic because being original and retelling a story are hard to pull off. Better call Saul seems to be doing it, but I am not a regular on that show. It is more of a binge experience.

    On Netflix, its Orange is the New Black is off my list. There is just something repetitive about it in S2 that I just couldn't enjoy. Yes, in real life people repeat mistakes. In on demand television, it is, at best, a rerun, exploitive, and disappointing.

    I am hoping that Flash gets back on a brighter path, but Legends of Tomorrow, which I seem to be watching out of spite, and Arrow are showing me signs that it will just get worse.

    I have picked up a few shows though. 12 Monkeys, the Marvel products on Netflix, and the new series on Hulu have all been compelling, at least the ones I have watched (Casual, the Path, and 11-22-63).

  2. One thing that I seriously think has hurt the CW's superhero series is their insistence upon making every single character in the cast into a superhero. It's not enough that they computer skills or scientific knowledge or a special connection to the hero. No, now they need to be superheroes in their own right. And not just a character or 2--ALL of them. It's a crazy surplus of superpowers. If everyone has them, what's so special about them? @maryscarlett2u

  3. Nothing yet, but I might stop watching;
    The Blacklist - I just can't stand Tom & Liz. Usually I don't consider dropping shows because of romance, but I really hate that relationship. Unfortunately, as long as James Spader is in that show I'll keep watching.
    Supergirl - I'll probably drop this after season 1. Though, I adore Melissa Benoist, I don't really care about the show. And the love triangle/square/whatever is very annoying.
    The Flash - 100% agree with you on this.
    Legends of Tomorrow - It's such a ridiculous show, I only watch it because of my favorite characters, Sara & Leonard.
    Gotham - So boring. I was going to drop this one after season 1, but I thought it would get better. I was wrong.
    Sleepy Hollow - SH was so good in season 1. But now, I'm not even caught up on season 3.
    Shameless & The 100 - These were my favorite shows last year, and I think the writers have made some really bad choices this season.
    Pretty Little Liars, Teen Wolf, The Originals & The Vampire Diaries - Not very interested in what's happening in these shows. And I'm pretty sure soon there won't be anyone from the original cast in both Teen Wolf & TVD.

  4. I agree completely with your opinion on Supergirl. I mean, I like her and some of her friends, but I never got into the plot lines. And when I have watched, I see so many holes in the plot and all the characters make bad decisions. However, I can't say I agree with what you said about the Flash. I think that the Flash is tying up several plot lines from season 1 and creating new ones for their third season. I think it will be a bit like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., in that the first season is great, the second season slightly a filler, and the third season better than both the first and second. I can understand that not everyone will agree with me, and I did like how you gave all the shows a chance before giving up on them. Everyone has different tastes.

    1. It would piss me off if that is the case with the Flash S2. It being filler to set up the third season would make my viewing of it feel like a massive waste of time.

  5. Like you I'd stick to the end of a show. Well except for Glee. When Cory Monteith died, the show died too. Going on 2 seasons without the heart of the show was a travesty.Since then I can just stop watching when I no longer want the aggravation of watching something I no longer enjoy.
    So here's my list:
    The entire TGIT lineup is off my watch list. I used to enjoy the melodrama. Too old for it now I guess.
    The Vampire Diaries. Well I'll always be a Stelena fan so that's obvious.
    The 100. For all the more obvious reasons from this season but I just don't enjoy it anymore.
    The Big Bang Theory. Not funny anymore.
    Blindspot lost me around episode 13.
    Once Upon a Time. No longer magical. Just annoying as hell.

  6. I have given up so many shows over the past two years - The Blacklist, The Originals, Once Upon a Time, Agents of Shield, Supernatural, and Scandal are just a few off the top of my head. But this season in particular I have given up The 100, which hurts to no end. I LOVED the first two seasons, but I've been really unimpressed with the plot and characters this year. It's a bummer. ~ L

  7. Totally agree with you on The Flash! Personally I stopped watching The Vampire Diaries, Scandal and New Girl this year.

  8. Agree with you on Jane The Virgin. I didn't quite understand why Raf's lie was such a big deal compared to Michael's burst of anger. It was annoying when Jane wanted Raf 1 episode and then not the next. I'm watching Season 2 but I'm not excited about her engagement to Michael.

  9. Honestly, your reasons to stop watching JTV seems to be solely because of ship, all the characters remains the same (or growing), Michael in the first season seemed the villain and was very crucified because of that, and today he’s almost perfect, which one? While in the first season Rafael seemed Jane’s destiny and soul mate, then what is the difference?

    I also stopped watching all this show mentioned, with the exception of JTV that I still enjoy it, I stopped with Arrow (which should have dropped last season).

  10. I understand your reasons to stop watching The Mindy Project, The Flash, Jane the Virgin, and The Blacklist (I can't say much about Supergirl which I don't regularly watch).

    What you said about the Flash is something I have come to realize about its current season but I'm sticking to watching the rest of the season. It'll determine whether I'll give next season a shot.

    I'm not liking the direction Jane the Virgin is taking with making her and Michael endgame either. I like her and Rafael. Maybe, they'll shake things up by having Jane realize on the eve of marrying Michael that he isn't the one she wants to spend the rest of her life with and decides to give Rafael a second chance romantically. I know the set-up is a rom-com cliché. But at least it puts Jane and Rafael back on track.

    I hate what the Blacklist is doing to Liz by making it "more about things just happening around her and to her" like you said. I also hate the show for bringing back Tom and rekindling his and Liz's romantic relationship. Tom isn't good for her. He can never outrun his past.

  11. BTW, in the past, I stopped watching Dexter when it entered its abysmal eighth season and Supernatural after its tenth season after I've grown tired of its inability to just end. Currently, I've considering ceasing my watching of Shameless and Scandal which are both turning into messes losing sight of what made the characters special.